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First SNL Monologue of Trump Era is by Indian-American Comedian Aziz Ansari

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.

VIDEO: Dr. Anuj Shrivastava’s Batshit-Crazy Conspiracy Theories

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

MoNa Ki Baat: Confused & Concerned Indian Patriot Stoner Movie Buff

EDITOR’S NOTE:

About MoNa:

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.

pic via economictimes.com

Dear MoNa:

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.

Signed,

Mahri Jann, Ootakamandalam, Tamil Nadu, INDIA

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Dear Mahri Jann:

pic via National Geographic

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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.

—MoNa

Interview with Classical Indian Singer & Producer, M. Balachandra Prabhu

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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.unnamed-479x240

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.

ELECTION SPECIAL! INTERVIEW WITH SILICON VALLEY’S CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE RO KHANNA

 

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“India is a huge ally for the United States, probably one of the most important in the world,” said Khanna.

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.

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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.

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via San Jose Mercury News

6) The  incumbent Rep. Mike Honda appears to be a liberal Asian-American.  What separates you from him as his challenger?  

Two things.

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.

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via India Tribune

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?

India is a huge ally for the United States, probably one of the most important in the world. I think it’s great that President Obama and Prime Minister Modi have established a friendly, cordial  relationship and I very much intend to find areas that will be mutually beneficial for both nations.

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.  

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Brooklyn Raga Massive Jazz Messengers Recital was a Delicious Musical Treat

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Photo by Andrew Mendelson

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:

Who are ‘Indians for Trump’ during ‘American Erection 2016’ ???

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.

Why is Team India so Pathetic in the Olympics?

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Team India & Modi, Wikipedia Commons

Yesterday was the last day of the 2016 Rio Olympics.  After the closing ceremony ended, India left Brazil with just two measly Olympic medals thanks to P.V. Sindhu’s inspiring run to silver in the sport of badminton, and backup freestyle wrestler Sakshi Malik unexpectedly bagging bronze in the 58kg weight class.

The glory of these two extraordinary ladies aside, this has been yet another pathetic Olympic games for the Indian contingent.  Here are a few numbers that tell the entire story.

India’s population:     1.252 billion, or 17% of all humanity

Rio Olympic medals:  2, or .095% of all medals awarded

Olympic gold medals since 1980: 1

The 2016 performance was more or less another disappointing par for India.  Why is Team India so pathetic in the Olympics?   Much has been said on the topic and there is some disagreement on this.  There are certainly multiple explanations for the lack of success, and nearly all of it can and should be corrected in the coming decades.

Read the rest of this entry

What the Heck Would the Indian Classical Music version of Star Wars Theme Songs Sound Like???

Well, now we know.

To many Americans, Indian classical music may sound like it’s from a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  But thanks to arranger/composer/student Tushar Lall and the Indian Jam Project’s Star Wars tribute, it has been given a much more familiar and accessible touch.  This playful rendition of the Star Wars songs many of us grew up with is easy listening at its best.  And if you like this, Indian Jam Project has numerous other fusion songs available.  Fusion music often falls flat, doing justice to neither of its parent genres, but not in this case.  The ancient notes from the tablas, sitar, flute, and bharatanatyam dance moves somehow blend seamlessly into the futuristic Star Wars chords.

I wouldn’t be too shocked if Luke Skywalker has this song on his playlist, wherever he is right now.  Watch it below!

 

 

Indian Entrepreneur Finds America on Cross-Country Road Trip

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Editor’s note: Anup Pai is an entrepreneur based in Bangalore, India.  Pai is the co-founder, head of US operations, and COO of the financial technology company Fintellix, formerly known as iCreate.  He recently completed an adventurous journey even most Americans have never attempted: a road trip across the contiguous United States from the East Coast to the West Coast, in 9 days, with his wife and daughter.  Below is the story of their experience during this bizarre and important election year of 2016 in the United States.

Following in the great tradition of France’s Alexis de Tocqueveille and others, Pai has captured this special moment in time in the United States from a uniquely foreign perspective.  He also shared some of his favorite picks for sights, food, wine, beer, and lodging below.

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Unlike most Indian IT folks who started their careers in the 1990’s, my first trip to the USA didn’t happen until April 2015.  Boy, did I have a lot of catching up to do. Till that point, I had travelled to over 40 countries in the Asia Pacific, Africa, Europe and the Middle East building and selling software using technologies developed in this country. Most of the countries I had been to before (barring Australia) had cultures rooted in their traditional medieval or even earlier histories, whereas the USA had rapidly developed a unique culture through the pioneering tradition of its people.  We’re talking about a culture which was unmistakably a part of me just as I was unavoidably a part of that culture. Read the rest of this entry

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