Über Desi

Keeping it real, desi ishtyle

White House Diwali – why so touchy?

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Rediff reports:

Obama’s Diwali celebration upsets Indian-American community.

Here’s the back story – ex-president Bush started the practice of hosting a Diwali event since 2003, courtesy request of the Indian-American community and it’s been a practice ever since. Some of the events have been full fledged and upto two hours long, while some, like last year’s,  have been less flashy.

While the article about the first Obama-era Diwali, quoted above, points out reasons why Indian Americans are upset (mostly elderly immigrant Indians), the rest of the article quotes two second generation desis – both staffers at the White House (including Kal Penn – supposedly the organizer for the upcoming event), deny that this would be a ‘diluted’ event. Couple of changes include, the venue  is now moved INTO the Whitehouse as compared to previous occasions when it was hostedn in an adjacent building, and also George Bush never made it to any of the Diwali events since 2003, always sending a   representative instead. Obama however, will attend the event this year. And this time, the event is open to all Asian-Americans and not exclusive to desis only.

The glitch however, seems to be that none of the community activists have been invited (yet), and since Kal Penn – a first timer is in charge of the event, it may well be  be a miss for those waiting to get an invitation to the Whitehouse for Diwali.

Scouting for news articles – I did not, however, find any statements from any acclaimed Hindu statesmen (yet).

So what do readers think? Is Fasicst Obama trying to dilute ‘our’ Diwali event, so that Kenyan festivals are more popular in Whitehouse (this is where, you add a smiley in your head)?

Or is it a case of some senior (and quite possibly invitation -deserving) activists feeling left out and blaming clueless Obama for trying to ‘dilute’ a celebration?

And just another snippet of info, an article dated from 2004 (by the same author as in Obama’s article, Aziz Haniffa from Washington D.C.)  -

Bush’s snub of White House Diwali celebration irks Indian American supporters and guests alike

Me thinks, we are way too touchy about having Diwali, in WhiteHouse, in the way we want it. (It’s Whitehouse – not our own house).

Shout out your thoughts in the comments section below.

Burglarizing Ganesh

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After INS and TSA, it’s burglars now. Apparently, Hindu homes in Fairfax county of Virginia are being targeted by burglars. [MyFoxDC]

Homes with Ganesh symbols hit hard
img: via MyFoxDC

The Hindu god, Ganesh, is considered the remover of obstacles. For burglars in Virginia targeting homes with Hindu symbols, Ganesh, seems to be doing exactly that, removing any obstacles in their path.

Since January of this year, someone has been targeting homes in Fairfax County based on their ethnic and religious affiliations.
Investigators now believe they can link 16 crimes in which the burglar or burglars have been targeting homes in which religious symbols have been prominently displayed.

Hindu families are making it easier for the burglars by displaying the religious symbols in prominent locations.

It’s a Hindu symbol, I believe it’s called a Ganesh—I hope I am saying it right,” said Officer Tawny Wright of the Fairfax County Police Department. “But they hang it, some of them hang it above their garages or in a window, next to their doors, and like I said, and of the 16, a significant number have had this symbol displayed around their house.”

The burglars seem to strike during the day, when the residents are most likely at work, and target specific items like passports, electronics and gold jewelery. What can we say, the Hindoo people love the gold bling. All of these patterns seem to suggest familiarity with the culture, if not promote outright speculation that the thief(ves) could be …. aiyooo …. desi.

There are also other factors at play here. Not only are people from Hindu backgrounds more likely to hold day jobs and stock gold jewelry at home, but are also less likely to have deterrents like dogs and guns.

Video clip of the news report below:

Pew Religious Survey 2008: Breakdown of Hindus in the US

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The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life came out with its 2008 landscape survey of the breakdown of various religions in the United States among various criteria. [Pew 2008 Survey]

Based on numbers of adults (18+), Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and other minority religious groups constitute a negligible portion of the population to be considered a electoral force.

Note: Eight traditions (Buddhist, Hindu, Jehovah’s Witness, Muslim, Orthodox, Other Christian, Other Faiths and Other World Religions) constitute 5% or less of the population in nearly every state. In these cases, the map will show little or no variation.

