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I have personally found outsourcing hilarious since I’ve had to contend with it. When calling my bank for information on a credit card results in the guy on the other side (who sounds very much like my Bombay-raised uncle trying to inflect a Midwestern accent) asking me about where in India I’m from and where my parents are from in India, hilarity is just part of the equation. Apparently the powers that be in American mainstream media have picked up on that fact, and in a time where Indian culture has become the new “it’ factor, it is inevitable that outsourcing to India will play into movies and television shows.
I found it interesting that there is a movie called “Outsourced” and a new TV show called “Outsourced.” One is a spinoff of the other. The former was a movie that premiered at the Toronto film festival, the latter will be coming to NBC in the fall. Here is a preview of each:
Outsourced (TV series)
The movie seems charming enough, but I’m not thrilled about the TV series. I want to be excited, it’s an almost all-Indian cast. Yet they’re made to look like idiots, and play into all of the conventional stereotypes of Indian people. Granted yes, that’s the whole point of making a series about outsourcing–to poke fun at the concept itself–but it borders on equating the stereotypes with the culture, rather than using it as a means of disentangling one from the other.
Maybe they’ll take the show in a positive direction much like the movie, but at least based on the trailer, it just seems to be an opportunity to make fun of Indian people, not the concept of outsourcing. That being said, the one shining moment in the trailer for me was when the Indian guy was going on about grits in a perfect Southern accent (2:39 in the trailer). If the show sticks with humor about outsourcing rather than about Indian stereotypes, it could be pretty good. If it doesn’t, though, I’m not sure it’ll make it out of the starting gate.
Oh and for the record, there is no rule of thumb that states that Indian food as a whole is gross and gives people diarrhea. While I’ll admit, some Indian food doesn’t necessarily LOOK appetizing (think aloo palak or anything involving palak), it has something that a lot of other foods lack: flavor. If you can’t handle it, that’s your problem and your loss.
I am Indian.
I am American.
Am I one? Am I the other? Am I both?
I think I started seriously thinking about it a few months ago, when the marriage talk took on a new level of urgency. I’m supposed to marry a Malayalee Nair guy. They prefer I marry someone from India. I prefer I marry someone from here. Does it make a difference? What do I want for my children?
I am of two minds. On one hand, I am in love with Malayalee culture, its uniqueness, its richness, and its resilience through millennia. I have learned both Carnatic music and two forms of classical dance. I am Hindu, and Hindu with a decidedly South Indian flair (and yes there are regional differences). I want to make sure my children are raised in that culture.
Yet on the other hand, I am in love with aspects of American culture, because it really is a portal to other cultures due to the proverbial melting pot of American society. I love baseball and football (no, not soccer), have decidedly multicultural culinary tastes, and have a doggedly American sense of independence and individuality. I’m a registered Democrat and have little to no idea about Indian politics. I know Shashi Tharoor won in Kerala, Kerala is no longer communist, and the Congress Party is still in power. Beyond that, I’m stumped. I understood cricket for a grand total of 2 weeks following watching “Lagaan” after which I returned to my original opinion (originally Robin Williams’) that “cricket is basically baseball on valium.” My music tastes are varied, but if I go to Pandora to pick a station, it is ultimately a rock station. Even as far as marriage goes, I’ve come to accept (heck, embrace) the idea that you really do need to get to know the person you’re going to marry, even if it is arranged. Perhaps it comes from living in a culture so devoted to dating.
Yet there are days where saying “our” with regard to India-related things feels right, and others where it feels awkward and foreign. Likewise for American. So what is the deciding factor that puts a person squarely in one world or another?
For me, I think I’m more comfortable being identified as an American of Indian origin, rather than an Indian. Yes, my skin is brown, my hair is black, I “look” Indian, but when I speak, I’m American. On most counts, I don’t feel comfortable when I go back to India. Culturally, I can hold my own in certain things. Yet there is one glaring exception: language. Perhaps that is the one thing that will keep me from really feeling…Indian. Yes, I can manage some conversation, but most is grammatically abysmal, and is done more for comic effect or satisfying my grandmother, whose English is about as good as my Malayalam. I can’t find linguistic common ground with my relatives when I go back. Most of them speak English very well, but there’s a certain level of cultural intimacy that only comes with speaking in one’s mother tongue. Maybe that’s what keeps me from being “fully Indian.”
