Advertisements

Category Archives: Culture

VIDEO: A Shotgun Wedding in Bihar

People across the United States and India often joke and laugh about “shotgun weddings,” where a man is forced to make an honest woman out of a woman by marrying her, and if he were to refuse, he’d be staring down the barrel of a gun, which say somethin’ diff’rent.  Usually it’s the bride’s father holding the firearm, and it’s almost always due to the girl having gotten pregnant.

Most people have never had to see one happen.   However, a real-life shotgun wedding caught on video this week has taken the world by storm.  Engineer Vinod Kumar was actually kidnaped from a friend’s wedding, beaten up or “thrashed” as they like to say in India by the bride’s family goondas, and then forced to get married at gunpoint at another location.  He was brought there bound, as you can see in the video, and clearly against his will.  It’s not funny at all.  The poor guy cried during the ceremony, while it’s unclear whether the veiled bride on the left was trying to console him, or felt sad for what her family was doing to this guy.  Fortunately, the police are investigating in this case, although sometimes people are even scared to report cases to a corrupt government apparatus which may do nothing but more harm.

It’s now 2018.  Marriage kidnappings are unfortunately all too common in India, but usually it’s a woman who is captured to be the bride.  Whether it’s a bride or groom, this type of behavior is completely illegal, morally unacceptable, and wholly unbecoming of a country that wants a larger role in world affairs.  We show this video not as entertainment, but to inform and galvanize a society that should never let this happen to men or women, period.

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

Advertisements

VIDEO: Does the Simpsons’ Apu Need a Do-Over?

Comedian Hari Kondabulu gave millions of Indians around the world a voice by tackling the subject of Apu from the multi-decade hit cartoon sitcom, The Simpsons.  He decided to make a documentary film called “The Problem with Apu” on TruTV which asks some fundamental questions about Apu and why he has to be the way he is.  As we all know, Apu is a minstrel with a fake accent and his appearances comprise an unending parade of unforgivably unfunny stereotypes of an Indian convenience store owner in any town USA.

So ingrained is Apu on the world’s consciousness that when I went to a remote region of Brazil where they never see any Indians, many of the locals nicknamed me Apu for the week.  This is literally the first thing that people who have never met Indians think about when they see an Indian.

The documentary is worth watching, whether you believe Indians are being way too sensitive about Apu, or you are outraged by the minstrel portrayal of Indians by white voice actor, Hank Azaria.  Above you will see the TruTV trailer.

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

th.jpeg

 

 

 

 

USINDIAMONITOR Dabbles in Sci-Fi Cyber Warrior-Spy Fiction with ‘Subterfuge in the Septagon’

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

As some of you know, I entered the following draft first chapter of a potentially longer work into the Katha Fiction Contest 2017 run by India Currents and got second place.  You can read the whole chapter and the other winning entries at the contest website.  Hope to have the complete novel out soon with help from the Wellstone Center.

***

The first time that I met her was in the conference room on the top floor of the Septagon.  Well, top floor sounds a bit misleading when you work in a secret bunker somewhere deep underground below Silicon Valley, California.  Even those of us who work down there have no idea exactly where it is.  Not only are the coordinates classified, it also takes a hyperloop vacuum tube ride through a labyrinth of underground tunnels to get to the Septagon, from any of some 35 hidden ground level entrances equipped with retinal and fingerprint scanners.  The entire subterranean system was designed and built by free-thinking construction robots and 3D printers that were immediately wiped of all data and decommissioned for scrap as part of the grand opening ceremony for the building in 2024.  I’ve read several credible Russian spy-hunter blogs on the Dark Web who somehow conjectured we work directly under the seventh hole of Shoreline Golf Links.  I don’t know, comrades, your guess is as good as mine; try digging around that seventh hole putting green and if someone blows your head off, there’s a good chance you’re right.

Uncle Sam seems to be into the number seven these days.  Seventh hole.  The Septagon, for a bunker with seven walls.  Only seven living people at any time know exactly where the United States Cyber Force (USCF) Headquarters is, and the executive suites are on the top floor, which is- you guessed it- the seventh floor.  Maybe that’s because Uncle Sam’s luck had been running real low.

