Tag Archives: Stanford University

A Faster, Cheaper Way to Send Money to India

Stanford Federal Credit Union, located in Northern California, offers a faster, cheaper way to send money abroad. Through a new partnership with TransferWise, customers can send money directly through Stanford FCU’s online or mobile banking. This simple process means the funds can arrive as soon as the same day. 

Stanford FCU’s international funds transfer process is also cheaper—there is a low transparent fee, and the real exchange rate is used with no mark up. All of this means more money gets to your loved ones.

You must be a member of Stanford FCU in order to use this international funds transfer, and new members can get up to $500 in bonuses just by opening a checking account with direct deposit and additional accounts. Stanford FCU is a $3 billion financial institution serving 73,000 members. 

There is no cost to become a member, and you can join online. You must have a U.S. address and picture ID.

Stanford FCU is a full-service financial institution serving employees of Stanford University, Google, Facebook, Visa, Amazon, SAP, Tesla, and 100 other innovative companies. Members enjoy low fees, low-rate auto and home loans, high-rate deposit accounts, and low-fee rewards credit cards. Deposits are federally insured by NCUA, Equal Housing Lender, NMLS #729643.

Learn more and join online at sfcu.org/love or call 888.723.7328.


Do Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Still Matter?

Mahatma Gandhi, whose birthday is celebrated worldwide on October 2 (the International Day of Non-Violence), influenced many non-violent swaraj movements across the world, including the American Civil Rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr.  

The Gandhi-King Global Initiative (GKGI)  at Stanford University (Oct 11-13), will commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth. The conference is an opportunity to honor the legacies of these two kindred spirits, Gandhi and King, and to share and act on world-changing ideals such as swaraj (self-rule), satyagraha (truth), sarvodaya (service), and ahimsa (nonviolence).

At Oxford University, earlier this year, I met with Gandhi’s grandson, Professor Rajmohan Gandhi, who, along with Ela Gandhi (Gandhi’s granddaughter) and Martin Luther King III (Dr. King’s son), will feature alongside other prominent speakers at the conference.

I asked Dr. Gandhi about what he thought his grandfather wanted for India, based on an article he wrote for “The Week.” 

What did your grandfather want for India, for an Asia that is now ascendant?

Let me begin by recalling the words he offered more than 71 years ago to Asian leaders assembled in Delhi’s Old Fort, or the Purana Qila.

When Gandhi made those remarks in early April 1947, I was present as an eleven-year-old. Even if I understood his words at the time, I quickly forgot them. Yet the scene I glimpsed then, a Purana Qila dais occupied by Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu and a very tall Badshah Khan, remains somewhere in my brain.

“I want you to go away with the thought that Asia has to conquer the West through love and truth. In this age of democracy, in this age of awakening of the poorest of the poor, you can redeliver this message with the greatest emphasis….  You will complete the conquest of the West not through vengeance because you have been exploited, but with real understanding…This conquest will be loved by the West itself.” 

In the purest sense of the word, don’t you think this is a rather “Christian” outlook?  (Webster’s definition of “Christian:” “treating other people in a kind or generous way.”)

‘Hate not,’ Gandhi was saying to Asians who resented the European colonization that was approaching its end. Vengeance was folly. But ‘conquest’ of another kind was fair. Asians could ‘conquer’ the West with love and truth.

Your grandfather was a rather frank man.  What would he make of the violence in Indian movies, the “honor killings” in Indian villages, what some are calling state-sponsored “incarceration” of Kashmiris?

Many in the world were greeting India’s independence as a triumph of nonviolence. However, Gandhi was aware of India’s hospitality to violence. In a prayer-meeting talk on 16 June 1947, he admitted that India had accepted his nonviolent satyagraha not because violence was a horror, but because satyagraha seemed more effective than violence against the Empire. Said Gandhi:

“No one at the time (during the battles for Swaraj) showed us how to make an atom bomb. Had we known how to make it, we would have considered annihilating the English with it.” 

Well, that’s rather distressing.  Would he have foreseen that some in India’s Parliament are actually celebrating Nathuram Godse, Gandhiji’s assassin?

In their anger (Gandhi warned), Indians — the ‘we’ with whom he always identified himself, even when they went against him — might even have contemplated limitless violence, with dissenters like Gandhi protesting with their lives.

