Questions on Our Foreheads

questions.on.our.foreheads.jpgComedian Aziz Ansari has been popping up even more than usual on TV (The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel) and elsewhere to help promote his new movie with Jesse Eisenberg and Dilshad Vadsaria, 30 Minutes or Less. Entertainment Weekly reported that at one recent club performance, Ansari had some harsh words for an audience member who asked him, “Why don’t you have a red dot on your forehead?”

While the audience gasped, a shocked Ansari replied by asking why she didn’t have the word “c– on her forehead.” Then he remarked about how there are still “racist” people in the world. (EW)

Like Ansari, you may have been asked, “Why don’t you have a red dot on your forehead?” Or maybe you’ve been asked other questions–”Is it made of blood? Is it a tattoo? What does it mean?” and perhaps even “Can I touch it?” You might have called it a bottu, bindi, tikka, tilaka or something else at home and felt weird about people calling it a “dot.” Continue reading

Touchdown, Hyderabad Skykings!

EFLI.jpgAre you ready for some football? I am. I’ve been an NFL fan for many years, recently got into the CFL and hope to soon be watching the EFLI: Elite Football League of India.

Yes, American football in India. No, this isn’t a story from The Onion.

According to Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal, the eight-team league, which will begin play in Nov. 2012, is being backed by investors such as Mike Ditka, Ron Jaworski, Michael Irvin and Brandon Chillar (the Indian-American linebacker formerly of the Green Bay Packers).

The founding teams are the Hyderabad Skykings, Bhubaneswar Warhawks, Goa Swarm, Mumbai Gladiators, Dehi Royal Fleet, Punjab Warriors, Pune Blacktigers and Kolkata Vipers. Sorry, no Bengals or Browns.

“India has no history of american football, but backers sure cuz country is crazy about american entertainment, this will fly,” Kaplan tweeted, adding in another tweet: “They are training rugby players right now. Top rugby coaches involved. Seriously unlikely any US players would got there.”

Rugby players? Seriously? Rugby may be the closest sport to football, but that’s like preparing for the PGA tour by playing croquet. 

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Totally Pulled a “Nikki H.”

nikki_haley.jpgIt’s like Bhagat Singh Thind all over again. Are we White? Are we Brown? Are we Hindoos? Can I be white so that I can own property (as in Thind’s case)? Can I be White so that I can become electable as governor of South Carolina (as in Nikki Haley’s case)?

Haley — South Carolina’s first female and minority governor and the country’s second Indian-American governor — listed her race as “white” on her 2001 voter registration card… The state Democratic Party, which first obtained the public record, is calling Haley out on the matter and challenging whether her inconsistency on the card might have made her ineligible to voter under the state’s new Voter ID law. [postandcourier]

Oh Nimrata… As much as our politics and preference in alleged love affair diverged, I took a certain pride in knowing that we had our first South Asian American woman in governership. To marginalize yourself, when in leadership role, marginalizes the rest of us. Changing your name from Nimrata to Nikki is one thing, but changing your race? It’s skin. It’s blood. Unless you are Michael Jackson, it doesn’t rub off.

Now that I think about it, I think I have just the product for you, thanks to Sandeep Sood. This just may fit your need.

So Nikki, I’m going to give you the benefit of a doubt – like the 25% of South Asian Americans who marked themselves as White in the 1990 Census. This is your Public Service Announcement – No matter how great your dermatologist is or how much Fair & Lovely Inside you ingest, you are not White. You are a minority. A South Asian American. A woman of Indian heritage and Sikh parents.

And next time we hear someone Desi insist on their Whiteness, we can say, “She totally just pulled a Nikkie H.” Continue reading

Q&A with Author Patrick French

In the past, I have tried and failed to complete books about India. They tend to make me yawn. But when Amitava gave me a copy of Patrick French’s India: A Portrait, I was immediately hooked. The book contains a generous sprinkling of humorous, well-executed anecdotes guaranteed to delight (and likely inflame some) readers. After I completed the book, I reached out to Mr. French, who was kind enough to entertain my questions.

Why India: A Portrait? Why not the story of Japan or China or any number of other countries? What about India fascinates you enough to dedicate close to 400 pages and over four years to covering the country? Because India is, objectively speaking, the most interesting country in the world at the moment – with the possible exception of the United States. I felt there was no current book which provides a snapshot of India as it is right now, at a time of great change, but which also placed the economics and politics in a historical context.

What challenges were there to writing “an intimate biography of 1.2 billion people”? Did you ever feel as if you had swallowed off more than you could chew? The book’s title is India: A Portrait. It’s a picture drawn from many angles, but it doesn’t seek to be comprehensive. For example: there’s not much about cricket, Bollywood, the north-east or music. That “intimate biography” line is an advertising slogan from one of the editions of the book. Yes, it’s an intimate piece of writing. It uses personal stories to communicate a larger history – for example by looking at Indira Gandhi’s death through the eyes of her assassin’s son, or at the Permit Raj through the experiences of a junior scion of a business dynasty.

Patrick French.JPG Continue reading

Digital Diaspora: The South Asian American Digital Archive


I love me some primary sources/historical material, so imagine my delight when I discovered the South Asian American Digital Archive, which I first heard about from a friend of Vivek’s. You can get lost on this site for many hours, looking at everything from the Gadar Party to old SM favorite Dilip Singh Saund (and by the way, I would like a dollar for every time he has been mentioned on SM).

It turned out that Vivek’s pal, SAADA President Samip Mallick, was working on SAADA with, among other people, a friend of a friend of mine, Manan Desai. The two of them agreed to do an interview about it for Sepia. This interview was conducted via the standard Interwebs. Continue reading