Majority Rules

Since the Indian restaurant next door to my apartment went out of business, I’ve been coming home to find unclaimed stacks of Little India magazine strewn all over the sidewalk.  While stepping over a copy the other day, I noticed the cover story:  “Only U.S. Town with an Indian Majority.”  Naturally, I was curious.  Where is this town?  In the Bay Area?  Jersey?  Or is it in the great state that brought us weather-forecasting groundhogs and chipped ham?  (The answer is #3.)

Millbourne is a tiny Pennsylvania borough with an estimated population of 994.  At the time of the 2000 Census, Indian-Americans constituted 40% of its population; current “Little India projections” bring that number up to 63%, compared with a national average of less than 0.6%.   

The 2000 Census outlines the broad contours of Millbourne’s Indian community. The gender breakdown is about even: 53 percent to 47 percent women. Five percent are mixed race. The median age of the Indian community is 32. Only 13 percent of the Indians are native-born. Almost two-thirds migrated to the United States within the previous decade. Like the other residents of the city, Indians in Millbourne are principally blue collar. The median household income for the 102 Indian households in the borough was $36,000, higher than the borough average, but substantially below the national median Indian household income of $64,000. However, only 7 percent of the Millbourne Indians were below the poverty line, as opposed to 9 percent of Indians nationally. Just 10 percent of Indians in the borough owned their home, which is less than a quarter of the home ownership rate among Indian Americans nationwide.

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Exotica shop

Beads of Paradise is a small furnishings shop by Union Square in Manhattan. Earlier this year, it sold random old photos of a Rajasthani family for six hundred bucks as nothing more than visual texture for interior design. This struck me as comical. Now they’re selling Hindica for the same purpose:

The most egregious in this vein is actually ABC Home, a giant imports store down the street (Moroccan lanterns go for thousands) with expensive Krishna and Nataraja icons in its sidewalk displays.

Religion and art are closely linked, of course; churches in Italy feel to me like shared art galleries. But you generally won’t find secular furnishings stores in the U.S. selling pricy Christian icons because of the disrespect that implies. On the flip side, you can get Ganesh idols at many stores in Jackson Heights, but most of those selling anything larger than a keychain are religious artifacts shops. New Jersey has elevated the metallic dashboard Ganesh to an art form.

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I Asked for It: Blog Quake Day

In a few days, adorable little humans all over the U.S. are going to wander door-to-door begging, as my parents derisively referred to trick or treating for Halloween. Along with torturously sour candy and milk chocolate-coated sugar, some of those costumed tykes will be looking for money.

It’s true; after screeching their customary greeting requesting candy bribes while exhorting you to “smell (their) feet” and give them something good to eat, some of the more earnest Princesses and Vampires will carefully navigate the following schpiel– can you hear them now, angelic voices pronouncing

30¢ provides lifesaving antibiotics for a child suffering from pneumonia.
$1 immunizes a child against the deadly disease measles.
$2.50 buys basic school supplies for one child.
$10 provides enough high-protein biscuits to feed three hungry children for one month.
$150 pays for a small well to provide clean water for an entire village.

They learned all of those stats from UNICEF, who has sponsored the charitable Halloween program “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF” for 55 years.

When first graders are going to canvas their ‘hoods for charity, when victims of the South Asian Tsunami are giving after losing almost everything, when nearly every person who is reading this can afford to do even more than the two groups I just mentioned in this sentence, then yes, we have no excuse.

I wrote that accusatory sentence a few days ago, as I posted about those selfless Tsunami-survivors who are sending supplies to people who have been devastated by the earthquake. I asked, “What if we could do good?”, specifically in the context of blogging as a way to encourage fundraising, since we had all come together in a breath-taking, powerful way to stand up for truth, freedom and justice. Could we also unite to fight apathy? Disaster fatigue? Inertia?

I think we can.

Thankfully, people with more energy than me seized my flicker of an idea and ran with it. They heard the tentative call I put out after a fold. And they are doing good.

DesiPundit, predictably, is at the center of this movement. Sepoy at Chapathi Mystery was a pioneer when it came to quake relief. Even Instapundit, the big, bad, brand-name blog I quoted, along with TTLB, picked up on Blog Quake Day.

Now, it is our turn and after you read this, it is your turn. Today is Blog Quake Day. Do something. Give. Write. Post. Comment. Link. Give some more. Think. Do. Tag (“Blog Quake Day”). Continue reading

Scott McClellan feels the heat

As I correctly predicted yesterday, the White House Press Secretary was beseiged today by a question that may end up rocking the administration later this week:

Q Scott, two quick questions. Remembering Miss Rosa Parks. Then in 1955 it was like Mahatma Ghandi in South Africa, same thing happened to him. And during her time, there was very little or not many immigrants in the U.S., but today we have millions of immigrants from all over the globe. What message do you think President will have today as far as civil rights moments

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President just spoke about her passing a short time ago in his remarks to the spouses of our military officers from all the branches of our military. And the President talked about what a remarkable women she was, and how courageous she was. She is someone who changed America for the better. She is an inspiration to generations, and we mourn her passing.

