Categories
Miscellany

Kavya Shivashankar beats Jimmy Kimmel too

Jimmy Kimmel, the late night comedian, apparently has this annual routine where he invites the year’s spelling bee winner to his show and goes head to head with them in a weird spelling test. Although he has been apparently winning for last few years, this year Kavya Shivashankar beat him hands down. Watch this video. It is hilarious.

Categories
Miscellany

Kavya Shivashankar Becomes Spelling Champ

A bunch of thirteen year old kids of Indian origin ruled the roost at the Scripps National Spelling Bee tonight. Out of 11 finalists, more than half (Ramya Auroprem, Aishwarya Pastapur, Sidharth Chand, Neetu Chandak, Anamika Veeramani, Tussah Heera, and Kavya Shivashankar) had Indian names. That is an astounding 7 out of 11. In each round, anyone making a mistake was out of the competition. It took 16 rounds to crown the champion, in which Kavya Shivashankar of Olathe, Kansas spelt “Laodicean” correctly to take the trophy. It was interesting how she acted out writing each word on her hand with her finger before finally spelling it out.
The examiners were pronouncing each word for the contestants before they could spell it. They didn’t do badly with pronouncing the kids’ names either, except Anamika’s, which they pronounced as Anna-Meeka.

Categories
Entertainment

Anoop Back with a Bang

Anoop Desai was great this week.
My skeptical attitude in last week’s post about Anoop Desai’s re-entry into American Idol has proven wrong. He got mauled by the judges last week, but survived in audience voting. This week, he was back with a bang. This was country music week, and his song was liked well by judges and audience alike. Simon Cowell, the judge who is the hardest to please, said “you went from a zero to a hero”, and called his performance the best of the night. I’m sure he will survive tonight’s vote too.

Categories
Entertainment

Anoop Desai is Back, but is he?

I have not been watching American Idol regularly, but seeing desi kid Anoop Desai on the show had sparked some interest in me. Then in last week’s episode, I turned the TV off when he was not one of the top twelve chosen. Turns out, moments later the judges had decided to make it a top-13 instead of a top-12 (video).

Categories
Entertainment

Sanjay Patel and his Book of Hindu Deities

Listening to Sanjay Patel‘s interview on NPR’s The World last week was a pleasant experience. Sanjay seems to be one hell of a creative person. He works on cartoon characters for Pixar. Having worked on hit animation films like “Monsters, Inc.“, “Toy Story 2“, “A Bug’s Life“, he has now written a book of illustrations about Hindu gods and goddesses. You can listen to his interview with The World here, and see a glimpse of his illustrations here.
Sanjay Patel's Little Book of Hindu DietiesSanjay has a neat website promoting his book and his art, and it is interestingly called gheehappy.com. It has an interesting profile of him, and has the only picture I could find of him – apparently his childhood photo. His profile says he was born in England and raised in LA, “but has never been to India” — sounds kind of out of context on his profile though, unless from his name or his book people would assume he comes from India.
In the interview, Lisa Mullins asks Sanjay about how he came to learn about the gods, and she asks as an example, about Kaama (of all Gods). It is hard to explain to the westerner how Kaama may be irrelevant to a practising Hindu. Sanjay Patel says when he was a kid, his parents came to the US and bought a motel in California, like so many Gujarati immigrants do. They lived in the motel, with one room reserved for pooja. His father would force him to sit in the pooja room every evening while the family worshipped, making him miss his favorite cartoon shows on the TV.
Are the cartoon protesters listening?

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News

Natwar M. Gandhi, CFO, Washington DC

Natwar GandhiContinuing the series of Indian names heard in America, I am profiling Dr. Natwar M. Gandhi today. Dr. Gandhi is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the District of Columbia (Washington DC). Born in Savar Kundla, Gujarat in 1941 in a grocers family, Gandhi has an LLB and BCom in accounting from the University of Bombay. He came to the US in the sixties, completed a master’s degree in business administration from Atlanta University, and a doctorate in accounting from Louisiana State University.
Dr. Gandhi is responsible for Washington DC’s finances, including its approximately $7 billion in annual operating and capital funds. Gandhi was nominated to this position by Mayor Anthony A. Williams and appointed on June 7, 2000. On November 6, 2001, the Council of the District of Columbia unanimously approved the Mayor’s nomination of Gandhi to a new five-year term as CFO. His term expires next month, and from his successes in the city it is evident that he will only end up at a higher position in the district or federal government. (Update Jan-31/07: Dr. Gandhi has been reappointed by the new DC Mayor to his post in January 2007.)
This is what the Washington DC government website says about him.

When Gandhi joined the Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR) in 1997, the agency was in disarray. Its revenue base was shrinking, and employee morale was sinking. Under his leadership, OTR demonstrated a remarkable turnaround. Successes included collecting substantially more in tax revenue than in previous years, turning projected city deficits into huge surpluses; issuing more than 150,000 tax refunds within 15 days during the 1999 and 2000 tax-filing seasons; and establishing a new one-stop, walk-in Customer Service Center to improve public outreach.

In an interview with the Washintonian, Dr. Gandhi says he was born in a village with no electricity or running water, and came to the US with seven dollars in his pocket.
To read more about Gandhi’s achievements, and hear his radio interview visit the Business of Government website.

Categories
News

Sunita Williams

Under this category, InhiA (Indian names heard in America) I will be talking about just that – Indian names heard in America, and finding out how much of Indian origin the person is. What better name to start with than Sunita Williams, who is currently in space, assigned to International Space Station.
Sunita Williams was born Sunita Lynn Pandya on September 19, 1965 in Euclid, Ohio. Her parents are Deepak Pandya, a famous neuroanatomist hailing from Ahmedabad, and Mrs. Bonnie Pandya, who is of Slovenian origin. Sunita has a B.S. in Physical Science from U.S. Naval Academy, 1987 and an M.S. in Engineering Management from Florida Institute of Technology. She is married to Michael J. Williams.
Sunita who left for the space station on December 9, is expected to stay there for about six months. Here’s a short (48 seconds) interview of hers from the space station, courtesy YouTube. Notice how her hair is flying in zero gravity.

Categories
News

Karan Goel on Fortune SB cover

Twenty-two year old Karan Goel, University of Chicago MBA student, and founder CEO of PrepMe is on the cover of this month’s Fortune Small Business magazine. Go Karan!
The founding team of this test preparation provider startup consists of Avichal Garg, 22; Karan Goel, 22; and Joseph Jewell, 24. Jewell seems to be a gem – he scored a perfect 1600 on his SAT, and then teamed up with these (apparently) desi kids to start an online test preparation company.
Read the full story here, and more here. They are all over the Internet anyway.