Baller

Sunkrish Bala will appear on Will & Grace tonight and Grey’s Anatomy on Sunday (thanks, Kiran):

Sunkrish Bala will be appearing on TV during Thanksgiving weekend. Look for him on “WILL and GRACE”– Thursday, Nov. 24th, 8:30PM on NBC and on “GREY`S ANATOMY”– Sunday, Nov. 27th, 10PM on ABC. These are guest starring roles and will likely feature him prominently. [Link]

Height: 6’1″ [Link]

He’s previously been on CSI:NY and My Name is Earl. He had a part in Desipina’s production of Barriers and played Rama in an adaptation of the Ramayana:

… I watched Cornerstone’s production of The Ramayana float effortlessly across the David Henry Hwang’s stage… a shortened and speeded-up version tailored to hold the attention of American audiences…

There is a silly but funny scene in which Rama tells Lakshman of their need to forge an alliance with the monkey kingdom. “Uh, I don’t think they like to be called that,” Rama’s brother delicately points out. There follows an argument about the socially sensitive term to use (Vanaras), although, Rama complains, he can’t keep up with all these self-descriptions — “Why can’t they pick one name and stick with it?” And later, when he hears the Vanaras actually calling themselves “monkeys,” Lakshman points out that “It’s all right for them to call each other that…” [Link]

Romantic lead, maybe? Going from cabbie to Latin lover, exoticized though it might be, would be one step up in the reductionist sitcom pecking order.

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Whistleblower murdered

A 27-year-old IIM grad was shot to death outside Lucknow last weekend for trying to cleaning up corruption in the gas station industry. Manjunath Shanmugam’s heinous murder shows no good deed goes unpunished:

The IIM Lucknow graduate from Karnataka paid with his life on Saturday afternoon for his crusade against corrupt petrol pump owners… Manjunathan… had become a “nightmare” for Sitapur’s petrol outlets, always dropping in for surprise checks as part of his company’s campaign against adulteration, sources said.

A month ago, he had sealed the Manu Mittal petrol station in Gola on Sitapur Road and blacklisted several others… The police believe that several petrol outlet owners had plotted together to kill Manjunathan… Adulteration of oil — especially diesel – at petrol pumps is a longstanding problem across the country. Diesel is mixed with kerosene, which is subsidised for the poor. [Link]

Nathan’s body was recovered from a vehicle in Sitapur district this morning. The vehicle, a Maruti car, reportedly belongs to… the son of Sulakshan Mittal whose petrol pump in Gola area of Lakhimpur district had been sealed by Nathan. [Link]

Having not heard from his son for three days… the father… sent an SMS: ”How are you?” … that evening, Manjunath was beaten up and then riddled with at least six bullets. His body was found in the backseat of his own car. At the wheel, were two employees of the petrol pump, on their way to dispose of the body…

“He was killed for doing his duty,” said a tearful Shanmughan after the cremation. ”He told me many times that he was working in an area with many mafia gangs and that anything could happen to him… He said it is a lawless world and for survival, one has to keep mum even if there are irregularities,” said Shanmughan. [Link]

Indians are bitter:

I am never going to ask another IIM/IIT guy to stay back in India. I always resented the fact that some of our best brains always grew wings and flew out of our country. Not any more….

Youths who dare to live for country are killed, and who live for themselves, India call them home and honors them…

It would be interesting to track what happens to the culprits… most pumps in UP are political gifts given by politicians to their goons… [Link]

Gaurav Sabnis remembers Shanmugam:

People always crib about how IIM grads never do anything for the country or don’t join PSUs. Here was one IIM grad who joined a PSU. Did his work honestly and in the right way… And he was murdered in cold blood…
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Asian invasion, white flight (updated)

The WSJ says whites are fleeing Cupertino, a Bay Area city with good public schools and thus an influx of middle class East Asian Americans (MCEAAs).

Monta Vista High School

They’re leaving because of academic competitiveness and cultural discomfort (thanks, Saheli). And it’s very similar to what happened with Jews early last century.

My parents tell me the same is happening in our neighboring town of Saratoga, which was first a white retirement community and then a magnet for Silicon Valley CEOs. Five years ago, all our immediate neighbors were white; today, two families are East Asian and one is desi. When I went to high school, there were only four or five desis in the entire school. Many kids assumed that if you wanted to date, you’d only date one of the three desi girls. I studied captive markets in econ class and lived them outside. Today, I hear the dating ‘study group’ pool has gone from baby-sized to Olympic.

