Category Archives: Culture
Truth is stranger than fiction. If we were to write a movie about the Donald Trump criminal empire, one could not hope to do a better job of casting the film than with the real-life goons, perverts, traitors, gangsters, mercenaries, puppet masters, wife-beaters, drunks, pedophiles, fraudsters, shysters, hucksters, con men, hookers, porn stars, madams, gold-diggers, lowlifes, and yes, heroes of the true story.
Every single one of these people is out of central casting. They embody the spirit of this time so well. It would be a marvel to get all of these characters to play themselves. It’s just all so damn perfect exactly as is.
THE GODFATHER. In a virtual graveyard of losers, there is only one winner standing, grinning and shirtless in all this mess, and that is Vladimir Putin. The diabolical puppet master played Obama, Hillary, Donald Trump, the American people, and all the rest of us for fools. Successfully. Donald Trump and his criminal family enterprise will end up going down, yet Putin will remain standing when this is all over, more powerful than before. I’m a bit ashamed to admit I admire the evil genius of this man, who pulled all the strings just so perfectly. Americans will forever disagree on what happened in 2016, and hate each other over it, which is exactly what Putin wanted. Christ, American families have fallen apart over 2016! He wanted to be caught and even left digital footprints on purpose, according to the most intelligent narratives out of the CIA. Well done, Vlad the Impaler!
THE DESERT KINGDOM BUTCHER. A correction is in order. There is a second winner, on Vlad’s coat tails. Saudi Arabia is a fascinating place where I spent some of the best years of my life in childhood. The royal family has for decades managed to ingratiate themselves in the halls of American power, with administrations of both parties, turning off and on the gushing spigots of oil, money, blood, and oil blood money. The brash young Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) not only purged his own royal family, Shiite clerics, and journalists such as American resident Jamal Khashoggi of the Washington Post; America blessed these actions because he bought and paid for the Trump family, especially Jared Kushner. Not only does the White House remain in omerta over the royal rogue’s butchery; they have amazingly KNOWN ABOUT and SUPPORTED MBS hijinks. How far America has fallen to become a doormat for the mud and blood on the bottom of dictators’ shoes!
THE LAST BOY SCOUT. If you choose to believe in God and that God cares about the fate of America, look no further for evidence- as evidence is appropriately the name of the game in 2019. There is a reason that a portrait of the courageous war hero and law enforcement polymath Robert Mueller hangs on the wall of my office about three feet from my heart during business hours. The slayer of Enron and the Mafia, the guarantor of the Constitution, and the protector of law and order is manifest in one man. Every day in my executive government career I strive to reach the integrity, purpose, discipline, good works, public service, and iron will of the most important man in US government. Against astounding odds and the power of the White House and an entire political party apparatus obstructing him day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, this modern day stoic warrior-poet has lifted the nation’s soul every day toward our better angels. Without uttering a single word. Letting his actions do the talking. With a singularly American hero like Mueller stalking the halls of Washington, embattled in the most important war of our lifetimes, America will have many great days to yet come!
THE BLOND BOMBSHELL. I am a huge fan of Stormy Daniels. Not her “work” in the area of pornography- she is honestly not my type at all- but her legal efforts with Michael Avenatti to help unravel the Cohen-presidential election mischief. Laws were broken, lives were changed, and there must be consequences to pay. Like Mueller, Stormy will come to be seen by history as a hero, though she did sleep with #FatNixon right after his wife gave birth. On that front I assign more blame to him than her- she did it to get on his reality TV show, which is a lie he dangled in front of her. Shocking, this man lies! Including about this affair.
BELTWAY BARBIE BAGHDAD BOB. They say the apple does not fall far from the tree. In the case of Sarah Colonel Huckabilly Sanders, she has inherited all of the aw-shucks bible-humping piss and vinegar of her Daddy, paired with a conscience-free ability to lie to the American people every single day with a straight face. Baghdad Bob himself would be so proud of this dictator’s mouthpiece. I am a mere mortal, with human emotions I cannot deny to my dear reader. I shall drink and dance and revel and debauch myself when this particular traitor goes down!
BAGHDAD BOB BELTWAY BARBIE. Not to be confused with Colonel Sanders, sister-in-crime Kellyanne Conway is a buffoonish cartoon villain straight out of a Disney movie. I have no doubt she goes home at night and slowly burns kittens and puppies in her fireplace. The only thing she has done right is marry a man with a conscience. The ease with which she lies and cheats when presented with inconvenient truths is astounding. No wonder this is the evil woman who coined “alternative facts”!
