Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Truth Hurts: Exploitation?
Great article sent to me from my friend Gopi Shastri. Chris Fitzpatrick writes a review of that catchy Truth Hurts song "Addictive," the one with the Hindi FIlmi song in the background, with some hip hop lyrics added to the beat. I like his point of view, as I think Fitzpatrick is able to express many of the sentiments that some of us with ties to South Asia/Middle East feel, but are unable to verbalize. While I think it is great that Indian music and Bollywood are becoming part of American pop culture, it shouldn't be taken for granted as simply something foreign. Fitzpatrick writes,

"The aural and visual epitome of this "new beat" is the Henna-soaked music video entitled "Addictive" by Truth Hurts, featuring Rakim. DJ Quik produced the song, sampling traditional Hindi music. Although the track is centered on sounds from India, the video features choreographed belly dancing: a Middle Eastern dance form. This odd combination is indicative of a typically totalizing Western mentality: India, the Middle East, what's the difference? The entire "third world" is one big backwards and "underdeveloped" wasteland, right? Wrong, but such assumptions are embedded into every note, chant, beat, image, and dance in "Addictive," relying on the romantic notion that the Middle East and India are inherently mystical and sexy, as if everyone studies the Kama Sutra, practices Tantric Sex, rides magic carpets, and belly dances naked in the moonlight."

The full review can be found here.

I just wanted to welcome Dawinder Sidhu to the blogging world. Check out his blog entitled The Sidhu Paradigm, his writing is consistenly to the point and brilliantly eloquent.

The Times of India, on Point?

Chidhu Rajghatta of the Times of India makes an interesting point in todays TOI with regards to American acknowledgement of elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Rajghatta suggests that American recognition of the elections in a territory that it considers to be disputed is significant because, elections add legitimacy to a state while at the same time possibly ridding the disputed status from the J and K. I don't know if Rajghatta is concluding all this, but that is what I think this could potentially mean.

"For a country that still says Jammu and Kashmir is "disputed territory," the US has gone way out on limb to push for elections in the state, to the extent of even sending officials to persuade the Hurriyat to take part in the exercise. In effect, if the moves fructify, it would virtually legitimise the status quo over J&K although publicly Washington says the elections would be a good first step to resolving the issue."

In fact, by linking the October elections in Pakistan to the polls in J&K and placing the burden of smooth conduct in both places on Islamabad, Washington appears to have irked Pakistan. "For us, having the election go off smoothly is an important step in moving towards non-violent resolution of the Kashmir problem," a state department official told TNN. "It will demonstrate the commitment of the Indian government to hold free and fair election, demonstrate the commitment of the Kashmiris to participate in a democratic exercise, and demonstrate the commitment of the Pakistanis to democracy."

So, is the case then, smooth elections in Kashmir in October is something that is not in the interest of Pakistan?

Indians Accuse Powell of Meddling
Interesting story by Rama Laskshmi in todays Post with regards to Secretary Powell's comments to allow international monitors to watch over elections in Jammu and Kashmir that are to occur in a couple of months. It seems that the Indians have taken this as a personal affront to their sovereignty. While I see the Indian point, the fact that Kashmir has now been brought again into the Worlds eye complemented by the games that the Central government has played in Kashmiri elections in the past, makes it almost sensible for the Indians to allow international observers to watch the process. Hopefully however, none of those observers are from Florida, are or have any relation to the Republican, or actually come from America.

"We have said very clearly that we don't object to diplomatic or media representatives or visitors in their individual capacities wishing to go to the state, but not to investigate or certify the elections," said a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Nirupama Rao. "Whoever obtains a visa for India is free to travel to any part of the country, including Jammu and Kashmir, although nongovernmental organizations and other groups which may seek formal status as observers will not be permitted."

