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 differences may be real, but they are 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
Just before the election in October, Trump said something remarkable. He promised a large group of Indian-Americans at a Republican Hindu Coalition concert in New Jersey that the United States and India are “going to be best friends.” He even said “I am a big fan of Hindu and I am a big fan of India” during this speech and called Narendra Modi a great man, all after lighting a traditional Hindu “diva” lamp.
We shall soon find out if the promise comes true.
You can find the full speech, the diva lighting, and the introduction by RHC chairman Shalabh Kumar, below:
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
For revelers in India, the United States, and elsewhere in the world, I don’t want to make this retrospective look at 2016 too long. I figured a few key thoughts in bullet points would suffice. And then, carry on with your champagne! Party like it’s the last time you’ll party, ever!
- The United States is not only in decline, but in accelerating decline. The real danger to Americans is not any external threat, but how much Americans hate one another. This hatred is being openly exploited. The new enemy is the enemy within. Facts are rarely agreed upon any more. This has made it exceedingly easy for external threats to damage the United States with minimal effort. Then they sit back and laugh without firing a single shot.
- 2016 was the best year ever in US-India government to government relations. This relationship will only improve in 2017 regardless of the changes to be made under a new US administration.
- We are heading closer toward the new world order of three fighters left in the ring: the United States, China, and India. Europe has folded and is no longer in the game. The United States is now the aging boxer who has gotten hit in the head one too many times (Rocky) who will hopefully train the young dark-skinned prodigy India (Creed) for the coming bouts of the future with another, stronger up-and-coming boxer named China. Leadership of the mid-21st century world is now at stake.
- India’s biggest 2016 paradigm-shifting event, demonetization happened on the same day as the 2016 US election, November 8. DeMo is unquestionably an unmitigated and cruel short-term disaster, though this aggressive and authoritarian move may prove to have some benefits in the long-term, especially on the forced transition toward a cashless economy, and a steady increase in tax receipts. Time should tell.
- Despite the angry nationalistic tendencies sweeping across practically every white-majority country in the world with a vengeance, power is fast devolving from the nation-state to the city-state. This massive devolution of power from national capitals towards cities such as Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Rio, San Francisco, and New York means that there is still hope for peace, inclusion, and climate change reversal on this earth despite bumbling national governments.
And with that usindiamonitor will leave you to your devices, on that relatively high note. Happy new year, dear reader. I would be pleased to see you back here in 2017.
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.
I am a real human. I live in India. I love India and Narendra Modi (NaMo) for his vision for a clean, developed and economically vibrant India. I also love beef, pork, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling and rock’ n roll (in no specific order).
MoNa will now take your questions!!! Today, we have the second-ever installment of the MoNa series known as MoNa Ki Baat. Stay tuned for more from MoNa in the near future.
My late grandfather, who started my family’s business over 60 years ago, said to never show our net worth publicly, or we would be bankrupted. So, in spite of being able to afford to drive a new BMW every year, I choose to ride a scooter around town. Myself and my cousins all work in the family business of jewellery and we are well known in our temple town. We never cheat a paying customer out of the goods purchased and our gold is the purest in a 50 KM radius. God has been kind, Gold has been Gold and our family business has flourished.
Like many, our store deals in mostly cash. Nearly all customers pay in cash. Separately, we must pay government officials, the local Hindu temple, and an assortment of cops and “goondas” for permits, licenses, delivery rights, physical bodily protection, smooth flow of utilities, and to avoid sham investigations and inspections into our property. In fact, I have retained a broker on staff whose job is to handle these negotiations and payments, along with debt collections. You may not be surprised to hear, he is a non-vegetarian and also black belt in karate and Silambam.
DeMo has come as a shock to the family. Our family dark room contains briefcases full of cash and an assortment of other valuables. One of the reasons we have survived in business so long is by hiding our stockpiles of cash from the bankers, who are all sharing the bed with politicians, bureaucrats, and the assortment of cops and “goondas” in my town who would expect my payments to increase to unsustainable levels beyond the legal taxes.
B.Com is not preparing us for this! Please provide the needful guidance, whatever you think is best.
– Satya Satyanarayanan, Undisclosed location, SOUTH INDIA
Your dad should have named you Suppandi. You have done everything wrong other than being in the business of Gold, but, since that was your grandfather’s doing, you can’t even take credit for that, Suppandi.
Here’s what you do –
Throw a party with non-vegetarian food, dancing girls and alcohol – invite the assortment of goondas, bureaucrats, cops, politicians and bankers from your town. You will be surprised at the solutions that will emerge in the presence of permissive girls and alcohol. Your current problems will vanish and your business will flourish to greater heights than your grandfather ever dreamed of. Word of caution though – keep away from taking too many loans from your new found banker friends. I will connect you with my friend Vijay Mallya for advice on how to navigate that maze whenever you feel overwhelmed.