THE BROKE-ASS FIXER. Once in a while I reflect upon whether to feel sorry for Michael Cohen, Trump’s lead goon on a team full of goons. As Trump’s lawyer and fixer, the man was asked to do some nasty things, which he is at least man enough to own up to. Finally he is telling the truth to the American people about his dirty deeds, done dirt cheap. Yes, this tragic figure is going to jail. This guy looks the part, acts the part, and sounds the part of a New York shylock. No, I don’t feel sorry for you after all you schmuck!
THE EASTERN EUROPEAN FEMBOT. La Femme Melania is straight out of central casting. She escaped from the wrong side of the Iron Curtain only to enable fascist dictatorship here in America. One cannot find a more perfect fit upon scouring this earth. The only thing you need to know about her is that she CHOSE to marry the clown-ostensibly without a gun to her head, but who knows with this crowd. She is the perfect combination of a cynical gold-digger who desperately wants to be seen as a great person, with zero talent. Her means are unconventional at best: she uses her normally idle hands to troll others. Plagiarizing Michelle Obama and throwing her staffer under the bus was her grand introduction to America. Remember “Be Best?” So is she trolling all of us? Trolling her husband? Or “I Don’t Care Do U?” Let me tell you what I don’t care about. I don’t care who she is trolling- it needs to end!
HITLER YOUTH IN A BOTTLE. This just may be the best one of all. Who knew that 2019 America could manufacture such a model? What can possibly be said about Stephen Miller that already hasn’t been? The White House’s resident Neo-Nazi since the departure of Bannon has been plugging away in the bowels of the White House, concocting one racist policy after the other in exchange for a few pats on the head by the boss periodically. Muslim Ban, the Wall, and various other creepy fascist fantasies have been authored in the dark mind of Miller. America can only hope that these ideas will be thrown into the dustbin of history where they belong!
McTURTLENECK. One of the most depressing and disappointing developments of the #PervertOrangutan era is learning that America could descend into dictatorship with the willing assistance of a huge US political party apparatus. The entire GOP just folded in 2016 even as the establishment was railroaded personally and professionally by an authoritarian movement with white male supremacist fantasy at its very core. Mitch, Paul Ryan, and their minions bent over and took it, Rubles, Riyals, and all in order to stay in power, even if staying in power meant turning America into a Russian vassal state!
THE WORST FIRST FAMILY IN US HISTORY. Melanie, as evil as she is, does not even qualify as the worst member of the criminal family enterprise. She doesn’t sip America’s blood off her silver spoon in Trump Tower the way the Trump kids do.
Don, Jr. welcomed Russian help in winning the election with open arms just as his dad was inviting Russia to hack Hillary. Completely lacking a moral center, his only lament from the affair, which blew up this week, is that the Russians brought no dirt on Hillary to the fateful meeting after all following promises of the same. Like Donald, this man is uglier than he thinks he is, a compulsive liar, a spoiled brat, a tool, and a fool. Perfect material for the president’s namesake!
Ivanka plays this dirty game of pretending to care enough about climate change or women’s issues to take away five minutes from her main life’s work, selling third-rate sweatshop slave made apparel at astronomical prices, to talk about these political issues in Vogue magazine. Only for us to find she has no effect on policy whatsoever as her dad proceeds rapaciously to quicken environmental destruction and dismantle women’s health programs. Ivanka is a poorly made up cover front, smiling and dolling up for the magazines and fooling nobody on the right side of things.
None of this is Ivanka’s worst. She brought in yet another prince of darkness, as if there weren’t enough of those little Fauntleroys sitting around already, in the creepy form of her half-baked husband, Jared Kushner. Shockingly, he might be more incompetent and entitled than his siblings-in-law. He repeatedly lies about everything he does, including on national security paperwork. Barely qualified to run a corner ice cream store, the failed real estate magnate-scion wannabe has been given widespread responsibilities encompassing many aspects of domestic and foreign policy, for which he shows zero aptitude or original thought beyond family loyalty. It is a brazen nepotism play that is highly unethical, if barely legal.
Then we have Eric Trump, the wannabe tough guy big game hunter, who uses charity fundraising as a way to make more money for the Trump organization. This is a perfect metaphor for all the Trumps and how they use the organization for self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement. There was one area where the family lacked any clout, the political, and they descended on the carcass of the Republican party like a pack of hyenas. The rest is history! Easily the worst first family ever!
Pervert Orangutan. Could a Hollywood scriptwriter ever come up with this plot and this antagonist? The answer is, not a chance in the world. None of us could possibly have this much imagination. We are at apex and epitome territory. Racist. Sexist. Hooligan. Anti-immigrant. Sexual predator. Con man. Sociopathic liar. Conscience-less and morals-free. Cheater- on business contracts, on marriages, in elections, in debates, and of any type of rule, law, or regulation. With this man, my friends, the presidency has hit true rock bottom. If we go any lower, we will cease to exist as a democracy!
