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

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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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 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.

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.

Does Indian Media feels vindicated after Trump condemns techie’s killing ?

The Indian Media sounded like it was vindicated after news of American President Donald Trump condemning the Indian Techie’s killing.

Press Trust of India, from Washington DC posted an article, which was picked up by much of the Indian media “Trump condemns Indian techie’s killing in address to Congress”

About the incident (link): Last week, two Indians were caught in the crosscurrents of racial tension in America while at  a Kansas bar-cum-grill when one American fired seven bullets at them after yelling “get out of my country”, and another tried to stop the gunman.

After the incident, the media, digirati and American policy watchers waited for an announcement by Mr. Trump. (ref: Step up and speak out: Hillary Clinton to Prez Trump on Indian techie’s killing – HT || Trump’s silence ‘disquieting’: Kansas City Star edit on Indian techie’s killing – MSN)

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday broke his silence on the fatal Kansas shooting by stating “America stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”  Trump added in his address to the joint session of US Congress:

“Recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms”

A section of the Indian media sounded vindicated by Trump’s acknowledgement:

However, some in the Media also reviewed this as a “half-hearted” acknowledgement of the hate crime. Indian Express Editorial posted :  Trump’s half-hearted mention of hate crimes in joint address hints unwillingness to take action

“His campaign was filled with inflammatory rhetoric and this administration’s policies seem no different. Hate crimes like the Kansas attacks have followed a wave of racist attacks and this wave continues unabated. White House stayed in denial and refused to link the two. Though he mustered up the courage to speak up against hate crimes and anti-semitism emerging again in the country, he didn’t promise any action against the perpetrators.”

Bottomline: this is not the last word on the topic

Return to India : Articles and blogs on returning NRIs

Indians settled overseas frequently muse about “Returning to India.” Even the Indian media frequently runs articles about NRI returnees and their saga.

Here are a couple of articles are making the rounds among digerati.


You may also be interested in GaramChai.com Return to India Section

Nupur Dave, a Technical Program Manager, Google For Work posts an interesting article on LinkedinPulse, titled “Why I Moved Back To India after 10+ Years in USA”

I am, what they call, a US Return. After more than a decade living in the United States, I moved back to India for good.

When I announced I was moving back to India permanently, some of the responses I was given were
* “Are you SURE?”
*”Let’s see how long you last”.
* “I am happy to see you walk the talk”
*”OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG”
* and the insipid “Ok cool”
But why did i move back? Wasn’t it a normal, successful and happy life in the United States?
Yes, but on paper.
I had a job: I worked for Google, consistently rated #1 company to work for. I had status: active in the Indian Googler network, organizing events for thousands of Indian Googlers.

Another post by Mohan, who also contributes to GaramChai takes a more nuanced view of his experience returning to India in this blog “Return to India Musings: when a home becomes a golden egg”

The first thing that hits one after landing back from a stint abroad is the abundance of people. This mass of humanity is visible right outside the exit gates of the swanky Bangalore international airport and carries through on the ride out on the highway where the airport traffic merges with commuters and is magnified as one approaches Hebbal flyover into the city.

After making annual trips back to my hometown from my adopted homeland in America, I recently took a conscious decision to spend an extended period of time in Bangalore. My family story is not atypical of that of scores of other NRIs – aging parents unable to manage on their own due to flailing health, yearning for their offspring’s to be around. Rather than contributing to the emerging market of “old age” homes in India by coaxing my parents to spend their sunset years in one such institution, I thought spending quality time with them was more valuable. Thus my wife, son and I find ourselves back in the bedroom in a home where I spent college years.

Kansas shooting: GoFundMe Raises nearly $ million for Family victims

Our heartfelt condolences go to the families of the victims of Shooting at a Kansas Bar this week ..

About the incident: Two Indians were caught in the crosscurrents of Donald Trump’s America in a Kansas bar-cum-grill on Wednesday evening when one American fired seven bullets at them after yelling “get out of my country”, and another tried to stop the gunman.

Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, was declared dead after he was brought to a hospital, while his friend, Alok Reddy Madasani, also 32, survived and was discharged today.


We applaud the courage of Sunayana Dumala, the young widow of the Indian man who was killed in shooting, for standing up in front of the global media demanding justice and answers. We hope the young widow, continues to get her voice heard and justice prevails!


The gunman, 51-year-old US navy veteran Adam Purinton, was on Thursday charged with premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated first-degree murder. Bond has been set at $2 million.

The attack was probably the first major hate crime the Indian-origin community in the US has faced since Trump took oath as President after a campaign filled with rhetoric against immigrants. His victory had triggered worries of race attacks.

Donation and GoFundMe pages:

Srinu’s Family/Recovery Support – On February 22nd 2017,  an intoxicated man hurling racial slurs opened fire inside a packed Kansas bar killing our dearest friend Srinivas Kuchibhotla. (Raised $601,245 of $150k goal – 26th Feb)

Madasani / Kuchibhotla Relief Fund – Alok Madasani and Srinivas Kuchibhotla, both employees at Garmin, were enjoying their evening at a local sports bar in Olathe, KS when they were confronted with racist, bigoted remarks and ultimately shot as part of what appears to have been a vicious hate crime. ($87,117 of $100k goal – 26th Feb)

Alok Madasani Medical Relief fund – My brother-in-law Alok Reddy, 32, is recovering from his wounds after being shot by a former US Navy veteran, an attack eyewitnesses said could be racially motivated. Alok’s 32-year-old friend, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was killed in the Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe. Alok and Srinivas were in the bar to cool off and have a beer after work on Wednesday night when they were attacked. They didnt expect that they would fall victims to the violence happened that night. I am raising this campaign to provide financial support for my brother-in-law’s medical expenses. ($13,733 of $75k goal – 26th Feb)

Media reaction :

$11.5 billion NRI investment coming into realty, there is money to be made

Three months back, if someone would have recommended real estate stocks, you would have thought he must be joking.

After the demonetisation drive in November, the real estate sector was left in the ruins as the worst casualty of the cash ban.


You may also be interested in section of GaramChai.com – Realtors, Real Estate, mortgage and property deals for NRIs, Indians and Indo-Americans


But you will be in for surprise if I tell you that the S&P BSE Realty index, the barometer of the real estate sector, has actually delivered 14 per cent return so far in 2017 and is up nearly 2 per cent since demonetisation.

What does it tell you? The concerns about the real estate sector are largely done with and after the mega booster dose from the Union Budget, things are looking not just rosy but attractive to make this sector a top investment bet for the year.

The Budget announcements clearly indicated that the government’s focus on improving affordability of homes will benefit end-users, which would result in significant increase in housing supply in the secondary market.

“In 2017, total NRI investment in realty in top eight cities is expected to touch $11.5 billion. This will represent 20 per cent of total market share, currently estimated at $60 billion,” KanikaBSE -5.00 % Gupta Shori, COO & Co- Founder, Square Yards, said in a report.

Read more at Economic Times