I suppose I walk the line between Indian and American, though I’d like to think that perhaps, I’ve created my own cultural identity that happens to be squarely between both worlds. It is not set in stone, but fluid, sopping up whatever I find that is both rich and profound.
To those among you who are first-generation Americans, or were raised in a multicultural household, do you identify with your birth country’s culture, your parents’ culture(s), or do you fashion your own?
At least that’s what I think Betty Brown’s request to the Asian-American community was. Shorten your names, she says, so it’s easier for the rest of us to pronounce. How about learn to pronounce their names, Betty? It’s not as though American names are necessarily easy to pronounce if the people trying to pronounce them weren’t raised among people with those names.
I was born and brought up in New York, and in every single year of schooling, had to deal with a handful of colorful attempts at pronouncing my name. I didn’t give myself a nickname, though most of my friends did (and many were longer than my real name), and I didn’t Anglicize any part of my name (even though going from Saroj to Sarah isn’t a huge jump in letters). I love my name, I love what it means, I love its distinctively Hindu flair, and I won’t change it for anything just like I won’t change anything else about myself to meet someone else’s inability to pronounce my name and/or compromise with my cultural background.
Changing one’s name, especially from say, something Chinese or Sanskrit to something European, may not be a big deal for some people. Some people choose names that aren’t necessarily “part” of their culture, because the name sounds pretty or the meaning of the name is deep. That’s fine, since it is after all, a voluntary decision. Yet for me, being forced to change one’s name is akin to cultural castration. For me, it’s more than a change in name, it’s a change in identity. How would I be viewed if my name was forcibly changed to Sarah, and how would I view myself?
Betty, how about I ask you to change your name to say…Bhagyalakshmi. It’s certainly easier for some Indians to pronounce, and I know Texas has a lot of Indians. Your district also has a fair percentage of Hispanic people, a name change to Beatriz would certainly be appreciated by them. Perhaps, Bao-Zhai or another East-Asian name, to appease the Asian-American population not just in Texas, but around the country, that you have so offended.
Do you see how a name change can change more than just a few letters on a driver’s license or another piece of ID? Try learning to pronounce the names of your constituents, diverse though they may be, and take another step towards fully appreciating the melting pot that is American society.
It isn’t just about the Western world against everyone else. It isn’t just about whites against blacks. It isn’t just about one place and their people pitted against other people. Race isn’t even the only factor, it’s race, sexuality, religion, and so many other things. Wherever there are differences, people strive to create some sort of hierarchy.
Every ethnic group, every religious group, every group of people you could possibly consider probably sets their group apart from the rest in some way. Whether it’s considered racist, or otherwise, prejudiced depends on who’s judging.
An example that comes to mind is that, in the context of the Hindu caste system, converts away from Hinduism lose their caste, or in some cases, dropped to the bottom of the ladder. Yet in the Abrahamic faiths, Hindus are not looked upon kindly. I could probably rattle off a whole list of examples. Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants, Hutu and Tutsi, ethnic Spanish and ethnic Indians, straight people and gay people, and so on. This is not to say all people in either camp necessarily follow that outlook, since that is certainly not the case. Some people don’t see race, religion, or sexuality. Some people do. Everyone sees it differently.
I guess I started thinking about this after seeing this link. The post starts out with an excerpt from a site evidently promoting white pride, but at the end, the author reveals that he had in fact, taken it off of a Jewish pride site and had replaced “Jew” and “Israel” with “white” and “Europe.” I remember distinctly starting out reading the post thinking “oh how awful” but when I saw that it was, in fact, from a Jewish website, it didn’t feel as bad. And then I thought, why is one any better than another?
I suppose in this case, it’s not quite as clean a substitution as one might think. “White pride” generally carries a strong negative connotation to begin with, owing to its association with such groups as the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacist groups. Just substituting “white” and “Europe” results in an entirely different reading, given that context.
The Jews, meanwhile, have a strong religious connection with Israel, not just a cultural one. Their connection has not yet been watered down as strongly as the white connection to Europe, in most cases. Whites (at least Western European whites) have been in this country since its inception, for the most part. Jews have been around since the latter half of the 19th century, for the most part. In considering the various sects of Judaism that exist, and how some are shrinking rapidly (some Sephardi sects come to mind) why wouldn’t some Jews call for a return to intra-religious marriage, within their sects? Maybe it’s because I’ve been raised to marry someone who is the same caste and same religion, I don’t see it as totally radical.