Q Second question is on the — now again, most of Indian-American community thankful to the President for initiating — or did initiate the Diwali Festival of Lights at the White House. Now it will be next Wednesday, November 1st, when millions across India and America will — Indians will be celebrating the festival around the globe, including at the White House here. What they are saying in the Indian American community, really, just like President initiates prayers with other groups here in the White House, like Muslims and Jews, and all that, that they are requesting him, please, to the President, this time, that if he can take a few moments and be there at part of the White House Festival of Lights on Wednesday, November 1st.

MR. McCLELLAN: On Wednesday, November 1st? Well, we’ll update you on the President’s schedule later this week.

How much do you want to bet that Goyal was the one who asked that question?  I wonder if he reads us?  Keep it locked onto SM for minute by minute news and analysis of this growing scandal.  I am considering launching my own “Special Counsel website” focusing on just this issue.  The truth is that I don’t care one way or the other whether Bush celebrates Diwali.  I just like raging against the machine. I’m good at it.

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Fuss hushed

R.I.P. Rosa Parks (thanks, Razib).

Martin Luther King Jr…. was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, who led the peaceful struggle for India’s independence from Great Britain. King’s work was helped in the civil rights movement by such people as Rosa Parks who served as a catalyst for the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott. [Link]

40,000 people walked, some more than 20 miles, during the Montgomery bus boycottOn Montgomery buses, the first four rows were reserved for whites. The rear was for blacks, who made up more than 75 percent of the bus system’s riders. Blacks could sit in the middle rows until those seats were needed by whites. Then the blacks had to move to seats in the rear, stand or, if there was no room, leave the bus. Even getting on the bus presented hurdles: If whites were already sitting in the front, blacks could board to pay the fare but then they had to disembark and re-enter through the rear door…

“When he saw me still sitting, he asked if I was going to stand up and I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ And he said, ‘Well, if you don’t stand up, I’m going to have to call the police and have you arrested.’ I said, ‘You may do that.’ ” [Link]

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The master’s voice

You can now listen to Salman Rushdie’s mellifluous British tones in an interview on NPR (thanks, Abhi). The PR tufan bears all the hallmarks of a practiced public speaker: note the near-total absence of fillers like ‘um.’

Now that I think about it, although I’ve bumped into him at Midnight’s Children the play, I don’t think I’ve ever heard his voice before. As usual, it’s not quite how I imagined it.

Here’s a lame, anti-epic review of Shalimar the Clown, which I rather enjoyed, in the NYT. I place it far above Fury and just a hair below his best work, but it’s a clear return to form.

Cascading clauses are a Rushdie trademark; they can be taken as a manifestation of abundant imagination or as a symptom of poor writerly discipline.. It’s hard, though, to see them as anything but laziness when they’re misapplied…

As a rule, Rushdie’s characters lack a plausible inner life; instead they have bizarre quirks, unusual looks or magical powers, like the figures in a fable… For the creation of such a description-mad writer, Rushdie’s Pachigam remains stubbornly hazy: How big is it? How developed? How many rooms do the houses have and what are they made of? Do they have electricity? Are the roads paved? Your guess, even if you haven’t read the book, is as good as mine. [Link]

Yes, and please specify the width of the caulking in the bathrooms. Reviewer please. This kind of dis on Rushdie is not only widespread, it’s absurd. Don’t hate on the book just because you don’t dig the genre. Westerns don’t have a lot of interior dialogue either. Rushdie’s style is very male, and his stories, like Vikram Chandra’s Red Earth and Pouring Rain, are sweeping, masculine epics with strong, idealized women. Sometimes you’re in the mood for circumscribed domestic weepies, sometimes you’re not.

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The peacock

Congrats to our hottie stepsister Pardon My Hindi for finally launching a tee and tank store featuring Raag*’s luscious designs. Unlike our graphically-challenged asses, they actually feature original artwork:

He’s also posted a beautifully designed online magazine with photos of a Bombay circus, his exploits tagging the LES with babu stickers and an interview with Koushik Ghosh, who’s got a new downbeat album coming out on the same label as Peanut Butter Wolf:

Koushik specializes in making that hazy, hip-hop-based downbeat sh*t that you could easily compare to contemporaries such as Four Tet (who released Koushik’s first single on his Text label), RJD2, and DJ Shadow. What sets Koushik apart from the others is a beautiful ’60s psych-pop element that tends to pervade throughout. [Link]

Listen here.