The USCF (pronounced “uskeff” for those in the know) was formed after several crippling cyberspace debacles for America that helped level the playing field of asymmetrical warfare, including China’s cyber theft of every single U.S. conventional weapons system by 2014, including detailed plans for the F-35 joint strike fighter jet (since discontinued), Russia’s successful hack of the U.S. Democratic Party during the heavily compromised 2016 presidential election cycle, the time a still-unidentified group blew up the international space station in 2019 through an elaborate climate control systems hacking operation, and the time Al Qaeda brought down the entire Internet for two agonizing days in 2021.  This of course wrought more havoc on the United States and the world than any day since 9/11.  I was in college at the time.  It was terrifying to be amongst 7,000 college students with useless smartphones and smartwatches and zero idea how to function in real life without a working Internet.  Those were dark days.

Naturally it took two years of bureaucratic nut flexing, study groups, investigations, commissions, and Congressional committee hearings to figure out that the United States needed a new military branch, a Cyber Force on par with the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard to have some capability to defend from and retaliate against folks in the cyber arena threat matrix.  It took another year to decide to place its headquarters somewhere in the sub-vicinity of Silicon Valley, which to me was always a no-brainer as I followed along the debates in the news in high school and college.  Why in hell would you put it anywhere else?

In a predictable sequence of events and affairs, the USCF had steadily gained in stature, to the point where it was considered the most prestigious and critical of all of the branches of the military- and also most secretive, and least understood by an American public that mostly didn’t even know what HTML was.  That’s why I decided to enlist, along with thousands of other intelligent patriots.  It’s why the USCF commander was considered the most important military leader of our time.  Rumor has it that during a heated argument at the White House in the presence of the President, USCF General Nirupama “Nero” Patel was being dressed down by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff over something.  Within minutes, irate as hell, she had orchestrated the power-down of every single US Army tank in every single corner of the globe simply by typing orders into her USCF smartphone while sitting there getting yelled at, and wouldn’t power the tanks back up until she received a satisfactorily profuse apology.  I can neither confirm nor deny that I was involved in that friendly little US Army tail-pulling exercise.

Now back to the original subject.  I was summoned to the fancy oak-paneled conference room with huge computer screens that spring day in 2025, having no idea what was in store.  Here I was, an Indian-American, a fresh-faced Cyber Force geek recruit straight out of boot camp, 24 years old, 33 days on the job, attending my first 7th floor meeting.  These usually only include the honchos unless something major was going down.  Two seats away from me was a very pretty Indian girl, with long jet black hair tied into a tight ponytail, a form fitting gray suit, and that caramel tone I tend to like on my candy and on my women.  The seat between us was empty.   I stared at the ceiling, concentrated on keeping my heart rate down, and bravely pretended not to notice her as we all waited for the emergency meeting to start.

“Hi, I’m Manisha,” she said with a sultry Indian accent.  I looked over.  She was looking right at me with her hand extended in my direction.  Stay calm, dude.  Compute?

 “I’m Bart,” I replied, taking her hand.  Man, it was a strong grip. What was this pretty young foreign national thing doing so deep in the Septagon?

“You’re… Indian, no?” she asked after a pause, doing that Indian head shake thing where you can’t tell if it’s a yes or a no, approving or disapproving.  A no with Indians can be a yes, as in, she could be saying, “You’re Indian, right?”

“Right, I’m Indian-American.  Real name my parents gave me is Bharat,” I stammered, guessing that the name Bart threw her off.  Either that or she was wondering if I was named after Bay Area Rapid Transit.

“Nice to meet you.  I’m representing India on the new inter-agency task force.”  Wait, there’s a new task force?  And this Indian chick knows about it before I do?

The USCF General walked in the door, and everybody shut up and stood.  There were about 30 people in the room, including the General, two Lieutenant Generals, and the rest of the brass, along with a few drones like me.  General Patel began to speak.

“I’d like to welcome Manisha Gayatri from India here today,” she began.  “Manisha is on special assignment with us.  She was hired by the Indian Cyber Army after graduating first in her class from the Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai, and top scored her Indian Cyber Army training class as well.”  Whoa.  Pretty impressive resume to go with those looks.  IIT and the Indian ICA are both considered top-notch globally these days.  I was nowhere near the top of my own USCF class (insert sheepish face emoticon here) or my Georgetown class.  Too busy socializing with the other recruits, while playing and designing video games.  Perhaps shockingly to you, designing video games is a hobby of mine.

General Patel continued.  “As you know, the Russia-China alliance was able to successfully shut down an entire US Navy carrier group on patrol in the Indian Ocean last week, and the Indian Navy stepped in and helped us keep the carrier group secure during this episode while we got back up and running.”  There were some snickers in the room.  Ah, the Navy.  The seamen let a carrier group go dark over basic sixth-grade malicious code. Should have had a few of us USCF boys on board.  The U.S. government tried hard to keep the situation under wraps from the public, but some excitable Sri Lankan fishermen in the area started a ginormous global Twitter storm with photos of six powerful US warships and a nuclear submarine just drifting around in the water like sitting ducks without even their lights working.

“I just got off video conference with the President and the Defense Secretary.  As you know, President Gabbard considers this an act of cyberwar and wants us to retaliate, exceedingly quietly and with extreme prejudice.  There will be zero public mention of a retaliation, or even acknowledgement of the Navy incident.  The Indian government was pretty pissed that this happened in their own backyard as well, and so have offered their utmost assistance.  I am here to brief you on the mission, which will entail a secret joint US-India offensive operation to hack into and disrupt all Chinese military base activities on the islands in the South China Sea, over a long time horizon.”  The room seemed to let out a collective gasp.  I nearly choked on my latte and almost fell out of my seat.  But Manisha sat there, perfectly calm with a self-satisfied smile on her face.  She already knew.  Before most of us.  Including me. “Agent Manisha Gayatri will be leading the Indian side of the task force,” General Patel continued amongst the murmurs, “and Officer Bart Joshi will be running point for the US side.”  At that point, I did really choke on my latte.  And BJ never chokes.

Manisha slapped me on the back patronizingly while I coughed.  “Time to put your big-boy pyjamas on,” she said sweetly.  Leave it to the Indians to screw up how to say pajamas.  OH, and how in the world was I chosen to co-captain one of the most important military missions that the USCF had ever taken on in its brief yet important history? 

* * *

Talk about a tall order.  Or: how my life was practically guaranteed to be a failure from between the next few years to the rest of my life, assuming I even survived this perilous mission.  The artificial islands in the South China Sea had turned into a beastly network of real and virtual fortresses.  Close to 10,000 Chinese troops and an unknown quantity of cyborgs were stationed on them in a series of naval and air force bases.  These assets had been under construction basically since I was born in 2001 in order to deter China’s neighbors like Vietnam or the Philippines from making competing claims on the rich resources of the South China Sea.  Russia had a bunch of troops, cyborgs, ships, aircraft, tanks, and drones based there too, and the whole thing was wrapped in a tight cybersecurity net manned by several hundred bad hombres.   While neither China or Russia was officially an enemy state, their 2023 formal military alliance had been seen as an act of hostility by the United States, and set the stage for the US-India treaty alliance of 2024, the same year the USCF was formed.  And just like that, there was a new bipolar world between the two axes of power forged just before the US carrier group was hacked into and shut down- the first major “hot” incident of the new 21st century Cold War.  While the Indian Cyber Army (ICA) and USCF had an active personnel exchange program going, I hadn’t yet had a chance to work with one of my subcontinental cousins on anything.  Manisha was to be the first.  Fate and all of that.

It’s probably pretty obvious already, but I instantly developed a sort of thing for Manisha in that seventh floor conference room.  Right off the bat, I always loved the Indian accent.  It reminded me of Bollywood, my dear grandparents who immigrated to this country, and chicken biryani.  Or a good day, during which I watched Bollywood on TV with my grandparents while eating chicken biryani as a kid in Fresno.  Totally unfair to use that accent on me, right?

Of course, I had to play it cool.  I had to prove to her that Indian-Americans were cool.  Plus, national security and the new world order and stuff were at stake, so I couldn’t be focused on playing tongue hockey with my co-captain.  It would be too big a distraction.  We had an example to set for the interagency task force, which was to include over 300 full time cyber-warriors from both countries.

Apparently I had been chosen for this leadership role based on a sophisticated analysis of my keystrokes on the job.  A UCSF computer program called Keystroke Analysis & Integrated Fusion (KAIF) took every single thing I had ever done on any device at work, including the speed at which I wrote emails, wrote code, hacked through systems, scrolled through reading materials, called, video conferenced, messaged or emailed other people, and even the pauses between activities, to determine my aptitude to lead and to take on a cyber mission versus everyone else.  Creepy, right?  I’d be more comfortable knowing that I was just being chosen as a patsy for an impossible mission that needed a fall guy.  Which is what it still felt like this was, not KAIF.

