Published Articles



My Articles on msn.com/ Her_Courage

1.http://news.in.msn.com/her_courage/a-different-life-lalita-shivaram-ubhayaker

2. http://news.in.msn.com/blog/thinking-aloud-blogpost.aspx?post=7531bcf5-647c-4d5f-8dce-fa01eadc3b9a

 

Citizen Matters- Bangalore

Links to my my Articles published in ‘Citizen Matters- Bangalore

http://bangalore.citizenmatters.in/articles/author/5929-suja-sukumaran

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 My articles were published in the Indian Express- West coast edition and ASIA News

Meeting Prof. C.K.Prahalad

(August8, 1941-April 16, 2010)

Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad  was globally known as the ‘Management Guru’ world-wide.  His research mainly focused on ‘Corporate Strategy’ and the role of management in corporations.

On April 16, 2010, Prahalad died of a previously undiagnosed lung illness in San Diego.

 I had the pleasure of meeting him several times and informally at the Diwali festival here with his wife Gayathrie.

He was pleasant and very civil in his talks. Previously I had met him at the Felicitation ceremony they had for the ‘movers and shakers’ in society where Krishnammal was a visiting guest. Prahalad was the guest speaker and talked extensively about the progress in India and how management philosophies could be applied there effectively as well as globally.

In the evening after the felicitation he gave a very interesting talk on the advent of Mobile Phones in India and how it had effectively let to a communication revolution in India. It was a very engrossing talk indeed and the highlight of the evening.

 At Harvard Business School, Prahalad wrote a doctoral thesis on multinational management in just two and a half years, graduating with a D.B.A. degree in 1975. After graduating from Harvard, Prahalad returned to India. He taught at his alma-mater the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, but soon returned to the United States. He was appointed to position of the Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Corporate Strategy at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business in the University of Michigan.

I managed to corner him and asked a few questions regarding India, development and his opinions. ( I misplaced the notes  (2008) so unable to put up the excerpts here). His answers were usually cryptic and to the point. Unlike the others I interviewed I was unable to break the ice with him for more information.

I met him and his lovely wife Gayathrie again at the Diwali festival for the formal inauguration of the festival with the Counsel General Sushmitha. They are residents of San Diego.

C. K. Prahalad is the co-author of a number of well known works in corporate strategy including The Core Competence of the Corporation (with Gary Hamel, Harvard Business Review, May–June, 1990). He authored several international bestsellers, including: Competing for the Future (with Gary Hamel), 1994; The Future of Competition (with Venkat Ramaswamy), 2004; and The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits Wharton School Publishing, 2004. His new book with co-author M. S. Krishnan is called The New Age of Innovation.

A brilliant teacher and influential thinker, his students and the management world will definitely miss his presence after the niche he had carved out for himself. He was widely respected by the community and the faculty.

  • In 2009, he was awarded Pravasi Bharatiya Sammaan

In 2009 he was named the world’s most influential business thinker on the [Thinkers50.com] list, published by The Times

Photos: Personal Collection

Sources: Wiki

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Meeting U.Shrinivas the Mandolin Player

Interview with Mandolin player U. Shrinivas for IE (West coast edition)

A packed David and Dorothea Garfield Theater, San Diego with more than 550 people were enthralled with an amazing performance from the Mandolin maestro U.Shrinivas. Most knew him as the child prodigy who took the musical world by storm when he introduced the unknown instrument the Mandolin to the public at such an young age. Today he is a veteran Maestro who performs with unique style and virtuosity. By collaborations with famous musicians from around the world he has explored several dimensions with his fusion music introducing the rest of the world also to the Mandolin.

” I was longing to see him and hear him,” said Sudha Prabha one among
the several in the audience who waited to hear his concert after so
many years. “I had watched U.Shrinivas as a child prodigy years back,
but seeing him now and listening to him with his brother U.Rajesh is
an extaordinary experience,” said Lalitha Krishnamurthi.

U.shrinivas received his initial training on the Mandolin from his
father , Sri. Suryanarayana before coming under the tutelage of Sri.
Rudraraju Subbaraju. He gave his first performance at the age of nine
and was widely celebrated as a child prodigy. Over the course of his
career he has performed in the West Berlin Jazz Festival in 1983,
Cevantino festival in Mexico, Olympic Arts festival in Barcelona also
with Western musicians like John McLaughlin, Michael Nyman, Nigel
Kennedy, Nana Vasconcelos. He had also performed for the Shakti
Foundation with Zakir Hussain, Stephen Devassey and Dominique Di
Piazza.

U.Shrinivas is also the recipient of the Padmashree in 1988, the
Sangeeta Ratna award and several more awards to his credit.
” I have also performed at the UN Peace concert on 29th Oct 2009.
Recently “Samjanita” my album in Europe is doing well. I enjoy
collaborating with others and it gives me inspiration and the chance
to work with musicians of different styles. I am learning a lot from
them too,’ he said modestly regarding his forays into International
music.

Shrinivas has also performed with the likes of Zakir Hussain, Allah
Rakha, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, L.Subramaniam and Hindustani
musicians like Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. ” Playing with these
stalwarts was a unique experience for me,” he said. ” Mandolin

U.Rajesh who accompanied his brother played for the first time in San
Diego as a duo. He is also a proficient and established mandolin
player who learnt music from his father and brother. ” Music in India
is becoming more popular now I think and also internationally since
the artists are travelling around a lot these days,” he said. He has
toured extensively with his brother performing in Germany and the US
in addition to performing with Ustad Zakir Hussain and Vikku Sri
Vinayakaram.

“My message to everyone is that children should start learning music
early. Their parents need to encourage them as much as as possible. Ifthey practice hard and work hard anything can be achieved,” said
Shrinivas regarding the spread of classical Indian music among the
Indian children both in India and in the US

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Indian Music & Dance Festival

The 3rd Annual Indian Music and Dance Festival in San Diego

A crowd of around 4,600 people joined in one of the biggest celebrations of Indian Classical Music and Dance festival, over four days, organized by the Indian Fine Arts Academy of San Diego, making it a very successful event. This year the event was organized in a much larger scale by the Indian Fine Arts Academy of San Diego, with the invitation of over 28 artists from India, 11 artists from the US and 88 children participating in the festival. The enthusiasm and participation of the artists and the patrons added to the festive atmosphere that pervaded the David and Dorothea Garfield Theater in La Jolla for four days from March 25th to the 28th.