So how do we build trust when there are such fundamentally disparate viewpoints?  We have something similar at work in the United States with the paralyzing mistrust between Republicans and Democrats.

Contrasting trust between communities, for which Gandhi strove, with bids by a government to win the trust of an individual or a community, poet-academic Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee observes that ‘trust, in the Gandhian sense, is an endearing and enduring state of confidence between people and communities.’ … Bhattacharjee argues that for Muslims and Hindus to trust each other is more important in India than for either community to trust a government. Mutual trust among a people builds democracy. Distrusting your neighbor while trusting the government is the road to dictatorship.

What do you think Gandhiji would make of the American situation which has a group of four young, congresswomen of color (“The Squad”) pushing back on what they are calling the racist policies of one older, white President (Donald Trump)?

In Gandhi’s Swaraj, the weakest Indian had the right to dissent. In his view, bullies were Swaraj’s annihilators.

There are times that I seek refuge in God from the madness of the world.  For private reflection, I go to the mandir in our home, and to be in community, I go to the local Hindu temple.  This gives me a deep sense of peacefulness, but I wonder if it is really just a form of escape.

I think it is impossible to separate Gandhi, the public campaigner, from the inner Mohandas. We cannot separate Gandhi, the leader of millions, from the personal Gandhi who prayed, often from a position of helplessness, for strength and wisdom from God.

Hmm.  “A leader of millions.”  I do wonder if Gandhiji would think of himself that way or find himself reflected in Rabindranath Tagore’s poem, “Ekla Cholo Re” (“Walk Alone”).

Gandhi was asked by a young man from Gujarat … whether he expected a following for civil disobedience in India. Replied Gandhi:  

“I am not very much worried about securing a large following. That will come in due course. But I do anticipate that a time may come when my large following may throw me overboard on account of my strict adhesion to my principles – and it may be that I shall almost be turned out on the streets and have to beg for a piece of bread from door to door.”

Dr. Oza can be reached at www.satyalogue.com and https://amazon.com/author/rajoza where he has launched his new book on Gandhian thinking, “Satyalogue // Truthtalk.”

Image source: Dr. Rajesh C. Oza

Previously published in ‘The Week’. Reprinted here with the author’s permission. 

Edited by Meera Kymal.


Nandita Das Delights at Stanford

Born in British India, Manto migrated from his beloved Bombay to Lahore, Pakistan after Partition. Many of his stories reflect his heartbreak and disaffection at the violence and inhumanity that ensued on both sides of the British-imposed border.

I had watched the film “Manto” on Netflix a few days earlier, and was deeply moved and impressed by the directorial choices, acting, and Manto’s integrity which shone through every scene.

Das was introduced by Jisha Menon, Associate Professor of Theater and Performance Studies at Stanford.

Menon remarked that 20 years ago, when she was still a student a Stanford, she saw Das debut in Deepa Mehta’s film 1988 “Earth” based on Bapsi Sidhwa’s novel “Cracking India.” Das was “luminous” in that role, she said, and 20 years later, is still luminous.

Other panelists were Usha Iyer, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies, and Asha Jadeja Motwani, an investor who was one of the producers.

Das showed video clips of several scenes throughout the event. The first was the Irani Café scene, where Manto sits with other writers, members of the Progressive Writers’ Association: his dear friend Ismat Chughtai, Kishan Chander, and Manto’s wife Safia. Das mentioned that Manto himself never joined PWA, he resisted anything organized.

Their very first court case was a joint trial: Manto for “Boo” (“Smell”), and Chugtai for “Lihaaf” (“Quilt”). At that time they were filled with optimism, bravado. By Manto’s sixth trial for “Thanda Gosht” (“Cold Meat”), he had lost a lot of that bravado.

He was a prolific writer. He died at 42 with 300 short stories and hundreds of plays and poems to his name. Das had originally thought to cover the period from 1942 to 1952 in her film. In the 4 years it took her to write the script, she had to make many choices on what to depict. This film was her attempt to humanize Manto.

Manto was interested in individuals, “the other.” In the Irani Café scene he says to his friends, “If you cannot tolerate my stories, then you can’t cannot tolerate the world: we live in unbearable times.”

