From the Department of Useless Wikipedia Entries

My friend Ankur sent me a Wikipedia link this morning that left me scratching my head…but also gave me a Colbert-esque idea. On Wikipedia there is actually an entry called List of Indian Americans which features NOTABLE Indian Americans ONLY. After years of having no objective means by which to quantify success in the Indian American community, we finally have a means! No matter what you achieve in your career, unless your name is on this list your parents can never claim to their friends that their “beta” has succeeded! If your mom is at a party and brags about you to some auntie, said auntie will check Wikipedia on her Iphone and then wag her finger, nah nah nah. Are you on the list dear reader? Probably not loser. But you are in good company as neither am I (an obvious oversight, hmpfff).

So here is what I propose loyal SM readers. I want you to go this page an add an entry for yourself. Yes you Mr. Struggling Artist. All your friends love your art and know you are talented. Go add yourself! Yes you, Ms. Non-Profit worker. You save children in poverty-stricken countries. I think you should add your name as well. Hell, if someone wants to add my name I wouldn’t be opposed to that either. There are no bloggers on the list at all! Oh crap, there are. Anil Dash, Om Malik, and Rahul Mahajan. This is just not right.

For our Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Sri Lankan American readers, tough beans. You guys don’t even have an entry! The Mexican, Chinese and Irish Americans do though. I guess this means there is nobody notable from your communities. Can someone create a page for you guys please. Parents from these communities need an objective list as well.

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USA + India = BFF, y’all

A few hours ago, a mutineer who covers the Executive Branch sent me this:

For Immediate Release
January 25, 2009
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Message on the occasion of India Republic Day
As the people of India and people of Indian origin in America and around the world celebrate Republic Day on January 26, I send the warmest greetings of the American people to the people of India. Together, we celebrate our shared belief in democracy, liberty, pluralism, and religious tolerance.
Our nations have built broad and vibrant partnerships in every field of human endeavor. Our rapidly growing and deepening friendship with India offers benefits to all the world’s citizens as our scientists solve environmental challenges together, our doctors discover new medicines, our engineers advance our societies, our entrepreneurs generate prosperity, our educators lay the foundation for our future generations, and our governments work together to advance peace, prosperity, and stability around the globe.
It is our shared values that form the bedrock of a robust relationship across peoples and governments. Those values and ideals provide the strength that enables us to meet any challenge, particularly from those who use violence to try to undermine our free and open societies. As the Indian people celebrate Republic Day all across India, they should know that they have no better friend and partner than the people of the United States. It is in that spirit, that I also wish Prime Minister Singh a quick recovery.

Incidentally, if you were unaware of the latest regarding the health of Prime Minister Singh, here you go (thanks, Manoje):

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday successfully underwent a coronary bypass surgery at the All India Institute of Medical Science in New Delhi as doctors removed 10 blockages in his heart…
Dr Ramakanth Panda, the chief of the Asian Heart Institute in Mumbai, headed the surgical team comprising doctors that performed the beating heart surgery. The prime minister had undergone his first heart surgery in 1990 and then had an angioplasty in 2004. This week, he complained of chest plain and the angiography revealed 10 blockages, which prompted the doctors to opt for a surgery. [rediff]

I am ridiculously delighted to learn that the surgical team was headed by a panda. I love pandas.

For those who crave some learnin’ about the reason for the thoughtful press release: Continue reading

The God for Everyman

Ganesha_Nurpur_miniature_circa_1810

Ganapati Bappa Morya:

An important festival honours Ganesha for ten days starting with Ganesh Chaturthi, typically in late August or early September. This festival culminates on the day of Ananta Chaturdashi when images (murtis) of Ganesha are immersed in the most convenient body of water.
Hindus celebrate the Ganapati festival with great devotional fervour. While it is most popular in the state of Maharashtra, it is performed all over India. The festival assumes huge proportions in Mumbai and in surrounding belt of Ashtavinayaka temples. On the last day of the festival, millions of people of all ages descend onto the streets leading up to the sea, dancing and singing to the rhythmic accompaniment of drums and cymbals.
In 1893, Lokmanya Tilak transformed the annual Ganesha festival from private family celebrations into a grand public event. He did so “to bridge the gap between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins and find an appropriate context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them” in his nationalistic strivings against the British in Maharashtra. Thus, Tilak chose Ganesha as a rallying point for Indian protest against British rule because of Ganesha’s wide appeal as “the god for Everyman.” Tilak was the first to install large public images of Ganesha in pavilions, and he established the practice of submerging all the public images on the tenth day.[wiki]

So…one could say that Ganapati was quite mutinous. :) Extra celebrating is in order, I think. What are you doing today? Over the past three years, I’ve found that when some of you describe childhood memories of holidays which were important in your family, it’s as sweet as this. Speaking of sweet, eat a ladoo for me, would you? Thanks. Continue reading

Blighty = Vilayati

I never understood why the British referred to their home country as “old Blighty.” These days the term is mainly used with self-depricating irony, but during its heyday it was said in earnest, to refer to a homeland dearly missed:

Vilayated not blighted

The term was more common in the later days of the British Raj… It is … commonly used as a term of endearment by the expatriate British community, or those on holiday to refer to home… During World War I, “Dear Old Blighty” was a common sentimental reference, suggesting a longing for home by soldiers in the trenches. [Link]

What confused me about the term was that it implied that the motherland was a blight, which is an odd thing for homesick soldiers to admit. While I may have thought of the Raj as blighted, I didn’t think that the soldiers fighting for it did so, and I definitely didn’t think the term was sanctioned by the British authorities.

