Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
This New Year’s Eve rages an inauspicious knife fight for the very soul of India. Amidst the fog of this complicated war lies a simple question: is India a secular democracy or a Hindu dictatorship?
On the secularist side is a clown car alliance led by the pathetic and corrupt opposition party, Congress. Meanwhile, the Hindu nationalist camp is led by a strongman and wannabe dictator, Narendra Modi of the BJP. And so those of us who care about India are left with a terrible choice to make: dysentery diarrhea democracy or cancerous constipation Caesar salad?
2019 saw India go full rogue against the founding fathers of India, the constitution, and the very concept of basic human decency with two dramatic acts. At Modi’s direction the Indian Army has illegally taken over most of Indian-held Kashmir using martial law tactics such as the wholesale torture of Kashmiri teenagers and a total, months-long blackout of the Internet, phones, and other media for millions of Kashmiris. Reporters are officially banned from entering and human rights have become a joke. The legs of commerce and education have been broken in an already-struggling region.
Terrorism was thrown out as the excuse for this power play, which has been condemned by civilized nations around the world. The blackout in particular is the largest ever committed by any country in history, and wholly unbecoming of a democracy. Let’s forget for a second the legality and human decency angles; does anyone honestly think this will make India’s prospects for peace in the future any better or will it predictably inflame a minority’s worst impulses for a generation to come?
In December the Indian government took the new brain-dead position that Muslim migrants would not be granted citizenship, but non-Muslims would. The country has erupted in protests, riots, and violence over this new policy, called the Citizenship Act. This act is laughably obvious as a violation of India’s constitution- just like Trump’s attempts at instituting Muslim bans in America violate the enshrined separation of church and state.
Modi to his credit recognized that the latter half of 2019 was the right time to strike. American democracy is on its knees, and strongmen the world over are rejoicing over their free rein to abuse citizens, especially Muslim ones. It’s now open season the world over on dissidents, who lie bleeding on dungeon floors in most of the world’s nations today including in “democratic” India. Modi is drawing unflattering comparisons to Adolf Hitler. Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party are taking advantage of this opportunity to keep robbing people blind while the distractions go on on the streets.
We are witnessing the cancelation of the world’s largest democracy. Shame on you, India. As the birthplace of Karma, you know better than anyone that it can be a bitch.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
When GM decided to enter the India market, which represents gigantic opportunity for the American automaker, I observed their moves with interest. With a huge and young population, every American company must have an India strategy and I applaud that they came by.
But India was always going to be a long shot for GM in my opinion, especially in the endeavors of stealing away any market share from Indian automakers and Indo-Japanese joint ventures, which have been highly successful there for decades.
Too bad GM didn’t hire me to advise them- especially when it came to the challenges of servicing in India. In the years since introducing Chevys and other offerings, the company has predictably fallen flat on its face in India, causing loss of profits and a loss of reputation. This CNBC video below helps lay it all out quite well:
photo via Daily Beast, dailybeast.com
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
On cue America is at bitter war with itself, per Putin’s grand plans. The 2020 election cycle is bringing out all the vitriol and pageantry one might expect from a spectacle financed by gushing spigots of the almighty dollar, ruble, and riyal. Throw into the mix an impending impeachment trial pitting Democrats and Republicans against each other, fangs out, add active foreign intervention, and we have brewing this powder keg of uncivil war on guaranteed burn through late 2020.
On the front lines of the right wing we have mostly corrupt clowns such as Sean Hannity, Devin Nunes, #GymJordan, and Donald Trump, Jr fighting for their Dear Leader. Not to be outdone, the Democrats have rolled out a breathtakingly sad clown car of 17 (or whatever) candidates for president now hurtling America’s left wing into 2020, with nary a one inspiring Democratic voters and donors with unifying vision. One bright spot in all of this is Representative Adam Schiff, methodically navigating the impeachment inquiry landmine on behalf of the House majority with integrity.
Quietly leading a formidable formation on the other side of the aisle with poise and purpose is an American figure who is no clown, despite a disheveled, unhealthy appearance that draws lefty guffaws. Rare for the right, he is a well-read intellectual, a crack strategist, and a global puppet master running a clear-eyed anti-impeachment “war room.” Say what you will about Steve Bannon, but he is largely responsible for winning 2016, and if impeachment fails and 2020 goes the same way his fingerprints will be all over those victories too. SNL appropriately and simply portrayed him as the Grim Reaper in 2017.
