Anniversary of Indira Gandhi’s death

Indians flocked to former PM Indira Gandhi’s bungalow in Delhi today on the 20th anniversary of her assassination (thanks, Sapna):

Indira Gandhi lived in the 1,300-sq-ft bungalow on the leafy and wide Safdarjung Road for nearly 20 years… “Till 1971, this must have been the smallest house of any prime minister in the world,” says the memorial’s curator Vijay Puri Goswami.

On display is Mrs Gandhi’s blood stained and bullet pocked sari, bringing back memories of her violent end. Two bodyguards pumped 16 bullets into her when she was crossing a leafy pathway from her residence to the office for an interview with Peter Ustinov. The grassy pathway has now been covered in marble and covered with crystal. A sheet of clear glass marks the place where she fell to her assassin’s bullets…

Visitors also flock to see her wedding sari, which was woven from yarn spun by her father Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India… There are gifts from international leaders: a silver and onyx lacquer plate from Ho Chi Minh, a crystal memento from Yasser Arafat.

India: always on the right side of history. A new report on the anti-Sikh riots has been pushed back by two months:

Some of those responsible for the violence had been, and still were, members of the governing Congress Party… Seven government-appointed commissions which had investigated the massacres were either whitewashes, or had met with official obstruction… Up to 1,000 people are thought to have died in riots which erupted across India in the days following her murder, as Hindus took their revenge on Sikhs who were blamed for the assassination.

Despite the tyranny of Gandhi’s rule, it’s a macabre memory for a ghoulish day.

An economist waxes poetic about Bollywood

Economist Tyler Cowen goes Bollycrazy on a visit to Delhi:

If you don’t already know Indian movies you should… Don’t think that Lagaan (or Satyajit Ray, for that matter) is the real thing, or that Blockbuster will do you any good. Cut to the songs. The use of color, cinematography, and orchestration of scenes will blow your mind. Allow yourself to be mesmerized. Compare them to your dreams at night, not to other movies you know, and pretend it is the only air-conditioned place in town.

I would go much, much further. There are only a couple of quality Bollywood films out every year, you’ll kiss a lot of frogs along the way. But the good ones handle emotion in a way far superior to that of the best of American cinema. Hollywood movies are rife with scenes which ought to be laden with emotion, but the filmmakers invariably affect a detached tone. And it’s not purposely understated, stoic or ironic detachment; it’s incompetent writing, it’s wooden and absurd.

You’ll often see a mother sending her son off to war or certain death with a stiff ‘you must go now,’ cut, end of scene. There’s a fine line between avoiding schmaltz and copping out on emotion altogether. Mainstream American films often feel hollow, $100M in effects with atrocious writing, the blowdried-fake-tan-colored-contacts version of worship in the darkened temple of cinema. And so even fairly cerebral films with any emotional content at all (Sideways, Eternal Sunshine) seem like blazing, Oscar-worthy paragons of passion.

Is this just cultural? Probably, for the films explicitly pitched as Oscar bait; it reflects a culture with lower emotionality than desi culture. With mainstream films, in contrast, a major part of the problem is market consolidation. When you’re chasing high revenues, you inject high investment; when you’ve committed a lot of money, you target the broadest market; for the largest market, you talk only to the reptilian sub-brain with boobs and bombs. Finely-modulated emotions are too risky an investment.

Sorry, guys. I’ve already seen Bollywood.

Previous posts on Cowen’s India trip: 1, 2

Desi mom ejected from Bush rally

A desi mother from Philadelphia was picking up tickets for her family at a Bush rally when she was ejected because her ride from work had a Kerry bumper sticker. Simi Nischal was picking up tickets for her husband Narinder, their son and daughter:

“The lady came in and said, ‘Who’s Simi?’ ” Nischal tearfully recalled Wednesday night, adding that she identified herself and was then refused tickets to the rally and escorted from the building.

Shortly after that, a man wearing a Bush-Cheney T-shirt confronted Nischal in the parking lot and told her to leave. “He was so rude, he made me feel like a criminal,” Nischal said. “I said, ‘That’s not fair, you are losing a supporter.’ [And he said], ‘We don’t care about your support.’ “

Nischal said onlookers cheered and laughed at her as she left the property. But that wasn’t the end of the insult, she said. She said another co-worker took her back to the gristmill to try to clear up the confusion, but she was again refused tickets…

Nischal said her daughter has been learning about the political process at school and has been a Bush supporter. She even picked up papers for her daughter to volunteer for the Bush campaign right before she was kicked out of the gristmill, she said.

‘The OC’ has a light-brown FOX. ;)

Navi_5 I only watched a few of the first season’s episodes, and that’s probably why I never noticed that ‘The O.C.’ had a wee bit o’ brown in it.