There are so many others. Perhaps we can do a Part 2 in time.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
One of the worst aspects of the skirmishes going on between India and Pakistan over the last few days has been the severely ugly rhetoric in the media and especially on social media, where commentators and hacks choose to denigrate all of the people of the other country with a broad brush while thumping chests in misplaced nationalism.
Don’t buy the bullshit. As one of the few people on this Earth who has spent time in both Pakistan and India, I can assure you that the common people are strikingly similar to each other. It is the politicians, journalists, and religious figures of each nation- a microscopic minority- who ruin it for the rest of us with their hate and insecurity.
Instead of that noise, focus on this beautiful Pakistani music video, a Coke Studio production which brings together Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad for a gripping classical/pop fusion song that belongs to all humanity and is free on YouTube. I will never forget the day I heard this in Karachi in my friends’ car near the Mazar e Quaid where Jinnah himself lies- and my friend’s wife kindly bought me a copy of the album immediately. Appropriately, Kangna is about a missing bracelet and a poetic and emotional search for it- similar to, say, an Indian Air Force pilot who has thankfully been both lost and found and represents what we hope is a de-escalation of hostilities forever.
Mahanth is Editor of usindiamonitor
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
With so many serious things going on in the world today I thought it was time to cover something on the lighter, more brainless side. For some years I have thought that certain Bollywood actors and Hollywood actors look remarkably similar to one another. In this column you will find the ones I consider to be the TOP 5 dopplegangers in #BollywoodHollywood. While I am NOT the first to make up any of these connections, this top 5 ranking is brought to you by usindiamonitor.
How awesome would it be if these guys actually met and we could see pictures of them shoulder to shoulder?
5) SAIF ALI KHAN & CHARLIE DAY. I’m not sure that either actor would appreciate being compared with the other on looks. After all, Charlie Day is a pure slapstick comedian who gets pushed around and ruthlessly made fun of in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or movies he appears in. Meanwhile Khan has attempted to be a serious actor, landing parts such as in Netflix’s Sacred Games where he is an unsmiling, brooding cop. No matter. These guys look so eerily similar, when I did image searches of one I wondered whether it was the other.
4) KATRINA KAIF & COBIE SMULDERS. By no coincidence, I have a huge crush on both of these ladies. They are most notably different in skin tone, but otherwise they could practically be sisters. Why are my hands shaking as I type this???
3) HRITHIK ROSHAN & BRADLEY COOPER. Shout out to my fellow Georgetown alum Bradley Cooper, who has some smarts and even singing chops to go along with those good looks and awesome acting. There can be no question that Hrithik is just as much of a heartthrob for Indian women everywhere. My Indian bias notwithstanding, I think Hrithik wins by a… hair.
2) PARIS HILTON & KAREENA KAPOOR. This unlikely pair have similar features through and through. Their sultry lips are practically interchangeable. The resemblance is undeniable, which gets these ladies into the #2 spot. I really do wonder what Kareena thinks about this…
- AAMIR KHAN & TOM HANKS. I think it’s only fair that the top honors should go to the best actors in the entire group. Aamir is easily the best Bollywood actor on this list with a long and illustrious career. Not to be outdone, Tom Hanks has been killing it in Hollywood for many decades as well.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
For close to 25 years Tool has been considered one of the mightiest bands in the rock music universe. Rightly so- who else better encapsulates the intellectual lyrics, the genius mathematical precision, the mesmerizing vocals, heavy personal journeys, punishing drum solos, guitar riffs and bass lines, the deeply spiritual and even religious overtones with genre-bending orchestration?
Nobody, that’s who.
In a previous post about the best Western music ever inspired with Indian influences, unsurprisingly Tool made the top 5 list of Indo-American fusion songs of all time with Right in Two, a song about humanity’s own predictable demise.
Separately, we have talked about the blistering hot hard rock/ metal scene which is taking hold in India, especially among young people. Some ferocious bands who have mixed metal with Hindu religious influences in the last few decades deserve to be heard around the world.
Today I would like to introduce you to another little pleasure bomb: an engaging acoustic cover song recorded live by talented Indian dudes of the aforementioned song, “Right in Two.” This is a homage within a homage, as an Indian band covers an American band that deftly utilizes India’s ageless somnambulance perfectly back in America for the whole world to enjoy.
