Work an Hour


Asha for Education is in the midst of its annual “Work an Hour” campaign. Seems like they are well short of their goal at the moment. Having worked in an NGO in India whose focus was also education for underprivileged children, I have a soft spot for this cause and thought I’d try and help out their campaign with a post.

What is work an hour?

Each year volunteers from around the world come together in a show of great human spirit, to help educate underprivileged children in India. Work An Hour, or WAH, as it is popularly known, is a simple concept. We ask you to symbolically contribute one hour of your time towards the cause of children’s education by donating an hour’s worth of your salary or more. The event symbolically begins on July 4, the American Independence Day, reaches an apex on August 15, the Indian Independence Day, and finally culminates on September 5, which is celebrated as Teachers’ Day in India.

How much should I donate?

You can donate any amount. We encourage you to donate an hour’s worth or more of your salary.

Where does the money go?

100% of all funds collected through Work an Hour go directly towards the selected projects. Keeping with Asha’s long-standing policy, Asha volunteers bear all administrative expenses.

If donating money isn’t your thing then consider volunteering your time for Asha or another similar organization. You can volunteer both here in the States and obviously in India. It is better than living in your parent’s basement while you figure out what you want to do with your life 🙂

The objectives of this group are:

-To provide education to underprivileged children in India.
-To encourage the formation of various local groups across the world to reach out to larger sections of the population.
-To support and cooperate with persons and groups already engaged in similar activities.
-To raise the required human and other resources to achieve the group objectives.
-To provide opportunities to individuals living outside India who wish to participate in Asha activities in India.
-To address, whenever possible, other issues affecting human life such as health care, environment, socio-economic aspects and women’s issues.

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Shazia Deen / Dancing Queen

Indian-American model Shazia Deen recently starred in a music video for the Marc Anthony song ‘Ahora Quién.’ In cascading ringlets, silk scarf and trenchcoat, she’s dressed as an old-time starlet and looks like a million bucks. Watch the video.

Shazia was born in India, her father being part British and Punjabi and her mother born and raised in Delhi. She moved to California when she was three… she has gone on to make 15 national commercials and Ad campaigns for such major companies as Skechers, Kodak, Nike, Hanes, Payless, Diet Coke… She has been studying acting in Los Angeles for 4 years and has guest-starred on TV shows like the Andy Dick show… She has also just finished a two and a half year course in Ayurvedic medicine… [Link]

Deen may be part Anglo, but that jawline is classically Punjabi. From her demo reel, she also seems to have played Latina and Iraqi. Racial passing is actually more interesting in real life than the pixelated vacuity of the image biz. It’s part hidden talents, part undercover spook: The Bourne Identity, The Long Kiss Goodnight.

The postracial premise is interesting, I’ve lived it, meeting someone attractive who unexpectedly turns out to be desi… it’s the unfolding of hidden wings… Even funnier is when someone you meet seems fairly whitewashed, then, months later in the right context, totally busts out with a tender oldie from, say, Umrao Jaan, with flawless pronunciation and full-bore eyelash flutter. It’s a hell of a bender. [Link]

Passing was also one of the most fascinating things about Bollywood/Hollywood, a parody in two parts: a charming and very meta first half, a leaden and inept second. Casting the half-Polish Lisa Ray as Sue/Sunita, the non-desi desi, was clever on too many levels to parse. The flick proved men do make passes at a girl who passes.

Bolly/Holly also had that thrilling, swing version of ‘Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo’ and its shapeshifting singer. Sanjiv Wadhwani belts the filmi standard in a bad Amrikan accent, but he’s just playin’, dawg. He morphs into fluent Hindi and again into jazz vibrato. So hot. The song plays over the closing credits; über-grandma Dina Pathak and wrestler Killer Khalsa boogie with a drag queen (Ranjit Chowdhry) wrapped in geisha. I forgave the bad acting for this scene alone. Watch the clip.

‘Ahora Quién’ (‘Now Who’) is on Marc Anthony’s Amar Sin Mentiras (To Love Without Lies), released last year. Anthony proves the market for elegiac cheese, like a fondue pit, is bottomless.

Here’s my review of Bollywood/Hollywood. Hear more desi-Latino collaboration here.