Raj Sundareshan the President of IFAA and Dr. Shekar Vishwanathan the Secretary of IFAA welcomed the audience.

“We are proud to present 28 artists from India. The patronage we have received  has enabled us to have a longer program this year and we are hoping all will enjoy the next four days what we have lined up for them. In addition we also have fine Indian food representing different parts of India, served during the course of the events.”

The program was officially open by Dr. Vilayanur.S.Ramachandran the Padma Bhushan recipient and Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the UCSD, California. “India is a treasure house of music and culture and I would like to dispel some of the stereotyping that is seen in the Western world regarding the abundance of snake charmers and elephants. Our contributions to the world are innumerable,” he said and went on to present a remarkable slide-show and brief lecture on the evolving Indian culture and music.

The events were set in motion with a remarkable Sitar recital by Kartik Seshadri who is a disciple of Pandit Ravi Shankar. He also heads the Indian Classical Music program at UCSD.

U. Shrinivas and his brother U. Rajesh performed for the first time together on stage in front of a capacity audience of around 550 people, who had flocked to watch them; leaving only leg-room in the auditorium. “I was waiting to see the performances and longing to see U. Shrinivas and his brother U. Rajesh perform here,” said an excited Sudha Prabha.

People were treated to four days of wonderful performances by stalwarts in their respective fields; such as Injikudi Subramaniam and his wife Chitra Subramaniam performing as a couple for the first time with their Nadaswaram. Trichur Ramachandran, Gayathri Venkataraghavan, Manasi Prasad, Pantalu Rama engaged the audience with their vocal performances.

The flute ensemble by R.Thiagarajan and T. Suresh accompanied by Nagai Muralidaran on the violin, Guruvayoor dorai on Mridangam and E.M Subramaniam on Ghatam was the highlight of the evening on 26th March; perfection in unison and the melodious compositions had the audience captivated.

88 children, the students of Sri. C.M Venkatachalam and Smt. Revathi Subramaniam of San Diego, adorned the stage with their youthful presence, delivering a vocal performance that had the audiences applauding on their feet.

In addition to classical instruments and vocal performances there were also excellent dance recitals by Odissi dancers led by Guru Yudhistir Nayak, Patnaik sisters and S. Gollamudi and a Bharatanatyam performance by Uma Suresh  and Priya Ramesh

Sherri. S. Lightner, the Council member, District 1 issued the proclamation “I am delighted to be here and make the proclamation to the academy, that this Council of the City of San Diego, for and behalf of the people, in appreciation of the IFAA’s annual cultural gift of the Indian Music and dance festival, declare March 25 through March 28, 2010 to be “Indian Music and Dance festival 2010 days,” in the city of San Diego.

A moment of triumph and celebration for all the hard work and efforts put in by the IFAASD academy making it a successful event.

In addition several well-known stalwarts in the field of Music and dance were felicitated for their efforts in popularizing Indian classical arts. Cleavland Balu, Dr. Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahlad, Kunhiraman and Katherine Kunhiraman, Padma Kutty, C.M. Venkatachalam, V.V. Sundaram and Joseph Saval of the National University were recognized for their contributions.

Published In Indian Express-West coast edition

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Meeting Nandan Nilekani

 

(Interview with Nandan Nilekani in 2007. He has moved on since; in charge of the PIO card project currently… Photos are from my Personal collection taken at the Infosys campus, Bangalore)

 

As I entered the gates I noticed the façade of the building with ‘INFOSYS” emblazoned on its walls. Uniformed security personnel checked my credentials, searched my back-pack and after issuing a relevant visitor badge led me into the impressive office building. The Infosys campus is housed along with several other big companies in the famed Electronics City location on Hosur Road in Bangalore.

I had a Press interview scheduled with Nandan. M. Nilekani co-founder of Infosys who retired as CEO in June, although he remains the co-chairman of the board currently. I was visibly excited at the prospect of meeting this dynamic person who is widely respected as a pioneer and who has been in news for a while with his inspiring take on the globalization effect around the world. He believes that globally, companies are going through a new challenge. In his words “This challenge is a combination of demographics, emerging economies, globalization, technology, flat world and regulation.”

The Pulitzer prize winning author and columnist Thomas Freidman in his book “The world is flat” had given attention to the evolution of globalization with emphasis on the IT behemoth Infosys and exclusive interview with the then CEO Nandan Nilakeni who had mentioned to him “The playing field is leveled”. That phrase had taken Freidman on a quest for uncovering the truth behind ‘The world is flat’.

I sat there in the lobby twiddling my thumbs and waiting to be ushered into his room. A beaming, tall man ambled towards me with an outstretched hand saying ‘hello’. I looked in awe at the person whom I had read about in the books and news. We exchanged pleasantries. Nandan was actually apologizing for keeping me waiting. I soon realized here is a person with no pretense and as down- to- earth as anybody can be. He had personally corresponded with me  accepted the interview. Suffice to say I was impressed by his simplicity.

I launched into my pre-prepared questions and Nandan was loquacious and answered everything to the best of his abilities as any veteran ex-CEO would do. We touched topics on his focus in his new role as the co-chairman to which he replied  he would continue being the brand ambassador improving client relationship. He talked about the company’s latest acquisition of Royal Philips Electronics, a multi-million dollar outsourcing contract. We also talked about the entry of Infosys into the Balanced Score card ‘Hall of Fame’ for executing strategies and their winning the ‘outsourcing award’. We discussed further ‘reverse outsourcing’, labor shortages, women in workforce and several other topics.

The PR personnel then took me around the campus explaining the facilities, the work-force, the work culture, the impressive buildings that stood out well-spaced on the campus among blissful greenery. This was one of the most eco-friendly campuses I had seen. No high-rise buildings covered the sky but elegantly shaped buildings with impressive architecture* spread around on a huge campus with all the modern facilities and amenities. There were swimming pools, billiards tables, gyms and several other ways to unwind from the stresses of the working environment. The PR person informed me that the work culture here was flat too meaning that everyone here is treated as one large family and everyone was accessible round the clock for informal talks or discussions.