His power endures, despite being unceremoniously thrown to the wolves by the White House in 2017 (maybe a ruse to be freed of government constraint). usindiamonitor intends to do a little study of Steve Bannon here. And in understanding the life of Steve Bannon one cannot separate an unexpected thread to a holy Hindu text that keeps cropping up: the Bhagavad Gita. This is appropriate as meta-metaphor, because the world’s oldest religion’s seminal text pointedly uses war and doom as metaphors.
And in understanding the life of Steve Bannon one cannot separate an unexpected but unhidden thread to a holy Hindu text that keeps cropping up: the Bhagavad Gita.
Agree or disagree with his views, but ignore him at your peril. For those who would question the shadowy Steve Bannon’s influence, agency, or intellect, slivers are on open display. Viceland recently published an interview with reporter Liz Sanders that is must-see for anyone interested in our current affairs. He has a more superior grasp of what is unfolding in Washington than most of us.
A Brief Bhagavad Primer. The holy text is in essence a complex battlefield lecture by a supreme avatar of the Hindu God Krishna to mighty, brooding human warrior Arjuna at the outset of a terrible world war, reminding Arjuna of his duty or dharma to enjoin the impending fight despite unspeakable pitfalls and consequences such as having to kill, or be killed by, his relatives and even mentors as millions suffer. From my own personal readings and collegiate academic studies of the Bhagavad Gita, akin to any religion’s scriptures it is not an easy read due to its dense maze of contradictions, philosophies, codes, symbolism, and allegory. On the other hand, for millions of people over thousands of years the text has uplifted those patient and thoughtful enough to engage with it. That one of these souls is supposedly Bannon has piqued the interest of usindiamonitor.
Bannon’s Bhagavad Beginnings. We must begin by setting some parameters on sensitive matters. First of all, I am not one of those Hindus that believe Westerners who dabble in Hinduism are participating in “cultural appropriation” and deserve ridicule or scorn. Religion at its best is a personal journey. I wrote extensively on this topic as a guest blogger of Ambaa Choate’s The White Hindu. On the other hand, I do not automatically support the missionary strand of Hindus that believe Hinduism is perfect for everyone from everywhere. Finally, I neither endorse nor denigrate the Bhagavad Gita in any context nor judge those who believe in it- or don’t.
It may be hard to square the circle in which Steve Bannon promotes what appear to be white supremacist or Judeo-Christian chauvinist tendencies, yet is simultaneously influenced by scripture written down by brown men some 2,400 years ago. It seems almost impossible that a Trump lieutenant could be such- or that the MAGA movement has Hinduism in its DNA. This is the string we will try and pull on.
Let’s start with a few direct quotes related to Bannon and the Bhagavad Gita. From what we can gather, the Catholic Bannon was influenced by the Bhagavad Gita at an early age. In a June 2019 interview question about the text Bannon said, “Yes that’s true I have read one of the most powerful books. I am a Roman Catholic and I try to be as devoted as I can be practicing Catholic but one of the most powerful books as a young person I read was a book by a Frenchman called “Man and his Becoming According to Vedanta” and that got me very interested in Hindu spirituality, in the study of Hindu religions there’s another book by a German professor called “The Philosophies of India” professor name Heinrich Zimmer who wrote this book in the 1930s or 1940s, had a very powerful impact on me so I have studied and taken a lot of time of my life to study Hindu spirituality.”
Said his 1990s Hollywood days colleague, Julia Jones during the 2016 election: “Steve is a strong militarist, he’s in love with war—it’s almost poetry to him … [He] used to talk a lot about dharma — he felt very strongly about dharma … one of the strongest principles throughout the Bhagavad Gita.”
“He is firm in his views. He is an avid reader of Gita, dharma, Hindu philosophy, India and (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi,” Shalabh ‘Shalli’ Kumar, founder and head of the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC), told Indian reporters in 2017 (per Hinduism Now).
Several things to unpack here. Bannon is no doubt combative in word and deed and perhaps even considers this posture to be his duty. He was in the US Navy for 7 years in the late 70s and early 80s- acting as soldier in the literal sense. From all indications in his endeavors since- Hollywood, Wall Street, Breitbart, and both US and international politics, Bannon likes to fancy himself a fighter. He is no doubt unapologetically abrasive. And if the current climate is really a war, he is surely in the middle of it and he is absolutely right about that.
Meanwhile, Bannon is an unabashed supporter of Prime Minister Modi, and even tried to start a Breitbart India media site to support Modi and the right wing Hindu nationalist BJP party. This effort failed. But it proves his willingness to support a right-wing and nationalist religious movement far out of the Judeo-Christian and his own Catholic mainstream- as long as it’s somewhere else far away from America and loosely in alignment with his side of the global battlefield.
