Media Roundup: The Trip Part II

With the visit only a couple of days away there are of course ever increasing stories on the Presidential visit to India and Pakistan. Again this roundup is in no way comprehensive, and some mutineers may or may not cover one or more of these articles in greater detail.

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Curry in a bag

Every desi Superbowl party you go to next year will feature these I’m sure. After all, they are both “spicy” and “curried.” What more could we ask for?

Oh yeah. Break me off some o’ that.

In an attempt to win the snack food dollars of Canada’s largest ethnic groups and address a desire for stronger flavours, Frito Lay Canada Inc. is launching a new line of Asian-inspired potato chips and snacks.

Bags of wasabi- and spicy-curry-flavoured potato chips will be hitting grocery store shelves in Toronto and Vancouver this month, supported by a targeted marketing campaign in Chinese-language newspapers and television stations…

“[In Asia] they have a plethora of different snacking options – nuts, meats, those kind of things are much bigger from an Asian perspective. So the challenge for us was to find the perfect intersection between the flavours and tastes they like and something Western, which is the potato chip…”

In the Greater Toronto Area alone, South Asians annually spend $12.6-billion on retail goods and services and Chinese consumers spend $12.2-billion, according to Prasad Rao, a partner at Rao Barrett and Welsh, a Toronto advertising firm that specializes in multicultural marketing.

“I think the communities will want a lot more,” said Mr. Rao, who added that the tastes of Asians and South Asians have been largely underserved by mainstream food companies. [Link]

Our liberal Canadian neighbors always get to have more fun than us. Will American markets also demand a curry Lays? With so many flavors to choose from why would one remain monogamous?

In April, Frito Lay will launch it’s own version of shrimp chips. The Styrofoam-like morsels, which are often served in Thai restaurants…

Mmmmmm. Styrofoam….

However, I wonder, how will these compare to the snacks from the local Patel Brothers store in Rockville, MD? That’s what my parents shove in front of me whenever I go home.

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Playing Monopoly

As Abhi posted earlier, there’s a big outcry in the U.S. over the sale of a British port operator to one based in Dubai. What few people have pointed out is that in the international edition of Monopoly, when you buy P&O, you get India for free:

Yet nowhere else has the deal for P.& O., as the company is known, drawn much anxiety… in other countries it will vastly increase the company’s reach. In India, for instance, Dubai will take control of about half the country’s container shipping operations, but there has been little public outcry there. [Link]

Through this deal the Gulf-based company will have in its kitty India’s three major container terminals… Mumbai… Chennai… and… Gujarat; apart from a share in… Vishakapatnam.

Also, with the development… by Dubai Ports in Kochi, a majority of the Indian container shipping is expected to be in the hands of the Gulf-State backed company… “Dubai Ports is going to rule the India container industry…” [Link]

The deal’s purported security risk would affect desi Canadians as well as Americans via Vancouver:

But what’s at stake, specifically, is the Centerm hub in Burrard Inlet, which handles about a quarter of the shipping containers passing through Canada’s third-largest city. Centerm is where P&O — and soon, Dubai Ports World — makes money by loading and unloading shipping containers…

Vancouver’s ability to safeguard against terrorism is crucial for the continent… In 1999, Algerian al-Qaeda member Ahmed Ressam cooked up a massive bomb in Vancouver… he had been hoping to… [set off] the bomb in… Los Angeles Airport. In 1985, Sikh terrorists placed deadly bombs aboard two Air-India jets at Vancouver’s airport. [Link]

Flat-earther Tom Friedman piles in for the free-marketers:“This is about keeping ‘a bunch of Arabs’ out of our country”

“I think it’s a shameful and has slightly racist overtones to it… This is about keeping ‘a bunch of Arabs’ out of our country, that’s what this is really about. And it’s a bad thing, not only because it doesn’t reflect our real values.”