We weren’t just all geeks all the time, though.  In USCF basic training we had to do the physical stuff too, like running, swimming, obstacle courses, wilderness survival, making beds, and firearms training just like the other branches of the military.  The difference being, we had by far the lowest physical requirements, and by far the most difficult IT skills testing.  We came to be known throughout the services as Geeks with Guns.

Manisha asked to join me for lunch that first day, a get to know you sort of thing, and I obliged.  The Septagon cafeteria wasn’t half bad, featuring a team of Indian chefs making authentic subcontinental chow in real tandoor ovens for the some 25% of the USCF headquarters staff of Indian origin, and whoever else.  These guys spent the days pounding Johnnie Walker Black Label in the kitchen and making killer food.  Don’t ask me how they get their security clearance, or avoid burning the naan.

“So you grew up in California?” she asked me as we munched on some bhel puri.

“Right.  Fresno.  Pretty standard upbringing. Gamer.  Hacker.  Tennis player. Went to Georgetown for college.   Enlisted in USCF pretty soon after.”

“Similar to me.  ICA recruited me out of IIT with a bunch of my classmates,” she said.  “I won’t tell you my age, but I’m a bit older than you are.”  Nice.  I liked older women.

“How’d they pick you for this mission?”

“They put a few of us on a plane to the United States with very little notice, and said we’d be briefed when we got there.  I spent some time at the Pentagon, Indian Embassy, doing a bunch of Washington meetings.  Some other members of my team stayed on in Washington to do some other things.”  Wait.  What was that?  Was she?  Yes, champ, that WAS her foot rubbing up on my leg.

“Co-captains…can’t focus tongue hockey…on 300 cyber warriors,” I stammered.

“Want to get a beer with me after work tonight?”

“Um…yes, sure.”

***

Um, Om? WHAT Hindu Heavy Metal Music Scene?

a0153966542_10.jpg

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

India isn’t exactly a hotbed of heavy metal.  The airwaves over there are packed with film-style dance numbers derived from Bollywood, bhangra, and various poppy Western influences.  There’s a millennia-long tradition of music in India, but it’s usually been slim pickings for those of us lifelong heavy metal fans.  On the occasions where rock music is even to be found anywhere in India, it’s almost always soft in nature.  To be fair, most Indians have never properly heard heavy metal.  However, I’ve thought for some years now that this could all change- that India is even becoming ripe for a heavy metal revolution!

It’s only appropriate.  India is hardcore, man.  India is a sensation seeker’s dream, with a vibrant and colorful spiritual culture, an exceedingly wide range of flavor profiles and smells, rollicking cities overflowing into breathtaking landscapes, ancient and modern architecture on top of each other, oppressive political ferment, and the crush of people and traffic in every direction.  It’s hotter than hell in most of India most of the time.  India is an assault on your senses.  What can possibly be more METAL than that?

a1626989188_10

Meanwhile, Hinduism probably lends itself better to the all-out thrash power of metal than it’s generally credited for.  The sitar, tablas, bhajans, mantras, and shlokas of Hinduism can entrance, hypnotize, and more at their best.  The mythology is filled with colorful characters, moral conundrums, epic battle scenes, powerful weapons, gruesome demons, sexual symbolism, and savage animalistic imagery such as many-armed Goddesses carrying the bleeding heads of vanquished foes as souvenirs, or the lion-headed avatar Narasimha ripping an enemy in half with his bare hands.  Imagine imagining this bloody milieu with raw metal guitar, bass, and drum power behind it.  Again I ask you, what could possibly be more METAL than that?

TDT 16-02-13 © ANOOP B VYAS PHOTOGRAPHY  (3).jpgFinally, we have the demographic bulge.  It’s no secret that metal is a young person’s game. India is a young country, with 845 million people under the age of 35, many of them jumping on the Internet or television for the first time to partake in Western influenced culture, including music.  The best American import is arriving in force.

