At a time when we as an international community should be remembering the teachings of the great Mohandas Gandhi, The New York Times has made available on its website its reporting from January 30, 1948 (56 years ago today) on the assassination of Mohandas Gandhi. Click here to go the piece.
Additionally, The National Security Archive has added a document to its Seventh Volume of The September 11 Sourcebooks--The Taliban File. Click here to go to the Press Release. The document is entitled "U.S. Engagement with the Taliban on Usama Bin Laden, and is dated circa July 16, 2001. It is pretty interesting reading if I do say so myself.
Ashish Sirohi, a former Columbia Univeristy has apparently been arrested because of an email (a quite innocuous one) he wrote criticizing a couple of his former professors (Robert Pollack and Karen Blank). Click here to see the chargesheet in .pdf.
The email was sent to 13 people, but not to either of the professors. He was treated, on January 13, 2004 to a visit, and subsequent arrest, at his apartment by NYPD Detective John Garvey and then in the course of 20 hours taken to three different jails, until his release. If you take a look at the chargesheet, Sirohi was arrested for his intent to annoy, harrass, threaten, or alarm another person etc. etc.
What is going on with free speech and institutions of higher learning? I don't understand what or how this man is being charged with two counts of Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree. I have been to New York, and I know there is actual crime that needs to be fought in the city, as opposed to an arrest of a mathmetician who has voiced his opinion (via email) and subsequently made a couple of professors get their "panties in a bunch," for lack of a better term. Do professors really think that students don't talk about them (and email about them) in the off hours? Ridiculous.
More Accolades for Chadha and Bend It Like Beckham
Congratulations to Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges, and Guljit Bindra for their recent nomination by the Writers Guild of America in the category of Best Original Screenplay for Bend it Like Beckham. According to this story from Reuters,
"The Writers Guild Award is seen as an important precursor to the Oscars which are handed out on February 29 this year as many Guild members are also academy voters. The WGA list comes out less than a week before nominations for the Academy Awards, Hollywood's top film honours, are announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Writers Guild awards are regarded as an important bellwether for a film's Oscar chances, especially in the screenplay categories."
Could there be an Oscar nomination in the works for Chadha? Regardless, BILB is nominated for a Golden Globe, the awards show, which airs on January 25.
Just like January of 2003 was hot in the UK for Desi sounds (Panjabi MC), so is January 2004. This time though, it is Canadian Desis blowing up.
The Canadian-based desi singer Raghav (featured on a 2 play track) has broken the top ten this week in the UK with his hit song "So confused." The dancehall/r and b tune entered the charts at number 8.
Additionally, Nelly Furtado, on December 8, (ok so last year) released her first single Powerless from her new album Folklore. The record (Universal) includes four versions of the tune, including a remix by Canadian duo Josh. The tune is one of my favorites right now (in full rotation on my minidisc player) and is nice, especially becuse it isn't really a remix, but actually features the song stylings and instrumentation of the members of Josh. This is a hot tune, so you should definitely check it out.
And just a random note. I was watching the season premiere of Newlyweds on MTV, and I know it isn't all that new to hear desi tunes used as background music on MTV shows (usually something by PMC or Rishi Rich's Remix of Britney Spears), but they had a harder-sound bhangra remix of Get Ur Freak On and Bubba Sparx's Ugly, with full on "hoi-hoi" shouts. It was cool, and I was bouncing, but I have no idea who did the mix.
Forget the slice, forget the cheesecake, next time you are in New York, you have to try the Indian influenced wrap/sandwiches at the
Kati Roll Company. The rolls are comprised of your choice of skewered chicken, beef, achari paneer and peppers, or a tasty mixture of aloo and masala, and sometimes egg, that are then spiced and topped with red onions, and then rolled in a flaky paratha. I don't know what it is, but these Kati rolls are really good and addictive. Even cooler, the small restaurant has a modernish decor which is accentuated by old Bollywood film posters that are framed and hanging on the wall.
On July 4, 2004, my good friend Jason Gross will begin a cross-country (literally) run. He will be starting out in New York and going all the way to Los Angeles to raise money and awareness for the American Diabetes Association.
I don't know if this is going to happen anytime soon, but since the Bush administration recognized Diwali (even in the slightest) this past year perhaps the stamp is not too far off. Anway, as I am sure most of you know there has been a petition floating around the internet for some time. If you want to see the letter and have the option to sign the petition, click here.
