Jindal kids at the ball

The MSNBC PhotoBlog thinks the Jindal kids–Selia, Slade and Shaan–stole the show at their father’s inauguration for his second term. In the blog’s photo picks, the young threesome make a red-carpeted entrance at the inauguration and peer into a canister presented to their father during the ceremony. Nola.com includes another image of the kids on the dance floor with their parents in its gallery of the inaugural festivities.

Gov. Jindal spent a good portion of his┬áspeech yesterday (full text) on the┬átopic of education and ended with cheers of Who Dat! and Geaux Tigers! in support of the state’s sports teams.

Gonna Dress You Up in Pattu


People Magazine recently spotted Padma Lakshmi’s young daughter wearing a colorful, traditional outfit. Will celebrity-watching fashionista parents soon be on the lookout for tiny pattu-langas (apparently also called pattu pavada) at their local baby boutiques? Perhaps, though they might have better luck finding these children’s outfits at online bazaars.

I can’t remember my first pattu-langa, but there’s probably a picture of me in it in one of my parents’ photo albums. When we were growing up, my sisters and I, and more recently my niece, were dressed up in these silky, shiny outfits for special events or big family parties. The langa or skirt part of my outfits was longer, going down to my feet. But I also like the style worn by Krishna because in addition to its pretty purple hue, its shorter length looks like it could be easier to wear while toddling around as a baby.

Hit up YouTube for more pattu-langa cuteness.

Photo: desiVastra Continue reading

Way To Go, Anika / A Speech for Libraries

This is a video of 14-year-old Anika Tabovaradan giving an impassioned speech about the need for libraries in Toronto. It is 2 a.m., she hates public speaking, she’s been waiting for four hours to talk, and a bunch of Toronto officials–including Mayor Rob Ford–are watching her. AND SHE IS AWESOME.

Way to go, Anika. You reminded me how much I love libraries, librarians, and community space.

(Here’s the related article in the Toronto Star, and a tip o’ the old hat to Romesh H, who pointed out the vid in the first place.) Continue reading

California’s DREAM ACT too late for some?

Here in California, there has been a lot of news and commentary around the possible passage of the The California Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. It was featured on a recent NPR story:

Illegal immigrant students in that state’s colleges may soon be eligible for state-funded financial aid. A bill called the California Dream Act is working its way through the state legislature. It would allow students who attended at least three years at a California high school to apply for financial aid.

NPR’s Carrie Kahn has our report.

CARRIE KAHN: Sofia Campos came to California when she was six. Her parents brought her and her two younger siblings from Peru. Campos said she had no idea her family had overstayed their visas. She didn’t find out she was here illegally until she was ready to go to college.

Ms. SOFIA CAMPOS: When I was 17, I tried to apply for federal financial aid. So I asked my parents for the Social Security number, and that’s when they had to tell me that I didn’t have one. [link]

President Obama is on the record as supporting the DREAM act nationally and it was introduced (yet again) in the US Senate in May of this year.

This bill would provide conditional permanent residency to certain illegal and deportable alien students who graduate from US high schools, who are of good moral character, arrived in the U.S. legally or illegally as minors, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment. If they were to complete two years in the military or two years at a four year institution of higher learning, the students would obtain temporary residency for a six year period. Within the six year period, a qualified student must have “acquired a degree from an institution of higher education in the United States or [have] completed at least 2 years, in good standing, in a program for a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in the United States,” or have “served in the armed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, [have] received an honorable discharge.”[3] Military enlistment contracts require an eight year commitment, with active duty commitments typically between four and six years, but as low as two years.[4][5] “Any alien whose permanent resident status is terminated [according to the terms of the Act] shall return to the immigration status the alien had immediately prior to receiving conditional permanent resident status under this Act.”[6] [Wikipedia].

But this might all be too late for Mandeep Chahal. Deportation day could be Tuesday. You might want to write a letter against this if you have a minute today:

Mandeep, a DREAM Act eligible student, and her mother face imminent deportation on Tuesday, June 21, 2011. Mandeep grew up in Mountain View, California and attended Santa Rita Elementary School and Egan Junior High School. She graduated from Los Altos High School in 2009 and is now an honors pre-med student at UC Davis.

Mandeep came to the United States in 1997 when she was six years old, and only discovered she was undocumented when she was 15.

If Mandeep and her mother are forced to leave, their family will be torn apart and Mandeep’s two U.S. Citizen siblings will be left without their mother. [link]

Kids shouldn’t pay for the “sins” of their parents. Especially if they work hard and have the potential of making our society better. Enough with the out of control “enforcement only” way of dealing with immigration.