Yet there were people who commented on this post that felt very strongly about it. Some condemned the word subsitution, some condemned the Jewish site, some just condemned the concepts on either side. Try substituting your words of choice…does it read differently? Why?
We shouldn’t see it differently. We shouldn’t praise one and condemn another. There shouldn’t be boundaries to begin with, but since it’s too late to dismantle some of them, let us try to respect them…so long as these boundaries and notions do not cause undue pain and suffering to another. We are all, after all, human first.
So I’m Malayalee, but more specifically, I’m a Nair. Nairs are one of the many castes in Kerala, and were traditionally warriors and rulers, so something a la “kshatriyas” for those more familiar with that term. This is meant to be an informal, yet informative piece. It’s based on my own understanding, what I’ve been told, and what I’ve read from various sources.
By the way…as a sidenote, we are not in any way associated with the hair-removal product of the same name. In fact, Nair isn’t even pronounced the same way. Nair, the caste, is pronounced “na-yer.” “Na” as it sounds in “narwhal” and “yer” as it sounds in…yer… Please get this straight, I can’t tell you how irritating it is when people mispronounce it. Of course, I’m not assuming people are born with the innate sense of how to pronounce “Nair.” Now you know.
Nairs themselves can be subdivided into a whole host of subcastes. For the life of me I don’t know the differences between all of them, but there are at least four or five I can name off-hand. Nair, Kurup, Menon, Pillai, Nambiar, Panicker, and Paliath, to name a few. Nairs have, traditionally, held a pretty prominent place in Malayalee society. Sometimes a bit too prominent, and this gets into the whole mess of caste discrimination.
The most curious aspect of Nairs, I think, are their origins. I don’t mean mythological, though from what I understand, the claim is that they were from the North and fled to the South to escape Parashurama. However, perhaps even more interesting than that, is their ethnic origins. While there is one school of thought that claims that Nairs are most likely descended from the Newars (from Nepal/Tibet)–owing mostly to the presence of pagoda-like motifs in traditional Nair homes and temples–there are others that claim alternate origins. A friend of mine sent me an article a while back, the citation is below:
Thomas R, Nair SB, Banerjee M. A crypto-Dravidian origin for the nontribal communities of South India based on human leukocyte antigen class I diversity. Tissue Antigens. 2006; 68(3): 225-234
This article analyzes a set of South Indian nontribal and tribal groups to determine their similarity to other ethnic groups. For Nairs, what was found was that according to the analysis of HLA Class I haplotypes was that, Nairs were most similar to Western Europeans. I am incredibly curious to know if any migration theories exist for this postulation. Another existing theory places Nairs under the same umbrella as other supposed Indo-Scythian descendants (Pashtuns, Jats, Rajputs, etc.). Indo-Scythians spent most of their heydey in the region from present-day southern Afghanistan to around present-day Mathura, in northern India. This ties in weakly with the mythological origin of the Nairs having Northern ancestry.
I suppose if Nairs are related to Jats, that justifies my love for bhangra…right? Maybe? Ok, I’m getting off topic.
Nairs have their own martial arts system, known as kalaripayattu (color-ee-pie-yettu). It is most notably a form of swordfighting, but it does incorporate hand-to-hand combat as well. It is an incredibly elegant system of fighting (note: the fighters may look wiry but they are fast!). There has been speculation that kalaripayattu found its way into East Asia, by way of Bodhidharma–a Buddhist monk supposedly from Kerala–and this gave rise to the modern system of kung fu. Again, just speculation…but it would be pretty cool if someone definitively proved this to be the case.
Nairs were (and to a degree still are), notably, matrilineal. This is a rarity in most of the world, let alone India, where patrilineal societies are still the norm. Indeed even among Nairs, this has taken root. Yet it used to be that the women, not the men, were the real power-wielders in the household. Women were the property owners and family heads, though men were the legal heads of household in some cases.
Nairs have also had an enduring tradition of snake worship. I actually don’t understand the nuances of this, aside from the fact that most Nair households in Kerala had a sarpa kaavu on their property for the worship of snakes. The tradition fits in alongside traditional Hindu practice, but I believe this may be something that even predates Hinduism in the area.
