What Vivek would really say

Those of you who use gmail and gchat will have seen the news that gchat has gone from monogamous chatting only to full on orgy mode:

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

My reaction to this news is that it’s about time! Not the move to group chat, but the use of Vivek in an example. I mean, if you go into one of the many googleplex fine dining establishments and holler “Yo – Vivek!” you know how many people would turn around? So what took Google so long?

Of course, if they’re going for versimilitude here, Vivek would probably not be going camping with Todd (not unless they were a couple) but instead with a truckload of other desis, especially if Vivek is an IBD. The example should really say something like “Group chat – so 10 desi couples can coordinate their camping plans!” The chat would show people discussing who was bringing the dal, who was bringing the chaval, how many kinds of pickles were necessary for an overnight camping trip, whether a pressure cooker will work over a campfire, etc.

Actually, on second thought, I think we’re better off with the example provided. I don’t think even Google’s mighty servers could survive the surge in load from brown people going camping alone, not to mention brown people coordinating movies, dinners, or weddings. Back to Todd and Vivek it is.

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Indian Cricket League

An upstart cricket league is launching in India today (thanks, Brij01), the Indian Cricket League. I know very little about cricket, but I know good marketing when I see it:

There are six teams: Kolkata Tigers, Mumbai Champs, Delhi Jets, Chandigarh Lions, Hyderabad Heroes, and Chennai Superstars. Each team has a number of players from the local city or region, two players from the national team, and a smattering of foreign players. They’re using the Twenty20 format, which means games will last just about three hours.

Speaking again as a cricket neophyte, I think it’s a great idea — the short games, regional flavor, and general non-stodginess might finally be enough to get someone like myself interested in cricket.

Of course, the quality of play has to be good for it to work. And they’ll have tough competition from another new league starting in April, the Indian Premier League (which is sponsored by the BCCI, and has many more star players than does the ICL). Do cricket fans think the ICL has a chance? Are you excited about this?

(Oh, and I forgot to mention: they have scantily-clad cheerleaders; more smart marketing, or a bit sleazy? Perhaps both at once…) Continue reading

Your money’s no good here

First the world’s richest supermodel stopped taking the dollar as payment for services rendered:

The catwalk star’s twin sister and manager Patricia told Bloomberg in September that: “Contracts starting now are more attractive in euros because we don’t know what will happen to the dollar…” [Link]

Rupees only please – this is a quality establishment, we only take hard currencies here

Then rapper Jay-Z switched his fetti from Franklins to purple euronotes, choosing gouda over american cheese:
Jay-Z … is seen cruising the streets of New York in Bentleys and Rolls Royces (now owned by Germany’s Volkswagen and BMW) with a briefcase of 500 euro notes. [Link]

But now comes the final low blow for the beleaguered greenback – you can no longer use it to pay the white man’s tax at Mumtaz’s tomb:

Foreign tourists to many of India’s most famous landmarks will no longer be able to pay the entrance fee in dollars, the government says. The ruling is aimed at safeguarding tourism revenues following the recent falls in the dollar. Until now, foreign tourists to sites such at the Taj Mahal have had the option of paying in dollars or rupees. The ruling will affect nearly 120 sites of interest run by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). [Link]

That’s right gringos – put away your cheddar and feed sarkar some paneer, you gotta use rupees if you wanna license to skrill.

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Brown Bikers’ Big Beatz

Nobody would ever accuse desis of being quiet folk. You get a few desis together and pretty soon the volume of the chit chat rises; you get them excited and all the white people in the room start giving them dirty looks. We are voluble people.

So it’s not surprising that young desi bikers in Queens are making their presence known. Out where I live, white men on motocycles remove their mufflers and rev their engines, the aural equivalent of pissing on a tree. In Richmond Hill, young Indo-Carribeans mark their territory more euphoniously using huge speakers … on their bicycles, a tradition brought over from Guyana and Trinidad.

That’s right, this desi biker “gang” is real old school, eschewing newfangled innovations like the internal combustion engine for the purity of gears and sweat.

A new biker gang is roaming the streets of Richmond Hill, Queens. This crew of mostly teenagers can be seen riding along 103rd Avenue just west of the Van Wyck Expressway. The bikes roar… these contraptions look and sound more like rolling D.J. booths.

