Sunday, December 28, 2003

The Highs: The Albums and Songs of the Year

PMC Tune Selected as a New York Times' Song of the Year

I am really glad that Panjabi MC's collaboration with Jay-Z has received the amount of attention it has because the tune was defintely groundbreaking. Adding to PMC's accolades for 2003, his Mundian to Bach Ke featuring Jay-Z has been named by the New York Times as one of the best singles of the year.

These "Best of" lists are going to be a plenty this time of year, and I am sure this trend will not skip the blogging world. In fact, DESIBLOG will be doing its own top 10 lists of South Asian-America/Diasporic South Asian accomplishments of 2003 which should be posted by 12/31--although a trip to NYC for New Years Eve may delay this. Anyway, if you guys want to add some input--leave who/what you think should be included in the comments.

What I found interesting about the NYT's listings are while only a couple of the albums listed as best album fall into the rap/hip-hop genre, all the songs listed as best singles, fall into this category. | Entertainment | Good golly Miss Bolly (December 29, 2003)

Elizabeth Hurley To Star in a Bollywood Film

Hello! magazine reports that Austin Powers' star (and former Estee Lauder covergirl) has agreed to star in her first Bollywood film, opposite Om Puri, who rose to mainstream fame as the father in both East is East (one of my favorite movies), and also, My Son the Fanatic.

Reportedly, Hurley is still romantically tied to Mumbaiite Millionairre Arun Nayar. Despite that, I think this Bollywood film is one not many are going to want to miss.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

New York Awards 2003 - Caroline Kennedy, Proenza Schouler, Hillary Clinton, Al Franken

Jhumpa Lahiri Receives a New York Award

(Photo by Richard Phibbs)

New York Magazine has named Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri a New York Award recipient for her ability to display "the knowingness of the native with the newcomer's openness to eery detail." Lahiri is one of ten New Yorker's "who made the city's show go on," along with Senator Hillary Clinton, and Hip-Hop all-rounder P. Diddy."

Also, if you haven't already, read her newest, The Namesake, a New York Times best seller and Notable Book of the Year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003 Kazaa's Early Christmas

Kazaa to Team up With Bollywood reports on a new deal between three dozen bollywood producers and Kazaa so that the file-sharing service can sell bollywood flicks online. The deal is being arranged by Sharman Networks (the parent company of Kazaa) and their partners Altnet and, a popular Bollywood entertainment site.

The deal will give Kazaa's claimed 60 million users worldwide access to a spate of Bollywood films starting with Supari (A Contract for Killing), a thriller made available for $2.99 last month. The file was programmed to self-destruct (just like in Mission Impossible) after being viewed and could not be copied. Thus Kazaa is providing protection against piracy for its clients in this case, while ordinarily it stands accused of aiding illegal swaps.

Bombay's Hindi cinema is at the center of India's movie industry, which churns out about 1,000 films every year, far more than Hollywood's major studios.

Friday, December 19, 2003 - Students stop knife attack on teacher - Dec. 18, 2003

Patel to the Rescue reports that students in a Conyers, Georgia high school, led by Nimesh Patel--age 17, stopped the estranged husband of their Spanish teacher from stabbing her in the chest.

Nimesh Patel, 17, was taking a nap after finishing his final when he heard screaming and saw his teacher trying to fend off her assailant. "I froze there for a second. Me and a couple of other guys grabbed him and threw him to the ground and basically sat on him until the cops came," said Patel. Scott Wigington, 17, son of the Rockdale County sheriff, grabbed the hand holding the knife. Several others helped push the man to the ground.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Ben's Bargain Center - Archive