Interview was published in ASIA news- West coast edn

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Meeting Krishnammal

 

 

(Padmashree Krishnammal Jegannathan- Sarvodaya leader, Social activist, Dalit spokesperson, freedom fighter, Noble Peace Prize nominee and several more awards…)

 

 

I was driving back at night after an interview with a very special person; a person whom I was lucky to meet, talk and interact with. A deep sense of calmness overtook me and a strange sense of tranquility and happiness filled my heart, the kind of feeling one gets on meeting a noble soul. Some people leave an indelible impression in the mind that restores faith in humanity and the goodness of human spirit.

Krishnammal Jegannathan, the 82-year-old social activist, freedom fighter, Sarvodya leader and Dalit activist; the recipient of the Padmashree, Jamnalal Bajaj award, the Women’s World Summit Foundation award of Switzerland to name a few.  She was nominated twice for the Right Livelihood Award and also nominated for the Noble Peace Prize in 2005.

She was touring here to receive the Opus peace prize and will also be one of the four recipients of the 2008 Right Livelihood Award that is frequently awarded as the “Alternative Noble Peace Prize” which will be presented in a ceremony at the Swedish Parliament on December 8th . She along with three others was chosen from around the world. What a great honor for an extraordinary life that rises above the mediocre, setting a trend and blazing a trail.

A sense of purpose drives them; a light shines in their eyes like a beacon and exudes out, engulfing everybody else in its warm embrace.

She was 24 year old when she started her crusade along with Vinobha Bhave who had started the Bhoodan movement. She has also known Gandhi from those days as they went around collecting funds for the Harijans. A very unassuming lady, who even today prepares lunch for the inmates of the Vinobha Ashram at Koothur in Nagapattinam district. She was born into a Harijan family but went on to get an education and took up social services working in slums and conducting night schools. She and her husband were involved in the Sarvodaya movement and later the Bhoodan movement. She witnessed the macabre killing of 44 Harijan women and children in Tanjavur district that affected her so much that she pledged her life for the cause.

Along with her husband she launched the LAFTI in 1981 the Land for Tillers Freedom.

In her own words:

“Owning a house is a dream for everyone. But no one thought of the plight of agriculture laborers living in huts. My dream is to make these huts into houses. 60 years after independence why should people still live in huts? We are still a backward nation even after all these so called progress. There are still thousands of people below poverty line, thousands of bonded laborers. They don’t have social justice and nobody to represent them. The country has so much to do. Women need to be empowered more. They have a right to own land. They are not just empty boxes at home. Women need to progress beyond that and needs to be respected as an individual.”

When asked about all the accolades and the nomination for Nobel Prize she replied with a laugh
“I don’t care about all that. If people are recognizing it I have only God to thank. He has set me on a purpose and I feel I don’t have enough time left. There is so much I want to do. My body how much ever it allows me to go on in this mission I will do it. 24 hours is not enough for me to get all that work done.”

She went on to talk about her life’s missions and her desires and hopes for the masses. She laced it with beautiful verses in Tamil. After a while I stopped jotting notes and just sat listening to her in rapt attention and awe. My tape-recorder doing the job of recording her voice for posterity.

When she finished I found myself touching her feet and seeking her blessings. Not normally given to such displays I surprised myself. People like that we don’t get to see everyday and maybe a once in a life-time opportunity.

I hugged her tight , wished her the best in her endeavors and drove away into the night at peace knowing that there are people like her who care and will make a difference  in the lives of others and the betterment of society.

….

Krishanmmal, C.K.Prahalad and several others were felicitated for their achievements.

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Edited & Published in Indian Express-NA edition and ASIA News-West coast edition

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The Gandhi Legacy Tour

Gandhi Legacy Tour with Arun and Tushar Gandhi filmed by Garth Dykes

 

Every year the Global Exchange Organization based in San Francisco arranges a tour, also called the reality tours, aimed at educating the visitors about the realities of that country, co-ordinated by the Director Malia Everette. They are an advocacy group and non-governmental organization. This year the tour was unique since it was to India, led by none other than Dr. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and his son Tushar Gandhi. It was a journey of retracing the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi through his days of Satyagraha and his life until the fateful day he was killed. Dr. Arun Gandhi being a tireless activist for peace and conflict resolution is lauded for his efforts at showcasing how Gandhian principles are applied today in conflict resolution situations in India and elsewhere. The tour began in Mumbai and ended in New Delhi. Kathy Smith an active volunteer of the Association for India’s Development Organization (AID) for the past 9 years in San Diego was one among the 28 member delegation, who accompanied the Gandhi’s throughout India.

                                                                  

Arun and Tushar Gandhi on their Legacy Tour

“I was very moved by the amazing amount of smiles and gestures of hospitality by people from all parts of India.  When I was traveling after the tour as well I felt such a curiosity by so many people who wanted to know where I came from, even those who gave me blessings, for which I had done nothing in particular to deserve,” said Kathy.

Regarding the reality tour, “I do have deep admiration for Dr Arun Gandhi and his son, Tushar Gandhi who led our Reality Tour. It is not often in life where we can meet individuals whose lives have been shaped by such an uncommon man of principle as Gandhiji. It was a privilege to hear stories as told by Dr Gandhi when he stayed with his grandfather on the Sabarmati ashram.  It was privilege to have these men from the lineage of Gandhi guide us along our way throughout our two week trip in India.

Kathy Smith at the Gandhi Samadhi

 

I was amazed by the sheer diversity of peoples and their conditions everywhere I went from New Delhi to Mumbai. The juxtaposition of established enterprises next to hovels, all competing for space in the big cities was the most jarring impression.  The plight of migrant labor and their working or unschooled children whom we saw in Maharashtra State, around Sangli., was very compelling. The Gandhian Foundation along with the Verala Development Society is trying to make a difference by offering up small alternative child education centers. The vision is to create a larger school with the help from many where a true Gandhian education can take place, and serve the needs of some of the many children who have been caught in the child labor system,” opined Kathy.