Once your new found friends get you out of your current pickle, change your lifestyle. Buy things, get girlfriends, make assorted chinna veedus, go on foreign vacations and spend your money. You might be right about not spending on that BMW, though. Dipa Karmakar can vouch for the parking and driving problems with a 5 series in small towns
If all else fails, have your Silambam fellow secretly take photos and videos at the parties, using great precautions to keep the camera hidden, so that your “black” problem can conveniently become someone else’s “black-mail” problem.
Word of caution on your new life and a new set of creatures you will see called MBAs who will try to sell you on a concept called “cashless”. Make them believe that you are in awe of their brilliance and maybe even invest in their businesses which they call “fintech”. But, you keep your business the way it is. You can tell who your real friends, customers and associates are when they say – “Cash only, please”. Your real real friends will say – “US Dollars or Swiss Francs only, please”.
All the best, my dear Suppandi. I am available for that party and will collect my attendance fee in gold only, please. The hidden cameras are only active up until I arrive, fashionably late of course. 😉
I am a real human. I live in India. I love India and Narendra Modi (NaMo) for his vision for a clean, developed and economically vibrant India. I also love beef, pork, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling and rock’n’roll (in no specific order).
MoNa will now take your questions!!! Today, we have the first installment of the MoNa series known as MoNa Ki Baat. Stay tuned for more from MoNa in the near future.
The Honorable Supreme Court has decreed that every patriotic Indian has to stand for the National Anthem before every movie. I support the notion of national symbols and ritualistic following of these symbols in public gatherings to inculcate a feeling of one-ness among fellow citizens. However, I am struggling with a conundrum and I need your advice.
I have begun to enjoy movie while high since I have found through rigorous experimentation i.e. watching several movies while sober, drunk and after stoned (and also alcohol/weed combos), that the experience of the movie is the most superior when watched after smoking half a joint (and no alcohol). I found the experience to be so uniquely good that I am now not interested in enjoying the movies any other way. I must go on to add that at no point in time, have I ever been a nuisance to anybody in the theatre nor have I ever damaged any public property unlike many people walking the streets under the influence of alcohol. But, that’s beside the point and a topic for a future debate.
I also sing the National Anthem with fervour at any opportunity I get. Each time I sing the National Anthem in the company of my fellow Indians, it has renewed my wish to see India and Indians prosper and be happy. Each time I have sung the National Anthem, I have also been acutely reminded of the challenges facing our great nation which has almost always caused an onset of a sombre mood.
Now, my conundrum. So, here I am – a patriotic Indian, love my country, will sing and stand erect for the National Anthem at the drop of a hat and I am stoned in anticipation of a good movie experience. I am afraid that post the mandatory Anthem, which I will surely sing aloud, I will fail to enjoy the movie because of the inevitable tinge of sadness that I will feel. I am also paranoid that I might turn into one of the patriots who ask people that don’t stand for the Anthem to leave the theatre.
What should I do? Unfortunately for me, while I believe that I am as much as a patriot as anyone, I cannot/will not sacrifice my pleasures for the sake of my country like our Honourable Prime Minister has.
Mahri Jann, Ootakamandalam, Tamil Nadu, INDIA
Dear Mahri Jann:
I must say that your problem seems to be caused by extreme patriotism and you don’t seem to be the demography which the Honourable Supreme Court was talking about while framing this judgement. Surely you agree with me that people who are Indian citizens should never forget their Indian-ness and what better way than to make them hear the National Anthem frequently. The Honourable Court must be aware that people have stopped attending public events organized by schools, colleges and government organizations in favour of spending their time in pursuing frivolous pastimes like watching movies. Hence, playing the National Anthem in the theatres would be a good way to achieve the goal.
The easiest solution to your problem would be for you to leave and find another place where you can enjoy the movies without having to hear/sing the Anthem. I hear California has good weather and will also have the added benefit from next year of legal marijuana. However, this would be the same as the solution for beef-eaters to go to Pakistan. Though, I wonder why Pakistan and not Argentina or Australia which has the best beef available. I guess because the non-beef eaters who suggested that the beef-eaters go to Pakistan suffered from the same affliction that Modiji suffered from when he forgot about all those weddings in the demonetization announcement. Also, the same affliction suffered by the bureaucrats who allowed 2.5Lac for weddings, albeit in a lesser degree.
I digress. Leaving the country is never an option since no country is perfect as the election of Donald Trump has proven. Give it time for our government, our judiciary and our police to all understand that achieving “one-ness” at the cost of “uniqueness/diversity” is not the right way forward. Till that time, I have the following suggestions:
- Tone down your patriotism – Stand up for the Anthem as directed by the Supreme Court, but, skip the singing and definitely skip the kicking sitting people out of the theatre bit. Kicking a person out of the theatre for not standing during the Anthem is in the same realm of vigilantism as killing someone for eating beef
- Walk in a bit late into the movie hall – Since the Honourable Supreme Court has said that the anthem has to be exactly 52 seconds in length, this should be possible to do without missing the start of the movie
- Stop watching movies in the theatre – I understand Mukesh Ambani has a movie theatre in his house. Maybe you can become his roommate? Also, I wonder if the Honourable Supreme Court’s decision is applicable to movies played in privately owned movie theatres. Alternatively, if Mukesh Ambani (or Nita Ambani) gets a restraining order on you, build your own theatre.
