Who nose the secrets of the stars?

Since we have been talking about California doctors I thought I would share a news item that just came to my attention. Do you knows which desi male is in such high demand in Hollywood for his magic hands? He’s not a yoga instructor or a masseur, instead he’s Dr. Raj Kanodia, surgeon to the stars!

What do Jennifer Aniston, Ashlee Simpson and Cameron Diaz have in common? When Aniston recently underwent rhinoplasty, she turned to Dr. Raj Kanodia, the plastic surgeon behind Simpson’s and Diaz’s new noses. [Link]

Would you trust a bald barber?

Not only is this a major nose job, but (surprisingly) it’s confirmed by Aniston’s own people:

Aniston’s rep confirms the operation. “Jennifer had a procedure done to correct a deviated septum that was incorrectly done over 12 years ago,” [Link]

While the official story is that she hated her original nose job and came to Kanodia for correction, nosy parkers insist that that a broken nose is just balm for a broken heart.

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that all these famous actresses are coming to a desi doctor to get demure little noses? I imagine him doing these operations with an cartoon angel on one shoulder and a cartoon devil on the other. The angel tells him to just do what the client wants, and the devil tells him to go ahead and do what he really wants – to give these women beautiful, majestic desi schnozzes instead. The poor doctor’s hands twitch, caught by conflicting impulses, until he leaves the room crying and his associates finish the surgery instead.

More on Kanodia: Champa And Tulsi Go to Hollywood

Our earlier post on him: Of Course…A Desi Doc on Dr. 90210

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Greetings and salutations

In India an interesting debate has broken out over what exactly is secular and what is religious. In particular, can the government promote yoga?

At issue is a measure by the Hindu nationalist-led government of the state of Madhya Pradesh, in central India, that required public school students to practice the sun salutation and recite certain chants in Sanskrit during a statewide function on Thursday. The state government, controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, or B.J.P., said that it complied with a central government policy to encourage yoga in schools [Link]

The Chief Minister (pictured right) defended this as part of a broader a health initiative:

‘The government was committed to creating awareness about yoga, which helps to keep the body and mind in good health,’ …The yoga policy envisages constitution of a council for practising yoga in the state, provision of facilities required for setting up yoga centres, selection and appointment of yoga teachers. [Link]

However, minority groups did not see this as innocuous:

The “Suryanamaskar” programme came under attack from minority communities and opposition parties who had dubbed it as “an effort to saffronise education.” The ruling BJP was trying to “incite religious passion under the garb of yoga” among school children, a spokesman of the Catholic Church of Madhya Pradesh said. [Link]

In particular, they took issue with the use of Hindu mantras:

Muslim and Christian groups in the state took issue not so much with the yoga exercise, but with the chants, which they said were essentially Hindu and in worship of the sun. They argued in court on Wednesday that it violated the Indian constitutional provision to separate religion and state. [Link]

What time is it? It’s yoga time!

On Wednesday, the court agreed with the plaintiffs, ruling that “neither the chants nor the sun salutation could be forced on students. [Link]” The MP government has responded by saying that the whole event was voluntary in the first place, but even this remains problematic as it would create a major public event from which non-Hindus would be discouraged from attending.

We’ve blogged before about how Christians in the US are concerned about Yoga, but this story reminds me more about the “War over Christmas” than anything else. It feels like the kinds of debates we have in the US about the suitability of Christmas carols for public events, or for Christmas trees for public spaces. Even in India, certain aspects of Yoga occupy a space between public and parochial.

While I do believe that Yoga can promote health, I think that the impact of doing a quick Surya Namaskar is pretty miniscule. This means that the state is either being transparently cynical, or various ministers believe in the almost mystical powers of yoga to produce health over and above the component physical movements. If it’s the latter, perhaps the opponents of this program ought to respond with some laughing yoga instead .

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Getting to Londonstan(i)

I think my infatuation with British Asian culture began three or four years ago, when Bobby Friction and Nihal started their radio show on BBC Radio One. In fact, it was some of the music they spun that provided me small glimpse into British Asian life. One group in particular The Sona Family and their desi remix of “Oi, Who’s That Asian Girl” got me hooked on this British Asian sound, and its accompanying slang instantaneously. I wanted to say “Bruv” in that accent, end sentences with “innit,” and have all “ma bredren know what I was chattin about.” Sure, it took awhile to understand some of the many references to British Asian life highlighted on the radio show and on the Sona Family track, but I eventually started to understand the lingo, and to the annoyance of many of my friends actually started to use (perhaps inappropriately) some of the slang.

