A stamp of approval

In a quest for validation-by-sticker dating back to those gold stars from third grade, desis are yet again pitching a Diwali stamp to the US Postal Service. The online petition comes with a ‘No fair! Rashid got a bigger piece’ twist, because an Eid stamp came out years ago. Since both the Diwali and Dalip Singh Saund stamps have been rejected before, the latest try shows we can take a lickin’ and keep on stickin’.

Some experts told that the stamp being issued was not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’, said Kumar. “Diwali‘s recognition by the US Postal Department… will also honour a civilisation that has the merit of being a continuous propagation for 6,000 years, and Diwali is celebrated not just by Hindus but also Sikhs and even Christians. It’s like Christmas,” he contended.

My assessment is a bit too flip. It’s true that in the email age, procuring a Diwali stamp is like flyering the Titanic. But it’s actually free marketing for the South Asian brand. You might not have to explain your damn holiday to your elderly neighbors any more. You might get a sponsorship from Illuminations.

You might even pull a Hannukah (eight days of presents? It’s a shanda) and leave work early every day in November. ‘Ours is a very respectful religion,’ you might say. ‘We respect the ancient tradition of shubh ghanta. Also called happy hour. We take converts.’

Sign the petition here.

Promo’s pizza leaves bad taste in actor’s mouth

Actor Sanjay Madhav recently auditioned for a part in a comedy festival promo, and was so offended by the sketch, that he shared his experience on Hollywood Masala’s message boards.

The spot entailed Mohandas Gandhi (not the part that he auditioned for) playing a prank on his followers by ordering a meat-lovers pizza. From Madhav’s original post:

I do have a sense of humor about these scenarios, however this is offensive to many, including myself. When will the non-Indian population realize that Gandhi is to many Indians, what Martin Luther King is to the African-American people. Would they dare make such a mockery of Martin Luther King without public backlash? I think we know the answer to that question.

Wait, I have a different question: What brand of pizza did he order? Since I haven’t seen the promo, it would be inappropriate for me to weigh in on Madhav’s specific complaint. However, it would definitely piss me off if Gandhi was depicted ordering some cheap, craptastic, fast food pizza. I’d like to think that if Gandhi was going to buy pizza for his followers, he would spring for something good like California Pizza Kitchen or Round Table. He was the father of an entire subcontinent — give the man some respect and portray him ordering a slab of the top shelf pie.

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Greeting cards attack when you least expect it

Not too long ago, a friend and I made our way to a nice movie theater in Los Angeles, Calif. And by nice, I mean the kind of theater that brutally charges more for tickets on weekends, and has an overpriced boutique shop in the lobby. Other than that, it was the same as any other not-quite-as-nice theater.

The boutique shop had a section with South Asian-inspired products. This was especially interesting to me because of the noticeable rise in the commercial utilization of the culture. Besides the standard new age fare — incense, books, teas — there were a couple of products that caught my eye. A candle bust of Siddhartha (struck me as a tad sadistic), and a pair of greeting cards from J&M Martinez, which are pictured to the right.

It looks like they’re trying to depict Hindu Gods, but I don’t have a clue about which ones they’re supposed to be. The blue-skinned male on the left could be Krishna, Ram or Shiva, but none of them were that fat. The female on the right could be Lakshmi, but doesn’t she have another pair of arms? Am I completely leaving someone out? And what are the inscriptions all about?

In the end, and especially after noticing the exorbitant price tag, all I could remark to my friend was, “what the f–k?!” They rolled their eyes, as if to suggest that they didn’t care. I would be forced to allow the confusion to consume me as we walked away, enrage me during a trip to the cash-draining snack counter, and finally choke me with a sanity-busting froth during an endless stream of mind-numbing trailers. Thankfully, the two-hour borefest that followed put me to sleep and out of my misery. Still, please help me make sense of my cardstock nemeses. Or at least help me make sense of this senseless post.

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Taxi Cab Confessions

Inodlink’s Melvin Durai pays tribute to the last honest profession: The cab driver. What you say?!?

Perhaps all your encounters with cabdrivers have been sour. They donÂŽt stop for you, and if they do, the only place they seem interested in taking you is to the cleaners.