And what better way than with a tight video by Beard of Harmony & Yann Phayphet where you can see an Indian neighborhood and hear Indian background noises like nowhere else in the world?
CAN YOU DIG IT:
Editor’s Note: The following is a real firsthand account of unfortunate events involving someone I know, which happened in summer 2018. I have watched her grow up since she was born, and this story has filled me with anger. Even worse, she was not the only one. But her response deserves attention. She has courageously fought back against the holy priest and the management of the otherwise outwardly beautiful Mangueshi Hindu temple pictured above, visited by no less than former US Defense Secretary Ash Carter himself (!)
The story has received national media attention in India (links below).
It is high time that India sees the rise of its own powerful #MeToo movement and we are beginning to see the saplings grow as victims bravely engage the patriarchal and supposedly religious systems stacked against them. Ultimately, there is an uplifting future embodied below, if others are inspired to act.
A monumental victory was achieved yesterday, all thanks to my family for fighting tirelessly over the last month for my rights, a lot of strangers for their support, the media all over India who shone light on this issue, and the Indian legal system for ensuring that justice was served against a perpetrator who wronged me. I’m not one for sharing intimate life details with everyone on Facebook, but by my sharing this experience, I hope that others can avoid the same situation.
This past June when I was in India, my family and I made a day-trip by flight to Goa to visit our ancestral temple, as we have been doing at least once a year for as long as I can remember. Single women are not allowed in the innermost sanctum, so I have always sat and watched my parents and brother perform the rites inside. On this particular trip as I was sitting outside the sanctum, our family priest in his 50s, Dhananjay Bhave, beckoned me to the side, grabbed me, and attempted to kiss me. I turned my cheek and body away just in time to avoid him. I told my parents what had happened, and they confronted the priest who then admitted it and requested us not to escalate the matter.
Finding this to be completely repulsive and unacceptable, and yet wanting to preserve the reputation of our family temple, I sent a formal complaint to the management committee of the temple charging Bhave for his behavior, demanding he be fired, and pointing to the CCTV security footage from that area of the temple as evidence. THREE WEEKS later the committee responded saying they would not be taking any action and we were free to take up this case with the ‘relevant authorities’. During this time, we found out by chance that another 20-year old girl from Mumbai had filed a complaint against the same priest for a nearly identical incident 8 days prior to my visit, and had received the same noncommittal response from the temple management. The day after we received their response from the management, my mom filed a police report/ FIR on my behalf with the Goa Police, and a few days later the other girl also lodged another FIR.
Around this same time, the formal complaints which the both of us had written to the temple management went viral on WhatsApp to everyone in the community, and news sources picked it up. Overnight every regional news source in Goa and every national paper all over India was carrying the story. 10 days ago the matter went to court for the first time for Bhave’s bail, where his defense argued that me and the other girl must be conspiring together for publicity and to tarnish the reputation of the temple, and we had mistaken his gentlemanly affectionate behavior for something more sinister. Our public prosecutor argued that me and the other girl had never met (and have still never met) and could have no ulterior motives, and Bhave was already a HABITUAL offender and would possibly target many other girls while out on bail. Yesterday, the judge in Goa gave her verdict of DENYING Bhave’s bail. As of now, Bhave is ABSCONDING from arrest and is yet to go to jail where he now legally belongs. I don’t know where this case will go in the years to come, but for now this court ruling is a big victory for everyone who has been fighting for me and the other girl, and for all the girls who have undoubtedly faced similar experiences at his hands in silence, and the many more who would have suffered in the future if not for this ongoing case.
A few points that I want share about this entire experience for other girls who hopefully won’t, but one day may find themselves in a position similar to mine:
1. A lot of people asked why I didn’t yell or even hit him right when it happened. Or why my family didn’t file a police report in Goa the same day. In the moment, I reacted with shock because I have been raised to have utmost respect for the temple and our priests, and not question many practices associated with them. I was genuinely shocked about what was happening given that this is someone I have seen once a year while growing up. I needed time to process the incident, and my family needed time to decide on the best course of action. In hindsight while I could have reacted differently, I also believe that the actions that have taken place in the last month will have a more permanent impact on the running of the temple and putting a stop to such behavior.
2. “Is this honestly really even a big deal? These things happen all time. Why don’t you just forget about it and move on, that’ll be much easier.” This is actually what makes me the saddest, and is something I’ve heard mostly from women. The bottom line is that nobody can touch me ANYWHERE without my permission. Yes, it would have been easier for me to forget about this incident and move on, but the complacency we’ve come to have as women from facing these sorts of incidents regularly from passersby on commutes etc. is truly depressing. As a result, many women have become desensitized to being taken advantage of, and because most of the time no action is taken at all, repeat offenders continue to get away with it. In this case, Bhave’s perverted behavior stops with me, and I hope in due time, that we develop a no-tolerance policy to such behavior.