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.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
What a year in US politics. The stakes are incredibly high on November 8th, 2016. Who will be the next president? Will Republicans hold on to the Senate? Plenty of drama to watch out for. To that, we can possibly add an exceptionally rare event for the Indian-American community as well.
We might witness history being made on Tuesday in the 17th District of California, where Indian-American candidate Ro Khanna is challenging longtime incumbent Mike Honda for the Congressional seat for the second cycle in a row. The 39 year old Khanna is definitely one to watch. He is an author, taught Econ at Stanford, and also worked as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Commerce during the Obama administration. It’s appropriate that this tech-savvy Democrat would be the champion for science and technology that Silicon Valley- and the nation- need.
We hope you learn some new things about Khanna through an interview he granted to usindiamonitor this weekend. If you are interested in more, visit his campaign page.
1) First of all, thank you for agreeing to conduct an interview with usindiamonitor. I’ve followed your campaign with interest. How would you describe the experience of running for Congress so far and its impact on your life?
It’s been amazing, and the best part has to be meeting the voters in our district. I make it a point to get out and knock on doors of the neighborhoods in our district at least twice a week, and over the course of the last two years, I’ve gotten to know some incredibly dynamic, resilient, and kind-hearted people.
2) What did you learn from running before that is helping you this time around?
I’ve been working with some brilliant community leaders on local initiatives. This includes helping San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo on new manufacturing initiatives, fighting with the Santa Clara City Council to ask the 49ers to pay their fair share for parks and soccer fields around Levi’s, and working with Milpitas Mayor Jose Esteves on fixing the Newby Landfill odor issue.
And most importantly, I’m married this time! I can’t emphasize how grateful I am to have a backbone that can anchor me through the ups and downs of a race.
3) Congratulations for that. Any advice for other people out there who are interested in running for political office?
Find out problems you care about. Start with the issues and then develop an understanding of how to solve them. Along the way, you’ll meet local leaders and if you’re eager, and driven to do good work, you’ll find the right opportunity to make an impact within the public sector.
4) What would be your priority on Day One in Congress?
Making sure I help provide the background for an economy that works for everyone. I’m determined to provide more economic opportunity and ensure that the benefits of a technology driven economy flow to everyone.
5) What is California District 17 like? Most of us don’t live in a district with such a high percentage of Asian-Americans.
It’s the future of what America will look like — an amalgam of several cultures that blend into a stronger, better whole. You don’t have to think twice about your identity — you’re comfortable in your skin, no matter what creed or ethnicity you come from. As an Indian-American of Hindu origin, this fact is not lost on me.
6) The incumbent Rep. Mike Honda appears to be a liberal Asian-American. What separates you from him as his challenger?
First, it’s a philosophy of what politics should be. I believe in getting rid of PAC and lobbyist influence on our politics; I want to provide a more transparent system that respects the voters that have elected me. Congressman Honda has been a decent man, but he is part of a broken politics; he was indicted by a bipartisan ethics panel on a bipartisan, 6-0, basis for using taxpayer money to fund political activities. This is exactly the kind of politics that gets our voters jaded and cynical.
Second, I believe I’ve got the understanding of how to make a technology driven economy work for everyone. I’ve served under President Obama in the Commerce Department and written a book on how to bring high-tech manufacturing jobs back to America. I’ve got a real passion for this work; I like getting into the details, and I want to work to make this a reality. I think when we evaluate who will be better prepared to build a 21st century economy that works for everyone, my credentials make me uniquely qualified.
7) Your platform is admirable and impressive. Describe how you would plan to implement these reforms after winning the election, such as infrastructure investment and immigration reform, keeping in mind Congressional gridlock.
This is challenging and I’m not naive to the structures that are at play. The reality is that I can’t fight the influence that the NRA or corporate PACs have. But, I can lead by example. By refusing donations from any special interest groups, I’m able to analyze problems that face our country and work on solutions that’ll work for us.
I intend to hold regular town halls with my constituents — several every year, addressing every issue on their minds. I want to bring an energy of transparency and thoughtfulness to this district.
8) Many of us are interested in your thoughts on US-India relations. Is the relationship on the right track? Do you plan to become involved in this area?
9) Finally, please tell us one thing that nobody out there knows about you.
I’m a big movie buff. During the holidays, when I’ve got down time, I go through two to three movies a day!
Thank you and good luck to the Ro Khanna for Congress team on Tuesday. Thanks to Tarun Galagali for helping to set up the interview.