But before you pass judgment on the millions of cabbies in the world, you need to realize that some of them are so honest, theyÂŽll return almost anything left in their cabs, even Harry Potter books.

But wait…

Glenn Sher, a Long Island, NY, cabby, returned a womanÂŽs purse containing $13,300. ThatÂŽs a lot of money, almost enough to take Paris Hilton on a date.

“I could have used the money to pay bills or whatever,” Sher told The New York Post. “But it wasnÂŽt mine. I canÂŽt take whatÂŽs not mine.” The mayor of New York was truly impressed. “ThatÂŽs amazing,” he said. “I didnÂŽt realize we had a cabdriver who spoke English.”

Another New York cabby, Benjamin Adjepong, was commended by the Taxi and Limousine Commission for returning a bag containing $7,000. “It makes me feel good, and my wife is so excited,” he told WABC TV. Now thatÂŽs a good wife — excited about her husbandÂŽs honesty, not even thinking about the number of shoes she could have bought.

Cabbies in other countries have been just as honorable. Ashraf Qureshi, a Pakistani immigrant in Australia, drove a tourist around for three weeks, even let the man make long distance calls on his phone and eat meals in his apartment — allowed him to do everything but sleep with his wife.

The man paid Qureshi $50,000 for various expenses, according to an Ananova.com report. But after the cabby deposited the money in his bank account, he began to feel guilty about accepting so much and returned $40,000 to the man. “It was all getting too much for me,” Qureshi said. ItÂŽs a good thing heÂŽs a taxi driver, because with integrity like that, he could never be a corporate executive.

I am personally undecided on cab drivers. While traveling Jordan I hired a cab driver, who although nice at first, wanted to share a hotel room with me on the first night. Maybe if I’d known him longer. He also began to cry when I didn’t tip him at the same time I paid him for the three days. I tried to explain he’d be getting a big tip when he dropped me off at the airport, but it didn’t seem to register. That’s my taxi cab confession.

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Wealthy skanks complicate “The Simple Life” for mechanic

Laughs were aplenty during last night’s season premiere of Fox’s “The Simple Life,” when socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie shared their shocking blend of ignorance and helplessness with a no-nonsense desi mechanic.

The reality show inserts Hilton, heiress to the hotel fortune by the same name, and Ritchie, daughter of singer Lionel Ritchie, into fish-out-of-water situations. The past two seasons placed the bicoastal, hard-partying pair in a small farming town, and on a road trip through rural America. The current season assigns them internships in a wide range of fields.

Hilton and Ritchie’s first job landed them in Bayonne, N.J., where they were assigned the seemingly easy tasks of changing oil, customer service and moving cars at Quality Auto Center. Under the supervision of Ketan, the pair showed up late, crashed into cars, alienated customers and stole a police cruiser.

When it came time to evaluate their performance, Ketan gave them appropriate marks:
Customer service: F
Changing oil: D
Appearance: “A for that, for sure.”

“The Simple Life” next airs on February 9 at 8:30 p.m. on Fox.

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Posted in TV

Desh-hop

While we’re freeing Jins from diyas, definitely check out the desh-hop artists who own3d the mike in the hip-hop documentary Brown Like Dat.

First, MC Kabir. The son of Nobel winner Amartya Sen, Kabir is half Italian and lives in Boston. He’s got good flow, an apropos namesake and a solid track in ‘Recognize.’ Kabir tells a great story on screen about freestyling in a dark club and pushing off an overzealous fan who was trying to grab the mike. ‘When I looked closer, I realized it was Wyclef.’ And they jammed. It’s hard to tell the story while looking humble; his lips twitched, but he had it sorted. Listen here.

Also give a listen to the Himalayan Project. Chee Malabar, who showed up to the screening, sported a gaunt frenchie and a serious ‘fro, looking for all the world like a brown Dogg.

The group’s name pays homage to their ancestral roots in India and China — the Himalayan mountain range straddles the borders of both countries. [Official site]

Listen here.

