Monday, March 31, 2003

Bhangra Blowout

Another successful Bhangra Blowout this past weekend. Held by the GW South Asian Society, all three events, Bhangra on the Quad, the Show Bhangra Blowout,and the Afterparty at the Old Post Office Pavilion went smoothly and from what I understand, without incident. Congratualtion to UCLA Bhangra and the GW South Asian society. Special guest the UK's dhol foundation was impressive to watch as well. For a story and a picture, check out the Washington Post story here.

Also, I found an update to the PMC Jay-Z collaboration. The song seems to be doing quite well state-side, and if the airplay it is getting is any indication, I think there is a video to be made.

From yahoo news Entertainment - LAUNCH Music

Jay-Z Joins Punjabi MC For A Remix Of 'Beware Of The Boys'
Fri Mar 28, 5:00 AM ET

Yves Erwin Salomon

European sensation Punjabi MC has enlisted one of the hottest rappers this side of the Atlantic, Jay-Z, to make a guest appearance on the remix to his smash hit, "Beware Of The Boys (Mundian To Bach Ke)." The song features a mixture of a bhangra breakbeats and a sample from the theme music of the '80s hit television show, Knight Rider.
"Beware Of The Boys" will be rereleased domestically by Sequence Records in the coming weeks, but in the meantime the remix featuring Jay-Z has already made its way to urban radio.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Bend it Like Beckham

It is finally being released, the British Asian Blockbuster, Gurinder Chadha's Bend it Like Beckham will be released in Washington D.C. tomorrow. I saw the film last during a screening conducted by the South Asian Journalists Association, and I couldn't stop laughing. The film is by no means rough, edgy, or tremendously throught provoking, but it is funny, witty, and light-hearted and really able to cross cultures. While some of the jokes are really Brit-oriented, this is a great film to see with your family. And to all the Desis who have already seen it on pirated copy, first stop going to the Indian stores and buying/renting pirated copies, you are only adding to criminal activity, and Second, the lack of revenue for the director makes it seem that people are not willing to support Desi oriented films. So go out and see the film. The Post's Desson Howe has a nice story on the film entitled "David Beckham, Scoring a Goal At the Box Office", which can be found here.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Sad news today about former Senator and Ambassador to India Daniel Patrick Moynihan passing away at the age of 76, from, as the Washington Post reports, complications from an operation earlier this month. "He was a skilled politician and an accomplished scholar, an independent thinker, a gifted writer and a speaker of serious wit." I have read some of the cables he wrote while Ambassador, and even in thise he had the ability to be quite witty. He had a great career and will be missed. My thoughts and prayers to his family and friends.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Something Must be in India's Water

I must say that I am impressed with this seemingly new outlook taken by India. Following comments by U.S. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher, that India should, in light of the massacre on 24 Hindu Pandits in Kashmir, resume dialogue with Pakistan, the External Affairs Ministry spokesman said in New Delhi: "If dialogue per se is more critical than combating international terrorism with all necessary means, then one can legitimately ask why both in Afghanistan and Iraq military action instead of dialogue has been resorted to," External Affairs Ministry spokesman told reporters. He was alluding to the remarks made by US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher in Washington that "violence will not solve Kashmir's problems. Dialogue remains a critical element in the normalization of relations between India and Pakistan." The MEA spokesman said: "We see the call for dialogue by the US State Department spokesman as inappropriate in the context of the heinous terrorist crime in J and K."

The full article can be seen here. I wrote about this hypocrisy when it initially occured following the beginning of U.S. strikes in Afghanistan. That article, entitled, Enduring Freedom or Infinite Justice?, can be found here.

