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  • 2 Jan 2021 3:12 PM | Anonymous

    by Pravin Trivedi

    Happy New Year

    Remember Christmas and me and my friends and working at the British Post Office during our college years?  Well, we are still in Jolly old England and a week later it is New Year’s Eve. We are out of the money that we made during Christmas and now back to poverty.

    We had made friends in that time, so we decided why not call on them?  Auld Lang Syne  is an old Scottish song  that is sung at the end of the old year and ringing in the start of the New Year.  It is sung with great feelings of comradery and as much dedication and gusto as though you were Scottish too! It is comparable to the US custom of the lighted ball coming down the well-known track in Times Square.

    We were four friends staying in London and had two and a half scooters between us.  I say two and a half because one was always broken and inoperable for one reason or other. Our friends always wanted to hear us play and sing Christmas carols. So, we decided to do that. Why Indians singing Christmas carols?? After Christmas? Why not?  We have Santa Claus visiting around New Year’s at the clubs in Amdavad!!

    Among the four friends, we could play a flute, a guitar, a piano, bongo and a squeaky clarinet. So one evening we got on to two scooters with our gear (sans piano) and started the rounds of our friends. We were well received at the friends we called upon.  We were hoping to visit seven or eight friends but everywhere we went we sang at least one full carol at their doorstep, then were invited in for drinks, sing another one or two more. After the third stop, we  were not sure if we could manage the scooters.

    Each scooter had two of us piled on with our musical instruments. At one road junction, I had to stop in the middle of the road, on the crown. After the cross traffic passed, I started to let out the clutch.  The front tire rose suddenly and dumped my passenger in the middle of the road. Meanwhile the scooter ran away from me. I had to run quickly and ingloriously chasing the scooter while my friend sat dazed in the middle of the road wondering what happened.

    We called it a day after three houses, but word travelled fast. Folks we had not called on complained so much that we had to have a repeat performance a few days later and throw in auld land syne.

    Should auld acquaintance be forgot
    And never brought to mind?
    Should auld acquaintance be forgot
    And days of auld lang syne?

    For auld lang syne, my dear
    For auld lang syne
    Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
    And days of auld lang syne?

  • 12 Dec 2020 7:49 PM | Anonymous

    By Ragoo Raghunathan

    Living in the suburbs of Boston, we may not realize that there are plenty of organizations right here near our India Society of Worcester – in the biotech, pharma, IT, medical and digital healthcare industries. One such Global company – Charles River Labs (CRL) – is situated very close to our India Center in Shrewsbury. I recently talked to Spencer Streeter, one of their HR Business Partners who alerted us to the fact that they are actively hiring during these COVID times. Being in the biotech service industry myself, I realized that CRL has been an invaluable partner to many pharmaceutical companies around the world with their pre-clinical study support during the process of drug development.

    Here is an excerpt of our conversation. Feel free to reach out directly to Spencer at spencer.streeter@crl.com, or apply through their website (www.criver.com) if you find any position interesting.

    1. What are some of the achievements of CRL, either overall or during COVID times? 

    At Charles River, we are passionate about our role in improving the quality of people’s lives. This year we are currently working with approximately 60 different companies on a Covid Vaccine or different Immunotherapies. We approach each day with the knowledge that our work helps to improve the health and well-being of many across the globe. In 2019, we supported ~85% of drugs approved by the FDA, a significant accomplishment that makes us all proud to be part of this remarkable team. Every role at Charles River matters to the thousands of clients and millions of patients around the globe. We strive to be the difference for our clients, colleagues, animals, and partners.

    2. What are some of the fields/areas of expertise you are hiring in? 

    We are looking to hire in a variety of areas including Biology, Bioanalytical Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Immunology, Immunochemistry, Pathology, Histology, and Clinical Pathology.

    3. Apart from full time jobs, are there opportunities for summer internships and volunteer positions for high school students, and for young professionals seeking to change their field of expertise?