Das spoke of how she got close to Manto’s family. She learned more from them than from any other source.  At this point, Jadeja asked her what was the most interesting thing she had learned from the family. Das mentioned that Safia developed a rash that went away only after Manto died. Sometimes stress comes out in strange ways. Then Jadeja asked if Safia was “passive-aggressive.”  An odd and somewhat disruptive question. Das calmly responded that she shows some of the steel in Safia in one of the scenes, in the next video clip, of Manto and his family at dinner. Manto says to Safia, “I will write enough so you never go hungry.” And she responds immediately, “That’s my worry, that we will go hungry because of your writing.” Das remarked that Manto’s daughters gave her those lines.

His nephew Hamid Jalal (whose daughter Ayesha Jalal is Professor of History at Tufts University) wrote an essay called Uncle Manto. And he was very sad that Manto died before it was complete, concluding the essay in words to that effect.

In the film, scenes from Manto’s stories are juxtaposed with accounts of his life, and it is sometimes hard to tell when a story begins. Das shared that she uses a small device. Manto’s character looks into the camera when a story starts. A few minutes of “100 watt bulb” were shown—a scene with increasing tension ending with startling violence. The woman depicted simply wanted to sleep. Das’s direction brings out Manto’s deep compassion for his disadvantaged subjects.

Das spoke of the element of surprise without manipulation in his stories: he is not sentimental.

Usha Iyer asked about the Raftaar rap song used to market the film. Das interjected that she had nothing to do with it.

There are certain fictional elements to bring in things that were important to Das. For example nothing was written of Manto’s response to Gandhi’s killing. But she felt it important to include.

She talked of “Manto-esque” people. If you have conviction, courage will follow. We all have the will to be more courageous, more open-minded. Manto said “Don’t say one lakh Hindus have died and one lakh Muslims have died, say two lakh human beings have died.”

Jadeja, to whom the professors had politely handed over the microphone, proceeded to ask a puzzling question about Puritanism in the film (it was not clear to me what she was asking), and followed it up inexplicably with “Do you not like Faiz?” “I have the greatest respect,” Das immediately responded, saying she has included two of Faiz’s poems in the film. Shortly thereafter, Jisha Menon took the mic back, to my great relief.

When Das comes to an NRI audience, she’s asked why are you showing the bad side of India? It is all about intention, she said. Do you milk it, or do you say this is my country: here is the good and the bad. You can know the intention of the maker, whether they wish to titillate, manipulate or genuinely show the reality.

She spoke of the conversation between Manto and his beloved friend Shyam. Shyam was lamenting the attacks on his uncle’s family in Pakistan. Angry at Manto for his seemingly high-handed literary references, he exclaimed that they were real people. Manto responded that either everyone’s life counts or no one’s.

An interesting piece of information she shared is that no Indian or international film that is set in Lahore has ever been shot in Lahore. Das was determined to but couldn’t, she was stopped. She looked for a place resembling Lahore in India, and found a place in Gujarat.

Jadeja talked about dinner with a friend at whose house she met Nandita Das.  The director had mentioned that she was raising money for a film.  While the topic was interesting to Jadeja, she said, “As a VC, I thought I won’t make any money on this.” Das exclaimed to the audience with humor and wisdom, “Those who have a lot of money want to make more money!”

In the next video clip, of Manto and Safia in the garden, we see the rash on her arm, and her distress at the alcohol in his breath on which even their little daughter commented.

Next, we see Manto’s statement in court that his controversial story “Thanda Gosht (“Cold Meat”) is literature. In that scene, he talks of Flaubert and Joyce and how they faced charges for their “Madame Bovary” and Ulysses” respectively. “My stories are the mirrors for society to see itself,” he said, “If someone has a problem with what they see, how am I to blame?”, adding “Neem leaves are bitter, but they purify the blood.”

The first question in the audience Q&A session was about the casting of Nawaz Siddiqui. Das said he was in “Firaaq”, her directorial debut, 10 years ago, and when Das mentioned to him that she was going to make a film on Manto, he said “I’ll give you two years! I’ll give you however long you need.” But by the time the she was ready to start the film, he had become a star! He was acting in “Munna Michael”. He did not have a lot of time to inhabit the role of Manto and deferred to her direction. But, she added, “he brought his authenticity and his beautiful eyes.”

