From George to Jyoti: The Famous Five Get a Disneyfied Makeover

OK, Enid Blyton fans, get your hankies out. The Famous Five are getting a 21st century makeover, courtesy of Disney. Think multicultural meets technology in the new animated series “Famous Five: On the Case” which premieres in the UK next month. The crime busting gang of George, Dick, Julian, Anne, and Timmy the dog that Enid Blyton created in 1942 with the bestselling book Five on a Treasure Island is going to be replaced with characters who are the children of the original Famous Five, including a lead Anglo-Indian character.famousfive.jpg

That’s right, the team leader is the daughter of George (the tomboy and the original gang’s leader), Jo, short for Jyoti. According to Jeff Norton at Chorion, which owns the rights to Blyton’s books,

“We tried to imagine where the original Famous Five would go in their lives …Because George was such an intrepid explorer in the original novels we thought it would be only natural that she travelled to India, to the Himalayas, where she fell in love with Ravvi. That’s the back story (to Jo). We spoke to Enid Blyton’s daughter and she thought her mother would love what we have done …” [source: BBC News]

Don’t anyone try to tell me that the Disney executives don’t know how wildly popular Enid Blyton’s books are in India. I’m sure that the decision to have the lead protagonist be connected to the subcontinent somehow had a little something to do with this fact.

Other characters in the revamped series are Allie, a Californian shopaholic (and the daughter of Anne) who is sent to the British countryside to live with her cousins; Julian’s son Max, an “adventure junkie”: and Dylan, the 11-year old son of Dick. Only Timmy the dog gets to keep his original name. Continue reading

Everyone wants a little Punjabi

I wish we were beyond this exasperating stupidity. Via TOIlet (no need to visit and catch a VTD, the entire article is quoted below:

Three-month-old Livya was rejected thrice by prospective Indian parents, who found her too dark. A year later, however, an American couple chose to adopt her and flew her to the US. She now lives with her parents and has two siblings — one from Korea and another from Vietnam.
Livya was lucky, but the story is not the same for other adoptable children. Many who are legally free for adoption continue to face discrimination as wannabe Indian parents look for a “fair and lovely” baby, though the law prevents one from picking and choosing babies for adoption.

Perhaps those overlooked children are better off without such complexion-obsessed parents. After all, there is always the Angelina effect (aside: once again, Madonna is associated with the word “wanna-be”):

But most foreign couples prefer children who are dark-skinned, older or with medical concerns, HIV positive and with special needs.

And here, the reason for my title (and the explanation for the painful noise my jaw made when it fell on my desk):

Secretary for the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), O P Sirohe, says in-country adoptions have been encouraging and there is a long list of parents waiting. But still, they ask for fair-skinned, healthy and, preferably, Punjabi child as it is usually chubby. A child is no market commodity and adoptions become meaningful only when there is a change in people”s attitude, he says.

Preferably a Punjabi child. Wow. I love chubby babies, too (my Godson’s nickname wasn’t “The Pudgesicle” for nothing)…but this just makes my stomach twist. What are you adopting? A baby or an accessory? What does this even mean? That it’s too much work to feed your new kid butter-laced everything, so you can chub them up sufficiently yourself? “Honey, let’s go shopping for a baby on Saturday—I heard they have new Punjabi models in stock!” And to my Punjabi peeps…um…how do you feel about being objectified due to such a dubious distinction?

Foreign couples are more open to adopting any child, irrespective of its age, religion, skin colour or looks. Children who are older, with special needs and medical conditions are finding homes overseas, he says.
“NRIs and couples from Italy, Germany, US, Spain and Sweden take home kids with special needs. We place such children in Indian homes too, but they are an exception,” says Dr Aloma Lobo, chairperson, Adoption Coordinating Agency, Karnataka.

And thanggawd for it.

The following concern isn’t exclusive to India; American “waiting” children don’t have much luck when they are in their teens, either. Everyone wants a baby. And sometimes, a chubby one.

