“Beyond Bollywood” is an Education on Indian American Achievements

The Indian American (approx. 3.2 million) population has made significant strides in a relatively short amount of time in many fields including business, education, law, medicine, politics, policy, science and technology. Over the last 50 years (post Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965), these achievements have been globally recognized by multiple organizations and Indian American leaders are receiving more accolades and awards with each passing year. Some of these acknowledgments showcase the solidifying strength among the US and India. One such organization providing a voice for the Indian American community that has been instrumental in organizing fundraisers, enhancing India-US political relations and by supporting Indian American leaders who have rewritten history in their own right is the United States India Political Action Committee (USINPAC). As a bi-partisan organization, USINPAC continuously supports Indian American candidates running for elected office and political appointments at federal and state levels, launched the US Senate Caucus in 2004 and served as a strong voice against Anti-India and Anti-Indian American rhetoric by Washington officials in the 2000s. USINPAC’s substantial impact in modern day American politics by providing ongoing support on issues pertinent to the Indian American community are solidified in US history.

Some of USINPAC’s notable feats on a larger scale are part of a brand new first of its kind and long overdue exhibit entitled Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation. This one of a kind presentation will be on display with the world renowned Smithsonian Institution starting February 2014 in Washington, DC. Specific topics include early immigrant experiences, struggles for citizenship in the first half of the 20th century, professional contributions from the 1960s and beyond, organizing for labor rights, women’s rights and labor rights and cultural contributions through food, music, dance and within the entertainment industry.

I recently had the privilege and honor to interview Dr. Masum Momaya, Curator for the Smithsonian Indian American Heritage Project.

1) AKO – What compelled you to come to Washington, DC and become the Curator for this project? What have you personally learned that you didn’t know about your heritage?

MM – Curating an exhibition for the Smithsonian is an opportunity like no other. 10 million people can visit a Smithsonian exhibition in a given year. The institution has a reputation for credible scholarship, great care of artifacts and objects and widespread, free public access to national and global audiences. It’s pretty hard to say “no” when the Smithsonian asks you to come work here!

Moreover, as an Indian American myself, it’s an honor to be able to curate Beyond Bollywood, the first-ever large-scale exhibition on our community. In putting this together, I’ve been awed – over and over – again but how deep and how nuanced our roots in the United States are.

2) AKO – When was this project first conceptualized and what has changed since it was an initial idea?

MM – The Indian American Heritage Project began in 2008 when a few Indian Americans in the DC-area approached the Smithsonian with the idea and some resources to plant the seeds for this exhibition. The Undersecretary for History, Art and Culture at the Smithsonian, Dr. Richard Kurin, has offered tremendous support to the project from its inception and throughout.

The goal all along has been to explore the experiences of Indian immigrants and Indian Americans and what has come about over time is a focus for the exhibition – namely that the Smithsonian will be exploring our unique cultural, political and professional contributions to shaping the US and American history.

3) AKO – What are some artifacts that have been donated or will be exhibited from Indian American politicians?

MM – We are very excited and privileged that the family of former Congressman Dalip Singh Saund has donated a bunch of artifacts from his life. Saund was the first person of Indian descent, Asian descent and non-Abrahamic faith elected to the US Congress. Artifacts such as his campaign materials and books will be on display in Beyond Bollywood, have been acquisitioned by the National Museum of American history and are now part of the national collection. This is historic.

4) AKO – In terms of education, who is the primary audience and why?

MM – The exhibition is designed with the diverse audience of the Smithsonian in mind, including kids, multiple generations of families visiting together, visitors from all over the United States and abroad, and Indians and non-Indians alike. Of all the museums in the US, the Smithsonian probably has the broadest and most diverse visitorship of all, and we design exhibitions with this in mind.

5) AKO – Why is this exhibit needed now?

MM- Honestly, given that the first person of Indian origin set foot on American soil in 1790 – and we’ve been contributing to this country since then, the exhibit is overdue! But better late than never. It’s especially important to me that my parents and people in their generation see this and feel proud that all the sacrifices and struggles they’ve made are valued and also that kids see this and learn that their roots here are deep and nuanced. Their American history textbooks certainly don’t convey that – not yet anyway….

