Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
It seems that Indian comedians are ascendant these days.
We saw that the first SNL monologue in the Trump Era was performed by Aziz Ansari, who hit a deep home run during a time of great anxiety for many around the world. His fellow Muslim Indian-American comedian, Hasan Minhaj, was on the mic at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which did not include President Trump, who is a poor sport utterly lacking a sense of humor. Trump has no self-awareness and doesn’t want to admit it, but his bumbling around the corners of our federal government is pretty easy to make fun of.
For those of us who didn’t know much about the young and talented Minhaj, this is a good introduction. Minhaj carries the event well, despite some awkward half-hearted applauses. The writing and delivery are spot on in a pressure packed environment featuring top journalists, politicians, and celebrities. In this era of American darkness, we need more brown men to step up and poke fun at our leader- and our crumbling media landscape. They are two cracking pillars of an American society in rapid decline, right before our very eyes.
This video says a lot. Watch it. Whether or not you agree with the line or tone of questioning, it’s quite telling that Sean Spicer opines on whether Indian-Americans are “allowed” in this country in response.
In the words of Sree Chauhan, a US-born education advocate in Washington D.C. who took this video of Spicer at an Apple store:
“I was not polite. But when does being impolite mean that I should be thrown out of the United States of America? The country I was born in, the country I was raised in, the country I love despite its flaws.
I have spent enough time online to encounter rabid Trump supporters. Many of these folks see my brown skin and question my citizenship. They question whether I am here legally. They tell me to leave the country. They have told me to go back to where I came from. To which my snarky reply is often, “Go back where? New York?”
“Such a great country that allows you to be here.”
It’s one thing to have a Twitter egg tell say you do not belong in America, it is quite another to have the Press Secretary of the United States of America do so. I am still astounded. And while I am fearless, I wonder how this administration will use its power to silence ordinary people like me.”
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). I also follow US politics because it affects us.
MoNa will now take your questions!!! Today, we have a shy, frightened Indian IT professional working in New Jersey who is wondering whether to stay in the United States or not- the latest installation of MONA KI BAAT.
I work for Infosys in New Jersey and am making a good salary. However, since the 2016 election I have been fearful for my safety and wondering whether it’s worth being in the United States. I am going to train in Silambam and tough it out-but it depends on what happens in 2020 or up till then. Who is your ideal candidate for the 2020 US election – using the power of your 20/20 vision?
– Sleepless in Secaucus
Dear Sleepless (I know your real name is probably Srinivas Somnath Shivashankaran):
It doesn’t matter who leads us anymore other than the fact that she should be a good man. Someone who is humble enough to listen to all the people before making decisions that affect us all and someone who is smart enough to take tough decisions even if it means temporary hardships for some of us.
I like Ashton Kutcher – he’s humble, smart and has a heart. I urge Mr. Kutcher to lead us and I also urge the other constituents of civil society to let Mr. Trump lead for the next 4 years based on the mandate he has received. For people in public life – increase explosive, divisive debates instead of shying away from them. For the media – increase the quantum of news and opinions and not become guarded in the face of fake news. For the rest of us – urge ourselves to read more and listen more and not succumb to catchphrases and generalizations. Once this happens, Social Media and Big Data can help get real time, transparent views of the People’s decisions on all matters – Micro-local, local, regional and global thus making it easier for leadership to steer the ship. Mr. Kutcher is already connected with the tech elite through his various investments and hence should know how to use tech to enhance democracy.
I endorse Ashton Kutcher for President of the USA in 2020 as the leader of all the people anywhere who put Mankind before self, people who believe that We can achieve anything if we think of all of us.
It’s another matter altogether whether Mr. Kutcher is ready for public life. I hope he is.
Have you no shame, sir?
We all heard you say on the campaign trail. “I am a big fan of Hindu and I am a big fan of India.” We heard you tell us that the United States and India will be “best friends.”
You’re nothing but a so-called big fan, and a so-called best friend. Sad!
I hoped that I was wrong about you when you said those things about our community. Of course, I wasn’t wrong that you just wanted to score cheap political points without the work. I take zero pleasure from that. But it’s not too late. You can still prove your commitment to our community. You can still act like a leader in a time of crisis.
Cut to America, 2017. This land is your land, this land is my land…The Great City on a Hill, where people from around the world aspire to come to, work in, learn in, fall in love in, create a family in, form friendships in, and contribute to the great ideals of humanity’s leading light…
Cut to America, 2017. Two Indians, Srinivas Kuchibotla and Alok Madasani, were shot in cold blood at a bar in Olathe, Kansas by Adam Purinton on February 22nd. A third victim, Ian Grillot, tried to intervene and was also shot in the process. Grillot is a real American hero, standing up for the rights of his fellow men in an act of bravery worthy of America’s highest civilian or military honor. Kuchibotla is dead. Madasani and Grillot are recovering from gunshot wounds. Purinton is a racist murderer who deserves all of the pain and suffering the criminal justice system has to offer. Oh, and there’s also the ignorance thing: the two initial victims aren’t even Middle Eastern, which is what Purinton thought they were.