The next question was about the form of the film, and questioner went on to ask about the meta-fictional aspect of the film. Das asked, to my delight, what does that mean? On hearing the questioner clarify that it was about the stories within a story, Das responded that she hasn’t studied film, it was quite organic. She decided to start the film with Manto’s story “Das rupiya” (“10 rupees”). The 14 your old girl seems happy and also you see the beauty of Bombay but it also makes you uncomfortable. There is a sense of foreboding. The girl is laughing but as the three men try to grab her, you think something is going to happen. So, to answer the question on form, it all came about very organically. For example, she did not do auditions, she just talked to the actors. She spoke with a wide range of actors, some very experienced and others, novices.

Who were some current fearless storytellers that she could name? She answered that she doesn’t like to name names, as it undermines those who are not named.

The next question was about how she balances artistic merit with commercial needs. Das responded that she is tried to make the film she wanted to make. No one knows the formula for commercial success! It is not a science; film is part of the arts because there is this alchemy,

She was asked about the production history. In her response, she mentioned Hewlett-Packard, and HP’s Satjiv Chahal, Vikrant Batra, and Jean-Pierre le Calvez (whose role at this event was primarily starting and stopping the video clips from a laptop by the podium.) HP was the official partner for Cannes. There she met Batra and mentioned that she was raising money for a film about a writer. He replied that there was alignment with HP’s tagline: “Power of Ink!” Viacom 18, the film studio was also a producer, better known for huge productions like Padmavat. Das ended up being producer, which was very demanding on top of everything else. In her next project, se declared, she will first look for a producer. Of course, art needs patrons. What it also needs is faith. (“Asha, are you listening?” she quipped to Jadeja.)

She was once asked what does the director do? She said a film like an orchestra and the director is the conductor. You have a vision and you share it. She took her driver to see the film and his reaction was as she had hoped.

A sophomore from Pakistan asked why Das hadn’t shown more of Faiz or something else. Das explained that it’s a two-hour film, you have to make choices.

The event ended with a video clip of Toba Tek Singh, one of Manto’s most celebrated stories.

Naatak, the Bay Area’s Indian Theatre company had put on a distinguished stage production of Toba Tek Singh in 2017, which I reviewed earlier. I noticed some Naatak members sprinkled in the audience—kindred spirits.

In the end Manto himself becomes Toba Tek Singh: in between India and Pakistan, on a piece of land with no name, lay Toba Tek Singh, and Manto.

Das thanked the audience with folded hands, and invited everyone for the screening of “Manto” in San Jose the following day.  If you can’t make it, she added, you can watch it on Netflix.

“This article was originally published at www.rajiwrites.com and is included here with permission.” 

This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain, Ph.D.

Cover photo credit: Geetika Pathania Jain

Calling College-bound Students

High School students aspiring for education institutions such as Ivy League colleges or within the University of California system have an opportunity to gain an edge in the admissions process at the annual Education Expo Aug. 19 at the India Community Center in Milpitas. This free, community-service event will offer valuable tips and information to students from middle school through high school. 

Gaining admission to top schools is harder now than ever before. There are so many applicants with top grades and excellent test scores that only a small percentage of the applicants to each college are accepted. This year, Harvard and Stanford accepted only 5 percent of the students who applied. Yale was only slightly better, accepting 6 percent.

Attendees to the expo will understand how to simplify the current complicated admissions process and will get practical strategies and tips from admissions experts as well as insider knowledge on how to make themselves memorable to college admissions officers. Experts in college financing will provide information about scholarships, financial aid, loans and other ways to pay for college expenses.

Former Stanford University Admissions Officer Timothy Jaconette

A highlight will be the presence of former Stanford University Admissions Officer Timothy Jaconette. Jaconette, founder of  ‘Advanced Admit’ that works directly with families to guide students applying for college and graduate school. Jaconette’s insights about college has been referenced by media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report, MSN Money and Yahoo News, among others.

Other speakers at the expo will include Wells Fargo & Company market relations manager for education and financial services Casey Galindo, who will help attendees understand the college financial aid process in five easy steps; Ilumin Education co-founder John Chen, who will speak on “Unlocking Harvard Admissions: 3 Proven Strategies”; Insight Education co-owner and lead counselor Purvi Modi, who will provide information on why it is so hard to get into college today; UCEazy co-founder and chief executive officer Vinnie Gupta, who will explore some special challenges many families face and offer parents advice on how to approach these challenges; and College Shortcuts founder Neha Gupta, who will explain how many students are missing the one thing that matters in the college admissions landscape today and how students can do that one thing.