3. I have been very fortunate with a lot of factors in my favor: the good judgement to recognize that what was happening that day was in every way wrong, the education and support to take steps to stand up for myself, and that my family has taken this forward. I recognize that not everyone who experiences these things has these resources, but I HIGHLY encourage everyone to at least tell someone they trust. Information is power, and it is only because the secretary of the temple confused our two cases and accidentally told us about the other girl’s complaint that we were able to connect with her family and our case became twice as strong with our joint police reports. It was also by reading the Facebook post of another acquaintance a few years ago, that I remembered that perpetrators are discouraged from doing such acts not by harsh punishments, but by the fear of being caught. It is imperative to trust your gut about how a situation is going and call out such behavior.
4. “It’s a pure reformist attitude and these girls have links to America, and are broad-minded. They are not village girls. This is the new generation of girls” — If you can believe it, this was part of Bhave’s defense attorney’s statement AGAINST me in court. I never imagined these words would be used in a negative connotation, because honestly they sound like the biggest compliment anyone could have paid me. However, what he was implying was that we were too educated and too bold for our own good. Little did he expect that these are the very factors that have now determined that his client belongs in jail.
5. This point should not even bear mentioning, but since it has become a point of debate: A lot of people have questioned what I was wearing that day. Just to clarify, whether it was a prom dress or a saree, Hindu priests never, ever touch any part of a woman’s body. As it happens, the priest’s traditional dress is a simple silk cloth around his waist, and I was wearing a traditional salwar kameez and was covered from head to toe as I am when I visit any holy place, but as I said this detail is totally irrelevant to the case. On a similar note, many (including Bhave’s defense) questioned the caste of the other girl and whether she should have been allowed into the temple in the first place. I can’t even bear to get into how it doesn’t change the actions that the managing committee should have taken when they first received our formal complaints.
6. Lastly, although I took the first step of writing a formal complaint to the temple committee, every step taken in this process since then has been by my parents, my dad’s brothers, and the rest of my extended family in India who have been working round-the-clock to ensure justice. I have been back at med school for the last 3 weeks, and if it wasn’t for their indignation on my behalf and unconditional love, I would probably have given up a long time ago. Countless others have been instrumental in working towards this. Also, in every article about this incident, I have been referred to as a “victim” or the “U.S. based medical student”. Part of the reason I am sharing this whole experience is because I refuse to be the anonymous victim to someone else’s wrong doing. Instead, I will claim ownership over this incident, have ensured that the guilty party has been shamed and punished, and then move on with my own life.
Once again, I am writing this to raise awareness that unfortunately incidents like these are commonplace, even when you least expect it and from people you least expect it. Some people have reacted to my story with disbelief because the perpetrator was a holy priest in the most famous temple in Goa. Many people also expressed doubt that this case would go anywhere because of the power and money behind the temple (ironically donated by many families like ours over many decades). Unfortunately evil can lurk anywhere, but regardless of who it is, you ALWAYS have a voice, options and the rights to never let anyone take advantage of you.
photo credit: alchetron
The FBI recently tweeted about the history of its famous, or infamous, 10 Most Wanted list. Out of curiosity I went online to check out who the current fugitives from the law on the list are. I was surprised to learn one of them is Indian-born Bhadreshkumar Chetanbhai Patel, a man who brutally murdered his wife by repeatedly stabbing her at the Dunkin Donuts where they worked in Maryland, and made a run for it, potentially abroad. Please see video above for more details.
I know that a lot of Indians and others around the world visit this site and don’t like these kinds of headlines giving us all a bad name. If any of you have info about Patel and are willing to call this one in, there is a reward of up to $100,000 waiting for you. I would love one of my readers to be the one to help nail this alleged monster’s ass to the wall.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Mahanth is Editor of usindiamonitor
One of the most fascinating and strikingly bizarre aspects of the Pervert Orangutan Presidency (POP) and its Fourth Reich happens not in America, which is the least great we’ve ever been, but in rural India where poor, uneducated Hindu nationalists have latched onto this Pervert Orangutan as if he is some kind of god. As a Hindu, I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve got some issues. If you need proof, just watch this brief video by Ruptly…
I don’t blame these people, who clearly have very little in their lives; I blame the United States for creating a long con where the poorest in both America and India are the most cruelly victimized. The rest of us can only look on with horror and disgust until the nightmare mercifully ends.