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Consulate humor

Last week Turbanhead wrote about how exasperating it sometimes seems when trying to get your documents in order to travel abroad (in terms of dealing with the often clueless bureaucracy). NRI worldwide recently reported on a few anecdotes that suddenly don’t make Turbanhead’s ordeal seem so bad:

An American officer manning the counter asked her if she was a singer. She replied that she was — and was shocked when the gentleman asked, “How about singing a nice song for me?” Sonali landed on her feet, though, and joked that it would cost him.

He reiterated his seriousness, and ultimately, she had to hum a line or two. It was a “funny feeling”, but that was how she got her visa three years ago.

The story goes that none other than Asha Bhosle was about to be asked to prove she could sing, had an Indian staffer at the consulate not intervened and averted the faux pas! This incident could not, however, be independently confirmed.

That reminds me of those old cartoons where Yosemite Sam would shoot his guns at Bug Bunny’s feet until he danced. Michael Higgins tips us off to yet more consulate related humor on The Renegade of Junk blogsite:

Yesterday, I sent my Indian passport off to the Consulate to be renewed. The preliminary groundwork that needed to be completed for this purpose was, to say the least, a trying experience. In fact,in general, any activity requiring interaction with my fellow citizens of this country has become a trying experience.

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Too Little Too Late

The BBC reports that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has ordered all foreign students, some 1,400 pupils, to leave the country’s madrassas.

Madrassas have been in the spotlight after one of the London bombers was reported to have studied at one. The move against foreigners at the madrassas also applies to Pakistanis holding dual nationality, the AFP news agency reports. Gen Musharraf also told journalists that action would be taken against any of the madrassas that did not register with the authorities. After the 11 September attacks on the United States the Pakistani government tightened the rules around madrassa visa applications, saying that the visas would become invalid once a student ceased to study at the school. [Link]

Four years after September 11th, this is a bit too little and too late. Sounds like Rumsfeld or Condoleezza must be applying the ‘camel clutch’ on him. Continue reading

One step forward, two steps back

Herr Musharraf, whom one commenter claims is our ‘best option,’ is reportedly training the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan:

Afghan officials allege that Taliban and allied fighters who fled to Pakistan after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 are learning new, more lethal tactics from the Pakistani military at numerous training bases. “Pakistan is lying,” said Lt. Sayed Anwar, acting head of Afghanistan’s counter-terrorism department. “We have very correct reports from their areas. We have our intelligence agents inside Pakistan’s border as well… They say they are friends of Americans, and yet they order these people to kill Americans…” [Link]

Clearly Anwar hasn’t had any PR training — he has the balls to call a spade a spade. In contrast, newspapers always hasten to add the Pakistani military’s denial, injecting artificial ‘balance’ by spreading that threadbare lie.

Zulfiqar Ali, a Pakistani journalist who freelances for the Los Angeles Times, recently reported that at least some training camps that were closed on Musharraf’s orders have been reopened. The government denies that there are training camps. But Ali, who also writes for the Pakistani magazine the Herald, visited one camp and found armed militants with fresh recruits as young as 13 undergoing 18-day “ideological orientation” and weapons training. Several sources said 13 militant camps had been reactivated in the Mansehra region alone in the first week of May…

“Our transport fleet is back, electricity has been restored and the communications system is in place,” a militant guide reportedly boasted to Ali. The reported reopening of militant training camps in Pakistan coincides with the discovery of the high-tech bombs in Afghanistan. [Link]

The triggers consisted of long-range cordless phones attached with black electrical tape to electronic boxes… “These phones are Pakistani-made phones,” he said… “They have Pepsis in the mountains while I can’t find them here in the city,” Nooristani said. “That means they are well supported.” [Link]

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Why he ran

Why Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian killed by British special forces in the London Underground, ran from the cops: he had overstayed his visa. The British government issued this gingerly-worded statement:

He applied and received a student visa on October 31 of that year, allowing him to stay until June 30, 2003. After that, the Home Office has no record of any further application or correspondence from de Menezes. “We have seen a copy of Mr. de Menezes’ passport containing a stamp apparently giving him indefinite leave to remain in the UK,” the Home Office statement said. “On investigation, this stamp was not one that was in use by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate on the date given…” [Link]

I don’t condone illegal immigration, but the usual response is to deport, not to execute. (Yes, it was a mistake. No, the cops aren’t blameless.)