“This one puts out 5,000 watts and cost about $4,000,” said Nick Ragbir, 18, tinkering with his two-wheeled sound system, with its powerful amplifier, two 15-inch bass woofers and four midrange speakers. It plays music from his iPod and is powered by car batteries mounted on a sturdy motocross bike. [Link]

When I started reading the article and noticed all the names were desi, I was hoping for families of four on scooters or mopeds, women riding side saddle, but bicycles are almost as good.

Let other teenagers cruise around in low riding automobiles with the trunk and backseat full of woofers, burning dinosaur juice, bringing us Indian summer year ’round. We’re rolling rickshaw style, moving our bodies to propel the music up and down the streets, dancing in the saddle as we pedal and peddle.

Who needs an iPod when you live in a desi neighborhood?

Slideshow with pictures here. The other photos are even better.

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Kal Penn to Campaign for Obama

Forget Oprah — Kal Penn is going to go out on the campaign trail for Barack Obama, starting with events in Iowa this weekend. He has a statement about it up at his Myspace page:

I first met with Senator Obama last month during a campaign stop in Los Angeles. I was pleasantly surprised: so many of his plans echo the sentiments of folks I’d met all over the country – from my conservative buddies to the liberal ones. Simply put, Senator Obama transcends the party line on issues from the environment, health care, and national security, to business, education, and diplomacy. I believe he’s someone we can all be proud of to lead our country and represent us abroad. (link)

Penn gets more specific on ethnic/Desi issues here:

Many of us have parents, cousins, or friends who immigrated from different parts of the world in search of a better life. Some of them came here under something called the H1B visa program, which right now leaves too many loopholes that shady employers can take advantage of. Senator Obama is committed to reforming this system, so that qualified, hard-working immigrants can contribute to society, free from any sense of vulnerability or danger of abuse by employers. He is also committed to strengthening our borders by removing incentives for people to enter the United States illegally. (link)

An interesting statement. From my point of view, the biggest problem with the H1B system is the confusion it creates for workers — it is a work visa, but many people think of it as an immigration visa. And people who are sponsored for Green Cards by their employers have to wait as long as 6-12 years to have their status adjusted. Some H1B workers find themselves stuck with employers for years while the USCIS sits on their applications. My biggest gripe is with the inefficiency of the USCIS, but Kal Penn is right that many H1B workers are exploited by employers, as they are often unable to change jobs for fear that their Green Card applications will be canceled.

Though I haven’t made up my mind yet, I would be strongly tempted to support any candidate who pledges to reform this part of the immigration system, not just “illegal immigration.”

Though I’ve heard that Obama has supported expanding the H1B quota temporarily, I’m not familiar with the details of his plans to reform the system overall. Does anyone know of specific positions he’s taken regarding H1Bs, or other immigration issues that tend to affect Desis especially?

UPDATE: Thanks to DizzyDesi, we have a direct quote from Obama on this exact issue after the jump: Continue reading

Pakistani-American Businessman Takes on Romney

Earlier this week, a Pakistani-American businessman named Mansoor Ijaz published an article in the Christian Science Monitor, entitled, a “A Muslim Belongs in the Cabinet.” I heard about it via Josh Marshall and TPM.

The surprising revelation in the piece related to how Mitt Romney had answered a question from Ijaz about having a Muslim in Romney’s would-be Cabinet:

I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that “jihadism” is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, “…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.”

Romney, whose Mormon faith has become the subject of heated debate in Republican caucuses, wants America to be blind to his religious beliefs and judge him on merit instead. Yet he seems to accept excluding Muslims because of their religion, claiming they’re too much of a minority for a post in high-level policymaking. More ironic, that Islamic heritage is what qualifies them to best engage America’s Arab and Muslim communities and to help deter Islamist threats.(link)

At first, I thought this was pretty troubling. While obviously you wouldn’t put someone of a particular religious background in your cabinet as a token, you also wouldn’t exclude someone from a high position because of their religious background, would you?

But — when questioned about it, Romney described the question differently: “His question was, did I NEED to have a Muslim in my cabinet to confront radical Jihad, and would it be important to have a Muslim in my cabinet. And I said no…” (full quote here; or, see it on YouTube)

If you put aside the bluster about taking on “Radical Jihad” (all the Republicans seem to talk this way), Romney’s explanation of his interpretation of the question and subsequent answer actually isn’t very controversial.