I thought after my religious following of the British Asian scene I was sufficiently well versed in the dialogue of the British Asian. So despite all the many British reviews mentioning the strange language, (linguistically inventive is how the Times Literary section described it) I wasn’t intimidated when I picked up Gautam Malkani’s recent work of fiction, Londonstani. As soon as Manish mentioned this book I knew I needed to read it, and so when I came upon it during a recent trip to India, I snatched it up.

I turned to page one and simply put, the writing gave me a headache. How could one possibly write entirely in slang, in a “desi patois”, and get it published (and undergo a bidding war no less)? I thought it couldn’t last. Using “an” instead of “and” in every chapter? My head was pounding. I thought I liked the slang, but I found myself having to re-read paragraphs. I don’t like to re-read paragraphs, it ruins the flow. Was there an index? How were people supposed to read this? I know the American version has an index to help readers comprehend “the linguistic inventiveness,” but I got my copy, a British one, at Crosswords in India. And I can’t imagine how an Indian, or any person entirely unfamiliar with British Asian slang could understand half of the things Malkani “was chattin about” in the book, especially without an index.

“Hear wat my bredren b sayin, sala kutta? Come out wid dat shit again n I’ma knock u so hard u’ll b shittin out yo mouth 4 real, innit, goes Hardjit, with an eloquence an conviction that made me green with envy…”

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Desi Ivy Twerps Still Ivy Twerps

A few years ago the editors of the late, great mag ego trip published a fantastic Big Book of Racism that must be one of the funniest, edgiest, most on-target treatments ever produced on the glory and ridiculousness of inter-cultural discourse in America through the ages and today. In 300 pages of over-the-top gonzo charts, lists, graphics, mini-essays, and assorted unclassifiable content, the collective turned every stereotype on its head and made fun of everyone on an equal basis using as its great leveler the power of the absurd. A precursor to Borat, in a way, but with much broader scope, knowing detail and subtlety, and without the escape hatch of the visiting-foreigner device. I wish I had my copy on hand so I could excerpt a few of its classic moments, but I don’t, so I can only encourage you to check out what’s available on the Google Books preview and, better yet, just buy the damn thing.

It seems a close reading of this book would also have benefited Chanakya Sethi, the editor in chief of the Daily Princetonian, and his colleagues at the student newspaper of Princeton University. Last week the paper ran its annual “joke issue” made up entirely of fake news and parodies, and as you may know, included a faux op-ed by “Lian Ji.” The reference was to Jian Li, a student who filed a civil rights case against Princeton for not admitting him (and went on to Yale), and the copy included passages like this:

Princeton claims that it increase diversity by rejecting an Asian-American. You make joke? My mom from same province as General Tso. My dad from Kung Pao province. I united 500 years of Rice Wars. I invented Asian glow — new color, new race. Hey, what about yellow fever? Heard that’s hot on this campus. This is as diverse as you can get.

Plus, no-color people all go to Ivy Club; I would have made Campus Club alive again. Plus, I would have created first Asian a cappella group. Plus, I would have starred in first Chinese Opera in McCarter Theater. Plus, I would have join USG, become USG president better than Rob Biederman. Who you think get better deals with Ivy Garden boss anyway? Plus, I know how to make bubble tea. Plus, I would have taken one engrish class and be liberal arts. Writing seminar count, right? Multiply, I make DDR varsity sport.

I’ll spare you the blow by blow account of the ensuing shitstorm: see the New York Times wrap, for instance, here. But there is also a Desi Angle (TM) in that the paper’s editor-in-chief, and therefore presumably the one ultimately responsible for what get published, is desi — as is, incidentally, the next editor in chief, Kavita Saini, who takes over next month. Continue reading

Friedman on India, II

A few months before “Uncle Milt” passed away, he granted an interview with the WSJ’s ever-excellent Tunku Varadarajan.. While the interview overall is pretty short, there are a couple good India nuggets –

India–how do you assess its prospects?

Friedman: Fifty years ago, as a consultant to the Indian minister of finance, I wrote a memo in which I said that India had a great potential but was stagnating because of collectivist economic policies. India has finally started to disband those collectivist policies and is reaping its reward. If they can continue dismantling the collectivist policies, their prospects are very bright.

Any thoughts on a China versus India comparison?

Friedman: Yes. Note the contrast. China has maintained political and human collectivism while gradually freeing the economic market. This has so far been very successful but is heading for a clash, since economic freedom and political collectivism are not compatible. India maintained political democracy while running a collectivist economy. It is now unwinding the latter, which will strengthen freedom of all kinds, so in that respect it is in a better position than China.


p>Color me cautiously optimistic. While in the long run I tend to agree with Mr. Friedman that political freedom and economic freedom go hand in hand, in the short term, there’s no shortage of demagoguery that readily attacks both.

