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Tid Bits

June 2005
Tid Bits

Sand sculptor to build black Taj Mahal

Orissa-born Sudarshan Patnaik, internationally recognized for his meticulously built sand sculptures, which include a Tsunami memorial in Puri and a white-sand model of the Taj Mahal in Houston, is going to erect a larger black Taj in Agra towards the end of 2005. This tribute will bring the 350th anniversary celebrations to a fitting conclusion, and perhaps in a symbolic manner, fulfill Shah Jahan's unrealized dream of having a monument built in his memory. "While the white Taj is a symbol of permanence, the black one reflects the temporariness of life," Patnaik has been quoted as saying. "The black sand carving of the Taj, to be 40 to 45 feet tall, will stand vertical for at least 15 days." Sand from the banks of the Yamuna will be used for Patnaik's project.

Donation of $18.5 Million to fund center for global solutions

In what's probably one of the largest gifts from an Indian-American couple to a university, Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel have given $18.5 million to the University of South Florida. The money will be used to build the Kiran C. Patel Center for Global Solutions on the Tampa campus, where thinkers and leaders are expected to engage in the challenging global issues of the day. With the help of matching funds from a state program, the total contribution will come to $34.5 million. "The Patel Center, which school officials touted as the first of its kind in the state, will brainstorm solutions for international issues ? health, economic development, safety and the environment," noted the Tampa Tribune. "The center will have an executive director, visiting fellows and graduate students." Having lived in Africa, India and the U.S., Dr. Kiran Patel sees himself ? appropriately enough ? as a global citizen who has transcended national borders.

French crooner takes on Bollywood

About 15 years ago, when Pascal Heni stumbled across a tape of Hindi film music, he was smitten for life. And recently, this colorful French singer's debut CD of Bollywood melodies, culled from a repertory of 500 songs, grabbed attention in both France and India. Although he speaks no Indian languages, Heni learned to sing in Hindi, Bengali and Tamil with the guidance of teachers like Usha Shastri of Sorbonne, and reportedly, this first compilation brings out the range and depth of his commitment. "The album is the fruit of eight years of Pascal's total immersion in Hindi music," writes reviewer Daniel Brown. "With France falling more and more under the charms of Bollywood cinema and music, the Na�ve music label has brought out this dancy, often tongue-in-cheek, gem at a most propitious time." But will this Gallic Kishore Kumar strike a chord with listeners in North America? Stay tuned.

IITs back in the spotlight

In a unanimous resolution passed last month, the U.S. Congress brought more welcome attention to the seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in India. Introduced by Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia and co-sponsored by Congressman Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, House Resolution 227 heaped praise on the venerable IITs and their widely dispersed alumni. There are possibly 150,000 IIT graduates outside of India, with up to 40,000 in the U.S. alone. Among them, there are many entrepreneurs who started companies and many executives who hold high positions in major corporations. Others have excelled as scientists, innovators and academicians. According to Davis, these IITians have been instrumental in the creation of more than 150,000 jobs is this country. The resolution "urges all Americans to recognize the contributions of Indian-Americans and have a greater appreciation of the role Indian-Americans have played in helping to advance and enrich American society."

Summer reading and teen sensation

Now that the lazy and fun-filled days of summer are here, youngsters can finally turn to books of a different kind. Two novels by Mitali Perkins that received favorable notices may be worth checking out. Monsoon Summer (Delacorte Press, 272 pages) is for young adults, while The Not So Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen (Little Brown & Co., 192 pages) is for pre-teens. Speaking of young adults, Kaavya Viswanathan, a freshman at Harvard, has caused astonishment in the literary world by winning a record $500,000 contract from a major publisher for a two-book deal. Expectations are running high, obviously, and one can only wait to see how things turn out for this talented teen from New Jersey.

- Compiled by Murali Kamma

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