Navi Rawat, whose father is Indian and mother is German, starred as Theresa, protagonist Ryan’s (Benjamin McKenzie) ex-girlfriend, whom he leaves Marissa (Mischa Barton) for during the season-ending cliff-hanger that 99% of Sepia Mutiny loyalists didn’t give a rodent’s butt about.

You see, Theresa is pregnant, and we don’t know if the baby is Ryan’s, so he’s doing the stand-up thing and leaving a multi-million dollar mansion in Newport Beach behind to go be with his vulnerable ex- during a tough time. The only reason I know this is because I went to the official OC site, and read the episode summary. I’ll bluntly admit that I was part of the 99%. ;)

I normally wouldn’t think that this talented young thespian’s participation in a scalding hot teen soap opera would be Mutiny-worthy, but NYU-alumna Navi has also been on “24″ (as Melanie) as well as Angel, The Street Lawyer and Fastlane. Regarding the big screen, she played “Soraya” in the noteworthy celluloid adaptation of “The House of Sand and Fog” , with other bad-ass half-brownie Ben Kingsley.

If you think she looks familiar– but you don’t watch Generation Y’s nowhere near as good version of 90210– you may have spotted her on the USA network’s “Thought Crimes“, a movie that for some reason makes me think of our Abhi. ;) Navi starred as the troubled, telepathic teen Freya McAllister in the sci-fi/spy project;

Driven mad by the din of numerous voices in her head, she is eventually recruited by the NSA as a psychic sleuth.

Anyway, ‘The OC’s season premier is just days away, on November 4th. While I toy with the notion of watching for Navi, I’m frankly more excited about the musical line-up for season 2; three of my favourite groups, including Modest Mouse, The Killers and The Walkmen are guest starring on the show. Yum. Continue reading

Posted in TV

Star-rupees

Following the lead of Hooters, Starbucks says it will expand into India soon, trying to reverse hundreds of years of tea plantation history dating back to the East India Company (thanks, Super Jagjit!):

“China traditionally has been a tea-drinking country[,] but we turned them into coffee drinkers,” Schultz told a gathering of analysts earlier this month…

But their Asia marketing director, speaking not to Wall Street but to Indian consumers, is singing a gentler hymn:

“India is a tea-based culture. We””””re not saying coffee is a substitute. We””””re saying Starbucks is a place to hang out, to eat and drink, to see and be seen.”

In other words, a place to flirt. And, in fact, gourmet coffee cafes serve exactly that function in Indian cities today:

“With the liberalization of the economy, there are a large number of young Indians with good jobs and attractive incomes,” said Banerjee. “Many still live with their parents. So their income is largely disposable and they need to spend it on something.

Methinks the key part of that quote is ‘many still live with their parents.’ Cafes function as extended living rooms in space-impaired Manhattan and as libidinous hotspots in privacy-impaired India. They’re just the place for your silken mocha pick-me-up.

Continue reading

Follow the money…

Elections are ALWAYS about money. Getting to know your candidate properly before Tuesday’s election includes gaining knowledge about who supports them monetarily. It just MIGHT be that your candidate is beholden to some special interest that you should know about. As an example here is a list of who got the top donations from the U.S. India Pac.
Looking at a reverse example, here is a list of who is giving money to candidate Bobby Jindal in Louisiana’s Congressional race.

You can use this website in order to follow the money in your own district.

8 Indians cross illegally into Maine

In other news a 1000 Mexicans crossed into Texas…
From the CBC:

American border officials say the arrest of seven people who illegally entered the U.S. from New Brunswick is part of a new trend.

Seven people with Indian passports were arrested in Houlton, Maine on the weekend after crossing the border in a wooded area of New Brunswick.

With major crossing points now under tight security, remote areas of the border are becoming more popular with people who want to sneak in.

How’d they get caught?

The Indian nationals were arrested after authorities noticed them wandering the streets of Houlton in wet, muddy clothes.

Wait, so what you are saying is that brown folks aren’t common in Maine?

So it was written, so it shall be

I’ve already voted but perhaps its out of my hands anyways. From NeIndiaPress.com:

The planets favour US Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and would push him to victory over President George W. Bush in the November 2 polls, say Indian astrologers.

“Kerry is likely to beat Bush in the final verdict,” predicts renowned astrologer Ajai Bhambi, also author of the bestseller “Be Your Own Astrologer”.

“Bush’s horoscope shows Saturn, Venus and Mercury. They are all placed in Cancer Lagna and all of them are seen uncomfortable, which is why his election and his tenure have been controversial.

“These three planets are unfavourable to Cancer Lagna and create problems from time to time.”


Added astrologer Lachhman Das Madan: “I reveal the cosmic writ that George Bush cannot become the president of the US again.”

Wow, that sounded sort of Biblical. I’m sure that will get Bush’s attention.