Gujarat Ex-Home Minister shot dead

News is coming in about former Gujarat State Home Minister Haren Pandya (43) being hit by five bullets fired from close range at his chest, neck and lower abdomen. The assailant, riding a motorcycle, opened fire at Pandya as he sat in his car for the drive back home after finishing his morning walk at the Law Garden locality in downtown Ahemedebad. I know this area well, and to think that this kind of violence (typical to Mumbai Mob violence) is occuring here is quite frightening. My condolences to his family.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Racial Profiling/Terrorist Alerts

Here are a couple of interesting articles on how following the rules, or even trying to be helpful can bring upon suspicion under the right circumstances. Yes I am suggesting if you are a male of color, especially if that color could be perceived as Middle Eastern in origin. The first is an article from the Washington Post by Courtland Milloy detailing experiences he had near the monuments this past weekend. The second article details the experiences of Anthony Zaki, a Pakistan-born British citizen who is a performer in the stage adaptation of Salman Rushdie's Midnights Children

Roman Polanski's Oscar

I am not so sure, after seeing the testimony of Polanski's 13 year old victim if I am ok with him being rewarded by an American Academy of Arts and Sciences. It is quite explicit, so click the link with discretion. If you were offended by reading Monica Lewinsky's testimony re Bill Clinton, definitely don't read the Grand Jury testimony.

My thinking is that perhaps if he did not flee the country, or perhaps if her served his time appropriately like criminals should do, then it might be acceptable that he has been awarded this great honor. But, raping a 13 year old girl, after giving her qualudes and alcohol, that is indeed criminal, and just because he is a white filmaker does not mean he is above the law.

Times of India on the US and the Geneva Convention

I am quite impressed with the way the Indians are handling the whole war. I would have thought that India would have backed this American endeavor supremely, but that presumption seems to be wrong. Adding to that, the TOI, India's largest English daily, has an insightful commentary on the sudden about face with regards to the United States and its regard for the Geneva Convention. Siddarth Varadarajan writes in yesterdays paper:

"Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention mandates that war prisoners be protected against "insult and public curiosity". "The showing of these pictures is absolutely unacceptable", declared US Lt Gen John Abizaid in Qatar, condemning al-Jazeera for its POW broadcast. As if on cue, US television networks refrained from showing the images, and at least one major US daily, the Los Angeles Times, immediately withdrew the images from its website.This unofficial censorship extended into cyberspace as well., an anti-war 'guerrilla' webpage, posted photographs of the US POWs only to find its hosting provider shutting down its site for displaying "inappropriate graphic material". Ironically, most US channels and newspapers had no compunctions running images of Iraqi soldiers and combatants surrendering or being held in captivity. Prior to Sunday, the last time Rumsfeld used the words 'Geneva Convention' was when he declared that prisoners taken by the US in Afghanistan would not be accorded the protection of the Conventions. The suspected al-Qaeda captives, he declared, were "unlawful combatants"; and the US had the right to do with them what it wished. On the day the al-Qaeda prisoners were brought to Guantanamo Bay, Amnesty International declared the US in violation of the Geneva Conventions."

World Cup Cricket-India

I don't want to say too much on this but I thought I would mention that India got trounced int he World Cup this past Sunday by a very very formidable Australian squad. Even though Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest batsman alive right now only had 4 runs in the final, his performance overall in South Africa earned him the Man of the Tournament award.

War in Iraq

I wanted to stay away from the war in Iraq for some time just because all this craziness is unsettling, but it is hard. I think this phenomenon of watching the war is both good and bad. In one way, having immediate coverage of what is going on and almost a certain play-by-play coverage that is being done by the networks almost trivializes some very weighty happenings to a reality show. This reality show has some very very serious and real ramifications, so in that sense I am not feeling all this war coverage. At the same time, I think it is helpful, especially for those that are pro-War to see how dangerous and how real what the U.S. is doing to Iraq and the Iraqi people, and what they are doing to the Americans. Many of us living in the United States were given the impression that this was going to be a short and fast conflict, with a low American casualty rate. With yesterday and todays news of downed helicopters and the POW's, it is clear that this is going to be difficult. My prayers are with the families of all those that are abroad right now serving America. With that being said, I am going to try and shy away from too many "War in Iraq"postings. There are a lot of places in the blogosphere that one can venture if they want to to find out more on the crisis in the Middle East.

More on Panjabi MC

I know, enough is enough, so this will probably be my last post on PMC for awhile. I wanted to thank everyone who emailed me about the PMC-Jay-Z collaboration. It is getting alot of airplay on the hot hip-hop station here in DC, WKYS, 93.9 and from what I have been hearing from some of you, the song is getting lots of airplay in Miami, Philadephia, and on New York's Hot 97.