The confusion was soon cleared up by Wikipedia which tells me that the word “Blighty” has little to do with blight, it’s a false cognate. Instead, it is a desi loan word. Yes, All things come from India uncle strikes again – even the British term from home comes from the Hindustani word (borrowed from Arabic) for foreign:

Blighty is a British English slang term for Britain, deriving from the Hindustani word vilayati, meaning “foreign”, related to the Arabic word wilayat, meaning a kingdom or province.

According to World Wide Words, Sir Henry Yule and Arthur C Burnell explained in their Anglo-Indian dictionary, Hobson-Jobson, published in 1886, that the word came to be used, in British India, for several things the British had brought into the country, such as the tomato (bilayati baingan) and soda water, which was commonly called bilayati pani, or “foreign water”. [Link]

That’s right – instead of longing for a blighted homeland, these soldiers were longing for a foreign one. It’s as if they started to refer to themselves as “goray log,” appropriating an Indocentric term for other to refer to themselves. With so little discrimination, they’re just lucky they didn’t end up calling Mother England “Bhenjotistan”.

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In Barbie’s Closet

A coworker sent me a link to this toy (thanks, Abi!) and I can’t resist posting it, if only because I wonder how much of “us” Mattel got right and wrong. From Barbie Collector (where it’s cheaper, if you’re about to make some little girl or boy really happy by buying it for them):

The most important and magical festival celebrated in India is Diwali. Homes are decorated with marigolds and mango leaves, thousands of oil diyas or lamps are lit as auspicious symbols of good luck, and everyone enjoys sweets to the sound of firecrackers and revelers.
Diwali™ Barbie® doll wears a traditional teal sari with golden detailing, a lovely pink shawl wrap, and exotic-style jewelry. The final detail is a bindi on the forehead—a jewel or a mark worn by Hindu women.

Mango leaves? Really? Since I’m a 2nd Gen (and a Syriani Christiani) penne I’m not going to claim that I know much about either that or the festival of lights, but I do have an opinion on Barbie’s ethnic dress. I don’t think that is a “traditional sari“. Perhaps it’s half-of-one? Honestly, I think it’s more of a lehnga, since I’ve never worn a duppata with my very traditional (can it get more old skool than kanjeevaram?) outfits.

I was curious about the “exotic” jewelry so I started fruitlessly looking up words after AIMing an equally clueless friend who insisted that the chain and pendant which decorates Barbie’s hair is called a “tikka“. I associate this word with murgh, but whatevs. After reading an entry in Stephen Colbert’s favorite online resource, I was concomitantly disagreeing with her and picturing 55 word nanofiction written by Jai. Here’s what was so evocative:

* When Rajput men married, they are said to have cut their thumb on their sword and applied a tikka of their own blood to their brides. This custom evoked the Rajput values of courage and indifference to pain.

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Everything Brown Is Better ;)

even our crustaceans are prettier.JPG
This is going to seem highly random, but I was meandering about Wikipedia thanks to this thread, because I thought I’d read more about Bigelow teas after this comment. Whenever I wiki, I always peep the main page to see if there is something interesting and or brown (since I’m the one who named this category).

Today’s featured picture of mictyris longicarpus captured my attention for two reasons:

1) I am absolutely terrified of crustaceans and think eating them is just gross. They remind me of insects and one of you more useful (read: non-poli-sci major) types told me that the two groups of ickiness are actually related.

2) LOOK at those COLORS. Have you ever seen a prettier icky creature?

Here, learn something:

The light blue soldier crab (Mictyris longicarpus), inhabits beaches in the Indo-Pacific region. Soldier crabs filter sand or mud for microorganisms. They congregate during the low tide, and bury themselves in a corkscrew pattern during high tide, or whenever they are threatened.

I googled a bit more and found out that this thing (more formally known as the “soldier crab”) scurries about the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This proves my E.C.F.I.-Uncle-esque theory that everything South Asian is prettier. ;) Continue reading

For the Love of Language

I meant to post about this in a more timely manner, but a brown holiday I find somewhat romantic is commemorated every February 21st in Bangladesh; yesterday was Language Movement Day. Also known as Language Martyr’s Day, its point is to remember the protest made on behalf of the right to use Bengali as a national language:

Around 1950-52, the emerging middle classes of East Bengal underwent an uprising known later as the Language Movement. Bangladeshis (then East Pakistanis) were initially agitated by a decision by Central Pakistan Government to establish Urdu, a minority language…as the sole national language for all of Pakistan. The situation was worsened by an open declaration that “Urdu and only Urdu will be the national language of Pakistan” by the governor, Khawaja Nazimuddin. [wiki]