Moreover, once you start to look a bit more closely at Mansoor Ijaz, what you find is a lot of sketchiness. Continue reading

The Full Mushy, or The President Has No Clothes

Over the past few weeks, a number of prominent people have called for Pervez Musharraf to “take off his uniform”:

“The President will call on President Musharraf to take off the uniform as he said he would do.” – Dana Perino, White House spokeswoman, Nov. 5

‘’My message was that we believe strongly in elections, and that you ought to have elections soon, and you need to take off your uniform.’’ – President Bush, Nov. 7

“He was willing to take off the uniform, he said, and have a civilian government.” – Former Senator Fred Thomspon, “Meet the Press,” Nov. 4

“The overarching concern is making sure President Musharraf takes off his uniform and holds elections as soon as possible,” – Geoff Morell, Pentagon spokesman, Nov. 13

“Who cares if General Musharraf takes off his uniform? It’s time for him to go.” – Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California, Nov. 7 (source)

It’s highly tempting to read all these people demanding that Musharraf take off his uniform slightly… against the grain?

On the one hand, it makes me think of this; only too obvious.

On the other, I can’t also help but think of the French philosopher Roland Barthes, who wrote a famous essay on the art of the striptease (and how it implicates the spectator) in 1957:

It is only the time taken in shedding clothes which makes voyeurs of the public; but here, as in any mystifying spectacle, the decor, the props and the stereotypes intervene to contradict the initially provocative intention and eventually bury it in insignificance: evil is advertised the better to impede and exorcize it. French striptease [and Pakistani politics] seems to stem from what I have earlier called ‘Operation Margarine’, a mystifying device which consists in inoculating the public with a touch of evil, the better to plunge it afterwards into a permanently immune Moral Good: a few particles of eroticism, highlighted by the very situation on which the show is based, are in fact absorbed in a reassuring ritual which negates the flesh as surely as the vaccine or the taboo circumscribe and control the illness or the crime. (link)

(Anyone else have Musharraf jokes… or references to French theory… to share?) Continue reading

The first desi in the Oval Office?

Relax, this post has nothing to do with Bobby Jindal. Banish the thought and just bear with me for a moment. Last week, after one of the candidates I was eyeing as the potential recipient of my vote made a monumental policy blunder (which made me question everything about this candidate), I started giving a closer look to another candidate who had more sensible and educated things to say on the same issue. And that is when I decided that it was finally time (after months of my teenage-like infatuation where I contemplated the perfect post that might get her to take notice of me) to write about an awesome potential development that would take place IF Hillary Clinton goes on to win the White House. I’m talking about that goddess beautiful and capable assistant of hers, Huma Abedin. Huma currently serves as Clinton’s “body man,” similar to the character of Charlie on the show The West Wing. If she doesn’t go on to become the Chief of Staff, she would certainly remain one of Clinton’s closest advisors, with daily access to the Oval Office. From an article I first read in April:

Last June, under an oppressive sun, at a rally to save the Niagara military base at the University of Buffalo, all of New York’s top politicians–George Pataki, Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton–poured sweat.

Yet there was exactly one member of the wilting delegation who managed, somehow, to stay cool: Hillary Clinton’s mysterious, glamorous and eerily unflappable aide de camp, Huma Abedin.

“It was like 110 degrees outside,” recalled the source, a political aide who asked to remain anonymous. “We were all just pouring down with sweat. But I have this distinct memory of Huma traipsing in in this blue pantsuit–it was like this wool pantsuit–not a bead of sweat on her brow, not a hair out of place, with everything perfectly organized in her Yves Saint Laurent handbag.”

That sort of fantastical, supernaturally tinged tale is not unusual. Indeed, in the insular world of New York and D.C. politics, Huma Abedin has become a sort of mythical figure. [Link]

Huma was born in Michigan to an Indian father and a Pakistani mother. She interned at the White House in the mid-90s and graduated from GW. If she goes on to become Chief of Staff it is entirely possible that she could broker a lasting peace in South Asia by helping to end the Kashmiri conflict. I’m just saying, if I was at the negotiation table I’d commit to any concession she proposed. Let’s give peace a chance.

“I think she has special powers,” said public-radio broadcaster Katia Dunn, who recently crossed paths with Ms. Abedin and Mrs. Clinton at a café on Capitol Hill.

Ms. Dunn explained that she had heard about the “cult of Huma,” but had never met her. “All of a sudden, I turn around and there was this woman I now know to be Huma. And it wasn’t just that she was gorgeous–she did just sort of have this presence. She stopped me in my tracks for a second…” [Link]

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Taslima Nasreen: A Roundup

The Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, about whom I’ve written before, has become the center of controversy again following anti-Taslima riots in Calcutta over the past few days. Exactly why the riots focused on her is a bit of a mystery, since the incident is really inspired by a new violent incident at Nandigram (about which I’ve also written before). At any rate, some Muslim groups are also demanding that Nasreen’s Indian visa be canceled (she’s applied for Indian citizenship; her current visa expires in February 2008), and she seems to have yet again become a bit of a political football.

