But Tony, the President still likes Indians…right?

So a funny thing happened at the White House press briefing today. Yes. Of course. Our boy Goyal was at it once again. I recommend anyone drinking milk right now to put their glass down so as to prevent the milk from momentarily spraying out your nostrils. Here we go:

Q Tony, two questions. One, there is disturbing news, and the Indian American community is very angry that Senator Obama and his campaign has been calling the Indian American community taboo and other names, calling names, and all that because of the relations with the Clintons, President Clinton and Hillary Clinton. My question is, how does — what does President think about the Indian American community and his relations with the Indian American community?

MR. SNOW: Well, the President, obviously, is proud of our — the growing closeness of the United States and the Indians. Not to be holding a brief for Senator Obama, but I don’t believe that he made comments of that sort. I do believe that was a staff comment for which he issued apologies. But having said that, it is important to realize that the United States looks upon India as the world’s largest democracy, as an important and vital ally in a whole host of things — regional security, global trade, climate change. I mean, the role of — the importance of India is not to be understated. And we are certainly glad that the relations between the nations continue to draw closer. [Link]

I am trying to wrap my head around this one. I mean, why would the White House have an official position about what an Obama staffer wrote about Sen. Clinton? Is this what reporters assigned to a scandal-plagued White House really want to know about? Then it just gets even funnier:

Q Second, just on Sunday I was in Washington, here at the Verizon Center, over 20,000 Indians, mostly Hindu, gathered together there. And their message was peace and unity, internationally and here also. The question is here that President has gone to all the denominations here, but never to a Hindu temple. And he goes to church, I go to temple, but he is a religious man, so am I. What my question is that this weekend –

MR. SNOW: You want to know if he’s going to go to the temple?

Q This weekend there is a grand opening of Hindu temple in Adelphi, right on the beltway, if he can make it there sometime or –

MR. SNOW: I don’t think that’s on the schedule, and I think you do appreciate, Goyal, that Presidents don’t do casual drop-bys.

Q He has been invited.

MR. SNOW: Again, I appreciate the suggestion. [Link]

Yo, that would be tight if W did a “drop-by.” Any D.C. area mutineers going to be in Adelphi who can let us know? And for those still following the D-Punjab soap opera, Rediff got an exclusive with Obama today:

[Obama] explained that “I think what happened was that the people who were writing the memo thought that to quote back Hillary Clinton was clever somehow. They were wrong and I let them know in no uncertain terms that this was unacceptable.”

Obama acknowledged he had no idea about the document that was being circulated by some members of his campaign staff till the controversy erupted, when the Indian-American community was in uproar and his Indian-American supporters contacted his campaign expressing their concern. [Link]

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Rani Mukherjee to Marry…Some Guy

oooh, DRAMA.JPG

…random men everywhere who aren’t Aish/Bips/Shabana-devotees gnash their teeth and shake their fists at the sky impotently. Or not.

Oooooh, DRAMA! An anonymous tipster leaves juicy news on the…well, news tab (via SAWF):

Bollywood star Rani Mukerhee, 29, is all set to marry film maker Aditya Chopra, 36, son of Yash Raj Chopra. A commitment ceremony or “Roka” was held Monday at the Chopra bungalow in Bombay.
A source close to the family told the Hindustan Times: “The roka took place at the same Chopra bungalow where Chandni was shot. Around 60 people (family and friends) attended the ceremony that included Rani’s parents Ram and Krishna Mukherjee, brother Raja and his wife. Present from the Chopra clan were brother Uday, dad Yash Chopra and mum Pamela Chopra.”

Awww, that’s so cute! My last two german shepherds, who were litter-mates, were also named Raja and Rani. And no, I didn’t name them, so shut up.

“Rani wore a maroon saari with silver embroidery and Aditya wore a kurta-pyjama, both designed by designer Pallavi Jaikishan. Pam aunty didn’t seem very happy, as she has a soft corner for Adi’s ex-wife, Payal. Another function will take place at Rani’s house next week,” the source added.

Why do I care, when I am a clue-free Mallu ABCD who has gone on record as not paying attention to Bollywood? Because it’s JUICY. Duh.