Friedman points out that American companies like IBM, FedEx or UPS run around doing business in the Arab world. “What if they then turn around and say, ‘You’re not going to take ours, well, we’re not going to take yours…’ ”

“Both sides are guilty of it. When people ransack a Danish embassy in Damascus and the government allows it.. We have nativists in our country. They have nativists in their country that are going to always want to push these issues. Government’s job is to restrain that.” [Link]

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The LA Weekly journalist who attempted a Rang De Basanti review has apparently never used a film database in his life:

Veteran character actor Atoll Kukri (Chanting Bar) is equally impressive… The students, whose ranks include superstar Aimer Khan (Lagan)… [Link]

As fun as a ‘chanting bar’ sounds, he means Atul Kulkarni (Chandni Bar) and Aamir Khan (Lagaan). But the mistakes aren’t a language thing, they’re a sloppiness thing. He even gets the British lead’s name wrong:

… a group of slackers at Delhi University is hired by a British indie moviemaker (Alice Payton) to portray the heroes of the terrorist phase of the Indian independence movement… [author:] David Chute… [Link]

This quality review was brought to you by the Yeh Le Wickly’s Daoud Choot.

First of all, the key characteristic of terrorism is targeting civilians rather than military or political figures – unlike the miscreants in Iraq, Kashmir and Sri Lanka, the events of Indian independence covered in this film hardly qualify. And second, that’s Alice Patten, 25-year-old daughter of Chris Patten, the last British governor-general of Hong Kong:

… her father Chris Patten… had absolutely encouraged her to do the film. He told her it would be a life-affirming [experience]… [Link]

Alice first drew world wide attention when she stood sobbing during the ceremonial British handover of Hong Kong… [Link]

… Prince Charles… was “really sweet” when he fixed her a stiff gin as Britannia sailed out of Hong Kong on June 30, 1997… I cannot resist reminding her of the lugubrious final moments of the handover of Hong Kong. The bagpipe droned, the rain poured down, the Patten girls sobbed. “Sssh!” says Alice. While Prince Charles and her father (with the help of a Vick’s inhaler) maintained dignified control and her mother achieved a certain composure, the girls did not. So the cameras focused on them, because their distress seemed best to capture the poignancy of the moment when the Royal yacht – and with it the British Empire – sailed out of Hong Kong harbour and into history. [Link]

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Mass literacy can be fun

Dr. Brij Kothari had an idea. Instead of being satisfied with the thought that Bollywood films served their purpose as a cheap and effective way to entertain the masses, why not put them to work so that they could actually be useful. The result of his idea is Planet Read (thanks for the tip Kiran). Kothari describes his venture on Google’s Blog:

NOW I get it.

My organization, PlanetRead, works in Mumbai and Pondicherry, India. We have developed a “Same-Language Subtitling” (SLS) methodology, which provides automatic reading practice to individuals who are excluded from the traditional educational system, or whose literacy needs are otherwise not being met. This is an educational program rooted in mass media that demonstrates how a specific literacy intervention can yield outstanding, measurable results, while complementing other formal and non-formal learning initiatives of the government, private sector, and civil society. We are fortunate to have just been selected as a Google Foundation grantee.

More than 500 million people in India have access to TV and 40 percent of these viewers have low literacy skills and are poor. Through PlanetRead’s approach, over 200 million early-literates in India are getting weekly reading practice from Same Language Subtitling (SLS) using TV. The cost of SLS? Every U.S. dollar covers regular reading for 10,000 people – for a year.

I hit upon this idea in 1996 through a most ordinary personal experience. While taking a break from dissertation writing at Cornell University, I was watching a Spanish film with friends to improve my Spanish. The Spanish movie had English subtitles, and I remember commenting that I wished it came with Spanish subtitles, if only to help us grasp the Spanish dialogue better. I then thought, ‘And if they just put Hindi subtitles on Bollywood songs in Hindi, India would become literate.’