And thus, an earnest, nascent Hindu/Vedic heavy metal scene has formed in India and abroad.  It took your correspondent a few forays down the Internet rabbit hole to discover it, but it’s definitely there.  There’s a long way to go for Hindu metal to fill more than a nook in the niche cranny.  Particularly missing in my view is enough melodic singing to match the guitar riffs.  The scene is far from mature but more than anything, I see potential and opportunity.  Below are some of the bands you can find along with example tracks for a pretty elaborate curated survey.  No matter what you think of the music, these bands are truly pioneers, merging the great traditions of Hinduism and hard rock.  If there are others I missed, please mention them in the comments below!

The Down Troddence.  These guys flat-out rock.  After I came across this song today, I couldn’t get enough of their music.  Not surprisingly, there’s many a Shiva themed song on our list, with this one simply titled, Shiva.  The Down Troddence is a six-piece that hails from Kerala.  I haven’t heard all of the songs by all of these bands yet but as of now I consider this the most technically competent band among the lot.

 

Motherjane.  A bit less heavy, and a bit more classical influence than the others on this list, Motherjane is an eminently listenable band with a melodic and well-orchestrated sound.  Chasing the Sun as a bonus also features an excellent video which could only be made in India.  They remind me a bit of the excellent Pakistani band Junoon.  I wish I had heard of Motherjane sooner.

 

Moksh the Band Fronted by a woman named Ishrat Rajan on vocals, and managed by lead guitarist/singer Ashish Wilson, this Shimla four-piece has been kicking around its incarnations since 2003.  In recent years the band decided to take on a ditty about Shiva the Destroyer himself with Shiv Tandav Stotram.  In keeping with the spirit of Hinduism, the video is meant to provoke awareness of those who lost their lives in natural disasters.

 

Rudra.  This foursome of bad boy Hindus hails from Singapore, and has been jamming out since 1992.  They are quite likely the first band to have earned the so-called Hindu metal mantle.  There are unmistakable hints of ancient India in the song Now Therefore including a conch call to start the proceedings.  I like more melody in my metal vocals, but this style should appeal to many of you metal heads out there and the instrumentals are solid.         

 

Millennium.  To be honest, Millennium was formed as an 80’s hair metal band with Christian members and no Hindu influence.  The song Only be One in fact uses overt Christian imagery such as crosses and coffins.  That being said, this band formed in Bangalore in 1986.  They are considered to be one of the first, if not the first, successful metal band from India.  Props!  Rock out!

 

Indus Creed.  While Indus Creed straddles the line between pop rock (not exactly my jam) and hard rock, they deserve mention as one of the indisputable giants in India’s rock music history.  Rock ‘N Roll Renegade was one of their early hits from their debut album of the same name in the 80’s, and helped launch them into the pantheon of India’s rock stratosphere.  In fact, Indus Creed helped pave the way for all of the other bands in this list.  Respect.

 

Cult of Fire.  Hinduism is for all, and this Czech Republic band proves that Hindu metal is a globalized phenomenon.  The song Kali Ma is mostly instrumental, but it shows the range of talent possessed by Cult of Fire.  The below video splices a bunch of Hindi Hindu film footage into the song.  Judge for yourself whether Kajol and Sridevi dressed like Goddesses with heavy metal in the background actually works…


Dying Out Flame.
  OK, first of all, this band looks absolutely hardcore.  Right?  They also rock righteously, they’re co-ed, plus they have cool album art (see top).  Formed in 2011, this band hails from the Hindu majority nation of Nepal, adding more to the international flavor of Hindu metal.  Shiva Rudrastakam pays tribute to Lord Shiva- in case you aren’t noticing a trend here?

Unknown

 

Demonic Resurrection.    This particular band was formed by four teenagers at the start of the new millennium.  The Mumbai band has kept on, and helped bring other metal bands into the fold through singer Sahil Makhija’s Deamonstealer Records.  Of particular interest in the song Matsya- The Fish and others is a seamless and welcome integration of sitar into the metal.

 

Dhwesha.  This band’s punishing style puts the death into death metal.  Another Bangalore band, Dhwesha actually sings in Kannada- though it’s nearly impossible to tell.  In their self-titled song from 2014, you can choose to witness the see-saw between uplift and despair.  It’s worth it.

 

This list of course cannot do justice to the entire music library each of these bands has, nor is it meant to be a complete listing of Hindu or Vedic heavy metal.  Hopefully you have been exposed to a world you didn’t know about, and enjoyed it as much as I have.

