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Category Archives: Consular/Travel

The World’s Largest Holi Celebration Ever was in Utah

Roopa Shree is a Special Correspondent for usindiamonitor

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In the small South Indian town where I grew up, the festival of Holi wasn’t exactly a big deal.  That’s not to say that Udupi, Karnataka wasn’t festive. We knew how to put on a great show.  The town had a world famous Krishna Temple, amongst many other temples, and Lord Krishna’s birthday was celebrated in a grand manner and on a far more epic scale than Holi was.

Holi was still recognized in a relatively small way. We used to see groups of 10 to 15 village farmers all dressed up in white with turbans, drums and other musical instruments singing village songs in their local dialect, going door to door to collect tips. As a tradition they used to lift up and carry the youngest ones in each household and dance. But there was no splashing of colored powders in our home town, which is what most people associate with the Holi festival.

India is like many countries rolled into one.  In modern India, the traditional lines of culture, cuisine, dress, and language have blurred especially in its diverse cities.  The colored powder version of Holi is today celebrated all over: on college campuses, temple grounds and street corners.  And now, it’s gained some footing in the United States as well.

When we came to the United States in the early 70’s, not many Americans knew much about India or Hindu culture. I was pleasantly surprised  when they showed International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) characters in American sitcoms such as All in the Family or Barney Miller.  For many Americans, ISKCON was probably responsible for introducing Hinduism to them.

Fast forward to 2016. After moving to Salt Lake City from California, our friends the Kamaths took us to the ISKCON Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah.  What a sight.

We arrived to see a magnificent all white temple sitting on top of a hill on a serene 15 acres surrounded by gorgeous snow capped mountains…thanks to the unrelenting efforts of two devotees, Charu Dasa and Vaibhavi Devi.  This lovely temple modeled after KUSUM SAROVAR of India is a must-see among the amazing and unusual places not just in Utah, but in all the United States.  There are beautiful peacocks, llamas, and cows maintained by this temple.  You can even rent the llamas for an outing in the mountain landscape.  Every week, hundreds of visitors take the temple tour from senior groups to school children, from tourists to locals to get a glimpse of Hindu temple culture.

Wait.  Is that right? A Hindu temple deep in Mormon country?

Yes, it’s true, and that’s not all.  This temple nestled in the mountains hosts the biggest celebration of Holi in the entire world.

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Holi, also known as the festival of colors and festival of love, has become a favorite amongst fun loving Indians, Americans, and others alike, celebrated across many American states these days during springtime including Las Vegas, NV on April 15, 2017, and Oceanside, CA on May 6, 2017, etc.

I finally got to see Holi in Spanish Fork in March with our friends the Gokarns.  It was everything they said it would be and more.  Such a well organized event, with paid parking spaces close to the temple, security, crossing guards, traffic police, and safe walking for kids and adults alike. Vendors were selling scarfs, colored powders, Indian snacks, and masks for the festivities.

There were thousands of people going in and out, all of them drenched in beautiful colors on their faces, hair and all over their bodies. For a second I thought, is this for real, am I in India or am I dreaming?!

We entered and merged with the huge crowd. Thousands of people were dancing merrily, music was projected by DJs singing along with the bands, little kids rode on mom and dad’s shoulders right in the middle of beautiful surroundings, while the white temple on the hill top glowed in the soft shadows cast by the sun.

There were yoga sessions, interactive fusion dances, live mantra bands, and food stalls.  Everybody seemed to be in good mood around the open air amphitheater.  So many smiling faces.  How could you not smile in this atmosphere?

As I walked around trying to capture some pics on my iPhone, friendly people came over and before I knew it,  they smeared and threw colored powder all over me.  There was no escape for anyone, of any age.