Aditya was recently divorced from Payal Chopra, whom he married in 2001.

Ah, so THAT is why anonymous tipster namechecked Angelina Jolie! Apparently, Rani is a homewrecker, but my half- third- quarter-hearted googling found nothing. If the girl Big B got creepy with in KKKG really did break up this guy’s marriage, I’m sure one of you will edify us with confirmation of such sordid details.

According to the Mumbai Mirror, Aditya’s decision to divorce Payal, who is the daughter of a close friend of father Yash Raj, has strained relations between the father and son.

I can’t be the only one thinking…all this would make a great Bollywood movie? Life imitates art…? Annnnnd, I’m bored again. Who wants to talk about Obama, caste or saffron balls? Anyone? Continue reading

When landlords get all up in your bidness

It’s bad enough when your parents hound you for being single and ask why you were out so late last night, but the Christian Science Monitor points to the double standard that single women renters face in India at the hands of their prospective (and over-protective) landlords:

It took Chiya Singh three months and seven real estate agents working in tandem to find an apartment to rent in New Delhi.

The problem wasn’t her credit history or salary. It was her status as a single Indian woman. The questions blocking Ms. Singh from a room of her own were a bit personal, she says. Prospective landlords wanted to know why, at age 29, she wasn’t married and why, as a single person, she didn’t want to live with her parents.

“It was an exhausting process,” Singh says, of trying to find her own place after she divorced. “I became a broken record. They asked ‘Why do you want to live alone?’ I said, ‘Um, because I think I’m old enough.’ “

That response usually netted Singh a cold expression and a vague “We’ll let you know” from the landlord. [Link]

Because, I mean…why would a single woman want to live by herself?

In India, “If you want freedom, it can only be for one thing – sex,” Singh says. “You want to tell them [landlords], ‘That’s the last thing on my mind. I think I’m old enough to take care of myself.’ But for the landlord, it becomes an issue of respectability.” [Link]
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How Now Brown Voters?

Amardeep’s earlier post on memo-gate rightly inspired a lot of passionate discussion on this site; many of us, whether we were massively disappointed or merely mildly surprised, expressed a strong interest in what the Senator’s reaction to it all might be. For the four of you who haven’t already received this in your inbox, we have our answer (via SAFO):

Senator Barack Obama’s Response to the Indian American Community
Dear Friends,
On Monday, June 18, Senator Barack Obama issued the following statement in response to the concerns expressed by the Indian American community regarding the Hillary Clinton opposition research memo. Senator Obama personally requested that we distribute this letter to the entire SAFO community:
I wanted to respond personally to the concerns you expressed regarding the recent research memo that our campaign put into circulation.
I believe that your concerns with the memo are justified. To begin with, the memo did not reflect my own views on the importance of America’s relationship with India. I have long believed that the best way to promote U.S. economic growth and opportunity for American workers is to continually improve the skills of our own workforce and invest in our own scientific research, technological capacity and infrastructure, rather than to try to insulate ourselves from the global economy.
More importantly, the memo’s caustic tone, and its focus on contributions by Indian-Americans to the Clinton campaign, was potentially hurtful, and as such, unacceptable. The memo also ignored my own long-standing relationship to – and support from – the Indian-American community.
In sum, our campaign made a mistake. Although I was not aware of the contents of the memo prior to its distribution, I consider the entire campaign – and in particular myself – responsible for the mistake. We have taken appropriate action to prevent errors like this from happening in the future.
Please feel free to share this letter with other members of your organization or leaders in the Indian-American community. I look forward to our continued friendship and exchange of ideas – during the course of this campaign, and beyond.
Sincerely,
Barack Obama

Hmmm. I had to read it a second time, to find the answer to the burning question in my mind, namely what, if any action was taken against the person who did the hit job. Once again, for the cheap seats and the distracted:

We have taken appropriate action to prevent errors like this from happening in the future.

What is “appropriate action”? According to a fresh article from the chocolate post:

The campaign said the new policy is to ensure that senior staff will review materials before they are distributed publicly. [WaPo]

Now THAT is a brilliant idea.