dj Cheb i Sabbah Files Copyright Infringement Suit

Just got word that popular San Francisco based DJ and music producer Cheb i Sabbah is suing Bollywood in Federal court in Los Angeles for the illegal use of his hit song, Kese Kese from his Shri Durga Album (Six Degrees 1999) in the upcoming film , Plan, which is to be released by White Feather Films, a joint venture of Sanjay Dutt, Sanjay Gupta, and Bobby Anand, the people behind the film Kaante. Plan is expected to be one of the top ten Bollywood Blockbusters of 2004 according to the website. In addition to the soundtrack, the film will be shown in theaters worldwide, followed by a DVD release. Despite the popularity of the original “Kese Kese,” Cheb i Sabbah was never contacted by the film’s producers or music directors for permission to use his work. Plan’s soundtrack, produced by music director Anand Raj Anand, uses vocals from the popular Pakistani artist Adnan Sami along with Sunidhi Chauhan.

More will follow when I hear, but I must say this is sad news. Why anyone would take advantage of Cheb is unkown to me. He is a very talented and genuinely nice person, and the people behind the film should pay up to use his work.

Stay tuned--The Satya Circle will be printing my review of Cheb's As far As, and an interview with him shortly.

If you would like to see all of/ and buy his any of his albums, see his page by clicking here.

Update 12/23

I have heard the song in question, and the song entitled Kaise Kaise from Plan, does not just borrow from Cheb i Sabbah's tune, it straight jacks the beat and lyrical themes.

I think enough is enough when it comes to intellectual property and copyright issues in Bollywood and in Hindi Cinema. For far too long Bollywood has been stealing ideas for film, ideas for song, and in this case an actual song from a non-Indian artist who has shown so much love for Indian tunes. For an industry, and specific producers, trying to make into Western markets, it is soon becoming time to work in accord with Western standards.


Gurinder Chadha's Bend it Like Beckham Nominated for Golden Globe

In what many consider to be a precursor to the Oscar's, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's 60th annual Golden Globe nominations occurred earlier today. Included in the nominees for Best Motion Picutre-- Musical or Comedy is none other than British Asian Comedy, Bend it Like Beckham!

BILB's competition will be Big Fish, Finding Nemo, Lost in Translation, and Love Actually.

To see the entire list of nominees, click here.

The Golden Globes will be presented January 25.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Interview with Rishi Rich

Rishi Rich Interview

Here is text of an interview I did with Rishi Rich awhile back. A diferent version of this article appears in Mantram Magazine.


It is almost unheard of for most South Asian producers to have access to such mainstream artists like Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Craig David, and Ricky Martin. Unless of course your name is Rishi Rich, the British Asian music producer fronting the groundbreaking Rishi Rich Project.

The Project, comprised of Rich, Punjabi vocalist Juggy D, and R and B singer Jay Sean, released their debut single on Virgin Records this past September. Entitled “Dance with You (Nachna Tere Nal),” the up-tempo bhangra infused R and B track triumphantly entered the mainstream British charts in the twelfth spot. Its success not only proved that Asian sounds had staying power in the mainstream, it also solidified Rich’s place as one of the top Asian producers in the industry.

Even before the Project had been created, Rich was a producer of some repute, co-producing no less than ten Asian music albums before releasing his first solo album, “Simply Rich,” which debuted in October 2002 at no. 1 in the Asian pop charts, and remained in the top five for the next six months.

‘Simply Rich,” garnered a lot of attention both within the British Asian community, but also from mainstream artists as well. This attention led to the first of his “Desi Kulcha Mixes,” the label affixed to many of Rich’s mainstream remixes, for two of Craig David’s hit singles, “Rise and Fall,” and “Spanish.”

The success of Rich’s remixes for David led to other opportunities, including a remix for Latin heart-throb Ricky Martin, and also a Hindi-Hip-Hop (Hindi-Hop) remix of Mary J. Blige’s “Love at First Sight.” However, it was the “Desi Kulcha Mix” of Britney Spears’ first single from her newest album “In the Zone,” that caused people on both sides of the Atlantic to take notice of Rich’s remix and production skill. His remix for Spears’ “Me Against the Music,” features Madonna, and differs from the radio-edit, as the Desi version includes such extras as tumbi and dhol loops, an occasional background Indian vocal, and the typical “Hai, Hai” and “Balle, Balle” chants often found in traditional Bhangra songs. All this, while keeping Britney’s pop style intact.