6) AKO – Do you think this exhibit will change the mindset of Americans in regards to Indian Americans contributing to the fabric of the United Sates?

MM – If we’ve done a good job with the exhibition, yes! Let’s see how the public responds.

7) AKO – Being that this exhibit is the first of its kind for Indian Americans, what does this mean for future generations?

MM – Hopefully, with continued support from the community, this exhibition will be the first of many. Every single panel in the exhibition could be expanded into a separate exhibition in and of itself. Beyond Bollywood is just a point of departure.

8) AKO – Will this exhibit help to debunk common stereotypes of Indian Americans?

MM – We’ve been very intentional about naming and confronting the stereotypes head-on through the exhibition script and display. I hope that the exhibition will reduce the number of instances in which Indians in America are asked questions like ‘whether the “red dot” is permanent’ or ‘whether people in India ride elephants as moded of transportation.’ It’s high time these stereotypes are debunked. Our community is vast, diverse, deeply-rooted and nuanced, and this is the story that needs to be told.

9) AKO – Given the contributions of Indian Americans, do you think that our history will one day be placed in US history books for younger generations to read?

MM – I hope so, and I hope this exhibition contributes to that so that those writing and reading textbooks call for these revisions and incorporations. Telling history in more nuanced ways is an ongoing process and we at the Smithsonian are privileged to be able to contribute to this.

10) AKO – When and where can people find the exhibit? Will it be free? How long will it be touring and to what locations?

MM – Beyond Bollywood will show at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, which is free and open to the public, from February 27, 2014 through February 2015. It will travel around the country from May 2015 through 2020 in other museums, historical societies, libraries, community centers and universities. More details about the traveling exhibition can be found here. We have just started identifying possible host venues, and I would welcome any suggestions at MomayaM@si.edu.

11) AKO – How can people get involved if they want to contribute?

MM – We are collecting stories here and donations here.

Beyond Bollywood

A step towards Immature Diplomacy

A day after the Gujarat court gave a clean chit to Narendra Modi in the Gulbarg Society massacre during the riots, the US government made it clear that there has been no change in its visa policy on Modi, and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate is welcome to apply for a visa and wait for a review which will be grounded in American law. After Modi was denied a diplomatic visa to the US in 2005, the US also revoked the B-1/B-2 visa which had been issued to him earlier Not just that, on November 18, 2013, Congressman Joe Pitts and Congressman Frank Wolf introduced H. Res. 417, a Resolution intended to influence India’s upcoming elections by focusing on the 2002 Gujarat riots some 11 years after the fact.
USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee) has successfully led a grassroots lobbying effort in Washington DC to stop the above Resolution from going to the House Floor for a vote.
On December 7, 2013, less than one month after the Resolution’s introduction, Chairman Ed Royce of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to which H. Res. 417 was referred issued a statement at USINPAC’s request:
“As Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I am focused on the critically important relationship between the United States and India. Our two nations share many common values and strategic interests. India plays a central role in the Asia-Pacific region, and we must do our part to ensure that India is a centerpiece of America’s rebalance to Asia. H. Res. 417 weakens, rather than strengthens, the friendship between the U.S. and India. The resolution runs counter to all the hard work that the American people, particularly those in the Indian American community, have done to improve the relationship.”
The tide against the anti-Modi resolution – which was also supported by the Coalition Against Genocide (CAG), a long-time Modi denouncer – could mean that the White House is open to diplomatic relations with the BJP leader should he win the elections next year.
Taking an aggressive stance against the US government, senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha hit out at the US government for denying visa to its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi saying to proclaim the Gujarat chief minister guilty even when there was no evidence against him despite several probes amounts to “immature diplomacy” and sets a precedent for a “reciprocal” response. Sinha claimed that after the 2014 polls, President Barack Obama would have to handover the visa to Modi himself or risk losing his own entry to India.
A combative Sinha asked, “Will the US ever treat diplomats from China or Brazil in this fashion? We have to send a strong message that India is back in the hands of a strong leader after the 2014 polls. Either Obama comes to Delhi to handover the visa to Modi or we will have to cancel his visa.”

