Tag Archives: desis

Indian Americans – Inclusive in US, Intolerant in India?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States to join President Trump to address a gathering of over 50,000 Indian Americans is an opportunity to not only strengthen the ties between the oldest and the largest democracy, but also to pressure the Prime Minister to stand up to his promise of an inclusive and secular India.

To Prime Minister Modi’s credit, he has implemented developmental plans from space exploration to health insurance schemes at a rate unheard of in Indian politics. After a decade of unprecedented corruption and poor governance, Modi’s vision of India as a developed country has captured the dreams and imaginations of many.

But the economic strides comes with a cost: intolerance, bigotry and hate crimes.

Modi’s right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) and allies have made no secret of their vision of India as a Hindu country, contradicting India’s secular founding principles.

Just months after the B.J.P.’s rise, a Hindu right wing group induced over 3000 Christians to participate in mass conversion ceremony to Hinduism by a combination of intimidation and bribery. In a move unbecoming of the largest democracy, the B.J.P. endorsed sedition charges against students who had cheered for the Pakistani cricket team in an India-Pakistan cricket match.

This August, just a few months into his second term, Modi revoked the semi-autonomous status of the disputed state of Kashmir. Not by debate and deliberation, but by a security clampdown that left the residents of the Muslim-majority valley without internet, mobile and even healthcare services for weeks.

The rising intolerance is all too palpable on social media too.

The slightest hint of dissent is quickly silenced with raucous accusations of anti-nationalism.

Nobel Laureate Malala Yousaf was trolled for tweeting her concerns about the ongoing crisis in the Valley affecting the education of school children. Hindu American Foundation, an American non-profit and ally of the Modi government lambasted Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders for speaking out against curtailing civil liberties in Kashmir.

The similarities in the politics of Trump and Modi are hard to miss.

Both  are immigration and national security hardliners, ran for elections on populist policies, and frame any criticism of their policies as unpatriotic. Their majoritarian beliefs have galvanized the far right of their respective countries resulting in a wave of bigotry, intolerance and hate crimes.

Despite their similarities, it is ironic that the popularity of the two leaders are at polar opposites among the Indian diaspora.

As minorities in the US, we desis accept and enjoy the benefits of secularism, freedom of religious expression, and evangelizing (the Hare Krishna movement).

We vote for secular left wing policies in the US, and accuse Trump of instigating hate crimes  against Indian Americans, like the killing of an Indian engineer in 2017, by his racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Yet, Indian Americans, the majority of whom are Indian-born Hindus, hypocritically champion the Hindu nationalist policies of Modi in India, the very policies that we are critical of in the American setting.

If we want an inclusive and tolerant America, we must start by cleaning our own backyard. We must insist that Prime Minister Modi create a secular, inclusive and multicultural India, much like the America we seek for ourselves.

Ashwin Murthy is a software engineer at LinkedIn and a freelance writer of Indian descent.

Wealth Management for Desis

Wealth Management for Desis

The Money TalkRajesh Jyotishi, The Money Talk: Retirement and Estate Planning for Indian Americans. Advantage, 206 pages. Hardcover.

In the winter of 2015 when I worked as an analyst at a Swiss bank, one pressing concern was an acronym: DoL. A new fiduciary rule had been presented by the Obama administration’s Department of Labor and people wanted to know how it would impact the ability of the firm’s financial advisors to serve their clients. With a new President in office, the conversation today switches back the other way: does the industry need a rule to ensure its practitioners act in the best interests of their clients? The surge of opposition to an imminent repeal of the rule has resulted in a further piling-on from either side of the argument. The point here is not for me to argue in favor or against the DoL rule, but rather to highlight that it’s one of the countless aspects of a person’s financial life prone to uncertainty, tethered to the whims of the latest politician to sit on the iron throne.

Rajesh Jyotishi’s practical handbook on retirement and estate planning outlines the variables that one will encounter in the use and preservation of wealth in the United States. It’s a book geared towards the specific concerns of Indian Americans, whose finances often navigate complex family and business needs across multiple continents. Importantly, Jyotishi helps the reader understand the facets of their financial life beyond assets and liabilities. Whether working in California or retired in Karnataka, to give oneself the highest probability of adequately safeguarding wealth and securing the family’s future, there’s a lot more to consider than one might imagine. The journey begins with an inquiry and an open discussion, because it’s not just the breadwinner(s) who have something at stake when it comes to finances.