With all these achievements in the scope of 12 months, 2003 has indeed been a watershed year for Rishi Rich. Interestingly enough however with all the interest in South Asian sounds, 2004 has the potential to be an even better one.

And here is the text of the interview with Rishi Rich:
SG: Who are some of your musical influences, (both Indian and non-Indian)?

RR: I’m heavily into western artists & producers like Stevie Wonder, MJ [Michael Jackson], Teddy Riley, Timbaland & The Neptunes etc.. Plus RD Burman & Adnam Sami.

SG: What do you make of all the interest in Asian Sounds these past couple of years, and what/who do you attribute it to? Do you think it is here to last or just a fad?

RR: I think its very healthy for the scene but we just have to ensure we keep the quality high. I don’t know how long the mainstream will have an interest in bhangra but the point is there will be a few artists who launch a career off the back of the genre & when the commercial interest fades as these things tend to do, the artists will be judged on their talent alone, & if we're good enough, the talent will stick around, if not then we wont.

SG: Who do you want to work with next? Any chance Raje Shwari [The Female Indian-American voice on many American Hip-Hop Tracks] will join 2point9 productions, now that she has left Timbaland’s Camp?

RR: I’m not sure about Raje, she’s wicked but whether West London is best suited to her you’ll have to ask her. It’d be great to have her on board. I’m looking forward to completing Jay Sean & Juggy D’s solo albums. These 2 guys are up & coming Asian artists who have a lot of potential not just within the Asian market but beyond especially Jay. I’m also working on my own album which will be released under the Rishi Rich Project which will showcase new artists & some established ones.

SG: Can you talk a little about 2point9 productions, what inspired you to do this, and where do you want to take it?

RR: 2Point9 Productions is actually part of TwoPointNine Limited my mgmt company, & is owned by Billy Grant & Rob Stuart ( Myself, Jay Sean & Juggy D are signed to 2Point9 Productions/Mgmt and those 2 guys are a heavy influence in all our careers. They’ve allowed us all the creative freedom which we need and have provided in-valuable advice over our past 2 years together. Doh Point Noh Productions, as we are known the Asian industry, looks out for creative talent breaking through from the Asian community whether it be a producer, DJ, Radio Presenter, singer, rapper or poet, its all about creativity at the end of the day & all of us are committed to building upon the brand.

SG: How did you get hooked up with musicians like Britney Spears, and have you heard any feedback from any of the artist?

RR: My mgmt 2Point9 hooked up with Britney's A&R in the U.S., a guy called Steve Lunt, he was really feeling some of my beats and gave me a shot at the tune. Britney was also well into the vibe & when I met her she was cool.

SG: What CD’s do you have in your CD player right now?

RR: I’ve got a Jay Sean track I’m checking the production on at the moment.

SG: What is next for Rishi Rich?

RR: More writing & producing for quality artists hopefully, & finishing my 2nd album.


For more information on Rishi, Juggy D, Jay Sean, or 2 point 9 productions, point your web browser to

Also, make sure you check out Mantram Magazine and The Satya Circle (which I can promise will be updated shortly--and don't worry, this blog will have the press release when it does) for more reviews, interviews,--the upcoming Satya Circle will have one with DJ Cheb i Sabbah--, and other opinion pieces.

Monday, December 15, 2003

’Suburban Sahibs’: New Jersey Masala

Suburban Sahibs--get it now!

Washington Post Columnist (and SAJA President) S. Mitra Kalita has just published her first book through Rutgers University Press. Entitled Suburban Sahibs: Three Immigrant Families and Their Passage From India to America, the book is a profile of three Indian-American families pursuing the American dream.

