Mahatma Gandhi News Digest, Germany : Issue for July 24-30, 2006
Veteran Cong leader Phulrenu Guha dies
The Times of India - India - July 29, 2006
KOLKATA: Phulrenu Guha, veteran Congress leader, freedom fighter and Gandhian, died after a protracted illness. She was 95.
Guha, who was once close to Mahatma Gandhi, died on Friday in an old age home in Tallygunge, south Kolkata.
She was first elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1964 and was minister of state for social welfare in Indira Gandhi's 1970 cabinet. She was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1984.
Guha was the widow of eminent scientist Biresh Guha. She had committed herself to various social welfare activities, particularly rehabilitation of destitute women and children.
A social worker till her last days, she donated her house on Purna Das Road in south Kolkata to Calcutta University's biochemistry department.
She is survives by her two sisters and nephews.
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and Left Front chairman Biman Bose paid tribute to the departed leader. Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi also sent condolence messages.
Ragging incident clouds 86-year-old Gandhian institution
Khaleej Times - India - July 29, 2006
GUJARAT Vidyapeeth, a reputed institution set up by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920 to churn out patriotic, self-independent youths with ethical values and a spotless character, is now under a cloud. An x-rated ragging incident has not only disgraced the hallowed education complex for the first time but has also struck veteran Gandhians in Gujarat dumb.
The embarrassing episode at Vidyapeeth’s new residential centre in Sadra village near Gandhinagar came to light only when one of the 17 first-year students of the science wing, being harassed by seniors since the beginning of the academic term two months ago, complained to the higher authorities.
Ajitsinh, a burly, hot-headed final-year Bachelor of Science hostelier, used to force freshers to massage his body every day. Last week when a junior mistakenly dropped the massaging oil on the toughie’s posterior, he lost his cool and asked the boy to take off his clothes even as more juniors gathered and protested.
According to an official complaint, Ajitsinh soon called other seniors. All of them caught 17 first-year students and ordered them to strip below the waist.
As the frightened newcomers obliged, they were made to lie on the ground while the elders poured oil on their backside. Insiders say that some of the students were even sodomised.
Surprisingly, the punishment handed to Ajitsinh and his 11 colleagues, was one-hour daily physical labour — for one year — of repairing the idle spinning wheels and bio-gas plants of the institute. The vice-chancellor and the registrar say harsh action was not taken against them as the incident occurred for the first time ever, never mind if it has smashed the squeaky-clean image of Gandhiji’s dreamland to smithereens!
Kai Eckhardt is too heavy for a blog
The Roanoke Times - USA - July 28, 2006
... Eckhardt is a phenomenal bass player who was here with the band Garaj Mahal this afternoon. He just happened to be geeking it out in the cyber tent when I realized who he was. Poor Kai Eckhardt. I'm a fanboy. Still, he was nice enough to come back after his show and talk to me.
Eckardt has a download coming out Aug. 9 on abstractlogix.com. It's called "Ghandi," but it's only partly about Ghandi. It's also partly about Eckhardt's own experience visiting India after the tsunami. And it's about some other stuff, too. I told you, he's heavy.
He says that it's in part about finding the best way in life and communicating it to others, in order to help people who are disenfranchised. It took him a year to complete this six-minute song, which includes lyrics that he sang with several other top-flight vocalists.
"This song will show people where I'm coming from," Eckhardt said.
He added later in the interview: "This era, nobody knows what's going to happen, which is scary. But there is a positive seed that's trying to come out, and people need to realize what it is."
It's $1.50 to download it, and $5 if you want to musical score to accompany the recording. Call me a shill, but I think that's more than fair for what I'm guessing will be an amazing piece of music.
Munnabhai's magic with the Mahatma
IBNLive - India - by Somen Mishra - July 28, 2006
Mumbai: Munnabhai's and his famous sidekick Circuit are back. Lage Raho Munnabhai, the sequel to the superhit Munnabhai MBBS, will bring back the quirky pair of Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi.
The movie that is set to release in September 1, has music composer Shantanu Moitra making the two dance to his music. Moitra pulled a surprise on Warsi by conning him into exercising his vocal chords.
