HOME | ABOUT US | Speaker | Americans Together | Videos | www.CenterforPluralism.com | Please note that the blog posts include my own articles plus selected articles critical to India's cohesive functioning. My articles are exclusively published at www.TheGhouseDiary.com You can send an email to: MikeGhouseforIndia@gmail.com

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

TEXAS FAITH: Is religious freedom under attack in America?

Indeed, every group feels that their religious liberty is under attack. Is there a time in history when a group did not feel threatened by co-religionists, other religions and the governments? Here is a short history and possible solutions.

This a weekly column at Dallas Morning News, here is Mike’s contribution on the topic.

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

Indeed, every group feels that their religious liberty is under attack. Is there a time in history when a group did not feel threatened by co-religionists, other religions and the governments? Here is a short history and possible solutions.

Jews have always been under attack. They felt at home in Spain, which was destroyed by butcher Ferdinand. Then, they felt at home in Germany, but the Holocaust tore them apart and their belief in humanity was shattered. Every day, they have to be on guard. Someone or another is making anti-Semitic comments.

Fred Phelps was in Dallas in July 2010 demonstrating hate against Jews. The anti-circumcision bills in San Francisco and Santa Monica in 2011 were irritants. Last month in Houston, the Jewish academy could not participate in a basketball game. It was set on Saturday, most Jews refrain from activity that day. Indeed, it is restricting their freedom to practice their religion by exclusion and being insensitive to their faith.

Hindus are an open game to evangelists. A few years ago, a Baptist convention made a declaration to harvest the "Poor Hindu souls". This year, Russians made a serious attempt to ban Bhagvad Gita, the Hindu Holy Book. In November 2011, a Kentucky state senator attacked Hinduism as an idolatrous belief. California textbooks portrayed Hinduism in negative light, so the battle is still on. There is a debate among Indians: Had Bobby Jindal of Hindu parents and Nikki Haley of Sikh parents practiced their faiths, and not converted to Christianity, would they have become governors?

Sikhs had to fight with Arizona to keep the name of a Sikh 9/11 victim on a memorial wall. Wicca had to fight for the headstone in Arlington Memorial Cemetery for those who died serving America. Of course, there are enough stories about Native Americans, atheists and others.

Muslim Americans strongly feel the noose tightening on their freedom. Most restrictions are coming out of sheer ignorance and a false understanding of what their faith is about, as they practice in America rather than Saudi Arabia or Iran. The senators and representatives who have initiated anti-Sharia bills can't even tell what they are opposing.

The irony is neither the organizations nor the Muslims are seeking Sharia to be a part of the American law. All they are asking is to have options to square personal matters between family members through a jury, mediation, court hearing or the Sharia guidelines. Indeed, it is no different than the option of Jews using Halaqa in their personal conflicts or going to a psychologist for counseling.

Most Christian denominations have been under attack by fellow Christians. Missionaries were unforgivably cruel to natives around the world, including America. Most of the groups that infringe on the freedom of others have also been a victim.

The Catholic diocese has rightly filed the law suit protesting the Government's intrusion in the practice of their faith that the employers provide workers free contraceptives. This is the right thing to do - to stand up for the freedom of religion. As a Muslim I have stood up for freedom of every religious group, in this case with the Catholic Church. Indeed, it was good to see evangelical leader Richard Land make the same pledge along with me on Sean Hannity Radio.

In summary, the issues are about whether a majority - or the government - can arrogantly push vulnerable ones into obeying.

We need to build an America where no one is apprehensive or afraid of the other. Each one of us needs to feel home, a home where everyone can drop his or her guards and lives freely.

It is our duty to safeguard the liberties endowed by our creator to practice our beliefs. It behooves for us to stand up for each other, why should anyone stand up for you, if you are not willing to do the same for them?

To see all the contributors, please visit Dallas Morning news at:http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2012/05/texas-faith-is-religious-freed.html
. . . . .

MikeGhouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. The blog www.TheGhousediary.com is updated daily.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

An Open Letter to India’s Graduating Classes


The letter is a good balance of guidance and criticism.  I wish the letter was addressed to the body of the educators as well as the students.

Some of you may relate with my experience. In my 2nd year of B.Com in 1969-70, and I had to memorize different elements of the cheques then. Like it is a promissory note, payee, payer, date, amount in numbers and words….. crossing the check, parallel crossing, and writing in between…and how endorsements were done etc…Even though my father had a bank account, the Cheques were in the safe and rarely used. The check was an alien instrument to me and I was 18.  Compare that to your kids and in my case my daughter, in her 6th grade class, she had a day’s workshop called Model City in Richardson, where kids ran mock banks, printing business, restaurant… and the whole thing and balancing the check books.

The Kids coming out of high school in the United States make their own decisions of life, although a few among us hand hold them. My kids made all their own decisions. My father made those decisions for me even in my graduate program; we make them dependent on us. Of course we learn fast, but if we get American education in India, imagine the decision making abilities we would have early on in life….

Mike Ghouse

Now the article;

An Open Letter to India’s Graduating Classes
By MOHIT CHANDRA, May 23, 2012, 6:22 am

Dear Graduates and Post-Graduates,

This is your new employer. We are an Indian company, a bank, a
consulting firm, a multinational corporation, a public sector utility
and everything in between. We are the givers of your paycheck, of the
brand name you covet, of the references you will rely on for years to
come and of the training that will shape your professional path.

Millions of you have recently graduated or will graduate over the next
few weeks. Many of you are probably feeling quite proud – you’ve
landed your first job, discussions around salaries and job titles are
over, and you’re ready to contribute.

Life is good – except that it’s not. Not for us, your employers, at
least. Most of your contributions will be substandard and lack
ambition, frustrating and of limited productivity. We are gearing
ourselves up for broken promises and unmet expectations. Sorry to be
the messenger of bad news.

Today, we regret to inform you that you are spoiled. You are spoiled
by the “India growth story”; by an illusion that the Indian education
system is capable of producing the talent that we, your companies,
most crave; by the imbalance of demand and supply for real talent; by
the deceleration of economic growth in the mature West; and by the law
of large numbers in India, which creates pockets of highly skilled
people who are justly feted but ultimately make up less than 10
percent of all of you.

So why this letter, and why should you read on? Well, because based on
collective experience of hiring and developing young people like you
over the years, some truths have become apparent. This is a guide for
you and the 15- to 20-year-olds following in your footsteps – the next
productive generation of our country. Read on to understand what your
employers really want and how your ability to match these wants can
enrich you professionally.

There are five key attributes employers typically seek and, in fact,
will value more and more in the future. Unfortunately, these are often
lacking in you and your colleagues.

1.You speak and write English fluently: We know this is rarely the
case. Even graduates from better-known institutions can be hard to

Exhibit No. 1: Below is an actual excerpt from a résumé we received
from a “highly qualified and educated” person. This is the applicant’s
“objective statement:”

“To be a part of an organization wherein I could cherish my erudite
dexterity to learn the nitigrities of consulting”

Huh? Anyone know what that means? We certainly don’t.

And in spoken English, the outcomes are no better. Whether it is a
strong mother tongue influence, or a belief (mistakenly) that the
faster one speaks the more mastery one has, there is much room for
improvement. Well over half of the pre-screened résumés lack the
English ability to effectively communicate in business.

So the onus, dear reader, is on you – to develop comprehensive English
skills, both written and oral.

2. You are good at problem solving, thinking outside the box, seeking
new ways of doing things: Hard to find. Too often, there is a tendency
to simply wait for detailed instructions and then execute the tasks –
not come up with creative suggestions or alternatives.

Exhibit No. 2: I was speaking with a colleague of mine who is a
chartered accountant from Britain and a senior professional. I asked
him why the pass percentage in the Indian chartered accountant exam
was so low and why it was perceived as such a difficult exam.

