Life in Canada: Indian names and Identity

A quick lesson of Canadiana from an outsider who has been on the inside of the workings of a country learning its identity at the same time he learned his.

Essays are usually centered around the principle of arguing a point or side of an argument.  However, this essay derived from the perspective of the feelings of an Indo-Canadian Sikh man who has struggled with one aspect of his character: his name.

I was born Karamveer Singh Hundal, otherwise known as Bablu, and currently as Karam.  This transformation of the name has confused, angered and left me without a sense of self throughout my forty two years of existence.  I have never been Canadian enough to fit in with the Canadians, nor Indian enough to fit in with the Indians.  I am caught somewhere in the middle and my name, which is to serve as my ultimate label has provided me with nothing but confusion and derogatory name-calling over the years.

I was born in 1974 in Toronto.  Forget about the hostilities that Indians faced during these initial years of multiculturalism in a new country, as the notions of equality and freedom were relegated to the select few of the white persuasion.  There was systemic racism everywhere and it filtered down to the streets of the country.  Moreover, the Indian community at the time was very small, so I don’t recall having Indian friends until my school age years.  But, back to the name.  One day, as a baby, my beloved massi decided to squeeze my bubbly cheeks (on my face I assume) and label me Bablu.  The name stuck.  Such that my parents started to call me that for the rest of my life.  I do not ever recall them calling me Karamveer except on the first day of school when my father took me by the hand, and said “Bablu, tell people your name is Karamveer.” The irony didn’t escape me then, nor has it since.  He never actually called me Karamveer.  To this day, he still calls me Bablu, or Bobby for short.  Even though it is endearing, I am not sure how I will feel when I am a grandfather and my grandchildren refer to myself as Bablu baba.

My cheeks are no longer bubbly, but instead covered by a scruffy beard and worn by the wrinkles of time.  Yet I am still referred to as Bablu by my family.  Or is it Bubbloo?  How do you even spell such a ridiculous and juvenile name?  I AM FORTY TWO!  How am I still being referred to by a name given to a baby?

Fast-forward to the 1980’s when I first started to attend school.  My teachers had never met a Karamveer in their white lives of John’s and Joe’s.  By then, since I had only heard my name spoken once, thought with the infinite wisdom of a six-year old and the phonetic lessons I had learned thus far, thought my name was pronounced Kare-am-veer.  How was I to know.  I went on like this until 1993.  A decade of humiliating name-calling and taunting from white kids who did not understand that the name means “working son.”  For about two years of this I was called Can-a-beer or Carebear by my so-called friends.  So much for the radical multiculturalism of Canada.  We mustn’t forget that Canada too has a racist past as much as that of any other nation including the neighbours to the south, the United States.  Even though I too was born and raised in this country, I didn’t even feel like a citizen.  It all stemmed from the fact that I was name-less.  I had no identity.  There were few Indians to identify with, and the so-called open-minded Canadians, couldn’t or wouldn’t learn to pronounce a proud and sophisticated name.

1993 – My first year at university. Here I met several Indians who taught me the correct pronunciation of my name. Karamveer.  Here I was born.  I finally felt accepted.  I had peers who not only respected me but cared for my well-being.  The drinking, drugs and sex-capades notwithstanding, they cared.  For a few years I felt like I belonged.  But that was only tranistory as my ultimate acceptance came from the one source I will always feel like I belong to.

1994 – I met a woman. Her name is Sukhvir, but her nickname is Lado. Not quite ladoo, and not quite pado as I jokingly call her.  We fell in love.  Unbeknownst to me, she started to shorten my name to my beloved Karam.  Before long, I started to introduce myself as this.  I even changed my name at work to reflect this newfound identity.  I have found my true friend and a place where I truly belong.  I cannot picture my life without her and our three beautiful daughters.  I have found a home with her in a country that finally takes the time to learn our true names.  It only took thirty years, but the country that boasts of its multiculturalism has finally learned its lesson of acceptance.

