IIT KGP Class of 1997 – 20 year reunion

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Hello All,

We are pleased to announce the 20 year reunion for the class of 1997 of IIT Kharagpur on June 24th, 2017 in San Francisco Bay Area. We will begin the day from Fremont with a luxury bus (including Breakfast) taking us to the Golden Gate park for a nice summer time picnic. After games, fun and some yummy lunch, we will make our way back to Fremont in the evening. Night time we will blast our way to DJ music and of course, backed up with some delicious food.

You don’t want to miss this event.

IMPORTANT: WE NEED TO FINALIZE THE HEADCOUNT ASAP. PLEASE REACH OUT TO thyaga12@yahoo.com to RSVP for the picnic.

Here are the finer details of the reunion:

DATE: June 24th, 2017

LOCATION: SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA

DETAIL AGENDA:

# Activity Start End
1 Bus Trip to Golden Gate Park (Pioneer East Meadow Picnic Area) 8:00 AM 10:00 AM
2 Boxed Breakfast in Bus (GoChaatzz) 8:30 AM 9:30 AM
3 Games, Boating 10:00 AM 12:00 PM
4 Lunch (Curry on Wheels) 12:00 PM 1:30 PM
5 Games, De Young Museum, Cal Academy of Sciences 1:30 PM 3:00 PM
6 Drive back from Golden Gate Park 3:00 PM 4:30 PM
7 Snacks on the bus on the way back 3:00 PM 3:30 PM
8 Rest / Get Ready in Hotel 4:30 PM 6:00 PM
9 Banquet dinner with DJ (Sakoon Fremont) 6:30 PM 12:00 AM

Durga Puja in the Bay Area, 2016

Durga Puja is just around the corner. Here is an update on the list of Durga Pujas that are going to be celebrated in the Bay Area this year.

  1. Sanskriti – October 1st and 2nd at Newark Pavilion,6430 Thornton Ave, Newark, CA,94560
  2. Prabasi – October 7th, 8th and 9th at Santa Clara Fairgrounds, 344 Tully Rd, San Jose.
  3. Pashchimi – October 7th – 11th at Unify Event Center, .
  4. Bay Area Shobar Pujo
  5. Livermore Hindu Temple – October 1st – 10th at Livermore Hindu Temple.
  6. BayBasi – October 8th and 9th at Bowditch Middle School, Foster City
  7. Bay Area Durga Utsav – October 7th – 10th, at 5155 Stars and Stripes Dr, Santa Clara, CA 95054.

See u at one of the Pujas 🙂 !

Cheers,
Thyaga

Remembering Pran – my friend, my mentor, my inspiration

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I am still in a bit of shock on the sudden passing away of a good friend and mentor of mine Pran Kurup due to a cardiac arrest. I had the privilege of knowing and interacting with Pran for the past 18 years and in all these interactions, my impression of him was that of a very passionate entrepreneur always on the cutting edge of technology and a kind human being who believed deeply in the upliftment of India and actually went about in his own way in getting that done. You could disagree to his political views but you could not but help admire the passion that he had for everything that he did.

I vividly remember that day in 1997 when he and his fellow co-founders from Bytek Designs, interviewed Anand and me in Bangalore. We were fresh out of college and they were looking for fresh IIT graduates to jump start their online training portal. The interview was more a formality as we ended up discussing the India-Pakistan (Toronto) cricket match going on at that time on TV. Ever since that day, cricket had been a very strong unifying force for Pran and I – even when we were going through tough times in our startup, we never failed to catch up on cricket and the scores and what should India do next.

Anyway – when we landed in USA, Pran was there personally to welcome us. On the way to the apartment where the company had put us up, he made 2 pit stops – one at a park where there was a cricket match going on and another at our company. For a certain moment, i had to pinch myself to believe what was going on – i was in the heart of Silicon valley overlooking a cricket match – circa 1998. I knew that i was at the right place and more importantly, i had the right company and the right boss.