Previous SM coverage on Friedman and India here.

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Hungry children failed by state and market

This is a week of good news and bad. The good news is that Goldman Sachs thinks the Indian economy is growing even faster than previously expected:

India could overtake Britain and have the world’s fifth largest economy within a decade as the country’s growth accelerates, a new report says… By 2050 India’s economy could be larger even than America’s, only China’s will be bigger, the bank predicts. [Link]

The bad news is that child malnutrition rates are still startling high in India. This week the PM felt a need to deal out thapars:

Our prevalent rate of under-nutrition in the 0-6 age group remains one of the highest in the world,” Mr Singh said. “These are startling figures and the situation calls for urgent action.” [Link]

The situation remains astonishingly dire:

Last year the UN children’s agency, Unicef, said that the average malnutrition rate in some Indian states – such as densely populated Uttar Pradesh – was 40%. That is higher than sub-Saharan Africa where it is around 30%, Unicef said. [Link]

… Unicef report said half of the world’s under-nourished children live in South Asia….”South Asia has higher levels of child under-nutrition than Sub-Saharan Africa, but Sub-Saharan Africa has higher rates of child mortality…” [Link]

Most striking is the fact that the economic growth of the past 15 years hasn’t necessarily translated into better child nutrition, and that malnutrition has actually risen in some places:

A recent health ministry survey said that the number of undernourished children below the age of three had actually risen in some states since the late 1990s, despite higher incomes and rapid economic growth. [Link]

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Of cotton and colonialism

Recently, the NYT carried an article about Dunavant Enterprises, which is “the world’s largest privately owned cotton broker” and the grassroots impact it is having on the lives of African cotton farmers. Dunavant got into the business in Uganda by buying a local company and keeping the Ugandan-Indian management intact. Indians have a long history as cotton buyers in Uganda:

Dunavant is the largest buyer of cotton in Uganda … The country … was once one of the world’s most important producers of cotton; the industry was initially nurtured when Uganda was a British possession. There were no plantations, and the British imported Indians to run gins and to collect raw cotton from small African growers. Over time, Indian brokers assumed huge power and wealth in the cotton trade.

Uganda’s independence in the early 1960s left cotton farming undisturbed until Idi Amin came to power in the 1970s. He expelled immigrants from India and nationalized the cotton gins; a succession of civil wars destroyed production. By the late 1980s, Uganda was producing virtually no cotton. … In 1995, a new government privatized the cotton sector, selling off state assets piecemeal. Among the buyers were former Indian brokers who had once owned the gins. [Link]

Europeans thought cotton plants were made of little sheep!

There’s actually far more here than meets the eye. This is not just another Missippi Masala story, it’s a tale that goes back thousands of years, one of cotton and colonialism, globalization, and empires keeping the brown and black man down.

The use of Indians as middlemen is not so strange when you consider that cotton was first cultivated in India, several millenia ago:

Cotton cultivation in the Old World began from India, where cotton has been grown for more than 6,000 years, since the pre-Harappan period. … The famous Greek historian Herodotus also wrote about Indian cotton: “There are trees which grow wild there, the fruit of which is a wool exceeding in beauty and goodness that of sheep. The Indians make their clothes of this tree wool.” [Link]

This conflation between cotton and sheep continued in Europe for over 1,000 years:

During the late mediaeval period, cotton became known as an imported fibre in northern Europe, without any knowledge of what it came from other than that it was a plant; noting its similarities to wool, people in the region could only imagine that cotton must be produced by plant-borne sheep. [Link]

Even today, the German word for cotton is Baumwolle or “Tree Wool.”

Cotton played a critical role in the colonial period, when the British forcibly closed down the Indian textile industry to eliminate competition, and made India export raw cotton only and buy finished cloth from England. With the industrial revolution, textiles became one of the foundations for England’s dominance in world trade. Continue reading

They Drank the Water

The big news in Oscarland this morning (with a Desi Angle of course) was the inclusion of Deepa Mehta’s Water amongst the nominees for “Best Foreign Language Film.” According to Canada.com, Mehta said that she was in a state of shock over learning that her film had been nominated. Frankly, so was I. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy for Mehta. She clearly put a lot of hard work and time into the film. And it is clearly something she is (and should be) proud of. I just don’t think the movie was that good. As I mentioned in my quickie review here, I thought the film was a good timepass, but in the end I thought it lacked the authenticity a period film like Water should really have.