From the NYT review, "Vikram Chandra, Jhumpa Lahiri and other celebrated writers of the South Asian diaspora have given us some of the most exciting new fiction in English of recent years. To a growing shelf of fictional portraits of the Indian expatriate experience, S. Mitra Kalita now adds a work of nonfiction that stands up well in their company. Modest in scope, but as shapely as fiction and as timely as this morning's newspaper, this book is an informative one to read for pleasure."

"The Kotharis, the Patels and the Sarmas are in many ways quite different, but together they exemplify a vibrant new force in American life, the growth of ethnic enclaves in America's suburbs, in this case, Edison, Woodbridge and a few other communities in Middlesex County, N.J. Thirty years ago there were hardly any Indians at all in Edison; now they make up some 20 percent of the population."

Click here to read the full, very positive review written in the New York Times.

To read more about Kalita, click here for her website.

Click here to buy the book from > Miss Match

Desi Episode of NBC's Miss Match

Tonight's episode of NBC's Miss Match-starrtng Alicia Silverstone-- (10 PM Eastern), will feature eight different Indian actors including Tareq Kabir from Average Joe in a guest star spot. The episode entitled, "Who's
Sari Now?" has Kate (Alicia Silverstone) make a case for true love by helping a young lady--Rashmi--avoid an arranged marriage.

I hope this is done tastefully. With eight Indian actors involved, it should be.

Thanks to SAJA for passing along details of this.

Sunday, December 14, 2003 - nation, world, technology and Washington area news and headlines

Saddam Hussein Captured in Hole Near Farmhouse!

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was captured Saturday night near his hometown by U.S. soldiers who found him hiding, haggard and disheveled, in a hole in the ground in a small, rural compound, U.S. officials announced today. Read the Washington Post story here.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Rolling Stone's Top Five Hip-Hop Singles of 2003

I just got my copy of the new RollingStone which includes the 2003 yearbook. They do a countdown of the top 50 albums, songs, and hip-hop singles. At number one on the hip-hop tunes, was of cours 50 cent's In Da Club, which has been getting mad radio play since late December 2002. At Number four, Rolling Stone ranked Panjabi MC's (Featuring Jay-Z) "Beware of the Boys," describing the track by saying, "An old bhangra track + a new Jay-Z verse= pure madness. And this time, Jay-Z sounds 100 percent focused."

I don't think Jay was that focused in his rhyme, but nevertheless, I am glad Rolling Stone recognized PMC's work. India Abroad Person of the Year

India Abroad Person of the Year 2003 Abroad has named Sonal Shah, founder of the amazing program INDIcorps, as India Abroad Person of the Year 2003. For those of you that don't know, INDIcorps is a program that encourages Non-Resident Indians residing in the United States to give one year to India through an organized service project. The program, set up by Shah in 2001, and her siblings Roopal and Anand, is a nonprofit organization that helps mostly college graduate Indian-Americans reconnect with India, through giving something back to the country by having volunteers commit one year to doing community service work at a grassroots level througout India. It is essentially, a nongovernmental version of the Peace Corps with a focus on India and Indian-Americans.

A truly great project and a very deserving winner. Congratulations go out from DESIBLOG on the Award to Sonal, and our thanks to her for the work she does.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Hip-hot Panjabi MC leads star influx into city

Rivalry Brewing Between Panjabi MC and Rishi Rich

PMC and Rishi Rich are in India, along with Danish group Outlandish, and the boy-band Westlife, among others, getting set to perform at the Indian Music Awards, otherwise known as the Immies.

While there, it seems a rivalry is brewing between the two UK bhangra heavyweights. According to this story in the Indian Express, PMC, who’s bagged a World Music Award, Best Dance Act at MTV Europe Awards and UK Act of the Year, has made no bones about musicians who’ve jumped on the bhangra bandwagon after him, saying that ‘‘Rishi Rich is a fake cut.’

By the way, if you haven't yet heard or checked out the group Outlandish, you really should. Peelo, Aicha, and Guantanamo are all outstanding tracks, and are all available in streaming audio here.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Panjabi MC on ER?