Another hurdle in the adoption of children is their age. For instance, Lakshmi, who is 13 years old, has still not found a home as her age is a major deterrent.

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All love is brown love

As desis we feel that the burden of meddlesome parents is uniquely ours. Exhibit A, an email from Yo Dad to Abhi:

Also please try and select life partner before next January !! Good luck !! Love…. Dad… [Link]

How typical, right? How very … African. The text that follows is from a BBC forum on the proper role of parents in childrens’ love lives in Africa:

Should African parents stay out of their children’s love lives? Or should a happy medium be reached between traditional match making and modern dating? … Is a marriage between two people or between two families?… [Link]

That’s right, it’s not just brown parents that like to … help their children and who view marriage as being a partnership between two families, it’s African families as well. There’s a reason why Bollywood fillums are so popular across Africa.

Similarly, we feel that pressures to be pragmatic about relationships are uniquely desi. Well, what about these quotes from a first world writer:

What they understood is this: as your priorities change from romance to family, the so-called “deal breakers” change. Some guys aren’t worldly, but they’d make great dads. Or you walk into a room and start talking to this person who is 5’4″ and has an unfortunate nose, but he “gets” you. My long-married friend Renée offered this dating advice to me in an e-mail:

I would say even if he’s not the love of your life, make sure he’s someone you respect intellectually, makes you laugh, appreciates you … I bet there are plenty of these men in the older, overweight, and bald category (which they all eventually become anyway). [Link]

Marriage isn’t a passion-fest …It’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business. [Link]
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Another freaky Indian kid

Title says it all. Here is something to think about on the drive home or to discuss with your friends over a beer tonight:

Roller-skating under cars might seem impossible, but it is the latest craze among kids in India and requires the flexibility, strength and balance of a gymnast.

Six-year-old Aniket Chindak holds the unofficial world record for ‘limbo-skating’ and speeds along no more than eight-inches above the ground.

Unfolding his body from his eye-watering position, the wonder-kid explained proudly how he is training to break his own world record of skating under 57 cars in 45 seconds. [Link]

He is like a human transformer. He goes from upright human to some sort of crazy airplane looking thing. Unfortunately, like all other successful child freaks, he will probably go on to face disappointment in a business that exploits youth to provide blog and media fodder.

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Children in UP Manipulated in to Discriminating Against a Dalit

Who hearts the News tab? I totally do and since I had a few moments, I managed to do what I always intend but never get around to– I checked which story was currently “most interesting” as measured by the “top in 24 hr” link. Eleven of us thought the following tip, which was submitted by Condekedar a few days ago, was important:

Indian children boycott school lunches cooked by ‘Untouchable’

Condekedar wrote this rather attention-getting summary…

A sad reminder of the continued existence of caste-discrimination. This story is even worse, because it’s children who are showing their bigotry, not just prejudiced older people.

Via The Independent:

By her own admission, the lunches cooked by Phool Kumari Rawat may not always be the tastiest food the pupils at her school have ever eaten. And with more than 300 students to cook for, getting the proportions right can be a struggle.
But the children of Bibipur Primary and Junior High School near Lucknow have not launched a boycott of Mrs Rawat’s food because of its taste, but because Mrs Rawat is a Dalit, a so-called Untouchable. As a result, they say, the food is unclean.

A whole new generation, India’s best generation yet with regards to opportunity, learning the worst about others. Condekedar is right; it is extra-disheartening to read about such sentiments from little kids.

Such incidents are not uncommon in India, where caste remains a debilitating and divisive phenomenon, especially for those 75 per cent of people who live in rural communities. But the boycott at Bibipur is especially noteworthy because it is taking place in Uttar Pradesh (UP), the state which this year elected a Dalit woman, Mayawati Kumari, as its chief minister. Campaigners say that despite Mayawati’s poll victory, Dalits still suffer widespread discrimination.

