From the Department of Useless Wikipedia Entries

My friend Ankur sent me a Wikipedia link this morning that left me scratching my head…but also gave me a Colbert-esque idea. On Wikipedia there is actually an entry called List of Indian Americans which features NOTABLE Indian Americans ONLY. After years of having no objective means by which to quantify success in the Indian American community, we finally have a means! No matter what you achieve in your career, unless your name is on this list your parents can never claim to their friends that their “beta” has succeeded! If your mom is at a party and brags about you to some auntie, said auntie will check Wikipedia on her Iphone and then wag her finger, nah nah nah. Are you on the list dear reader? Probably not loser. But you are in good company as neither am I (an obvious oversight, hmpfff).

So here is what I propose loyal SM readers. I want you to go this page an add an entry for yourself. Yes you Mr. Struggling Artist. All your friends love your art and know you are talented. Go add yourself! Yes you, Ms. Non-Profit worker. You save children in poverty-stricken countries. I think you should add your name as well. Hell, if someone wants to add my name I wouldn’t be opposed to that either. There are no bloggers on the list at all! Oh crap, there are. Anil Dash, Om Malik, and Rahul Mahajan. This is just not right.

For our Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Sri Lankan American readers, tough beans. You guys don’t even have an entry! The Mexican, Chinese and Irish Americans do though. I guess this means there is nobody notable from your communities. Can someone create a page for you guys please. Parents from these communities need an objective list as well.

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Miss India-na

A tipster notifies us that Miss Indiana, who appears at the Miss USA pageant that is on NBC tonight, is an Indian American woman by the name of Courtni Shabana Hall (more pictures here):

Courtni Hall, a 5’5″ brown eyed brunette, is the 22-year-old daughter of Barbara Hall of Crawfordsville. A senior at Indiana State University, Courtni’s career ambition is to obtain her Masters degree in Communications and to work in the entertainment industry as a television personality. Courtni is a spokesperson for Children’s Hope International and serves as an advocate for adoption, as she was adopted from India at just five months old. Her hobbies include singing, traveling, acting and volunteering as a Spanish tutor. [Link]

Her profile at NBC’s website has a bit more concerning her adoption and a few of her interests:

* Born in Calcutta, India weighing only 2 lbs., 2 oz., she was abandoned at birth, and adopted by U.S. parents and brought to Indiana.
* Working towards getting her pilot’s license.
* Has a beaver, 56 tigers and a pet alligator. [Link]

Mad respect to anyone working toward their pilot’s licence because I appreciate the commitment that takes. However, I am a bit concerned about the 56 tigers and the pet alligator (owning a beaver is probably not as dangerous and I think is fairly common in some parts).

In case you want to “friend” Courtni or become a fan, her FB page is here.

I for one will be tuning in and keeping my fingers crossed for the gorgeous Courtni (who speaks so well), and perhaps I shall follow along in the Twittervesre.

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Aneesh Chopra: America’s Chief Technology Officer

In his weekly internet address Obama announced today that he wanted to make cuts to all the departments in his government and streamline government spending. He also wants to “promote innovation.” Therefore, as one step, he has named Aneesh Chopra as his Chief Technology Officer (start at min 3:50 in the video below):

4/18/09: Your Weekly Address from White House on Vimeo.

Aneesh is being pulled from Virginia, courtesy of Obama’s BFF Tim Kaine.

Aneesh Chopra is currently Virginia’s Fourth Secretary of Technology serving Governor Tim Kaine. In this capacity, he leads the Commonwealth’s strategy to effectively leverage technology in government reform, promotes Virginia’s innovation agenda, and fosters technology-related economic development with a special emphasis on entrepreneurship…

Secretary Chopra was awarded the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society’s (HIMSS) 2007 State Leadership Advocacy Award, and was also recently named to Government Technology magazine’s Top 25 in their Doers, Dreamers, and Drivers issue, which recognizes the 25 individuals they believe help set the standard for using technology to improve government. [Link]

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Hefty salary, no bride

It used to be that Indian men working in America, whether bride.jpg citizens, permanent residents or H-1B holders, could go to India and have their pick of a bride. They were considered good catches, the type of fish you don’t throw back in the lake. Not anymore, apparently, according to Shefali Anand of the Wall Street Journal.