The irony? These poor brown folk and Hinduism surely disgust Pervert Orangutan far more than they could ever bother you or I.
I have a confession to make.
For some years I have harbored a far-fetched yet beautiful fantasy about the celebrity chef and writer, Anthony Bourdain.
It was a simple, innocent fantasy: that he would somehow become the US Secretary of State, and set the the table for all of us global citizens to feast on a buffet of global peace, love, understanding, and unrestrained bacchanalia for the next 1,000 years. Who better to lead our nation’s diplomacy, at a time when United States foreign policy is utterly crumbling around us and the world order staggers on, rudderless and broken?
Indeed, who better? Bourdain is thoroughly and uniquely qualified for the job. He doesn’t simply write essays about geopolitical theory in scholarly journals that only 120 nerds read, like many in the halls of power. He was born to be the man in the arena- whether a hot and stuffy kitchen, or deep in the Amazonian rainforest. His work was simple and accessible and could be understood by the common person in any country. Tony has done far more for the American people through his forays into other countries, through teaching and bridge-building, through charity causes and exploration and adventure, than the corrupt two-bit thugs in our government charged with our diplomacy right now. Tony was a better human being and a better diplomat than these douche bags will ever be.
And what an interesting guy. Anthony Bourdain would go anywhere, eat and drink anything, meet anyone, and “risk everything” in his own words to satiate his hunger and thirst for MORE knowledge and human connection through food, history and culture, no matter how unfamiliar, hard, gelatinous, raw, strong, smelly, dangerous, or difficult. He strove to challenge his beliefs about the world, and ours. He encouraged us to eat offal. On the flip side, in Kerala he marveled at how good vegetarian food could be- and that if he lived in India, he could even BE vegetarian, that eater of intestines, tripes, and sweetbreads. Tony destroyed accepted narratives about nations and people, and eviscerated those celebrity chefs and politicians who promoted vanilla and small-minded fear of the other. He floated in and out of friendly and hostile countries alike, the common thread being that he ALWAYS made new friends along the way, eating their food or graciously making them his own.
At achieving the goals of unity and love, Tony was the best among all of us. He bucked the stereotypes. He was the opposite of the “Ugly American” most of us who have been fortunate to travel the world often encounter, eating at a T.G.I. Friday’s and drinking a Budweiser during a trip to India of all places (or a F***ING T.G.I. F***ING F***DAY’S as Tony would have said, with extreme prejudice).
Tony’s work was also personal for me. In 2001, I read his first book Kitchen Confidential, a wonderful spinoff of his seminal 1999 essay about NYC resto secrets in the New Yorker magazine. During this time, much was going on in my life. I had just moved to New York City to begin my full-time local government career, and also worked in a West Village restaurant at night, harboring earnest dreams of running my own restaurant one day soon. I was fresh-faced out of college. 9/11 went down and shook the ground all around me- and became the main topic of conversation at the restaurant bar I tended for the next few months, walking distance from Ground Zero. I served people who lost their best friends and family members, or cops who were finding flattened and bloody dead bodies in the rubble. I poured them badly needed drinks. It was here that I learned what New York was made of and why it would forever endear itself to me. Tony was the quintessential New Yorker and restauranteur. And from Tony’s eloquent words I learned everything I would ever need or want to know about the restaurant business, the most important lesson being that I would never own one after all, a decision reinforced through my real-life view of restaurant hardships and challenges.
On the other hand, it wasn’t just back-breaking work and sweat. I experienced so much of what was positive about restaurants too: busy shifts flying by with a room full of dinner guests enjoying the food, wine, and music. Wild birthday parties late at night with the rest of the staff after closing down a long and hard shift, new friendships with people from around the world, overhearing weird and inappropriate dinnertime conversations (“the best way to stop the terrorists is to bomb the shit out of Mecca in retaliation for the Twin Towers…”), big tips from flirty gay men, gorgeous girls writing down their phone numbers for me on napkins, taking orders from a number of celebrities, and the team’s constant experimentation with new food and drink recipes. The chefs constantly attempted to bribe me with my favorite food in exchange for more whiskey than they were supposed to get for their shift drink. All of the good, the bad, and the ugly about restaurant life was happening right in front of me, and Tony reinforced it all by writing every single thing I experienced, such as the universal “barter system” between chefs and bartenders, better than I ever could. He nailed the life for millions of us who were in and out of it.