“We didn’t tell him that he has to sing. We just got him to the studio and told him that he had to say a dialogue. He was happy. When he went behind the mike, I asked him if he could sing the first line - Aye hua kya. He started saying it. I told him to sing it. He said ‘Are you crazy?’ I insisted that he sing it. So it was the spontaneity of it that we have on the record, which was the first take. By the second and the third take it became completely disastrous," said Moitra.
Like Moitra, who replaced Anu Malik, the music composer of Munnabhai MBBS, the second innings has Vidya Balan playing Munnabhai's love interest instead of Gracy Singh.
Some other characters from the original like Jimmy Shergil, who incidentally died at the end of the first film and Boman Irani have been retained.
But both appear as new characters and in a completely new set up.
Interestingly, if you have seen the promos and the posters carefully, you will notice that Mahatma Gandhi himself is making a cameo in the film.
"Actually the whole Gandhi angle is one thing that I do not want to talk about. It is like Lagaan did not talk about cricket. This angle is very unique and the fun will be lost if I talk about it now," said the director of Lage Raho Munnabhai, Raj Kumar Hirani.
This film, incidentally, underwent five name changes and was infact at one stage called Munnabhai meets Mahatma Gandhi
A book on Tibet issue released in Delhi
Phayul - India - July 28, 2006
New Delhi, July 27 : The book release function of Experiments with Truth and Non-Violence: The Dalai Lama in Exile from Tibet held yesterday at India International Centre in New Delhi took many by surprise. What many thought was a hagiography on His Holiness the Dalai Lama's life in exile or rather a comparative account on the non-violent freedom struggles waged by the Tibetan leader and Mahatma Gandhi turned out to be a critique, in essence, on the Dalai Lama's Middle Way approach of fighting for genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people.
The chief guest on the occasion Dr. Sudershan Aiyangar, Vice Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapeeth University introduced the book in a very lengthy review he read out to the audience. Dr. Aiyangar said the book was a good documentation of facts and events relating to the struggle for autonomy and freedom of Tibet and went on to discuss each and every chapter. Speaking on a particular chapter, Bending of the Bamboo: Diplomacy of Desperation that deals with the disappointment felt by the authors after the Dalai Lama's public announcement on adopting Middle Way as the course of action for Tibetan freedom struggle, he said the authors themselves "appeared to be activists".
The book was released by Tibetan Youth Congress president Kalsang Phuntsok Godrukpa who in his speech put forward the case of Tibetan independence. Quite aptly, a separate chapter in the book is devoted to the TYC and its history and activities. The authors Dr. Bhaskar Vyas and Rajni Vyas have dedicated the book to "all torchbearers of Rangzen" (independence in Tibetan).
Dr. Bhaskar Vyas was succinct in his remarks that the book was intended to draw comparisons between the "himalayan blunders" committed by Mahatma Gandhi during the Indian freedom struggle and the Dalai Lama through his call for autonomy. He, however lauded the Dalai Lama's greatness in advising him to publish the book. "Yes, yes, you can tell it so in public; I don't mind," Vyas quoted the Dalai Lama as saying. The author said the book was a belated birthday gift to the Dalai Lama as it was originally intended to be launched on his birthday on July 6 this year.
Former Indian Defence Minister Mr. George Fernandes who presided over the function said it was important for the Tibetans especially the youngsters to weigh all options before arriving at decisions. He pointed out that difference in opinions was natural between young blood and those who have seen and experienced much. "Times change, situations change paving way for new ways and accordingly Tibetans should take decisions", Mr. Fernandes said. He recounted his own experiences regarding the Tibetan freedom struggle from early days and lamented the lack of concrete decisive support from the international community for the Tibet issue. He said if needed one should take steps forward or backward depending on the reality of the situation.
Mr. Fernandes' political colleague Ms. Jaya Jaitley was the surprise speaker at the function. Ms. Jaitley in her short speech highlighted the non-violent approach of the Dalai Lama in Tibetan freedom struggle and called on the Tibetan people to fight for their freedom with mental balance without wishing any ill will to anyone but to fight for justice. She said if the Tibetans kept the inherent goodness of humanity as the parameter in their fight for freedom, then the eventual goal, be it autonomy or independence, did not matter.