So, what do you think? Is the candidate’s response good enough? Not enough? Should we dismiss it as lip service? Is Barack back in your good graces? Continue reading

Salman Rushdie, from Outsider to “Knight Bachelor”

Salman Rushdie got knighted over the weekend: he’s now Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie.

Predictably, government officials in Pakistan and Iran have come out against honouring the “blaspheming” “apostate” Rushdie. It’s a brand of foaming at the mouth that we’re all too familiar with at this point; in a sense, the hostile fundamentalist reaction validates the strong secularist stance that Rushdie has taken since his reemergence from Fatwa-induced semi-seclusion in 1998. (If these people are burning your effigy, you must be doing something right.)

But actually, there’s another issue I wanted to mention that isn’t getting talked about much in the coverage of Rushdie’s knighthood, which is the fact that Rushdie wasn’t always a “safe” figure for British government officials. In the early 1980s in particular, and throughout the Margaret Thatcher era, Rushdie was known mainly as a critic of the British establishment, not a member. The main issue for Rushdie then was British racism, and he did not mince words in condemning it as well as the people who tolerated it.

This morning I was briefly looking over some of Rushdie’s essays from the 1980s. Some of the strongest work exoriated the policies of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and indicted the pervasiveness of “institutionalized racism” in British society. Two essays in particular stand out, “The New Empire Within Britain,” and “Home Front.” Both are published in Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism, 1981-1991. (Another great essay from that collection is “Outside the Whale” — required reading, though on a slightly different topic. And see this NYT review of the collection as a whole from 1991.) Continue reading

“Dutch” isn’t veg-friendly.

calculate this.jpg I love reading real newspapers on the weekends (since all I have time for is Express during the week). While lazing through the New York Times this afternoon, I found this six week old “T: Style” article which made me smile, after the conversation I had yesterday with a mutineer…

me: How was dinner?

she: Can I vent?

me: But of course, my little cabbage!

she: I got robbed.

me: OMG, you got mugged???

she: Noooo. I mean…when the bill came.

me: I don’t get it.

she: Of course you do, you’re veg, too.

me: Oh, THAT-a-way

she: Yes. That. A. Way. Not a damned vegetarian entree on the menu AND everyone I was with obviously ordered seafood– not just any seafood…the market-rate stuff.

me: Ah, that which has no price listed.

she: EXACTLY!

me: Ouch.

she: That’s not even the worst of it! You know how I don’t drink??

me: Yeah…?

she: Well, everyone else more than made up for it. 3-4 each.

me: Wow, so you-

she: Subsidized a bunch of fish and vodka. What I ordered came to all of $25 WITH tax and a 20% tip…what I PAID was $72.

me: Sigh. Well, you made the birthday girl happy by being there.

she: True. But, I COULD HAVE GIVEN HER THE $50. Then she’d be happy and I wouldn’t feel so damned ripped-off.

Stop smirking, dear readers. You know you’ve had that EXACT conversation with one of your friends. Half the brown people in Amreeka are Guju* and plenty of them are Jain. :) Quit acting like you are unaware of the plight of the put-upon veggie:

Do birthday parties held in restaurants give you a palm-dampening, heart-palpitating anxiety attack? You’re not alone…
It’s not that we don’t wish many happy returns to B. P. — now blushing in thanks or dashing abashedly to the powder room — really, we do. It’s the guy two chairs down who ordered the foie gras appetizer, Dover sole entree, side of truffled mashed potatoes and three martinis made with designer gin whom we never want to see again.
“Vegetarians always get screwed at these things,” rightly groused a paralegal who is tired of subsidizing other people’s steak frites.

Continue reading

Obama Just Got Less “Brown” Friendly

[UPDATE: Obama has now distanced himself from this memo. See Anna's post from 6/18/07 for more details]

Today’s New York Times has a story (thanks, anonymous tipster) about the Clintons’ recent financial disclosures, and their decision to liquidate all their stock holdings. Fine; makes sense.

But what’s really remarkable about this story is the questionable anonymous memo issued by the Obama campaign in response to the Clinton disclosures. The memo amounts attempts to smear Clinton as being too friendly to India, and is laced with xenophobic sentiments and insinuations.It starts with the title of the memo itself: “HILLARY CLINTON (D-PUNJAB)’S PERSONAL FINANCIAL AND POLITICAL TIES TO INDIA.”