Here’s what this book isn’t: an academic tome on advanced estate planning strategies, an analysis of the global commodities markets, or even a how-to on picking stocks. Rest assured though, Jyotishi appears to have had the requisite textbooks on his mind as he penned this conversational book, which from the opening chapters details how he built his business and learned the nuances of the financial services industry.

Personal anecdotes and case studies provide the reader further comfort in his ability to survey the landscape and point out its hazards. Jyotishi also shines in his clarity, especially detailing the complexities involved with our trisul of modern society: money, life and death. Take this bit of advice on healthcare in the case of parents newly arrived from India: “a person receiving tax credits [to help pay for insurance] must also file a tax return in the United States and cannot be dependent on someone else’s tax returns.” His strategy calls for families to provide a monthly paycheck to their parents (as caregivers) through their business, and not claim the parent on their tax returns. Uncertainty around Obamacare notwithstanding, how many people were aware they could subsidize eldercare in this way?

Without resorting to any sort of fear-mongering, Jyotishi dispels the idea that these issues are self-explanatory—but he reminds us that through targeted attention, one can quickly gain a suitable level of understanding around healthcare, estate planning, retirement income strategies, and other important issues.

Books such as Malkiel’s A Random Walk Down Wall Street, Bogle’s Little Book of Common Sense Investing, Graham’s The Intelligent Investor, and even Buffett’s famous shareholder letters, may be in our bookcases, but they’re of little use when one’s income suddenly stops due to catastrophic injury, or one’s retirement plan of “moving in with the kids” is met with the blank stare of repudiation. Jyotishi’s book helps you to ask the practical questions first. He also gets you to consider the possibility of outliving your assets, of not adequately factoring inflation into your nest egg, of planning around stock market uncertainty, of getting the right legal documents in order for wealth transfer after one’s passing —especially important for business owners—and numerous other considerations that come well before “should I buy on margin?”

This is an important book for all the reasons mentioned above, but I did find it to be tone deaf in some parts: “The challenges of having too much money in retirement plans,” as a subheading would make 80% of Americans cringe—though that’s a style consideration versus one of content. The detailing of next steps wasn’t explicit enough for me, although these are numerous and differ by individual need —but I wouldn’t have hesitated to recommend that the reader hire an advisor on a one-time, flat-fee basis to draw up a financial plan that shows, with great specificity, what parts of one’s financial life are being adequately addressed, and where the blind spots are located.

I’m also a bit dismayed by some of the subtextual politics: for all the talk of tax avoidance, there’s no mention of what taxes actually do. Particularly in the case of estate taxes, which many economists argue as being one of the most progressive parts of the American tax code; its proceeds could, for example, single handedly fund the EPA’s annual budget more than twice over. While these are areas where a client should be free to make their own judgment, it’s certainly the professional’s duty to point these things out. I’d also delete the aggressively off-putting foreword— but that’s what second editions are for!

Monal Pathak has a background in economics and environmental science, and has spent time working in both consumer and investment banking. He writes from Seattle.

The Dil Mil-lennials

I peered into the screen myopically. There were pictures of girls swishing backwards and forwards. My son’s finger moved at a demonic rate. “Look at this app, Amol.” He was in a meeting with his intern, an intern hired by my millennial son to experiment with the factors that went into snagging a date. “It’s a match!” flashed the screen.“Your picture from your college days is getting more matches.” Amol had been experimenting with different photographs to see which one had a higher success rate. “What! I don’t like my picture from UCLA. I look too fat in that one.” The girls apparently disagreed, going for the rounder Disneque profile.  While the intern was re-engineering the online dating profile, optimizing it for algorithmic love, sending kisses down the wire, however, turned out to be not so easy.14

Repeated use of the stock email response locked the app into loops. It came to the conclusion that a robot had created the profile and it shut out the user. Thus ended the very short internship.


“Millennials are undermining tried-and-true dating rituals,” lamented The New York Times’s writer Alex Williams. “Raised in the age of so-called hookup culture, millennials—who are reaching an age where they are starting to think about settling down—are subverting the rules of courtship. Instead of dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone, they rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other “non-dates” subverting tried-and-true dating rituals.” “It’s one step below a date, and one step above a high-five.”

