Über Desi

Keeping it real, desi ishtyle

Wisconsin Sikh Temple shootings

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News first started trickling in, mostly via Twitter, around noon East Coast time about a shooting incident in a Sikh temple in Milwaukee, WI. My first reaction, unfortunately tempered from years such attacks directed at Sikhs, was that this was one of those post 9/11 incidents, where the perpetrator attacks Sikhs thinking they belong to the Taliban or Mujahideen. Based on current report, this may very well turn out to be the case.

Initial reports were of multiple gunmen taking hostages at the temple. But when the dust settled, it turned out to be a lone gunman, Wade Michael Page, ex-Army and alleged skinhead. The first responding cops exchanged fire with the gunman; one was hurt and the other killed the gunman, but not before Page killed 6 others on the temple premises. These cops, “prevented a tragic situation from becoming even worse”. Satwant Kaleka, the temple’s president succumbed to injuries he sustained while trying to restrain the attacker, perhaps saving more lives.

Now on to the (American) media coverage of the situation, CNN had some decent updates about the situation itself but the reporters and anchors showed an appalling lack of knowledge about Sikhs, the worlds 5th largest religious group. For some reason, the CNN reporters and anchors were strangely defensive, almost hostile, to the victims’ and their families’ suggestions that this could be one of those typical post 9/11 hate incidents directed towards Sikhs. Additionally, CNN anchors and reporters, played thought police, insisting that this incident should not be classified as a terrorist incident (the FBI later classified it as domestic terrorism) and CNN anchors also were quite emphatic that this was not the time for debate on issues like gun control and hate crimes (the two major issues that most likely led up to this carnage). Having said that among cable news outlets, CNN was the one with the most coverage of the incident.

Fox News, when they were not discussing topics like “Liberal Media attacks against Mitt Romney”, had intermittent coverage of the incident. Even with lesser coverage, Fox still managed to commit a faux pas as one the reporters asked a member of the Sikh temple if there had been any “anti-Semitic acts in the past against the Sikh community”. MSNBC, the other media outlet, was busy covering the Olympics and had breaking updates now and then, but largely failed in it’s mission as a “news channel”.

The other troubling fact on the media coverage was the fact they kept mentioning that this was “misdirected hate” aka “hate directed towards Muslims but incorrectly targeting Sikhs” which leads one to believe that targeting Muslims would be “normal”, which speaks to the sad state of affairs in this country.

As of this posting, Wade Michael Page has been identified as ex-Army, 1992-98, (Toma)Hawk Missile repairman, and “psychological operations specialist”. Reports are also starting to flow in that he legally owned the guns he used in this massacre and was the leader of a neo-Nazi band called End Apathy.

Largely, the media coverage and outrage among Americans has been miniscule compared to the ones we witnessed after the movie shooting incidents in Colorado. Call me jaded by post 9/11 America but none of this comes as a shock.

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That’s racist

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Ashton Kutcher’s popchips ad is racist, plain and simple. I’m not sure how else I would classify a white actor in brown face mocking Indian accents. That most white people, black people and other races are not offended by it, while sad, is understandable. Other people of Indian descent may not be offended by it and that’s their personal choice.

It’s *NOT* about the fact that no one would dare don a blackface today. (If you said Robert Downey Jr, please take your discussions to this forum – link via @sepiamutiny). In 2012, to don brownface and mock a foreign accent is just plain unacceptable.

As an Indian man with brown skin and an Indian accent, who gets ribbed on it every now and then, it does sting a little to view these mock portrayals on TV. I don’t have a choice on how I look or talk, Ashton does when he signs up for these ad campaigns.

Re-purposing an immortal quote from a great leader, I have a dream that my yet-to-be-conceived children will one day live in a nation where they will not be mocked for the color of their skin or the accents of their parents.

Also read MetroPCS’ unfunny commercials

Also, feel free to tweet Ashton Kutcher @aplusk and tell him what you think about this topic.