And it goes downhill from there. Obama’s campaign memo (read the whole thing) accuses the Clintons of a number of things:

  • They start out by stating that the Clintons own stock in an Indian company called “Easy Bill,” which is actually just a company that allows Indians to automate their bill payments. This is not a BPO type company, but a service for Indians within India, so one wonders why is this even included.

  • They then go after the Clintons for accepting speaking fees from Cisco (this is Bill) and campaign donations from Cisco employees (Hillary). Cisco may be more guilty than many software companies of dumping its U.S. based workforce in favor of cheaper Indian engineers in the early 2000s, but it’s nevertheless the case that U.S. high tech job market is in pretty good shape again overall — outsourcing hasn’t created the apocalypse that was feared. So this accusation is a little bit strange: I doubt that many Americans outside of Silicon Valley actively think of Cisco as an evil outsourcer.

  • They find fault with Clinton’s relationship with the hotel tycoon Sant Singh Chatwal, whose family has been discussed many times here at SM. Chatwal has organized two big fundraisers for her, netting a total of $1 million in donations. Chatwal also started “Indian Americans for Hillary 2008,” which ought not to be an issue (doesn’t Obama have South Asians for Obama hosted on his campaign website?). The Obama campaign’s memo underlines Chatwal’s various legal difficulties, general financial shadiness, and pending court cases, to make it all look like some kind of shady back-room deal. This accusation seems strange to me, since the fundraisers are completely legit, even if Chatwal himself is in trouble.

  • Finally, they quote Lou “Keep Em Out” Dobbs several times, as he mocked Hillary in 2004 for saying that “outsourcing cuts both ways” (as in, it creates some American jobs as well as sending others overseas). In fact, though her particular example of “10 new jobs in Buffalo” was a bit weak, Hillary was right about this: companies like TCS are opening up a number of U.S. offices, and more generally, the greater efficiency enabled by BPO helps keep American companies competitive on a global scale, and has, in my view, actually helped the U.S. economy. (All of Hillary’s quotes about “outsourcing cutting both ways” are from the 2004 campaign season, incidentally.)

So now the question is, how aware was Obama himself of the contents of this “anonymous” memo? If Obama doesn’t distance himself from the memo immediately, this macaca is going to be sending his moolah to “Hillary Clinton, D-Punjab.”

[UPDATE: Obama has now distanced himself from this memo. See Anna's post from 6/18] Continue reading

55Friday: The “One Sentence Story” Edition

I hadn’t logged in to my del.icio.us for a while; when I did so today, one of the “popular” links on the main page caught my eye.

One Sentence – True stories, told in one sentence. [link]

Since I’m the resident doyenne of fast fiction (ironic, innit?), I was predictably and immediately interested.

As soon as I thought, “This might be fun for 55Friday,” your torment was assured. Last week, we had as many haikus as we did examples of nanofiction, so I know you like to change things up a bit. Oh, and to those who wondered out loud why we do this writing-thing/expressed how you’d like to see less of these posts on SM, I have three things to type:

1) Others actually love what you dislike.

2) It’s a tradition! We’re desi, we love rituals and routines!

3) As one of you put it in a very kind email:

I noticed that you haven’t posted a 55Friday topic in a while. I hope you didn’t discontinue it. I love 55Friday because it’s the only time during the week when I’m creative. One day a week, I get to feel like I’m living up to that ever-present new year’s resolution to “write more”, so please bring it back if you can.

So, please ignore this if it doesn’t have any effect on your knickers and move on to something which will– and that’s solid advice for every post you wrinkle your cute little nose at, not just 55Fridays.

Okay, back to one-sentence wonders. The most significant difference between this and our typical 55s? These are supposed to be true, real, non-fiction. I chose a few from the site, to inspire you and help demonstrate what to do. Most of these were plucked from the “Best of” section.

I don’t wish that I had Jesse’s girl…why did he find a woman like this:

Jesse
She’s ruined half of my music library for me.