Mr. and Mrs. Vyas, the authors of the book are medical specialists in the fields of Plastic Surgery and Obstetrics and Gynaecology respectively. They teach psychology at M.S. University in Baroda in western India. Their interest in consciousness studies brought them in contact with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan situation twenty years ago. Their first book on Tibet-related subject was Changing Course of Brahmaputra.
Business Standard - India - by Nistula Hebbar - July 28, 2006
What differentiates India’s 1857 War of Independence from Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement, apart from the fact that one was successful in getting rid of the British while the other failed miserably? It can’t just be the body count, nor even the success or failure of the movements. Rather, if one goes by Tom Lodge’s examination of Nelson Mandela’s life, it was Gandhi’s ability to marry the “traditional” (Hindu) with the “modern” (read western Christian theology), according himself a messianic role that could serve to lift the Indian freedom movement to great moral heights, which in turn could grant it the ability to overcome British rule.
It’s no secret that Nelson Mandela, the hero of the South African freedom struggle, was and is a great admirer of Gandhi’s, and if one goes by Lodge’s account of his life, then he picked up more than a few political lessons from him. In this rather exhaustively researched and interpretation-heavy book, Lodge argues that Mandela too worked self-consciously to create a messianic aura around himself—not for any personal aggrandisement, but because he felt it would give the South African struggle a moral edge.
Mandela, originally from the ruling family of the Xhosa tribe, realises very early in life that he could never be the ruler of an oppressed people. In contrast with the ritualised routine of his life in the royal kraal, his education at the largely Methodist school he attends creates almost opposing streams of the African and the modern South African in him. Lodge argues that just as Gandhi gave a unifying set of symbols to British India through his charkha, satyagraha and his near missionary way of life at Sabarmati Ashram, so too did Mandela. He gave Africans a rallying point in his defiance of the Xhosa tribe while also advocating a wider case for tribal democracy, a kind of discursive democracy which owed more to his Xhosa upbringing than Methodist teachings.
The book, however, is over-analytical and attributes a pre-meditation to Mandela, which, while flattering to the subject of the book, could hardly be true. Admittedly, his leadership had elements of not just tribal life but also the dominant Afrikaans as well—as an attempt to build a pan-African identity (like the lingua franca tack familiar to English upholders in India). But this could be a reflection of his own upbringing and personality rather than a strategic attempt.
Mandela fought one of the toughest colonial regimes in the world. Surely even he could not have envisaged the journey that would make South Africa one of the last countries in the world to break free of state-institutionalised domestic racism.
Our own experience in India should show that the cultural schizophrenia which colonial rule engenders can manifest itself in wholly uncontrollable ways.
The reconceptualisation of South Africa as a multi-racial society committed to equality and integration (the “Truth and Reconciliation” agenda) was as much an ideological imperative as it was practical. The exodus of skilled managers and technicians that other African countries saw upon gaining freedom must have been fresh on Mandela’s mind.
This is a book for those already familiar with the barebones of Mandela’s life and leadership. For my money, I would take Stanley Walpole’s The Passion of Mahatma Gandhi over this book any day.
MANDELA A CRITICAL LIFE
Oxford University Press
Price: Rs 745; Pages: 273
Seadrift protester in 24th day of antiwar hunger strike
Chron.com - USA - by Brian Westley - July 27, 2006
WASHINGTON — About 150 yards from the White House, away from a swarm of tourists, Diane Wilson sat under an expansive oak tree today, keeping a quiet vigil.
For 24 days, the 58-year-old shrimper from Seadrift, Texas, said she has been coming to Lafayette Park and going without food to protest the war in Iraq and to pressure President Bush to bring home the troops.
Wilson, an environmental activist and co-founder of Code Pink, is one of more than 4,000 people in the United States and 22 other countries participating in the Troops Home Fast that began July 4, according to the Los Angeles-based women's anti-war group. Code Pink has pledged to keep the fast going until International Peace Day on Sept. 21.
But while others are participating in one-day hunger strikes or consuming juices, Wilson claims to be sticking to a water-only diet. She has shed 20 pounds from her 170-pound frame, and loose, leathery skin has replaced muscle.
