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

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:

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 

Bappi Lahiri takes Indian Music “International”

Oscar and Golden Globes awards for music composer Bappi Lahiri

Music maestro Bappi Lahiri continues his National & International nomination spree by getting nominated for two films at Oscars 2017 & Golden Globes Awards for -“Best Animated film- Moana” & “Best Film- Lion”

The first time in the history of Indian Music Fraternity that a music composer & singer “Bappi Lahiri” is associated with “Two Oscar nominations & Tow Golden Globes Awards for the films “Moana & Lion”

 He says that music affects the way we live. Our thoughts, our joys and sorrows, the way we think and the way we dance; all of it moving to the unending melodies and patterns of the soundtrack of our lives.

With some of the finest pieces of music work to his kitty,  music icon Bappi Lahiri feels overwhelmed with the musical association in the film Moana & Lion which has been nominated at Oscars & Golden Globes Awards where he has lend his melodious voice for songs in each films This year has bought the best gift for me. I feel 2017  is a big blessing of my long journey  in  musical life. I thank God, my parents, my family and all my fans all over the world “

Music Composer, Music Director, Singer, Actor & Record Producer thanks his friends and family members after his historical nomination “I feel proud to glorify our country on International platform. Not just me, the entire team of Moana, Lion are over the moon. For me it’s not about the win, it’s about recognition & appreciation. I hope the best person wins

“India is making its way to Hollywood not just in the field of entertainment & performing arts but everywhere. There is a feeling of acceptance and acknowledgment which feels nice” adds Bappi Lahiri.

Viewpoint on : A Muslim family moving to America?

Here is a question from an online forum answered by our Editor.

My wife doesn’t want to move to the USA because she’s afraid of racism. What should I do to convince her?

I want to build my startup in the Silicon Valley.

If you want to know what kind of racism she’s afraid of… we are Indian Muslims.

Googled image of “Citizen Khan”

A Muslim family moving to America? Your wife is probably right in voicing her concerns. Here are a few facts to think about:

  • As an outsider to a new community, one might encounter some element of “racism.” This does not necessarily have to do with religion, but could be due to parochial mindsets, pre-conceived notions of accent, language or other factors.
    • As others have also mentioned, the Bay Area and Silicon Valley is among the most liberal parts of the country. You and your family will not face much “racism.”
  • The bay area is home to a vibrant Desi community, and also has several mosques and Islamic community. (list of mosques).
    • You and your wife will find a welcoming community and find new firends!
  • The new President has proven that he can walk-the-talk, when it comes to his “promises” on immigration and border control.
    • We can only speculate on other Executive Actions that the president might or might not take

Bottomline: As an entrepreneur, you are willing to take risks. The risk of moving to a new place is par for the course. Go in with your eyes wide open, and explore the opportunities.