Monday, February 24, 2003

The Post on Arranged Marriages for a New Generation

The Washington Post's Paula Span has done quite a nice job on a story discussing how a new generation of Indian-Americans are dealing with marriage and the concept of arranged marriages. I would love to hear comments.

Also this is my last post for awhile. I am going to London for a week or so, and will not be posting until I return. Lets hope there is no war in the meantime.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Americans Allowed al-Qaeda back into Pakistan

The Times of India reports today that the US allowed many Interservice Intelligence (ISI) agents it had captured during the war on terror in Afghanistan to go back to Pakistan and they took with them thousands of al-Qaeda terrorists, who later spread into Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir. Based on Seymour Hersch's reporting, the report indicates that the U.S., after surrounding ISI operatives and "the cream of the crop" of al-Qaeda near Konduz during the early phase of the war, the US allowed the ISI to escape, in order to prop up Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. To read the full story, click here.

Indian Charges 131 under POTA

When I first saw this headline in the Washington Post, I was quite impressed that India would finally do jusice and charge both those responsible for burning the train in Godhra last February and those ivolved with the heinous crimes against Muslims in the riots that followed. However, it seems now that only the "muslim militants" as the Post states it, involved with the burning of the train have been charged under the controversial terror law. At least Human Rights activists are appalled, although more people should be as well, but The charges have not yet been used against Hindus involved in anti-Muslim riots after the train attack. Needless to say, the current government in Gujarat is led by the same man, who bears quite some responsibility for the mass killings last year, Narendra Modi.

Police say the 131 suspects were involved in the Feb. 28, 2002, attack in which Muslim militants set fire to a train carrying Hindu pilgrims in the town of Godhra. The raid left 59 passengers dead. The suspects were charged Wednesday with breaking the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Deputy Inspector-General Rakesh Asthana said among those accused and in custody was the man police have identified as the alleged organizer of the raid on the train - Maulana Hussain Umarji, a Muslim cleric from Godhra.
Of the 131 accused, 65 are in custody. The others have not yet been arrested. No Hindus have been charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in relation to the riots. Some rights groups have put the number of dead from the riots as high as 2,000. The terrorism law was established in response to a deadly attack by militants on India's Parliament in December 2001. India accused Pakistan of being behind the raid. Islamabad denied it. Use of the law Wednesday sparked an outcry from human rights activists. "Will the law also be applied on the post-Godhra massacres? Why this blatant bias and prejudice against Muslims?" said J.S. Bandukwala, an activist lawyer.

INS detains Indo-Canadian in Chicago

Alarming story of quite egregious racial profiling from today.

An Indo-Canadian was detained by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service at Chicago's O' Hare airport on her way to Toronto last month. She was not allowed to call the Canadian consulate and was thereafter sent to Kuwait.
INS officers reportedly accused Berna Cruz, who was born in Thiruvananthapuram and works in a Canadian bank, of using a fake passport and threatened her with prison.
The Toronto Star reported that when Cruz landed at Chicago airport January 27 by Kuwait Airlines flight KU 116, an INS officer called her photo on the passport 'funky,' took her to a separate room for questioning by a group of INS officers and then offered her two options: jail or return to India.

I cannot understand why the United States officials would not involve the Canadian Consulate in these kinds of decisions-instead they took Unilateral action, and made a fool out of the woman, but made bigger fools of themselves.

Cruz reportedly began to cry, telling the INS officers not to send her to jail. She was then put on a Kuwait Airlines flight bound from Chicago to Kuwait via London.
An INS officer, the Star reported, cut out the front page of Cruz's passport and filled each page with 'expedited removal' stamps, rendering her passport useless. He defaced the Indian visa Cruz had as she was returning from India after a holiday.Clifford Tellis, a Kuwait Airlines staffer in Toronto, told this correspondent that Salem and the airlines ground staff at Kuwait airport put her in touch with the Canadian consulate in Dubai. Canada only has a trade mission in Kuwait City.
Canadian consular staff from Dubai rushed to Kuwait and issued Cruz with an emergency passport. She flew back, with the help of a free ticket Kuwait Airlines issued, from Kuwait to London and from there to Toronto by Air Canada.
Gurbax Malhi, the Indo-Canadian MP, called the incident "sheer highhandedness on the part of the INS officers."
Cruz has asked Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien to take action in this regard.
She reportedly said INS officials asked how an Indian could have a Latin-sounding name like 'Berna Cruz,' and were unconvinced when she told them her family originally hailed from Goa.