Over the next few years, the company grew and of course, changed its name to Vitalect – which is still its identity even till today. During this time, Pran’s entrepreneurial spirit could be seen in full glory – never a man to shy away from taking risks, he made some great strategic and tough decisions to keep Vitalect going. In fact, it was largely due to his untiring efforts that the company continues to exist and thrive even today. That is a sharp contrast to the tough times the company and Pran, especially, had to endure post the dot-com bust. I vividly remember the day when he had to lay-off people for the 1st time – it was really hard for him because he considered every one as family. In spite of all the hardships, he still managed to sponsor more than 50% of my part-time MBA from Santa Clara – almost unthinkable even in today’s times.

Even after i left Vitalect to pursue a career at Yahoo and other companies, we continued to keep in touch regularly – either because he wanted to brainstorm on an idea for his company or because of some cricket match or lately, on how India was going to get better under AAP. We would meet on social occasions too with family. One thing that many didn’t know about Pran was that he was an excellent cook – i still remember the Sambhar, Chicken Stew and the fish curry he had cooked for us for dinner.

He was a voracious reader and an avid Blogger. A couple of months ago, during our regular chat, he had told me that he was looking forward to the book launch. He was going through some trying times from his health perspective – but he had pulled himself through and he was excited about this new venture. Little did I know that it was the last time I would talk to him in person.

As I sit and reflect back on the days that I have spent with Pran, there are so many memories to write about. But I will leave you with something that I have always treasured. Circa 1999 – Cricket World Cup in England. At that time if you had to watch a game of cricket, you had to head to Naz Cinema hall in Fremont, CA OR install a dish at home (expensive). I made a casual remark during an office lunch that it was going to be a great world cup and how I wish we could be watching in USA. By evening time, Pran had set up a Dish at home and called me & Anand for dinner at his home to watch the 1st of the many India matches – that gesture truly epitomized Pran – a person who was always ready to listen and always willing to help. I will forever remember Pran for the influence he had on me and will forever cherish the memories of time spent with him and his family.

RIP Pran – you will be sorely missed.

 

 

Durga Puja in the Bay Area, 2015

Durga Puja is just around the corner. Here is an update on the list of Durga Pujas that are going to be celebrated in the Bay Area this year.

  1. Sanskriti – October 24th and 25th at Smithwick Auditorium,FootHill College, 12345 El Monte Road,Los Altos CA
  2. Prabasi – October 17th and 18th at Chabot College, Hayward.
  3. Pashchimi – October 18th – 23rd at GatewayHall at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds, 344 Tully Rd, San Jose.
  4. Bay Area Shobar Pujo – October 18th – 23rd at Oasis Palace, 35145 Newark Blvd, Newark.
  5. Livermore Hindu Temple – October 13th – 23rd at Livermore Hindu Temple.
  6. BayBasi – October 17th and 18th at Bowditch Middle School, Foster City

See u at one of the Pujas 🙂 !

Cheers,
Thyaga

Durga Puja in the Bay Area, 2014

Durga Puja is just around the corner. Here is an update on the list of Durga Pujas that are going to be celebrated in the Bay Area this year.

  1. Sanskriti – September 27th and 28th at Centerville Junior High School, Fremont.
  2. Prabasi – October 4th and 5th at Chabot College, Hayward.
  3. Pashchimi – September 29th – October 3rd at Fiesta Hall at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds, 344 Tully Rd, San Jose.
  4. Fremont Temple Durga Puja – September 29th – October 3rd at 1146 W El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA.
  5. Livermore Hindu Temple – September 24th – October 4th at Livermore Hindu Temple.
  6. BayBasi – September 27th and 28th at Bowditch Middle School, Foster City

See u at one of the Pujas 🙂 !