Depressing news out of the way, this post attempts to look at the breakdown of US-based Hindus on demographics, beliefs and practices and social and political views.

Hindu statistics USABreakdown of Hindus in the US
img: via PEW

Demographics: [PDF]
- Surprisingly, there are more Hindus in the Southern states (32%) than the Northeast (29%), West (26%) and Midwest (13%).
- 61% men to 39% women nationwide. Attendance at various desi parties seems to confirm this stat.
- About 60% of Hindus in the US are between 30-49 years in age.
- Among Hindus not listing themselves under the “Asian” variety (12%), almost half (5%) are white.
- 80% of Hindus make more than $50,000 annually.
- Perhaps an extension of the previous sentence, a whopping 48% have a post-graduate degree.
- Almost 80% are married. I find this following stat hard to believe, 0% are living with their unwed partner. Shaadi.com p3wns Match.com?
- Over half (52%) have no kids.

Beliefs and practices: [PDF]
- Over 80% “believe in god”, around 10% are agnostic, 5% are atheists.
- Most (around 85%) list religion in their life are “very” or “somewhat” important.
- As important as religion is, around 60% visit a temple either once a month or few times a year.
- But 62% pray daily. Given the current instability with the visa and green card process and the economy and job situations that does not surprise me one bit.
- When asked how often their prayers have been really answered, the Hindu respondents were all over the map.
- Around half (47%) believe that the scriptures are “written by men, not the word of god”.
- An overwhelming 85% were open to different interpretations of the Hindu religious works.
- As an addendum to above sentence, 89% were open to the idea that followers of other religions could lead an eternal life (Hindu equivalent of Moksha).

Social and Political Views: [PDF]
- No surprise here, 2 of 3 are staunchly or lean Democrat.
- 33%, I’m guessing the younger population, consider themselves liberal. Surprisingly, only 12% consider themselves conservative.
- As an addendum to the Democrat affiliation, 59% believe in bigger government and more services.
- Almost half (46%) are pro-choice in most cases.
- Around half (48%) were pro-gay rights.
- Hindus were almost split down the middle when it came to legislating morality (44% for, 48% against)
- 67% confessed to watching “The Inconvenient Truth”. Not really but they did declare themselves pro-environment.
- Almost 60% preferred that a less interventionist policy for the US in world politics.

Pew should also have done a breakdown of the country of ancestry. Assuming a large number of Hindus are of Indian ancestry, it would’ve been interesting to see what other countries were major sources of Hindus. Maybe even my assumption would’ve proved wrong.

So what do you think about the study in general?
Any comments in particular about:
-the disproportionate sexes composition (almost 60 men to 40 women)
-Do no Hindus live in with their partners or did the respondents lie? Does Shaadi.com really p3wn Match.com? I used neither, so I wouldn’t know.
-Hindus seem more accepting of other religions than vice versa – true, false, other comments
-Most Hindus answering “yea” to “tree hugging tax payer money spending liberal”

Any other comments?

The Hindoos are coming! (UPDATE)

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The #1 Most popular story on CNN.com today is titled ” Is Mike Myers’ new film asking for trouble?” with sub-headings :

- Mike Myers’ new film, “The Love Guru,” raising concern among Hindus

-”Guru” concerns spiritual leader offered money to solve love affair

- Hindus wondering if film mocks rituals, or whether it’s all just good fun

GuruExcited at the thought of hordes of saffron covered Hindutva types, burning effigies and shouting slogans outside Hollywood studios, I scanned the article. Alas, our good friends at CNN are taking a leaf out of the TOI tabloid journalism playbook. The so -called article relies on the word of one – count ‘em -one Hindu – none other than the ubiquitous Rajan Zed. Mr.Zed now calls himself a “Hindu leader” and demands that Paramount Pictures screen the film for members of the Hindu community before it is released in June.( I knew that my faith would pay off one day. Where do I sign up for my free movie pass?) Read the rest of this entry »

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