THIS IS UNDOUBTEDLY A HATE CRIME DIRECTLY CORRELATED TO THE IRRESPONSIBLE ANTI-IMMIGRANT, ANTI-MUSLIM, ANTI-MIDDLE EAST POLICIES AND RHETORIC COMING FROM DONALD AND HIS STAFF, like so many other incidents in our current epidemic of hate crimes going on around the country. Two Hindus and an American hero are collateral damage in a war of irresponsible rhetoric and broken toys. Our president influenced and emboldened the Navy veteran Purinton to pull the trigger with a thousand lines of bigotry.
The White House response was a whitewash, typical of the cowards in Occupy Oval Office. Minister of Information Sean Spicer bravely crouched into a defensive stance, like he does every other day of this new regime: “Obviously, any loss of life is tragic, but I’m not going to get into, like, to suggest that there’s any correlation I think is a bit absurd. So I’m not going to go any further than that.”
That’s all you have to say? Of all things, absurd is the word that comes to mind?
How dare you!
We could’ve been proven wrong in so many different ways, without even getting an apology. Donald had so many opportunities to earn our respect. Donald could have done a joint statement with Indian Prime Minister Modi, promising that he would do everything in his power to make sure justice is done for America’s “best friend.” He could have reached out to a crying mother to express sympathy, sorrow, and an ounce of humanity- or a grieving widow who is (understandably) literally afraid to even be in the United States. He could have invited flesh-and-(literally)-blood American hero Ian Grillo to the White House, or visited him at the hospital. He could have flown to Olathe to soothe a decent midwestern community that feels violated and ashamed by this incident. He could have gone on TV to express outrage at a murder in cold blood on his watch, at a time where he decries the crime and “American carnage” all around us; and yet we hear nothing from Donald but whining about the media and lying about how many holes of golf he plays – or MAKING UP terrorism in Sweden or Bowling Green when there is a real terror attack in front of his face. He could have looked the world in the eye and told us that violence not only against Indians, or Arabs, or Hindus, or Muslims, or immigrants of any type is unacceptable; instead, not a peep or a tweet out of Donald. The silence is deafening.
We all hear Donald now.
If this is how he treats his best friends, I can’t imagine what he would do for the rest of you.
Donald, why don’t you just be honest for once, and tell us point blank that you don’t give a fuck about us? I’m speaking as an AMERICAN here, for ALL AMERICANS.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
P.S.: Former US President Barack Obama’s statement after the Wisconsin Sikh Temple Massacre of 2012, when he ordered American flags to be raised at half-staff. I will never forget what a real friend to Indians looks like.
Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.
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.
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
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.
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.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Brooklyn Raga Massive (BRM) is a talented collective of “like-minded, forward thinking musicians rooted in Indian classical music.” BRM performed to a packed house at the BRIC House Ballroom in Brooklyn on October 11th as part of BRIC Jazzfest, and I went to see them there for the first time. They gave all of us in the audience that evening a delicious musical treat- after doing the same for elementary school kids earlier in the same day.
South Asian-Western fusion has become trendy in music, food, fine art, cinema, architecture, or fashion. However, attempts at getting it right often fall disappointingly flat. For every superb example such as Slumdog Millionaire, there could be a Bride and Prejudice type of disappointment. Or a real hot mess, such as Trump Taj Mahal, which finally was put out of its misery this month.
Fusing jazz and raga, two radically divergent musical traditions into something that sounds good and makes sense is an extremely difficult feat. Brooklyn Raga Massive Jazz Messengers pulled off this feat with aplomb.
The set included instrumental numbers that can very broadly be placed into three categories, the first being American jazz classics covers with a hint of Hindustani or Karnatik influence including Indian instruments such as tabla (Indian hand drums) and bansuri (Indian flute) performing side by side with piano, bass, Western drum set, saxophone, and violin. The second category is adapting both jazz and Indian musical theories into originally written BRM songs. Thirdly, and in my opinion easily the best category, the group jammed out to primarily Indian raga music with Western influences on the edges, such as energetic drum set solos and string instrument strumming.
While not exactly a band, the ethnically diverse members of the collective who performed together were very much on rhythm as well as on tune. Having played both the tabla and drum set in my day, I could feel how tight the sections were with each other. I cannot reiterate how difficult and impressive it is to pull this disparate group of forces and people into a cohesive whole. The audience itself, as you can expect, was also quite the mixed group of people.
Many fans of rock, jazz, or raga would be able to enjoy BRM’s work. I was joined by a motley crew of multicolored friends and everyone had fun. There is something for just about everyone in BRM performances, and I expect to attend more. It doesn’t hurt that they play in very cool venue spaces such as the Pioneer Works gallery, museum atriums, SXSW, and elegant concert halls. I commend the sponsors NYC Media & Entertainment, TD Bank, and 88.3fm WBGO.org for putting on the show to expose new and old listeners alike to free and fantastic live music which cannot easily be heard elsewhere. Isn’t there something nice to be said for an inclusive, collaborative music effort in these times of political vitriol? Could it mean that just maybe, the good guys are winning?
Performers at the recital:
Sameer Gupta – drums
Pawan Benjamin – saxophone
Arun Ramamurthy – violin
Jay Gandhi – bansuri
Sharik Hasan – piano
Rashaan Carter – bass
Just a few of many BRM videos for you to enjoy:
I came across this video yesterday and could not stop laughing. I see this young man “Jignesh” and his sidekick as rising stars in Indian-American comedy. In this video, they do something that takes some pretty serious courage.