Cheers,
Thyaga

Green Card application for Parents (Consular Processing)

Recently I went through the process of Green Card application for Parents via Consular Processing in India. To say that the process was easy and without complications would be a complete understatement. It is not that the process is not well defined – but what is not clear (at least that is what i felt even with a wealth of Internet research available) is what happens after one stage is completed – what should we expect, what should my parents expect, what documents does the next stage need etc. Of course, if one had a guiding guardian along the way, then definitely many of the hurdles / roadblocks that we ran into could have been avoided – or at the very least, we could have started work on them in parallel and not wait in sequence for the stage when the documents would be needed. In this Blog Post, I hope that I can be a guiding light for you if ever you go down the path of sponsoring your parents’ Green Card via Consular Processing. Also – keep in mind that many of the experiences mentioned in this post may be unique to my case (though i doubt that very much) – so that is my disclaimer. Read on …

Step 1: Why do I need to sponsor parents’ Green Card?

This is the million dollar question before you start off the processing. For example, what additional benefit to a visitor’s visa are you going to get for your parents if you get them a Green Card. For me this was the compelling reason:

  • I am the only child for my parents – as of now, i am not sure where i would finally settle down – either in USA or in India. But if it is in USA, i want the flexibility of having my parents live with me for however long that they want. In visitor’s visa, as many of you know, you can only live in the USA for 6 months at a stretch

Step 2: Consular Processing versus Adjust of Status processing

There are 2 different ways of going about the Green Card processing for your parents:

  •  Consular Processing -In this method, the applicants (parents) will be in India while the processing is on. Once the application is approved, they will need to head over to the Mumbai consulate for final interview.
  • Adjust of Status – In this method, the applicants (parents) will be in USA while the processing is on. Once the application is approved, they will need to head over to change their status from a Visitor Visa to a Green Card. Honestly, i didn’t feel too confident about this approach though i know many who went down this approach. Since I don’t have much experience regarding this process, I shall not comment on it. Rest of the post covers details about Consular processing.

Step 3: I-130 (Start Date: 01/17/2012)

  • This is the 1st step of Green Card processing where you need to file in details about your parents (one for each parent) and then mail them separately. This stage is processed by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Typically this stage takes around 4 months to complete. Once this is completed, you will receive a notification about it and also that the next stage will now be handled by the National Visa Center (NVC)

Step 4: I-130 approval and NVC

  • Once the application has reached the NVC, couple of things need to happen:
  1. The National Visa Center will send you the DS-3032 (Change of Address and Agent) form – one for each parent – that will require your parents to authorize you to be their “agent” for the whole process. Please note that this will require your parents signature. So, i faxed the document to my parents – who signed it and then sent it by courier post back to me. After that I mailed it to the NVC.
  2. You will then need to complete and send I-864 (Affadavit of Support) form – one for each parent – this pretty much tells the US Govt. that you will be the sponsor of your parents stay and day-2-day needs here. For this, you will need to send in the regular proof of documents – bank statements, pay stub, mortgage etc. Prior to the processing of this form, you will need to pay the NVC for processing. You can pay this online via Bank Transfer (it is fairly straight-forward)

Step 5: DS-230

Once the I-864 processing is completed, the NVC will send you a notification to indicate the processing for the DS-230 (Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration) form. This is probably the most important stage of the Green Card processing – this requires you to submit quite a few documents to the NVC. Most notable are the following especially since we had a tough time getting them:

