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Category Archives: Culture

Donald Trump is a Tool. Use It to Your Advantage Like I Did.

All of my life, I had heard about the concept of depression from other people, but it always appeared to me as a foreign object that I would struggle to understand.  People I know over the years would talk about their depressions or nervous breakdowns, or those of their own family members and friends.  But I would be on the outside looking in, like watching it snow inside a snow globe but not understanding what it would be like to get 5 feet of snow dumped on top of my head and stay buried under it.

All that would change.  November 8, 2016 started out great enough.  As a New York City civil servant, I got election day off that day, just like I had every year.  I woke up on that nice fall day in Brooklyn and went to vote at a school in my awesome neighborhood called Cobble Hill.  There was a beautiful five year old girl waiting in line with her mother, and on my way out she asked her mom if she could get an “I voted today” sticker that she saw on people’s shirts.  Just as her mom told her it had to be earned by adults who voted, I gave the little girl my own.  I felt great and so did the little girl.

It was a happy moment for me, and the first of many on the day.  I hung out for the rest of the day off with my good friends in the hipster enclave of Red Hook, joking, laughing, eating, drinking, walking, talking, flirting with strangers, and trying to soak in the fact that within a few hours, America would finally vote in its first female president in history.

By 11pm that night, I went into a state of physical and mental shock.  I exchanged a set of WhatsApp messages with my close relative, who was sitting on a beach in India and drinking beers early in the morning, India time, seeing the same live US election results that I was.  Indeed, he had predicted Trump’s victory months earlier, but I refused to entertain even a hint of that thought.  “Are you doing okay?” he asked.  For the first time in my life, after quick consideration I responded to him with the honesty that a close relative and friend deserved: “No,” I replied.

***

It sounds cheesy to say this when so many people have worse problems than me, like painful stages of cancer, dead children, blindness, or missing legs.  Plus I am by no means alone in falling into a dark abyss late in 2016.  But I had to admit to myself that my world had shattered.  Many others probably felt as bad or worse, for example those who worked on Hillary’s election campaign and were cheated out of victory.

But I can only speak for myself.  I finally learned what depression meant, the hard way, as I mourned the end of America as we knew it.  It was like a family member I loved dying.  My optimism, which always drove me for 36 years of life was melting away in real time.   I went from an optimist to a cynic.  And being unused to cynicism, I found out for the first time that it’s a very hard way to live.

I have always had jobs since my 16th birthday, and I always worked hard.  But on November 9th, 2016, I could not do a single shred of work properly.  I sat and largely stared at my computer screen.  My body felt frozen.  My mind was numb.  I couldn’t focus for more than three minutes at a time.  I was surrounded by colleagues who were going through the same thing, and on this particular day, it was considered acceptable and almost predictable to be useless and unproductive.  After all, most of us lived and worked together in New York City.  We knew the criminal scumbag con man Trump better than anyone else did.  It wasn’t us who voted that cunt and his evil family in, it was the rest of the country’s fault.  Not that it made us New Yorkers feel any better.

The next few months were painful as I descended into feeling hopeless and helpless about the world, and wondering what the point of it all was if we were headed toward destroying humanity and our planet anyway at some point soon.  Family members and friends were feeling many of the same cynical things and didn’t offer a way out.  I burned.  I started giving up on trying to be healthy, or caring about current events, or the future.  Classic depression type symptoms.  And I was smart enough to know it.

But then something happened.  By February 2017 we began seeing the flickering glimmer of a path towards Trump’s takedown and impeachment, which I am now confident is inevitable.  I went through a few dark and deep spiritual experiences in this period of time.  My optimism gradually and slowly re-emerged, like a glorious Phoenix from the ashes of the very fire that had burned me.

I got serious about writing fiction, something I had been talking and thinking about since I was 12 years old.  I entered a fiction contest on a whim and got second place.   I became active on Twitter, starting arguments and rants and making jokes, and it all felt therapeutic during a hard time.  I started donating to political campaigns, and signing petitions.  I regained some of the joy and fun in dating, which had been absent for several years since my divorce, a period when I viewed dating as a chore and a bore.  I initiated a serious job search process, which resulted in me moving out of New York City to Wisconsin to take on a new job, career trajectory, and life in an extremely different place.  I began playing the tablas again after a 20 year hiatus.  I began playing the drum set again after a 20 year hiatus.  And between 2017 and early 2018, I finally completed a first draft of my novel manuscript.

