Peacemakers: London Desis & Cricket Fans

peace.symbol.jpgCan online communication help us achieve world peace? The Economist seems to think it’s unlikely in A cyber-house divided. But London desis and cricket fans, it turns out, are two groups who are working toward that goal by building bridges across the divisions.

With its global reach and relative freedom, the internet could be a great opportunity for people separated by war, religion, color, class or other borders to connect and learn about each other’s common interests and concerns. But reality, as described by The Economist, is different: “Research suggests that the internet is not so radical. People are online what they are offline: divided, and slow to build bridges.” Continue reading

4 of the 400

Did you all catch the most recent edition of the Forbes 400 Richest People in America? I was shocked that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is richer than Steve Jobs and Rupert Murdoch?!? How is that even possible? I have never spent a single dollar surfing Facebook (as far as I know). I am looking forward to seeing the new biopic on him though because there have been nothing but rave reviews so far. Anyways, getting finally to the desi hook. There are four desis on the list:

Four Indian-Americans are among Forbes 400 Richest People in America, a list topped by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The Indians who made the cut include Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla, outsourcing firm Syntel’s founder Bharat Desai, venture capitalist Kavitark Ram Shriram and software king Romesh Wadhwani.

While Desai ranks 252 with a net worth of $1.6 billion, Khosla occupies the 308th spot in the list with fortunes worth $1.3 billion. Shriram is at 288 with assets worth $1.45 billion and Wadhwani 290 with a total valuation of $1.4 billion. [Link]

Maybe Desai, the highest Indian American on the list (who is the founder of an outsourcing firm), should have been hired as an advisor for NBC’s new show because they clearly did not have a clue.

Now I just have to figure out how I can make money from all of you surfing this site for free and I can be #5.

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Updates from the crime file

There are two recent crime stories I wanted to give SM readers a quick update on. First, some members of the South Asian Bling Ring operating in the Northern Virginia area finally got what was coming to them:

The husband in a couple that targeted South Asian families in Northern Virginia for break-ins pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to steal at least $500,000 worth of gold and other valuables in 37 burglaries.

Dagoberto Soto-Ramirez, 27, of New York City entered the plea in U.S. District Court in Alexandria less than a week after his wife admitted her guilt and described how the couple and third alleged conspirator — who remains at large — scrolled through names in phonebooks to target what they believed to be Indian homes.

The homes were chosen, the couple has told a federal judge, because the families often kept gold there as part of family customs. [Link]

Also, remember the brutal murder of Divyendu Sinha that we blogged about in July?

The five teens accused of fatally beating Prof. Divyendu Sinha have been charged with murder and will be tried as adults, announced the Middlesex, New Jersey County Prosecutor’s office Sept. 17.

The five suspects were also charged with assaulting Sinha’a two teenage sons, Ravi and Ashish, who attempted to defend their father as he was being attacked on the evening of June 25, near his Old Bridge, New Jersey home…

Jim O’Neill, spokesman for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, told India-West that no motive had yet been established for the brutal beating.

O’Neill said he could not comment on whether hate crime enhancements would be added to the murder charges. In the three months since the attack, the local Indian American community has put steady pressure on the prosecutor’s office to charge the five juveniles with a hate crime.

The PAN IIT has also taken up Sinha’s case by writing a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. [Link]

Hope this will help bring some measure of closure to the victims in both cases, particularly Sinha’s family.

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GonjaSufi: Singing up from the stomach

I have recently been enjoying the sounds of GonjaSufi and thought I’d share his stylings with Sepia Mutiny readers. You can clearly hear the South Asian influence in his music:

Gonjasufi (born Sumach Ecks, aka Sumach Valentine, c.1978) is a rapper, singer, disc jockey and yoga teacher from San Diego, California and currently living in Las Vegas, Nevada.Ecks was born to a Mexican mother and an American-Ethiopian father. He has been releasing music since the early 1990s among the San Diego Hip Hop scene, notably with the Masters of the Universe crew. Ecks gained notice from Warp Records in 2008 after an appearance on Californian musician Flying Lotus’ album Los Angeles, where he sings on the track “Testament”. His Warp debut album, A Sufi and a Killer was released on March 8, 2010. Ecks’ voice was described by Pitchfork Media as “a scraggly, scary, smoked-out croak that creeps like the spiritual offspring of George Clinton and Leadbelly”. He attributes his singing voice to his day job teaching yoga when he had to “to project from my stomach more”.[3]… [Wiki]
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“Outsourced” – Something to Look Forward To?

After much fanfare, NBC debuts a new fall comedy tonight with a decidedly Desi theme – Outsourced. Here in the Bay Area, it’s on NBC @ 9:30pm. The show’s premise?