Concerned about the flagging U.S. economy, parents of brides are reluctant to betroth their daughters to someone whose job may evaporate. Rahul Tamraker, 32, a consultant in Chicago, learned this firsthand during his fruitless bride search in India. Potential in-laws were worried that “consultant” was another way of saying “unemployed.” One parent wanted to see Tamraker’s income tax return, paying heed to the age-old matchmaking principle: “Good income, good outcome.” Tamraker declined and the marriage talks fizzled.

Poor guy. He’s got a hefty salary, but no bride. Which may be better, of course, than having a hefty bride, but no salary.

Then there’s Vikas Marwaha, a software enginer who’s only 27 and earning more than 80 grand a year.

During a two-week wife-hunting trip to India in December, Mr. Marwaha interviewed 20 potential brides in 10 days. He says several parents asked him, “How has the recession impacted your job?” Mr. Marwaha says he assured them he hadn’t been affected at all, but still he returned to the U.S. brideless. [Link]

Indian engineer: “I went to India for some wife-hunting last month. What did you do?”

American engineer: “I went to Indiana for some deer-hunting.”

Indian: “Really? Did you get one?”

American: “Yes, I got one and mounted it. What about you?”

Indian: “No, I didn’t come close to doing any mounting whatsoever.”

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Hated by desi brides worldwide

The advertising campaign for BritAsian sausage company “Mr. Singh’s Bangras” (a pun on bangers and bhangra) recently won a major award. The concept behind the ads is simple enough to describe in pictures:

That’s right – they used edible ink to print the casing in “henna patterns” and create the first ever “branded sausage.” I’m waiting for the UK government to start printing health warnings directly on foodstuffs that are bad for your heart such as “eating this weiner will make yours a little limper.”

I really hope Daljit Singh, the company proprietor, is married already because he has just earned the enmity of every desi bride around the world. If this campaign gets widespread airplay, what do you think most people will think of when they see a chubby brown hennaed calf peeking out from underneath a red lehnga?

You can see the video version directly on the company website.

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Jai vs. Bhay ho, slumdog fight

It’s election season again in India, and with an 80% reduction in Bollyflix released this year (a side effect of the finance crisis), the real action is in political ads. Recently, Congress bought the exclusive rights to play Jai Ho at its rallies for a whole year, much to the dismay of the BJP which objected that “Anyone should be able to use the song. ‘Jai Ho’ should not belong to any one; it belongs to the country.” [link]

Congress wasn’t just interested in playing the original song, it actually redid the whole thing, gutting the original and producing a muzaked easy-listening patriotic version for use in a political ad:

The BJP struck back with Bhay Ho, a dark tale of international terror:

Both of these clips hint at what a mainstream Indian studio would have done with Slumdog, assuming that they had been interested in the concept at all.

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India as backdrop for Israeli debate

Shashwati recently sent me links to these dueling Israeli PSAs about military service that are set in South Asia and far more amusing than Zohan. (Why did I watch that? Why?)

The first clip uses shame to try to discourage draft evasion, the second restages the first but uses shame to encourage conscientious objection. The setting is a bunch of Israeli tourists in an “Indian” teahouse discussing what their military service was like to try to impress a generic shiksa (blond in the first clip and brunette in the second). Each clip starts the same – a waiter offers cha and this touches off reminiscences about how “in the army the entire unit would have shared just this much tea.” And it ends with the same moral, do the wrong thing and you’ll embarass yourself in front of the girl.

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Two “Lucky” Films

Since my son was born two and a half years ago, I have pretty much given up on staying current on Indian cinema. It’s difficult to get out to the movies, and our local Indian store really doesn’t seem to have a very good collection of stuff. I saw more Indian movies on the plane from Mumbai to Newark in January than I probably did in all of 2008.

On a recent day-trip to New York, we picked up two DVDs of what might be termed “anti-Bollywood” Hindi films that might get us back in the habit, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, and Luck By Chance.