Around that time Tony hung up his chef’s hat, renewed his passport, and became America’s premier jet-setting ambassador for the last 17 years of his life. Even casual fans knew there was something dark and painful inside Tony. He went through crippling addictions and bouts of depressions and terror. Despite the laughs and the joys, the darkness was always there just below the surface if you peered closely at the man’s facial expressions, his weather-beaten features, his self-deprecating jokes about death, his near perpetual state of mental and physical hangover, and even his ambling gait. Tony had quite obviously been through the wringer and back a few times. Just like so many other rock stars who shone brightly and flamed out too soon, Tony’s pain and battles with his inner demons, which he openly spoke about to the public, made him the talented firebrand that he was, larger than life but still relatable to anyone from President Obama to a tribal warrior living a lifestyle unchanged since the 17th century.
The best lesson he gave must also go down in history as a foreign policy North Star, if those of us who live on care to listen. Imagine a world where critical political negotiations only started after a few hours of delicious food and drink, accompanied by talk of more food, friends, families, pets, songs, jokes, and holidays. Treaties and peace and love would flow down like a waterfall. The best way to warm up to a people, a tribe, a country, and a culture is through putting stuff, no matter how strange, into our mouths together. Tony was the perfect vessel for this message, completely giving up his ego and his personal safety to deliver it. Tony’s gift to us lives on, because he has painstakingly climbed that mountain in the darkest night and pointed out the North Star for all of us to follow. He is still enough here to be made our Secretary of State after all.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Growing up in the 80s as Indian-American kids with parents from India, many of us often heard rumblings about the mysterious Indian figure Rajneesh, also known as Osho or Bhagwan (God). At dinner parties and picnics, Indian parents and other adults would talk animatedly about this cult of personality and his myriad followers who forcibly parked themselves on an exceedingly white and conservative part of Oregon in the late 70s and early 80s to form a weird religious cult commune.
The hushed tones and liberal use of the language Hindi by adults in those gatherings, which most of us kids didn’t know very well, always denoted to me that there was something deeply sinister going on in conversation about the Rajneeshis. My parents thought that they were being discrete, but using Hindi as a covert device was the biggest dead giveaway that the talk was of nefarious things, and probably involved something called sex, and it had gone awfully wrong. And it sure did make us Indian people look bad throughout that decade on the global stage.
This was an exceedingly unique American story and a touchpoint of its time: mostly white hippy American types by the hundreds falling over themselves to drop everything, move to Oregon, and unconditionally worship the (admittedly interesting) teachings of a brown man from India who presented himself as no less than a God floating around in flowing colorful robes in a fleet of expensive Rolls Royce cars and private jets. Rajneesh was the ultimate figurehead of an American Mega Church movement, if that person was not only considered a God but also a rock star. His core message was promoting the guilt-free enjoyment of materialism, pleasure, and spirituality side by side.
Once I was old enough to know a bit more, the Rajneesh story bored me. It seemed like a typical trope about cultural appropriation of Indian traditions, fueled by Americans and Europeans flocking to ashrams in India to “find themselves” and engage in large sex orgies and liberal drug use in Indian clothes in a misplaced quest for spirituality and personal growth. When the predictable downfall of the highly suspect cult/commune arrived, it all came crashing down with an avalanche of financial embezzlement, illegal surveillance, threats of violence, and the long arm of the law coming down hard in the form of FBI raids and prison sentences. Everything about this just seemed so cliche to me, that I never cared to research too much into it below the surface knowledge I had as described above.
As it turns out I was completely wrong, at least in terms of how interesting and intricate the narrative actually was. Until this spring when I started watching Wild, Wild Country, Whatever little I had picked up about the Rajneeshi cult was more than I cared to know. I had been dismissive of it all. But that changed in one fell swoop, further evidence that a lot of what I think I know, I really don’t after all. It was easy to dismiss these failing sannyasins as a bunch of gullible nutjobs and posers trying to build their own obviously unattainable utopia right here in the United States.
But then a flip switched. Until I recently watched the Wild, Wild Country documentary series on Netflix out of vague curiosity, I learned there was much I didn’t know about the Rajneeshis. I had no idea how big they became, with thousands of members at their peak in numerous outposts around the world. I was especially unfamiliar with the tiny young Indian woman named Ma Anand Sheela, the hand-picked deputy of Rajneesh who effectively launched and then ran the massive communal enterprise of Rajneeshpuram in Oregon with an iron fist. I mean this chick was feisty, fearless, smart, tough as nails, camera-ready, and a formidable manager and leader by any objective measure. She was for some reason empowered by Rajneesh to lead the vast religious, political, and sociological experiment, and managed to accomplish large things within a few short and eventful years.