Indeed just such an alliance between the U.S. White House and the Modi administration is a natural one. Both sides are fueled by strongman tendencies, religion, nationalism and populism, and have common perceived enemies in secularists, Islamic terrorists and a rising China. Modi supports Trump despite his white nationalist rhetoric, while Trump backs Modi in spite of undemocratic tendencies in Kashmir. In fact support for Modi and India is strangely one of the few bipartisan phenomena in Washington today as both Republicans and Democrats have worked hard on nurturing ties with Indian-Americans, India and the Indian government regardless of Indian behavior.
So while Bannon is as alt right as he admits, he is capable of seeing the bigger picture and that the alt right needs foreign allies even with a different Hindu agenda.
A Deeper Dharmic Dive. Knowledgeable Hindus have debated what Bannon’s proclivity for Hinduism, and specifically the Bhagavad Gita, means on a deeper level. Said an Indian-American New York venture capitalist, “I was in a Gita class here in NYC when the story first came out about his regard for the holy book, etc. Some argue that he stood against all of Gita’s basic satvic values. Others, that he was fighting for his beliefs, and that it was his dharma to fight.”
I will be the first to admit that it’s difficult to discern the personal religious thoughts in the mind of any particular individual, especially with limited available information. So these variant interpretations can likely be attributed to whether a Hindu observer is pro-Trump, or anti-Trump. As far as Hindus around the world are concerned, there are very strong strains of both.
At first blush, it seems obvious that Bannon’s career doesn’t scream Bhagavad Gita philosophy taken in whole. But the Bhagavad Gita is not Bannon’s only non-Catholic spiritual influence. He is also famously enamored with the power of various princes of darkness, such as Darth Vader and Satan. “Darkness is good,” Bannon has said, referring to its usefulness in the opponents’ constant underestimation of the dark side. His work at Breitbart, which reveled in its hatred and divisiveness during his time there, only bolsters a conclusion that his views on the Bhagavad Gita may be deeper than what meets the eye.
What if Bannon isn’t as drawn to the protagonists of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna and Krishna, but rather more closely identifies with the villains of the story? For example, Bheeshma and Dronacharya are two of the greatest and most honorable warrior-scholars to participate in the massive Kurukshetra War, yet they aligned with the lead bad guys, the Kaurava family. They did so because they felt in their hearts it was their moral duty to honor sworn oaths of allegiance at any cost. This too involved following dharma of a different kind, which lends gravitas and respect to these two complex characters. And if we were to draw parallels between today’s America and the world of the Bhagavad Gita, many Hindus would portray Bannon as a Kaurava, even while following his own dharma and moral code. There is in fact a long tradition of scholars debating who were really the good guys and bad guys in the Bhagavad Gita, and what the intentions of the writers and patrons of the text may have been for the general public of the time.
Also in Bannon’s wheelhouse is the ancient Chinese text, Sun Tzu’s Art of War. This points further to aspects of Bannon’s personality that make sense: that he fancies himself a foot soldier in a broad cosmic war, that victory should be achieved by any means necessary, and outsmarting opponents is of paramount importance. These are lessons that many people of all stripes have internalized from Sun Tzu’s evergreen words.
We have quite obviously glazed over so many aspects of two ancient texts that are far more complex than they seem. Unfortunately this is a necessity for an examination of this caliber. But we are able to draw some high level conclusions from it all.
Bannon Today and Future. When studying Bannon’s actions, it may seem irrelevant to also want to understand his beliefs. However, there may be some stabs at insight which observers can make.
As noted earlier, Bannon is a more formidable opponent during this time of conflict than most of the other lieutenants of the right wing. He isn’t bumbling and senile like Rudy Giuiliani. He hasn’t gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar, like Manafort, Cohen, or Roger Stone. He reads, unlike Trump. He is no fool, like Devin Nunes. And most dangerously, Bannon does not seem to be in it entirely for himself like a Mitch McConnell. Or most of the rest. He does not appear to seek power for its own sake, but rather, to shape the new world order that he views in apocalyptic terms. He endures as a soldier seemingly regardless of national boundary, or whether the White House officially fired him or not. Frighteningly, he is a true believer, a student of history who undoubtedly wants to leave a legacy for future generations.