I think it is very telling that this tune is starting to blow up on the American Hip-Hop stations, what was even cooler was being at the VIP club here in Washington last Friday, and in the midst of all RnB and Hip-Hop/Rap, PMC's Mundian to Bach Ke (Beware of the Boys) was played and the whole club was bumpin to it. Needless to say, it was really exciting. Jay-Z's rap is allright, but if that is what it takes to make Bhangra mainstream, well then, so be it. If you want to hear the collaboration, click here. If the link doesn't work, copy the link url and paste into realplayer or windows media and it should work. Also, be on the lookout for another remix which I actually think is better-eminem vs panjabi mc in a song called "Don't Lose Yourself Beware of the Boys."

Here is a link to an interview that Bobby Friction of the Bobby Friciton and Nihal radio show on BBC One, conducted with PMC prior to his Top of the Pops appearance. Incidentally, their show is pretty wicked and is available the whole week following the original Saturday morning airdate. If you want to see what sounds are popular within the UK Asian scene, their BBC show is definitely worth a listen.

I imagine PMC and a lot of other Bhangra will be getting played in its various forms at this weekends Bhangra Blowout here in DC. If you haven't been before, and you are curious, you have to check it out. It is the DESI event of the year.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Sikhism and the Media

One would think that following the numerous hate crimes against Sikhs and subsequent attempts to educate the public on the differences between Sikhs who wear turbans because of religious reasons and Osama Bin Laden would have worked. For the most part I think it has, last weeks episode of ER had a Sikh who was beaten because a maniacal white guy thought he was a terrorist. Luca, the Bosnian (I think) doctor, while treating him, also gave him a good verbal beat down by proclaiming something like, "He is not a terrorist, he is wearing a turban because he is a Sikh, and they beleive in peace, you idiot!" Things like this are good.

Things like this item, written by Lisa Tsering in India-West, they are bad.

"A new film starring standup comedian Eddie Griffin has angered Sikhs over a joke that they say is unfunny at best and offensive at worst. The Miramax film DysFunKtional Family, due for release April 4, follows the comedian through some of his live performances as he riffs on family, urban pop culture and politics.
In one bit, which is in trailers now running in theaters, Griffin says, "I can't figure out why they can't find Osama bin Laden - six feet six, with a nappy beard and a towel on his head. "But they can sure find my cousin, four feet 11, over in Compton." Later in the trailer, Griffin, now standing on a street corner, gestures at an elderly Sikh man walking past. "Bin Laden, I knew you was around here!" he says.

While I think it is important to be able to laugh at yourself and your culture from time to time, this is a very irresponsible statement to make. At a time when there are more military strikes coming and the presumption that more terror is on its way, to help with misinformation against a community who has been beaten down since September 11 is extremely irresponsible.

Apparently, Indian-Americans Support the War

According to this article reprinted on the msnbc website "Indian-Americans are near unanimous in their view that it was time for Saddam Hussein to go." Ha, one must wonder what kind of sources this reporter used. Then, once you see, it is clear that the sources are all members of the Hi-Fi Indian business and political elite. Kanwal Rekhi, who at one instance suggested that there should be a cap on Indian immigration to the U.S. because the current type of immigrants who are coming now give the community a bad name. (An early article I wrote after hearing Rekhi's comments on immigration can be found here) Then there is the so-called "Leading Indian American Republican Dr. Sampat Shivangi" who says that “We have to support and respect President George W. Bush’s decision. He has done this thoughtfully, knowing what it takes to come to a decision. I think he has given enough time to Iraq. Bush has not received enough proof or response from Iraq. And, as per U.N Resolution 1441, we don’t have any choice but to give another ultimatum.”

I feel however, if the reporter in question perhaps survey another sample of the community, they could come up with an entirely opposite view and then the lead would be something like this "Indian-Americans much like the rest of the international community are divided in their support for Bush's War against Saddam and Iraq." This in my opinion is a closer version of reality.