First, they did right by the woman:

When the boycott of the meals began last week, local officials stood by Mrs Rawat, a widow with three children, and tried to persuade the students that there was nothing unhygienic about her food. Officials who inspected her cooking said there were no problems and one even ate the lunch – vegetables and rice – in front of the students to persuade them to end their boycott.

…but they didn’t stay strong:

But The Indian Express newspaper reports that with the children not backing down from the boycott, the authorities are now poised to sack Mrs Rawat.

Two issues are being conflated; the quality of the lunches and the hands which cook them. If it were merely about the former, I don’t think anyone would fault the kids. The revolt might even be framed as a cute rebellion by pigtailed and cow-licked children, standing up for their right to yumminess. But…

Tellingly, children who live in Mrs Rawat’s neighbourhood are still eating the lunches, while those involved in the boycott have reportedly made little effort to hide their reason for refusing to eat. “I will not eat anything cooked by that lady. I have heard my family members say that she is from some low caste. So I bring my own lunch box,” said one pupil, Shivani Singh Chauhan.

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Toys for young mutineers (or you)

Kids these days just have it so much better (note: use of this phrase indicates Abhi’s advanced age an increasing irrelevance to our youngest readers). When I was young we didn’t have that many ethnocentric toys to choose from around the holidays. All I really wanted for Christmas was a Destro. I mean, a grenade necklace is just cool (not that I believe that children should be exposed to toys that glorify terrorist networks such as COBRA, which sought to undermine U.S. military policy around the world).

Today, companies like are selling bad-ass Hanuman action figures like the one above. This isn’t your father’s Hanuman. This one looks like a professional triathlete/MMA Fighter. There are two types of parents that would buy a toy like this for their child. The first is the young, second-generation couple that is worried that they aren’t doing enough to familiarize their child with their religious Hindu roots. It would be bad if Hinduism became irrelevant to the next generation so Hanuman, and similar action figures, can serve as a good stop-gap measure. The other kind of parent (the kind that I one day hope to be) would buy this for themselves. Check it out, here is the scenario. You could buy the Hanuman above and also a barrel of monkeys. Then you could pretend that Hanuman was a great general and that under his leadership the barrel of monkeys were able to sweep forth and stem the tide of evil monkey attacks currently taking place in Indian cities like Delhi. The people of India would be grateful and a beautiful woman would fall for him (not just because of his muscles but because of his virtue, good soul, and leadership abilities). Speaking of which, I have to hit up the gym.

Does anyone else think that Hanuman looks a bit like a brown Panthro?

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The Tronie Foundation

Since we’ve already had one depressing story about child slave labor in India today I thought, why not end the day with an…errrrrr, uplifting story about child slave labor? Thank goodness for the Seattle Times for reporting on this gem to take some of the earlier slime off:

As a 7-year-old girl in southern India in 1978, she was taken from her parents and sold into slavery.

At the same time, a 9-year-old boy in Southeast Asia was surviving alone in a cave, after the fishing boat on which he was fleeing Vietnam became shipwrecked.

Rani and Trong Hong would eventually be rescued from their separate childhood nightmares and brought to safety in Washington state. They would meet as adults on a blind date, fall in love and marry…

Now, motivated by the pain of their early years to help others, they are renovating a home exclusively for victims of human trafficking — people recruited, transported and harbored for sexual exploitation or slave labor. [Link]

Talk about a power couple! Click on their names in the passage above to read about their unfortunate childhoods. The non-profit they’ve established, partly on the profits from their lucrative home-building business in Olympia Washington, is called The Tronie Foundation (and it could use your donations):

Rani works with victims who have been abused by all forms of Human Trafficking. Whether the victim was part of a mail-order bride schemes, sold into servitude, sexual slavery or victimized as part of an international adoption ring, Rani because of her own personal experience has a heart for these women and children. She shares openly her own personal story, in hopes that they too can be restored and live a productive life, free from the pain of their past.