If anyone else happens to have some cool/interesting Nair facts, or other information related to what I’ve presented here, feel free to comment.
These were the words spoken by one of the captured terrorists implicated in the carnage that rocked Mumbai the last few days. His name is Azam Amir Kasab, a 21-year old from Pakistan. More importantly, he’s a 21-year old. What was I doing at 21? Studying, hanging out with friends, enjoying Ithaca, and planning my future, among other things. Kasab, at 21, had planned to die as he killed hundreds of people. Kasab narrated the whole story, with almost chilling nonchalance, according to an article by the Daily Mail.
“I was told to kill to my last breath,” he says, upon being asked about the details leading up to the massacre. Someone instructed him to take lives, as many lives as possible (the original goal was 5,000 in total), and take those lives until you have no life to live yourself. Someone, who presumably Kasab got to know pretty well if he and his fellow terrorists were “highly trained in marine assault,” something that requires presumably, a lot of time to do. That someone told him and the others to kill. That in itself is despicable. Yet to be told to kill to your last breath takes it to a whole new level. That someone knew these people were totally vested in the cause, and knew they would lay down their lives if need be. These people also happen to be young men, barely into their twenties, men who had barely started to live their own lives before being told to lay them down. That someone could see these men gleefully and passionately take lives as their own life left their lungs. That someone, or someones, are the real monsters here, not the ones who were cast out to kill and die. They are killers, but they are also victims.
It is so sad, how young people are being so readily recruited to kill in the name of some vague, greater good. It’s so sad how the angst and uncertainty of young adulthood is being exploited to turn them into killing machines. Blame, again, can’t be placed on Pakistan or on Muslims as a whole. For those of you who are placing the blame on their shoulders, you don’t really understand the issue. Yes, it seems that Pakistani Muslims were behind the attacks, but this is more the actions of a few, disillusioned fundamentalists, not the whole population. Unfortunately, fundamentalists get more air-time than the more moderate majority, and the media carries unbelievable influence. This is true not just for Muslims, but Hindus, and other groups.
Maybe it’s easier for me to say “lets just all be friends,” when many of my closest friends are Muslim and/or Pakistani. I have been to Eid services, and I have bowed my head as Arabic prayers were recited. They have attended pujas and bowed their heads when Sanskrit prayers were recited. We confide in each other, laugh together, cry together, dance together, sing together, and pretty much do everything together. Maybe it is easier because we are one generation removed from the conflicts of the motherland. Yet, even in spite of these attacks, have come together and become closer, united against senseless violence. We are people first, our allegiances should never make us forget that.
Rather than war against those who have hurt us, perhaps it is time to improve relations between India and Pakistan. Maybe then, kids on either side would be less likely to take up arms against their supposed enemies, especially if their supposed enemies were now their friends.
For someone so far removed from the Abrahamic faiths as a whole, let alone Christianity, I love Christmas. This includes the religious aspects. Yes, Christmas does surprisingly have a strongly religious origin though based on how it’s celebrated by the majority of people, sometimes one wouldn’t think so.
I grew up believing in Santa Claus. I would write long, pleading letters to Santa asking for a list of toys. I would diligently set up the stockings above the fireplace, prepare the milk and cookies, and eagerly await his arrival. I had my heart broken when I realized Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and my father had eerily similar handwriting. I continued, and still continue, to compile my Christmas lists…with limited success in getting anything.
Obviously I celebrate a slightly more secular version of the holiday, but it doesn’t mean I forget the meaning of Christmas…at least the original meaning. I would love to, one day, attend a midnight mass. It seems like such a profound experience, steeped in meaning. There is something very beautiful in the church displays of the Nativity scene, all those gathered gazing with devotion upon the newborn Jesus, outwardly vulnerable but even then, worthy of exaltation as the Savior.
Maybe it’s because I’m an adult, and maybe it’s because I’m cynical by nature, but it seems that there is no humanity left in the holiday anymore. Even the feel-good movies of the season, the ones that always end with “and that’s the real meaning of Christmas” feel empty and fake. What is Christmas now? It feels like, for many (though of course not all), Black Friday is the new Christmas. Naturally, shopping precedes Christmas, since presents are hallmark during this, perhaps the most important of holidays in the Christian calendar…and I suppose in general (at least for people growing up in the United States and other Western nations). Yet anticipation of the Christmas shopping season has reached an almost maniacal level, especially given the way the economy is faring.