    We do offer summer internships.  Due to Covid-19, there is uncertainty right now around how many and what sites will have them.  When Internships become available, they will be posted on our career page at www.criver.com.   Our internships are structured, and the students are given a project to work on during their time with CRL.  At the end of the internship, they are asked to give a presentation to the scientific staff they worked with, to discuss what went right, what didn’t work, and what they learned from the experience.  Our internships are paid, and the individual must be actively enrolled in college courses.  Unfortunately, because of the nature of our work, and legal requirements, we do not offer volunteer positions for high school students.  

    4. Are you open to sponsoring work permit visas (J1, H1, O1) for immigrant students/candidates?

    For PhD level positions, we are open to sponsoring employees.  We are also fine to hire interns that are on student visas through their universities.

    5. What are some of your involvements (if any) in the local community or town? 

    Each site has different activities they perform in the community.  Last year, each site worked with Feed America to pack meals for the hungry.  As a company, we packed over 1 million meals.  Due to Covid-19, we were not able to pack the meals this year, but plan to do so again in the future.  In 2020, we also, as a company donated 2 million dollars to our local communities.  Each site was given a portion of those funds, and a committee at the local level was formed to determine which non-profits in the community would be awarded those funds. 

  • 12 Dec 2020 7:47 PM | Anonymous

    By Pravin Trivedi

    I attended London University in England for college. I quickly made friends with four colleagues in our living quarters and we used to go out together everywhere.

    We participated in all the British traditions for Christmas which meant heavy partying. As students we had no money. What were we to do? Well, we did what the British students did which was to get a job at the Post Office.

    Traditionally there used to be a lot of mail to be delivered during the holidays. Normally, the postmen used to come twice a day to deliver letters, cards and parcels. However, at Christmas time the volume of mail would triple or get even higher. Since college vacations would start around Dec 15th and last until Jan 7th or so, it gave the post office a great chance to employ vacationing students for two to three weeks. This gave students a week to study for the tests, that were typically after the Christmas break, and two weeks or more to earn a paycheck.

    It was good work. The regular postmen would do the sorting of letters and have huge bags ready for the students to deliver at 6 a.m. The first few days, the regulars would show you how to deliver the letters. Thereafter, you were on your own. When you finished delivering a sack of mail, you went back to the post office and they would give you another sack. Most days you did three rounds, or four if you were unlucky. No one asked you when you had breaks. You could sneak in a breakfast or tea on your return to the office. The regulars knew that and even suggested it.

    We felt like the jolly old man carrying a bag. Sometimes to please the kids in the neighborhood we even said, “HO HO HO Merry Christmas!”


  • 30 Nov 2020 9:40 PM | Anonymous

    By Ragoo Raghunathan.

    Three out of five (62%) Americans polled wanted to start a business and make their dreams come true. In a survey of 1,000 American non-business owners done by the New York Post as many as 37% have genuine aspirations to become their own boss and 25% of them said they would seriously consider it.

    While there are 582 million entrepreneurs in the world, not all of them succeed, 22.5% of small business fail within the first year. While the startup environment is promising, you should definitely consider a few questions before starting a business or before reaching out to investors.

    In a recent blog article on LinkedIn, Ian Mathews, the CEO of 5on4 (https://5on4.group/) suggested these questions that I thought would be interesting for aspiring founders or entrepreneurs in our audience.

    1. What problem are you trying to solve? Is it widespread?

    2. What pain will you alleviate or eliminate?

    3. Is this problem real enough where someone will pay you to fix it?

    4. How are people dealing with the problem without you? What competitive solutions exist?

    5. How will you improve upon existing solutions? How will you supplant competitors?

    6. How easy is this business to start? What are the barriers to entry?

    7. If it is a simple business to start, what prevents others from quickly following you?

    8. What will make your product/service unique enough to command a premium? How will you avoid a race to the bottom on price?

    9. Will this business scale? Can it thrive without you doing all the work?

    10. How will you get attention and attract new customers? Will those customers purchase once or repeatedly?

    Depending on their background, an investor might put greater emphasis on certain of these questions. Some might dwell more on the marketing aspects, while others might be more curious about the engineering challenges. Regardless of their expertise and background they will all touch on these questions. If investors ask these questions before making a commitment, shouldn’t you also be asking yourself before you commit your time and effort?  