  • Students and parents will also meet and be able to ask questions to counselors from C2 Education and Flex College Prep. 
  • Free full-length practice SAT and ACT tests will be offered by Insight Education.
  • Every family will receive a free copy of Neha Gupta’s valuable new book, “College Shortcuts, The Shortcut to Getting Accepted Into Your Dream College.”
  • As an added incentive to attend the event three Dell laptop computers will be raffled off at the expo. Every student attending the event will be registered for a chance to win one of these three laptops. Winners must be present to win.

August 19, 11am-6pm. ICC, 525 Los Coches St. in Milpitas. To register: www.indiawest.com/collegefair. Organized by India-West, in collaboration with McDonald’s and Insight Education. Contact Dyana Bhandari (510) 383-1147. See coverage of last year’s Education Expo in India-West here


Akshay Venkatesh Wins Fields Medal

Stanford Mathematics Professor Akshay Venkatesh won the Fields Medal, the most prestigious prize in mathematics. Venkatesh joins Stanford mathematicians Maryam Mirzakhani, who won in 2014, and Paul Cohen, who won in 1966. Officially known as the International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics, the Fields Medal was presented by the International Mathematical Union on Aug. 1 at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM), held this year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In a video shown at ICM in celebration of the Fields Medals, Venkatesh talked about the feeling math brings. “A lot of the time, when you do math, you’re stuck. But at the same time, there are all these moments where you feel privileged that you get to work with it. And you have this sensation of transcendence. You feel like you’ve been part of something really meaningful,” he said.

The award recognizes Venkatesh’s synthesis of analytic number theory, homogeneous dynamics, topology and representation theory, which has resolved long-standing problems in areas such as the equidistribution of arithmetic objects.

Venkatesh grew up in Perth, Australia, where he developed an early love of math. “When I was maybe around 7, I remember I had this spiral notebook and I’d just learned about binary and I remember writing in red various numbers, translated into binary,” Venkatesh said in the celebration video. “I think just manipulating numbers makes me feel happy.”

He began competing in the state mathematical Olympiad program as a child, and at 11 won a bronze medal in the International Physics Olympiad. The next year he won a bronze medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad.

Venkatesh graduated from high school at 13 and attended the University of Western Australia. He graduated with First Class Honors in pure math, the youngest student ever to do so, and was awarded the J. A. Woods Memorial Prize for being the leading graduating student of the year. He then went on to earn his doctorate from Princeton University. Venkatesh joined Stanford’s math department in 2008 and has spent the past year on sabbatical working at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

One substantial area of Venkatesh’s work has been finding more ways in which homogenous dynamics can be used in number theory. For example, he describes a ball bouncing inside a triangle when the ball doesn’t slow down. His math asks questions about what spaces the ball avoids or prefers and how this changes if the triangle’s sides are curved. He then uses those ideas to solve problems in number theory.

Brian Conrad, professor of mathematics at Stanford, said Venkatesh is unique in that his expertise covers the whole range of number theory. “Most number theorists tend to work on one side or the other because each aspect is already quite big and it’s very difficult to assimilate the tools from all the different areas,” he said.

Early in his career, Venkatesh, along with Jordan Ellenberg at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, made progress establishing instances of conjectural regularities in the properties of objects – known as class groups – associated with a variety of different number systems. As part of that work, he and Ellenberg proved in a geometric setting some cases of what are called the Cohen-Lenstra heuristics, which remain an active area of interest for number theorists.

More recently, Venkatesh has been working on a body of conjectures, known as the Langlands program, that proposes connections between the algebraic and analytic sides of number theory by means of symmetry. The majority of proposals from the Langlands program focus on structures based on infinite number systems. Collaborating with Søren Galatius, professor of mathematics at Stanford, and others, Venkatesh pioneered ways of incorporating the use of symmetries based on finite number systems in ways that had not been done before.

David Roberts, a professor of mathematics at the University of Minnesota, who collaborated with Venkatesh, commented on the extent of Venkatesh’s contributions.  “I think one of the most extraordinary things about him is that he is very broad in his mathematical interest. Often Fields medalists win for a specific theorem but Akshay is very spread out.”