AUSTIN, Texas (Diya TV) — Indian Americans are the most educated and most affluent immigrant community in the United States. A recent survey conducted by Dalberg & Indiaspora shows that Indian Americans have the potential to give over 3 billion dollars annually. Harish Kotecha, founder of HC4A (Hindu Charities for America), came here with his family in 1972 when the dictator of Uganda gave all Indians a notice of 90 days to leave the country. His many successes in this country motivated him to build an organization that encourages philanthropy in the Indian American community with the motto ‘serve where we live.’
Organizations such as Akshaya Patra, Pratham USA, have raised millions of dollars over years within the US to to support causes in India and make a real difference. Stretching the dollar and making an enormous impact in the lives of millions of children in India. And even though Kotecha is well aware that a dollar remitted to India can create a big difference to a developing economy versus the US, he believes its importat to give back to the community we live in.
“There is poverty here too. I thought it would be so great if the Indian community worked as one to serve those in need in the US,” says Kotecha. Hundreds of Indian Americans have been inspired to raise over a million dollars since the inception of HC4A in 2010. This is a small amount compared to nearly a half million raised in one night at the annual gala for the organizations funding education in India.
The HC4A mission is to ‘bridge income disparities through education.’ Two salient events raise funds for these endeavors: the HC4A Gala and Bollywood Meets Borscht Belt (BMBB). The Jewish community helps organize the BMBB event; leading Bollywood dance schools in Austin like Monsoon Dance and Agni lend the glitz and glamor to a high spirited night.
Schoolsupplies, backpack programs, and scholarships form the pillars of education-based giving for the volunteers at HC4A.
According to Dalberg, Education ranked at 61% as a passion cause for Indian American donors, followed by healthcare & Gender equality. “The Indian community is very successful, and we all came for one purpose, education, that was our driving factor. We know the struggle, so we are ready to support the cause for education,” says Vaishali Tendolkar, Secretary of HC4A.
Kotecha says that several Muslims and Jews fundraise and help organize events for HC4A. For him, the success of HC4A is the fact that people from all faiths and backgrounds come together to help the community they live in.
In 2017, Harish Kotecha was honored with the President’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.” As this model worked in Austin, Kotecha and his team worked on expanding HC4A’s presence to Southern California, Houston, and Dallas.
Nidhi Trehan, a sociologist, and a chapter leader for HC4A in Houston says, “If we reduce inequality here in the US, we will be working to reduce it globally.”
“HC4A is asking us, that is Indian Americans, to reach out to other communities and give them a helping hand. We actually owe it to the pioneers that fought for civil rights in this country, to be in the position of privilege we are in today,” she added. Led by Sashi Konidena, President of the Houston chapter raised over $12,000 this past year.
The Southern California chapter began in late 2019 and has already presented $5000 to the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD). Close to 50% of the students enrolled in the LACCD fall below the poverty line.
Giving back is a metric of success for any individual or community, and it’s a great reinforcement of an immigrant population’s gratitude.
Karthik Pichai, a serial entrepreneur, helped start the Dallas chapter in 2019 and has already raised $10,000 for Dallas Community College. He is rallying successful entrepreneurs not just to give, but also potentially train the students in their tech companies. “I want to bring together affluent entrepreneurs with shared values. Along with our Indian American kids, we can set an example saying that we care about our local community and want to give back,” he says.
Teri Benge, who was pursuing a degree in hospitality management at ACC, while keeping a full-time job, writes in her thank you note to HC4A that, “I will always remember this gesture of kindness and will one day, pay this forward by helping students achieve their goals, just as you have helped me.”
As HC4A volunteers celebrate 10 years of relentless hard work, at the Asian American Resource Center, Austin, none are ready to just sit on their laurels. They laugh and cheer on as they see a 2030 vision board of Shahrukh Khan and Jennifer Lopez coming for the Gala night celebrations and a fundraising goal of a 100 million dollars.
2019 was the biggest year for HC4A as they were successful in establishing an irrevocable endowment fund for scholarships. This year about $150,000 in fellowships will go to students of various ethnic communities. To Kotecha its important that the work continue beyond him, “If us go away, the charity goes away, the fund will still be there. Legacy of the charity and donors will remain,”
India’s mega blockbuster ‘RRR’ vies for the Oscars
LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — Legendary Indian director S.S. Rajamouli, of the Baahubali fame is back with yet another box office mega hit. ‘RRR’ (Rise,Roar, Revolt), the Telugu language epic, is set in 1920’s colonial India and has already broken many box-office records internationally. With nearly 300 days of shooting, thousands of hours in post production and an international team of VFX team, RRR is now making the waves among film critics in the United States.