Wild, Wild Country is absolutely fascinating and so is its subject. It has certainly earned its 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Built upon many hours of original archival footage, it shows not just a commune but an entire city government being built from the ground up in rural Oregon, surrounded by communities who downright despised the Rajneeshis to pieces. Suddenly an airport, roads, farms, homes, buildings, police force, defense force, city hall, and city council rose from empty land through the sheer will of the Rajneeshis, their collective sweat equity and organizational acumen. This intrigued the city government official in me. They built something special. The cult even began to perpetuate their own laws and justice proceedings, somewhat akin to a Native American tribal reservation, within the United States but somewhat separated from it. They sure had balls.
And the problems started right there. Predictably, a minor war ensued between the suspicious locals and the passionate Rajneeshi cult members who were performing all manner of rituals in their little city, and rubbing their newfound wealth, power, and peculiar culture in your face. Copious amounts of interviews were filmed in the modern day with some of the people involved from opposing angles, including conservative local retirees who hated the foreign influences they were seeing around them, law enforcement personnel who were eventually called upon to investigate the cult, and several key Rajneeshi members including Ma Anand Sheela herself calmly explaining the history of the downright bizarre events that permanently shaped all of their lives during that period some four decades ago. This stuff is stranger than fiction.
The documentary series spends far more airtime on Ma Anand Sheela, her tight inner circle, and her wheelings and dealings than the overall leader Rajneesh. After all it was she who ran the nuts and bolts of the movement, while Rajneesh seemed to just float through the scenery sort of above and outside of it all, saying and doing little of consequence. The filmmakers were wise to do this. Though I wish I could have seen more about Rajneesh and where the hell he came from, and what the hell it was this fraudulent Indian con man did all day, Sheela is a far more complex, interesting and intriguing character in this play. She was no doubt a true believer.
Even if you know how the story ends, the journey holds many plot twists, escalating conflicts, outright danger, and thrilling moments leading up to climax. There is plenty of well-timed suspense. During some parts of the 6 episodes, it almost felt like I was actually there immersed in the city of Rajneeshpuram during that time in history. The townspeople splinter amongst themselves. The Rajneeshis also suffered epic meltdowns and schisms within their ranks, some self-inflicted and others by force of outside influence. Although many of the key figures come across as batshit crazy at times, on both sides of the war, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for both perspectives as much of the conflict falls into the gray fog between what was right and who was wrong.
As for Ma Anand Sheela, she goes through a long and most wonderful metamorphosis worthy of comparison to a butterfly, and the series documents this arc well. It is in fact near impossible to reconcile what she was, to what she later in life became. And this may be the best part of all for those who believe self-improvement is possible. It is a phenomenon within the Rajneeshi phenomenon that I came to learn more about them despite my own chauvinistic blinders.
I encourage all of you to drop everything else in your queue and enjoy Wild, Wild Country.
usindiamonitor true to its name has been monitoring in fascination the wild growth of fast food franchises, many of them American, in Indian cities. When I was a kid visiting or living in India in the 80s and 90s, American fast food was one of the things I missed the most about America. It was so vastly different from what was being served in Indian households and restaurants- of course, that food was healthy and delicious in its own right but something would be missing.
But fast food has gone gangbusters in India since that more isolated, innocent, idyllic time in India. McDonald’s India was perhaps the canary in the coal mine, even though the corporation has of late been mired in massive legal troubles with its local business partners. In the past we wrote a business case study about McDonald’s India on these pages. Now we also have Pizza Hut, Domino’s, KFC, Subway, and many other brands making deep inroads with Indian consumers. And this was to be expected. As we repeat every single day, American corporations MUST have an India strategy to survive. The market is too huge, and the economic growth is on too high a trajectory to be ignored.
One the one hand, it’s great to have access to quick, cheap, and admittedly tasty food for working Indian families. As with fast food in America and around the world, things have taken a decidedly darker turn though. India’s obesity epidemic is crushing the nation’s youth, with much of the responsibility falling on America’s food and soft drinks. And now, we have news that fast food companies are dumping saltier, fattier, and more calorific food on the Indian market as compared to the US market, with at times, MULTIPLES of the sodium and fat content of the exact equivalent food item in America.
This is just not right at all. It’s actually evil, and my bet is that the joints are trying to addict a new market of people with this salty behavior. WE CALL ON ALL US FOOD CORPORATIONS TO STOP OVERLOADING INDIAN CONSUMERS WITH TOO MUCH JUNK IN THE JUNK FOOD. Sure, we all know it’s junk food and we make the choice to eat it freely. But this targeted overload is an outrage and the Indian government and people should not stand for this highly unethical behavior. All that we ask is that you don’t make the Indians eat junk that’s junkier than the Americans do. You don’t have to trust me- just watch this video here. It should make you sick to your stomach.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor