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US sees dramatic surge in graduate applications from India

WASHINGTON, April 21: Applications from prospective Indian students to US graduate schools surged dramatically while those from China slowed down a bit in 2013, according to a new report from the council of graduate schools (CGS).

A 32 per cent increase in applications from India, which accounts for 18 per cent of all international graduate students at US institutions offset a one per cent decline in applications from China, from where one third of the students come.

Thus, the preliminary number of applications from prospective international students to US graduate schools increased 7 per cent in 2014, up from the 2 per cent increase seen in 2013, according to the CGS International Graduate Admissions Survey.

This year's encouraging increase is more consistent with the growth trend in international graduate applications seen between 2006 and 2012, after a post-9/11 decrease said the survey.

China, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Canada are the top five countries of origin for international graduate students in the United States, the report said. The survey covers in detail seven countries — China, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil) and three regions — the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

Altogether, the seven countries and three regions highlighted in the CGS International Graduate Admissions Survey are home countries to about 86 per cent of all international graduate students in the US.

CGS president Debra W. Stewart noted the 7 per cent gain is a positive sign for US graduate institutions, which collectively draw 15 per cent of their overall graduate enrolments from international students.

"Yet this year's increase is not necessarily a sign of ongoing stability in international graduate applications and enrolments," she said, "especially since a large share of the growth appears to be driven by a single country" — namely India.

"Historically, our ability to recruit the best and brightest international graduate students has enabled the US to become a leader in ground-breaking research and innovations," she said.

"International students stimulate the US economy and research enterprise in many important ways, and we must develop policies that encourage strong, stable growth in international graduate applications and enrolments," Stewart said.

Preliminary increases in applications varied by broad field, the report said. The three most popular fields of study — engineering, physical and earth sciences, and business — together account for 64 per cent of all international students enrolled in US graduate programmes

They were also the fastest growing, at 14 per cent, 16 per cent, and 7 per cent, respectively. Gains in applications were also found in 2014 in arts and humanities (3 per cent) and other fields (2 per cent).

Rates of international applications to social sciences and psychology programmes were unchanged from the prior year.

Applications in education declined 1 per cent and life sciences fell, 6 per cent.

Thousands bid farewell to Gabriel Garcia Marquez

MEXICO CITY, April 21: Mexico bid farewell Monday to its beloved adopted son, Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, with thousands of fans filing past his ashes in a music-filled tribute to the Nobel laureate.

A coffee-colored urn containing his ashes was placed on a pedestal, surrounded by yellow roses -- his favorite flowers -- in Mexico City's domed Fine Arts Palace.

Fans streamed to pay their last respects to the author of "One Hundred Years of Solitude," taking pictures as a string quartet played classical music.

Guests applauded when his widow, Mercedes Barcha, and sons, Rodrigo and Gonzalo, stood as honor guards at the ornate cultural center, where Mexico pays tribute to its late artistic icons.

The presidents of Mexico and Colombia delivered speeches to honor the giant of Latin American literature, who influenced generations of Spanish-language writers.

"We join together to pay tribute to the one who, from icy Stockholm in December 1982, touched the world by speaking about solitude in Latin America," said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, referring to the day the author received his Nobel prize.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto called him "the greatest Latin American novelist of all time."

"We, Mexicans, love him and will always love him," he said.

Outside, thousands of yellow paper butterflies were blown into the air, a nod to the fluttering insects that follow a man in his masterpiece of magical realism, "One Hundred Years of Solitude."

Earlier inside, some of the guests danced as a three-piece vallenato band played folk songs from his native Colombia with an accordion, drum and guacharaca, a percussion instrument.

Known affectionately as "Gabo," Garcia Marquez died Thursday in the Mexico City house where he lived for decades with his wife and two sons. He was 87.

"I want to thank him for the pleasure he gave me in reading books," said Joseline Lopez, a 21-year-old Venezuelan medical student who queued outside the palace. "'One Hundred Years of Solitude' will survive 100 more years in our hearts," she said, clutching three yellow roses.

Garcia Marquez first moved to Mexico in 1961 and it was there that the veteran journalist wrote his seminal novel, a family and historical saga that was published in 1967.

He was a leading exponent of "magical realism," a style of story-telling that blends fantasy and realistic elements.

The cause of his death has not been disclosed but he died a week after a bout of pneumonia.

