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SESSIONS AT PREVIOUS RETREATS - HERITAGE & IDENTITY IN DIASPORA:


Defining Sindhi Culture

In defining Sindhi culture, where do we draw the line and why? Was the definition of Sindhi culture different to our parents and grandparents than it is for us, for today’s teens or for forthcoming generations? What really is Sindhi and what is a result of other influences? How do we consciously or subconsciously perpetuate the Sindhi stereotypes through what we say and do? Are all Sindhis pretentious? Do we all judge each other by the size of our bank accounts? Do all Sindhi men drink Johnnie Walker Black Label? Do all Sindhi women spend their days playing cards and gossiping? Let’s look in the mirror together and try to find answers to these questions and more. Moderated by Anand Panjabi and Jacky Harjani.


Paapar and Pizza!

Lolis & chai vs. ham & eggs. Pialo & chinaglass vs. brownies & ice cream. Johnny Walker & rummy vs. beer & football. Vacations at a cousin’s wedding in Bombay vs. vacations at Disney. Christmas, Halloween and Mother’s Day on one hand; bhangra and mehndi on the other. We were fusion before fusion became trendy! Growing up Sindhi is a tricky thing. How do you deal with it? Join us for a fun filled interactive session and discover how we managed to keep one leg one each side of the planet – be ready to hear & share some great stories.


Sindhi and Politics - A Marriage Made in Heaven

Sindhi on one hand, politics on the other.  The fit seems natural - Sindhis and politics - they do indeed go together. But we’re not talking about politics within the community. Being that Washington DC is the hub of the American political system, what’s more fitting than highlighting the involvement of YSA’ers in the American political arena? Our three panelists and will highlight not only the work they do, but how Sindhis can get involved in the American political process.

Hemant Wadhwani, Sanjana Khoobchandani, & N. Kumar Lakhavani  •  Moderated by Dina Khemlani 

Hemant Wadhwani is president of the Asian American Political Coalition of NJ, serves on the World Language Instruction Commission under the NJ Department of Education, is an advisor to elected officals on Asian American affairs, and has volunteered on a number of Democratic Party election campaigns.

Sanjana Khoobchandani is the Vice President of Communications for the US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) Youth Committee. An International Trade Specialist at the Department of Commerce, she is the lead Department of Commerce services negotiator in free trade agreements with Latin America and the Caribbean.

N. Kumar Lakhavani is the only Sindhi appointed by President Bush as a political appointee. A former Senior Manager for Deloitte Consulting, he is currently a Special Assistant at USAID, a government agency that advances US foreign policy objectives.


Fusion in Confusion – Sindhi Identity

Without a homeland, we are indeed an “imagined nation,” and thus, an “imagined community” – and so it can be difficult to answer questions about your origins: How do you respond? What does it mean to you, as an individual on the global stage, to be Sindhi? What and how do you associate yourself with the culture? What is the culture? Is it something we are born with or is it socially constructed? Is it simply having Dal Pakwan and praising Jhulelal? Try to define it – what do you come up with. However we might try to describe it, our grandparents and parents tell us it’s dying. If this is true, what is to happen to the Sindhi identity? How much do you care? What would you be willing to do about it?  Zenia Wadhwani is currently the Manager of Youth & GenNext Markets for United Way of Greater Toronto. She is the editor of two anthologies – Bolo! Bolo! and Desilicious – and is pursuing a PhD in Communication and Culture.


Power Couples: Finding the Balance

Family, Career, Community and Marriage... it's a delicate balancing act. How do 'Power Couples' make it work? Young Sindhi Adults face the challenge of incorporating traditional 'Sindhi family values' into their day-to-day routine. How are our lifestyles and our parents' expectations best balanced with the realities of modern living? A cross generational panel examine the trials, tribulations and triumphs of marriage and family within the context of traditional 'Sindhi family values'. They will share their personal experiences and some of the secrets to maintaining 'blissful harmony'.