Interestingly (and he hires dozens of Indian chartered accountants
each year), his take is as follows: the Indian exam is no harder than
the British exam. Both focus on the application of concepts, but since
the Indian education system is so rote-memorization oriented, Indian
students have a much more difficult time passing it than their British

Problem-solving abilities, which are rarely taught in our schooling
system, are understandably weak among India’s graduates, even though
India is the home of the famous “jugadu,” the inveterate problem
solver who uses what’s on hand to find a solution. Let’s translate
this intrinsic ability to the workforce.

3. You ask questions, engage deeply and question hierarchy: How we wish!

Exhibit No. 3: Consistently, managers say that newly graduated hires
are too passive, that they are order-takers and that they are too
hesitant to ask questions. “Why can’t they pick up the phone and call
when they do not understand something?” is a commonly asked question.
You are also unduly impressed by titles and perceived hierarchy. While
there is a strong cultural bias of deference and subservience to
titles in India, it is as much your responsibility as it is ours to
challenge this view.

4. You take responsibility for your career and for your learning and
invest in new skills: Many of you feel that once you have got the
requisite degree, you can go into cruise control. The desire to learn
new tools and techniques and new sector knowledge disappears. And we
are talking about you 25- to 30-year-olds – typically the age when
inquisitiveness and hunger for knowledge in the workplace is at its

Exhibit No. 4: Recently, our new hires were clamoring for training.
Much effort went into creating a learning path, outlining specific
courses (online, self-study) for each team. With much fanfare, an
e-mail was sent to the entire team outlining the courses.

How many took the trainings? Less than 15 percent. How many actually
read the e-mail? Less than 20 percent.

The desire to be spoon-fed, to be directed down a straight and narrow
path with each career step neatly laid out, is leading you toward
extinction, just like the dinosaurs. Your career starts and ends with
you. Our role, as your employer, is to ensure you have the tools,
resources and opportunities you need to be successful. The rest is up
to you.

5. You are professional and ethical: Everyone loves to be considered a
professional. But when you exhibit behavior like job hopping every
year, demanding double-digit pay increases for no increase in ability,
accepting job offers and not appearing on the first day, taking one
company’s offer letter to shop around to another company for more
money — well, don’t expect to be treated like a professional.
Similarly, stretching yourself to work longer hours when needed,
feeling vested in the success of your employer, being ethical about
expense claims and leaves and vacation time are all part of being a
consummate professional. Such behavior is not ingrained in new
graduates, we have found, and has to be developed.

So what can we conclude, young graduates?

My message is a call to action: Be aware of these five attributes,
don’t expect the gravy train to run forever, and don’t assume your
education will take care of you. Rather, invest in yourself – in
language skills, in thirst for knowledge, in true professionalism and,
finally, in thinking creatively and non-hierarchically. This will hold
you in good stead in our knowledge economy and help lay a strong
foundation for the next productive generation that follows you.

Together, I hope we, your employer, and you, the employee, can forge
an enduring partnership.

The author is a partner with KPMG, and these are his personal views.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Idiocy of The Big, Fat Indian Weddings


I particularly like the sentence, "We urgently need people who say the correct things. Before the social order goes topsy-turvy, before we start accepting the crooked, the cheat, the corrupt, the pervert; we need people who can put forth the standard view."

Indeed, we need to speak up and I am glad Aamir Khan is using his fame to stand up for social justice. Some one needs to do it. I will do my part, will you do yours?

Mike Ghouse

The Idiocy of The Big, Fat Indian Wedding
by Prof. Shubha Tiwari
Continued from "Our Children are Not Safe"

The Third Episode

Image (c) Gettyimages.com
It’s true that the national passion of India is neither film nor cricket as is commonly believed. Our national passion is marriage. People spend all their lives thinking about marriage, their own marriage, marriage of their siblings, children, neighbors and so on.

Aamir’s show began on a light note where girls expressed desire for ‘Yashraj films’ style of marriage ceremony and boys wanted their ‘barat’ to come in helicopters. Frankly, all of us, Indians dream about that the day of marriage all our lives. The jewels, the food, the location, the music, the gold, and of course the ‘len-den’ (dowry) – different aspects of the ceremony are terribly important for an Indian.