H 417 Resolution Impact vis-à-vis India’s Sovereignty

On November 18, 2013, Congressman Joe Pitts and Congressman Frank Wolf initiated H. Res. 417. This Resolution intended to influence India’s forthcoming elections by focusing on the Gujarat riots in 2002 and Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr Narendra Modi. In context to this controversial initiation, USINPAC successfully and relentlessly campaigned at the grassroots level to ensure that this Resolution did not move to the House floor for a vote. Earlier in December, 2013, Chairman Ed Royce of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to which H. Res. 417 was referred, voiced his concerns to USINPAC saying, “As Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I am focused on the critically important relationship between the United States and India. Our two nations share many common values and strategic interests. India plays a central role in the Asia-Pacific region, and we must do our part to ensure that India is a centerpiece of America’s rebalance to Asia. H. Res. 417 weakens, rather than strengthens, the friendship between the U.S. and India. The resolution runs counter to all the hard work that the American people, particularly those in the Indian-American community, have done to improve the relationship.”

Eni Faleomavaega, Democrat from the Subcommittee on Asia and Pacific echoed a similar sentiment, “For this reason, I feel the need to speak out and reiterate what I am on record as saying shortly after the riots and ever since. Like any other Member of Congress committed to human rights, I see eye to eye with the national and international community that what happened in Gujarat calls for justice and accountability. But India, like the United States, has an independent and transparent Judiciary and, after an investigation that has been on-going for more than a decade, India’s Supreme Court and its Special Investigation Team have not found any evidence against Chief Minister Narendra Modi. This is why I believe the U.S. should shift its attitude and engage in dialogue with Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, just as the European Union and the UK are doing, and many other nations around the world.” He commended USINPAC’s efforts to summon the Indian-American community to oppose the resolution and the former’s work with top members from the House of Representatives to rectify the misinformation as shown by H 417. He added, “India is a multi-cultural and multi-religious Democracy, where the Leader of the Ruling party is of Italian heritage, the Prime Minister is a Sikh and the Vice President is a Muslim in an 80% Hindu country. Chief Minister Modi is a democratically elected leader and has been elected 3 times by the majority of some 60 million constituents. He may well be India’s next Prime Minister and Resolutions like H. Res. 417 do little to help strengthen U.S.-India relations or protect and promote U.S. interests abroad, especially in the Asia Pacific region.”

USINPAC has staunchly opposed this Resolution from going to the House floor for a vote. They stated that they would do all they could to disallow the U.S. Congress from ‘intentionally’ or unintentionally’ making an impact on India’s elections in 2014. They have vocally advocated that ‘India is a sovereign nation and its citizens have a right to choose their leaders’. Their efforts challenge the very nature of the Resolution that misinforms rather than set any situation right. Chief Minister Mr Narendra Modi who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat during the Gujarat pogrom was denied both business and tourist visas to the U.S under the Immigration and Nationality Act for alleged human rights violations. USINPAC had issued a statement on December 8, 2013 titled Setting the record straight about Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Further with the India elections being round the corner and Mr. Modi’s popularity among the Indian-American community, it is about time for the U.S. State Department to take a stand. He is the slated Prime Ministerial candidate from the BJP, India’s opposition political party. Going forward, this instance will impact U.S.-India ties and mutual decisions between the two nations pertaining to the Asia region.

USINPAC applauds Indian Americans Ashok Kumar Mago, Dr Siddharth Mukherjee and Dr. Vamsi Mootha on receiving the prestigious Padma Shri awards

Two Americans are among the five people from the US who have been selected for India’s prestigious Padma awards this year for their contributions in different fields.

Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, the William Benton Distinguished Service Professor Emerita at the University of Chicago, and Lloyd I. Rudolph, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Chicago, will each receive the prestigious Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in India.

Susanne has served as president of the Association of Asian Studies and of the American Political Science Association (2003-2004).

She has co-authored eight books with her husband, Lloyd, including post-modern Gandhi and Other Essays in 2006.

In 2008, OxfordBSE -3.16 % University Press published a three- volume, career-spanning collection of the writings of Lloyd and Susanne, titled Explaining Indian Democracy: A Fifty-Year Perspective.

Lloyd served as Chair of the Committee on International Relations and the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences and as chair of concentrations in Political Science, Public Policy, International Studies and South Asian Studies in the College.