Garth Dykes and Arun Gandhi

Garth Dykes the renowned Canadian filmmaker of documentaries and short films joined the entourage filming the legacy tour along with a Bangalore based filmmaker Ranjan Kamath. He captures with candid interviews and anecdotes, Arun and Tushar Gandhi’s memories growing up with Gandhi, the struggles they had to face finding their own identities and the lessons they learnt about non-violence and self-reliance.

When asked what prompted him to make this documentary Garth  replied “ I was terribly interested in Arun and Tushar Gandhi who have the same goals in mind and who are very different in their personalities from each other and from Gandhi whose main intentions now is trying to raise money for the school project that rescues children. People everywhere expect them to be like Gandhi but they are regular modern people and it surprises me as well as others how they are and very much engaged in the modern world. It is interesting to study and document the thoughts and beliefs of these controversial figures who are burdened with the name of Gandhi, yet are trying to lead normal lives while spreading his message of non-violence across the world.”

Global Exchange Team

Through his documentary the viewer will circumnavigates India with them traveling through big cities, villages, farms and factories as they discover how the legacy continues.  “What would Gandhi do if he were alive today?” That was the question that Arun Gandhi and Tushar Gandhi set out to answer, the two unlikely heroes walk through villages and cities. The documentary will also have interviews with freedom fighters and prominent leaders in environmentalism and social justice convey how Gandhi continues to inspire new grass root movements in India, punctuated often with memories, scandals and occasional absurdities and stories never before told before camera.

“As a young boy I learned of who I was and found it to be a burden. People would point at me and say, ‘How can you be Gandhi’s grandson when you are so big and he was so lean? My grandmother taught me that my name could be used as a burden or as light.” Across the villages of India Arun Gandhi pronounces into a microphone, “We must change from a culture of violence to non-violence. We must think non-violently act non-violently and dream non-violently.”

Arun Gandhi’s 48 year old son Tushar had this to say about the current generation “These days the only thing the younger generation knows about Gandhi is that his image is on the rupee.” Tushar believes that only by revealing the human side of Gandhi the younger generation will be inspired. “He was an ordinary man, like the rest of us. By putting these people on a pedestal, like Jesus or Buddha, it’s an escapist route. It is saying that we are mere mortals and they are holy.”  Tushar Gandhi had struggled to find his own identity under the shadow of his great grandfather with the legacy being hoisted on him.

Through their journey Kathy and Garth learnt not only of Gandhi’s teachings but how these descendents are trying to integrate Gandhi’s teachings into their own lives. They are currently devoted to the building of the Sunanda School in Kolapur, in memory of Arun’s wife, based on Gandhian principles. It is a small orphanage that rescues untouchable children from child labor. Arun Gandhi is tipped off to where children are working in a mine, kiln, granite or other factory and brought to the school.

In Delhi the tour participants visited Billah House, the residence where Gandhi lived and was killed. They also visited Raj Ghat, the Gandhi memorial, where an external flame for Gandhi’s memory still burns, as well as the Gandhi Museum which houses the clothes that still bare Gandhi’s blood. Included in the documentary are accounts by Arun and Tushar as they reflect on personal stories, not known by public, about the life and death of their grandfather and great-grandfather.  They went on to meet Vandana Shiva who runs Navdanya, a progressive sustainable farm in India.  In the company of Arun and Tushar they toured the countryside, encountering rural projects in housing, irrigation and reforestation through the Verela Irrigation and Development Society.

When Tushar Gandhi was asked about terrorism and how Gandhi’s teachings could apply to that her states, “Turning the other cheek is not the definition of non-violence. You must prevent the situation from happening in the first place so that no one would wish to hit you.”

Arun Gandhi discussed the time when he did try to talk to Arafat about opposing terrorism. “You shouldn’t be blowing up people. If you do that you will get what you deserve. You should mobilize people and walk there.” Arun Gandhi discloses his thoughts on how people are missing the point on Gandhi’s ideologies saying that Gandhi needs to be emulated, not imitated.

The entire journey has been chronicled following the dreams of Arun Gandhi and Tushar Gandhi, taking them through India, traveling through big cities, villages, farms and factories to discover how the legacy of Gandhi still carries on and to spread his message.

Garth Dykes hopes to finish filming and putting the documentary together by next year sometime and hoping to showcase it in several film festivals around the globe. Kathy and the rest of the tour members meanwhile hope to undertake several such trips to India and other countries in the future.

 

(Contributions from Garth Dykes and Kathy Smith during their Gandhi Legacy Tour that took place from December 29-January 11, 2009. Excerpts from the interview with Arun and Tushar Gandhi were provided by Garth Dykes as part of his documentary that is being put together titled ‘In the Footsteps of Gandhi.’)

 

Published in Indian Express- Noth American Edition-2009

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Schwarzenegger, Venter and I

The Terminator, Sequencer and I

 No! We are not connected or even distantly related. It just so happened that the three of us were at the same place at the same time by circumstances and what a pleasant meeting it was. I had hoped to see these people at some point more, out of curiosity than anything else. I did get my chance finally with the event being the Bio 2008 convention

That was held in San Diego with 20,000 people from all over the world and representing 45 states and 70 countries. This was an event of gigantic proportions with a meeting of minds, both of the business and scientific world. Being a Press Reporter I was able to attend the event and get up, close and personal (No…not that close) to take pictures.

Arnold Schwarzenegger needs no introduction. Almost everyone around the world knows his name and is familiar with his “I’ll be back” and “Asta La Vista Baby!”…and who can forget his Tango in the movie True Lies?? Arnold is the twice elected governor of California; elected in 2003 and re-elected in 2006. A Republican, a very charismatic personality with a very distinct Austrian accent with a stage presence. His wife Maria Shriver is no stranger either. Coming from a legacy of the Kennedy clan she is a Democrat and the First Lady of California. A rare combination of strange bedfellows in politics. She is a prolific writer , an award winning journalist and started the californiaVolunteers.org involved in a lot of social activities and charity.

In addition Arnold is a very progressive thinker and has often adapted liberal views and policies. Though the state of California has remained in the red in terms of deficit for a while he has tried to rope in and lure more investors here for a good measure. His speech was very interesting in itself and quite humorous as he took a dig at the Democratic Party and called it a ‘sickness’ that needed to be cured. Considering that his wife is a democrat he said that he loved her and took her in with her ‘sickness’ and ‘health’ (referring to the Democrats) and that he was hoping the scientists would find a cure one day for the same.