… the town of about 50,000 people now boasts Indian restaurants, tutoring centers and Asian grocers. Parents say Cupertino’s top schools have become more academically intense over the past 10 years. Asian immigrants have surged into the town, granting it a reputation — particularly among recent Chinese and South Asian immigrants — as a Bay Area locale of choice. Cupertino is now 41% Asian, up from 24% in 1998…

It’s not competition that makes white parents uncomfortable, it’s competition with Asian-AmericansSome white Cupertino parents are instead sending their children to private schools or moving them to other, whiter public schools. More commonly, young white families in Silicon Valley say they are avoiding Cupertino altogether… Many white parents say they’re leaving because the schools are too academically driven and too narrowly invested in subjects such as math and science at the expense of liberal arts and extracurriculars like sports and other personal interests. The two schools, put another way that parents rarely articulate so bluntly, are too Asian…

Cathy Gatley, co-president of Monta Vista High School’s parent-teacher association, recently dissuaded a family with a young child from moving to Cupertino because there are so few young white kids left in the public schools. “This may not sound good,” she confides, “but their child may be the only Caucasian kid in the class…”

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Update on Tariq Khan of GMU

I wanted to quickly update readers on the case of Pakistani American Tariq Khan. If you will recall, Saheli blogged about Tariq, who is a George Mason University student, last month. To recap:

Tariq Khan, now a junior majoring in sociology, said he was standing in front of the recruitment table outside the school student center–as he has often done before – during noontime with a paper sign reading, “Recruiters lie, don’t be deceived,” taped to his shirt. A student approached Khan and initiated a verbal argument, screaming in his face; he then took the flyer and ripped it up in front of him, Khan says.

The student then left and returned with another student claiming to be a Marine having recently served in Iraq, and the three continued a verbal argument that began to escalate, Khan claimed. “I asked the marine, ‘So how many people did you kill?’” Khan said. “And he answered, ‘Not enough.’” The marine student soon ripped Khan’s sign off his shirt and threw it in the trash.

… [A] staff member called campus security, at which point a police officer, Lt. Reynolds, approached Khan and demanded to see his student ID. Khan said he told the officer he was not carrying his ID and tried to walk away when the policeman tried to arrest him and then became violent. “He threw me into the stage,” Khan claimed, referring to a dance area in the student center left from an event earlier in the day, “and I just sort of raised my hands to show I’m not violent and tried to get as much attention by saying, ‘I’m being non-violent and I’m being brutalized.’” [Link]

Just this week, that shining beacon of hope, the ACLU, announced that all charges against Khan have been dropped:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia announced today that government lawyers in Fairfax County have agreed to drop their case against Tariq Khan, a George Mason University student who was arrested while protesting the presence of military recruiters on campus…

After conducting its own investigation into the incident, university officials asked Fairfax County prosecutors not to proceed with the case. The university has also announced that it will be reevaluating its campus speech and protest policies to ensure that they comply with the First Amendment.

The ACLU said it will be reviewing the campus speech policies. “This arrest should never have occurred,” said Willis. “The next step for us is to make certain that GMU does not do this again…” [Link]

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It’s all Greek to me

Yesterday the Los Angeles Times reported on Greek Muslim life. Or rather, I mean Muslim Greek Life. Gamma Gamma Chi is the newest sorority house on the block. Hijabs are welcome:

The motto of Gamma Gamma Chi: “Striving for the pleasure of Allah through Sisterhood, Scholarship, Leadership and Community Service.”

The sorority, whose national chapter is in Greensboro, N.C., hopes to establish its first campus chapter at the University of Kentucky.

Taking a seat at the introductory meeting, Boushra Aghil, a 20-year-old junior in an olive green shirt and black hijab, studied the sorority’s gold brochure. She was curious about how Gamma Gamma Chi would reconcile Islamic morals with sorority life — and the party atmosphere associated with it.

“My parents would never, ever let me join a regular sorority,” Shalash said. “I don’t know any Muslim sorority girls.”

Yet many young Muslim women are intrigued by the concept. Since Gamma Gamma Chi was founded seven months ago, Muslim students from 14 states — and from Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates — have e-mailed the sorority’s national headquarters in Alexandria, Va. The biggest response came from the University of Kentucky in Lexington, a city with a Muslim population of about 2,500.

The very idea seems like a contradiction at its face. As someone who avoided Greek Life as much as possible, I’ll admit that I am no authority on the matter. Still, it would seem to me that every possible benefit that a sorority could offer is erased by establishing such a homogeneous environment. I realize that we already have predominately Jewish houses, as well as African American, Asian, and even Indian houses. This Muslim sorority is not a whole lot different. I understand the reason that African American houses were originally established but I think that the rest of the groups are even further diluting an already broken system. I have often wondered if social fraternities and sororities are even relevant anymore? Colleges offer so many groups and programs to make the large fishbowl seem smaller, that I personally feel that the Greek system has outlived its usefulness (no personal offense to any Greeks out there who I know are quite loyal to their houses).