The Rudolphs now divide their time between Kensington, California; Barnard, Vermont; and Jaipur, Rajasthan.

Three Indian-Americans – Ashok Kumar Mago, Dr Siddharth Mukherjee and Dr. Vamsi Mootha – will receive the prestigious Padma Shri awards.



Dallas-based Mago has played a key role in improving India-US relationship not only in trade and business, but was also instrumental in setting up of the Senate-India caucus and played a key role in the Congressional passage of the civil nuclear deal.

India-born American physician-scientist Mukherjee is best known for his book ‘The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer’ that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2011.

He is currently an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and staff physician at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.

A Professor of Systems Biology and of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Dr Mootha has received a number of honours, including a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, the Judson Daland Prize of the American Philosophical Society, and the Keilin Medal of the Biochemical Society.

His work has also led to the development of generic, computational strategies that have now been applied successfully to other human diseases.

Source: Economic Times

USINPAC congratulates Indian American professor Arogyaswami Joseph Paulraj on winning the prestigious 2014 Marconi Society Prize, which brings with it a $100,000 award

Arogyaswami Joseph “Paul” Paulraj, professor emeritus at Stanford University, has been named the winner of the prestigious 2014 Marconi Society Prize, which brings with it a $100,000 award.

The Indian American professor’s idea for using multiple antennas at both the transmitting and receiving stations — a concept at the heart of the high-speed WiFi and 4G mobile systems — revolutionized delivery of multimedia services for billions of people, the Marconi Society said.

“Paulraj’s contributions to wireless technology and the resulting benefit to mankind are indisputable,” said Marconi Society vice chairman Vint Cerf in a statement.

“Every WiFi router and 4G phone today uses MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology pioneered by him,” he added.

The Marconi Society, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, was founded by Gioia Marconi Braga. Each year it recognizes one or more scientists who — like her father, radio inventor Guglielmo Marconi – pursue advances in communications and information technology.

After graduating at the age of 15 at the top of his class in high school in India, Paulraj joined the Indian Navy, where he focused on weapons systems.

Self-taught in subjects including information theory and signal processing, he obtained a Ph.D. from IIT-Delhi for his work on non-linear estimation theory. In 1977, the Indian Navy assigned him to head a project to develop advanced sonar and his team pioneered APSOH, a sonar system used in the fleet service in 1983.

On a sabbatical from the Indian Navy, Paulraj joined Prof. Thomas Kailath’s research group at Stanford, where he worked on a multiple-signals directions of arrival estimation problem. The solution he came up with, ESPRIT, led to a mini-revolution in the field, according to the Marconi Society.

Paul returned to India in 1986 and became founding director for three major labs in India. Back at Stanford in 1991, he worked on signal separation experiments for airborne reconnaissance.

This led to his invention of spatial multiplexing, which increased throughput in wireless systems using multiple transmitting and receiving antennas.

Paul applied for a U.S. patent and, despite industry skepticism, founded Iospan Wireless, which developed a MIMO-OFDMA based fixed wireless system. Intel Corp. acquired Iospan’s technology in 2003 and used it to spearhead WiMAX standards.

In 2004, Paulraj co-founded Beceem Communications, which developed WiMAX semiconductors. The company emerged as a market leader and was acquired by Broadcom Corp.


Marconi Fellow and Stanford Prof. John Cioffi said Paulraj’s technical capability is “almost unparalleled in the world. But what impresses me most is how (Paulraj) endured the tremendous pressure, turmoil and stress of people saying his ideas weren’t going to work, and persevered until he found success.”

The 2014 Indian American Marconi winner said in a modest statement, “MIMO technology is today embedded in 4G mobile and WiFi. It has taken the effort of thousands of engineers and researchers around the world, many of them truly eminent, to make this happen. My contribution, in comparison, is indeed small.”

Paulraj was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering in 2006 and received the Padma Bhushan from India in 2010, and the IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal in 2011.

A mentor to post-doctoral students at Stanford and a senior adviser to Broadcom, he lives on the Stanford campus with his wife, Nirmala.

“I have two grown children and four wonderful grandchildren,” he said. “My biggest challenge is finding time for all the things I want to do.”

Source: IndiaWest