Craig. J. Venter on the other hand needs no introduction either to the scientific community who knows him very well. His name has always conjured up awe and inspiration from scientists for his maverick stance on scientific issues and on how he set aside his own personal issues aside and rode success like nobody else. Initially he was one of those ex-surfer and Vietnam War veterans who had failed miserably in school and had contemplated committing suicide in Vietnam by walking into the sea but changed his mind and walked back to create history for himself. In his book “A Life Decoded” he laid bare all his life and his rise to stardom. He went on to do his PhD in Physiology and Pharmacology and further on joined NIH. He founded the Institute of Genomic Research and was the pioneer in mapping the human genome along with Francis Collins. He is currently the president of Craig. J. Venter Institute and continuing to do groundbreaking scientific contributions to the world.

Ever since I started doing scientific research for my graduate studies, I had been fascinated with this particular Scientist who with his maverick streak had made things happen. He was in and out of controversies but always succeeded in making bright, innovative mega contributions to the scientific world making it easier for the rest of the world to follow through and produce more amazing discoveries with regard to human diseases and medicine. His speech was excellent and inspiring to the thousand and odd people who had assembled to hear him talk.

In addition awards were distributed to young scientists from all over the world for their innovative research and several of them were Asians with three Indians. The best research effort went to an Indian girl from Australia.

Several prominent personalities from the Indian Biotech field and the Government (DBT) represented India for a Panel discussion. The discussion mainly centered on luring investors to the growing Biotech Sector in India poised to become as prominent as the IT Sector.

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Edited article published in ASIA NEWS-west coast edition

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Meeting Dr.L.Subramaniam

Dr. L. Subramaniam concert organized by AID San Diego

The Padma Bhushan and Sangeet Natak Akademi award recipient Dr.L. Subramaniam is a musician who is widely recognized and renowned all over the world. He was honored with the title of ‘Violin Chakravarthy’ at a very young age. After completing his medical degree he moved to California to complete his Masters degree in Western Classical music from the California Institute of the Arts, Valencia. He has not only accompanied highly regarded vocalists in Carnatic music on stage but has also performed with several western musicians and has been a pioneer in the world of global fusion music.

“The concept of symphonic writing with soloists was originated a while back when I realized that only Western music was acknowledged as having classical music, which was wrong, so I created another genre of music called ‘global music’ creating a repertoire from artists all over the world to perform, so I started writing for orchestras and hence started ‘global fusion’ music”, said Dr. Subramaniam about his venture into fusion music.

He has had collaborations and recordings with people like Yehudi Menuhin, Stephane Grappelli, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Stevan Seagal, Ruggiero Ricci and several more. In addition Dr. Subramaniam has created works for some world’s great orchestras including the New York Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta, the Kirov Ballet, the Swiss Romande Orchestra and the Philharmonic Orchestra and Berlin Opera. In addition he has also composed pieces for motion pictures like Salaam Bombay, Mississippi Masala, Little Budha and Mahabharata. He is the author of the book Euphony a book on Indian classical music co-authored by his wife Viji Subramaniam.

“I prefer being a performer though as a composer it is intellectually simulating and exciting. My compositions such as the Fantasy of Vedic Charm were written in special memory of my mother after she passed away in 1984. Beyond is a philosophical composition that talks about life after death and was written for my father after he passed away. I wrote the Global Symphony for my wife Viji collaborating with artists around the world. Astral symphony is a collection of soloists from all around the world and recently I have put together ‘Visions of India,’ an amalgamation of every kind of Indian music,” he said.

His wife Kavitha Subramaniam has also been making waves and has released several albums such as Athens and Voices of India. His children Ambi, Nirupama and Seetha Subramaniam have also been actively performing and accompanying their parents at concerts.

Dr. Subramaniam was happy to be touring the US and returning to Chennai for more performances, in spite of a busy schedule ahead of him. “It is very important for people who are abroad for whatever reason, not to forget their roots, their culture and spirituality which fulfills and gives a different perspective to life. Without our rich culture we are nothing and our future generations may loose it if we don’t safeguard it,” he added

In the concert ‘Resonance’ organized by AID San Diego at the Poway Center for Performing Arts on Sept 5, Dr. Subramaniam enthralled the audience with Carnatic music, accompanied by Mahesh Krishnamurthy on mridangam, Sathish Pathakota on Kanjira and Satya Sai Ghantasala on the Moorsing. AID (Association for India’s development) is a non-profit organization that supports grassroot organizations in India with activities assisting financially and through non-monetary means. They are currently engaged in several projects all over India.

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Published in Indian Express-west coast edition

Meeting ‘Indian Ocean’ Band

Indian Ocean music rocks the West Coast –

My Interview with the group for Indian Express-West coast edition

(Photos -my personal collection)

 

Prathyush Tiwari a graduate student at Caltech was speeding down the highway from Pasadena, a 120 mile drive, to make it in time to watch his all time favorite band the Indian Ocean in Mandeville Auditorium of UCSD, San Diego. “I listened to them the first time and they walked into my heart. I loved their song ‘hillele” and was so impressed with them that I have been a hard core fan ever since,” he said.  He was one among the several die-hard fans who had gathered to watch the show. Ramesh Chandrashekar and Zeenat were equally enthusiastic, “We never miss their show and we have all their albums. We love the group,” they added. The show was hosted by Raag and Taal Academy, a San-Diego based non-profit performing arts organization, whose primary aim is to foster cultural awareness and promote Indian music and dance.

The group Indian Ocean is one of India’s finest and most loved bands with a very unique music that is a blend of ‘Indo-rock with jazz-spiced rhythms,’ according to music critics. The band comprises of four very talented musicians, Susmit Sen, Asheem Chakravarthy, Rahul Ram and Amit Kilam. Their album ‘Kandisa’ released in 2000 became one of the best loved albums of contemporary music, becoming a hit among the college circuits and in the international scene too.