Mehta’s third film in her trilogy of elements is set in 1938 India and revolves around Chuyia, an 8-year-old Hindu widow – brilliantly portrayed by Sarala – sent to leave her family behind and live in an ashram with other widows. The movie follows Chuyia and focuses on her interactions with Shakuntala (Seema Biswas), the de facto caretaker of the widows, and Kalyani (Lisa Ray), a widow who wants to start a new life and relationship with Narayan (John Abraham), a Gandhian. While Biswas and Sarala both give really good performances, I thought the third facet of the plot, that of the relationship between Ray and Abraham, along with the misleading sets a definite contributor to the mediocrity of the film.

Water will be competing for the Oscar against Denmark’s After the Wedding, Algeria’s Days of Glory, Germany’s The Lives of Others and Mexico’s Pan’s Labyrinth. I did find it noteworthy that Water is the first non-French film from Canada to be up for a best foreign language film (link). I think that is impressive initself: think about it, Canada submitting a Hindi language film as its submission for Best Foreign Language Film. I think that is amazing.

Given that many of the reviews of Water published in the mainstream media are quite positive of the film, clearly my impression of the film is not that of the majority. Nevertheless, I am in agreement with the reviewer who wrote that the many overly positive reviews are a reflection of people confusing an honorable message with a good movie. I do wish Mehta the best at the Oscars though.

The Academy Awards air February 25 at 8 PM on ABC.

Related posts: Fun With The Reviewers: Deepa Mehta’s Water, earth, fire, WATER, Water Is Finally Here, Is Deepa Mehta Back in the Game?

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What Brown Connections Can Do For You

Just saw this over on Beliefs, Blackness, and Bollywood…apparently Mira Nair has signed on to direct the big-budget film Shantaram, with Johnny Depp as the lead and Brad Pitt’s Plan B as producer. Shantaram — for those of you unfamiliar with the title — is based on a Gregory David Roberts novel of the same name. The story revolves around an Australian heroin addict who escapes prison, sets up a medical clinic in the slums of Mumbai, and finds himself immersed in the city’s underworld, which consists of smuggling, gun running, and working in the Indian film industry.

I haven’t read the book yet (I’m just going by what I read in wikipedia and elsewhere on the internet), so I’m withholding judgment on the project for now. However, the details of this film so far are quite fascinating.

Take, for example, the story of how Johnny Depp managed to snag the lead role. According to this article, both Russell Crowe and Johnny Depp wanted the part, but Gregory Roberts ultimately chose Depp. Apparently it came down to the fact that…

“Johnny Depp has a lot of Indian friends,” Roberts said. “The way he spoke about them has made me realise that he was the best actor who could bring that love to the film.”

I can just picture all these struggling actors now trying to emulate Johnny Depp, re-writing their resumes so that they read: John Doe. Film, television, and theater actor. Also knows people who are [insert relevant minority group here], and holds them in very high regard. Continue reading

Turban vs. Terminator

Arnold Schwartzenegger has a new opponent, and this time he’s battling a desi [Thanks Chick Pea!]. The governator’s latest adversary is the head of the the California Medical Association, Dr. Anmol Mahal.

The Fremont, Calif., gastroenterologist admired Schwarzenegger’s goals–coverage for all of the state’s 36 million residents and improving health care for kids. “It’s in some ways very visionary,” Mahal said later. But Mahal’s admiration soured when Schwarzenegger revealed that his plan would force doctors to give up 2 percent of their gross incomes to help fund coverage. “We are very discouraged and disappointed,” Mahal complained. “We had no warning.” [Link]

It is strange enough for me to see two of the highest profile Republican governors in the country pick up Hillary Clinton’s banner of universal healthcare, but stranger still for me to see a turbanned face (wearing a turban almost the same shade of blue that Manmohan Singh wears) staring back at me from the pages of the MSNBC article on the subject.

The racial aspect of this is striking because this is a plan designed, in part, to cover the health expenses of illegal aliens. This is a complete about face from former Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s strategy of demonizing illegal aliens. Having a desi doctor as the face of the opposition adds another twist, framing this as a debate between wealthy legal immigrants and poor illegal ones. That makes the politics more interesting, but also more complex.

The crux of the doctors’ disagreement with the plan is the way in which it will be funded:

nearly 30 percent of the plan’s costs [will be covered] by levying a $3.5 billion “coverage dividend” on doctors’ (and hospitals’) gross revenues. “Why not tax teachers to provide money for better schools?” complains Dr. Samuel Fink, a Los Angeles internist. [Link]

Some medical practices would suffer more than others, doctors complain. Assessed on gross revenues rather than net income, the 2 percent fee hits doctors with high overheads harder, including oncologists, pediatricians and general practitioners–whose overhead costs may amount to 50 to 60 percent of their revenues. [Link]

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