The Impending War in Iraq

I wonder if the concept of just war has ever come across the brain of our President. If it has, he must have blocked it out when he decided to issue to Saddam Hussein an ultimatum to either leave his country or face the wrath of an American attack. Could this be George W. Bush's manifestation of some bad childhood memory of perhaps being forced to leave the sandbox when the kindergarten bully wanted all the sand to himself? Nevertheless, I am reminded of media reports that were printed I think, six months ago that indicated that Saddam Hussein would not attack or harm anyone unless provoked, and now that he is indeed being provoked, is going to get dangerous. Then, I think even more, back to before September 11. Iraq was not even on the radar. Yeah the U.S. would bomb the country every now again to keep Hussein in check, but it was not a serious security threat, and has become since September 11 a hugely MANUFACTURED enemy. The President puports that he is attacking Dicatator Saddam in efforts to protect the American people. But now that this bellicose war-mongering is about to come to fruition, I am more scared than ever. I fear that the threat of the American people being harmed, by a terrorist attack on the homeland, by bio/chem weapons being used on our soldiers, and by businessmen taking advantage of a poor situation. I hope the President does know, and for that matter truly understand, that many Americans will hold him and his administration personally responsible for any terrorist attack that occurs as a result of this totally manufactured conflict. I am truly disappointed right now.

I am disappointed at the administration for doing this so haphazardly. I am disappointed that only yesterday has a democrat acted like a democrat and spoke out against speedy action in Iraq. And I am disappointed that Americans cannot rely on politicians to represent their constituents and instead act in manner that will get them reelected.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Panjabi MC update
Quick Note for those interested in the mainstreaming of bhangra and Desi sounds in America. Rumor has it that Panjabi MC has recorded a track with Jay-Z.. I haven't heard the song yet, so if anyone else has heard it, or knows where to find it, please let me know. MTV briefly mentions that the two have done a track here. (It however calls Panjabi MC, "the international dance artist MC Punjabi")

Just in case you didn't know, Panjabi MC's "Mundian to Bach Ke"--(Beware of the Boys Knight Rider remix) was the first Bhangra track to ever make the Top 10 in Britain--climbing all the way to number five. Because of the success of the track, he was invited to be on the famed British show "Top of the Pops." A clip of his appearance on the show can be found here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Budget/Moral Deficit and Republican Brilliance

It is almost incomprehensible to me how two members of Congress, Bob Ney (R-Ohio) of Ohio and Walter Jones (R-N.C.), at a time when Congress is running deficits to fund the American war effort, can waste more taaxpayer money for such shallow measures like changing the name of French Fries and French Toast to Freedom Fries and toast. Yeah, sure, they are upset that the French, as a soveriegn state, have made up their own mind and have chosen a foreign policy that differs from the course America wants to take with regards to Iraq. But I didn't realize that these members of Congress were so immature and childish as to use a cheap publicity stunt (and waste taxpayermoney) to promote some silly and petty anti-French agenda.

"This action today is a small but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France," Ney told a throng of journalists assembled in the Longworth Building cafeteria to receive his important news as U.S. soldiers girded for possible war against Iraq. Jones -- between a dozen other interviews -- told The Post's Anne Schroeder: "This isn't a political or publicity stunt. We feel sincere as to what we've done. This isn't going to change the debate or course of the world. It's a gesture just to say to the French, 'Up yours!' "

Yeah, that is the kind of mature talk I like to hear from my elected officials. If I was from their districts, I would be fuming. And sure it wasn't a publicity stunt, I mean, why else would one hold a press conference, if nothing else but to get publicity. A Democrat from New York, Jose Serrano, described the orders as "petty grandstanding" and urged legislators to concentrate on the US' pressing domestic needs. "Should we ban French wine, Belgian waffles or Russian dressing? If Mexico votes no, should Mexican restaurants also be banned?" he asked.

Besides, French Fries aren't even French, they have their origins in Belgium. French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte had no official response to yesterday's event -- which caused the embassy switchboard to light up with calls from reporters seeking comment. But embassy press officer Jeannie Freud, saying she spoke for herself and not her government, told us: "Either these two have a great sense of humor or no sense of humor at all."