Asheem said “I would like to call our music ‘Indian Ocean music’ since it is difficult to pigeon hole music or break it down to any particular kind, though people call our band by different names. We just enjoy blending Indian folk songs, classical, slokas, sufi, baul and contemporary melodies with instruments, all into one package.”

Their Desert rain an album with only instrumental is melodious. Subsequently their album Jhini released in 2001 won the AVMax Award for best produced album. Their foray in Bollywood was through the feature film ‘Black Friday’. The soundtrack for the film was released in 2005 and was widely acclaimed. The song ‘Bandeh’ from the album with lyrics by Piyush Mishra reached the second spot in the charts. They also went on to make more music for the film ‘Shoonya’ in 2007. The group is currently composing seven compositions for the movie Bhoomi with Abhik Mukhopadhyay, director of the movie which will also be their next album. Also in the cans are songs for ‘Mumbai cutting’ a series of ten-minute films, by the director of Black Friday Anurag Kashyap.

“The passion for music and having fun with it is what drives our band, learning everything academically is boring, so we like our unconventional, free form of music and we want the audience to enjoy it as much as us. We like the stage and prefer being performers, money has never been the motivation for us,” said Asheem.

The group members are very down-to-earth, fun loving people and it reflects on the stage with constant ribbing each other and joking around. They engaged the crowd and had them in splits often with their humor and commentary but when they played their numbers, the music just seeped into the pulse and before long the audience was foot-tapping and clapping joining along or silently engrossed in their works. The powerful vocals from Asheem who plays an assortment of tablas and Rahul who plays the bass guitar add to the talented ensemble, with Amit on the drums and Susmit on the acoustic guitar. Their songs are in multiple languages, deftly crafted bound to awe the listener and turn him into a dedicated fan for ever. Their intricate percussion, pulsating vocals and energy were contagious and they often switched to soulful alaaps drowning the audience in its melody.

Susmit, Amit and Rahul have played with the well-known violinist Pandit L.Subramaniam. Asheem has accompanied legendary American folk singer Pete Seeger. The band has jammed with Japanese trumpeter Terumasa Hino in Delhi and played with top jazz musicians. Rahul and Amit have also played with Vikoo Vinayakram and his son Selva Ganesh.

The group enthralled the audience by playing kya maloom about the Kargill war and songs from Jhinni, Bhoomi, and Bandeh but it was hille le which brought everyone to their feet screaming ‘once more please’. The band has played abroad in across four continents and continuing to spread their music around the world. “It’s not for money but for the music we do it,” says Asheem. The four of them quit their jobs to pursue their dreams and have come a long way singing their way into everyone’s hearts.

Anupam Talapatra and Ravi Manjithaya who along with all other volunteers of the Raag and Taal Academy were excited with the response are hoping to promote and present several talented Indian artists to the community. Raag and Taal is committed to inviting the finest, internationally acclaimed performing artistes, US along with arranging lecture-demonstrations and workshops to promote art and education. A part of their proceeds go towards charitable organizations. Indian Ocean is currently touring all over the US with their next destination being New York.

Photo: Indian Ocean Band.

 Left to right: Rahul Ram, Amit Kilam, Susmit Sen and Asheem Chakravarty

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Article was published in Indian Express-West Coast edition

 

 

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Coffee with Dr.Ramachandran

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(Vilayanur.S. Ramachandran is Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition and Professor with the Psychology Department and Neurosciences Program at the University of California, San Diego, and Adjunct Professor of Biology at the Salk Institute. Ramachandran initially trained as a doctor and subsequently obtained a Ph.D. from Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. Ramachandran’s early work was on visual perception but he is best known for his experiments in behavioral neurology which, despite their apparent simplicity, have had a profound impact on the way we think about the brain. He has been called “The Marco Polo of neuroscience” by Richard Dawkins and “The modern Paul Broca” by Eric Kandel.  

Most recently the President of India conferred on him the second highest civilian award and honorific title in India, the Padma Bhushan. )

I drove over to UCSD unable to suppress my excitement about the impending interview I had with Dr. Ramachandran. Having watched several of his TED talks and after reading up extensively about his research I must confess I was excited with the prospect of meeting him.

I was pleasantly surprised and amused to see Prof Ramachandran with a nice cap  and a long black overcoat, reminding me Sherlock Holmes and I mentioned it to him. He laughed and said that his son thought he looked like a hobo in New York City, who plays the violin on the streets to make money. That broke the ice and I knew instantly here is a man with amazing grace and very candid about everything; qualities I admire a lot in people.

Little did I know that the conversation would carry itself through, on its own, considering that Prof. Ramachandran has an interesting opinion about everything.

A brief excerpt from the Interview on a few topics:

Q: You have done pioneer research in the phenomenon of ‘Phantom Limb’. How has that research progressed and benefited the world?

Prof: We started this research in 1993. Now they have sent out hundreds of the Mirror boxes to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti & Thailand along with lectures and demonstration materials. I have not patented it and hence not made any royalty from it. The Walter Reid medical Institute uses it to treat patients coming back from Iraq, with a controlled placebo and have shown substantial improvement in Phantom Pain, Stroke Pain and CRP.

Q: The same treatment can be used in stroke patients with paralysis?

Prof: We are using vision to revive the damage in stroke patients. Some are permanently damaged while others are partially damaged. We can revive those surrounding areas by inputs from visual stimulus. Complex region pain affects 10% of stroke patients. Painful conditions and inflamed or immobilized limbs can be cured by the mirror treatment and it has helped people with these conditions

Q: How will this be effective in treating Autism?

Prof: Mirror neurons are involved in imitating and empathizing which are messed up in Autistic individuals. We have pinned it down to a specific part of the brain. Reactivating them and exploring the possibility that we can bring about subtle changes is part of our research. There is a genetic basis for this too. Reduction of Prolactin (affiliation hormone) and Oxytocin is a key to understanding the mechanism. Since they are involved in picking up smell and sending it to the brain and are involved in social interactions. When the olfactory bulb is damaged then the transmitter involved are messed up. So we are looking into this aspect for further studies.

Q: Are there conflicting discussions among people regarding spirituality and scientific theories when they meet you?

Prof: No such conflicts. It is like Shiva and his cosmic dance. There is something beyond all the turbulence and chaos in the cosmos; something that cannot be defined.