But this national obsession has become a national menace. Farmers, laborers, vendors and all those who cannot afford the extravaganza go on taking loans which they cannot pay back. Severe tragedies occur due to this.

A girl from Delhi, Komal came to the show. She belonged to a well-to-do family. The same old story that we all know so well, followed in her case also. Marriage was settled. Cards were printed. The date was nearing. The blackmailing began. Demands for fridge, car, furniture, foreign tours etc started. For fear of social disgrace, the parents of the girl fulfilled the demands. Somehow, marriage happened. But demands kept rising unabated. The girls was tortured. The parents further bowed down. It all lasted till the girl could suffer no more. Then came the breaking point. In the case of Komal, she had gone to the US. So, her torture was even more acute. But so many girls in our country are looted and tortured for the sake of an NRI husband. And the breaking point never comes. Girls keep suffering till they reach the stage where they can make others suffer.

The show, thankfully, did not go linear. It had interesting twists and turns. After another tragic tale from Kerala and an unsolved case from Punjab, we had a case of ‘pakarva byah’. I liked it a lot. The boy’s father demanded dowry. The girl’s father got the boy kidnapped. The marriage took place with all ‘haldi’ and other rituals. The first night came. The boy was angry. He ordered the girl to stand in a corner and not come near him. After all the adventures of the day, the boy was naturally tired; he slept. When he woke up in the morning, the girl was still standing at the spot where he had ordered her to stand. He kissed his fair, beautiful wife and as they say , ‘The rest is history’.
Balwant Singh Ramuwalia also came on the show to especially highlight the plight of girls from Punjab. Punjabis have this weakness for NRI son-in-laws. About thirty thousand girls in Punjab are currently waiting for their NRI husbands to return or take them abroad. They’ve simply been ditched. A daughter-in-law is the best servant one can have. You don’t have to pay anything. The whole work is properly done. You can abuse as well. You can press the button, and money can also fly in from her parents’ side.
Good examples were also showcased. An organization from Burhanpur has made simple marriage ceremonies popular. The way the old man was referring to his place, ‘hamare Burhanpur me kio ladki jahez ke lie nahi jalai jati’ (girls are not burnt for dowry in our Burhanpur). His stress on the fact that Burhanpur is his was touching indeed. And then came the true heroine from Mumbai, Rani Tripathi. She and her brother had conducted a sting operation on her would be in-laws and showed the world how money and goods were being demanded. The case of north-eastern states was also discussed where there’s no such thing as dowry.
As always the show ended with a lovely theme song.

It’s a commendable effort to touch the conscience of the people. As Aamir says that it is his way of fulfilling his social responsibility; following this program is one of my small efforts to fulfill my social responsibility. We urgently need people who say the correct things. Before the social order goes topsy-turvy, before we start accepting the crooked, the cheat, the corrupt, the pervert; we need people who can put forth the standard view. The beauty of the show lies in its method. Interesting presentation, concern, positive approach, unbiased analysis and a belief that things can change for the better- all these factors together make ‘Satyameva Jayate’ a brilliant piece of creation.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hyderabad in a hurry

Almost all major American news papers are covering India as a travel destination, this the 2nd in a series I have seen... Hyderabad in a hurry. 

36 Hours in Hyderabad, India
Courtesy of NY Times

http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/travel/36-hours-in-hyderabad-india.html pagewanted=1&smid=fb-share

Kuni Takahashi for The New York Times
The Taramati Baradari, a pavilion said to have been built for a king’s courtesan. More Photos »