This just shows the sheer level of ignorance with INS officials, but more so, the problem with these securot checks after the war on terror. Who asks how Indian's could have Latin sounding names, other than quite ignorant people, people who should not be in charge of America's borders. Did they think Ms. Cruz was a terrorist? I hope the Canadian government follows up on this, otherwise Ms. Cruz will never get the apology she deserves.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Funding Hate

Interesting story in the Times of India today about the U.S. investigating the Maryland based charity India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) for the fudning of hate groups instrumental in the violence last year in Gujarat. A group of human rights watchers and Indian leftists last month pubished a study of the IDRF funding. If you are interested, in can be found here.

It seems quite obvious that money going to groups affiliated with the RSS such as the VHP is of course funding Hindu extremists in India. This I think is a claim impossible to deny. The VHP should be banned, and I know there was some criticism of my saying these kinds of things on my blog a month or so ago. But as an American of Indian origin who is a Hindu, I am ashamed that the VHP is still allowed to operate. It does nothing more than promote instability, communalism, and divisiveness in India, a SECULAR country. And as a Hindu, I feel groups like the VHP/RSS who purport to represent the views of Hindu's around the world give a bad name to the plethora of open minded Hindus everywhere.

Valentines Day in India

I am sure many of you may have already seen some of the reporting on Valentine's Day actions taken by memebers of Maharashtra's Shiv Sena Party. It seems they don't like Valentine's day because it promotes Western Holidays and goes against Indian values and culture.

Hindu nationalists Friday raided shops in Bombay and burned cards and gifts for Valentine's Day, which they say goes against traditional Indian values.
``Save Indian culture,'' shouted activists as they snatched cards from the shops in a western Bombay suburb, then burned them in a bonfire.
Activists also marched to the state legislature building in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state, and set fire to a heap of Valentine's Day cards. Handwritten notes in the Hindi language were pasted on card and gift shops with the warning: ``Valentine's Day is against our culture. It is obscene and against our tradition.''
``Valentine's Day is against the ethics and culture of Indian society,'' said Bal Kalsekar, a leader of the nationalist Shiv Sena party, which is based in Bombay.
Kalsekar visited Satyam's, a big stationery shop in central Bombay on Friday and said the anti-Valentine campaign had been successful.
``If we see anyone flouting our ban, we will set the cards on fire and break up the shop,'' Kalsekar said.

Is it me, or do Mr. Kalsekar's statements seem slightly contradicting. I didn't realize thuggery, extortion, and instilling fear in people for minding their own business and partaking in whatver legal activity they wish to was part of bing Indian, Hindu, or more in line with the ethics and culture of Indian society. I am very curioous how he could have made those statements with a straight face, as if setting cards on fire and destroying someones shop is part of the Indian or Hindu ethos. It is very unfortunate that people like Mr. Kalsekar are trying to hijack and coopt this culture into something conservative and anti-West. What is even more unfortunate is that Mr. Kalsekar and the Right Wing Hindu's he represents are slowly becoming the face, or the public persona of Hinduism, when in reality, they are not representative at all of it.

Friday, February 14, 2003

The Cosmopolitan

It seems that PBS will be adapting Akhil Sharma's short story, The Cosmopolitan to film. Directed by the amazing and talented Nisha Ganatra with screenplay by Monsoon Wedding writer Sabrina Dhawan, the final product should appear on PBS shortly. Starring in the production are Purva Bedi of American Desi fame, and Roshan Seth, one of my favorite actors.