“No woman and child should be so severely abused that they end up looking like they are mentally and physically ill. As a survivor of human trafficking, I personally have chosen to speak publicly to give hope and encourage those of you that may be afraid to come forward. [Link]

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Anjay of the Flies

Do you know which Indian dude’s debut is the most hotly anticipated one of this Fall’s television line-up? No, it isn’t Sendhil “I can’t figure out how to speak in an Indian accent even though I’m Indian” Ramamurthy of Heroes. Nor is it Naveen “torture solves everything” Andrews of Lost. The dude that South Asian Americans have their collective eyes on is 12-year-old Anjay Ajodha of Texas. The question is, can he succeed in wresting the reigns of power away from the simpletons within a newly created society known simply as Kid Nation?

40 Kids have 40 days to build a brave new world without adults to help or hinder their efforts. Can they do it? These Kids, ages 8-15, will turn a ghost town into their new home. They will cook their own meals, clean their own outhouses, haul their own water and even run their own businesses including the old town saloon (root beer only). Through it all, they’ll cope with regular childhood emotions and situations: homesickness, peer pressure and the urge to break every rule they’ve ever known.

Will they stick it out? In the end, will these Kids prove to everyone, including their parents, they have the vision to build a better world than the pioneers who came before them? And just as importantly, will they come together as a cohesive unit, or will they abandon all responsibility and succumb to the childhood temptations that lead to round-the-clock chaos? Don’t miss this intriguing series. [Link]

SM readers, let me be blunt. Anjay is the best chance we currently have to demonstrate to the American public how utopian our society might become if super smart desi people were in charge of everything. The governor’s mansion in Louisiana just won’t cut it. More people will tune in to Kid Nation than will pay attention to Louisiana. The question on all our minds is, “will a group of young children between ages 8-15 allow a kid (that reminds us a lot of ourselves at 12) lead the way when left on their own?” Just look at Anjay’s answers to some questions CBS posed. I dare anyone to find more concise and honest answers in any recent Presidential debate:

Who have been some of the best U.S. presidents, and why?
George Washington – he managed to lead a young nation, and headed the conventions to develop the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. Abraham Lincoln – he abolished slavery, and led the nation through the Civil War. Franklin D. Roosevelt – he established the New Deal which got the economy working during the Great Depression and instilled confidence in citizens during his fireside chats.

Who have been some of the worst U.S. presidents, and why?
The US president that comes to mind, due to recent events, is George W. Bush, because I don’t agree with the way he is handling the Iraq war. [Link]

Also, is Anjay Libertarian? And does he know more about government than Fred Thompson?

If you had the power to change one or two things about our country right now, what would it be?
I would create a law that eliminates all budget earmarks – useless bits of spending. If earmarks are eliminated, approximately 78% of the US budget will be freed up to be utilized in areas where there is a more urgent need, such as the national deficit. I would also eliminate paid lobbying in an effort to give all parties involved in a dispute an equal voice. [Link]

Holy crap. 78%? Draft Anjay (or the parents that helped him write this stuff).

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I feel SO much safer now!

baby terrorist.jpg Abhi posted a link on our news tab to a story about…well, stupidity. Way to focus on the fine print, while actual, credible threats go unchecked.

For seven-year-old Javaid Iqbal, the holiday to Florida was a dream trip to reward him for doing well at school.
But he was left in tears after he was stopped repeatedly at airports on suspicion of being a terrorist.
The security alerts were triggered because Javaid shares his name with a Pakistani man deported from the US, prompting staff at three airports to question his family about his identity.
The family even missed their flight home from the U.S. after officials cancelled their tickets in the confusion. And Javaid’s passport now contains a sticker saying he has undergone highlevel security checks.