Panjabi MC on ER

I don't know if any of you watch the show ER--you should--the TV Guide critic Matt Roush says the show has been improving, and credits ER's resurgence to Bend It Like Beckham's Parminder Nagra and the new nurse Sam Taggart (played by Linda Cardellini)-- but I digress. I was just watching the opening scene of the show, and Dr. Gallant ( played by Sharif Atkins) gave Parminder Nagra's character (Neela Rasgotra) a christmas present--none other than Panjabi MC's Beware. They put the CD into the player, and out came Mundian to Bach Ke featuring not Jay-Z as one would assume, but instead the remix featuring Chicago MC Twista--which is not actually on the album. It was cool though, Nagra and Sharif Atkins were dancing like they were at the VIP club. That is bringing the South Asian noise mainstream folks.

Anyway, it looked like the folks in the ER were feeling the tune (as did many people all around the world), but I did find it odd that Dr. Gallant referred to PMC's music as Sikh Rap--since, well, it isn't Sikh rap. We here at DESIBLOG like to call it modern, or UK Bhangra, music taken from the Punjab area of India and Pakistan, and then transformed from its traditional form into a new genre to include elements of hip-hop, reggae, R & B, or whatever.

I also want to recognize Pragna Desai who is another Desi representing on ER who plays Angelique, a Doctor in Kisangani with Carter. You might recognize her from the movie Sum of All Fears. Books: Away: The Indian Writer As an Expatriate

Away: The Indian Writer As an Expatriate

Routledge has just published an amazing collection of short stories (available on and other fine booksellers, entitled--you guessed it-- Away--The Indian Writer As an Expatriate. Edited by Amitava Kumar (click here to read my review of his book Bombay-London-New York) the collection includes stories by Kumar, Salman Rushdie, Pankaj Mishra, Rohinton Mistry, Bharati Mukerjee, VS Naipaul, as well as MK Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, and many, many others. From what I have been able to skim through so far, the collection is awesome, and covers a lot of ground.

Also, if anyone knows how to get their hands on a copy of Mishra's Butter Chicken in Ludhiana, please let me know. I can't seem to find a copy. I know Penguin India is the publisher, but cannot seem to find it stateside.

Harris' top priority is full audit for D.A.'s office, mending fences / Wholesale firings won't happen, she assures worried prosecutors

Kamala Devi Harris Elected as DA in San Francisco

According to this story from the San Francisco Examiner, 38 year old Kamala Devi Harris has become San Francisco's first woman and the first Indian/Jamaican-American woman to hold the DA post of the Northern California City. Harris, this past tuesday, defeated two-term incumbent DA Terrence Hallinan by garnering 56.3 percent of the vote. Harris outspent her opponent by a ratio over 2 to 1 (Harris Spent 621,000 while Hallinan spent 286,000), and by doing so exceeded the voluntary Ethics Commission amounts and gained negative publicity, but offset that by running a forceful campaign marked by important endorsements and the powerful backing of political and personal friend, outgoing mayor Willie Brown, which Hallinan attempted to use against her in a nasty campaign.

Harris, who as the daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father brings a new ethnic mix to the office, also collected an impressive array of endorsements, including Sheriff Michael Hennessey, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Assembly member Mark Leno. Insiders at the D.A.’s office said Harris won favor with voters because they thought she could rebuild relations with police that were damaged when Hallinan indicted much of the command staff over their investigation of the street fight involving Alex Fagan Jr.

Congratulations from DESIBLOG go out to Kamala!

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

BBC NEWS | South Asia | 'Bling-bling' birthday for Goan politician

Keepin it Bling Bling in India?
(via the great

Francisco 'Micky' Pacheco blinging

This is a great story from BBC news South Asia, discussing an extravagant birthday bash for an Indian Minister in the Indian state of(where else?) Goa.