The palace was decorated with the late writer's favorite yellow rose that he so often wore on his lapel for good luck.

Many mourners wore the rose as violins played Beethoven. A large portrait of Garcia Marquez hung on a wall.

The vallenato trio offered a performance to the crowd outside the palace. Then, people took turns reading pages from "One Hundred Years of Solitude."

He was also remembered in his native Colombia.

A small march took place in front of his childhood house in the Caribbean-coast region town of Aracataca, with people dressed in white and holding marigolds in his honor.

Santos will lead a ceremony on Tuesday at Bogota's cathedral.

On Wednesday, to mark World Book Day, Colombians will have readings of Garcia Marquez's novel "No One Writes to the Colonel" in more than 1,000 libraries, parks and universities.

The family has not said where the author's final resting place will be but Colombia hopes his ashes will be divided between his homeland and Mexico.

Indo-Canadian businessman Bob Dhillon acquires Maharaja Ranjit Singh's sword

Shiv Bhatia
By Shiv Bhatia

NEW DELHI, April 6: In a historical first, Indo-Canadian businessman Bob Dhillon has acquired a 33.5-inch long curved sword of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1799-1849) at an undisclosed price. It was sold by London-based auction house Mullock on April 3 and the auctioneers have authenticated it. The bidders were from Punjab to New York to Mongolia to Hong Kong. Majority of the bidders were London based.

Bob Dhillon
Bob Dhillon

Speaking with, Bob Dhillon, who is President of Mainstreet Equity Corporation with real estate holdings of over a billion dollars, said “We have been told that I was the successful bidder on this amazing piece of history for a sword belonging to Maharaja Ranjit Singh. I should receive the sword in two weeks.”

Bob Dhillon, who is a Calgary-based real estate developer and first Sikh billionaire in Canada, said “I am elated to have acquired a piece of Sikh history.”

Maharajah Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) was the founder of the Sikh Empire and unquestionably one of the most important and charismatic figures in Indian history. The empire, based in the Punjab existed from 1799 to 1849 and forged on the foundations of the Khalsa. At its height the Empire extended over a vast territory encompassing much of what is today Pakistan, Kashmir and East Punjab.

After the empire was conquered by the British, most Sikh artefacts remained in the hands of private collectors or museums in Britain.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh“I am humbled that after 165 years, my family can help our community once again become the custodian of our own history," said Dhillon.

Besides this sword, Dhillon has also acquired a number of manuscripts and miniature paintings.

Explaining how he came to acquired the historical sword, Dhillon said when he was visiting India with the Governor General of Canada as an official delegate in February of this year, he saw an article in a Indian newspaper discussing a sword belonging to Maharaja Ranjit Singh coming up for auction in England.

“Now, if I was in Canada, I would have never known about this auction. So when I came back to Canada, I investigated the authenticity of the sword, and the process for this auction. The initial auction was set for March 18. But just before the auction, due to many bidders interested, they pulled the sword from the auction to sell at a later date.”

He said “then on April 2 there was a private auction with a sealed bid process. The reason for the sealed bid was that a lot of the bidders wanted to remain anonymous, also the final bid amount was to remain private. We were told yesterday that I was the successful bidder on this amazing piece of history for a sword belonging to Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Dhillon said initially there were over 700 bidders from all over the world. Later, there were as many as 175 international bidders.

Sword inscribed Maharajah Ranjit Singh – early 19th century Northern India curved talwar sword, inscribed in Punjabi script inside the hilt ‘Akal Sahai Ranjit Singh Lahore’ and dated.

The sword has remnants of what seems gold pitted around the hilt. The blade has an engraved silhouette on the upper part nearing the hilt depicting Ranjit Singh seated beside a cushion and inscribed ‘Ranjit Singh’ beneath it. The sword hilt is possibly earlier of 18th century with a watered blade possibly Persian, and leather covered scabbard. Overall length of the sword is 85cm (33.5 inches).

Dhillon completed his MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in 1998. He currently sits on the Entrepreneur Advisory Council for the Richard Ivey School of Business.

Bob Dhillon is the President and CEO of Mainstreet Equity Corp. as well as the founder and largest shareholder. Mainstreet (TSX: MEQ) has achieved a 910% total return on investment over the last 10 years – making it Canada’s highest performance real estate company. Mainstreet’s assets are valued at over $1 billion, consisting of over 8,500 apartment units in Western Canada.

Bob is also the owner of National Payments, a Visa and MasterCard approved Mercantile Protection business involved with the financial services industry.

Dhillon is the Honorary Consul General for Belize in Canada. He owns a private 3,000 acre island in Belize that he is developing into a world-class tourist resort.

Bob is a heavy-weight proponent of the intellectual capital and technological capabilities found in the India of today. Putting real life action behind these beliefs, Mainstreet has invested in the outsourcing to India of its corporate digital assets, including: website, Apps and operations software, and looking to open a backroom office in India.

Nobel laureate Garcia Marquez dies at 87

GarciaMEXICO CITY, April 17: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Nobel laureate whose intoxicating novels and short stories exposed millions outside Latin America to its passions, superstition, violence and social inequality, has died at home in Mexico City. He was 87.

Widely considered the most popular Spanish-language writer since Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century, the Colombian-born Garcia Marquez achieved literary celebrity that spawned comparisons to Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.

His flamboyant and melancholy fictional works - among them "Chronicle of a Death Foretold", "Love in the Time of Cholera" and "Autumn of the Patriarch" - outsold everything published in Spanish except the Bible.

The epic 1967 novel "One Hundred Years of Solitude" sold more than 50 million copies in more than 25 languages.

His stories made him literature's best-known practitioner of magical realism, the fictional blending of the everyday with fantastical elements such as a boy born with a pig's tail and a man trailed by a cloud of yellow butterflies.

The Mexican government said Garcia Marquez died at 2 p.m. on Thursday.

A gray hearse escorted by dozens of police officers in patrol cars and on motorcycles left the author's home about three hours later.

"A thousand years of solitude and sadness because of the death of the greatest Colombian of all time!" Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Twitter.

"Solidarity and condolences to his wife and family ... Such giants never die."

The first sentence of One Hundred Years of Solitude has become one of the most famous opening lines of all time: "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice"

Biographer Gerald Martin said the novel was the first in which "Latin Americans recognized themselves, that defined them, celebrated their passion, their intensity, their spirituality and superstition, their grand propensity for failure."

Dozens of journalists camped outside the author's colonial red-brick home in a wealthy neighborhood, swarming the slow trickle of friends who came to pay respects.

Three women dressed in black went inside the house separately. Loud crying could be heard from inside.

His family said late Thursday, in a statement read by a Mexican cultural official, that Garcia Marquez's remains would be cremated and a private ceremony held at an unspecific time.

The Mexican government said it would hold a memorial to Garcia Marquez on Monday in the Art Deco Palace of Fine Arts in the capitol's historic center.

When he accepted the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982, Garcia Marquez described Latin America as a "source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune."

Like many Latin American writers, he transcended the world of letters. Widely known as "Gabo," he became a hero to the left as an early ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro and a critic of the US' violent interventions from Vietnam to Chile.

"The world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers - and one of my favorites from the time I was young," US President Barack Obama said.

Singapore students, schools have done well: PM

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien LoongSINGAPORE, April 11: As the education system is revamped to address concerns of too much pressure and competition, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday chose to put the spotlight on how Singapore's schools have delivered good results over the years and continue to hold up well against counterparts in the rest of the world.

The most recent confirmation of this was in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) rankings, which found that students here excel in problem- solving, he said at Chong Boon Secondary's 20th anniversary.

Singapore's 15-year-olds topped the category in a global ranking of student skills organised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a grouping of the world's developed nations.

Mr Lee quipped that they could not have mugged for it as there was "no 10-year series". Aceing it required common sense, creativity and judgment.

Also, the result is based on 1,400 students chosen by the OECD, not the Ministry of Education (MOE). And the students were picked from every secondary school in Singapore.

"I think we can be proud of ourselves...(and) can confidently say that we have done our duty to our students and to the next generation," said the Prime Minister, in a speech that sought to inject balance into discussions that have too often focused on how the education system here is too stressful, structured and competitive.

Mr Lee acknowledged that the education system sometimes made parents and students feel "pressured". But the Government has taken steps to reduce unhealthy competition, he said. For instance, MOE has stopped giving the names of top performers in the Primary School Leaving Examination since 2012.

"All of us who are parents have had our frustrating moments," he said. "But while we try to improve our education system... don't forget this is a good system and it delivers good results for us and for Singapore, parents and students."

For one thing, graduates, including those from the Institute of Technical Education, are sought after by employers. Also, Singapore has done well in international competitions like Olympiads for mathematics and science, and in world rankings of education systems, students and schools.

In the Pisa test, for example, Singapore had the highest proportion of top scorers worldwide. And most students from poorer homes made it to the top 25 per cent, said Mr Lee.

Still, schools and students need to continue to "learn and improve", he added. He cited three ways: raise the quality of every school, teach skills such as critical and creative thinking, and help students from poorer homes "climb higher". But the Government's efforts alone will not be enough, he said, urging parents, students and the community to get involved.

This spirit of involvement thrives in Chong Boon Secondary, which is in Mr Lee's Teck Ghee ward. He noted its students take part in grassroots activities in his ward and in Ang Mo Kio ward.

He also noted how the school inspires its students, such as Mr Kalaichelvam Ramdass, a Normal (Technical) stream student who will study mechanical engineering at Nanyang Technological University.

Mr Kalaichelvam had been inspired by a message he saw at school, said Mr Lee. It said: "Today I am proud of Chong Boon, tomorrow Chong Boon will be proud of me."

'UK giving cold shoulder to foreign students'

LONDON, April 11: A House of Lords committee on Friday accused the David Cameron government of creating an unwelcoming atmosphere for international students from countries like India.

The Lords Science and Technology Committee found a 10% drop in the number of foreign students coming in to study crucial science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses in a report released in London.

"We have seen quite significant growth in China and Hong Kong in particular, while in India and Pakistan in particular we have seen some reductions. Those reductions have been throughout STEM and non-STEM," the report said in its country-wise analysis.

It added: "The number of students from India increased rapidly from 2003/04, reaching a peak of nearly 12,000 in 2008/09. In the last two years, there has been a dramatic fall in the number of Indian students coming to study in the UK to around 5,000 students.

"The data show a volatile recent history in student numbers from both India and China. STEM subjects that Indian students were most likely to study were the three which showed the greatest recent declines in numbers of new entrants: engineering and technology, computer sciences and subjects allied to medicine...

"It is important to note that both India and China are important markets for UK universities seeking to attract international students."

Lord Krebs, chair of the science and technology committee, blamed changes to the immigration rules having a direct impact on overseas students coming into the UK.

"When we really need to send the message that international STEM students will get a warm welcome in the UK, they're getting the cold shoulder and heading elsewhere."

Krebs said the rules are seen as too complex and subject to endless changes, the visa costs are not competitive, and the rules relating to work after study are so limiting that prospective students are heading to the US, Australia, Canada and elsewhere.

The government's claims that the decline in the strength of the rupee against the pound was contributing to the decline in the number of Indian students was dismissed by the committee as "not a major factor".

The latest report follows similar critical findings by the Higher Education Funding Council for England earlier this month, which revealed that the number of Indian students fell from 18,535 in 2010-11 to 13,250 in 2011-12 and further to 10,235 in 2012-13.

The Home Office dismissed the report's findings relating to immigration and student visa rules.

"We do not accept that the UK's immigration rules are deterring international students and there is no clear evidence in the report to support that argument," a Home Office statement said.

Kingdom of Dreams celebrates the 2nd anniversary of ‘Jhumroo’

GURGAON, April 7: Jhumroo, the musical comedy on stage – World’s biggest Indian cinematic themed, theatrical musical comedy show presented by Kingdom of Dreams celebrated the completion of its second anniversary on Monday. This milestone coincides with a splendid run of 600 shows.

In an eventful journey of two years Jhumroo, the grand musical on stage has been viewed and enjoyed by celebrities, international audience as well as the regular visitors to Kingdom of Dreams. The show continues to enthrall the audiences each day with its delightful characters and rib-tickling comedy. The spectacular visual effects on stage mesmerise and strike awe in its viewers while the supremely enjoyable Kishore Kumar music weaves its magic and leaves them asking for more!

Expressing his excitement on this milestone Viraf Sarkari said, “This is an extremely proud moment for us. We created the show, Jhumroo to celebrate the spirit of the legend of Kishore Kumar and the show has been spectacularly successful in the last two years. Visitors have come in each day to the Kingdom of Dreams to enjoy the show and have truly enjoyed the sublime music of Kishore da.