    You can find out more nuggets on Ian’s website at 5on4.group.

  • 30 Nov 2020 9:25 PM | Anonymous

    By Pravin Trivedi

    At what cost?  Ever since we have moved into a condominium from a large house, we have been trying to grow tomatoes on our deck. It started with an outlay of capital for pots, wires, potting soil and so on. The first year wasn’t a full growing season but we did get a ten-dollar tomato out of it. The second year was better, giving us a return of fifteen-dollar tomato.

    This year, we were given another opportunity of complete rest, stay at home, and not going anywhere. What more would an avid gardener wish for?? We were charged with ideas and our deck was filled with plants that  left us with little room to sit in. We got planters and bought a large tomato plant, a cherry tomato plant, a hot pepper plant and were given a nice red flowering Impatiens plant. You would think you were in a professional horticulturalist’s garden!

    As days went by, our neighbors were thinking of putting an inspection station at the condo entrance to ensure no more plants snuck in to take residence on our deck.  They were going to sign a petition not to allow an increase in size of decks attached to the condos.

    Then the problems started. We had flowers on the plants. No tomatoes. That went on for a few days. Then we got green tomatoes for a few weeks, followed by tomatoes with black bottoms, one or two green chilies and many more flowers. We reacted to every situation.  We frantically searched for solutions on YouTube. We moved the plants into the sun, then out of the sun. Sometimes twice a day. Watered them, then did not water them. Watered them at night, watered them in the morning. We could hardly walk on the deck because the plants now owned the deck. We now have a steady supply of red tomatoes but are exhausted by the end of the day. Perhaps we will put an ad in our condo paper, “Plant supplies for next year, free from our condo. We’ll deliver.”

  • 30 Nov 2020 9:15 PM | Anonymous

    Are you interested in encouraging voting in Georgia? Do you want to gather with other young professionals who are interested in social justice issues? Are you free on Friday, December 4th from 8-9 pm? 

    If you answered YES to the questions above, please consider joining SAYAA (South Asian Youth Activists and Allies) as we write letters to encourage Georgia citizens to vote in the Senate run-off elections! Letter writing has been shown to increase voter turnout and is considered to be one of the most effective tactics to boost voting. 

    If you are interested in writing letters with us, please feel free to research letter-writing campaigns that feel like a good fit for you (a simple google search would do it!). For many of them, you'll need to register a day or two in advance and print out their templates, so you'll be ready to write and mail. Letters must be mailed out by Monday, December 7th to ensure they reach their destinations in time! 

    Even if you are unable to write letters, please feel free to join us for some good company and discussions on all things voter suppression, the importance of the run-off, and how to further engage in activism!

    RSVP by sending an email to sayaa@iswonline.org to let us know that you'll be joining. Feel free to forward this invitation to friends who you think would be interested in participating.

    We look forward to seeing you soon!

    SAYAA

    SAAYA Committee: Shubh Agrawal, Keerthana Balakrishnan, Danush Chelladurai, Tanvi Jain, Aditya Khanna, Kavya Raghunathan, Aarshiya Sachdeva

    Advisors: Raj & Shiamin Melville



  • 30 Nov 2020 8:58 PM | Anonymous

     ISW’s Diwali Event

    Diwali is delight, Diwali is delight
    No dark night , Everywhere light
    Things are bright , Diwali is delight
    Bliss and peace we should invite
    On this lit Diwali night
    Let the glow be bright and bright
    Nothing dark should be inside
    Let not crackers show their might
    Nor should smoke reach new height
    Let not pollution sharply brite
    Diwali is delight, Diwali is delight

    As the poem says, ISW community really had a delight of celebrating Diwali this year by putting up the event completely virtually. There was the same number of volunteers, enthusiasts, artists, performers and energy in this event. 