More than 15,000 guests are expected to turn up when Francisco 'Micky' Pacheco celebrates his 38th birthday at a football stadium on Friday. "Life is uncertain. I don't know whether I will be alive next year on this day. So I try to live it up on my birthday," Mr Pacheco told BBC News Online. Mr Pacheco is the minister for tourism, sports and youth affairs in Goa's coalition government, led by India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The guests at his birthday bash include all the 14 ministers of the state cabinet, including the chief minister.

There will be two bands belting out live music, a dance floor, a sprawling bar under a tent serving drinks through the night, and four buffet food stations to cope with the demand. Mr Pacheco, who loves listening to Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg and was once bass guitarist for a local band, unabashedly adopts the bling-bling lifestyle of his hip-hop icons. He is usually kitted out in funky body hugging shirts, a bandana, gold rings and clunky chains. Mr Pacheco says he graduated in fashion design from New York and now runs six companies with diverse interests. The minister says he is still a fashion designer - "evening and cocktail dresses" are his forte. He owns a showroom in Paris, homes in Florida and travel and recruitment agencies in Goa and Miami.

Mr Pacheco insists he is funding his own birthday party. "Most people join politics to get rich. I came to politics after I was rich and had everything I wanted." He says he takes no extra privileges from the government, and even drives around in his own Mercedes Benz.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

The Study of South Asia in the U.S.

South Asian Studies in the U.S. has published a two part essay (click here for Part I) by Rajiv Malhotra discussing South Asian Studies in the U.S., and if focusing on the regional aspects of South Asia, as opposed to India, undermines India.

He opens with the following paragraphs:

"The Clinton administration made an official policy concerning India which the Bush administration has continued even further, namely, to decouple India from Pakistan, and to reposition India as a major geopolitical player in its own right. Likewise, the US corporate world has started to re-imagine India in this new light, seeing it as a positive force on the world stage.

However, many social sciences and liberal arts scholars are still entrenched in the rhetoric of 'South Asia' that emerged during the Cold War, in which India is lumped as one of eight problematic countries whose nuisance value is to be contained. While India's accomplishments are nowadays being used to boost the image of its neighboring South Asian countries, in return, India gets associated with South Asian terrorism, violence, human rights problems and backwardness. Ironically, India's culture gets blamed, and a rejection of Indianness by Indian students is encouraged as a marker of progressiveness."

First, I can't recall the Clinton administration ever making an official policy to reposition India, or any other country, as a major geopolitical player. Secondly, the study of South Asia, at least in my experiences studying South Asia in an international affairs, poly-sci, or social science context did not lump India as one of eight problematic countries, just for the hell of it, but instead because it makes a lot more sense to study states as part of a larger region. The point of this is because many of these states do indeed share characteristics. No matter how much one would like to assert a completely separate identity, the reality remains that people in Bhutan share characteristics with people living in Nepal, who in turn share characteristics with Indians, who in turn share characteristics with Pakistan, and so on and so on. To study South Asia, or to identify oneself as a South Asian is in no way a rejection of Indianess, or a way to mark ones progressiveness (or lack thereof), but instead is a way for members of a minority group to not only create a larger population of ethnic peers, but also to recognize our shared heritages, and our shared characteristics.

And Lastly, when I was an undergrad and tried to pressure the GW administration to start a formal South Asian studies major, I was told the program was dependent on funding. Those who had a vested interest in a region or a particular area of study, and of course who were well off financially (and therefore often a person of South Asian origin) often endowed certain programs of study. That person or people would then not only get the class or courses they wanted, they had influence over the direction of the courses.

The Dean of GW's International Affairs school informed us that no Indian or South Asian person that he met with was interested in funding a course in Hindi, let alone a course in Indian politics, or South Asian history. We were told that they were interested in funding more technology oriented courses and the like. The moral of this last point goes out to Mr Malhotra, and others that agree with his point of view. If you really want to add the study of India or South Asia, you need to put your money where your mouth is, because without funding, private or otherwise, most institutions of higher education will probably not take your opinion or your efforts seriously.

Anyway, I would love to hear what others have to say on this article.


Earthquake Rocks West of Richmond

Maybe "rocks" is a bit too strong of a word, but I felt it. It was kind of weird because I wasn't sure what was going on when it happened. Everything just shook a little. I guess that is what happens when the earth quakes.

See the story from the Washington Post.

Sunday, December 07, 2003


I spent the latter part of last week in New York, thus the slow blogging, and got a chance to check out the the new-ish weekly party sponsored by, and Global Beat Fusion. Labelled Kollective, and headlined by New York's Karsh Kale, the night offers one of the few experiences on the East Coast to hear some really fantastic Asian influenced drum and bass, with up-and-coming (and already established) guest DJ's. This DK (half of omzone duo) was on the guest spot last week, and I think DJ Rekha of Basement Bhangra fame, will be guesting the week after next. If you are into Drum and Base, especially that with a South Asian feel, Kollective is a must on Wednesday nights!

On Thursday we actually checked out Basement Bhangra, the most talked about regular Bhangra club-night on this side of the Atlantic, and probaly on the other as well. The music was good, the venue was cool, and I even got a free Zippo, although I really have no use for it. The only criticism I have, outside of the guy-to girl ratio at Basement Bhangra was the non-playing of UK-Garage influenced Bhangra. Overall, a good night though.

And then it snowed. It snowed a lot. So much snow that if the same amount fell in D.C., it would have crippled the city. And thankfully, despite having to walk from West Broadway to East Broadway on Saturday afternoon to catch the Chinatown bus, I am back safe and sound sitting in my new Lazy Boy chair, in Washington D.C.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

First Indian casualty in Iraq - The Times of India

First Indian-American to-be casualty in Iraq

Chidhu Rajghatta, in The Times of India, reports of the death of 21 year old Army specialist Uday Singh, who died on Monday after an attack in Habbaniyah, according to the US Department of Defense.

"Singh, a recent immigrant to the US whose parents still live in Chandigarh , was assigned to C Company, 1st Battalion, 34th Armoured Regiment, 1st Infantry Division of Fort Riley, Kansas, officials said. Singh was still an Indian national and a US Green Card holder on the threshold of becoming a US citizen. In fact, his citizenship papers had just been cleared and he had written to his family over the weekend saying he was returning to the US in January to be sworn in as a citizen. He also said that he had been promoted to a sergeant. "His father told us he was on patrol when he was shot and died on the way to hospital," said Singh's uncle, Prem Jay Datt, of Lake Forest , Chicago. Singh came from a military family, his uncle said. Singh's father served in the Indian army and his grandfather served in the British army when India was still under British rule. The family said that young Uday saw the US military as a passport to citizenship and a college degree. "He planned to save enough money and go to college," Datt said. "He wanted to get a degree and do well in life."

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

India Marks World AIDS day with Move to Make Treatments More Affordable

According to this story, the Indian government announced yesterday, on World AIDS day, a plan to provide patients with the cheapest drugs in the world through a deal with its pharmaceutical firms. While many with the disease say this move is a bit to late, it is still a step in the right direction.

It's a tremendous development," said Ashok Alexander, executive director in India of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. "It's very exciting news." The foundation, set up by Microsoft head Bill Gates to combat the spread of Aids in India, has launched a 200 million dollar programme in India aimed at high-risk "mobile populations" such as truck drivers, migrants and labourers.

"Our focus has been on prevention, but we believe it is now imperative to provide linkages between groups working in prevention with those dealing with treatment and care-giving," Alexander said. "It's a good move - very positive," said Ravi Verma, who heads anti-HIV/Aids programmes in India for international non-governmental organisation Population Council." Yesterday, Health Minister Sushma Swaraj announced the Indian government will launch a two billion rupee (43.6 million dollar) programme to provide free medication to HIV-positive parents, children up to age 15 and poor patients using government hospitals.