I think it might be wise to have an international monitoring force, I do not see it happening. I also think it is odd for the Americans, rather than the Brits, the Germans, or any other country to suggest this. Have we forgotten the debacle that was the 2000 election, where certain groups were denied franchise, or where votes were not counted? Have we forgotten that George W. Bush is really not the chosen leader of the United States? Have we forgotten that the U.S. loves to deal with dictators, those leaders not elected democratically when it is in their interest, without promoting return to democratic rule? When was the last time the U.S. has publicly asked Musharraf about his alleged timetable for democracy. The issue really isn't this, or the Americans. Rather, it is, can the Indians, really allow the Kashmiri people to have free and fair elections? I hope that the answer is yes. I just hope no government, monitoring group, or militant group affects the outcome.

The Value of a Mobile
I cannot believe, I am writing this. Until last week, I was on the other side, yes that is right-anti-cellular. As a result of my between-residence status, I decided to join the mobile world, and I must agree, its value for communication is tremendous, especially as we as society become extremely lazy. I also purchased a phone for my mother, and what is interesting to me is that, when her family was growing up in India, in the gham (village), I don't think there were too many landlines around. I think possibly, one family in her neighborhood had a phone that everyone would use. I do know that her family was the only one with a radio in the neighborhood, and now maybe 50 years later, technology is such that people are able to make phone calls from anywhere to anywhere for a very reasonable price. How weird of a concept is that? That is not to say there is not a more valuable application for mobile technology, or that there should either be more government regulation or greater corporate responsibility on cell phone companies with regards to phone number changing, calling plans, and universal chips, but, hopefully things will improve. There is a great story in todays Washington Post on the Cell phone, and here is one of the coolest things:

"Former Philippine president Joseph Estrada, accused of massive corruption, was driven out of power two years ago by smart mobs who swarmed to demonstrations, alerted by their cell phones, gathering in no time. "It's like pizza delivery," Alex Magno, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, told The Post at the time. "You can get a rally in 30 minutes – delivered to you." Cell phones drove political change in that upheaval the way fax machines enabled Tiananmen Square, cassette recordings fired the Iranian revolution, photocopiers fueled the Polish Solidarity uprising and short-wave radios aided the French Resistance."

So while I despise corporate greed and ruthlessness, a value perpetrated by many American cell phone companies, I admit it, I do enjoy the cell phone.

Friday, July 26, 2002

Racism at the Club

Here is a link to a report filed yesterday by a New York affiliate of NBC News. Apparently, a group of South Asian professionals had ok'd a guest list in advance with the General Manager for the New York Club, Remedy, when the majority of the group was subsequently denied entrance. The story goes as this: When the guests had arrived, it seems there were too many South Asians in line, and the bouncer, sensing that perhaps by the end of the evening the club would be overbalanced with too many brown people, stopped letting them in. It kind of makes sense until other guests were told by club officials, that there was no party, or that they were "not letting any of your type of people [South Asian] into our club."

Sure, It is a private club, and of course, not everyone gets in. But, there seems to be at least a hint of discrimination in not letting the group in, particularly, when the party organizers obtained emails from the club's general manager indicating that their guests would have "assured entrance." To view the whole story, check out the links: the video can be found here , and the full story here.

I also wanted to add on a sidenote, Hima Dasika, a GW graduate is one of the people featured on the video clip.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Interesting Links for South Asians

I wanted to post some interesting links that I think South Asian and South Asian-Americans will find useful. The South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA) has created a website listing stories about South Asian victims from the World Trade Center. Many of these articles have come from either Newsday or the NYT's series "Portraits of Grief."

In addition, I wanted to post this link about a Doctor who is doing some really relevant research with regards to South Asians and heart disease. I think it is important to support research that identifies correlations between different ethnic groups and certain diseases. With regards to South Asians as a group and the plethora of doctors that belong to this group, not enough research is being conducted with regards to South Asians and diseases that seem to effect us more as an ethnic group. Ragavendra Baliga has developed an interesting website discussing Coronary Artery Disease in Indian Asians.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

What's Wrong with Sullivan's Daily Dish?

Maybe it is me, but it seems that Andrew Sullivan, the King of Blog is becoming quite repetitive, and even vengeful in his Daily Dish. Two things are essentially acting as a catalyst for this post, none of which has to do with my ideological differences with Sullivan. While I used to enjoy reading his blog, I am becoming quite tired of seeing him air his dirty laundry on the Daily Dish. Howell Raines dumped him, get over it. I think Sullivan should take the high road and stop vilifying him and the NYT to no end. Lest ye forget that ye used to write for the New York Times. The NYT's liberal slant has always been there, before Sullivan's arrival, during Sullivan's tenure there, and now, after Sullivan's departure. By trying to find fault with Raines day in and day out, I think it only takes away from Andrew Sullivan and the Dish's journalism.