Since these are true stories, this one made my heart crack:

zot
I am heart-sick because, like many parents of children with profound disabilities, my most secret and unspoken prayer is “Dear God, please let me outlive my child.”

This (since they’re supposed to be true!) is just wrong :)

Adam
The pedestrian looked concerned, as he bounced off the bonnet of my car.

Continue reading

Suni side up

When my worlds align, you know I’m going to blog it:

SUNI WILLIAMS DAY AT JSC

Help celebrate a major spaceflight milestone as Expedition 15 Flight Engineer and STS-117 crew member Sunita Williams sets a new female long duration spaceflight record. She will surpass Shannon Lucid’s long-held record of 188 days, 4 hours this Saturday, June 16 at 12:47 a.m CDT.

So how do we help celebrate this kick-ass achievement?

To show your support for Suni, wear something red this Friday, June 15 (In honor of her love of the Red Sox). Also on Friday, the Starport cafés will feature 2 eggs “Suni”-side up on Texas Toast for $.99 and Chicken Indian Spiced Malai Murgh for $ 3.49 ala cart and $5.99 Combo. The Chicken breast is coated with a mixture of spices (cumin, garlic, pepper, lemon juice, chopped jalapenos, paprika, and sour cream) then roasted and served with rice.

Oh yeah! Curry in the cafeteria. Have any of you had government institutional food before? This intrepid blogger’s passion for venturing places where no man has gone before compels him to try the chicken on Friday. If I’m ever lucky enough to go in to space someday I am going to make them serve dosas with sour cream and ketchup in the cafeteria when I come down. Let’s pray our girl makes it down ok:

NASA engineers and astronauts are working on innovative ways to fix a tear in the heat shield of the shuttle Atlantis which had taken off last Friday.

One of the methods that could be used to fix the tear would be using a stainless steel wire serving as thread and an instrument with a rounded end resembling a small needle.

This is usually used to repair tears in astronaut suits but may work here as well. [Link]

By the way, Suni’s dog, the terrier she had to leave behind on Earth and who goes by the name of “Flat Gorby,” is becoming kind of famous. You know how people sometimes take pictures of gnomes at different locations around the world? Just type in Flat Gorby in Google and see all the hits the dude has and where he has “visited” while she has been up in space.

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How to Save A Life in DC + NYC — UPDATED

Remember Vinay? I blogged about him because he direly needs a bone marrow transplant and his best chance at finding a match lies with us. Unsurprisingly, several of you said you would step up and get swabbed, if only you had the opportunity to do so. Well, after throwing more meetups than any other mutineer, I know for a fact that DC has a TON of SM readers– now make good on your word to help.

You can even do so TODAY– look:

* * *
THURSDAY, JUNE 14 – DOWNTOWN D.C.
4:30p to 7:30p
Asian American Justice Center
1140 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 1200
Washington, DC
Contact: DCdonorDrive@aol.com or Rachna at (202) 256-4326

Can’t make it? Live in the burbs? Try these:

* * *
SATURDAY, JUNE 16 – LANHAM, MD
10:30a to 3:30p
Sri Shiva Vishnu Temple
6905 Cipriano Rd.
Lanham, MD
Contact: Aditya at aditya.raghavendra@gmail.com or (617) 872-0081
* * *
SUNDAY, JUNE 17 – BALTIMORE, MD
9:30a to 5:00p
Greater Baltimore Temple
2909 Bloom Rd.
Finksburg, MD
Contact: Seema at indiaseema@hotmail.com or (949) 291-2545

5:45 PM UPDATE–

* * *

Jane says (she’s done with Sergio) that a NEW YORK Drive commences in 15 minutes;

Hey in NYC tonite as well….
Public House
141 East 41st St (between Lexington and Third Avenues), New York, NY
Thursday, June 14, 6:00pm to 10:00pm

One of our longtime readers lost a parent to this tragic disease last week. Some of you know whom I’m referring to and if you haven’t already given a little bit of yourself, maybe this message from their family will move you:

In lieu of flowers, please help save a life and register with the national bone marrow registry or get someone else to register (www.marrow.org).

How many people whom we know and love must we lose before you register? Continue reading