    This year’s cultural program theme was ‘Saat Rang Ke Sapne’ (7 colors of dreamland). The cultural program started after the Diwali Pooja program with an amazing Ganesha Stavan - the students of Jasmine Shah, one of our community’s favorite choreographers, presented their dancing feet to a song praising Lord Ganesha. There was a great lineup of performers presenting Guru Vandana, Sunflower medley, the dance drama based on ‘Love you zindagi’, with the dancers’ great stepping feet depicting Indo Western Kathak fusion and some fusion based performances to Bollywood music. Some of the performances showcased the beauty of rhythm through a very popular dance style - Tarana. Our virtual spectators positive feedback for the mothers and kids dancing in Shaadi Ke Sapne was appreciated. In keeping with the program theme, the Diwali stage was filled with colorful and entertaining performing arts and artists. Around 140 participants contributed their amazing flair on this ISW platform. The participants came from far and near; as close as Shrewsbury to far away Boston, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

    Another novel segment of this year’s Diwali celebration was a ‘Diya Painting Contest’ where many of our ISW school kids and their families participated and showcased their creative, innovative ideas for painting and decorating Diwali Diyas. There were a range of Diyas, from Diyas painted in watercolors and acrylic paints, to Diyas shaped as beautiful peacock and flowers, as well as a Diya shaped with dominos. All in all, the contestant’s creativity was at its peak. The willing contestants were Svana and Ahaana Deshpande and Avika Mathur. The event this year was really a bouquet of different colors- in terms of dance forms, art forms, and different age categories.

    The event ran for over 3 hours on a beautiful Saturday and the ISW Diwali Committee is really grateful for the support of ALL the volunteers, committee members, participants and most importantly all our viewers in the audience attending this first virtual Diwali event. You can view the entire performance on the ISW Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/iswonline/videos/ Please visit our website for more upcoming events and to become a part of ISW family. https://iswonline.org/

    Sarita Deshpande

  • 30 Nov 2020 8:54 PM | Anonymous

    by Tanu Nekenti 8th Grade Oak Middle School, Shrewsbury, MA

    Hi everyone, my name is Tanu Nekenti and I’m here to tell you exactly what happened last Sunday! If you didn’t already know, India Society of Worcester (ISW) and Spirit of Shrewsbury (SOS) joined hands to create an awesome event! It’s called Shrewsbury’s Got Talent (SGT) and it took place past Sunday.

    Let me tell you a little bit about ISW and SOS first. ISW’s purpose is to encourage people with ancestral origin in India or people who are otherwise interested in India, to form an effective group with the objective of fostering the cultural heritage of India. SOS was organized to celebrate the heritage of Shrewsbury, every year they organize many events in the Fall season. Both, ISW, and SOS, share a common goal, that is to serve their community. ISW and SOS worked very hard to come up with SGT, the virtual style! There were three very accomplished judges to judge the competition, Maria Smith, Ekta Jain, and Bhuvana Ganesh.  They did a spectacular job with the judging, though I know it must have been very hard for them, as all the performances were absolutely magnificent! There were many contestants performing too, including, kids and adults of all ages.

     As mentioned earlier that the contestants brought an amazing talent to this one-of-a-kind platform. Since it was a contest, the judges identified these gems from the participants. The winners in the 9 and below category were Sucheth Mahesh and Kian Rao. In the 9-12 category, the winning medals went to Madelyn Schwab, Anthony Fuzaylov and Aadi Jagannathan. In the 13-17 yrs age category, Adele Fuzaylov, Sruthelaya Mohan and Tanushree Nekenti were the 3 finalists. In the 18+ category Priya Balu and Avni Chheda earned the winning places.

    The emcees were Tanushree Nekenti, Arin Gupta, and Tanvi Gahlot. Thank you to the emcees for doing this!  Congratulations everyone, the contestants and the winners. All of you are winners and did great!

    And lastly, I want to thank Rekha Gupta, Smita Manjrekar, Sarita Deshpande and Amita Aunty who worked for ISW cultural committee and Suresh Gupta and Sakshi Gurao who represented Spirit of Shrewsbury for putting this all together!