She added: "First of all, French fries are not French at all -- they are from Belgium. . . . It is too bad that someone would take a beautiful word like 'freedom' and put it on something as trivial as a potato. Freedom is too important for fries."

Eloquently spoken.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Abuse in the South Asian-American Community

Well done article on discussing the very hidden abuse that occurs in South Asian homes, and the circumstances in which the abuse occurs.

"Sita (not her real name) came to the US on a fiancée visa, after getting engaged to a man her parents, back home in India, thought suitable. Little did this conventional Indian girl, who could not even speak much English, expect that her fiancé would demand oral sex soon after she arrived. When she refused, he began beating her. His parents, who were also in the US and knew what was happening, looked the other way. Finally, her Indian Gods helped her: a friend she met at a temple introduced her to a voluntary organisation helping abused women in the US. They rescued her.

Asma, 30, is a doctor who has been educated in the US. A few years ago, she entered into an arranged marriage with Rajiv, a handsome, bright and charismatic doctor in India. The happy couple returned to the US. They even had two children. Gradually, Rajiv started getting sexually, physically and emotionally abusive. He would force her to watch pornography and perform sexual acts she was not comfortable with. He began getting angry at small things and behaved in frightening ways -- throwing things at her, breaking plates and glasses. Asma tried sharing her trauma with her colleagues, but they dismissed her concern. They had always seen Rajiv behave as the perfect gentleman. Asma realised that, even if she wanted to leave the marriage, she could not. Rajiv had full control of their bank accounts and her paychecks."

The rest of the MD Riti's article entitled Black and Blue can be found here.


I am back now from a much needed break on my part and a pretty rad visit to London. Although, with this being my last semester, I have my thesis, a couple of papers, and comprehensive exams to finish before the end of April. In fact a rough draft of my thesis is due by Monday. I am writing on the persistence of violence in Jammu and Kashmir and the more I read on it, the more I realize what a fascinating topic Kashmir is. I think as long as one isn’t taken with the current zeitgeist of well, blaming the problem of Kashmir on Pakistan, one can work through a lot of the issues that the Kashmiri’s have with the Indian government. This is of course not to say that Pakistan does not have its hand muddied in the current mess in the region, I just don't think the problem originated there. Anyway, maybe I will put the final product in .pdf when it is complete so that it can be downloaded if people are interested in reading.

Visit to London
So anyway, London was pretty rad. One of the highlights of the trip was watching the India-Pakistan World Cup cricket match in this pub in central London. It was pretty amazing, and quite new to me as I never have witnessed so many South Asians, being brazenly South Asian, in such Western surroundings. Needless to say, it was amazing.

My friend who I was visiting-Anand Desai-and I arrived at the end of Paksitan's succssful innings. The Pakistani side had batted quite well, and apparently the Indians had never caught a score that high. We arrive right as India began batting to a plethora of tricolors and a couple of dholi’s, and the familiar (to those who are into Indian cricket) chant of "Sachin…Sachin, Sachin…. "of course referring to the Indian Star Sachin Tendulkar, who saved the Indian side in almost batting a century-he had 98 runs. It was a unique experience, being in a mainstream English pub, creating a ruckus, and singing Hindi songs while the Indians and Pakistanis battled one another on the cricket field. After the match, everyone poured into the streets, and that is the picture I am pasting below. Incidentally, India advanced to the semi-finals today by trouncing upon another one of its South Asian neighbors, Sri Lanka.

Besides the match, London was pretty amazing. It was also neat to talk to students who are at the LSE with my friend about the whole war and see the rest of the World's take on what unilateral American action can do in the current order of things. It is a dangerous time right now, and as much as I hate to admit it, it seems, as much as anyone (knowledgeable or not) tries to protest or promote American intervention in Iraq, the ball is out of the average citizens court. The powers that be will make their decisions, and unfortunately, we the American people will have to live with the consequences. Regardless, I don't want to delve to heavily on Iraq right now.

Also wanted to big up some fellow bloggers, and fellow Satya Circle Columnists, Suman Palit and Kaushik Banerjee for spreading the South Asian blogging love. Also wanted to welcome Prashant Kothari to the blogosphere.