Q: How effective is initial exposure to music in children?

Prof: Learning music/ Poetry is good and improves creativity with a temporary increase in the IQ immediately after listening to the music. Repeated exposure is good. There might be different kinds of intelligence different from the IQ, something that enriches the mind or creativity. Nobody has studied it in depth. Poetry involves making links. I used to write terrible poetry but the more I wrote I could see the links in the poems. All great art requires these links. So teaching child poetry at an earlier age might have beneficial effect on their learning areas.

Q: Some people are left handed, some right handed any studies you have worked on related to the brain?

Prof: We have not worked on that but left-handed people may be better at judging emotions. 5-6% is left handed and the geneticists might have a better explanation for it. In India they try hard to make them right handed which is totally unnecessary.

Q: What kind of images do blind people see in their dreams if they do?

Prof:  Vision does not exist in their world. Something like sonar in bats that rely on sound. They dream in sounds. It has not been extensively studied so I cannot say exactly how it all functions..

Q: Regarding ‘Synesthesia’ and your research on it?

Prof: One out of 30-40 people have it and 8 times more. It does not hurt them in any way. Colored numbers and faces having halos are the common aberrations they see. We first figured it must be something going on in a particular part of the brain where the color area is. Different functions like seeing depth, motions, and colors are taking place in different areas of the brain. They see numbers as colors. The questions we are studying is why such a cross wiring happens and studying the genetics and the mutation of the gene involved in modulation of these signals. The Fusiform Gyrus is involved in it. In creative people 1 out of 20 people have Synesthesia or it is eight times more common in creative people. The gene gets expressed in a quirky manner- so metaphorical expressions and analogies are more common in such creative people; who can make such links in their brain, which only a few people can do.Q: How often do Freudian concepts apply to these studies or theories?

Prof: Deep inside human nature there are certain suppressed characteristics and a cauldron of emotions done with an unconscious mind which might manifest as Freudian slips. Some of his ideas are valid. The manner in which these interactions occur is not explained. Freud also wrote a lot of nonsense regarding ‘Oedipus complex’ but we do not want to throw the baby out with the bath water and will accept some of his theories even if there aren’t enough evidences to prove them. I personally do not subscribe to all his theories.

Q: Psychotherapy vs evidence based research; which might give better results considering so much importance given to Freudian concepts etc?

Prof: Psychotherapy is not necessarily Freudian. It is a mixture of cognitive therapy, empathetic therapy by existential re-alignment of the mind, not necessarily very scientific but it helps a lot of people with philosophical approaches. Each patient is different and the therapy has to be tuned with effective medication and sustained therapy brings a radical internal change in reasoning. Both are needed for effective treatments

Q: Why does  negativity occur in society. Is it nurture vs nature…?

Prof: There are transmitters in the brain responsible for several issues related to the brain. We are highly social people since we try not to isolate ourselves, accepting every stage of life as it comes and dealing with aging too. By the time people reach 50 they think it is the end of their life and wait for it. It is a push-pull of observations, analysis in the brain is balanced and an even keel is maintained without over-reacting or being anxious about surroundings. When balance is lost negativity sets in and there is also a genetic pre-disposition to some of it.

Q: Regarding India and its changing, thinking and evolution; what are your thoughts?

Prof: India is a global economy now and corporate sectors are playing a major role in their lives. The middle class are the biggest movers and shakers of society and make an impact with their life-style. But I find that the continuity in our culture is ever present but it appears that the intellectual class is on a decline and the politicians seem to be running the show in the country; diluting everything else.  Somehow it all survives and moves on.

Q: You are Speaker at the Indian dance and Music Festival. What are your thoughts on the musical scene in India?

Prof: I am not a musician but I have been raised around music and understand and appreciate it. I feel that the essence of music is lost currently in India with more and more people leaning towards westernization our cultural heritage is slowly being lost. Even the current artists seem very different in their execution of music. We miss that originality and sincerity as in the singers of yesteryears. There are fewer people going to our concerts and youngsters are more into western music than Indian classical music. I hope we don’t completely sidetrack our legacy but give it its due respect and place in society.

Q: You have two books to your credit. ‘Phantoms in the Brain’ and ‘A brief tour of Human Consciousness’. Are you planning on your next one?

Prof: Yes my new book will be out in December called the ‘Tell-Tale Brain’. It will be a comparison and evolution of the human brain from chimpanzees and the special attributes that our brain has such as creativity, Synesthesia and language.

We sat there along with Dr. Shekar Vishwanathan an Engineering professor and Sri Venkatachalam a music maestro; who regaled us with stories about his Guru Chembai Vaidyanatha Baghavathar and old musical folklore. I was transported to another world and immensely enjoyed the conversations as we sat around drinking coffee. His opinions on issues from deteriorating appreciation of Indian classical music ; to freedom of expression in art, were as interesting as his scientific talks. He repeatedly told me it was off the record and I must respect his request. So I won’t quote his opinions on M.F.Hussein or freedom of expression in art, or religion or the Slumdog movie…

I just had a blast listening to him…

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(Edited article in Indian Express– west coast edition…)

His TED Talk:  A must watch to understand concepts of Phantom limb, Synesthesia etc…

http://www.ted.com/talks/vilayanur_ramachandran_on_your_mind.html

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Clean Energy Transportation

 (A round-up review of greening of automobile industry by introducing clean air fuel and reducing emissions… including the Obama plans for the future. I had covered a Panel discussion by leading innovative companies in the vicinity and their strategies for achieving these goals.)

 The need of the hour is a major overhauling of the automotive industry to be in tune with fuel efficiency and emission standards. This would mean a rapid emergence of technological research, development and production of transportation that will be in compliance with the current requirement to reduce greenhouse gases while consuming lesser fossil fuels helping the world to move towards clean, innovative resource efficient, low carbon technologies. Given the current levels of investment we would expect second generation biofuels to be available in the next 5-10 years and also expect investments in second generation biofuels to rise as further climate commitments begin to rise. Governments across Europe have committed themselves to emission reductions of 80% by 2050.