Israel is to the Palestinians as...
This relates to my second problem with Sullivan, but more accurately it is with regards to Ian Buruma's piece in the Guardian. If this question was on the SAT or any of those tests that ask to make analogies, if one were to say that Israel is to Palestine as India is to Kashmir one would be wrong. Buruma, (Quoted by Sullivan on his Daily Dish) suggests,

"There are perfectly good reasons to disagree with Israel's policies in the occupied areas. Killing Palestinians to protect Jewish settlements which should never have been there in the first place is difficult to condone. But this is a terrible reason for boycotting the very people who are likely to share one's disgust. And if military policies in disputed areas were a legitimate reason for such boycotts, there would be no more academic links with many places in the world - and I don't mean just dictatorships.

A more apt comparison with Israeli policies would be India's war in Kashmir. There, too, the victims are mostly Muslims. There is a long history of oppression, bad faith and stupid decisions. And the scale of the violence is much worse. Far more Muslims have been killed or tortured by the Indian army than by the Israeli defence forces. Dozens of Kashmiri victims - the number of people killed in Jenin - would not even reach the news. And if you think Kashmir is brutal, what about Chechnya?"

Now, let me just say, I don't think anyone should be boycotting Israel because of their policies in the occupied territories, unless of course they are willing to boycott the United States because of its policies towards the War on Terror, but I have frequently stated in this blog that it is wrong to compare India and Kashmir to Israel and Palestine. The Palestinians are fighting for national liberation, a movement that is felt throughout the Palestinian people. The Palestinians differ from todays Kashmiris because the indigenous movement within Kashmir for independence is minimal. Not all Kashmiris want an independent state, nor do they want to be part of Pakistan. A good many would be happy if Kashmir remains with India. It seems to me, the greatest desire is the return to normalcy. In addition, India, since the 50's have allowed a UN presence in Kashmir that goes by UNMOGIP. I also take issue with Buruma's assertion that the victims are mostly Muslims. Has he forgot the many Kashmiri Pandits that have been forced to flee Jammu and Kashmir state in India? While I do have many issues with Buruma's comparison, I must agree, there has been a long history of oppression, bad faith and stupid decisions on the part of the Indians. Lets hope this can all change in preparation for the upcoming elections.

sorry for the slow and scattered post, vacation has slowed my brain functions.

I wanted to thank the Guardian for putting a link to my blog on their news weblog list.

Friday, July 19, 2002

Gone fishin'

Well not literally--but I will be on vacation for a couple of days. This Desi is heading to the beach.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Blowback and the War on Terror

So maybe my titling is a little exaggerated, but at the same time, the recent news from and the Times of India about an Indian singing group being remanded for being suspected terrorists is alarming. The fact remains, if you are of brown skin, and pass notes, or switch seats amongst yourselves, then perhaps that is justification to be held over in an airport for questioning till 4 a.m? I guess for many people this is fine, you know, we must all do our part to fight terrorism. But perhaps it is different when your skin color is actually brown, and the potential for you to be held for questioning increases solely because of your skin color. This is my problem with many American attitudes about racial profiling and terrorism (I wonder how Dinesh D'Souza feels about this?) The simple answer is, profiling Arabs/South Asians won't stop acts of terror. However cliche this might be, but Timothy McVeigh was white and John Walker Lindh was white. Those examples alone show the difficulty in profiling and the weakness in the supporters of racial profiling's arguments. There is a lot more that could be added to this discussion, but I have to get back to my school work.

Monday, July 15, 2002

Fast Food Nation

First of all, for those of you who have an interest in what you eat, read this book. Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) does a great job of describing/explaining the fast food industry, the treatment of franchisees, employees of the company, and he even describes how the animals are killed in order to make the big mac, the whopper, etc. etc. In efforts for full disclosure, I am a vegetarian, but not of the militant sort. I believe everyone is entitled to eat what they want, I just think having full information is very important to making quality decisions on what you eat and where you eat it. For those of the "ignorance is bliss" school, read Schlossers book, you will be very surprised. Also, to reitterate a point that I have made before on this blog, McDonalds still has beef in their French Fries. The Washington Post today, in their health section has a chart of the calories and fat amounts of different fast food items at Taco Bell, Wendy's, Subway, Burger King, KFC, and for those of you who go to the corporate greed arches, McDonalds as well. For a better description, I beleive, each fast food company also lists on their websites the caloric and fat amounts of their food items.

Happy eating.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

When Hari met Salli... literally

I wish this would have been my idea, but it seems that Indians will now be getting their own genre of Reality Television soon. Rather than promote trashy television with the likes of shows mirroring Temptation Island or Love Cruise, Indians will now be able to watch "Kahin Naa Kahin Koi Hai'' or in English, ``There is Someone, Somewhere Made for You,'' Sony TV India's new reality show that "will get young boys and girls to meet, get to know each other and their families, and announce whether they wish to get married -- all in front of the camera." I think this is a fantastic idea, reality tv, but for Indian sensibilities and destined for success. Improving its chances for "hit"status, slated to host the show is none other than famed Bollywood heroine, Madhuri Dixit. Sony should promptly air this program on its channels for consumption by the Indian diaspora abroad, I know many desis, myself included, that would love to watch this show.

thanks for the tip gopi, and thanks for the title anand.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

The Times on Musharraf's Popularity

Interesting analysis from the New York Time's Dexter Wilkin's on Musharraf's waining popularity at home. Apparently, Musharraf's alliance with the West and his alleged ending of state sponsorhip of terrorism (this Pro-West persona has been labelled "Busharraf") has caused him to lose affection in Pakistan.

I imagine the Bush administration is growing quite scared with the prospects of a coup in Pakistan, or just any hardliner taking power. "Nine months after joining the Western coalition against terrorism, General Musharraf, 58, is isolated in his own land, increasingly a figure of ridicule and the focus of a growing anti-Western fury that is shared by Islamic militants and the middle class alike." His lack of popularity and subsequent removal from power would be devastating to American interests with regards to both Al-Qaeda/Taliban in Afghanistan as well as with tensions between India and Pakistan. Any hardliner that comes into power would most likley resume full-scale support to Kashmiri insurgents primarily because it is in Pakistan's interest to keep the international spotlight on Kashmir. What better way then to have the world live in fear of a nuclear flashpoint in South Asia?

"General Musharraf's dutiful carrying out of Washington's demands is galvanizing a widespread feeling here that he has largely traded away Pakistan's sovereignty to the United States and that Pakistan's new policy toward Kashmir is the latest in a series of humiliations he has endured at America's hand. " I think a major problem with the way Musharraf has conducted his business is firstly with the way he jumped ship from being pro-terrorism (support to "freedom fighters") to being with the Americans in the war on Terror. The second problem is, the Americans, while suggesting that they were keeping Pakistani domestic concerns in mind, really, in the end, did not care. How is it in Pakistani interests to stop support to the Taliban, or to Jihadi's fighting in Kashmir? In reality it isn't. I am not saying it is right for Pakistan to support these groups as of course it is both wrong and illegal, but as everyone now knows , the Taliban allowed the Pak's to train Jihadi's for insurgency in Kashmir and that of course was in Paksitani interests. And, as Musharraf slowly moves away from these things his domestic support wains.

It could get dangerous for both Musharraf and the U.S. if American support slows, as it seems to be the only thing allowing Musharraf to stay in power. "If America stops its support, Musharraf wouldn't last for a day," said Usman Majeed, 31, a businessman in Islamabad, echoing the sentiment of many middle-class Pakistanis. "Musharraf is doing all these unconstitutional things because he has America's support. But America is not our friend." When the middle class begins to become disenchanted, I think the dangers of instability rise.

Monday, July 08, 2002

Wanted...Warren Anderson

Bad news today from India where media reports suggest that the Indian Government wants to reduce charges against former head of Union Carbide, Warren Anderson. This is the same Warren Anderson who dropped out of sight in 2000 seemingly to avoid a summons arising from a civil suit filed in the United States over the Bhopal accident. Although I was only 6 at the time (It was December 1984) I remember the carnage that the poorly managed, Union Carbide Methyl Gas plant leak created. Over 3,000 people were killed almost immediately and the leak also had drastic after effects. Now it seems the Central government has asked the Bhopal District Court to reduce the charges against Anderson from culpable homicide to negligence, a move that I think would only say that it is ok to uphold subpar conditions because third world populations are worth less than those who reside in the Western World. Union Carbide's standards for their India plant were held to nowhere near the international norms for storage of Methyl Isocynate (MIC) and what seems to now be happening is the continuance of the really bad protection of the Indian people by the Indian government from greedy corporates who appear to care very little about populaces in the vicinity of their overseas plants. Attesting to this, recently the Indian government lessenned the charges against Indian employees of UC because "all the factory decisions about design, operation and safety were taken in the U.S. headquarters of Union Carbide." To me, the Bhopal disaster is one of the most horrifying examples of the corruption and ineptitude of India's governing bureaucracy, an ineptitude that seems to be continuing.

For more information on the Union Carbide Disaster Dominque Lappierre has written a wonderful book entitled "Five Past Midnight in Bhopal ." Rumor has it that Oliver Stone is working on production of a movie based on the book. There is also a home-grown movie already made on the Bhopal disaster entitled " Bhopal Express." The website has some very good facts about the disaster.

Indian Bloggers

I also wanted to give a shout-out to Anita for creating the Indian Bloggers list. This seems to be the most comprehensive listing of Indian bloggers around. A very valuable site, thanks Anita.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Back to Pakistan?

Todays Diplomatic Dispatches Column in the Washington Post announces the departure of Pakistani journalist and Ambassador to the United States Maleeha Lodhi. While Ambassador Lodhi has been in the States for over 2 years, it still puzzles me that she is being recalled. I think she has done a tremendous job representing Pakistan inside of the United States. I did however hear her speak on a couple of occaisions and her remarks from those talks lead me to believe that perhaps this is her choice (and maybe a sign of protest)? Perhaps Ambassador Lodhi is upset over the haphhazard way Pervez Musharraf is "leading" Pakistan back to democracy. I heard that she was not too keen on taking the posting to the US under Musharraf precisely b/c of the way he took power, and now maybe, her leaving is a result of the way he is trying to consolidate his power? Regardless, congratulations are in order, she has served her people well.

I will be out of DC for the holiday (I hope this makes me safer) so will not be posting for awhile. Anyway Happy Fourth of July!

Monday, July 01, 2002


It has been awhile since I have blogged. The reason: moving. I really frown on myself getting too personal on the site, but I must say, I really hate moving. I hate that DC rents are ridiculously expensive, and I hate that I did not purchase an apartment 3 years ago, when they were affordable. Even more frustrating is that even crappy, dirty, filthy, tiny apartments go for exaggerated unaffordable prices. The smelliest, smallest dwelling, with no appealing qualities whatsoever, well, actually I might be able to afford that, but who wants to live like that. For now, I am crashing wiht homies, I have a feeling that an apartment that I have been waiting for will appear, right in Dupont Circle or Adams Morgan for a very reasonable price. yeah, right.

On another personal note, one of my best friends for the past six years just left DC (this is why I have to move) and this also has conrtibuted to my lack of contributions to this weblog. He is going to be starting a masters at LSE in the fall, and gets to just relax for the next couple of months; this includes trips to San Francisco, and to what Kajol in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham refers to as "Sare jahan se accha Hindustan Hamara, Kabhi mut Bhulna Ha!" aka India. (My friends and I have been watching this movie incessantly, and despite the over-done amounts of crying I love the movie). It is weird when really close friends leave town, this one even more so. Anyway, things will be cool, while I hate change, it is a good thing for personal development, i guess. Anyway posting should resume its normal rate at almost 2 day intervals. and again, sorry for the personal postings.