I am posting a link to Outlook (India) magazine, which is hosting a web-dialogue between Professor Vijay Prashad and Rajiv Malhotra. Prashad is known as the founder/leader of the Federation of Indian Leftists (FOIL) and Malhotra, who runs the Infinity Foundation, is pretty well known for his right-leaning views. The dialogue is making its way on the web, and I am not going to comment on it, until the dialogue progresses a little further. I just hope it doesn't turn into namecalling and the hundutvavadi vs. pseudo-secular labelling.
London-based station Kiss 100 has signed up two new DJs as part of a shakeup of its weekend schedule which will inclulde UK born New York genre-hopping DJ Mark Ronson, and British Asian producer Rishi Rich. According to this article in RWDmag.com The Rishi Rich Project will be hosting an "East Meets West" show which will highlight sounds from around the world on starting at Midnight on Fridays.
"Rishi Rich (see my interview with him) has been one of the most in demand music producers of 2003, producing Indian-influenced remixes for the likes of Britney Spears, Mary J Blige, Craig David and Ricky Martin. Rishi's single on Virgin Records, ‘Dance With You," which featured Punjabi vocalist Juggy D and singer/rapper Jay Sean reached number 12 in the UK charts this past September. The two join him on the new Friday night show, along with other members of Rishi’s Doh Point Nau’ (meaning 2 point 9) crew – a wider collective of singers, MCs, musicians, songwriters and DJs.
From the article"
"Their ‘urban-desi’ sound represents a fusion of ‘East meets West’ combining the inspiration of heavy basslines from hip-hop, R&B and dancehall reggae with hard-hitting drum-beats from not only bhangra, but also music from other ethnic influences from all over the globe. While the Rishi Rich Project received backing from a number of Kiss 100 DJs for their debut release, getting their own show is recognition of the mainstream success of the Asian crossover scene – as well as of Rishi’s position at the vanguard of breaking new talent in the genre.
“This show is another leap forward for the growing British ‘Urban-Desi’ street music scene. It reflects the breadth of music playing in both Asian and mainstream clubs across the UK, mixing up our unique sound with R&B, hip-hop, dancehall and all manner of street genres. We’ll be bringing in live instruments and drum machines, producer battles and live guests as we continue to experiment and break new talent. Kiss is now where East meets West,” said Rishi.
I know it was supposed to be 10, so I had to leave some stuff out. Anyway, my best Diasporic Desi items of 2003 in no particular order follows. Please feel free to add to them in the comments section.
1. Nasscom President Kiran Karnik being named Forbes "Face of the Year"
2. Bend it Like Beckham becoming an international hit.
3. Specifically, Panjabi MC breaking the top 5 in the UK, breaking into the top 40 in the U.S., and getting Jay-Z on a record, Rishi Rich remixing Britney Spears, and Raje Shwari getting all over American hip hop via the Neptunes and Timbaland. Generally, the overwhelming acceptance and use of South Asian sounds in American music.
4. Bombay Dreams doing it way big in the UK, being picked up to come to the US, and Bollywood going mainstream outside of South Asia (The Guru, Bride and Prejudice etc.)
5. Aishwarya Rai going West and making it. Look for her in the above-mentioned Bride and Prejudice, to costar with Merryl Streep in Chaos, and maybe (even though her agents deny it) popping up in the next James Bond Film. I think Ash is going to be the first Bollywood film star to make it big in Hollywood. I am talking posters on teenage boys' walls big. I would love to see her being interviewed by David Letterman. I can just see him drooling.
6. Parminder Nagra evolving off BILB and making it (and helping to save) ER.
7. The Indian call center worker/outsourcer making the world more efficient
8. AR Rahman finally being recognized on the World's Stage--can't wait to hear his Lord of the Rings-- the musical-- soundtrack.
9. Bobby Jindal proving that brown people can make it in politics (even if he did not truly represent the political views of many of his Desi brethren.)
10. Monica Ali's success with her novel Brick Lane and Jhumpa Lahiri's with The Namesake.
I am sure I missed some big things like Tunku Varadarajan being named editorial features editor at the Wall Street Journal, or Sanjay Gupta blowing up for the Desis on CNN, so... I would love to hear what you guys think. Maybe we can come up with some comprehensive list of cool Desi accomplishments of 2003 and post it later.
The Mirror (UK) has an awesome, and pretty in-depth interview/article with Bend It Like Beckham's (and now ER's) Parminder Nagra. In the article, 28 year old Nagra, who plays third year medical student Neela Rasgotra on ER, discusses everything from homesickness and missing Indian food to her love life and her friendship with fellow British co-star Alex Kingston (who plays surgeon Dr. Cordet).
My favorite part of the interview is when Nagra discusses how fast the whole being casted onto ER was and how her "mum" lwas happy about the part because she, like many Indian parents wanted her child to be a doctor.
"It happened so quickly I couldn't think twice about it," says the Leicester-born actress. "If for one moment I had stopped and thought about what the hell was happening, I would have gone crazy."
But at least her mum is proud of her. Parminder jokes that all good Indian families want their daughters to be doctors anyway.
"I guess that acting would not have been my parents' first choice of career for me," she says. "Now that I'm playing a doctor, it's probably a dream finally come true, especially for my mother!
For all of you turntablist and Asian Massive fans check out DJ Spooky's most recent webmix. I am reprinting the tracklistings below. Spooky's scratching is incredible, and the song/spoken word selections are awesome--they include some nice old-skool bollywood riffs, Mutiny spoken word samples, and speeches--see minute 40, for an interesting Arundhati Roy speech placed over a nicely selected track. eeerie.
Abstrakt Blowback '03 Click here to listen.
The Satyagraha Mix
(combining the Hindu words for "truth" and "holding firmly")
o intro DJ Spooky "Subliminal Minded"
o BirdMan vs Dr. Millenium
o Navdeep "Flight to Amritsar" mixed w/ Ravi Shankar & Philip Glass "Sadhanipa"
o The French Connection "Bolly Wood Vibes: Indian Tools" mixed w/ Missy Elliott "Work it and Reverse It"
o Miri Ben-Ari 'da Hip-Hop Violinist "Put your Drinks Up"
o Dj Excel "The Magnificent" mixed with Jay Z "I Just wanna Luv U"
o collage "Clap Your Hands" mixed w/ Fathy Salama "Maqsoom" featuring Dj Mutamassik
o Lata Mangshkar "Tere Sang Pyar Main" mixed w/ Planet Asia "African Style" mixed w/ Gandhi "Truth"
o Bally Sagoo "Tum Bin Jiya" Dj Spooky's "Isomorphic Flux" remix
o Dj Siraki "Free Markets" mixed w/ Duke Ellington "Afro-Eurasian Eclipse"
o John Coltrane "OM"
o Heat Sensor "Tectonic" mixed w/ Prime Pandit Nehru's announcement of Gandhi's death, June 30,1948 "the light has gone out"
o Aki (Fundamental) "black muslims..." [spoken word clip from Mutiny]
o Asian Dub Foundation "Tu-Meri"
o Karsk Kale "One Step Beyond" Dj Spooky's "Datalife remix"Arundhati Roy "Come Septermber" mixed w/ Zeb "Bhangra Fever" and Vandanna "beginnings"
o Midval Pundits "Bhangra Fever"
o State of Bengal "Rama Communication"
o The English Beat "Mirror in the Bathroom"
o Yonderboi "Pabadam"
o Ritu "music and change" [spoken word clip from Mutiny]
o Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd "Rentals"
o Rob Swift + Xecutioners "Cheers" (Charlie Parker Remix)
o Steve "Punk Philosophy: Pure Distortion" [clip from Mutiny]
o Dj Hive "Ultrasonic Sound"
o Dj Siraki "Azaadi"
o Tabla Beat Science "Magnetic"
o Alice Coltrane "Journey into Satchidananda" mixed w/ Gandhi "Truth pt 2"
o Vijay Iyer "Proximity (Crossroads)"
o Midval Pundits "Delhi Swings..."
o Dj Spooky featuring Karsh Kale "Roman Planetaire"
Nisha Sharma, the woman who made headlines (and my blog) last year for calling the police on her grrom-to-be and his family for demanding a dowry on her wedding day, has been invited to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show. According to the this story in The Times of India Nisha, along with her husband and brother, have been invited to feature in the show, that is to be taped on January 13.
‘‘The invitation [for the show] has been signed by the show’s associate producer, Veronica Langel,’’ said Nisha’s father, D D Sharma. It has already been communicated to Nisha through the US Embassy which has expedited her visa formalities. As expected, Nisha is excited. ‘‘I am happy I have a chance to be heard internationally. No one should submit to social blackmail , anywhere in the world,’’ she said. ‘‘I agree with her basic message and will be honoured to help spread it,’’ her husband said.
More Kudos for Bend it Like Beckham. The BBC reports that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has nominated BILB in the best film category against Bad Boys II, The Fighting Temptations, Deliver Us From Eva and Whale Rider.
Mohammad Ali Chaudry, a Pakistani-American, who was elected to the Bernard NJ township Committee just two months after the September 11 attacks, has become the first Pakistani-American (and South Asian-American) to become mayor, at least to my knowledge, of a municipality in the U.S. (someone please correct me if I am wrong). According to this story from Newsday.com Chaudry served on the township board of education from 1990-95 and helped lead the effort to build a new community center. He was born in Renala Estate in 1942, and came to the U.S. in 1967. He worked for AT&T from 1968-98 as an economist, and hopes to use his business acumen in local government.
It's an opportunity to serve my community, where I have gained a lot for my family," said Chaudry, 62. "I want to be an example and a role model for my country, and for Pakistanis and Muslims who understand what America is all about and why they need to fully integrate with the community.
Congratulations go out to Mohammad Ali Chaudry from DESIBLOG.
Alot is being made, well at least in the blogosphere, about Hillary Clinton's statement this past Saturday during an event in St. Louis for Senate candidate Nancy Farmer, Missouri’s state treasurer, where she stated/joked that Mahatma Gandhi used to run a gas station in St. Louis. She then continued, after laughter from many in the crowd, by stating, "No, Mahatma Gandhi was a great leader of the 20th century." In a nod to Farmer's underdog status against Republican Sen. Kit Bond, Clinton quoted the Indian independence leader as saying: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
To view the CNN story on her apology, click here. To hear her make the somewhat offensive statement (with commentary by Rush Limbaugh--I know, I know--just ignore him), click here.
Basically, I think it is important to understand why this has struck a chord with Indians, and also why I think this really is not that big of a deal. Essentially, one of the stereotypes of Indians and South Asian-American's is of course that we own business's, often in the motel/hotel industry, convenient stores, and yes gas stations. To label an Indian (and an international) hero, who really is a source of pride and inspiration for people everywhere (including Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr.) as nothing more than a silly stereotype is indeed offensive and hurtful to a community that lacks hero's with such an international and historic appeal. It is in this vein, a huge dig to Indians.
There is no need however, as some have done on the MeFi site (link via Om Malik, via Turbanhead), to make this into a classist issue or to even compare this to the Trent Lott statement--these comparisons are not just unfair, they are wrong. If you would like to read about classism re South Asian immigration, click here for an article I wrote a long time ago in the Satya Circle. (I know I keep on promising that SC is making a comeback--it really is, I swear!)
We know that Hillary and Bill are not anti-Indian nor anti-immigrant. My personal feeling is that she really just did use bad judgement in how she was going to introduce the quote. It seems the only reason she made that statement was so that she could lead into the Gandhi quote to emphasize the fact that Nancy Farmer was an underdog, who was being ignored, and then laughed at, and then was going to eventually win. Trent Lott's ode to Strom Thurmond, who ran for office on a platform of segregation, falls more in line with blatant racism.
I think a some kind of stink should be made, to Hillary, to her speechwriters, and also to the mainstream press who seem to have given her a pass. Obviously though, I don't think this needs to elevate to the level that the Trent Lott incident did. I really hope it doesn't because I don't need to see Hillary Clinton on TV Asia, saying, "I have lots of Indian friends, and in fact, two of my employee's are Indian." (Do you think one of them pumps her gas?)
The 85-year-old former leader is reportedly a big fan of the award-winning comedy program and approached the BBC to ask if he could be a guest.
The Kumars at No 42, starring Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal, features Bhaskar interviewing celebrity guests in his supposed family home, with his parents and grandmother frequently joining in the questioning.
Mr Mandela has invited the cast to South Africa and is likely to star in a one off episode coming May. The BBC will reportedly build a temporary studio near his home in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape province, in which filming will take place.
“I am sure there would be a question on whether he had Punjabi blood in him due to the outlandish pattern of his clothing … and his ability to bhangra [dance] every time he hears a drum,” Syal said.
It is 2004 and the rumors are starting again of Bollywood Bombshell Aishwarya Rai being offerred the role of the next Bond girl. The Times of India reports that Aishwarya has agreed to appear in the next James Bond film if its producers agree to use a body double for the sex scenes with Pierce Brosnan.
She told the British press that her strict upbringing meant there was no question of her doing anything saucy. "I've said I will do the film if there is a body double. The producers have said they will have to ask Pierce." Ash said the Bond offer came after she bumped into Brosnan at a party. "He walked over to me and said he had seen me on the cover of Time magazine," she said. Reports said two other Indian actresses - Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta - had been approached to appear in the film should Rai's demand rule her out. Both women are also former beauty queens, and if I recall correctly, Lara Dutta was in the past connected to NY Yankee Derek Jeeter.