Awesome. I hate Bollywood flicks but I still found myself going through some of the example clips on Planet Read’s website. Shah Rukh’s lip syncing has never sounded so good. I taught myself to read Hindi a few years back but have mostly forgotten. Watching the clips I could actually remember some of the script. The site also contains folks songs in languages such as Telugu.

Here are some other great examples you can learn along to.

If you want to make a donation to Planet Read you can do so here.

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Everyone’s a little bit outsourcist

New documents show Al Qaeda pays Afghanistan recruits in Pakistani rupees, and they break down the salaries (via Daily Show):

Military officials… read a document known as the “al Qaeda employment contract…” It was seized after 9/11 in the home of an al Qaeda operative in Kandahar, Afghanistan…

Monthly salaries are spelled out, 6,500 Pakistani rupees… if you’re married, 1,000 rupees… for bachelors. An extra 700 rupees per wife if you have more than one…

Married members get seven days of vacation every three weeks. Bachelors get five vacation days every month… they also get 15 days sick leave a year. [Link]

A draft of al-Qaeda “bylaws” stipulates extra pay of 700 rupees a month for each additional wife as well as 20,000 rupees for married members to buy furniture and free health care. [Link]

The Pakistani rupee currently trades at 60 to the dollar, so it’s apparently cheaper to hire a terrorist than a second-tier software developer. Given the relative skill sets, I guess that shouldn’t surprise me. And bachelors get screwed on pay — I wonder why they’re incentivizing men to get married even though they’re likely to die.

Jon Stewart jokes that the vacations are fantastic, but the pension’s non-existent. Personally I’ll never say any software ‘bombed’ again.

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55Friday: The “Mayor of Simpleton” Edition

Today I’m feeling like a political desi, indeed. Though I wake up to NPR every morning, for some reason, the trademark background noises which accompany stories sounded more authentic and charming than usual this morning. Listening to Tom DeLay hammer on about port security ignited my thoughts like few issues have recently. C-Span was even more scintillating as I slowly and repeatedly slammed my head in to my steering wheel thanks to the accident on the onramp to 495 which destroyed 66 this morning. Thank goodness for good radio during hellacious traffic. So now you know where I’m at, in terms of mindset this chilly Friday.

When it comes to today’s theme for flash fiction, IÂ’m tempted to have you guys write a “teaser” for a ToI story, since you mutineers are sooo fond of that paper of record and I already know your 55s would be suitably hilarious. ;)

Then again, I also have the urge to play “Being George Bush”; you could string together 55 words from the President’s inner monologue as he goes about his journey to Indiaaaa . Oh, if only there were a way to know what he’s thinking as he curries favor while eating curry in the exotic land of spices and silks…I can just smell the originality now. ;)

I really don’t mind what you nanofiction as long as you just do, and I think I speak for all of my 55-lovin’ comrades when I type that. As always, leave your gem of a story (or a link to it) in the comments below. And yes, later on I will continue this post with a round-up of last week’s finest. For now though, your beloved blank canvas has been handed to you. Resistance is futile– get to typin’. Continue reading


One of the scenarios that pessimists foresee for the new century involves a rapid spread of disease due to population growth, habitat erosion, migration, travel and trade. Already this year, the avian flu H5N1 has reached Europe and Africa; its jump-in-progress to human beings has got the Cassandras clucking. Between this, killer mudslides and embryonic civil wars, 2006 is already proving a fine year for catastrophists — and it’s not even two months old.

In the desi-heavy islands of the Indian Ocean, another odd little disease is on the move. Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne infection that produces high fever, rashes, and intense joint pain. It has no known cure, only symptomatic treatment. It was not thought to kill, but since an epidemic broke out a year ago in the French territory of Reunion, it has caused at least 77 deaths.

In Reunion, “chik” has hit 115,000 people out of a total population of 750,000, and the French media are calling the government to task for its passive response to a crisis in an overseas territory/colony. For those who read French, today’s portfolio of stories in Liberation is edifying.