  1. ORIGINAL Birth Certificates for parents – This is really difficult to get because the Original Birth Certificate is only issued from the birth place and my parents (and i am sure many of your parents also) had left their village / town ~ 40 years ago. So, in absence of an Original Birth Certificate, you will need to provide a Non Availability of Birth Certificate (NABC) along with an Affadavit from their closest relative indicating that they are indeed who they are and also that their date of birth is accurate. This took us close to 2 months to get. So, I would recommend to start this process ASAP in the whole Green Card process.
  2. Police Clearance Certificate – There are 2 types of Police Clearance Certificates that are issued – one from the Passport Office – for this you will need to schedule an appointment with the Passport Office to get a Police Clearance Certificate. There will be some officials who will come to your home for inspection, have some “chai-paaney” and then will your parents will get the Police Clearance Certificate within 10 days. The second type of Police Certificate is issued by your local Police Station – this took us a bit of time because it had to be approved by the local police department, then their head office and finally by the SP of Police. This also took us close to 3 weeks to get. Again, similar to the Birth Certificates, please start on acquiring these certificates very early in the Green Card process
  3. Your original Marriage Certificate (if married)
  4. 2 * 2 (inches) passport photos for your parents – tell them to get at least 10 copies handy. You will need them right from Step 1 to the interview
  5. Parents Passport – photo copy

Keep in mind that you don’t really have to submit all this documentation at the time of filing the application – the “missing” documents can be brought along for the final interview.

Along with this documentation, you will need to pay the required NVC fees for the processing. After this is processed successfully, you will then notified of the Interview date in a letter – this approval process for DS-230 takes ~4 weeks.

Step 6: Readying for Interview

Your interview date will usually be around a month away from the day you get your letter. For example, we received the Interview letter around the 1st week of October and the interview was on November 1st in the Mumbai Consulate.

Before you go to the interview, you will need to take care of the following:

  •  Medical Test from an approved place – since my parents stayed in Kolkata, my parents got their Medical Tests done from Apollo Gleneagles. Once the tests are done, your parents will receive a sealed envelope which should be taken to Mumbai on November 1st.
  • Parents should carry some proof of relationship with you – my parents took some snaps taken with me, my marriage invitation card, my marriage photos etc.

Step 7: Consular Interview

On the day of the interview, your parents will need to enter the consulate sans a mobile phone – this is important because Mumbai consulate does not allow you to take your mobile phone inside and they do not have any facility where you can hand over the mobile phones. Luckily, my parents’ friends were there to help with this and so, they avoided any last minute panic.

Once inside (usually by 7:30 am), my parents handed over the Interview letter and sealed medical envelope. Also, they were asked for a preferred language for interview and they selected Tamil – which was really convenient. Also, their interview happened at the same time in front of a US officer. The interview lasted for around 15 minutes where the officer asked them about proof of relationship. Also, the officer did not ask for the “missing” original Birth Certificates (even though the NVC folks in US indicated that we needed them).

Step 8: Post Interview – USA Arrival

After 3-4 days, the passport along with the Immigration Visa will be sent to a local pick up center from where your parents can pick up. Along with the passport, your parents will also need to pick up a sealed envelope that needs to be handed over the Immigration Officer are the US Port of Entry. My parents arrived in USA on 11/15/2012 on their immigration visa

Step 9: Green Card Arrival

My parents Green Card arrived at my home around December 15th.

Conclusion:

So, in all, it took my parents around 11 months for the end-2-end process to get the Green Card in hand. Of course, as I mentioned before, a lot of this could have been accelerated had we got a lot of documents in hand prior to starting each subsequent stage. I believe if we had been better prepared, we could have completed this in 8-9 months time. Nevertheless, I am glad that my parents have their Green Card after going through all this.

Durga Puja in the Bay Area, 2012

Durga Puja is just around the corner. Here is an update on the list of Durga Pujas that are going to be celebrated in the Bay Area this year.

  1. Sanskriti – October 13th and 14th at Centerville Junior High School Auditorium, Fremont.
  2. Prabasi – October 20th and 21st at Chabot College, Hayward.
  3. Pashchimi – October 20th – 24th at Newpark Mall, Newark.
  4. Livermore Hindu Temple – October 15th – 24th at Livermore Hindu Temple.
  5. BayBasi – October 20th and 21st at Bowditch Middle School, Foster City

See u at one of the Pujas 🙂 !

Cheers,
Thyaga