    Thank you so much to the participants, emcees, organizers, and especially to the audience at home, all of you are a great help to all of this! I had a great time watching and participating in this amazing event and I hope you had fun watching it too! Hopefully, all of you participate and watch next year if you can meet in person, and have a good day,  bye!
  • 30 Nov 2020 8:35 PM | Anonymous

    by Arathi Cowlagi

    The beautiful Renaissance Courtyard at the Worcester Art Museum is usually bustling and filled with spectators of all ages enjoying the melodious music and the colorful dances. Every year in partnership with the Worcester Art Museum, ISW presents the Community Day program. This was the fifth year of this wonderful partnership and the theme was ‘Travel the Silk Road’. The event was held on Sunday, Nov 8th and looked a little different this year due to Covid.

    Despite it being a virtual event ISW members, choreographers and participants put on a great show! The show began like every year with lighting of the lamp by ISW President, Ashish Cowlagi. Some of the highlights were, a classical dance item presented by the students of the Natyamani School of Dance, Power of Om and Ladies Sangeet by Ekta Dance Academy students, Ganesh Vandana by New England School of Dance.

    We also had Mansi’s Hindustani bhajan in praise of Goddess Durga that evoked some emotional responses from our viewers online! Pooja Srivastava, who is involved with the ISW Cultural school, read the story of Diwali and talented artist Rashmi Pitre showed how to make your own Rangoli. In past years, her Rangolis have welcomed visitors as they came to the museum for this event.

    Rachel Parikh, the new assistant curator of Asian and Middle Eastern Art at the Museum gave a virtual tour that highlighted the Asian and Middle Eastern Art collection at the Museum. She also explained the significance of lighting the lamp during Diwali.

    There were some great items like puppet making, creating your own story through art, the Chinese lion dance, story time and ‘Meet a Samurai’ that allowed online viewers to participate and enjoy! ISW looks forward to another great event in partnership with the Worcester Art Museum next year, hopefully in person!

  • 17 Nov 2020 10:54 AM | Anonymous

    An interview with Rajesh Murali (Emory University) by Ragoo Raghunathan.

    A large portion of student immigrants in the US are in academics, usually on a J1 or H1 visa. If you are on a J1 visa you are required to return to the home country for a minimum of 2 years after the visa expires. A waiver can be requested to avoid going back and to continue your stay in the US. Although this seems to be a straightforward process, it can get tricky sometimes.

    Rajesh Murali, a friend of mine who is a postdoctoral researcher at Emory University recently went through the entire process and has offered to answer some questions that you may find helpful if you are in such a situation. I interviewed Rajesh and here are some of his responses, tips and suggestions.

    What is a J1 Visa? J1 waiver? Who needs to get one and what are the stages one must go thru to get a J1 waiver?

    J1 visa is a non-immigrant exchange visitor visa given to individuals approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States. This is a specialized visa provided by the Department of State (DOS) to the exchange of ideas, research, and mutual enrichment. The focus is also to create associations between research and academic institutions in the United States and foreign countries. As a J1 Visa is to promote mutual enrichment, individuals under this visa category are expected to go back to their home country and remain there for at least a period of two years. This time is meant for transferring the expertise that the individual gained in the US to his/her country. The maximum period an individual is allowed to be on a J visa in India is 5 years. If the individual decides against going back to the home country, he/she must get a J1 waiver. This essentially waives the 2-year home country rule and allows the individual to remain in the US and continue his/her research. To get a J1 waiver, an individual must get a No Objection Statement (NOS) from his/her home country and apply for the waiver from the Department of State (DOS). The procedure can be long and it involves 3 stages.

    The stages are well explained in this link https://sciwri.club/archives/1188.

    How long does it normally take to get a J1 waiver? Is there even something that is considered normal?

    The timeline to get the waiver is anywhere between approximately 7 to 9 months. This is if everything goes fine without any delay. But it is very common to run into glitches and its important to start the process ahead of time

    What’s a good time to start the process?