For those of you who are reading this and are from countries other than the United States, let me fill you in on Black Friday. Black Friday marks the day after Thanksgiving, and is notable because stores have some of the steepest discounts of the season. People start lining up before midnight, in some cases, so that when the doors open they can get at the best merchandise.
I wouldn’t complain so much about how humanity is lost during the holidays, except for this little tidbit that was in the news:
Yes, people trampled over a worker and killed him in the frenzy to get inside the Walmart. Yes, apparently, they fought off rescue personnel, who were apparently getting in the way of their shopping. Can you imagine what it must be like to have hundreds of feet stomping on your chest, feeling as your ribs crack, your lungs are punctured, and slowly you lose air and people pay no regard to you as you lie dying. All for a bargain? I understand people are hurting because our economy is hurting, and while we may want to shop for presents and get a good deal, still, where is the humanity when your fellow man has fallen and lies dying under your feet? I happened to catch a glimpse of the aforementioned Walmart from my train as it hurtled home, and I felt sick inside.
While I’m not saying it should be all about Christ at Christmas time–some Indian holidays have a tendency to veer on the side of materialism too in some cases–at least try not to forget that there is a little more to the season than rampant materialism and discounts. Whether that’s the religious aspect, or at least the aspect of generosity and compassion sans religious connotations, there is more to the holiday than is apparent in the way it is celebrated by many people. Give gifts, but know why you bought them, and why you are giving them to the loved ones in your life.
I’m thankful that this year has been going well for me, and I’m glad my family is healthy and happy. I’m glad my grandparents did not go anywhere near Colaba/Nariman Point today or yesterday, and that all my relatives in Mumbai are safe.
This Thanksgiving, give thanks for what you have, but pray for those who have lost, and those whose future is still uncertain. Pray that they may have a reason to give thanks soon.
Somehow, killing just doesn’t seem to equate into any sort of act of retribution. I don’t see how taking a life, or taking several lives, justifies any valid philosophy. Since when does storming a crowded place, taking out your rifle, machine gun, or pistol and firing bullet after bullet into people achieve any sort of good? What good does it do to target people and take hostages, and watch as they bleed and sweat fear for their lives and shame for being somehow, culpable for some vague and uncertain deed in the eyes of their captors.
Who are we to judge who is worthy of life and worthy of death?
This is the credo of terrorist organizations today, or so it seems, that in taking life and striking fear, something good is achieved. Most recently, several gunmen opened fire in coordinated attacks across several of Mumbai, India’s hotels, restaurants, and hospitals. It was clear that these gunmen were targeting foreign nationals. In most of the terrorist attacks in recent years, the sites tended to be those frequented by foreigners. Why?
I am not even going to try to interpret their actions, it’s not my place. I am not going to talk about God, and I’m not going to talk about religion. They have been unfairly dragged through the mud and I am not going to continue with it.
So where does one start to dissect a mind, a mind of a person so caught up in their own mission that the mind is indistinguishable from the mission? Have you ever tried to convince someone they are wrong about something they strongly believe in? It’s about as effective as talking to a wall, except the wall is sticking their fingers in their ears and trying to talk over you.
No one ever goes out wanting to do something “evil.” Everyone is convinced that they are the good guys. Can doing good be so relative? How can one begin to standardized “good deeds” and “evil deeds?” Won’t terrorists see that they have inflicted unbelievable pain on their fellow man, won’t that (in theory) make them realize that their view of supposed “goodness” is fundamentally flawed, when death and suffering are imperative to achieve any “good?”
Then again, maybe they won’t. Goodness and evil at this point in time are still (unbelievably) relative. One can only hope that this changes.
I pray for the people who were lost today in Mumbai, as well as for the people who have been lost and will continue to be lost if good and evil remain concepts that are open to interpretation. May their souls rest in peace.
EDIT: For up to date pictures/information about what’s going on in/around the Taj Hotel, please refer to my friend Arun’s blog: http://arunshanbhag.com/2008/11/26/mumbai-blasts-taj-is-burning/