Über Desi

Keeping it real, desi ishtyle

The first token desi on American TV

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This interesting feature on BBC talks about the recent emergence of actors of South Asian origin in Hollywood and US television shows. For decades, they were relegated to token and stereotypical roles. As recently as a couple of years back, one of the biggest South Asian names, Kal Penn, played the role of a ….. surprise ….. terrorist on the TV show, 24. Besides Penn, the article also talks about other popular TV names like Aasif Mandvi and Pooja Kumar.

However, before any of the current crop had an opportunity to be stereotyped and marginalized, Noel De Souza, was busy personifying these terms.

In the early 1950s, India-born Noel De Souza studied theatre in California, where his schoolmates were Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman, now Hollywood veterans. But Indians were so foreign to American viewers that De Souza had to play Latinos in Hollywood films for many years.

Before Kalpen Modi was born, Noel De Souza had played the token desi guy in screen gems like Jungle Jim (1955), Never So Few (1959), the TV show Mission: Impossible (1969) and Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974), Sanford and Son (1974) and The Man with the Power (1977). He also ended up playing a Latino in other screen gems like the TV series Zorro (1958). Of course, I use the term “screen gems” in a sarcastic manner but that should give an idea of how stereotyped and marginalized this actor was.

Noel De Souza attained the nirvana of stereotyping when he played the role of Gandhi. Star Trek: Voyager fans from the 90s probably noticed a Gandhi in one of the episodes. That Gandhi was played none other than Noel De Souza. [Video: Gandhi starting at 3:30 mark]

And yes, that is Gandhi with a skimpily clad woman. Where’s Zed uncle when you need him?

US can seize travellers laptops

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Traveling between US and Canada with your personal or office notebook computer? Think again. Homeland Security has issued broad and sweeping powers to border security agents empowering them to seize travelers’ laptops and other electronic devices without suspicion of any wrongdoing for an unspecified period of time. It is unclear at this stage if this also extends to immigration checkpoints within the country at airports (JFK, Atlanta, for instance) but certainly seems like a possibility. [Reuters]

Modi wants a US visa

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Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi is now in need of a US visa again. Indian Americans are divided over whether he should get one or not [PTI].

“V” for visa, Modi seems to be saying
img: via BBC

The invite was extended to him by the Association of Indian Americans in North America (AIANA) and is being opposed by the Coalition Against Genocide (CAG), an Indian American group formed in the wake of the Gujarat riots of 2002. To visit the US, Modi would need a B1/B2 tourist visa. His previous application for a visa was denied in 2005 by the US Department of State, when he was invited to speak at a Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) conference [TOI]. The reason for the denial was “for restricting religious freedom”.

However, the US policy on visits by tyrannical rulers with spotty human rights records is vague. Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was one of those leaders with spotty human rights records allowed to visit the US and give speeches. [WaPo]

Keeping that in mind, how does one reconcile this issue? On a personal level and as a tax paying resident of the US, I’m opposed to any sort of visa issuance for Narendra Modi. But, like Ahmadinejad, Modi is a democratically elected leader, probably elected under freer and fairer circumstances than the Iranian President, if I may say. Granted that he is not a resident of the US, but between the two tyrants, can the US really justify denying one democratically elected leader while allowing another? On the other hand, if the US lets him visit, wouldn’t it be a slap in the face of the victims of the Gujarat riots i.e. citizens of a democracy?

So many thorny questions, whoever said governing a free society was an easy task. So what do ye, our uber readers think? Thoughts? Opinions?

Previous post on Narendra Modi on Über Desi.

NRI sentenced in US-India arms scam

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Parthasarathy Sudarshan, a NRI has been sentenced for three years in the US for an arms scam. [BBC]

As discussed on UD earlier this year, Sudarshan was accused violating arms control laws by secretly trying to sell components for space vehicles, ballistic missiles and fighter jets to firms associated with India’s defense agencies [UD].

  • Author: Santosh
  • Published: Jun 13th, 2008
  • Category: Asides, world
  • Comments: Comments Off

Global image of US improves slightly, up in India

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A Pew Global Attitudes Project poll for 2008 showed that the image of the US severely tarnished by the Iraq war is up compared to the past years, including in India. [NYT] [NYT map]

The survey also indicates that people worldwide view Barack Obama more favorably than John McCain “to do the right thing regarding world affairs”. Among other topics, people in India (China and Australia) were least worried about the worldwide economic slowdown. While that is not surprising, considering the double digits growth India has been experiencing on a annual basis, is it prudent on the part of Indians to be so indifferent to a worldwide economic crisis, considering India has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the global economy?

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