The two days of Holi festival at Spanish Fork draws fun loving people from all around, including the bordering States of Idaho and Wyoming.  Perhaps upward of 100,000 people, mostly Americans, attended and the festival continues to rise in popularity each year.  Holi is traditionally a time for cleansing, renewal, and starting over. Everyone is an equal participant.  It’s also a time to welcome people from any background who have a curiosity about Hinduism to learn more.  Congratulations to ISKCON for putting on a great show.

Some festivals are too much fun to miss regardless of your background or religion.  This is one of them, like Baisaki in California, Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Lilac Festival in Rochester, NY, Artichoke Festival in Castroville, CA, the Persimmon Festival in Indiana, or WOMAD in New Zealand.  These things must be seen with your own eyes, and felt for yourself with all your senses. Take a bite out of life, one festival at a time.  Come taste samosas and masala chais.  Come enjoy the colors of Holi with your family and friends, to celebrate the arrival of spring in all its glory.

It’s springtime in America, year 2017.  As the purple, pink, turmeric yellow, red gulal, and orange scented corn starch powders covered all the skins and clothes of thousands, white, black, brown, yellow,  and all other types of human being all merged into one massive rainbow colored ocean of people!

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Indian Entrepreneur Finds America on Cross-Country Road Trip

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Editor’s note: Anup Pai is an entrepreneur based in Bangalore, India.  Pai is the co-founder, head of US operations, and COO of the financial technology company Fintellix, formerly known as iCreate.  He recently completed an adventurous journey even most Americans have never attempted: a road trip across the contiguous United States from the East Coast to the West Coast, in 9 days, with his wife and daughter.  Below is the story of their experience during this bizarre and important election year of 2016 in the United States.

Following in the great tradition of France’s Alexis de Tocqueveille and others, Pai has captured this special moment in time in the United States from a uniquely foreign perspective.  He also shared some of his favorite picks for sights, food, wine, beer, and lodging below.

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Unlike most Indian IT folks who started their careers in the 1990’s, my first trip to the USA didn’t happen until April 2015.  Boy, did I have a lot of catching up to do. Till that point, I had travelled to over 40 countries in the Asia Pacific, Africa, Europe and the Middle East building and selling software using technologies developed in this country. Most of the countries I had been to before (barring Australia) had cultures rooted in their traditional medieval or even earlier histories, whereas the USA had rapidly developed a unique culture through the pioneering tradition of its people.  We’re talking about a culture which was unmistakably a part of me just as I was unavoidably a part of that culture. Read the rest of this entry

Indian Women Aim for the Skies and Shatter Barriers!

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What a Great Crew!  pic courtesy Air India

Those of us who have met women from India know that they are capable of accomplishing anything.  This week was simply further proof of that, as the world witnessed the toppling of barriers for International Women’s Day and the start of Women’s History Month.

Air India on March 8 executed an extraordinary and unprecedented feat: completing the longest possible commercial flight, a 17-hour jaunt from New Delhi to San Francisco with an all-female crew in the air and on the ground, encompassing the pilots and cabin crew all the way to the check-in staff and baggage handlers.  This is a new record in the aviation industry, and one that women (and men) everywhere can be proud of regardless of background.

This great news was followed by another aerospace-oriented announcement of a more martial kind.  The Indian Air Force (IAF), for the first time, is inducting female fighter pilots into action this June as part of the next fighter pilot class.  Until now, female IAF pilots were relegated to other roles such as helming helicopters and cargo planes.  But Bhuwana Kanth, Mohana Singh, and Avani Chaturvedi will be the first to shatter this glass ceiling on their way to the sky.

“They will be treated as fighter pilots rather than women pilots,” air chief marshal Arup Raha told NDTV.

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These Fly Ladies are Fly (pic courtesy NDTV)

Congratulations are in order to Air India and the Indian Air Force, two government organizations that have seen their fair share of problems lately, but who are flying in the right direction this week.

And the nation of India, which the world has come to know as a sweltering hotbed of battered and gang-raped women preyed upon daily by disgusting men in a culture run amok, has made a few baby steps toward becoming a civilized global power.  There is still a very long way to go- but also hope.