    A J1 visa can be extended for a period of 5 years. A good time to start the process is after 30 months. I’d get the Stage 1 and 2 done first. Once you get the NORI (No Obligation to Return to India/any other home country) from all 3 offices in India you can take your time to apply for Stage 3. Most of the time, the delays happen in getting the documents from India. There are instances where people had to wait for 18 months to get a document. So, to be on a safer side it’s a good idea to get all 3 NORIs from India. And start the stage 3 when your J1 visa is valid for another 12 months. Or after being on a J1 visa for 3 ½ to 4 years. The stage 3 happens in the US and you have some kind of control on it and you can also track the waiver process. It takes about 3 to 5 months to complete the stage 3. At the end of stage 3 USCIS will send you the final J1 waiver. After this, you and your university will be left with approximately 9 months to apply for Labor Condition Application (LCA) and H1B visa. A premium processing is also available for H1B visa and in that case, getting the waiver before 2 months of the last date will be sufficient.

    Is the process required and/or the same if I immigrated from India or a different country?

    The process is the same for every individual on J1 visa.

    If you are in a time crunch, are there any tips as to how one could fast track the process?

    Yes. 1. Be on top of your applications. Contact the concerned Govt. departments in India and insist that they send the documents to you. Having someone going to these offices in person also helps. One of the documents from the (Ministry of Human Resources Department) MHRD is very straightforward. You may run into issues at the passport office and more importantly at the state department. Having some contacts in these offices help!!

    2. Make sure all required documents are submitted and pay attention to the application procedures.

    3. If you feel there is a delay in getting the NORI, start the stage 3-waiver application for the DOS and keep it ready. You can also contact the Indian Embassy in DC and request them to send the NOS to DOS as soon as they get your application (This happens only if you get all 3 NORIs and your consulate forwards the decision letter to the Embassy). You can also send out the application package (again pay attention to the application process and required documents) to DOS, St. Louis. It takes about 6 weeks for the application to reach from St. Louis to DC. It is possible to get the NORIs in this 6-week period and the Embassy can send the NOS to DOS within this time, you will be saving 6 weeks. However, even if the DOS in DC receives your application package, they will not process your application until they receive the NOS from the Indian Embassy. In some cases the DOS receives the NOS after 2-3 months of receiving the application and this is totally acceptable.

    4. You can also expedite the process once the DOS receives all the documents. Please take help from an attorney or a senator or congressman to expedite your application. Pay attention in doing this as once the request to expedite is rejected they will never consider another request to expedite. Get expert advice for this process.

    5. In unusual and critical circumstances the DOS will extend J1 visa beyond the 5-year period. During COVID-19 the DOS is offering a 60-day extension and this request should go from the university and should accompany a letter stating that your waiver process and travel has been affected by COVID-19.

    6. Request your university to have all the documents ready from H1B application. Tell them to get your Labor Condition Application (LCA). The only document outstanding to submit a H1B petition should be your J1 waiver. Once you get the approval you can immediately file the petition.

    Can this be done by ourselves, or do we need to take professional help? What’s a good place to start?

    You can do this. You will need professional help only if run into trouble. Refer to point 4 above.

    What are some suggestions about setting our expectations while we are in the process?

    Expect delays! Especially, in the Indian offices. Be on top of it. Contact them and request them to process your application. Anticipate delays and start the steps mentioned above depending on the delays.

    Typically, how much would this process cost, and do you know if employers cover these expenses?

    Employer will not cover this cost. It will cost you about $200-$250. This is including the postal charges.

    Do you get an acceptable level of communications from USCIS or does one have to keep nudging them? How do you get to talk to a customer support agent?

    The USCIS has no control over your application till they receive a favorable recommendation from the DOS. You can email the DOS at 212ewaiver@state.gov. They are slow in responding but they will get back to you. Contacting USCIS on the other hand is very easy. They have a customer care number (1 (800) 375-5283). But, this is generally not required.

    Once you get the J1 waiver, are there any restrictions one needs to keep in mind?

    You cannot avail any J associated privileges after getting the waiver. And that is the reason I have mentioned above to hold on to the NORIs and apply for the final waiver when you have only 12 to 15 months left. And there are also travel restrictions after H1B petition is filed.

    I found this site to be helpful, but it is from 2018. Do you think this is still relevant?

    https://medium.com/@krishnakumar.tce/my-j-1-waiver-story-d8f03452182

    Very much relevant. However, if you are stuck in any of these steps, feel free to reach out to us via our email link and we will be happy to put you in touch with Rajesh to help out.

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