Now, for most mutineers who grew up in the post-Simpsons/Apu age, the idea of an entire comedy focused on Desi’s isn’t a theme we particularly look forward to. However, the NYT got a sneak-peak of the show and published a pretty complimentary and hopeful review –

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WWII Flying ace passes away

SM tipster Amol notifies us of some sad news today out of the UK:

An Indian pilot who flew Hawker Hurricanes during World War II has died, it has been announced.

Squadron Leader Mahinder Singh Pujji, 92, died at Darent Valley Hospital in Kent on Saturday following a stroke.

Sqn Ldr Pujji was believed to be the last surviving fighter pilot from a group of 24 Indians who arrived in Britain in 1940.

He survived several crashes and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for services in Burma. [Google]

The photograph in the article conveys the swagger of a pilot who knows he’s a bad-ass.

He seems to have given an interview earlier this year:

Mohinder Singh remembers the start of the war vividly. Just a year after it had begun, at the height of the Battle of Britain, he decided to join the Royal Air Force (RAF). He was 22 years old and in search of adventure.

‘I saw London being bombed, I saw what people were suffering and I knew what they were going through and how cruel the enemy was because they were throwing bombs on civilians. They were not fighting soldier to soldier and hundreds of people were being made homeless so that changed my perspective, then I was very keen to fight for the country, for this country where I had come to seek adventure really.’

Two or three pilots would be lost everyday and Mohinder almost became a casualty himself several times.‘From day one in every letter to my parents I said don’t expect me back.’ [Link]

Here is a newer picture from an article in The Guardian last year that detailed a permanent exhibit at the RAF museum (that I once visited as a kid) called “Diversity in the Royal Air Force”:

I will likely re-visit this whole topic in greater detail at some point in the future.

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Converse throws out its new shoes

Only someone in a Purple Haze could have come up with a design like this [thanks for the tip Ankur]:

Converse is longer selling a pair of Chuck Taylors that depicted guitar legend Jimi Hendrix as a colorful, multi-armed Hindu deity.

The company says the shoe–a part of a fall collection in memory of Hendrix–will no longer be sold because it offends Hindu culture. [Houston Chronicle]

The shoe company said that the inspiration for the design came from the 1967 album “Axis: Bold as Love.”

My take on this is the same as always. This stuff (taking artistic license with religious iconography) doesn’t insult me in the least as long as the intent behind it isn’t explicitly malicious or to stir up trouble. I’ll admit, I may have even bought a pair. I know many of you will disagree (and some will secretly want a pair too).

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Boys don’t cry

The NYTimes reports on a continuing practice in Afghanistan that breaks one’s heart (complete with a slideshow):

KABUL, Afghanistan — Six-year-old Mehran Rafaat is like many girls her age. She likes to be the center of attention. She is often frustrated when things do not go her way. Like her three older sisters, she is eager to discover the world outside the family’s apartment in their middle-class neighborhood of Kabul.

But when their mother, Azita Rafaat, a member of Parliament, dresses the children for school in the morning, there is one important difference. Mehran’s sisters put on black dresses and head scarves, tied tightly over their ponytails. For Mehran, it’s green pants, a white shirt and a necktie, then a pat from her mother over her spiky, short black hair. After that, her daughter is out the door — as an Afghan boy.

There are no statistics about how many Afghan girls masquerade as boys. But when asked, Afghans of several generations can often tell a story of a female relative, friend, neighbor or co-worker who grew up disguised as a boy. To those who know, these children are often referred to as neither “daughter” nor “son” in conversation, but as “bacha posh,” which literally means “dressed up as a boy” in Dari. [NYTimes]

Anyone that caught the depressing 2003 film “Osama” (saddest ending ever) will be familiar with the practice of “bacha posh.”

Dan Rather also provides a short video segment on the story:

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Barrymore goes to Bollywood

The floodgates are opening and more Hollywooders are going slumdogging:

The Lifestyle is a Bollywood movie that will be managed by an Indian production house and produced by first-time writer and director Santosh Kumar Jain. “I really liked her performance in Charlie’s Angels and decided to cast her in my film. Fortunately, she liked the script and agreed instantly,” director Santosh Kumar Jain told the Times of India.

The Lifestyle will talk about three women who are all trying to find their identity. “The film is about three women from different walks of life, trying to assert their identities. Drew plays the role of a foreigner in the film. The other two will be top Indian actresses. The river Ganga is in the backdrop throughout the flick,” Santosh Kumar Jain added.

The flick is set to start shooting in November and will probably only hit theaters in 2012. The Lifestyle’s cast and crew will travel to Haridwar and Benaras, but will mainly work in the U.S. So who will be the lucky B-town artists who will get to work with the popular Hollywood star? [Link]

I still can’t decide. Is there really a profit motive/viable business model here or is this just a novelty such that some of these Hollywooders can have a chance to put on nice Indian clothes? Someone convince me it’s the former.

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