It’s all about the accent

The Power99 controversy elicited several comments on our website that seemed (to me at least) to partially condone the Shock Jocks behavior because they were receiving “poor service.” The customer service representative, Tina, said “ma’am” instead of sir for example. Many Americans also seem to resent the fact that the Indian call center operators are being taught English in order to supposedly “fool” them into thinking they are talking to a representative in the U.S. The Tampa Tribune reported last week that the imperfection of these learned accents may cost some call centers their jobs:

When Sykes Enterprises began considering India for its customer service call centers a few years ago, it saw a country with many bright, hardworking and English- speaking citizens. What it didn’t anticipate was how much the Indian accent would perplex some American consumers.

On Thursday, Tampa-based Sykes said it would cut the volume of work at its Bangalore, India, facility by half. The call center, which in the past has provided customer service functions for Delta Air Lines and the Internet Service Provider MSN, generates about $4 million a year in revenue. About $2 million of that business will be shifted to Sykes call centers in other Asian countries. Sykes did not name these other countries.

Just because Indian accents aren’t good enough doesn’t mean the jobs will be returning to America. I guess the trick is to better fool American ears. Apparently perception is more important than reality. But where will they be moved?

Formerly controlled by the United States, the Philippines offers a more “Americanized” culture and employees with lighter accents. Also, there is less employee turnover than in India.

So let me get this straight. Slightly imperfect accent -> verbal abuse -> high turnover -> outsource the outsourced work to another country. I guess that would be considered market driven but the fact that its based more on perception than on reality makes it seem kind of silly to me. Then again, I guess everything in the business world is based upon perception. Continue reading

The Little Terrorist

The movie Born into Brothels isn’t the only film featuring South Asian youngsters to get an Oscar nod. So does the short film The Little Terrorist about a boy that climbs over the wrong fence in search of his cricket ball. From The Times of India:

thelittleterrorist.jpg

Ashvin Kumar’s Little Terrorist has been nominated for an Oscar in the Short Film (Live Action) category. “The news hasn’t sunk in yet… I didn’t see the nomination coming but after I received a call from the Academy three weeks back, I thought I might make it,” says Ashvin, son of fashion designer Ritu Kumar.

Little Terrorist is about crossing boundaries and is based on the true story of a Pakistani boy who crosses the LoC after his cricket ball lands on a minefield in Indian territory. “The boy is given shelter by an elderly orthodox Hindu Brahmin and the relationship between them is what my film is about,” says Ashvin, pointing out that though the setting of his film is political, the essential theme is that of humanity. “The film shows how, despite artificial boundaries and barbed wires between people, the basic human instinct to give shelter to an innocent remains — no matter how many lines are drawn between people.”

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Jin and juice

Sajit did a very thorough post about the offensive Hot 97 tsunami song. I wanted to call out the lyrics of Jin tha MC’s reply track. It’s in the finest tradition of angry, political rap, and it’s actually a good track on its own merits. Listen to the track.

You got it all twisted if you think I’m here to cockblock
on a bunch of no-talent, wanna-be shock jocks (nah)
And you say it’s all freedom of speech
Well, you just lost yours, read ‘em and weep
Won’t be happy ’til you’re fired…

Fuck the tsunami song and whoever thought of it
Matta fact, fuck the engineer that recorded it…
Anything for ratings, huh? That shit is corporate

That little bullshit statement has gotta be
The world’s most half-assed apology
Thousands are still gettin’ discovered each day
How dare you compare a life to a week’s pay?

HipHopMusic says the station issued a weird, passive-aggressive apology, and Sprint and McDonald’s have pulled their advertising for now:

At 6 AM this morning, Hot 97 announced the Miss Jones morning show is “suspended indefinitely”… Most of the calls they took were in favor of bringing Miss Jones back. Many people have reported to me that when they called to speak against bringing the show back they were screened out…. They’re not saying whether the suspension is permanent or temporary, or whether it is a paid suspension….

They also played Jin’s dis track repeatedly.

Riding the Delhi metro

I rode the Delhi metro the week it opened its first underground route:

Extra-wide cars, fully automated driverless trains, all-electronic fare gates with magnetic farecards and cool magnetic tokens, overhead electric wires that are safer than a third rail, floor-through layout so you can walk from one end to the other without opening doors… this subway system has the finest in Indian, err, South Korean tech. The subway feels and sounds like the D.C. metro. It’s faster and wider than Boston’s, newer and more luxurious than New York’s.

Check out the photos.