There’s a musical revolution under way, and you have gotten in on the ground floor.

 

om_symbol_fire_gradient_guitar_pick-r68e4cd30c5634d559fa1837c55be3787_zv6cw_324

Picture credits:

  1. Dying Out Flame album art
  2. Demonic Resurrection album art
  3. Down Troddence concert by Anup B Vyas
  4. Dying Out Flame album art
  5. Om guitar pick, Zazzle.com

These guys are REAL Cleveland Indians Celebrating the NBA Finals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether you call these two guys Cleveland Indians, or Cleveland Browns, this may just be the best fan photo to come out of the NBA finals this year.  I challenge you to find a better one.  For those of you who aren’t NBA fans, this is of course, about Steph Curry.  Good luck Cavs.   #DefendtheLand

The World’s Largest Holi Celebration Ever was in Utah

Roopa Shree is a Special Correspondent for usindiamonitor

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the small South Indian town where I grew up, the festival of Holi wasn’t exactly a big deal.  That’s not to say that Udupi, Karnataka wasn’t festive. We knew how to put on a great show.  The town had a world famous Krishna Temple, amongst many other temples, and Lord Krishna’s birthday was celebrated in a grand manner and on a far more epic scale than Holi was.

Holi was still recognized in a relatively small way. We used to see groups of 10 to 15 village farmers all dressed up in white with turbans, drums and other musical instruments singing village songs in their local dialect, going door to door to collect tips. As a tradition they used to lift up and carry the youngest ones in each household and dance. But there was no splashing of colored powders in our home town, which is what most people associate with the Holi festival.

India is like many countries rolled into one.  In modern India, the traditional lines of culture, cuisine, dress, and language have blurred especially in its diverse cities.  The colored powder version of Holi is today celebrated all over: on college campuses, temple grounds and street corners.  And now, it’s gained some footing in the United States as well.

When we came to the United States in the early 70’s, not many Americans knew much about India or Hindu culture. I was pleasantly surprised  when they showed International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) characters in American sitcoms such as All in the Family or Barney Miller.  For many Americans, ISKCON was probably responsible for introducing Hinduism to them.

Fast forward to 2016. After moving to Salt Lake City from California, our friends the Kamaths took us to the ISKCON Sri Radha Krishna Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah.  What a sight.

We arrived to see a magnificent all white temple sitting on top of a hill on a serene 15 acres surrounded by gorgeous snow capped mountains…thanks to the unrelenting efforts of two devotees, Charu Dasa and Vaibhavi Devi.  This lovely temple modeled after KUSUM SAROVAR of India is a must-see among the amazing and unusual places not just in Utah, but in all the United States.  There are beautiful peacocks, llamas, and cows maintained by this temple.  You can even rent the llamas for an outing in the mountain landscape.  Every week, hundreds of visitors take the temple tour from senior groups to school children, from tourists to locals to get a glimpse of Hindu temple culture.

Wait.  Is that right? A Hindu temple deep in Mormon country?

Yes, it’s true, and that’s not all.  This temple nestled in the mountains hosts the biggest celebration of Holi in the entire world.

7019284651_9d1da5e54b_z.jpg
Holi, also known as the festival of colors and festival of love, has become a favorite amongst fun loving Indians, Americans, and others alike, celebrated across many American states these days during springtime including Las Vegas, NV on April 15, 2017, and Oceanside, CA on May 6, 2017, etc.

I finally got to see Holi in Spanish Fork in March with our friends the Gokarns.  It was everything they said it would be and more.  Such a well organized event, with paid parking spaces close to the temple, security, crossing guards, traffic police, and safe walking for kids and adults alike. Vendors were selling scarfs, colored powders, Indian snacks, and masks for the festivities.

There were thousands of people going in and out, all of them drenched in beautiful colors on their faces, hair and all over their bodies. For a second I thought, is this for real, am I in India or am I dreaming?!

We entered and merged with the huge crowd. Thousands of people were dancing merrily, music was projected by DJs singing along with the bands, little kids rode on mom and dad’s shoulders right in the middle of beautiful surroundings, while the white temple on the hill top glowed in the soft shadows cast by the sun.

There were yoga sessions, interactive fusion dances, live mantra bands, and food stalls.  Everybody seemed to be in good mood around the open air amphitheater.  So many smiling faces.  How could you not smile in this atmosphere?