Grossing over $175m worldwide, with nearly $2.5m from Japan alone, this film has garnered global appeal with its Bollywood style dance numbers, epic action sequences and high-end visual effects.
As the film is gaining momentum in the film critics society, after winning the Atlanta & New York Film Critics Circle awards, ahead of the Oscars, we sat down with the key team members behind the scenes. Check out what they had to say:
With an astounding level of commitment and an inherent pride, the team worked tirelessly to bring the director’s vision to life.
While many expected this to be India’s official entry into the Oscars, that didn’t happen, but RRR will likely compete with films such as Avatar 2 and Top Gun Maverick in the VFX category. If it were to win, it would be the first ever film made in India to win that category at the Oscars.
We, at Diya TV will be paying close attention, so like, follow & subscribe to get all your diaspora news as it happens.
UPDATE 12/12/22 : RRR has been nominated for Best Picture: Non-English Language & Best Original Song ‘Naatu Naatu’ for the Golden Globes.
IFFLA celebrates 20 years with a focus to mentor the next generation
LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — IFFLA celebrated their 20th anniversary with familiar faces, overwhelming excitement and new additions to Southern California’s largest Indian and South Asian focused film festival.
Pan Nalin opened the festival with his film Last Film Show, a love letter to cinema and loosely based on his childhood.
“I think IFFLA over the years, it has been like a home in Hollywood. So I was always able to come here and invite people from the industry to see these movies,” said Nalin. “There are producers who usually don’t go to see Indian cinema. So I feel that it’s really important.”
Director Anurag Kashyap returned to host a MasterClass — a way to give back to the festival and fellow filmmakers.
“It is always good to be back here because for me this is where it all started from. And it’s amazing to see that this festival has grown so much and has been sustaining for so long,” said Kashyap.
New filmmakers were honored to be part of the lineup this year, especially after no in-person IFFLA for the last two years.
Hena Asraf, Director of The Return, shares “it feels a little unreal. It feels great! I think especially to be at a festival in person, after over two years.”
“The community is amazing. The welcome is very warm. It feels just so honoring to be a part of this festival and amongst these filmmakers. I can’t wait to see all the other films,” said The Return Editor Esther Shubinski.
It’s that family feeling that makes IFFLA special and keeps filmmakers, attendees, and staff keep coming back.
Actor and director Ravi Kapoor is “just so grateful for this festival. It has been such a supporter of me. And they’ve helped bring the South Asian diasporic community here in LA together as well. Thank god they’ve lasted 20 years.”
Actor & musician Monica Dogra points out “what’s wonderful about IFFLA [is] it’s super niche, South Asians in LA of all places. [And] it’s small enough so you actually see people anyway.”
Actor Pooja Batra added, “I think they’ve always been eclectic with their mix of selection that they bring around here — smaller budget, smaller sort of productions also need a shout out.”
One of the new additions this year is the Spotlight on South Asia.
Festival founder Christina Marouda added this vertical to present films from different countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal. “We’re putting a spotlight on projects we want to support,” said Marouda.
The other major new change this year was a live table read of IFFLA alum Kahlil Maskati’s feature script, Alim Uncle, rather than a closing night film. Fawzia Mirza directed the piece.
These changes reflect IFFLA’s commitment to supporting filmmakers while giving audiences more than a viewing experience. In fact, they are able to be part of the filmmaking process.
Marouda says after 20 years, this is IFFLA’s direction moving forward — a full effort to mentor budding filmmakers, while showcasing new films.
Ravi Kapur and Deepti Dawar contributed to this report.
Garcetti’s ambassadorship to India in limbo￼
WASHINGTON DC (Diya TV) — Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has lifted the “hold” on the Senate confirmation of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has been nominated by US President Joe Biden as the country’s next ambassador to India. Initially, Grassley planned to object to the nomination, saying Garcetti failed to properly investigate sexual assault allegations and harassment by a close advisor.
Protesters in Sri Lanka have burned down homes belonging to 38 politicians as the crisis-hit country plunged further into chaos, with the government ordering troops to shoot anyone caught destroying property. Even the former Prime Minister had to be evacuated from his home. Angry Sri Lankans continue to defy a nationwide curfew to protest against what they say is the government’s mishandling of the country’s worst economic crisis since 1948.
Internationally recognized Indian American energy expert Arun Majumdar will head the new Stanford University Doerr School of Sustainability, which aims to tackle urgent climate and sustainability challenges,
Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.
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