Entrepreneur Valley

Silicon Valley, on the southern part of San Francisco, is the technology capital of the world and is home to some of the biggest names in the technology and internet industry. Journalist Dan Hoefler coined the word Silicon Valley in 1971 and at YSA San Francisco 2006, we present – ‘Entrepreneur Valley’. Silicon Valley has seen the birth of some of the greatest technology companies. Behind these companies have been unique ideas, patents and technologies. More importantly, behind these ventures have been the entrepreneurs of the Valley, who have taken innovative ideas and brought them to market. Join us in this session to hear some of the known entrepreneurs share their experiences in the Silicon Valley. These esteemed professionals are not only young and Sindhi, but they are also stars of the Valley. In their short careers, they have created companies, influenced mergers & acquisitions in the corporate world and invented some key technologies. In this informative and interactive session, the panelists discuss entrepreneurship in the Valley, their personal experiences, their success stories and the general trends in the industry.

Gautam Godhwani – At a young age, Godhwani already has lots of experience doing what he does best - starting start-ups. At present he is the CEO and Founder of SimplyHired.com. Prior to Simply Hired, he co-founded the India Community Center (ICC) to help bring the San Francisco bay area community closer together. He also served as a Director at AOL. At the age of 24, CEO and co-founder of AtWeb, an Internet 1.0 company acquired by Netscape/AOL in 1998.

Ashwin Navin – President, Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of BitTorrent Inc. Prior to starting BitTorrent, he worked at Yahoo! where he was an influential member of the company’s Corporate Development group and responsible for M&A among other things. He possesses extensive experience in structuring and negotiating acquisitions, partnerships and alliances in the tech industry. Before Yahoo!, Ashwin worked with Wall Street powerhouses Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Merrill Lynch as an investment banker and research analyst.

Rohit Israni - Student of entrepreneurship at the Stanford Technology Venture Program and a consultant with the International Business Incubator, an entrepreneurial center funded by the City of San Jose. He graduated with a Masters in Robotics from Tulane University and joined Imaging Technology, an MIT-AI lab spin off. He coinvented SmaRT search, the industry’s most accurate pattern recognition search engine. Rohit holds multiple patents in image processing and pattern recognition and hosts his own radio show on finance and technology at KZSU 90.1.


Sindhi Images & Stereotypes

Join us for a cup of tea and a conversation on stereotyping Sindhis, led by Dr. Murli Melwani. We will explore the images of Sindhis that pervade the popular imagination, the Bollywood media and personal interaction.

Dr. Melwani, author of the forthcoming Indian English Stories, has also written Stories of a Salesman, Deep Roots, and Themes in Indo Anglican Literature. His short stories have been published in Quest, Imprint, and Thought, as well as in several anthologies. He has lived in Shillong, Taipei, Miami and currently resides in Texas.


Marriage Compatibility and Astrology - Science or Superstition?

Ever wondered about…

-The science behind Astrology and why we’ve followed it for so long?

-What does Manglik mean? What happens if a Manglik and non-Manglik person get married?

-How accurate are astrological charts matched for marriage compatibility?

-Why have psychologists like Carl Jung used patients' horoscope to help understand behavioral habits?

-Most Importantly, what do the stars have lined up for you?

Astrology has been part of our culture for a long time, to the extent that manual calculations determined the position of the planets. In this session, we will use real astrological charts to explore the scientific basis behind astrology, and focus on their use to determine marriage compatability and the stars’ influence on our behavior and personality.

Dr. Haku Israni received his Bachelors from Banaras Hindu University and a Masters in Engineering from IIT-Roorke. After securing his PhD in Engineering in the US, he has served as department head and Dean at three universities over 19 years. He has been using a scientific approach to study Astrology for years.


Are we all really related?

Let’s find out! Join us for an experiment of grandiose proportions as we launch the YSA’s Sindhi DNA Project. Our Host Committee members are getting their genetic markers tested and we will present those results going back as far as 600 years! Making the project truly innovative and interactive, this endeavor is open to Sindhis around the globe. Please visit www.familytreedna.com/public/SindhiDNA for details, discount pricing, information on the company conducting the testing and to sign up for testing. If you decide to participate, the Y-DNA test would be the recommended test for men and the mtDNA test would be the recommended test for women.


The Many Answers to Your Sindhi “Why… ?”

Ever wonder why your parents show everyone pictures of you having your head shaved as a child?  Ever tell your friends you are vegetarian on Mondays, but don’t know why?  How about having your name changed after you have married, moving to a new city for your husband and then having to deal with a 2-name identity crisis?  We’ve got the answer to your Sindhi “Why… ?”


A Sindhi Soldier’s Story

On TV, on the radio, all over the Internet - we can't avoid hearing about Iraq. A pediatrician by training, Dr. Monica Mirchandani earned the prestigious Bronze Star medal while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In addition to American soldiers, Dr. Mirchandani also treated Iraqi Army, Police and civilians at the US Army base in Baqhbah, a city located in the Diyala Province. Join us as she shares her experiences through anecdotes, pictures, and videos; and reflects on the impact that being a member of the Army has had on her life.


The Entrepreneurial Sindhi

Entrepreneurship is in the blood of Sindhis.  We’ll review how we can retain and grow our entrepreneurial nature, bringing positive impact to the world in the process, and even turn our Diaspora into one of our greatest strengths. In 1947, Mahatma Gandhi said, "The Sindh Hindus are first-class businessmen. Why are they running away to Bombay, Madras and other places? It will not be they who will be the losers... for they will make money for themselves, wherever they go. There is hardly any place in the world where Sindhis are not found. In South Africa they were making big money and gave of it liberally to the poor." Gandhi could not have hit the nail on the head any better. Neil Daswani is a co-founder of Dasient, Inc., a new Internet security company backed by some of the most influential investors in Silicon Valley and New York.  In the past, Neil has served in a variety of roles at Google and Stanford University, amongst other high-tech organizations.  He has authored many publications, including the book "Foundations of Security: What Every Programmer Needs To Know" in addition to having been granted several U.S. patents.  He received a Ph.D. and a master's in computer science from Stanford University, and earned a bachelor's in computer science with honors with distinction from Columbia University.


Spotlight On Young Sindhi Entrepreneurs: 

Four young Sindhi entrepreneurs have taken similar, but distinct paths in their entrepreneurial ventures – join us as they share their stories with us:

-Tarun Gularajani - Tiyatien Health is a social justice organization working in partnership with communities in rural Liberia and the Liberian Government to promote equity by advancing healthcare services and the fundamental rights of the poor. As opposed to dollars and cents, Tiyatien measures its profits by the number of lives saved and changed.

-Vishal Gurbuxani – Mobclix is a mobile applications platform that provides real-time analytics and advertising information to developers, so they know how to understand their customers and maximize their revenue.

-Deepak Vasandani &  Amit Nawalrai are NRI entrepreneurs who moved to India - they will share experiences launching ventures in India and capitalizing on the huge opportunities while tackling the inherent challenges. Vasandani co-founded Aanya, an integrated real estate company three years ago that focuses on quality large scale residential township projects with state of the art infrastructure and products targeted at India’s fast growing upper middle class segment. Nawalrai founded Gaia Developers, developing quality commercial office space; and 40 Winks, operating boutique apartment hotels in Bangalore targeted at business travellers from multi-national companies like Microsoft and Nokia.


You Don’t Need Luck To Be Successful, You’re Sindhi!
They call us 'lucky' and 'big people' and do so with a slight sneer. Why is that? Is it because of our tight familial bonds, or because we always find a way to give back, not only to our community but in general, all while managing successful careers and launching great businesses? Are we supposed to shy away from our success? South Asians are among the most successful people in the world - pick a field, and we're among the best at what we do. Indian Americans outpace every ethnic group socioeconomically to reach the summit of the U.S. Census charts, and are leaders with 80% having a Bachelors Degree or higher while the national average is 28%. It doesn't stop there, South Asians are the top revenue producers for the United States, with an average salary of $90k, while the national average is $50k. Sindhis often lead the pack - daring to go where others won't, bold enough to invest when others won't, and brave enough to roll up their sleeves and make things work when others simply can't. Is our 'luck' a result of nature, or nurture, or just work ethic? Or a combination of all three? Join us as veteran TedX presenter Vishal Gurbuxani and YSA Co-Founder Anil Vaswani dissect 'Lucky Sindhi' in an open & engaging discussion crafted to challenge your definition of Luck.


Are You a Sindhi Raja or Sindhi Rani?
Come to the Retreat ready to play our TV game show inspired quiz, featuring questions based our Sindhi culture and heritage. Contestants will battle to determine who is best versed in these golden nuggets of information. We've divided these nuggets into categories, and assigned a point value to each - contestants will pick a category and a point value and will have to answer the question associated with it. Points will be awarded for each correct answer, but answering incorrectly will cost points! Of course, the contestant with the highest point total will win. We will go through several rounds until two people remain, then have a final face-off with wild card questions to determine the winner. Start brushing up on your Sindhi trivia and get ready to compete for the title of Sindhi Raja or Sindhi Rani!

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