Previous posts: 1, 2

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The Burghers of Harlem


One of the two young girls picked up by the government (on suspicion of terrorism) re-appeared in her Harlem neighborhood in May. Sixteen year old Guinean immigrant Adama Bah was released by the Feds without explanation (and she’s under court order not to talk about it). Her friend Tashnuba Hayder was deported back to Bangladesh. Her classmates missed her and let her know recently via an impressive art exhibit they prepared to tell her story. The New York Times reported a few days ago (tip from Priya):

When Adama Bah’s schoolmates decided to make a public artwork project about her case last spring, she and another 16-year-old girl were being held by the federal government after it had identified them, without explanation, as potential suicide bombers.

“We didn’t know if we would ever see her again,” said Kimberly Lane, who was then an art teacher at the school, the Heritage School in East Harlem, where many viewed Adama’s detention as unjust and incomprehensible. “This was a way for the students to use art to speak out at a time when a lot of people, including adults, were afraid to do anything.”

The result towers over anything that most people would expect high school students to produce. At Columbia University’s Teachers College, where the work is on display through Thursday, the director of art education, Prof. Judith M. Burton, says it reminds her of Rodin’s “Burghers of Calais.”

Life after being thrown in jail without explanation isn’t easy on a poor immigrant family as you can imagine:

“I asked the students why are they doing that,” Adama recalled. “They said they just wanted to let my story be heard and help me out.”

These days, Adama acknowledges that her family is in difficult financial straits. The telephone has been shut off and her mother stays late at her trinket stand in Brooklyn, trying to earn enough to buy groceries for Adama and four younger children. But Adama was bubbling over about her summer job, reading to children at Bellevue Hospital Center.

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Worst timing ever

There’s a big charity drive running in New York. Its ads, splashed all over the sides of NYC buses, contain pictures of enormous backpacks. The drive’s military-sounding name? Operation Backpack NYC.

Operation Backpack benefits homeless children in the Greater New York area by outfitting them with backpacks full of new school supplies in September… A typical twelfth grader is 17-18 years old and needs a larger backpack. Look for backpacks with classic colors and sturdy builds. [Link]

They’re asking New Yorkers to equip 10,000 largely brown teens with overstuffed backpacks. But no food containers, please.

Worst… timing… ever!

In other news, V for Vendetta is releasing shortly. It’s a movie about blowing up downtown London.

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What’ll get you interrogated these days

Nervous Nellies got a LA-to-London flight grounded earlier this week over suspicious-looking furriners. People on the flight had to spend the night in Boston:

A flight from Los Angeles to London was diverted to Boston early Tuesday after three Pakistani passengers were reported acting suspiciously, but nothing amiss was found and the three were released after questioning… the three passengers had been “acting suspiciously and making the passengers nervous.” [Link]

All 226 passengers aboard the flight were taken off the plane while it was searched… [Link]

… the FBI also interviewed the three passengers. [Link]

What’ll get you interrogated by the FBI these days:

  • Walking around the airplane to shoot the shit with your buddies
  • Talking about the news
  • Snapping a tourist photo
  • Taking carry-ons

Federal officials said the men had spent the flight walking back and forth between their seats, one in first class, another in business class, and the third in coach. Some passengers also said they overheard the men discussing the recent London transit bombings. Some said they had another passenger take a photo of them posing together in front of the Los Angeles International Airport boarding gate. Other passengers said the men checked no luggage.  [Link]

Apparently they were ‘doing much more than just walking around.’ Lemme guess: they weren’t speaking in English. Or they had free packets of peanuts stuffed in their pockets — très desi

A spokesman for United Air Lines said the men ”were doing much more than just walking around” and alarmed the crew enough to notify the captain, but declined to provide details ”because that’s considered sensitive information…” [Link]

Snark aside, we don’t really have much info here because nobody’s releasing it. I suppose there’s a chance they were putting together bomb diagrams in Morse code while hoofing it up the aisle: one tap for red wire, two taps for green; one if by land, two if by sea. But in the absence of additional information, it does seem to be the increasingly popular triumph of suspicion over common sense.

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