Between the two continents

It was past two in the morning local time in Abu Dhabi while we were waiting in the pre-clearance queue. The queue was long and kept changing as the take-off time for some of the transit flights were announced. Everybody was visibly tired but not complaining.

“What time is it?” the elderly gentleman who stood in front of me asked. He was well-dressed and looked like a retired professor or a scholar of some sort. I told him the time. “It takes a lot of time, every single time.” He pointed towards the interview counters. “I’m so tired and just want to board my flight and rest for sometime”, he said but with a smile. I returned the smile, agreeing quietly. As the conversation went on, I learned that he came to America for his studies while he was young. Back then he did not mind all the security hassles, he said. But now that he is old, and after traveling all these years, it has become difficult for him. I didn’t know what to say. I just looked around while nodding my head. “But I have to travel since my family, my wife and children are there.”

“So, where are you from?”, I asked. “Iran”, he replied. “Now that I’m retired, I spend my time between the two countries. My family wants me beside them and I want to stay back in the home country, so I have to keep traveling.” Every six months or so, he travels between Iran and America, so that he can keep in touch with his wife and children in America and his family members back home in Iran.

With the Trump administration’s travel ban, I wonder how that old man is coping up now.

Things that pop on your face

Last week the social media was abuzz with the allegations of an advertisement video being racist. The advertisement is of Popchips snack that has Ashton Kutcher in four different get-ups. One of them has an Indian identity called Raj and he is a Bollywood producer. This has called for a racist allegation by an American of Indian origin Anil Dash and it ended up cooking up a controversy and the company finally pulled off the ad.

The whole drama has so much what-the-fuck-ness to it. I mean, advertisements always project stereotypes to sell the product and we do not always have a problem with it. Stereotypes are everywhere in the pop culture; be it commercials, cinema or music. Only when it goes over the top than usual that people notice and voice against it.

Anil Dash accused the video of being racist because the Indian character Raj is brownfaced and has a thick Indian accent(!). First of all, you would not take an advertisement such as this seriously. There are worse advertisements than this which project stereotypes in the worst manner. Second, there are other people being parodied in the ad, like a British youth or a Southern American hippie or a French fashionista. Southern Americans would have a better reason to complain because in American pop culture and Hollywood, they are always featured as homeless gypsies with a hippie lifestyle who live in mobile home parks. Or even Darl, the man with a fake French(?) accent have a good reason to complain because that is also a highly stereotyped version of men working in the fashion industry. Third, it is not wrong to feature an Indian brownfaced (a color which is generally associated with Asians) and with an Indian accent. So why would a techie like Anil Dash cook up such a controversy over such an ad? This guy is no dumb for sure, so what exactly could have happened?

Just after the launch of this ad series, the CEO of Popchips seems to have said “As a social brand, we’ve had a lot of social engagement. Now, it’s time to take it to the next level with an ad campaign that would provide more reach. [via]” Clearly, like with every commercial, they were looking for more reach. Shortly thereafter, Anil Dash popped up with his allegation that had supportive voices from an Indian origian rap group. Let us look at what Mr. Dash said about the company and it’s people.

The people behind this ad are not racist. They just made a racist ad.” If that is not enough W-T-F-ness, there is more. Mr. Dash spoke to the CEO whom he calls “sincere and contrite”. He also made a generous gesture that the comapny doesn’t have to pull down the ad but give an explanation of how the process failed. But Mr. Dash who lets the company go scotfree doesn’t forgive the person who acted in it. He said Ashton Kutcher should “personally apologise”.

So what does this drama tell us? The company wanted to get people talking about them and it seems that some people like Anil Dash helped them ahieve the goal of getting enough publicity. That is how people down here in India also got to know about Popchips. Without spending a penny on advertisements outside the U.S., Popchips is now a known name. They can launch any time in India now. Thanks to the social media.

By the way, before alleging the foreigners of being racist, Indians should have a look at their own racist/regional/casteist attitude.

And even more, by the way, why is Ashton’s video is called racist and Shahrukh Khan’s is not?

Gandhi in “Chatroom”

A friend of mine drew attention to a 2010 British film “Chatroom” which seems to have depicted Gandhi in an insulting manner. By the way, I am not a hardcore Gandhi fan so you know that is not the reason I am posting this here. I would not have bothered if it was some creative criticism on Gandhi but this seems to be pure sleaze which is totally uncalled for (and let me add, I have not seen the film, but just the clip, and I also hear from those who have seen the film that this has nothing to do with the story line).

Will the real Dick-Shit please stand up?

Don’t take me wrong. I enjoy humour and I did laugh a bit when I first heard him saying “dick-shit” but then this real Dick-Shit fellow took the news time to ridicule an Indian chief minister in the most demeaning manner. The Ministry of External Affairs has registered the protest with New Zealand authorities against the show’s host Paul Henry.

Aussies, Bollywood, Racism etc

rajesh_khannaThese are scary times for the Indian students in Australia. The fear of being beaten up, or the vehicles being torched etc still prevails and its all in the name of race. The racist attacks against Indian students in Australia have sparked widespread protests in India and abroad. The most noted protest came from the old showman of the so-called Bollywood who refused to accept an award given to him by the Aussies. And the Bollywood joined in this protest against racism.

Yes, against racism. Now before I go further, wouldn’t you agree that Racism, Casteism and Prejudice are cousins? If yes, let us rewind the news a little bit. There we see the Bollywood star of the yesteryears, Rajesh Khanna, publicly mouthing against South Indians.

I had a hearty laugh when she said that when a person retires he or she gets lifetime achievement award. I disagree. Probably she doesn’t know the word (in) English, she’s probably from south (India).

So Mr. Khanna believes that the south Indians do not understand English. Now either I can go ahead and point out at more than a thousand examples of known or not-publicly-known individuals from South India, or ignore his ignorance. And I prefer the latter. What I cannot ignore however, is this kind of prejudice that prevails among us, the people of the same country. But the old Mr. Khanna can be excused since the south Indians themselves have such prejudices against each other.

Coming back to our protest against racism, we Indians seem to have easily forgotten our Desi version of it – Casteism. And as much as we like to deny it, some reminders keep popping up from time to time. Like this, for example. The 11 year old Dalit servant boy who was made to sit and eat under the table, while his masters enjoy their meals on the dining table. The image of a dog  comes to my mind, that sits under the table of his master. We even have a popular name for this set of people now – The slum dogs. And talking of slum dogs, this is about how you would treat the people who belongs to the lowest step of the caste and economical ladder.

Oh, and what was the occassion that Khanna ji made his remarks against South Indians? IIFA – The so-called International Indian Film Awards. about which I had written about in my blog on various occassions (Not in Our Name and Indian Awards, Given Abroad) and of which our old angry young man, who refused to accept the Aussie award in protest against racism, is a leading ambassador.