– Guest post by Karamveer “Bablu” Hundal from Canada

Medical Education for Non Resident Indians (NRI)

Education in India, especially specialized degree level programs are quite popular among NRIs. In many cases, education in India, especially for specialized programs in Medicine and Engineering is much less expensive as compared to similar programs in western universities.

Parents working abroad who can afford good-quality education find it affordable to send their kids to India. While NRI parents desire quality education for their wards, the demand far exceeds supply. Colleges in India have limited seats for NRIs that are reserved after exhausting requirements from local candidates and those coming from other “reserved” quotas in India.

A lot of students go abroad to study medicine. Those who have studied medicine in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada are exempted from the screening test. (Representational image)Googled Image of Test takers

A few weeks ago, we featured the streamlining of the centralized Medical entrance exam “NEET 2017 for NRI, OCI, and foreign national aspirants” There is further clarification on this :

Taking the one nation, one exam to the next level, the Medical Council of India has now decided that there will be a single centralised admission process to all its colleges and for all quotas, including the management and NRI share of seats.

A landmark amendment now promises that respective state governments will conduct centralized counselling and admission to all MBBS and post graduate courses in institutes that were out of their ambit – private universities, deemed universities, minority institutes. In fact, being futuristic in approach, the act also covers institutes that may be set up by companies.

“Merit and nothing else will be the consideration,” says Arun Singhal, joint secretary of the department of health and family welfare. “This amendment covers all kinds of medical institutes and even seats under the management quota and NRI quota must be submitted to the state government for counselling and common admission,” he says.

But as soon as the MCI notification was out, lobbying from the community of deemed universities started. States are locking horns over the interpretation of the notice and governments of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana have stated that according to their understanding, “all admission” as mentioned by the MCI does not include the NRI seats.

Some other states have responded by stating that there is no NRI share in their colleges. Some other like Maharashtra have sought legal opinion from the state government to clarify their reading in the matter.”

(ref: Single window admission process for even NRI quota medical seats – TNN | Updated: Mar 22)


Other articles on the topic

H1 Visas in news again: Applications for Fiscal Year 2018 Beginning April 3

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS,  announced on March 15, 2017 that it will accept H-1B Petitions for Fiscal Year 2018 Beginning April 3 (Link: USCIS Announcement). The announcement added

The H-1B program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent. H-1B specialty occupations may include fields such as science, engineering and information technology.

Congress set a cap of 65,000 H-1B visas per fiscal year. An advanced degree exemption from the H-1B cap is available for 20,000 beneficiaries who have earned a U.S. master’s degree or higher. The agency will monitor the number of petitions received and notify the public when the H-1B cap has been met. 
USCIS recently announced a temporary suspension of premium processing for all H-1B petitions starting April 3 for up to six months. While H-1B premium processing is suspended, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker which requests the H1B nonimmigrant classification.
In the past years, USCIS had been accepting the applications during first five business days. During the initial few days, they would receive enough petitions to fill in the Congressional mandated 85,000 H-1B visas. Media and immigration consultants are speculating if this year be different.  This 85,000 Congressional mandated limit on H-1B visas include 65,000 in the general category and another 20,000 for foreign students who have masters or higher degree from a US academic institutions.
Top H1 sponsoring companies (link to list) include Indian, American and European software service firms including Infosys, Capgemini, Tata Consultancy Services, IBM, Wipro, Accenture, Tech Mahindra (Americas), Deloitte Consulting, Cognizant Technology Solutions. The top-20 list includes software companies like Google, Microsoft and Amazon.

Other articles and blogs on the topic

Analysis of Punjab Election 2017 Results – Talk with Bhai Ajmer Singh & Bhai Mandhir Singh [Video]

Topic of interest to NRIs from Punjab and elsewhere
Chandigarh: Counting of votes for Punjab State Assembly Elections was held on March 11, 2017 in which Congress party had a surprising victory with a clear majority of 77 seats out of total 117 seats. The Aam Aadmi Party performed much less than expected and it was able to secure 20 seats only. Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) though faced a massive defeat as it was able to retain 15 seats only but it is considered that it performed did not performed so worst as it was being expected.