The Bhagavad Gita can be an attractive script for such a person. It is definitely a text for thinkers and those who believe they are being summoned to a higher calling. I may be one of the few to have discovered the possibility that it’s in fact the substantial and attractive dark side of the Bhagavad Gita which may be animating the subject of this article. But it’s equally possible that Bannon thinks of himself as Arjuna somehow in an epic wide-ranging battle between good vs. evil despite knowing full well how the optics look.
Regardless of the philosophies at play, it should be abundantly clear that Bannon is not going anywhere, and any victory for the Democrats on either impeachment or the 2020 election, both are going to be hard slogs and both will necessarily have to go through Steve Bannon.
photo: Officer Down Memorial Page, odmp.org
Like many in Texas and around the world, I was deeply pained by the slaying of Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Dhaliwal in Texas a week ago. The cold-blooded murder of an all-around good guy by all accounts, should be mourned by us all.
Hanging over the murder of this Sikh-American cop is the specter of hate crime in Houston, close on the heels of the El Paso slaughter and other Texas rampages, and whether the Deputy’s turban is what inspired the shooter (who we won’t deign to name) to commit this heinous, senseless crime. Too many times the Sikh turban has been viewed as a threat by other Americans, including here in my home state of Wisconsin which witnessed a brutal mass massacre of Sikhs at their place of worship. Back then I wrote:
The post-9/11 period has been a bad one for American Sikhs, who were targeted and even killed because some are too ignorant to know the difference, and so zealous with hate that they would take the law into their own hands. Sikhism is of course a completely different religion than Islam, and the two have very separate histories though they share a legacy of wearing turbans- along with many other groups among the world’s people.
What would make us think that Dhaliwal may have been targeted due to his specific background? All the facts are not out, and it’s impossible to know the motive, if any, yet. However, it is telling that there was no altercation that led to his getting shot from behind. Dhaliwal was widely beloved by his community and fellow officers, and he just happened to be wearing a turban. And nobody wearing a turban, of any faith or race, should be singled out in 2019 America. It is unfair to pay the price for the actions of ISIS, Taliban, or Al-Qaeda in distant lands with no connections to those bastards whatsoever.
These hate crimes must stop at once. The Sikh Americans deserve to have all of us standing behind them in solidarity, especially considering their stellar record of service in US law enforcement and US military ranks. Their loyalty to America has been set in stone, and written in blood.
We must state the obvious and follow logic. The irresponsible and unacceptable rhetoric emanating from the White House, Christian Right, and GOP circles against minority faith groups for political favor most certainly contributed to the murder of an innocent man. Shame on each and every one of you.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Basketball is a global sport and India is not to be left out. October 3 and 4, 2019 will go down in NBA and India history as the Pacers and Kings play a double-header of back to back pre-season games in Mumbai. Watch these videos about this first-ever occasion. Thanks to usindiamonitor’s favorite team Indiana Pacers for joining the Sacramento Kings in battle for Indian fans. I cannot even explain the thrill of seeing the likes of my beloved players like Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis featured on billboards along Mumbai’s skyline- or riding around in an auto rickshaw. Let’s hope there’s many more games in India to come!
In a bizarre twist of events, Hasan Minhaj was actually featured on the Jumbotron at the #HowdyModi rally in Houston last week attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Trump, and numerous other dignitaries… but physically banned from attending the Indian-American love fest at NRG stadium. How did this gross injustice occur?
Because Minhaj had criticized Modi on his show previously. Find out more from this hilarious video clip on the Seth Meyers Late Night show. The organizers of this event were clearly petty and small people. At least Seth Meyers gave the man some love- and didn’t leave him out of the studio. Much better venue anyway!
Netflix is out with another new Indian TV show! And it’s a super violent spy show! And I found this American reviewer Austin Burke to break it down for you. I am personally not as enthusiastic about the show as Austin, but he does a good job of introducing the concept. Regardless, it’s a good sign for Indian actors and fans that Netflix, Amazon, and other platforms are picking up so much Indian content. Indian film has arrived.
No sooner did I sit down to write about the #HowdyModi event in Houston, where Trump and Modi expressed their flattery for one another last week in an embarrassing display by two wannabe strongmen in a sold-out NRG stadium of 50,000 writhing brown bodies, we were all distracted by the exploding prospects of impeachment.
usindiamonitor had previously witnessed up close Modi’s previous US addresses at Madison Square Garden and the US House of Representatives. In Congress I had enough insider access to even shake Modi’s hand briefly after his address as Speaker Paul Ryan escorted him- something I wouldn’t do again. And in Houston, we witnessed a full-on hand holding beyond the handshake.