And according to the New York Times story, Doctors in India currently prescribe antiretroviral therapy, but at about $1 a day (much cheaper than in the U.S. or anywhere else), it is out of reach for most people, with the per-capita income less than $500 a year. Providing the drugs will also challenge India's underfinanced health system. The government spends about $5 million a year on programs to prevent or treat H.I.V./AIDS, with far greater resources — an estimated $95 million annually — coming from outside donors like the World Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Sushma Swaraj, India's minister for health and family welfare, said she would approach the finance ministry for money. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, based in Geneva. also has agreed to provide India with $100 million over five years for a mix of prevention, treatment, voluntary testing and counseling, although technical disagreements have held up the signing of a final agreement. Its director, Dr. Richard Feachem, said it was possible that more of the money could be committed to treatment to support the new venture, but reducing the price of the drugs will be critical. Cipla, Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd., and Matrix Laboratories, now joined by a fourth Indian company, Hetero Drugs, as well as a South African company, Aspen Pharmacare Holdings, recently reached an agreement with the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation to provide the drug to four African and nine Caribbean countries for 36 to 38 cents a day. Under the agreement, the companies will increase production in return for a guaranteed customer base. The companies will supply at least 1.5 million patients over the next five years, and the price of their raw materials will be pre-negotiated. They will sell direct to the foundation or the governments, rather than middlemen, and be paid immediately.

I think any move the government makes to make the disease more visible, to make treatment more accessible, and to destigmatize HIV/AIDS is a step in the right direction. : Gere Enlisting Bollywood in AIDS Fight

Richard Gere Enlisting Bollywood to Fight AIDS

According to this story from ABCnews.comRichard Gere is starting a campaign to draw together Bollywood movie stars, sports celebrities, business leaders and government officials to battle the spread of AIDS.
"There is a lot of de-stigmatization that is needed," the 54-year-old actor said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press. Gere said he's formed close bonds with actors, writers and directors in India because of their common concern over HIV/AIDS."We've touched each other because of our genuine commitment to this issue and my own commitment that I'm not going away and I'll be back again and again and again," he said. Gere, who has been visiting India since the 1970s, is starting the heroes project, which is going to try to"get people talking about the AIDS problem in India through television, radio and print ads."If you work with the creative community, the incredible power of industry, then bring in the government and the judicial system, you can solve any problem," Gere said. Tens of thousands of activists and health workers rallied worldwide Monday to mark World AIDS Day. Some 4 million in India are infected with HIV/AIDS.

I think this is a fantastic idea, especially because I think the main impediment in India in dealing with continued spread of HIV/AIDS is the stigma that is attached to the disease, a stigma that can be dissovled with a proper information campaign.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Bend It Like Beckham...A Lesbian Love Story?

Was Bend It Like Beckham a Lesbian Love Story?

According to this story, filmaker Nisha Ganatra of Chutney Popcorn and Junky Punky Girls fame, says Bend it like Beckham was initially intended to feature a lesbian relationship between Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley (Jess and Jules), the two main actresses in the film.

Nisha Ganatra says her close friend Gurinder Chadha, who directed the film, chickened out at the last moment, over concern that Indian audiences might be offended (I think they were right). Ganatra, whose film Chutney Popcorn has got rave reviews, was in Bombay for the Bombay Academy of the Moving Images. Her film is a comedy that centers on a lesbian who is willing to be a surrogate mother for her married sister.

I think for the sake of the plot, it was good that the relationship between the two protagonists was nothing more than platonic. Not only would the film have missed out on some fantastic dialogue ("Mother, Just because I wear trackies and play sport, does not make me a lesbian"), I think the film would have been trying to tackle too much. Even though Chadha skipped out on making Jess and Jules lesbians, she still covers homosexuality through Tony's character, interracial dating, and the breaking of gender roles, to mention only a few. Also, I think that had the film focal point been on a lesbian relationship between Jess and Jules, the film's focus and audience would have been completely different.