Category Archives: Culture
The United States of America isn’t just in a downward spiral, it’s in a magnificent death-spiral composed of multiple distinct downward spirals, like so many mechanized lions forming Voltron as he gets sucked into an inescapable centrifugal force down the toilet drain. This great and horrific spiral of spirals will end not just the United States, but the planet.
America’s education system is so broken, its people so blissfully ignorant, its politics and business so corrupt, and its leadership in destroying Earth so devastatingly effective, that all these earnest current affairs debates are nothing more than fruitless feel-good academic exercises in mental masturbation. There’s nothing we can do about this mess. It’s already too late to reverse climate change. It’s too late to keep the nuclear war genie in the bottle. We are killing the animals, trees, and plants around us at an irreversible and rapacious pace, too stupid to realize this means that we are next. We will keep getting irredeemably dumber and more divided.
Our best days are behind us. Democracy ended in 2016. We no longer go by facts or truth. The destruction is impressive and almost beautiful to behold in its own strange way. There is great and even righteous power at play, this strange force at America’s back that for centuries gave America such power- to one day, destroy.
That day is today. Kali and the other demons are rejoicing. Most of this is America’s fault. America will go down in history as the nation that spearheaded the destruction of Earth with pollution, armaments, fake news, and a smirking, spoiled white-trash, white supremacist cowboy attitude towards it all.
The Hindu scholars among us aren’t necessarily surprised; after all we are thought to be in the Kali Yuga, as predicted millennia ago. This makes it much easier to take, easier to make peace with the death spiral snake as it looks us all in the eye and sucks us into its vortex. This was all meant to be just so, our brief time on Earth a minuscule and pathetic part of a much wider expansion and contraction of life and energy in a universe whose lungs are breathing in and out over billions of years in mysterious ways we could never understand in a trillion years. America and those of us within whom America lies were chosen to lead this pre-scripted narrative as the ultimate embodiment of Kali, and perhaps we should be grateful for our front row seat to the impending spectacle of idiocracy and mass death.
However, a tinge of melancholy always creeps up, even for those of us who accept our fate, and defer to a higher authority that must have carefully and perfectly curated our generation to be the special one to witness the most horrific consequences our own decisions could provide. I had imagined that the Kali Yuga would last longer than it will. I naively assumed I would have grandchildren one day, and get to play with them, like thousands of generations before me. I had always believed in my bones that George Washington’s victories, Abraham Lincoln’s struggles, emancipation, the defeat of Hitler, Amazing Grace, the civil rights movement, basketball, and the rule of law wouldn’t all simply go to waste just to make room for America’s true and ultimate legacy, that of global annihilation.
But they will. And if you have any evidence to the contrary, it’s probably fake news.
Roopa Shree is a Special Correspondent for usindiamonitor
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
Producer – Khaula Jamil (Humans of Karachi)
DOP – Zeest Shabbir
Sound – Huma Murad Shah
(SZABIST & Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture)
There 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 called 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
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
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Imagine the extraordinarily low odds for any poor American rural kid to be able to make it to the NBA. Those odds need to be multiplied many times over for a rural kid- even a gigantic one- from the state of Punjab in India to achieve the same goal. And yet Satnam Singh Bhamara now stands on the cusp of finding a roster spot in the National Basketball Association. The 7-foot-2 gentle giant was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks, and currently plays in the Developmental League. His epic rise, and the massive challenges he has had to overcome, are well-documented in the documentary film, One in a Billion, available as of this month on Netflix. By no coincidence, Netflix is making major inroads into India.
One in a Billion does a fantastic job of laying out this story of someone who most basketball fans in the United States have not even heard of yet, a story whose ending is not yet written as Singh is just 21 years old. The filmmakers gained access to a diverse bunch of people, including Singh’s family members, youth coaches, trainers, and teammates in both India and the United States, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, and Indian hoops journalist Karan Madhok.
The hero of the story could not possibly be easier to root for, regardless of your interest level in basketball. Satnam’s relentless focus on improvement and positive energy in the face of obstacles, coupled with his desire to make family and country proud above all else is nothing short of inspiring. He had to learn not only basketball but also English at a late age, which caused him major academic troubles in America. The gym where he learned to play the game in India had a leaky roof and pigeons interrupting practices.