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Mukhtar Mai Update Part II

UPDATE: Mukhtar Mai is here. [Thanks Vidster]

Earlier we reported that the US Government has stepped in to ensure Ms. Mai’s passage outside of the country. However, given our inability to make the Pakistani government do anything, I wasn’t holding my breath waiting for her to show up in the US.

The latest news is that she is planning on coming to America in November to receive an award from Glamour magazine. Mukhtar Mai has a US visa, but she’s still not sure if the Pakistani government will approve:

“I shall go if the government does not prevent me from travelling abroad,” she said. [BBC]

In the past, Pervez Musharraf didn’t want Mukhtar Mai to go abroad because he feared that her visit might tarnish Pakistan’s image. This was a delightfully ironic comment, given how much his own comments on women’s rights have contributed to Pakistan’s image as a banana-less banana republic. In response to this concern, Ms. Mai has said:

“I am a Pakistani and I have no intention of tarnishing the country’s image. But I will speak on the plight of women in rural areas,” she told Reuters news agency. [BBC]

Perhaps to sweeten the deal, she has also promised to:

“… use this occasion to highlight the plight of quake victims in Pakistan and also motivate the Americans and the Pakistanis staying there to contribute and raise funds for them,” Ms Mai said. [BBC]

Will she actually make it? Will Dr. Rice have to intervene again? Will Kristof have to write another NYT piece to embarass Pakistan? Will Pakistan listen? Will anybody care? Tune in here for the continuing adventures of “The Perils of Pauline the Pakistani Woman!”

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Man with rubber fetish keeps the hits coming: Would it surprise you to learn that the world’s leading condom designer is Indian?

Dr. Alla Venkata Krishna Reddy is the designer of at least three successful specialty condoms (the Pleasure Plus, the Inspiral and the Trojan Twisted Pleasure) and one female condom (the V-Amour). The tragedy of his head-onistic genius is that he’s completely wrapped up in I. Pee litigation (via Boing Boing). He’s getting shafted by his own patents — it’s autolitigious stimulation.

Reddy’s great contribution to the universe of condom design… [was that] Reddy viewed them as devices that could help enhance male pleasure…

… Reddy’s first condom company failed in the mid-’90s and he lost control of his patents in a bankruptcy auction… He returned to his native India and continued to tweak his innovative designs, and with the help of partners in the United States, soon reentered the American market, first with the Inspiral, and then with the [Trojan] Twisted Pleasure… So, tragically, Reddy is being sued for violating his own patents. [Link]

Randy Reddy [was] dubbed the ‘Leonardo’ of condomsReddy started with a condom with a pouch at the end, progressing to an unholy spiral and then two in the latest incarnation. It’s like Gillette razors, pretty soon there’ll be five spirals with built-in vibration They’ve sold well and won awards from such paragons of hard news as Cosmo, Men’s Health and Maxim:

“When I rolled it on, my penis looked like Marvin the Martian,” says a staffer. “But when I took a look in the middle of things, the extra fabric had twisted itself into a pinwheel shape. It actually lives up to its name…” [Link]

Dr Reddy [was] dubbed the “Leonardo” of condoms by Adam Glickman, president of Condomania… [Link]

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Scandal looms at the White House

President Bush, already beset on all sides of his administration by scandal, is courting yet another one even if he doesn’t know it yet.  The 1000 rupee question is, “will he or won’t he show up to the White House Diwali celebration?”  He has opted out of Diwali festivities on all previous occasions.   New reports:

The United States India League has urged U S President George W Bush to attend the annual Diwali celebration in the White House noting that his presence would ”send the right signals to his friends in India and the Indian American community”.

”Merely going through the motions of having a proforma Diwali celebration would not be enough. Diwali is Hinduism’s most importance observance. The White House celebration should reflect that,” the League director Don Feder said in a release yesterday.

The White House is all set to celebrate Diwali, one of the holiest of Hindu festivals on November 1.

Although Diwali has been celebrated in the White House twice before during President Bush’s first and second term, it has always been an unofficial one, with a lot of prodding from the influential Indian Americans with friendly ties to the US Congress and the White House.

President Bush himself has not attended the occasion as he has been out of town on both the previous occasions.

Well what about the good Prime Minister from across the pond?  Will there be a party at the British Parliament?

Over 100 British lawmakers, senior ministers and diplomats are expected to attend the Diwali celebrations at the House of Commons, Lower House of Parliament, on Thursday… Guests at the reception will include over 100 Parliamentarians, ministers and cabinet secretaries, diplomats, business and community leaders and civil servants, the organisers said on Saturday night.

In a message to the Forum, Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “This festival has an important role. It gives every one of us a chance to reflect on the important contribution that your communities are making to Britain’s success. This is something for us all to celebrate…” [Link]
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