Sikh Siyasat News (SSN) editor Parmjeet Singh talked to Sikh political analyst Bhai Ajmer Singh and Sikh youth leader Bhai Mandhir Singh to analyse these electoral results and their possible impact of the Punjab and the Sikhs.
Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) got a massive victory in assembly election of Uttar Pradesh, the results of which were announced on March 11, 2017. By bagging 325 seats the Hindutva political wing swept the state assembly which has 403 seats in total. Congress, Samajvadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party are pushed to margins. The BJP contested this election on Hindutva agenda and won with a large majority thus the results of this election hold significance. Sikh Siyasat News (SSN) editor Parmjeet Singh has talked to Sikh political analyst Bhai Ajmer Singh and Sikh youth leader Bhai Mandhir Singh to analyse the results of Uttar Pradesh elections 2017.

Press-Release | Videos Released by: Sikh Siyasat News
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Recording Of The Song “Crazy Balam”

Recording Of The Song  “Crazy Balam”  With Singer Ritu Pathak Featuring Abhijeet Aroon

Renowned singer Ritu Pathak of Gandi Baat, Jalebi Bai, Grand Masti, Kismat & many more gears up to storm the music scenes with his latest song “Crazy Balam” featuring Abhijeet Aroon. The singer was seen recording the song & addressing the media about the single & her future projects.

Amit Raj (Executive Producer), Abhijeet Aroon (Music Director) Ritu Pathak(Singer), Mayank Tiwari (Producer & Lyricists) with Rohit during song recording
The single ” Crazy Balam” opens with a fun opening verse and then launches into club mode with the party beats. When the song speeds up the tempo, it sounds very Punjabi-like which enhances the danceable mood of the song. Although the song has a western touch, it is undoubtedly high on its Hindi & Punjabi feel.
 
Producer & Lyricists – Mayank Tiwari; Executive Producer- Amit Raj ; Singer- Ritu Pathak & King Paul; Music- Abhijeet Aroon ; Programming & Arranged by- Abhijeet Aroon. 
 
Music which is given by Abhijeet Aroon was a semi finalist in  ‘Golden  Voice Hunt’ event of Hero Honda  Sa Re Ga Ma Pa (Zee TV). He has  also performed live with Javed Aktar in a lot of shows. has also  been blessed by nightingale of  India, Bharat Ratna Lata Mangeshkar.
|Press Release|

Indian American Congressman urges Sessions to combat hate crimes

Indian American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi has urged US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to take immediate action to stop rising hate crimes in the US.

Krishnamoorthi, in a letter, requested Sessions to use his discretion in the Justice Department to thwart the rising incidents of hate and violence in the country, American Bazaar online reported on Thursday.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi
U.S Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (source Official house.gov)

“From grave desecration at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis to a shooting at a bar in Kansas, Americans have been shaken to the core by the recent rise in hate crimes,” Krishnamoorthi said in the letter.

The Indian American community was in a state of shock after a US Navy veteran Adam Purinton shot dead Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla and injured Alok Madasani in an apparent hate crime on February 22.


More about the issue that is being debated from our prior blogs


Purinton reportedly got into an argument with the two and hurled racial slurs. He yelled “get out of my country” before shooting them.

Several other instances of hate crime were also witnessed in the US. Jewish Community Centres across the country have received bomb threats, and countless Muslims have been harassed and threatened, the Democrat said.

“All Americans must be able to count on the federal government to defend their fundamental rights as citizens of this great republic. If any American is harassed or threatened because of who they are, it harms everyone,” Krishnamoorthi said.

“I respectfully urge you to use the full powers of the Justice Department to investigate and combat this disturbing rise in hate crimes,” he said. “These attacks seek to undermine not just public safety, but the very nature of American exceptionalism.”