At the IndUS Entrepreneurs (TiE) meeting on ‘Clean Transportation: On the Green Highway’ event several local  companies came together for discussions in a panel meeting putting forth ideas, agreements and predictions of the clean transportation and how it might all pan out in future. Hybrid-electric drive systems are gaining favor throughout the automotive industry because they have been shown to improve fuel economy and reduce harmful emissions. This would also mean that it provides the opportunities for entrepreneurs and companies to participate in this movement.

One of the most promising approaches for cars is plug-in-hybrids, a variant of the current hybrids that involves recharging batteries directly though the current electricity distribution system. Clean transportation would involve developing Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) and making them a viable option on the roads for consumers. They will have to be powered by batteries and fuel with the drive trains used successfully in heavy-duty trucks, buses and military vehicles. The fuel cell vehicles will likely be much like hybrid vehicles with fuel cells instead of gasoline or diesel engines. The pressure is on. In Norway under a new proposal, no automaker could sell a new vehicle from 2015 onward in Norway that has no provisions for the use of biofuels, electricity or hydrogen. Hybrid vehicles that share propulsion duties between an electric motor and a gasoline or diesel engine would be allowed, as would flex-fuel vehicles. Older cars and trucks that were sold prior to 2015 wouldn’t be affected by this legislation. The Obama administration is investing billions of dollars as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which will speed the nation’s economic recovery, create jobs and provide services in all sectors affected by the recession. Here in California, a first in the world regulation to minimize the amount of carbon in the fuels will require the state’s mix of fuels to be 10% lower in green house gas emissions by 2010.

ZapadZ is a new company committed to the preservation and restoration of the environment by recycling old and used items by using a strategy of connecting buyers and sellers though their portals. In addition to keeping items out of a landfill, a percentage of company profits will be donated each year to an organization we identify as contributing to our planet’s restoration. Their concept is simple to use by just taking a picture of the stuff the seller wants to get rid off by using his phone and send it to zapadz.com placing the advertisements in seconds. The cell phone and email address is kept confidential but communication is kept open. This can be embedded on any site. Those recyclable ‘free’ items are not charged with the standard transaction fees.

The panel discussion was moderated by Jasandra Nyker, Senior Vice President of PCG Asset Management who leads the identification, analysis, due diligence and selection of venture capital at PCG for two years. Nyker had been providing clean technology and renewable energy investment strategy advice to leading banks and oil companies in the past. “Clean transportation can be classified into long term solution ones such as hybrid vehicles and the electric ones and those with the fuel injection systems that reduce emissions. Then there are also the kinds that offer partial solutions like fuels, bio-ethanol’s, diesel and algae that need to be dealt with,” she said.

The Aptera is an electric vehicle that is being manufactured locally in San Diego. It is a cute futuristic looking car that runs on electricity. Just plug it in overnight and you are ready to go more than 100 miles once it is charges. This will be hitting markets soon.

Dan Squiller the CEO of PowerGenix joined the company in 2003. “3-4 billion batteries enter waste stream. We have developed a high energy density, high cycle life and low-cost nickel-zinc battery ideal for applications that demand high discharge rate capabilities. The advantages are in its 30% weight and size reduction along with higher power and superior low temperature discharge attributes.  Space and cost savings are part of the performance gains,” he said.

David Morash the CEO of ISE Corp a supplier of integrated hybrid-electric drives systems and control software for large buses and trucks. ISE specializes in production of “series” hybrid-electric drive systems, where the engine is completely decoupled from the driveline and is used only to generate electrical power. This kind of hybrid design is more useful for large vehicles that perform large amounts of stop-an-go driving, such as transit buses and delivery trucks.

The main obstacle to the adoption of series hybrid drive systems has been the technological complexity of managing the interaction of the three separate power sources in such a system; the engine-generator, energy storage system and the electric drive motors. The problem is supposedly challenging in heavy duty buses and trucks where the power levels to be managed are significantly higher than in smaller vehicles such as passenger cars.

As the discussion progressed the pros and cons were aired and David Morash opined that government stops interfering with the bankruptcy process and let it take its own course and rebuild from scratch. Hybrid car sales have dropped to the 2006 level, down by 30% in February, when only half as many models were on sale. The general consensus on the problems this particular segment of the industry face was that it is a difficult time to start research and development and an increase in gasoline prices will trigger the increase in sales again. The gestation period is quite long to take it to the production level from prototype to professional management of the whole process. Then there is the issues of transferring the research to academic institutions since time frame is so important and the endurance factor of these companies have to be considered. It was also opined that most existing automotive companies are legacy bound and find it harder for newer innovations at brisk pace. In addition, the infrastructure requirements and logistics regarding Hydrogen filling stations and their availability for such automobiles need to be worked out. The general consensus is that the investments and markets are headed towards low carbon energy.

Obama in his energy conservation speech two days back unveiled plans for reducing emissions from vehicles for newly manufactured cars in addition to increasing the mileage of cars from 25 to 35 for newly manufactured cars. This policy might increase the price of cars to almost 600 $ more than their current price.

The strategies include:

•Each company would have to achieve the fleet wide Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. That’s 0.5 m.p.g. higher and four years faster than the federal emissions rules currently call for.

•In addition to cutting ground-level pollutants, the goal for the first time is an explicit reduction in the carbon emissions linked to the threat of global warming.

•The system would cover the whole nation, offering manufacturers the benefit of a single standard. The state of California, which has long set up alternative standards that other states can choose to follow, is agreeing to stick with this new federal rule at least through 2016. California would save money by avoiding the need for its own compliance program for the similar greenhouse-gas limits it has been seeking to impose.

•The changes would take effect through a federal rulemaking process, which could be made easier by the up-front support of key stakeholders such as major carmakers, environmental groups, and California. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, in an unusual move, collaborated to frame the plan.

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Edited Article in ASIA NEWS- West Coast Edition

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https://serenemusings.wordpress.com/category/published-articles/

http://174.143.136.22/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=&nm=&type=Publishing&mod=Publications%3A%3AArticle&mid=8F3A7027421841978F18BE895F87F791&tier=4&id=3950CF0B569940AB818F324EF7F768CA

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Comments
  1. Jamie Dedes says:

    Looks like much that is wonderful here. I will have to come back another day when time allows and explore. Wonderful photographs …

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