SITUATED in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad is a juxtaposition of old and new unlike any other city in India. While Microsoft, Google and other technology giants have offices in the glass and steel structures in the district known as Cyberabad, the history of this more than 400-year-old city is just as alluring as destinations like Jaipur and Agra, with sites like the 13th-century Golconda Fort, once home to the famous Kohinoor diamond, and the iconic Charminar monument in Hyderabad’s teeming Old City. In the past, Hyderabad was often overlooked as a tourism destination. But in recent years, sleek hotels, restaurants and night spots that cater to the 20- and 30-somethings working in the information technology industry have been attracting jet-setters from around the world who come to discover the past and experience the rapidly evolving present.
Kuni Takahashi for The New York Times
The tombs of Mah Laqa Bai, a highly regarded Urdu poet from the 18th century. More Photos »

Readers’ Comments

5:30 p.m.
Skip the standard guidebook suggestion of catching the Sound and Light Show at Golconda Fort, and head to the Taramati Baradari (Gandipet Road, Ibrahimbagh), the beautiful pavilion not far from the fort that was supposedly built for the favorite mistress of one of the 17th-century Golconda kings. Legend has it that her singing reached the king as he sat on his throne at the fort less than two miles away. Stand in one of the archways, and watch the sun set over the fort and on the 16th- and 17th-century tombs of the kings.
8 p.m.
Andhra food has a reputation as the spiciest in India so get ready to face the heat at Southern Spice (Road No. 3, Banjara Hills; 91-40-2335-3802; prices from 150 to 300 rupees, or $2.85 to $5.75 at 52 rupees to the dollar), a perpetually packed casual spot that’s a local standby. The South Indian thali served in a round steel plate is the most popular order, with more than a half-dozen small dishes that might include fried cabbage with peanuts and coconut, rasam (a lentil soup with tamarind), curried eggplant and mounds of rice. Round out your meal with fiery sides like chepala pulusu, a kind of fish stew in tamarind sauce (290 rupees) and gongura mutton (295 rupees), mutton cooked with sorrel leaves.
8 a.m.
Most visitors don’t make it out of the city to Moula-Ali, an area a few miles north that is named after Hazrat Ali, who is believed to be the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad. A shrine atop a hill pays homage to him on the spot where he was believed to have left the mark of his palm. The 20-minute climb is well worth the views of the city. On your way back into town, stop at the tombs of Mah Laqa Bai, a highly regarded Urdu poet and a famous courtesan from the 18th century. The tomb and the gardens around it have been recently restored with financing from the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.
11 a.m.
Hyderabad processes many of the world’s pearls, which means the selection is extensive and the buying more wallet friendly than other places. Though there is no shortage of pearl vendors, Mangatrai Pearls and Jewelry (5-9-46, Basheer Bagh, End of the Flyover; 91-40-2323-3305, mangatraipearls.com) has an established reputation for its high-quality pearls. Park yourself on a stool, sip coffee or tea prepared in the back room, and let one of the salespeople present you with necklaces, earrings, pendants, bracelets and hairpieces (prices range from 250 to 2.5 million rupees).
Take a drive through Cyberabad with its towering buildings and paved streets and end up at InOrbit Mall (APIIC Software Layout, Cyberabad; inorbit.in). Megamalls aren’t a novel concept in India, but this 800,000-square-foot behemoth with a mix of Indian and Western retailers is one of the largest in the country and is worth strolling through to get a sense of the shopping culture that’s driven by the younger generation and their generous incomes.
1 p.m.
End your trip in new Hyderabad with lunch at the Indian Art Café (F- 29, first Floor, Inorbit Mall; 91-40-4011-7445; indianartcafe.in), which, as the name hints, is decorated with modern Indian art and sculpture. The menu is a riff on classic South Indian cuisine like a pizza dosa (thin rice crepe) made with Cheddar cheese and served with ginger relish and a peanut dip (145 rupees).
2 p.m.
Surrounding the four minarets of the 16th-century Charminar monument, one of South India’s most recognizable landmarks, is the 400-year-old Old City. You’ll find centuries-old buildings, an overwhelming amount of street noise and huge crowds, including burqa-clad women and men in kurtas. Hundreds of vendors hawk sequined turbans (from 200 rupees) and tunics for men (800 to 5,000 rupees) and scarves and clothing for women (100 to 10,000 rupees). The Laad Bazaar is filled with shops like Irfan Bangles (20-4-1205 Laad Bazaar; 91-40-6535-7411), which sell sparkly bangles (30 to 600 rupees), a Hyderabadi trademark.
3:30 p.m.
After shopping, walk over to the Chowmahalla Palace (Khilwat, 20-4-236; 91-40-2452-2032; chowmahalla.com; 150 rupees entrance fee for international visitors, plus 50 rupees for carrying a still camera), more than 200 years old, where the Nizam rulers — specifically the Asaf Jahi dynasty — held court. The structure, which is modeled after the Shah’s palace in Tehran, offers a glimpse into the luxurious lifestyle of these Muslim rulers, with such sights as a 1912 restored Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, elephant howdahs and 19 grand Belgian glass chandeliers.
5 p.m.