"I'm all or nothing. I'm not a lukewarm person," Wilson said, explaining her refusal to modify her hunger strike. "I'm either right there with something, or I'm not there."
With bottled water by her side, Wilson talked about how she visited Baghdad with Code Pink shortly before the war to show solidarity with the Iraqi people and to cheer on the United Nations weapons inspectors.
"That was our motto, 'more inspections, not war,'" she said.
Once the invasion began, Wilson, an Army medic during the Vietnam War, started worrying about the safety of American soldiers, including her nephew, who is on his second tour in Baghdad. Wilson, who has five children, decided to stop eating in an attempt to stop the war after other measures failed — including marching, lobbying Congress and going to jail.
Wilson has been on hunger strikes before. In 1998, for instance, she says she didn't eat for 31 days in a bid to persuade a chemical company to recycle its waste water — a fight, she says, that she eventually won.
"It was my only means of getting people to listen to what I was saying," she said. "People in the United States just freak out about hunger strikes. You know, two days and they think you're going to keel over and die."
Joe Krenitsky, a registered dietitian with the University of Virginia Health System, said the body can be remarkably resilient. For instance, some prisoners who fasted in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s survived 57 to 73 days without eating, he said.
"The first three days without eating anything you burn a lot of protein, and then after that your body starts to conserve," Krenitsky said.
For Wilson, going without food is like being in a meditative state. "Ghandi always called it 'soul power' because it's got a real spiritual component to it," she said.
While her voice remains animated, Wilson said walking around the block is becoming unbearable, causing her to pant and her heart to race. Sometimes, she uses a wheelchair.
Thursday, most tourists strolling to and from the White House quickly glanced at posters advertising the hunger strike and continued on their way. Some looked away or stopped briefly to chat with several anti-war activists by Wilson's side. Others expressed contempt.
"I really don't care. I support Bush," one woman shouted angrily.
Some of those close to Wilson said they wish she would start eating.
"She's a very determined lady," said Alice Blackmer, who first met Wilson last spring while helping her publish the book, "An Unreasonable Woman." "I have conversations with her where I actually start to cry. I just pray a lot."
Seadrift is on the Gulf Coast, about 175 miles southwest of Houston.
Ahimsa Returns to Dearborn's Ford Community and Performing Arts Center for Encore Engagement and Public Broadcasting System Program Production
Yahoo - USA - July 25, 2006
SOUTHFIELD, Mich., July 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Nadanta, Inc., one of North America's premier Indian artistic and cultural organizations, will present an encore engagement of its critically-acclaimed production, Ahimsa -- The Path Of Peace, at Dearborn's Ford Community & Performing Arts Center at 3:00 pm and 7:30 pm on August 12, 2006. Tickets are available at the door and in advance from the theater box office (313-943-2354). Ticket prices are $15, $25, and $45.
The performance will be recorded live to support production of a Public Broadcasting program based on Ahimsa scheduled to premiere on Detroit's PBS station, WTVS Channel 56 in 2007. Ahimsa is an original thematic dance presentation choreographed by Nadanta's award-winning Artistic Director, Chaula Thacker. It is a tribute to the legendary figures of nonviolence, Mahatma Gandhi and, Martin Luther King, Jr., and a re-affirmation of the critical role of nonviolence as a peaceful alternative in an increasingly chaotic and violent world.
The August 2005 world premiere of Ahimsa received critical recognition and praise in North American and Indian media, which set the stage for a dialog with Detroit's PBS affiliate, WTVS Channel 56. That dialog culminated in plans for an hour-long broadcast version of Ahimsa. Performances during the 2006 encore engagement will be professionally recorded to provide material for the program, which is scheduled to air on WTVS in early 2007.
"Ahimsa was a very ambitious step for us," said Nadanta's artistic director Chaula Thacker. "It was the first time we ventured outside our historical focus on Indian culture to present a theme that may have originated in India, but has grown to be truly global in scope. Non-violence does not belong to any one culture or people. It is a worldwide phenomenon with many faces and many traditions and that is what Ahimsa attempts to capture and present.