Satnam also faced inordinate amounts of homesickness and culture shock coming from a remote North Indian village to Florida for high school, leaving all of his friends and family far behind. In the film even the NBA, which is a giant profit-making machine, shows that it has a bit of heart despite the fact that high-level institutional support for Satnam is very much about tapping the 1.25 billion person India market for money.
There are moments that I really loved. The Indian farm scenes are poignant and sad, despite the upward trajectory of one of the village’s favorite sons. At one point Satnam’s black high school teammates at IMG Academy in Florida joked around with Satnam about dancing and impressing girls, and probed him about what India was like. There are moments where Satnam’s high school coach praises him, and others where he yells at him. Satnam’s workouts, drills, and game footage are also interspersed into the documentary and show his progression. Satnam gets fitted for his first suit and then the draft-day hijinks are very intense, and well-shot. I got chills in the scene where Satnam shook hands with Larry Bird, who runs basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers, my favorite team. Satnam in a Pacers uniform would be My. Dream. Come. True.
“People may look back on that date, and say that was the tipping point for basketball in India,” says Silver about Satnam’s drafting in the film. I tend to agree. India is too big to have just one major sport. It’s possible that at some future date, basketball might one day give cricket a run for its money in India. Personally, I can’t wait for that day to come, and for Singh, the Bhullar brothers, and others to pave the way for more Indians in pro basketball in the NBA and around the world.
In the meanwhile, this movie is the definitive account of how it all started. Credit director Roman Gackowski and the whole crew for that.
2016 will always and forever represent a goodbye to the United States of America that we know and love. Not necessarily a literal goodbye in the sense that we will leave the country to go live overseas like the Pilgrims doing a Brexit. No, this goodbye is much more bitter than that. There is no escape, and no ability to flee the pain by hiding in any dark corner of this earth.
America is more than a country. It is an idea. Now, that idea has become unrecognizable. 2016 is my death of innocence. It is the adult equivalent of eagerly waking up on Christmas, only to find out that there is no Santa Claus, and those toys weren’t made by elves, but by little child slaves at a factory in Asia.
Now that’s a rude awakening. Today I bid farewell to the optimism that powered my belief in the United States of America for nearly four decades despite its faults. No matter what happens, I will never fully get that optimism back again. It’s gone. And perhaps this is the silver lining in all of this: I should have been more cynical all along, for my own good.
I’m an American by choice. I raised my arm and took the oath of citizenship inside a judge’s chambers in the Midwest, at age 9. It’s also the day that I proudly swore aloud, “I will fight for my country if called upon to do so.” Indeed, today I would still fight to protect my country if it was needed.
But the most important fight to be joined now is not really against any external threat, such as garden-variety terror cells or tin-pot dictators. It does not require weapons or violence in the literal sense. The real war is now against something far more dangerous, nebulous, and nefarious: the enemy within, this undeniable and accelerating decline of the United States of America right before our eyes.
I will probably mope around until (how appropriately cliche) Thanksgiving about this. Then, I will stand and fight the decay however I can, as I know many patriots will. But for the first time in my life, I’m not sure if the good guys will win. This feeling is the most devastating of all. From whence came the motivation to fight for Rome during its fall?
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Last week, I was able to conduct a Skype interview with M. Balachandra Prabhu, a highly talented Indian classical musician based in Mumbai, and a fellow Konkani. I saw him perform this summer in Atlanta, and was impressed by the range and depth of his voice, which quite obviously had a mesmerizing effect on the entire crowd.
Like many of you, I am not an expert in Indian classical music and saw this as an opportunity to learn more about it. But at its best, such as when it comes from Prabhu’s lungs, it can be nearly trance inducing. Among other topics, we discussed the survival of Indian classical music in the future, its effect on the mind, how Prabhu got his training, his intense practice regimen, who his influences are, and aspects of his personal life. Please click on the audio file below.
Balachandra Prabhu is staying busy this year, recording Western fusion songs, movie songs, and also learning how to produce and arrange music. We are expecting great things from this young musician in the future.
Thanks to K. Rajesh Pai, a seasoned tabla player who often accompanies Prabhu and other top Indian musicians as they tour the United States, for helping me to arrange this interview and provide background information. I hope that you enjoy the interview as much as I did. Below are links to some of his music as well.