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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

Rollin’ with the Bhangra Queen


Meena’s news post shares the info that popular DJ and repeat White House guest Rekha Malhotra will perform live at the White House’s largest annual event, the Easter Egg Roll. The event’s theme this year is “Get Up and Go!” promoting health and wellness and encouraging kids to be healthy and active as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to combat childhood obesity. DJ Rekha will be on the Ellipse with other musical performers, bringing her blend of bhangra and hip-hop beats to get people moving.
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Elmo Goes to Pakistan

Sesame Street.jpg“I don’t own a television.” When I let that slip into conversation, most of my friends are aghast. They immediately assume one of two things: a) I am one of those holier-than-thou, live-in-the-moment, anti-media types or b) I’m just a weirdo. It’s probably a combination of both. Maybe someday I’ll see the need for a television, but right now I’m content with my laptop for movies and the occasional show at someone else’s house. But then again, our family has never been the television type. (Insert assumed air of humility and delicate toss of head.) My parents didn’t purchase their first television set until I was about 14, before that I mostly got my pop culture in disjointed snippets. Five minutes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at a neighbor’s house. The occasional pop song at the mall. Our church didn’t allow the ownership of televisions. Too secular. Too much potential for exposure to sex. Gasp!

So unlike most American kids, I didn’t wake up early every Saturday morning and rush to the television to watch my favorite cartoons (at least not until I was 14). All that to say this: I’m not very familiar with the children’s show Sesame Street, which airs in 120 countries in 20 international versions. I did not learn my numbers from the Count, alas. Aside from that cute little rubber ducky song and of course a fascination with Cookie Monster (nom), I wouldn’t know my Bert from my Ernie. Luckily for kids in Pakistan, however, Sesame Street will soon be a reality in a country where education is on the bottom of the governmental to-do list. Forget NYC, these puppets are going to Lahore.

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Khan’s Calculus: Education for Everyone

Salman Khan is a hit on YouTube. But it’s not because he’s a movie star shimmying across the screen sans shirt to the sound of music–that’s another Salman Khan. This Salman Khan doesn’t even walk on screen in the videos he makes, which are filmed in his bedroom closet. He prefers to be the voice in the background teaching people about calculus, chemistry, finance and a range of other subjects.

His Khan Academy channel on YouTube has received over 48 million views so far. But when he first started making video tutorials, he had just one viewer in mind. Back then Khan, who doesn’t have a degree in education but does have an MBA and degrees in math and science, was working as a hedge fund analyst in Boston. He made YouTube videos to remotely tutor his cousin in New Orleans in math. Continue reading

Slumgod Mandeep Sethi Drops the Boom Bap Rap

Poor Peoples Planet.png This past Friday, Bay Area Sikh-American hip-hop lyricist Mandeep Sethi dropped his latest album Poor Peoples Planet, a concept album produced by X9 of Xitanos Matematikos that weaves in the teaching Jiddu Krishnamurti, Punjabi gypsy origins, and classical elements of hip hop. At only 22 years old, Mandeep has already developed a strong base of followers having appeared on stage with artists such as Ziggy Marley and Dead Prez and having jumped on the mic with folks I’ve written about before such as Humble the Poet, Sikh Knowledge and Ras Ceylon. You can get Poor Peoples Planet on iTunes later this week and if you visit Mandeep’s BandCamp you can download the album now. Still not sure? Check out the single below Moving Swiftly, Guerrilla Tactics.

[Moving Swiftly::][GuerillaTactics][POORPEOPLESPLANET by mandeep.sethi.music

Full disclosure, I’ve been helping get the word out for Poor Peoples Planet and am excited to support a young Desi American whose lyrics are smart, conscious, and inspired by the hyphenated identity. But in the course of hanging out with Mandeep this week, I was really impressed to find out that he is one of the co-founders of Slumgods. Based in India, Slumgods was founded in 2010 as the first B-Boy collective in India bringing together emcees, breakers, artists of India and America. The Slumgods are bringing it hard and fresh using the the five elements of hip hop as a tool of empowerment for the slum youth in the Dharavi slums with a community center called Tiny Drops Hip Hop Center.

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Why Desi Mothers are Superior (Or Not)

If you haven’t already, I suggest you take a good, long look at the article “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” which appeared last Sunday in the WSJ by Amy Chua, a Yale Law School professor. The piece, an excerpt from her forthcoming memoir, describes Chinese parenting techniques in relation to those of “Western parents.” Chua cites her personal experiences with her two daughters, Sophia and Louisa, and all the activities she doesn’t allow them to do– like “have a playdate” or “choose their own extracurricular activities.” Sound familiar? If you grew up in a desi household, it probably does. And Chua’s recollection of a particular situation, where her seven-year old daughter Lulu had trouble learning a difficult piano piece, may also strike a chord, no pun intended:

I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.

I rolled up my sleeves and went back to Lulu. I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn’t let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom. The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, but still there seemed to be only negative progress, and even I began to have doubts.

Now, I consider my own mother to be a very good mother. Edit. I consider my mother to be an excellent mother. As a childhood elementary education major, my mother could be quite rigid when it came to rules, but she gave us siblings room to pursue our own interests. As long as I pulled in semi-respectable grades, I was free to audition for the school play, write for the school paper, etc. Continue reading