By anti-Bollywood, I mean films that try to be “realistic” rather than sentimental, and that have limited use of songs to accompany, rather than interrupt, the plot of the film (the “diegesis,” for you film geeks). Many conventional Bollywood films don’t have written scripts, and star-power, branding, and memorable songs often have more to do with the success of those films than acting skill, or good, believable stories. In the old days, the emphasis on realism in Indian cinema was mainly the province of art-house directors, and mainly involved glum themes and a certain ponderousness. Happily, in the past few years, with the rise of Indian multiplexes, a realist sensibility has started to take hold on the margins of Bollywood itself. To my eye, the movement started with gangster films, and directors like R.G. Varma. But now it seems like we’re increasingly seeing a broader range of themes and styles of filmmaking in this space: an anti-Bollywood Bollywood. (Meanwhile, the same-old same-old of Hindi commercial cinema sputters along, effectively unchanged.)

Below are my brief reviews of Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and Luck by Chance. Continue reading

Nazar-a blog by UT Austin students

I recently received an email from a blog/online magazine called Nazar. They asked if we could link to them in our blogroll (bottom of the comments column). We get requests like this all the time. We have a very simple policy (stated in our FAQ): we only link to blogs that one of us actually reads or follows, even occasionally. However, we always check out each link we receive. Nazar was a pleasant surprise, not only because it has a beautiful design, but because it is really cool to see another (much younger) group of dedicated writers/bloggers who saw a need and took the opportunity to fill a gap:

Nazar – A South Asian Perspective , is a brand new online magazine that caters to the South Asian population at The University of Texas at Austin. One of our primary goals is to bring Nazar out as a print publication at UT and throughout Austin.

Like most good ideas, Nazar was born from the need to fill a gap. The gap was a lack of a publication that catered to the 5,000 South Asians on campus, a community that makes up 10% of the UT population. We wanted to create a magazine that would not only be a representative voice of this community, but would also inform South Asians in detail of the events happening back at home.

This doesn’t just mean a compilation of facts of the major events – anyone, South Asian or otherwise, can get those – but reviews and opinions of them, especially from the perspective of a South Asian living overseas. Just as important will be the coverage of issues and events in the US that affect South Asians living here, be it immigration and foreign policy, the cultural divide, or an imminent performance by a South Asian artist in Austin.

Nazar is the first of its kind, and promises to be an excellent platform for writers, designers, and sales people, amongst others. The road to publishing won’t be easy, but it will be an exciting ride, and we’re thrilled to be part of UT history in the making. [Link]

You got to support dedicated young bloggers. Where is my UMich at? If you know of any similar South Asian American group blogs based out of a university community then please send a tip my way.

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“Slumdog” IT Workers: Rush’s Outsourcing Limbomb

On our shiny new news tab, someone posted a link to a Rush Limbaugh transcript, where Rushbo uses “slumdog” as something akin to an ethnic slur:

CALLER: Perseverance. America, you have to persevere, you have to be patient. … What really irks me is with corporate America, people saying, “Rush, can I get my job back? Are you going to be able to get my job back from something that’s been outsourced and the corporations are going all over, out of the country.” Why don’t these people invest in America, invest in corporate America, become stockholders. The CEOs and the boards of directors pay lip service to their shareholders. Invest in America and invest in yourself by investing in corporate America. Wouldn’t that help?

RUSH: It might. No question about it. But the whole thing about outsourcing, even President Obama slipped up. I love this, ’cause the teleprompter, that teleprompter sometimes sneaks things in there that are not in Obama’s best interests to say, but the teleprompter nevertheless makes him say them. Obama got a call during his virtual town meeting about outsourcing jobs, he said, “Look, those jobs aren’t coming back.” There’s a reason they aren’t coming back. They’re outsourced for a reason, an economic reason, and they’re not coming back. If you’re sitting out waiting for a job that’s now being done by a slumdog in India, and you’re waiting for that job to be canceled, for the slumdog to be thrown out of work, and you to get the job, it ain’t going to happen. It’s not the way economics works. Even Obama’s teleprompter got him to admit that. (link)

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