If I were to blame Trump for feeling depressed, it would only be fair to assign my nearly pathological quest to improve myself in isolation on an island while the world was falling apart all around me, to his specter too.  I was forcibly stuffed into a dark place by a monster.  I feel that I have clawed my way out of the hole.  Shouldn’t the monster get at least some of the credit too?

I believe so.  And I also think that other people, and the national conscience as a collective may be able to do the same, and use the sorrow and hate and rage and depression to their advantage, and our advantage.  Donald Trump, his supporters, and all of the evil that they represent can be viewed as a giant stress test– on you, on me, on the country, and on the world.  Assuming we survive the stress test, we will be better off.  That which does not kill you will make you stronger.

I feel like I am living proof of that.  Now, when the idiot tweets something, threatens somebody, lies about something, bombs somewhere, or goes golfing while the world burns, I don’t give a shit like I used to.  I ignore it.  He is too dumb to be worth my time. SCREW HIM.  It’s up to the creaky system now.  Let the old white Republican men like Comey, Mueller, Rosenstein, Flake, Corker, and McCain take out their own trash.

I’m going to be over here, working on becoming a constantly new and improving version of myself.  Thank you.  I mean that sincerely for helping me become a better man.  I am using you like the tool that you are.

-Mahanth S. Joishy

 

 

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Meet the Biggest Indian-American Traitor in US History

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Indian-Americans tend to be loyal to the United States.  They generally work or study, raise their families, and peacefully go about their business as doctors or cab drivers or hotel owners.  Some sign up to be in government (like me) or the military.  They tend to be liberal, but they do float across the political spectrum.  They win almost every spelling bee.

Rarely will you find an Indian-American shooting up a school, joining a gang, starting a supremacist militia, or getting recruited by ISIS or Al-Qaeda.  While these things might occur, they happen at far lower rates than with other diasporas.  Most people credit education and family structure for these things, like with other successful communities.

Therefore, when someone from our diaspora commits active treason against the United States, it becomes sort of a big deal because such cases are so few and far between.  Dig and scrape through the archives back to 1776, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find what’s right in front of our faces today.  I present to you Exhibit A, the deplorable White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary, Raj Shah, a traitor not just to Indian-Americans like Bobby Jindal is, but to the United States itself.

Unsurprisingly for a Trump appointee, Raj is reckless.  His DWI conviction for a booze-soaked BMW ride in New Mexico got him fired from a political job in 2010.  Want to bet that the time he got caught was the only time Raj went a-boozin’ and a-drivin’? Perfect fit in this administration full of boozers, wife-beaters, racists, traitors, misogynists, money launderers, gangsters, and perverts, right?

Now we don’t use the word *traitor* lightly, and not all of those cursed souls in the White House deserve that label.  Only the ones outright lying to cover up crimes against the United States, like Shah’s disgusting boss, Sarah Huckaberry Colonel Sanders whom the guy must have learned so much from.   He has been fortunate to learn from the very worst.  On February 8th, Shah gave her the day off and fumbled through a press conference about the administration’s extremely poor handling of wife-beater Rob Porter’s employment, and worse, personally defended Porter himself repeatedly.  Shah embarrassed all Indians around the world that day.  On top of it all, he was an overmatched, unprepared blathering idiot on the podium: he was not even good at being a bad human being.

But the treason against the United States has taken place in relation to Russia.  Shah is knee deep in the #TrumpRussia scandal, defending his boss’s illegal activities time and again, hyping up the obstructive Devin Nunes memo, casting aspersions on the Steele dossier, and repeating wing nut nonsense about FISA warrants, all of which smells very much like obstruction of justice.

Congratulations, Raj.  You are the biggest Indian-American traitor in US history.  I hope you go down hard along with your false idols Colonel Huckaberry and Captain Bonespur.

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

PS: Nikki Haley today saved herself from joining the Indian-American treason this week by squarely blaming Russia for the chemical terrorism in the UK.  Raj, it’s not too late to get on the right side of history.

COMIC: WHY WE BEEFING?

Michael Jackson’s Love Affair with India

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2016 MJ Statue Unveiling Ceremony in Chennai.  via indiawest.com

We now know that American Empire reached its peak in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s before the inevitable downward slide we’re now stuck on.  While American power was bringing the USSR or Iraq to its knees (a favor those Cold Warrior Comrades and ISIS monsters are paying us back in {//:spades//} this moment), it was also ripping the existing world’s popular music scene playbook to shreds and tossing it into the ocean.  Michael Jackson, the foremost cultural artifact that America produced at the apex of its very highest peak, romped freely across the Earth to sold-out stadiums and crying adult fans who urinated themselves and thought suicidal thoughts paradoxically stemming from uncontrollable pure love and joy emotions.  People didn’t know how to feel the feelings they were feeling around the King of Pop.

That transition from 80’s into 90’s was also MJ’s peak as far as we can tell on all objective metrics except what was in this bizarre and gifted human’s mind.  Physically he was indisputably in top dance and voice form.  He was simply the greatest entertainer to ever live.  Not only was he pair bonding with the attractive spawn of Elvis Presley himself, MJ was as yet unstained or unsullied by charges of child molestation and other uniquely weird and mysterious life trajectories which would dog him around until his premature but perhaps merciful death in 2009 (on usindiamonitor‘s wedding day).

In the neverland that time forgot, before Internet and social media, MJ went more viral than a vicious flu outbreak.  His raw and sexual tentacle porn tentacles tickled everything and everywhere.  Virtually all of India’s youth knew Michael Jackson, the endless child.  In this the nation was truly unexceptional.  India was just another domino in the collective soul of North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Australasia to fall for Michael Jackson’s dance moves and inimitable androgynous silken voice despite thousands of years of glorious indigenous music tradition.

Michael Jackson’s torrid love affair with India was the song and dance- the very pillars of the mutual admiration society.  Here’s Michael Jackson dancing Bharatanatyam in the Black or White Video! And we couldn’t hate him for it despite its canned and ambitious theme of racial tolerance, which Indians were in desperate need of in the United States and India and everywhere else.  Here’s Michael Jackson emerging on a stage in Bombay from a f***ing spaceship in a f***ing spacesuit!  In an alien world, Michael Jackson fit right in, right as rain during monsoon season.

India was all in for MJ.  If you peer close enough, the various shades of MJ’s skin over the years exactly matched those of different Indian gene pools.  Lookalikes and lounge acts sprouted up from Kashmir to Kannyakumari, from Bajagoli to Bengal, from Chennai to Chowpatty Beach to Chandigarh.  Kids and adults at home, in the streets, at wedding halls, in the slums and on the riverbanks danced joyously to MJ’s music as only Indians can.  College students dressed up and jerry-curled like him, riding their BMX bicycles to class like it wasn’t no thing.

At many a nadir in US-India relations, MJ was a far superior and more effortless US diplomat, friend, and representative than any government official could hope to be.    He represented so much that was great about the American story.  In a land littered with brutal racists, religious bigotry, misogyny and caste chauvinism, Indians loved this black man as their own.  In this, again, India was no exception.  MJ’s blackness is almost an afterthought in society, so transcendental was the King of Pop.

There will never be another Michael Jackson in pop music, just as America will never be great “again.”  There will be an endless parade of mediocrity and self-absorbed pop tarts grabbing their 15 minutes of fame until the next generation completes their first menstrual cycles and nocturnal emissions just in time to grab the frame and assault our sensibilities on what is good in this world.

Michael Jackson lives on in India.  In 2016, a 10-foot statue cut from a single black stone from my home state of Karnataka (like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial) was dedicated to Michael Jackson utilizing an unmistakably Indian sculpting method, the star forever frozen in a hot place to the soundtrack of Beat It.  In a meta-story for the ages, at the unveiling was the Tamillionaire Prabhu Deva himself (pictured above), India’s answer and living homage to Michael Jackson.  The sizzling Indian dancer owes much to his spiritual mentor, just as Martin Luther King, Jr. did to Mahatma Gandhi on the time/space bridge of black and brown. The statue of Michael looks suspiciously like an Indian holy man.  And that suits us just fine.

Mahanth Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor.   He is OK with sharing initials with the more famous person in this case.

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

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

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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.

 

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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

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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.

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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!

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