300px-Shaheed_minar_Roehl.jpg Now you’ll know why Bangladesh’s Shaheed Minar monument exists where it does:

On February 21, 1952, dozens of students and political activists were killed when the Pakistani police force opened fire on Bengali protesters who were demanding equal status to their native tongue, Bangla. The massacre occurred near Dhaka Medical College and Ramna Park in Dhaka. A makeshift monument was erected the same night by students of University of Dhaka and other educational institutions, but soon demolished by the Pakistani police force. [wiki]
The movement spread to the whole of East Pakistan and the whole province came to a standstill. Afterwards, the Government of Pakistan relented and gave Bengali equal status as a national language.[wiki]

First they won respect for their language, then in 1971, they won their freedom. Continue reading

Today in 1819: Sir Raffles Finds Simha Pura

Apparently as a result of all my negative memories of being stranded at Changi airport in 1989 while returning from my LAST trip to India, I stopped thinking critically about Singapore– there’s no other reason for why my etymology-lovin’ self didn’t think, “Sing-…Singh…lion” and “-pore…-pur…city”. When did I have my eureka moment? Today, as I glanced at Wiki’s main page, where under “Selected Anniversaries” I learned that today is the day that a British Knight (no, not the sneaker) founded Singapore. Symbol_crest.png

Sir Stamford Raffles, a man who went from London clerk of a certain trading company to Governor of Sumatra is the BK I mention:

In 1817 he was knighted by the prince regent. He came back to the island of Sumatra in 1818, and on 29 January 1819, he established a free-trade post at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula — a site that became Singapore. This was an audacious move, against British policy not to offend the Dutch in a zone conceded to be a Dutch sphere of influence. In six weeks, several hundred traders appeared to take advantage of the no-tax policy, and Raffles gained retrospective approval from London.[wiki]
Raffles declared the foundation of what was to become modern Singapore on 6 February of that year, securing transfer of control of the island to the East India Company. He was also responsible for the Raffles Plan of Singapore. By the time he left the country in 1823, the city was on its way to become the largest port in the world. It continues to thrive as a low tax trading hub.[wiki]

Do tell “Everything-Is-From-India” Uncle that I was thinking about him today, would you please? ;) Continue reading

Born as I Finished College, Yet He Already Directs

12img21.jpg

The front/main page of Wikipedia imparts something new and interesting, yet again.

Did you know…that Kishan Shrikanth, age ten, is in the process of directing a Kannada-language feature film, C/o Footpath, which will almost certainly make him the youngest director ever to release a commercial feature film? [wiki]

I’ll save you the trouble of getting all wiki’d out; Kishan’s entire entry (save one redundant sentence) is below:

Kishan Shrikanth (born 6 January 1996), professionally known as Kishan or Master Kishan, is a Kannada-language actor from India. As of January 2006, having acted in some twenty films, he is in the process of directing a feature film, C/o Footpath (Care of Footpath), about an orphaned boy who wants to go to school. The cast includes prominent Indian actors Jackie Shroff, Saurabh Shukla, and Thaara.[1] Kishan will, himself, play the lead. [wiki]
The Guinness Book of Records currently lists Sydney Ling as the youngest person to direct a professional feature film. Ling was thirteen in 1973 when he directed the Dutch film Lex the Wonderdog.[wiki]

Upon reading that bit of information, I pondered how desis LOVE them some record-breaking and I wondered why no one brown had attempted this feat before.

So why did little Kishan choose this goal?

“I prefer directing to acting because of the creativity it affords me. From the beginning, I used to ask my directors about the technical aspects of the film, and hound the cameramen to show me their art. I want to continue directing and have already finalised the script for my next film, which will be a Hindi film,” he says.[rediff]

This diminutive auteur is the real deal:

“He is such a genius that I had to work in his film,” Jackie says. “He is constantly thinking about his next shot, constantly innovating to make it better. He is only nine years old, but he is sure about what he wants from his actors.”[rediff]

Now THAT’S impressive. Continue reading

Happy Birrrthday Dear Patriot Act…

Patriotactsigning.jpg

Oh joy, oh giddy delight. I love anniversaries, don’t you? Wikipedia’s always interesting and informative main page reminds us that it’s already been four years since we helped America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism:

Passed by the U.S. Congress after the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks, the (Patriot) Act enhances the authority of U.S. law enforcement for the stated purpose of fighting terrorist acts in the United States and around the world. This enhanced legal authority is also used to detect and prosecute other alleged potential crimes. Among other laws, the USA PATRIOT Act amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Among the laws the PATRIOT Act amended are immigration laws, banking and money laundering laws, and foreign intelligence laws…
Critics claim that some portions of the Act are unnecessary and allow U.S. law enforcement to infringe upon free-speech, freedom of the press, human rights, and right to privacy. Much controversy has arisen over section 215, which allows judges to grant government investigators ex parte orders to look into personal phone and internet records on the basis of being “relevant for an on going investigation concerning international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities”, rather than probable cause as outlined in the fourth amendment.

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