"It was a tremendous challenge," she added, "and its success created a tremendous opportunity as well. Now, by moving Ahimsa from the stage to the airwaves, we will be able to reach many more people and organizations who share a common commitment to non-violence. It is our hope that, together, we can begin to build something new and exciting, and bring the vital message that change is possible through peaceful means to people here and around the world. That's what Gandhiji and Dr. King did, and it's humbling, but also exciting, to play a small part in furthering their work."
Nadanta was founded in the early 1980s to preserve and promote Indian culture through the medium of Indian dance. Much of the organization's early work was focused on introducing young people of Asian-Indian origin, who were born and brought up in North America, to the dance traditions of their homeland. This effort naturally led to participation in ethnic dance competitions, in which Nadanta has earned more than 100 trophies and awards including multiple national championships across North America.
Later, the group developed a second focus on independently-produced programs presented on major stages in the Southeastern Michigan communities where most of the participants lived. The result was a series of increasingly sophisticated and critically praised presentations which laid the groundwork for Ahimsa in 2005.
But, even in the early years Nadanta was actively looking beyond the Indian community to deliver its message to a broader audience. In 1987 the group performed in Moscow, Leningrad, and Copenhagen as cultural ambassadors of the United States. They have also performed as a group in Spain, and their Artistic Director has taught Master Classes in Bali, Indonesia and Sydney, Australia as well as performing on Indian television.
Nadanta has received support from many governmental and private sources, including the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, the City of Southfield, Michigan, U.S. automakers, and many others. They frequently perform for major corporations and organizations as ambassadors of Indian culture and role models for successful cultural diversity programs. The organization is non-profit and non-sectarian and welcomes volunteers and performers from all racial, religious, and ethnic heritages.
Refugee fights for Burmese freedom
TheIthacaJournal.com - USA - by Anne Ju - July 25, 2006
ITHACA — No fire burns brighter in Han Lin than his desire to see his home country, Burma, freed of its dictatorial shackles.
“We will never give up,” Lin, 55, said. The Burmese refugee arrived in Ithaca in 1997 with his wife and children, joining a small but ardent community of fellow Burmese who long to see their homeland achieve democracy.
Sometimes it seems that day may never come. Since the 1960s, the southeast Asian country of Burma has existed under the rule of a military regime that perpetrates human rights violations, including rape and forced labor. These findings were indicated in a 2005 report to the United Nations on human rights in Burma. The country was renamed Myanmar in 1989.
The people of Burma rose up in peaceful protest on Aug. 8, 1988 — an important date in the eyes of pro-democracy leaders — but were soon crushed by the regime in power. Lin and many other student leaders at the time participated in the protests. Hundreds were killed, he said.
In 1990, nationwide elections were held in which Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party, the National League for Democracy, won a landslide victory. Lin and many others believe she, not those currently in power, was and still is Burma's true elected leader.
But since the elections, the status quo has remained as Suu Kyi has been in and out of house arrest, the results of the elections never recognized. Many Burmese, including Lin and his family, have since fled the country.
All this is why people such as Lin speak with quiet determination about helping Burma achieve its long-sought democracy, even from corners as far-flung as Ithaca.
Lin is unassuming in both manner and employment as a second-shift facilities attendant at Ithaca College. But the fire in his belly for his country's freedom has fueled many protests, long walks and serious physical strain, especially for a man who survived a heart attack five years ago and suffers from high blood pressure and other ailments.
As Ithaca gets ready to celebrate Burmese Democracy Day on Aug. 8, declared by Ithaca Common Council as an annual city-sponsored day, Lin reminisced at his Northside home of his journey advocating for Burmese freedom. Last summer, Lin and several other Ithaca Burmese joined an international “Long March for Freedom” and 17-day hunger strike, a demonstration for Burmese democracy, that ended at the UN headquarters in New York City. Lin also participated in a similar hunger strike in 2004.
The group's chief end was to pressure the UN to intervene in Burma, pay more than “lip service” to the people's plight and investigate what's known as the Depeyin Massacre, Lin said.
That demand stems from a 2003 incident in which about 70 of Suu Kyi's followers were slain in an allegedly premeditated, government-sponsored ambush, according to the National Coalition of the Union of Burma.
Lin was hospitalized in Brooklyn after last year's 260-mile march and 17-day fast, he said.
“I was a little tired,” he said, with a chuckle. The hunger strike was preceded by demonstrations in Washington, D.C. An entourage that sometimes swelled to 30 people, Lin said, and at times shrank to 10, then marched from Washington to New York City — 260 miles.
The group started the march, significantly, in front of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi near the Indian Embassy, on Aug. 8, 2005, the anniversary of the Aug. 8, 1988 democratic uprising in Burma.
Lin and the hunger strikers made their way through Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and finally to New York, where they participated in sitting demonstrations in early September. On Sept. 18, they began the hunger strike.
The whole trip took more than two months, for which Lin had to get special leave from his job at Ithaca College. He is not sure if he can go again this year, for that reason. A former middle school teacher, Lin fled to the Thailand-Burma border shortly after the August 1988 uprising. His wife, Htay Htay Yeelin, stayed home to care for their children.
Yeelin said at the time, she was threatened by Burmese military captains who demanded to know where her husband was. Yeelin and the couple's children joined Lin about two years after he left, and the family hid together in the jungle, along with other pro-democracy Burmese, from the military regime.
After their camp was attacked by the military in 1996, the family fled again, this time to a refugee camp in Thailand. They came to Ithaca in 1997 under sponsorship by Cornell University professors.
Lin's friend, Aung Win, is also a Burmese refugee who came to Ithaca in 2000. He, like Lin, is thrilled and grateful for the City of Ithaca's recent proclamation for Burmese Democracy Day.
Win, who met Lin in Ithaca but was also involved in democratic demonstrations in Burma, said the city's gesture is one of the best ways to spread the word of the country's plight.
He hopes to see other cities, towns, and perhaps countries take Ithaca's lead, pass similar resolutions, and otherwise pressure the Burmese regime to bow out.
“It will be a big pressure,” Win said. “We really really gratefully welcome the resolution.”
Gandhi's alma mater runs out of students
The Times of India - India - by Nayan Dave - July 24, 2006
RAJKOT: A school that is associated with Mahatma Gandhi should ideally have been a major draw for students, especially if it has a reputation of imparting quality education.
But the more than 150-year-old Mohandas Gandhi Vidyalaya, where Gandhi spent seven years of his life, is desperately looking to fill up its empty classrooms today.
It is more than two months now since the new academic year began and yet, the school officials have not removed the 'admissions open' sign from their entrance.
The management of the government-funded Gujarati medium school admits it is unable to mould itself to meet the challenges of competing with private self-financed schools that have started in Rajkot in recent years.
Sources add that one of the school's biggest drawbacks is the Gujarati medium of instruction while many parents prefer medium schools for their children.
As irony would have it, Mohandas Gandhi Vidyalaya was an English medium school till Independence. Known as Alfred high School before Independence, it got its new name after Gandhi studied here from 1880 to 1887.
But apart from the Mahatma connection, the school was one of the most sought after in Rajkot till 1986. Parents would stand in long queues outside the school in the hope that their child would get admission here.
Since then, the numbers have been falling to such an extent that they don't even have half the number of its capacity.
Principal M V Nagani said, "There was a time when parents from across the Saurashtra region would come to us with recommendations from influential people for their children's admission.
But today, we have only 801 students against a capacity of 2000. Fees here are perhaps the lowest in the city ranging from Rs 18 to Rs 326," said Nagani.
He added that they have adequate teachers and the school is equipped with 20 computers for technical courses. If there is one deficiency, it is the lack of sports facilities in the school.
In fact, they had 1,850 students till the 2001 earthquake. But the building was damaged in the earthquake and the school had to be shifted to the AVPT college building for a while,which affected the number of students.
The damaged building was renovated by the National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited at a cost of Rs 3 crore financed from Prime Minister's National Relief Fund.
Moreover, the school has been renamed five times since its inception in 1853. In the beginning, it was called Rajkot English School up to 1866 and then renamed Rajkot High School till 1868.
It was also known as Kathiawad High School before getting its most popular name of Alfred High School in 1907. Finally, on 2nd October (Gandhi Jayanti) 1971, it was given the name, Mohandas Gandhi Vidyalaya to commemorate its most illustrious scholar
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