Little Javaid is a British citizen of Pakistani origin, which makes his “dream” of going to Florida-land as a reward for his good grades even more poignant, to me. The other Javaid is a 39-year old Pakistani who was arrested in connection with 9/11; while they convicted that Javaid of fraud and deported him, he was never charged with anything related to terrorism. His name, obviously, is a red flag for the exquisitely useful database/process which Homeland Security created…you know, the one which apparently doesn’t bother cross-checking birthdays in order to discern the difference between two or more people who share a name.

Because of this cluster, Javaid’s parents are debating a name-change for their unfortunately-nomenclated* offspring, and I don’t blame them, though I can only imagine how frustrated and resentful they might be. September 12, 2001…the day common sense commenced its slow and horrific death.

I found the reactions from people who had read the article interesting. Illuminating, even.

Said Craig from London:

Poor kid, my passport was mistakenly stamped with the incorrect stamp when transiting though Australia a few years back, the immigration bloke realised it and crossed out the initial stamp and re-stamped it correctly but I still often get asked “why were you refused entry to Australia” when going through immigration. Still if simply changing your name is enough to bypass the system it shows how utterly pointless the US no-fly list is.

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I think it was Camille who originally alerted us to the horrific discovery of a baby in Bombay, who had been stabbed almost to death, before being thrown in the garbage.

A newborn Indian baby found abandoned with 26 stab wounds has survived, doctors said on Wednesday, despite a cracked skull and exposed intestines.
The baby boy, who doctors said was aged between one and two days, was discovered soaked in blood at a garbage dump in India’s financial capital of Mumbai on Tuesday, they said.
His intestines were hanging out from a deep wound on his back and he had dirt and garbage stuck on him.
“When he was brought in he looked pale from blood loss,” said Ramesh Hatti, a doctor at a city hospital.
He is still in a lot of pain but is now stable.”
Police have not been able to trace the baby’s parents or establish a reason for the attack.
Babies are sometimes abandoned by unwed Indian mothers, who fear severe social repercussions for having a child out of wedlock. [CNN]

Today, another tipster emailed us an update– via The Mumbai Mirror:

The good news is that the infant is doing well…Dr Oak said he has been taken off the ventilator. “He is able to breathe on his own but he is too young and vulnerable to infection. So, we may keep him in the ICU for a few days,” he said.
The phone has been ringing off the hook, at the hospital.
Many callers were eager to adopt the little one. A woman called up the Mumbai Mirror office and said, “How can I adopt the baby? What is the procedure. How can I help this child?”
According to Madhuri Mhatre, a social worker with an adoption agency called Bal Anand, “Adoption takes a lot of time because we have to be sure that the child goes into a good family. We check the legal, financial and domestic background of all prospective parents.”
In any case, doctors said, it is too early to speak of adoption.

This tiny little fighter is so lucky, so fierce:

A milkman saw the bleeding child in a garbage dump outside Lokhandwala complex at Kandivli (W) on Tuesday morning. He rushed the baby to Bhagwati hospital in Borivli. But since Bhagwati was not equipped to take care of the injured infant, he was sent to B Y L Nair Hospital. Doctors carried out a two-hour operation on Tuesday night to close the wounds and replace lost blood. He was then put on a ventilator.

I get chills every time I read that. How many times did this child slip through death’s fingers…

The state government plans to inquire about the miracle baby now recuperating in B Y L Nair Hospital…
Since government-run children’s homes do not often handle newborns, the department will contact NGOs who have the expertise to do so.
“At the same time, I have instructed my officials to check out if the government-run children’s homes in Mumbai and Pune have the facilities to take care of the baby,” said Dr Singh, who is unhappy about too much publicity being given to the baby’s wounds.

Wait, why?

He says such images can cause distress among citizens.

Oh, boo-hoo. There can’t be enough publicity, if it inspires much-necessary outrage and reasserts the power of shame. The elderly and the newly-born are not garbage, to be disposed of when inconvenient. Continue reading