Page 2 of 2)
Continue your journey into old Hyderabad with a trip to the Jade Room in Taj Falaknuma Palace (Engine Bowli, Falaknuma; 91-40-6629-8585; tajhotels.com; 1,500 rupees a person), a former Nizam palace turned luxury hotel that has hosted dignitaries and royalty like King George and Queen Mary. Today, the opulent space, with hand-painted ceilings and chandeliers, serves a decadent afternoon tea that includes salmon sandwiches, lamb samosas and masala scones. It can easily double as an early dinner. On your way out, take in the views of the city from the hotel grounds and listen to the sounds of the sarangi (stringed instrument) player sitting in a passageway.

Readers’ Comments

9 p.m.
Get a taste of the night life that’s become increasingly popular among Hyderabadis by heading to the hip Park Hotel (22 Rajbhavan Road; 91-40-2345-6789;theparkhotels.com/hyderabad/hyderabad.html), which reigns when it comes to after-hours spots. Start by picking from nearly 20 kinds of Scotch at Sicca (450 to 4,000 rupees), a bar that’s reminiscent of an old-fashioned gentleman’s club. Then make your way over to either of two nightclubs for some dancing: Carbon has a more retro feel, while the newer Kismet attracts the city’s glitterati; a glass tunnel leads to the 10,000-square-foot space with its gold and black color scheme and sparkling lights. The soundtrack is Bollywood, house, trance and Western pop. Besides the main dance floor, the club has several side lounges for quieter conversation.
10 a.m.
Hyderabad doesn’t come to life until midday, and few visitors make it to the weekly antiques market along Pathergatti Road in the Charminar area to experience its morning energy. You’ll find several dozen vendors selling wares like 200-year-old wine bottles, antique cameras, coins and hurricane lamps. Pick up a trinket or two to take home, and don’t forget that bargaining is a prerequisite to buying (most items fall in the range of 100 to 5,000 rupees).
Haggling builds an appetite, and sampling Hyderabadi biryani — a mix of rice, spices, meat, egg or vegetables — will seal your visit with delicious memories. The city is overrun with biryani spots, but the no-frills restaurant Hotel Shadab (21 High Court Road; 91-40-2456-5949) surpasses the competition. (Lunch is around 250 rupees.)
The Park Hyderabad (22 Rajbhavan Road; 91-40-2345-6789; theparkhotels.com) is part of the Indian chain of upscale boutique-style properties. This 270-room spot overlooking Hussain Sagar Lake has four lounges and suites created by prominent fashion designers like Tarun Tahiliani and Manish Arora. Rates from 4,960 rupees ($95).
You can live like a king at Taj Falaknuma Palace (Engine Bowli, Falaknuma; 91-40-6629-8585; tajhotels.com), a former Nizam palace that has been transformed into a 60-room luxury property following a 10-year restoration. The hotel is perched above the city and has 32 acres of immaculate gardens. Prices from 20,500 rupees.
A guide and car and driver is recommended for seeing the city. Detours India(detoursindia.com) is a local company that offers private tours starting around 6,500 rupees.

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(214) 325-1916 | MikeGhouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. The blog www.TheGhousediary.com is updated daily.