The American white-bread sorority girls wouldn’t always understand our issues,” Aghil said. “We already wear a scarf, we recognize we are the odd people out, but we need a support system, a group that can support us in the Islamic way.”

Gamma Gamma Chi is not the first sorority to offer an alternative to traditional, predominantly white American sororities.

Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first of four major black sororities, was founded in 1908 at Howard University in Washington. In 1991, Latina-oriented Gamma Phi Omega was established; in 1997, the multicultural Theta Nu Xi; in 1998, the South Asian Kappa Phi Gamma.

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Broken Mirror

Scanning through Google News before class, I noticed a piece about the “Indianisation” of the Catholic Church in India. I didn’t have time to read the whole thing before lecture started, but I kept it in a Mozilla tab because the issue of how the Roman Catholic Church, known for its inflexibility in many respects, has been adapted to other parts of the world (as with the frequency of marriage among African priests) interests me. However, when I refreshed the page later, the article, “Going the Desi Way”, had disappeared — it still shows on Google, but nowhere else. What’s more, the URL now carried a message that was on every page of the site:

Subsequent to the notices issued by the Mumbai Police to the Publisher and Editor of Mumbai Mirror and in view of the sentiments expressed by some activist NGOs pertaining to the contents in the November 12- 18 issue of Mumbai Mirror Buzz magazine, we have requested the venders and distributors of the magazine as well as our own sales colleagues to stop sales of this issue, and to return the undistributed material back to us.

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Hari Puttar: Attack of the Clones

Young’uns Shefali Chowdhury and Afshan Azad play Parvati and Padma Patil in the latest Harry Potter movie, the one with a goblet of masala pani. They’re Harry and Ron Weasley’s backup dates for Hogwarts’ Yule Ball:

Born in London in 1989 and brought up in a conservative Muslim family, Shefali is of Bangladeshi origin. Her parents had migrated to England from Sylhet, Bangladesh… She plays the role of Parvati Patil in the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire film. Prior to that her only recorded film appearance was an uncredited role in Kannathil Muthamittal in 2002.

She plays Harry Potter’s Yule Ball date in Goblet of Fire. Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry Potter in the film… told This Is London: “I had a dance scene with Shefali. She was completely gorgeous.” [Link]

I counted ~8 British Asian kids in the movie, one with a long closeup. Somewhere between installments two and three, casting got the diversity clue.

This movie was lovely and lots of fun, it held my attention. Numbers three and four have both been much better than the slow, dumbed-down numbers one and two. Favorite scene: underwater with the merpeople. What is it about smart girls named Emma? The movie obliquely referred to 9/11, King Kong and being misquoted by the press. The over-the-top reporter reminded me of the purring, Eartha Kitt-like gossip maven, Kitty DaSouza, from Bombay Dreams.

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They’re Lucky Champawat isn’t Alive

tiger.jpg Yesterday when I was watching Oprah spoil people who selflessly gave up time, money and jobs to head South and volunteer with the victims of Katrina, the moment I broke down was right after a woman in the audience was lauded for her work in rescuing emaciated, terrified dogs who had been locked in closets. I mourn for all of Katrina’s casualties, but something about an animal being unable to scrawl, “HELP” on a roof makes me extra farklempt.

When I was in college, before I had my first german shepherds, tigers were what I adored. I took an International Law class at Davis just because we were going to focus on the CITES and Biodiversity treaties. I did all of my assignments on India’s tigers, and winced as I learned more about their situation. That was over a decade ago, but this story from ye olde BBC still makes me happy:

Four alleged poachers in the western Indian state of Rajasthan have confessed to killing tigers in the Ranthambore National Park, police say.
The hunters, who were arrested last week, have admitted to killing nine tigers and one leopard, police said.

Mock it if you care to, but it’s a start. The government of Rajasthan has also transferred two senior park officials for their inability to protect the only cats I’ve ever loved. We haven’t much time:

Tiger numbers at Ranthambore dropped to 26 from 47 last year, a census showed. Urgent action is needed to stop Indian tigers becoming extinct, activists say.

At least Ranthambore still HAS tigers. According to environmentalists, Rajasthan’s Sariska sanctuary has all of zero, down from over a dozen in the May before last’s census. Restocking the park is under consideration.

What’s depressing is that a few turtles (another animal I find sweet) might have been sacrificed for the aforeblogged arrests:

Police in the town of Kota near Ranthambore, about 200km (125 miles) south of the city of Jaipur, told the BBC the arrests resulted from information obtained during another investigation.

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