Sepia Mutiny ends

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Doesn’t seem that long ago that one of the major desi blogs, DesiPundit, downed their shutters. Now arguably the biggest of all desi blogs, Sepia Mutiny, is going the same way. [Sepia Mutiny]

T’was not too long ago, between 05-09, blogs were thriving: Sepia Mutiny, Desi Pundit, Ultra Brown, and if I may say so, Über Desi, were bustling with activity in the niche market of Indian sub-continental culture and pop-culture. Quality content was being generated by the hard working bloggers, at least in the first 3 instances. Then life happened, Twitter happened. Most bloggers found it easier and more convenient to microblog on Twitter, and so did their followers. Slowly but surely, the quality content dried up and previously bustling blogs became desolate arenas. Trolls and spammers took over in the comments sections of long dead posts. You get the idea.

The bloggers at Sepia Mutiny did an amazing job of building a thriving South Asian online community, and for this, they will be remembered and the blog will be missed.

Jaan Pehchan Ho – a perfect trifecta

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Clearly I’m late to Heineken’s “The Date” commercial, where hipster America meets Chinatown meets 60s Bollywood rock-n-roll kitsch. The first thought that came to my mind “very well done and very cool”. For your enjoyment below:

The song “Jaan Pehchan Ho” from the movie Gumnaam (1965) is, of course, instantly recognizable to any self-respecting Bollywood fan (if you haven’t watched Gumnaam, you’re not a true Bollywood fan, you SRK jock sniffer). Again, for your enjoyment below:

What many don’t know, however, is the fact that “Jaan Pehchan Ho” was “inspired” by a song 6 years earlier from a Dev Anand flick “Love Marriage”. Crazy dance moves, old school rock-n-roll music. Watch and enjoy.

Gupta v. “exotic” Indian restaurant

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An Indian family in NJ (where else?) is suing an “exotic” Indian restaurant for serving them samosas with meat, even though they were vegetarians. [NJ Ledger via HuffPo]

For an India Day celebration in Edison on Aug. 10, 2009, the group placed an order for vegetarian samosas. The restaurant assured them it didn’t make the pastries with meat. Indeed, there was no meat-filled samosa on the restaurant’s appetizer menu, and the court’s decision said the tray of pastries given to the group was labeled vegetarian.
But soon after eating a few samosas, some in the group grew concerned the pastries might contain meat. According to the decision, the restaurant eventually acknowledged it had confused the order with one for meat-filled samosas and gave the group the non-vegetarian pastries.

The family proceeded to sue the restaurant “alleging negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, consumer fraud, products liability and breach of express warranty”. This part also caught my eye. [link]

In their complaint, the plaintiffs outlined their injuries and damages in the following manner: “‘Hindu vegetarians believe that if they eat meat, they become involved in the sinful cycle of inflicting pain, injury and death on God’s creatures, and that it affects the karma and dharma, or purity of the soul. Hindu scriptures teach that the souls of those who eat meat can never go to God after death, which is the ultimate goal for Hindus. The Hindu religion does not excuse accidental consumption of meat products. One who commits the religious violation of eating meat, knowingly or unknowingly, is required to participate in a religious ceremony at a site located along the Ganges River in Haridwar, Uttranchal, India, to purify himself. The damages sought by plaintiffs included compensation for the emotional distress they suffered, as well as economic damages they would incur by virtue of having to participate in the required religious cleansing ceremony in India.’”

This story has me torn. Being raised in a Hindu vegetarian family myself, I’m can envision members of my family, particularly the elderly reacting in a similar manner (but we TamBrams are too pacifist to get involved in court cases). I’ve not read the doctrine for consuming meat and don’t know what the diktats for “Accidental Consumption of Meat” are. On one hand, I feel this family’s reaction (suing for money) is disproportionate to the incident.

On the other hand, longtime readers of this blog know my disdain for “exotic” Indian restaurants particularly their marketing, food and above all, service. This one fits in the last two. The restaurant certainly was wrong on the following counts:
- Serving food not on the menu
- Getting the food order wrong
- Serving food specifically the client demanded they did not want
- Not cross checking the order with the kitchen, despite repeated questions from the clients

And this kind of service is unfortunately not uncommon in “exotic” Indian restaurants. It’s disappointing to see the NJ Ledger, Huffington Post and other news outlets play up the “he he dumb Hindoos won’t eat meat” angle. Customers often ask for customized orders at restaurant, not just for religious reasons, but also for health reasons – food allergies, digestive issues. It is the duty of the restaurant to get it right, failing which they open up themselves to the consequences. Although, none of the customers were affected health-wise, I’m with them on suing, at least on principle.

What do you think?

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