“The new date is ‘hanging out.’” Denise Hewett, 24, an associate television producer in Manhattan, who is currently developing a show about this frustrating new romantic landscape, was told by a male friend: “I don’t like to take girls out. I like to have them join in on what I’m doing—going to an event, a concert.”


The millennials or the generation born roughly between the year 1980 and year 2000 are also known as generation Y, generation we, and the Peter Pan generation. The oldest members of this generation are approaching age 34; the youngest are approaching adolescence. This generation now making their passage into adulthood are confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change, says Pew Research Center’s report that looks at the values, attitudes and experiences of America’s next generation: the Millennials. These young adult “are the first generation in human history who regard behaviors like tweeting and texting, along with websites like Facebook, YouTube, Google and Wikipedia, not as astonishing innovations of the digital era, but as everyday parts of their social lives and their search for understanding.”

They have a phone strapped to them as an adjunct body part. They fall asleep texting and wake up with their finger on the smart phone button. In fact they live their lives in a world of online chatter. As per Experian, U.S. smartphone owners aged 18 to 24 send 2,022 texts per month on average—67 texts on a daily basis—and receive another 1,831. Pew found, “It’s not just their gadgets— it’s the way they’ve fused their social lives into them.” The smart phone is used less to make calls and more as a hook into the web of social networking and conducting their love lives.

Integrated Innovation Institute at Carnegie Mellon University suggests sixty-seven percent of American millennials and seventy-five percent of online Indian millennials say they’re in love. These “digital natives” are happy to announce it to the world, sharing their love on Facebook. Forty-one percent of American millennials who are in love update their Facebook status weekly. Sixty-one percent of Indian millennials in love say they update their status (at least) weekly. Millennials between the ages of 28-32 are more likely to report being in love than millennials ages 18-22.

“Online websites and apps are the tools my generation uses to meet up,” explains my millennial son. Websites like OK Cupid and Coffee meets Bagel and apps like Dil Mil and Tinder match thousands of boys and girls. Grouper arranges a group date. Three men and three women meet at a restaurant in the hope that at least a couple of people in that combination will click. Coffee Meets Bagel sends members a “bagel” every day at noon, which is basically the pictures and profile of someone who fits the criteria that they had picked. If the bagels like each other, a private line is created where they can message each other.

The fastest growing free dating app in the United States is Tinder. It has gamified the dating game. Users download the app on their iphones, sign in using their Facebook ids thus sharing their name, photos, age and sexual orientation with Tinder. They are immediately shown dozens of pictures of persons of their preferred sex. They can swipe right if they like what they see or swipe left if they don’t. According to Bloomberg Business Week: “Tinder is a pathologically addictive flirting-dating-hookup app.” The average Tinderer checks the app 11 times per day, seven minutes at a time, thereby spending more than an hour a day “swiping” potential mates and chatting with matches in the app, according to Rosette Pambakian, vice president for corporate communications and branding at the app’s Los Angeles headquarter. The app makes 22 million “matches” per day, processing a staggering 1.5 billion “swipes” left and right daily. The company says it knows of 50 marriage proposals to date.

Tinder is available in 24 languages with approximately 22-24 million users. It is estimated that Tinder will reach 50 million users by the end of 2016. According to CNN, Tinder is growing its user base in India by 1% per day and is a huge hit in cities like New Delhi and Mumbai. The difference between the Indian online millennial and the US one is that Indian online millennials remain more traditional in as much as they are either single or married, says Peter Boatwright of the Integrated Innovation Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.  In the U.S., living with a partner is higher than in India.  There are many more in the U.S. who simply say they are “in a relationship.”  Online millennials in India are having children earlier than are their U.S. counterparts as well.

In a highly mobile world migration from India to the United States is swelling the ranks of the millennials in the US. Behavior and values mingle and create new dynamics.

On one date, that was arranged online, a girl showed up for the date wearing a sari, surprising the 27 old Bay Area resident of South Asian descent.

This generation has embraced the responsibility of arranging their marriage themselves. Dusting off their glasses, they are hitting the beauty parlors and the hairdressers. Clicking their pictures and making their profiles, they are fixing rendezvouses and meeting boys and girls on their own terms.

“Because millennials don’t respect authority, they also don’t resent it. That’s why they’re the first teens who aren’t rebelling,” says The Times. MTV president Stephen Friedman, 43, who now includes parents in nearly all the channel’s reality shows says, “One of our research studies early on said that a lot of this audience outsources their superego to their parents. The most simple decision of should I do this or should I do that–our audience will check in with their parents.”

They are mindful of their parents’ opinions. Dil Mile is an app specifically designed for the South Asian millennial. It aims to help every desi “20-something-year-old find someone who Mummy and Papa will approve of,” says Brown Girl magazine. 24-year-old Kamaljit (“K.J.”) Dhaliwal, who launched the app wants to help his brethren find someone “easier and faster.” K.J. worked in NYC and Philadelphia in the investment and trading industry before he moved to the Bay Area and closed angel funding valuing Dil Mil at 5 million USD.

Inter-racial marriages are not frowned upon by these citizens of the flat world. However, Cameron Okeke, senior at the University of Chicago believes that the notion that their age group is the most “tolerant” generation should be taken in context. “I think that love may be blind, but I think relationships aren’t,” Cameron Okeke, senior at the University of Chicago said. “Relationships don’t just run off your love, they run off understanding and reasoning and compassion. I feel that we may be progressive cognitively, but we’re still programmed the same way, we’re still exposed to the same insecurities of different races and how they’re supposed to be,” Okeke said to the University of Illinois Daily.

“Let’s have a look at online dating,” says Amne Alrifai, 20-something-year-old-Muslim-Lebanese-Australian-Daughter-of-Migrants scientist in her blog Unveiled Thought. “You realise you’re ready to find Mr. Right (or Mrs. Right—this is an equal opportunity blogsite). Your friends convince you to sign up to a dating website … So how is matchmaking by your parents or their friends different? I … I can’t believe I’m actually saying this—but I think it’s exactly the same … My dad and I have our ups and downs, but he’s my hero and loves me so much and knows me so well. Having him as a bouncer for my heart is sounding like a great idea. Knowing that he’ll interrogate any potential suitors and ensure that the man I end up with comes from the top shelf and not from the bargain basket is pretty comforting.”
“If my parents introduced me to a suitable boy,” says a Fremont twenty-four-year old resident not averse to being introduced, “it would take the work out of it for me.”

Shuttled from activity to activity with no down time to just hang out, they didn’t learn the art of flirting and romancing. According to researchers at the University of Michigan, from 1981 to 1997, “free” or “unsupervised” time in the typical preteen’s day shrank by 37 percent. As they enter adulthood, smart phone in hand, they scan the room to see if “it’s a match.” “You’ve got mail” is so passé.

Ritu Marwah has pursued theater, writing, marketing, startup management, raising children, coaching debate and hiking. Ritu graduated from Delhi with a master’s degree in business, joined the Tata Group and worked in London for ten years.

Millennials are Crazy in Love at Home and Abroad


Pittsburgh, January 30, 2015 – They are the largest generation since the Baby Boomers and are less likely to get married than previous generations, but that doesn’t mean Millennials are afraid to use the “L-word.”


According to new data from the Integrated Innovation Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, 67% of American Millennials and 75% of Indian Millennials say they’re in love. And these “digital natives” are not shy about sharing their love on Facebook:

·  41% of American Millennials who are in love update their Facebook status weekly.
·  But … 61% of Indian Millennials in love say they update their status (at least) weekly.
·  Meanwhile for those unlucky in love, only 34% of American Millennials and 44% of Indian Millennials not in love update their Facebook status weekly.

·  In both the United States and India, Millennials between the ages of 28-32 are more likely to report being in love than Millennials ages 18-22.

“There is a lot of a discussion today about Millennials, relationships and marriage. This is an interesting look at what Millennials’ views are on romance,” said Peter Boatwright, co-director of the Integrated Innovation Institute.  “Though just a glimpse into two cultures’ young adult population, it looks like they’re ‘feeling the love’.”

The Integrated Innovation Institute’s Millennial Segmentation Study is a first-of-its-kind, ongoing study that takes an in-depth look at the values and behaviors of Millennials in order to better understand and prepare companies and others serving them. The study surveyed 2,000 men and women, ages 18-34, on a variety of topics including professional pursuits, financial habits and purchasing behaviors, health attitudes, beliefs about God and social media engagement, among others. Previous infographics illustrated Millennials’ attitudes toward love, religion and finances.