Jhumroo is the world’s biggest bollywood musical along with Zangoora and we are sure that this milestone will once again establish Kingdom of Dreams as the one and only live entertainment destination that is committed to provide enjoyment for its visitors”

A happy Gaurav Gera, the lead star of Jhumroo, said, “Jhumroo is a one of its kind musical, Bollywood stage show in the world. I have enjoyed performing in it every-time and am grateful for the love showered on me by the people who have helped us achieve this milestone. This achievement fills me with the confidence that Jhumroo will continue to enthrall and engage its audiences in the times to come and help us accomplish more such milestones”

To celebrate the milestone Kingdom of Dreams offers its audience a double extravaganza by presenting Buy one get on free offer on Jhumroo tickets on Silver and above category. The offer is valid till April 10.

Gurgaon Fashion Week to open on April 17

By Deepak Arora

GURGAON, April 3: A four-day fashion extravaganza called the Gurgaon Fashion Week (GFW) will be held at the Millennium City from April 17. The event will showcase designer labels such as Ritu Kumar, Bisu by Surveen Chawla, Panache by Aarja, 09 by Janhavi Gupta, Shaa by Shweta, Reet by Kaveri Batla and many more.

Also establishing their presence will be recognizable brands like BMW, Budweiser, Juvalia & You, MobiKwik, Red Paws Rescue (NGO) and Wess (NGO). Upcoming and established fashion talent will display their latest collections through runway shows and exhibitions.

It also promises surplus opportunity to accelerate trade through the presence of buyers as well as throws the limelight on the hottest trends this season, according to Shubham Gupta.

The Gurgaon Fashion Week is pitched to be an exciting window to a spectacular fusion of traditional art, modern couture and globally relevant ready to wear designer collections.

Several prominent people lent their presence to the event. These included CEO of Juvalia & You Chaitanya Aggarwal, Vice President-Bird Automotive(BMW) Sanjeev Malik, GFW 2014 Style Consultant Reshmi Jani, General Manager of Galaxy Hotel Pradipta Biswas, Associate Director of Kingdom of Dreams Ms Ayesha Dahra, GFW Marketing Head Shubham Gupta and GFW Legal Advisor Rina Chaturvedi.

Rina Chaturvedi said "the GFW will prove to be an exciting platform for budding and established designers to come together and showcase their creative prowess in the pacy and urbane setting of Gurgaon for the first time. With the large number of fashion enthusiasts in the city and the plethora of talent that the GFW will unveil, we are sure that it will be a success in its present and future editions.”

Pradipta Biswas, GM Galaxy Hotel said, “The Gurgaon Fashion Week is a pioneering effort which will help place Gurgaon on India’s fashion map. At Galaxy Hotel our effort has always been to initiate and nurture properties that are unique and compare with the best in the world. Beginning with India’s first micro-brewery to establishing excellent standards of service and cuisine Galaxy has always been in the forefront. For us it is a natural culmination to help foster Gurgaon as the next style destination for world-class fashion. I am sure this fashion week, a precursor to a series of fashion weeks in the years to come will be successful in carving an identity for Gurgaon as a serious contender in the world of International Fashion.”

The Gurgaon Fashion Week will last for four days, allowing fashion designers, brands, "houses" to display their latest collections in runway shows / exhibitions and buyers and the media to take a look at the latest trends. Most importantly, this event will let the industry know what's "in" and what's "out" for the season.

GFW weaves designers from various states, cities and towns into one cohesive body. Representing both established and emerging designers, it plays an important role in guiding the industry towards its goal of sustainable growth. GFW is instrumental in facilitating designer corporate tie-ups, aimed at expanding the fashion market in the country and continues to make earnest endeavors to accelerate its efforts to ensure that Indian fashion creates a larger global imprint.

GFW is being held at Galaxy hotel, which is now proud to be a part of World Hotels, joining an elite list of 450 coveted hotels around the world. Galaxy has won awards like Best Hotel in Premium Category, Most Admired Restaurant Food & Beverage Retailer of the year.

Gurgaon Fashion Week is like no other fashion week on the international circuit. In addition to being hosted in a city that can only be described as a new age phenomenon, it is the only fashion week which showcases a mix of traditional culture, modern couture and international ready to wear designer collections.



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