Since the riots, the Communist government of West Bengal apparently bundled her up in a Burqa (!) and got her out of the state, “for her own protection.” (She’s now in Delhi, after first being sent to Rajasthan, a state governed by the BJP.) The state government has also refused to issue a statement in defense of Taslima, fueling the claims of critics on both the left and right that the Left is pandering (yes, “pandering” again) to demands made by some members of the Muslim minority.

Mahashweta Devi’s statement sums up my own views quite well:

This is why at this critical juncture it is crucial to articulate a Left position that is simultaneously against forcible land acquisition in Nandigram and for the right of Taslima Nasreen to live, write and speak freely in India. (link)

Ritu Menon in the Indian Express gives a long list of outrages to freedom of artistic expression in India in recent years:

These days, one could be forgiven for thinking that the only people whose freedom of expression the state is willing to protect are those who resort to violence in the name of religion — Hindu, Muslim or Christian. (Let’s not forget what happened in progressive Kerala when Mary Roy tried to stage ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’ at her school. Or when cinema halls screened The Da Vinci Code.) Indeed, not only does it protect their freedom of expression, it looks like it also protects their freedom to criminally assault and violate. Not a single perpetrator of such violence has been apprehended and punished in the last decade or more that has seen an alarming rise in such street or mob censorship. Not in the case of Deepa Mehta’s film; not in the attack on Ajeet Cour’s Academy of Fine Arts in Delhi; not in M.F. Husain’s case; not in the violation of the Bhandarkar Institute; not at MS University in Baroda; not in the assault on Taslima Nasreen in Hyderabad this August. I could list many, many more. (link)

I was unaware of some of those, in fact. Continue reading

ABC’s “Notes From the Underbelly” (and kannu candy)

he even makes facial fur look good.jpg Last year, a wee little show called “Notes From the Underbelly” debuted on ABC and we ignored it, despite tenacious reminders of its existence on our news tab. Our bad.

No, seriously.

The brown angle to that repeatedly neglected news story turned out to be the HOT angle; NftU stars one Sunkrish Bala, i.e. the gorgeousness gazing at you over on the right. Bala plays the part of “Eric” and one of the most interesting things about this program is how there is no mention of his ethnicity; for once someone brown gets to play someone “normal” (for lack of a better word), who isn’t a terrorist or other H-town stereotype.

Eric may not be the manliest of men, but he’s the perfect man for Julie. Even though he almost missed the birth of his son, Eric is an utterly devoted husband and father. He has an incredibly lucrative career, though no one knows exactly what he does. Always cheerful, Eric deftly balances a demanding job with an even more demanding wife. [ABC]

I know what you’re thinking– now there are two FOUR beeyootiful desi guys on network television? YES. It’s not a cruel joke. There is even more male to objectify, my sisters and brothers-who-swing-that-way! I’m making my preference known now; start printing Team Sunkrish tee-shirts because I’m not only the client, I’m about to be the fangirl-president.

What am I trash-talking about? Well, while many of you ruined Victoria’s Secrets over that Sendhil guy on Heroes whom I have no use for, I caught the last few episodes of this cute, quirky show which features the hottest South Indian male I have ever salivated over. Mmmm, Sunkrish. If this book’s cover doesn’t do enough for you, his inner sweetness should; Sunkrish was part of the Help Vinay effort, which is how I was able to speak to him and delightfully discover that he’s down to earth, kind and really funny. For the 2,359 of you from Northern California who will recognize it, he’s an alum of Bellarmine College Prep. :)

Though I rep Kerala shamelessly (and probably inaccurately), I’m totally willing to sell out my coconut-eating counterparts and say that Tamizhhrrrzzl men are teh hawt. Now if only Sunkrish weren’t 16, I could feel less like a filthy pervert and actually daydream of a future where I am Mrs. Bala, not that I’m doodling that on my notebook in meetings these days or anything. ;)

The season premiere of Notes From the Underbelly is TONIGHT at 9:30 on your local ABC affiliate. Tune in and drool for yourself. :)

p.s. I’m not the only one who digs “Notes”. Salon’s TV belle Heather Havrilesky had this to say, yesterday: Continue reading

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