Kudos are most of all in order to the ladies who are paving the way for future generations to aim for nothing less than the sky.  I have perhaps become as emotional writing this piece as any in the last 3 years.  We are humbled and inspired, and have some hope for the future now in an environment of seemingly endless bad news.

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

 

To the Next LaVelle: An Irish-American Yankee in Bangalore (Guest Post)

unnamedEditor’s Note:  Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.  She is a fellow alumnus and friend from NYC Parks & Recreation.  We recently had a nice discussion about US-India relations over at NewsWhistle.  Below is the account of her maiden voyage to India to attend a friend’s wedding.

A few years back, I took a trip to India for a friend’s wedding.   It was my first time visiting Asia, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the bride promised that she and her family would take good care of all of their out of town guests—and they did.  It started with the mother of the bride asking me for my measurements because she was ordering saris for a whole bunch of us to wear to the ceremony.  As I needed to get back to her at short notice, I found myself in my office restroom wrapping myself up in measuring tape—fortunately, strict accuracy was unimportant, as saris are very forgiving. Read the rest of this entry

Kal Penn Explains Obama’s India Trip

This video is a quick preview of what happened during Obama’s trip to India.  We recommend it as a starting point.  We will be posting more videos and coverage of the eventful trip this week.

US Tourist is Gang-Raped in India; US Military Also Tolerates Festering Problem

victimsMahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor.com.

Recently two disturbing stories have come out related to the rape or assault of women.  A 30-year old American tourist from California was the latest prominent victim in the gang-rape epidemic which has shocked India and the world for its prevalence, brutality, and what it says about Indian culture.  We have been following this thread with great alarm, and it is giving India an incredibly bad name at a time when the nation is trying to assert itself on the world stage.  The gang-rape in Manali is just the latest in a horrific string of incidents that have taken place involving both tourists and local Indian women since last year.

0604_military-hearingMeanwhile, the US military has been exposed for being extremely lax in its responses to a pile of harassment, rape, and gang-rape cases by men against their female counterparts in uniform.  According to one estimate a stunning 26,000 American soldiers, mostly female but also male, have been assaulted or raped by other soldiers just in the last year.  A Senate hearing was held this week with the US military’s top brass to explore the problem and find a solution.  But in this case too, the epidemic has been going on for many years without sufficient action.  In 1991 the US Navy’s Tailhook scandal showed a widespread cancer in the system, and the same tired theme crops up well over two decades later. Read the rest of this entry

Indian-American Learns Shocking Truth About Pakistan on Visit

Many of us travel for business or leisure.  But few ever take a trip that dramatically shatters their entire worldview of a country and a people in one fell swoop.  I was lucky enough to have returned from just such a trip: a week-long sojourn in Pakistan.

It was a true eye-opener, and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that.  Many of the assumptions and feelings I had held toward the country for nearly 30 years were challenged and exposed as wrong and even ignorant outright.

Yes, I was aware of all the reasons not to go, safety foremost among them.  As an American, an Indian, and a Hindu there seemed to be multiple reasons for someone of my background to have concerns about security.  Relatives and friends couldn’t hide their dismay and genuine fear; a frequent question was “why would you want to go?”  The subtext is that there’s nothing to see there that’s worth the risk.

The Western and Indian media feed us a steady diet of stories about bomb blasts, gunfights, kidnappings, torture, subjugation of women, dysfunctional government, and scary madrassa schools that are training the next generation of jihadist terrorists.  And yes, to many Westerners and especially Indians, Pakistan is the enemy, embodying all that is wrong in the world.  Incidents such as the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl, 26/11 and the Osama Bin Laden raid in Abottobad have not helped the cause either.  Numerous international relations analysts proclaim that Pakistan is “the most dangerous place in the world” and the border with India is “the most dangerous border in the world.”

Read the rest of this entry

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