This event was different, as Trump showed up to bask in some of Modi’s adulation by an Indian-American crowd that was visibly conflicted on the day. Most Indian-Americans are more Democrat than #MAGAt crowd, but they politely listened and clapped. The main takeaway of the event is that the two leaders would agree to leave each other alone as they continued to conduct vast criminal conspiracies against humanity in their respective countries.
Due to the upcoming impeachment, it is unlikely that Trump will ever appear as president in front of an Indian-American crowd again. So let’s hope it was enjoyed by all. Let’s think of the perfect outcome, which could come next.
The drastic change in events of the last week gave me an idea. Why not let Trump spend the rest of his years in comfortable exile, in India? It’s the perfect retirement plan for him and his grifter family. India is even more corrupt and influence-peddling than he could ever hope to be, there is plenty of money to be made in real estate, and he can surround himself with elephants and psychophants, apologists and lackeys to a level unrivaled anywhere else in the world. India has taken corruption to the level of art form. Trump’s crimes could go on unpunished in luxury, and even applauded and feted. India is still legendarily a feudal society, and Trump would love living there and becoming a modern day nabob of the British Raj.
A land of bribery and extortion is to Trump and his minions, the Land of Milk and Honey. Can you imagine the red carpet that India would roll out for this gangster? He could live atop the Trump Tower in Mumbai instead of New York, looking down in self-satisfaction on the slums of suffering people instead of Central Park and Fifth Avenue. He could shoot someone in the head in Dharawi, and receive a medal for it from Narendra Modi (as long as the poor chap was Muslim). He could swim in a rooftop cesspool full of black money with his daughter Ivanka in a string bikini, laughing as happy as a shark. He could ride around in a motorcade of Marutis, shutting down traffic for long periods of time everywhere he went like all the other baabus trying to flex their small nuts and feel good about themselves.
Trump was born in the wrong era in America to fit in. But today, he would fit in quite snugly in the confines of Indian society. It would be a win-win; America could rid itself of the scourge, and Modi would even pay the cheapskate’s one-way ticket on Air India for him to bolster his own image. These two were meant to be together in an embrace of ass-kissing.
Shared Dreams, Bright Futures, indeed.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
My new favorite cooking show on YouTube is an unlikely candidate. Being experienced in Indian cooking, I don’t often go online to find out how Indian people like to make things, because I can go to my mother or other personally known experts for subcontinental cuisine data mining. I’d rather learn about say, Chinese or South American recipes. So I was skeptical when YouTube’s AI algorithms suggested something new, which I very nearly skipped over. But Grandpa Kitchen is a program based in India that has stolen my heart, despite the cooking show not even having any sort of kitchen to speak of. And I’m not alone: there are millions of hits per video and a massive global fan base including nearly 6 million subscribers built up in just the last two years. You could call it a sensation, and it’s pretty unique at that.
Grandpa Kitchen features an elderly, weather-beaten gentleman with a gangster silver mustache who dons a lungi and does all of the cooking outdoors on a Telangana farm over open flames in giant pots, pans, or grills. The scenery is gorgeous and peaceful. The quantities of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food being prepared are gigantic, because “Grandpa” Narayana Reddy and his team feed the food to a large group of needy town orphans at the end of every episode in a touching display of charity that never fails to melt my heart. The grub is also world-class, and besides Indian Grandpa expertly makes Japanese, Italian, American, Chinese, and other types of dishes exceedingly well. I have seen over a dozen episodes at this point, and every single recipe looks perfectly seasoned and on-point despite the massive quantities of seafood, vegetables, meat, fats and spices required each time. The ratio just gets nailed, along with the timing over an open fire. This guy has been living food all his life and it shows.
Perhaps best of all, like all great grandparents, Grandpa has this sense of humor that is at once disarmingly self-deprecating, compassionate, and cocky. Grandpa clearly knows he is now a celebrated star on YouTube, and he knows he is a master chef, but also accepts that his accent, limited use of English words, actions and mannerisms are all comical, so he hams it up. In one of my favorite mannerisms, in every episode you will see him introduce himself to the audience in a heavy Indian accent, “This is YOUR Grandpa!” Yes sir, mine are both long gone sadly, and I am letting you fill right in.
We cannot think of a better charity to get behind right now in India. Support this channel so they keep going! Watch it now for fun! Donate on their Patreon Page! Learn how to make some awesome food in the process!
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
This is a real billboard advertising the Trump Tower in the Worli neighborhood of Mumbai. Read this previous article on our site to learn more about Trump’s various connections to India and Indian-Americans.