As I walked around trying to capture some pics on my iPhone, friendly people came over and before I knew it,  they smeared and threw colored powder all over me.  There was no escape for anyone, of any age.

The two days of Holi festival at Spanish Fork draws fun loving people from all around, including the bordering States of Idaho and Wyoming.  Perhaps upward of 100,000 people, mostly Americans, attended and the festival continues to rise in popularity each year.  Holi is traditionally a time for cleansing, renewal, and starting over. Everyone is an equal participant.  It’s also a time to welcome people from any background who have a curiosity about Hinduism to learn more.  Congratulations to ISKCON for putting on a great show.

Some festivals are too much fun to miss regardless of your background or religion.  This is one of them, like Baisaki in California, Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Lilac Festival in Rochester, NY, Artichoke Festival in Castroville, CA, the Persimmon Festival in Indiana, or WOMAD in New Zealand.  These things must be seen with your own eyes, and felt for yourself with all your senses. Take a bite out of life, one festival at a time.  Come taste samosas and masala chais.  Come enjoy the colors of Holi with your family and friends, to celebrate the arrival of spring in all its glory.

It’s springtime in America, year 2017.  As the purple, pink, turmeric yellow, red gulal, and orange scented corn starch powders covered all the skins and clothes of thousands, white, black, brown, yellow,  and all other types of human being all merged into one massive rainbow colored ocean of people!

First SNL Monologue of Trump Era is by Indian-American Comedian Aziz Ansari

The first Saturday Night Live episode of the Trump era aired on 1/21/17, and there couldn’t possibly be a better host for this particular episode than a Muslim-American comedian.  Aziz Ansari is both that and also an Indian-American, and he delivered an excellent monologue (above) that all Americans can appreciate.

Not surprisingly, it was Trump-centric, and Aziz nailed it.  “Pretty cool to know that he’s probably sitting at home watching a brown guy make fun of him though,” he said at the beginning.  Aziz also gave a shout-out to the Women’s March, and described a phenomenon all of us are now witnessing, the kkk (“with a small k”) racism that’s crept up in the last few years, emboldened by Trump’s rise.

Piercing through the laugh, Aziz also voices hope.  We applaud Aziz Ansari for a memorable monologue during a historic time.

VIDEO: Why Indians and Pakistanis Should Never Talk to Each Other, All India Bakchod

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

One of the great tragedies of our lifetimes is the continued enmity and hatred between India and Pakistan in modern times, despite their having so much in common.  When I went to Pakistan to see for myself what that country was about, I was so shocked by the truth that it changed my life.  Since then I have been on something of an obsessive messianic mission, despite outright impossible odds, to explain to both Indians and Pakistanis that closer friendship would be exceedingly easy and beneficial to both sides.  Too often the media would rather talk about terrorism or “surgical strikes” instead.  And the subcontinent has never recovered from the violence of 1947 and its aftermath.

freedom-tour-2012-988-pano

The Editor in Lahore.  He didn’t feel unsafe.  He found the ladies to be very nice.

In the above video, All India Bakchod (AIB) did something novel: a film crew in Pakistan and a film crew in India coordinated and had random people in one country talk on the phone with random people in the other country on independence day, which is the same for both nations.  “We found out why Indians and Pakistanis should never talk to each other,” says AIB.  This video pretty much made me laugh and cry at the same time.

Credits:

India Crew

Producers: AIB, Mansi Multani
Production Assistants: Aakash Mehta, Nikhil Pai, Vaibhav
DOPs: Soham Hundekar, Saiyam Wakchaure
Sound: Harish, Gopal
Line Producer: Vikram
Editor – Shashwata Dutta
Online – Mihir Lele

India Participants

Mazhar
Prabtej
Sharanya
Subramanian
Mitakshi
Aditi
Nidhi
Richa
Akash Zala
Sujit Yadav
Joyanto Mukherjee
Malti Naik

Pakistan Crew

Producer – Khaula Jamil (Humans of Karachi)
DOP – Zeest Shabbir
Sound – Huma Murad Shah

Pakistan Participants

(SZABIST & Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture)

Hasan
Gaity
Salman Noorani
Talha Khan
Amjad
Maaz
Fatima
Minza Sajjad
Anosha
Maha Minhaj
Aqil
Soonhal
Hafeez

Why do Indians Hate Root Beer?

th.jpegThere are several things that still separate an Indian-American from an Indian from India even in this globalized world: accents and educational systems come to mind, as do sports or movie preferences. These are real, but also amorphous. However, we can point to something much more tangible in nature.  Perhaps no single thing in the world is a more perfect epitome of the separation between Indian-Americans and their cousins from the motherland than a dark black, foamy-headed sweet and effervescent liquid drink called root beer.  In my lifetime, I’ve found that Indians categorically hate this drink, while most Americans of all types including Indian-Americans love this drink.