Google and Invasion of Privacy

I know this isn't a new thing, but I am increasingly being scared by the invasive tendencies of google. It turns out Public Information Research has nominated Google, Inc. for corporate Big Brother of 2003. This is the 5th year that Privacy International has offered this award.

This is all from the Press Release:
Any member of the public can make their nominations before March 1. If you agree with us, please add your nomination for Google also, and put your reasons n the box provided by Privacy International so that their panel of judges can read them. Only about 60 seconds are needed to submit your nomination

Public Information Research, Inc., a nonprofit public charity, sponsors the following websites:,,

Below are some reasons why we nominated Google. Privacy International will announce the decision of the panel of judges on April 3 at the
Annual Conference on Computers, Freedom and Privacy in New York City. 1. Google's immortal cookie:

Google was the first search engine to use a cookie that expires in 2038. This was at a time when federal websites were prohibited from
using persistent cookies altogether. Now it's years later, and immortal cookies are commonplace among search engines; Google set
the standard because no one bothered to challenge them. This cookie places a unique ID number on your hard disk. Anytime you land on a
Google page, you get a Google cookie if you don't already have one. If you have one, they read and record your unique ID number.

2. Google records everything they can:

For all searches they record the cookie ID, your Internet IP address, the time and date, your search terms, and your browser configuration. Increasingly, Google is customizing results based on your IP number. This is referred to in the industry as "IP delivery based on geolocation."
3. Google retains all data indefinitely: Google has no data retention policies. There is evidence that they are able to easily access all the user information they collect and

4. Google won't say why they need this data:
Inquiries to Google about their privacy policies are ignored. When the New York Times (2002-11-28) asked Sergey Brin about whether Google ever gets subpoenaed for this information, he had no comment.

5. Google hires spooks:
Matt Cutts, a key Google engineer, used to work for the National Security Agency. Google wants to hire more people with security clearances, so that they can peddle their corporate assets to the spooks in Washington.

6. Google's toolbar is spyware:
With the advanced features enabled, Google's free toolbar for Explorer phones home with every page you surf. Yes, it reads your
cookie too, and sends along the last search terms you used in the toolbar. Their privacy policy confesses this, but that's only because Alexa lost a class-action lawsuit when their toolbar did the same thing, and their privacy policy failed to explain this. Worse yet, Google's toolbar updates to new versions quietly, and without asking. This means that if you have the toolbar installed, Google essentially has complete access to your hard disk every time you phone home. Most software vendors, and even Microsoft, ask if you'd like an updated version. But not Google.

7. Google's cache copy is illegal:
Judging from Ninth Circuit precedent on the application of U.S. copyright laws to the Internet, Google's cache copy appears to be
illegal. The only way a webmaster can avoid having his site cached on Google is to put a "noarchive" meta in the header of every page
on his site. Surfers like the cache, but webmasters don't. Many webmasters have deleted questionable material from their sites, only to discover later that the problem pages live merrily on in Google's cache. The cache copy should be "opt-in" for webmasters, not "opt-out."

8. Google is not your friend:
Young, stupid script kiddies and many bloggers still think Google is "way kool," so by now Google enjoys a 75 percent monopoly for
all external referrals to most websites. No webmaster can avoid seeking Google's approval these days, assuming he wants to increase
traffic to his site. If he tries to take advantage of some of the known weaknesses in Google's semi-secret algorithms, he may find
himself penalized by Google, and his traffic disappears. There are no detailed, published standards issued by Google, and there is no appeal process for penalized sites. Google is completely unaccountable. Most of the time they don't even answer email from webmasters.

9. Google is a privacy time bomb:

With 150 million searches per day, most from outside the U.S., Google amounts to a privacy disaster waiting to happen. Those newly-commissioned data-mining bureaucrats in Washington can only dream about the sort of slick efficiency that Google has already achieved.

This is kinda scary, I use google a lot, and I am not too sure what the search alternative is really. Thanks to my colleague Mike Evans for passing this along.

The Guru Hits America

The Reviews are starting to trickle in. I especially like this one from the Washington Post. The last couple of lines are great, "With its sweet nature, atypical hero and ethnic comedy, the picture is poised to become this year's answer to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." It reminds us all that love is never having to say you're sari."

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Master Editing

And the latest anti-Bush email making its ways around the internet is this Quicktime video clip (obviously edited) of George Bush and a mixed version of this year's and last year's State of the Union. You must have quicktime to view it, so if you do click here.

Dear Abby

I am sorry for my lack of posts the past couple of days, however I have been quite busy at work. I have been planning a conference the past couple of months on Transparency within the international financian institutions (like the World Bank, the IMF, the Asian Development Bank, etc) and we leave tomorrow for the actual thing, so needless to say, the last couple of days have been quite chaotic. Anyway, since I won't be posting for the next couple of days b/c I will be at the conference, I have some good items to share. The first is a response to the famed advice columnist Dear Abby. Abby had given some bad advice to a Hindu from the bible belt whose Christian neighbors/friends tuck religious pamphlets into holiday boxes of baked goodies in an effort to convert her and I am posting the responses and the initial letter below. If you want to see the actual website, click here.


DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Happy Hindu in the Bible Belt," whose Christian friends tuck religious pamphlets into holiday boxes of baked goodies in an effort to convert her, was off base. You advised her to ignore the brochures and enjoy the goodies -- unless she had lost her appetite -- in which case she should donate the treats to a shelter or take them to the office.
I disagree. That lovely lady should politely tell her friends that she likes her own religion and ask them to please stop with the religious literature. If they continue, she should end the friendship. If converting her is more important than her friendship, there IS no friendship. -- BEEN THERE, TOO, IN BEND, ORE.

DEAR B.T.T.: Your answer is better than mine. Interestingly, "Happy Hindu's" problem appears to be widespread. That letter brought in a bushel of mail. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I am Jewish. A friend from college kept sending me "Jesus Loves You" Christmas cards. I told her it hurt my feelings that she didn't respect my beliefs. I made it clear that I am Jewish and will always remain Jewish, as it is my religious and cultural background.

Like "Hindu," I know that some of these gestures are well-intentioned, but I would never dream of sending my friend Hanukkah cards. I send cards that say "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays." It's good to learn about other people's beliefs and be open to them -- but not when they're forced on you. -- JILL IN SACRAMENTO

DEAR JILL: I regret that I did not advise "Happy Hindu" to be as outspoken and upfront as you and "Been There."

DEAR ABBY: Your answer to "Happy Hindu" offended me as a Christian. If the circumstances were different, would you tell me to ignore my Buddhist friends, but enjoy their treats if I didn't gag first? Why is evangelical Christianity the only religion we shouldn't tolerate? -- MARY S., ELLIJAY, GA.

DEAR MARY S.: It's not. Anyone who proselytizes is treading on "sacred ground." It's regarded as offensive, even if it is heartfelt.

DEAR ABBY: Hard as it is to live with some evangelicals, they are easier to take than people who feel justified in resorting to violence against those they feel are "lost." You have to understand that with evangelicals, it is an article of faith, and it's their Christian duty to preach their version of the Gospel, especially if they care about you and are genuinely concerned about your soul. -- DOLLY IN LACEY, WASH.

DEAR DOLLY: I am aware of that. A devout and very sweet lady once told me she was "sad" because she loved me and knew she wouldn't see me in heaven. I asked her why. She said, "Because you haven't been saved!" Once I got over the shock that her heaven was segregated, I assured her that even though I might not be in hers, she would definitely be in mine, so please not to worry any further.

DEAR ABBY: Many people have stopped me on the street or come to my door with religious tracts, so I had cards printed with the following: "I never told my own religion nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another's creed. I am satisfied that yours must be an excellent religion to have produced a life of such exemplary virtue and correctness. For it is in our lives, not from our words, that our religion must be judged." (Thomas Jefferson to Mrs. H. Harrison Smith, 1816) -- KAYE IN N.Y.C.

DEAR KAYE: I agree with his timeless and profound conclusion.

Here is a link to the original letter, and I am pasting that below as well.


DEAR ABBY: I am a Hindu woman living in the Bible Belt. Many of my friends and acquaintances are Christian, and they are all wonderful -- except for one thing. Some try in small, subtle ways to convert me to their faith.
With Christmas approaching, I know what's coming -- boxes of baked goodies with little brochures and pamphlets tucked inside all about Jesus and the Christian faith. I wish you would remind people that all of us in this diverse nation should respect the faiths of others. To try to convert someone to your faith implies that you consider your religious beliefs superior, and that is just plain wrong.

I know these gestures are well meant, but I wouldn't dream of sending Hindu brochures with my holiday goodies. Abby, what is a tactful, but firm, way of dealing with this? -- HAPPY HINDU IN THE BIBLE BELT

DEAR HAPPY HINDU: Much as you would like, you are not going to change people who feel it's part of their religious commitment to "save" you. Ignore the brochures and enjoy the goodies -- unless you have lost your appetite. If that's the case, donate the treats to a homeless shelter or take them to the office.

While many of us growing up Hindu, or some other minority religion knows what this feels like (I grew up in a small town, where I was repeatedly told I was going to hell. The small problem was, I didn't believe in Hell) there is obviously a growing problem in India of the same sort. We all saw the damage that was done last year as a result of the Godhra carnage, but with the election Gujarat of Modi and the BJP, it seems like the Sangh Parivar (BJP, RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, etc. ) wil have free reign again to do terrorize the non-hindu population. I think it is high time that Hindu's stop prosthelytizing and go back to the more accepting and tolerant vision of Hinduism. I have more to say on this, but it is getting late. I am pasting a link here to a nicely written essay in last weekend's NY Times magazine written by the author Pankaj Mishra (The Romantics, and Butter Chicken in Ludhiana) on the rising tide of Hindu extremism.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Truth Hurts, quite literally this time

Composer of the song Thoda Resham Lagta Hai, that made the top 10 in its reincarnated version by Dr. Dre/Truth Hurts, has won a court order barring sales of a hip-hop hit he claims borrowed heavily and without credit from one of his songs in an act of "cultural imperialism." A federal judge in Los Angeles on Monday issued an order prohibiting further sales of the song Addictive by Truth Hurts unless and until composer Bappi Lahiri is listed on the song's credits, Anthony Kornarens, an attorney for Lahiri said. "The judge took the matter quite seriously and felt as though, from what I could tell, the defendants had not acted appropriately," Kornarens said.
See the Reuters story here, the Times of India here, and the CNN Asia story here. All of the articles are based on the Reuters report, but it is interesting to see how the versions differ.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

The Seven Astronauts

I saw the sad news this of the disintegration of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the tragic passing of the seven Astronauts, including the first Indian woman in space, Indian American Kalpana Chawla and the first Israeli Astronaut Ilan Ramon, this morning at the gym. Both and The Times of India have extended coverage of Kalpana Chawla, and Haaretz has extended coverage on the Israeli angle and on Ilan Ramon.

On Kalpana Chawla, for me, as a South Asian American, people like her just served as an inspiration and role model on a national level. Ms. Chawla, hailing from a small town in Haryana state in Northern India, had succeeded in more ways than anyone could have imagined. She touched the stars, and touched more people in India and the world over than she will ever know. In her, South-Asian-Americans had a South Asian-American hero and role model.

Among the lessons of her life, and of the many immigrants that remain nameless, is that there should never be anything that will hold you back from your dreams. If a strong woman from Karnal in Haryana, India can become an American astronaut, then there is no answer to what we all can do. Kalpana Chawla made us proud, as Desis, as South Asian Americans, and as people.

My prayers are with the families/friends of all seven astronauts.

UPDATE: The South Asian Journalists Association ( has created a tremendous resource for anyone interested in writing on Dr. Chawla, or just trying to find out more about this woman.