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November 2005

Compiled By Murali Kamma

Dialing I-N-D-I-A toll free for help

Now that India is so closely associated with call centers, it only seems appropriate that the meaning of help has broadened considerably for callers from this country. In the wake of Hurricane Rita, a call center in the aptly named town of Gandhinagar, Gujarat, took over from two operations that had to shut down in Texas. With the help of maps and other relevant details, employees in Gandhinagar provided vital information to callers in the affected region. Now worth $5.2 billion, the thriving BPO industry in India employs about 350,000 people, and according to one news report, it is expected to grow over 40 percent this fiscal year. New trends worth noting include online tutoring and the outsourcing of legal work. Firms like Growing Stars hire teachers in India to help American students with their homework in a variety of subjects. The number of legal jobs migrating from here to India could rise to 35,000 by 2010; and by 2015, as another report states, India may have 70 percent of the legal work outsourced by the U.S. In neoIT's recent ranking of 14 outsourcing destinations, India took the top position.

Gift of $1 million to fund endowed chair in Indian music

In what's been described as "the largest-ever private gift for Indian music study to a university," Dr. Mohinder Brar Sambhi is giving $1 million to fund an endowed chair in Indian music at UCLA's Department of Ethnomusicology. As a professor emeritus at the School of Medicine, he maintains a strong link with that university, which has conferred more doctoral and master's degrees than any other similar program in the world. After the ethnomusicology institute was set up at UCLA in 1960, the late flutist T. Vishwanathan became its first instructor of Indian music, and today, artists such as Shujaat Khan (sitar) and Abhiman Kaushal (tabla) continue to teach there. Forty-five years later, it remains the only independent department by that name at an American university. Dr. Sambhi's donation, made in honor of his late wife, will strengthen UCLA's commitment to Indian music and culture.

Literary magazine for South Asian Americans

The word ‘catamaran' has such a deep connection to the subcontinent that one feels a better name couldn't have been chosen for a South Asian American literary venture. As founding editor Rajini Srikanth points out, this colloquial term for a high-speed boat originated in the Tamil phrase ‘kattu maran' (kattu means bound and maran stands for wood), giving the title a special resonance. "For us, therefore, ‘catamaran' has multiple evocations ? South Asia, the shared colonial history of South Asian nations, the contribution to English of South Asian languages, the sense of adventure in setting out on a raft, the energy of movement, the turbulence of the oceans," she adds. The editors have collaborated with the Asian American Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut to bring out a literary magazine that publishes the works of up-and-coming writers and artists based in the U.S. According to Shona Ramaya, also a founding editor, the response to this biannual ? which is apparently being used as a short anthology on some campuses ? has been "overwhelming" so far. The author Tahira Naqvi and the poet Vijay Seshadri act as consulting editors. For more details, write to

Merchants of moviedom go Down Under

Inspired by the life of her illustrious grandfather, Hiralalji, dubbed the King of Dance in his heyday, Vaibhavi Merchant ? choreographer to stars such as Rani Mukherjee and Salman Khan ? has helped to put together a theatrical show that's making the rounds in Australia. Having forsaken her family's rich legacy in traditional dance, a tempestuous Ayesha Merchant follows her own path in tinsel town to become the reigning Diva of Bollywood. While making a contemporary, Pop-inflected version of Romeo and Juliet, she finds out that her grandfather in Rajasthan is dying. The journey Ayesha embarks on, as a result, alters her life not only because she reconnects with her heritage but also because she reunites with her childhood sweetheart. The music for this show, which has English dialogues and Hindi songs, was composed and arranged by two other Merchants (the brothers Salim and Sulaiman). If the trend-setting Bombay Dreams tells a rags-to-riches story, this new musical, with its cast of thirty characters, tackles a riches-to-roots theme. No news yet on whether these merchants of moviedom will come to the U.S.

Making romantic connections in the cyber age

If online wooing has been called Love at First Byte, can speed dating be dubbed Love at First Sight? It's not meant as an idle joke. Though networking has been around for ages, what's fascinating now is the rate at which romantic connections can be made in the age of singles websites, cell phones, video conferencing, and laptops that facilitate e-mail and instant messaging from any place., for example, describes itself as an Online Indian Community for desis in North America and Europe. The phenomenon of speed dating is also symptomatic of these changing trends in the mating game. Increasingly, for busy folks who wish to maximize their chances and minimize the hassle, this accelerated round-robin approach to meeting a "suitable boy" or "girl" may seem like an attractive option. At the locally held NetIP National Conference, for instance, almost 250 attendees participated in a highly popular speed dating event. It's not known if this singles tournament organized by resulted in any winning matches, but Rose Events ? the host's partner ? has promised to provide free event planning services to the first couple that decides to get hitched as a result of meeting in Atlanta.

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