“I’ve never seen people in such pain,” says Dr. Jean-Luc Yvin, chief of internal medicine … [T]he symptoms of “chik,” as it’s now called, have evolved. “In the first phase last March, we were dealing with simple, typical symptoms: fever, joint pain and rashes. Then the epidemic slowed in May, and we were still getting sporadic, typical cases,” Yvin says. Since the end of 2005, when the epidemic flared up, the symptoms have grown richer. The specialist lists them: skin disorders, mouth sores, digestive ulcers… Joint symptoms seem more severe, with full-fledged arthritis in the hands and feet. And complications never previously described in the literature have appeared: encephalitis, myocardia, hepatitis… [my translation]

In nearby Mauritius, chikungunya has made fewer inroads but anxiety is high. There are 1,700 suspected cases so far this year. According to the Mauritius press, political leaders are responding in classic fashion to the threat to public health and to the nation’s large tourism industry:

Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam denounced foreign press ‘propaganda’ about the virus during a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the [Labour Party]. For his part, Pravind Jugnauth, leader of the [opposition] MSM, was critical of the government, particularly the initiatives of the health ministry in this period of Shiva Maharatree. [my translation]

The Seychelles, Comoros, and Madagascar have all been touched by chik and South Africa, an air gateway to the region, is keeping a close watch. There are also direct flights between Mauritius and Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai.

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Media Roundup: The Trip Part 1

As many of you know, President Bush will be visiting India and Pakistan next week. Because of the plethora of stories that will be written in the next couple of weeks, and that have already been written, one of the better ways to alert you to these will be doing a periodic roundup of some of them. In this round:

  • Newly anointed Yale Trustee Fareed Zakaria says in his latest Newsweek column (2/27/06) that President Bush’s upcoming trip to India is equivalent to President Nixon’s visit to China. I don’t know about that, MSingh isn’t exactly Chairman Mao.
  • The AP summarizes a roundtable President Bush gave to Indian journos in DC. Among other things, we find out that Bush is a fan of cricket (I wonder if his Texas people know that) and will not be visiting the Taj. (AP 2/23/06)
  • Matthew Cooper writes in Time (2/23) that India, amidst all the troubles the administration is currently facing, is a bright spot and that “it’s probably safe to say that a President who hasn’t always loved to travel abroad is very much looking forward to his latest getaway.” He must have never heard of Delhi Belly. “When the President jets off to India (as well as Pakistan) next week, it will be his first visit to the region and the first by a Republican president in 35 years, since Richard Nixon traveled there.”
  • The Economist, one of my favorite newsmagazines, has a great article with a great lede that summarizes the past India-US relationship the best. “On the 13-hour flight next week from Washington to Delhi, George Bush could do a lot worse than to put aside his briefing books and curl up instead with E.M. Forster’s best-known novel. “A Passage to India” is a tale, above all, of misunderstanding: of wrong signals, exaggerated expectations, offence unwittingly caused and taken, and inevitable disappointment. It is a parable of the complications that arise when eager Anglo-Saxons go travelling on the Indian subcontinent.”
  • The WSJ 2/21/06 (subscription only) writes about the potential tension that could occur between MSingh and President Bush because Singh’s daughter Amrit is an ACLU attorney. Thanks WSJ for finally writing about this, although we’ve previously covered it. From the WSJ:
“Ms. Singh’s dogged pursuit of U.S. government information has subjected the Bush administration to withering criticism of its treatment of suspected terrorists. But among the ironies of the post-Sept. 11 world is the fact that this particular critic of the Bush administration is also the relative of one of its newest friends. Amrit, 36 years old, is the youngest daughter of Manmohan Singh, prime minister of India. Mr. Singh, 73 years old, will host President Bush at a summit in New Delhi early next month. While the soft-spoken Indian prime minister and his daughter share views on many issues, according to acquaintances, their public personas stand on opposite sides of the debate over the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

Related Posts Brimful of Amrit; Indian PM’s daughter says Bush personally authorized torture; Indian PM’s daughter works for the ACLU; President Singh

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