He said: “For more than two hundred years, the US has stood as a beacon of freedom from tyranny, oppression, and persecution.”

“A fundamental promise of our nation is that any American — regardless of where you come from, the color of your skin, or how you pray — can trust the federal government to preserve, protect, and defend their rights,” Krishnamoorthi added. (IANS news feed)


About Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi. Official website https://krishnamoorthi.house.gov/

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi was elected in November 2016 to represent the 8th District of Illinois, which includes the west and northwest suburbs of Chicago.  Raja’s policy platform focuses on growing and strengthening the middle class by supporting small businesses, rebuilding our infrastructure, and protecting Social Security and Medicare.  Raja knows our economy works best when it works for all of us, and that’s why he’s fighting to make college more affordable, expand access to paid sick and parental leave, and guarantee equal pay for equal work.”

Check out our earlier feature “Desis in U.S Congress! Indian-American Fab Five formally enter US Congress on Tuesday”

NRI commission assists Goan families in repatriation of mortal remains of bread winners

The NRI commission recently assisted in the repatriation of mortal remains of a 68-year-old man from St Estevam who died of a heart attack in Sharjah.

When the company he was working for months before he expired, refused to repatriate his mortal remains, his friend intimated the NRI commissioner who approached the Indian high commission that completed the required formalities and bore the cost of sending his body back home.

When a generator technician Baptista D’Souza from Mapusa, working in Saudi Arabia for 35 years, expired in a traffic accident while out on duty to attend to a customer at Al Kharj, the embassy of India facilitated the transportation of his remains and collected his dues to the tune of Rs 52 lakh from his company, disbursed through the district collector, North Goa, to all his legal heirs.

All that the family has to submit is a legal heirship certificate and a power of attorney issued in favour of the Indian embassy abroad, U D Kamat, OSD to NRI commissioner, says. “The legal heirship certificate is issued by the district collector, which the commission then sends to the ministry of external affairs, New Delhi, to get it apostilled. The power of attorney in favour of the Indian embassy permits the embassy to appoint one of its lawyers on its panel to pursue the compensation case. This would otherwise prove very costly for the family,” says Kamat, adding that a family must approach the NRI commission or embassy within three years of the mishap occurring, beyond which it is difficult to pursue a compensation case.

It is mostly Goans working in the Gulf who approach the commission for help. Those in the USA and UK are better off and many no more hold Indian passports.

When Vito Raicar from Bicholim, working in Kuwait, expired due to natural causes, his remains were transported to Goa for cremation and the question of his outstanding dues to the legal heirs was taken up with the embassy of India in Kuwait following which a cheque amount of Rs 4 lakh was received by the North Goa collector and disbursed to his legal heirs after due verification.


You may also check out Garamchai.com reference Dying abroad: Death, dying and repatriation of mortal remains of NRI


In another case, Joao Fernandes from Salcete, who was working as a housekeeping supervisor at a resort in Saudi Arabia, was killed in a terrorist attack following which the family of the deceased received his salary dues and an amount towards the insurance claim after the embassy pursued the matter.

Read the rest on Times of India

NRI Group Offers Tips On How To Survive In America

After The Killing Of Srinivas Kuchibhotla*, NRI Group Offers Tips On How To Survive In America

The General Secretary of the Virginia-based Telangana American Telugu Association (TATA), Vikram Jangam, offers four “tips” for Indians in America. Some tips for community members and South Asian descent during these challenging times. Please be aware of your surroundings and say something if you see anything suspicious.

  • Do not get into Argument with others at public places
  • If someone is provoking, Avoid confronting and leave the place.
  • Do not communicate in Mother Tongue as it may be misconstructed.
  • Avoid Isolated places
  • Avoid staying single
  • Do not Hesitate to call 911 in emergency.

Some of this is common sense and many of us living in the US may already be aware of these tips.


Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani were at a bar in Kansas on Wednesday when Adam W Purinton asked them if they were in the country illegally. After he was thrown out of the bar, Purinton returned and yelled “get out of my country”. He shot dead Kuchibhotla and wounded Madasani.

Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions to be suspended starting April 3, 2017 : what should you know

Here is a recent announcement by US’s Immigration services that is making headlines

USCIS Will Temporarily Suspend Premium Processing for All H-1B Petitions starting April 3, 2017 (link)

Image: Reuters

Text of official announcement follows:

Starting April 3, 2017, USCIS will temporarily suspend premium processing for all H-1B petitions. This suspension may last up to 6 months. While H-1B premium processing is suspended, petitioners will not be able to file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service for a Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker which requests the H-1B nonimmigrant classification. We will notify the public before resuming premium processing for H-1B petitions.

Who Is Affected

The temporary suspension applies to all H-1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017. Since FY18 cap-subject H-1B petitions cannot be filed before April 3, 2017, this suspension will apply to all petitions filed for the FY18 H-1B regular cap and master’s advanced degree cap exemption (the “master’s cap”). The suspension also applies to petitions that may be cap-exempt.

While premium processing is suspended, we will reject any Form I-907 filed with an H-1B petition. If the petitioner submits one combined check for both the Form I-907 and Form I-129 H-1B fees, we will have to reject both forms.

We will continue to premium process Form I-129 H-1B petitions if the petitioner properly filed an associated Form I-907 before April 3, 2017. Therefore, we will refund the premium processing fee if:

  1. The petitioner filed the Form I-907 for an H-1B petition before April 3, 2017, and
  2. We did not take adjudicative action on the case within the 15-calendar-day processing period.

This temporary suspension of premium processing does not apply to other eligible nonimmigrant classifications filed on Form I-129.

The suspension of premium processing of H1 Visa applications is making headlines in Tech and business media around the world. This is being seen as yet another move by President Trump’s administration to tighten and control the processing of work-visa applications to the US.

As per GaramChai.com’s report, top 10 Indian Software services companies including Infosys, Wipro, TCS, Cognizant and others are the top H1 visa sponsors (list of top sponsors in 2016-2017).

The premium processing basically guarantees a decision in 15 days, which makes it extremely useful for businesses looking to hire someone at short notice. Most employers will not be in a position to wait for 8-10 months for a regular processing.

Although media is focused on the impact of the visas on Software service companies, many of these firms – including IBM, Accenture, Deloitte, Infosys, Wipro, TCS, Cognizant – sponsor H1 Visa applications for scores of employees much in advance of specific client requests. Such applications are unlikely to be hit by any backlog. At least not in the long term.

Media reaction to the announcement:

Q&A: What is Eb5 visa?

Given the hype in the media over potential changes to American visa and immigration regulations, EB5 is being touted by immigration consultants and an “easy” way to get an American Green Card.

Let us start with the Official: USCIS Link EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program

USCIS administers the EB-5 Program. Under this program, entrepreneurs (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21) are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence) if they:

– Make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States; and

 

– Plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers.

The following link to GaramChai.com Eb5 visa section has a more detailed description and analysis of the EB5 program

EB5 is an American “investor” visa. The EB-5 visa provides a method of obtaining a green card for foreign nationals who invest money in the United States. To obtain the visa, individuals must invest $1,000,000 (or at least $500,000 in a Targeted Employment Area – high unemployment or rural area), creating or preserving at least 10 jobs for U.S.

Assuming you are a high-net worth individual who can afford to invest US$ 0.5 to 1 million, it is still worth heeding the Investor Alert: Investment Scams Exploit Immigrant Investor Program (USCIS and SEC caution investors)

If your investment through EB-5 turns out to be in a fraudulent securities offering, you may lose both your money and your path to lawful permanent residency in the United States. Carefully vet any EB-5 offering before investing your money and your hope of becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States.