Ravi Bhalla Runs

Ravi Bhalla.jpg Hoboken City Councilmember-at-Large Ravi Bhalla has thrown his hat…(uh, turban??) in the legislative ring – this past week he announced his candidacy for NJ State Assembly in the 33rd Legislative District. The Democratic primary election is June 7th.

“I am running for Assembly because the voters in Hoboken and the entire district deserve a real alternative to the politics as usual in Hudson County. Important decisions are made behind closed doors by power brokers outside of Hoboken instead of where they should be: at the ballot box. I believe voters should be provided a real choice instead of hand-picked political patrons. And, I am proud to say Mayor Dawn Zimmer agrees completely. That’s why she fully supports my candidacy,” said Bhalla in an email from his office. [nj]

For too long, our leaders in Trenton have been chosen by party bosses in backroom deals with no input from the voters they claim to represent. Decisions affecting your future are made behind closed doors and no one has the guts to challenge them. As a Councilman in Hoboken and Chairman of the local Democratic Party in Hoboken, I have seen firsthand the corrupting influence machine politics has on the democratic process. I am running because it is time to give residents a real choice, an alternative to candidates that are pre-selected to represent you by the Hudson County party machine. [bhallaforassembly]

I heard about Ravi’s race rather recently, from members in the community. I’m more familiar with West Coast politics, and had to do some rooting around. I had no idea there was a Sikh sitting on city council in Hoboken, a city with a substantial South Asian population. Who is Ravi Bhalla?

Ravi is a small businessman, managing a four-lawyer law firm with offices in downtown Hoboken and Newark. His firm specializes in employment law, civil rights, commercial litigation, and local government law. He was included in the 2009 edition NJ Superlawyers and NJ Monthly magazine as one of those designated as a ‘Rising Star’ in the New Jersey legal community….Ravi has long been an advocate for the legitimate rights of tenants and landlords, serving for close to two years as Hoboken’s Rent Board Attorney and Special Litigation Counsel for Rent Board matters, and continuing to serve as Union City’s Tenant Advocate. [ourhoboken]

I’d be interested to hear from our readers on the ground in New Jersey to hear what they have to say about Ravi Bhalla. Was his run a surprise? Does he have a shot? Are you volunteering to get him elected? Please let us know. Continue reading

Where My Desis At…So Far?

Two million South Asian Americans. At least, those are the figures we’ve been working with since the 2000 Census and many of us have been on the edge of our seats to see how these numbers have changed in the past 10 years. The US Census is slowing releasing their data and this week they released numbers the larger Asian subcategories under Asian. Meaning, we now have access to some “Asian Indian only” data for SOME of the states. This didn’t keep the media from publishing findings, and I spent some time trying to suss out their source.

A little surfing on American FactFinder (actually, a really inordinate amount of time surfing – they’ve updated the site and it’s not very intuitive). It turns out the South Asian American population has grown – of the Asian American categories, Asian Indians are the second largest only after Chinese. The South Asian population is at 2,802,676 and these will most likely change as the 2010 numbers get published on the census site.

So. Where exactly are the Desis at?

Concentration of Asian Indians v.2.JPG

I took the population data available and did a county break down of all the Asian Indians residing and divided that by the total population. Please note, since the data is still being released in waves, we are still missing a few states to this analysis – Arkansas, New Jersey and Texas and likely some more. Clearly the data for New Jersey and Texas will change the findings. Also keep in mind that the sub-categories for Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc… have not been published yet.

At 11.1% concentration, we have Sutter County, CA listed at the top. Home to Yuba City and a long history of Sikh American farmers, this should come as no big surprise, though the percentage point is rather high. Santa Clara County is next on the list and is considered the “Silicon Valley”, including landmarks such as Stanford University and Google. Third on the list is of course, Queens County, which is where the Indian neighborhood Jackson Heights is.

Largest Populations of Asian Indians v.2.JPG

If you look at raw population count alone, Santa Clara County is number one, Queens County is number two and Los Angeles County is number three. Continue reading

Curry Smugglers Present Special Show Sunday May 22


When I first discovered the Curry Smugglers back in Fall 2010 through Twitter friends, I took it upon myself to listen to all of their episodes, starting from the most recent and going back to the very beginning. Given that the only desi music I know is the ’90s Bollywood music from my youth (and of course whatever Taz unearths for us here on SM), I was thrilled to find a show that features a variety of genres coupled with lively commentary from the show’s genial co-hosts and producers, Paresh and Sachin. Having been thoroughly educated a la Curry Smugglers, I’m happy to announce that the pair will air a special show on Sunday, May 22nd, featuring popular Bollywood playback singer Lucky Ali and Raghu Dixit, an independent artist from The Raghu Dixit Project. I caught up with Smuggler Paresh (featured below with guest Raghu on the right) to find out more about the gang’s latest shenanigans.

PG: Who/what’s a curry smuggler? Does this involve actual curry?

Paresh: First off, can I offer you a beverage? I’m coming up a with a curry-flavored shot, don’t crinkle your nose…

A Curry Smuggler is defined as a species of music lover in the genus of Dances Muches. By definition, this listener enjoys music that is mainly bootleg ‘Bollywood’ remixes paired with tracks from Brit Bhangra, Desi alternative pop/rock bands, Urban Asian artists and anything else that fits in the make-your-kundi-dance genre.

PG: So no actual curry distribution, but lots of music.

Paresh: Right, garam masala is not an aphrodisiac… We are two guys with a strong support team of family and friends behind us who want to show people across the Western Hemisphere and ultimately the world that there’s a ton of talent in India. We’re expanding our ‘genre pool’ every season but are very focused on the club/production/remix area of desi music because it holds common threads for desis worldwide.

Continue reading

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Nikki Haley, kingmaker 2012?

Nikki Haley has been the subject of posts on this blog going back to the middle of the last decade. Now Politico has the first of what are probably going to be many similar stories leading up to the 2012 South Carolina primary, Nikki Haley muscles up for 2012:

With noted smackdowns of two top GOP 2012 contenders, a high-profile presence at the May 5 Fox News debate and a schedule heavy with cable news show appearances, the first-term Republican governor is signaling her intent to use South Carolina’s key early presidential primary to claim a place on the national stage.

Haley’s recent muscle-flexing came at the expense of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, both of whom are still licking their wounds after her frank–and non-constructive–criticism of them.

Continue reading

Junk Science for Fun

Arvind Gupta has won national awards for his many contributions to science education in India. But when he introduces himself, he calls himself a toymaker. He’s not developing the type of toys that you would buy in a store or order online. His toys are the kind people can make using trash and other everyday materials.

Got a straw? Make a flute! A couple of foam cups or a CD? Turn them into a helicopter or a hovercraft! Gupta’s videos, which I saw posted on MeFi, quickly show how to make nifty toys from trash and simple materials. They also demonstrate scientific principles in action–a coin and an old hanger are used to show centrifugal force, for example. Continue reading

Giantlike Young’ins

I stumbled up Young the Giant when the adorable 21 yr old lead singer Sameer Gadhia’s image graced one of my most favorite Tumblr pages. I had to see what kind of music he played and after watching the six “Open Session” video on continuous repeat, I was simply hooked. Here’s my favorite of the mix for your #MusicMonday.

Young the Giant’s self titled debut album just dropped ($5 for month of May at Amazon!), and I can’t stop listening to it. With a clearly California sound, the music takes you through on a road trip of sounds through desert romance to beachy carefreeness. No surprise, considering the band is from Orange County and has just made it big, selling out shows as they tour across the country.

The group won a contest on music-marketing website Sonicbirds to open for Kings of Leon at a January 2009 concert at Chicago’s House of Blues…. That show piqued label interest, and the group played music showcase South by Southwest a couple months later… The band ended up signing with Roadrunner Records, which released its self-titled debut digitally in the fall and physically this January (22,000 copies sold to date). [usatoday]

Sameer also has talked about his Indian background influencing his sound.

I’ve been around a lot of Indian classical. My sister is an amazing singer, and my mom and my dad’s mother used to sing, so Indian classical is something that I grew up listening to. Even though I started getting into different American styles early on, I still had that influence in the back of my head, so when I’d start writing, some of the melodies would twirl along that axis. [lamusicblog]

The band heads out in an international tour in May, but hang tight – they’ll be back Stateside to play Lollapalooza this August. If I was in Chicago, I’d definitely check them out. But if you can’t, this one is for you. Continue reading

Eating American: The Fat Cost of Fitting In?


Recently the President released his long-form birth certificate to show everyone, perhaps especially those birthers gone berserk, that he’s an American born in America who belongs in the White House. On a day-to-day basis, desis in the U.S. are not being asked to pull out their long-forms (not yet anyway), but are there other ways in which we’re made to feel that we have to prove we belong, that we’re American? New research from psychologists seems to address this question with a particular focus on the food choices of immigrant groups–“Fitting In but Getting Fat: Identity Threat and Dietary Choices among U.S. Immigrant Groups.”

Psychologists show that it’s not simply the abundance of high-calorie American junk food that causes weight gain. Instead, members of U.S. immigrant groups choose typical American dishes as a way to show that they belong and to prove their American-ness.

“People who feel like they need to prove they belong in a culture will change their habits in an attempt to fit in,” said Sapna Cheryan, corresponding author and an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Washington. “If immigrants and their children choose unhealthy American foods over healthier traditional foods across their lives, this process of fitting in could lead to poorer health,” she said.

The results are published in the June issue of Psychological Science.

Public health studies show that diets of immigrants, including those from Asia, Africa and Central and South America worsen the longer they stay in the United States. (press release)

Continue reading

What do Hindu Americans think?

In the comments on this weblog there are lots of debates about what person of religion X thinks. This has particularly been vexing to me when someone asserts “Christians believe Y,” based on interactions with a particular type of Christian. Though CUNY”s American Religious Identification Survey and the General Social Survey are excellent resources, probably the best clearing house on American religious data is Pew’s Religious Landscape Survey. Unfortunately Pew’s specific data is hard to link to, so I’ve had to repeat the same information over and over and given instructions on how to find the specific data through a series of clicks.

To get around this I decided to replicate some of the data points of possible interest to readers of this weblog. I extracted Hindus, Buddhists, Evangelical Protestants, Mainline Protestants, and Roman Catholics. The majority of South Asian Americans are of Hindu background, and even more of Indian Americans. Buddhists are diverse, but since they are of the same broad religious family (Dharmic) as Hindus I thought they’d be a good check. The Evangelical Protestants here are traditional white denominations, not the historically Black Protestant denominations. Mainline Protestants refers to the major establishment Protestant denominations, Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Lutherans (note that a minority of Methodists, Presbyterians, and Lutherans, are evangelical, but the majority are not. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is not evangelical, but the Presbyterian Church in America is). Do remember that Hindus in particular are still predominantly an immigrant community in the United States (this makes sense of their peculiar age distribution). Continue reading

Chindia in the South Bay

Interesting article posted on the news tab, Indian population diversifying Bay Area’s Asian population. Here’s an infographic which tells the tale:


To some extent the story is a recycling of an old American dynamic of the ethnic shift of neighborhoods and communities as they’re impacted by different waves of immigrants, in this case from Chinese to Indians. It focuses on the city of Cupertino, which as of 2010 is 63% Asian American, 31% non-Hispanic white, 4% Hispanic, and 1% black. Continue reading

Bet on Brown? Desis at the Derby

Could betting desi at the Derby make you some money? A news post from Ram mentioned that the recent 137th Kentucky Derby, also known as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports with Big Hats Sideshow,” had two jockeys of Jamaican desi descent in the top ten finishers. Rajiv Maragh rode Mucho Macho Man (aka MMM) to a third place finish and a piece of the $2 million purse, and Shaun Bridgmohan rode Santiva to a sixth place finish. So I guess betting on the right brown can make you a little green, or a lot–first place went to another kind of brown more common in the jockey world, John Velazquez riding Animal Kingdom.


Maragh and Bridgmohan’s Derby bios both mention dads who made them complete high school before pursuing the thrilling but inherently risky field of horseracing, a fact probably notable because riders are eligible for a jockey license at age 16. Maragh’s father was a jockey. Bridgmohan, whose brother is also a jockey, is referenced in the lyrics for “Fake Patois” by Das Racist: What you know about Shaun Bridgmohan? First Jamaican in the Kentucky Derby.  Continue reading