Having grown up in the American Midwest, where we’d call all manner of fizzy soft drinks “pop,” I have loved root beer for as long as I can remember and probably always will.  Widely available commerical brands include A&W, Barq’s, or IBC, and I could drink any of these happily.  What’s more, one can place a dollop of vanilla or other ice cream into a glass of root beer, and you get a magical dessert/drink hybrid like no other, known to most Americans as a root beer float.  And yet, as much as all-American flavors like french fries, ketchup, pizza, and even colas like Coke and Pepsi have exploded in popularity and affordability in India over the last few decades, root beer is hard to come by.   Even Indians who have settled in the United States for decades often won’t ever drink it.

Why???  On the face of it, Indians should love root beer.  It’s spicier than most other American colas or soft drinks (with a notable exception in Dr Pepper).  Root beer’s traditional historic roots are in the delicious extract of the sassafras tree root or sarsaparilla vine root.  As a kid at summer camp, I remember tasting a fresh and hot tea made of sassafras root, an original root beer formula- and it was divine.  Root beer is aromatic and has a number of spicy and subtle hints, much like Indian food itself which draws on fraternal spices like cardamom, anise, and cinnamon.  I have a theory that Indians typically hate root beer for one simple reason: it reminds them too much of medical products, including a soothing balm called Iodex, a common household item in India.  Throughout my life whenever I drank or even mentioned root beer, my Indian-born mother would make a disgusted face, hold her nose and say, “I can’t stand it, smells like Iodex!”  I’ve heard similar sentiments over and over by people born and raised in India.  Which led me to look into this recently.

Indeed there’s a basis for it.  Iodex utilizes methyl salicylate, made of oil extracted from a group of plants __57called wintergreens or their synthetic equivalent.  Commercially produced root beers also use extracts of wintergreens, or very similar plants.  Interestingly, just like Coca-Cola, the modern form of root beer was invented in the United States in the 1800’s for medicinal purposes.  So, we have come full circle here.

It’s too bad that Iodex has ruined root beer for potentially millions of people in India and other parts of the world.  Now you know why.  So you say, this isn’t a scientific analysis after all?  You must be forgetting that this is Trump’s America now.

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

 

 

 

VIDEO: Dr. Anuj Shrivastava’s Batshit-Crazy Conspiracy Theories

I saw this video making the rounds on WhatsApp, and the premise of this gentleman Dr. Anuj Srivastava’s little lecture is intriguing: why are Indian media outlets so derogatory?  That they spew lots of hatred is certainly true.  And the video starts out with a calm and intelligent tone that led me to believe this might be an interesting few minutes and I might even learn something.

However, the good doctor’s explanations are absolutely batshit crazy!  To take just one example that really caught my attention, he claims without any evidence that CNN-News18, the CNN India partnership formerly known as CNN-IBN, is funded by the “Southern Baptist Church,” and that is why the channel is anti-Indian, anti-Hindu, liberal, and leftist.  One by one, he claims that all of India’s major news outlets, including NDTV, the Times group, the Hindu, and India Today are all totally compromised by foreign governments or religious groups.  Just a tiny bit of research would show that the Southern Baptist Church has nothing to do with CNN-News18.  Why in God’s name would they want to sponsor that news channel?  Also, this doctor does not practice in the US though the video would have you believe he is based there.  I am not doubting his medical abilities here.

You must watch this video, and not just for a good laugh.  There is no doubting Dr. Srivastava’s sincerity.  There is no better example of the Indian society’s biggest faults on display: a penchant for batshit crazy conspiracy theories, whining, and blaming anyone else except themselves for India’s massive problems 70 years after the British abandoned India.

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

%d bloggers like this: