Is Sunny Leone – the unlikely role-model benefiting from #MeToo ?

The Me Too movement (#MeToo ) in India has grown out of the international social-media campaign against sexual harassment of  women in workplace. In the past few weeks, a slew of actors, ministers, government officials and other influential super-stars have been at the receiving end of accusations of sexual harassment.

The Indian #MeToo movement has brought the topic of sex into the foreground. And it is perhaps a sign of our times that modern India has accepted an icon of sex, the former porn-star as a Bollywood icon. Karenjit Kaur Vohra, the Canadian-born Indian-American actress and model better known by her stage name Sunny Leone is active in Indian film industry.

Sunny has played roles in independent mainstream events, films and television shows. Her first mainstream appearance was in 2005, when she worked as a red carpet reporter for the MTV Video Music Awards on MTV India. In 2011, she participated in the Indian reality television series Bigg Boss. She also has hosted the Indian reality show Splitsvilla.

4.-Sunny-Leone-2[1]

Ms Leone’s transformation from porn-star to mainstream Bollywood has not been universally accepted in India, where modern continues to co-exist with traditional and parochial value systems.  News accounts last week described possible threats to a recent concert in the tech-city of Bengaluru where Ms Leone was staring. According to Times of India

“The pro-Kannada outfit had threatened to disrupt the event. Around 200 policemen in civil dress were deployed at the venue. The KRVYS, an offshoot of pro-Kannada organisation Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, has been opposing the event for two reasons: first, the event would spoil the culture of Bengaluru and second, Sunny Leone was playing the lead role in a multi-lingual movie Veera Mahadevi, a period drama portraying a warrior.”

Even with a few threats and protests, her concerts and public appearances seem to have a strong fan following. After a recent appearance in Bengaluru, media accounts quoted several women techies

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Chitra P, a business analyst with a leading MNC, was quoted saying: “Sunny is fabulous. She is a powerful women’s voice we have today.”

Preethi, a content writer and a fan of Sunny’s dance skills said: “The protests were uncalled for and it was not in the right taste. People must get past her previous career and see her as an artiste.”

Her fan following has also led to several endorsement deals for products ranging from condoms to Desi Ghee (link). It is a sign of our times that a generation of Indians have embraced Ms Leone’s unlikely transformation into Bollywood.

Advertisements

Navaratri and Durga Puja

This weekend culminates the nine-day festival of Navaratri, Dasara and Durga Puja, celebrated by Indians around the world.

Vijayadashami also known as Dasahara, Dusshera, Dasara, Dussehra or Dashain is a major Hindu festival celebrated at the end of Navratri every year. It is observed on the tenth day in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin, the seventh month of the Hindu Luni-Solar Calendar, which typically falls in the Gregorian months of September and October. While the basis of the festival is similar – the worship of Godess Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, the mode of celebration varies across communities.

  • Gujaratis – Gujaratis are known for their large dance parties known as ‘garbas’. Many grounds in the city play host to these garba celebrations. “We wear a traditional garment called the ‘chaniya choli,’ which is similar to a ‘lehenga’ but made with cotton fabric.” Performances include songs in praise of goddess Durga. The highlight of their festival is the dancing and singing.
Image result for navratri in america
Students at an American university campus celebrating Garba
  • Marwaris – The Marwaris celebrate the festival of Navratri by worshipping goddess Shakti. The nine different forms of the goddess are worshipped on the rest nine days. “On the ninth day, there is a ceremony known as ‘Kanya Pujan’ where girl children are given traditional delicacies as a sign of respect to the goddess,” says Ekta Poddar, a student. Another ceremony called ‘havan’ is performed to mark the power and grace of Durga. The tenth day is ‘Vijayadasami’, the victory of good over evil, where idols of Ravan are burnt.
Image result for ram lila burning
Ram-Lila in Delhi
  • Tamilians – The Tamil community focuses on the ‘golu’ arrangement, or the doll display, during this time.The dolls are arranged on an odd number of steps and depict scenes from the Ramayana or even daily life. People are invited to the houses to view the dolls. The celebrations include singing and dancing.
GoluBombe
Golu, Bombe habba
  • Kannadigas – In Karnataka, Dasara or Vijayadashami is celebrated to commemorate the defeat of Ravana and Durga’s triumph over the demon ‘Mahishasur’. “We also have the practice of doll arrangement, called ‘Bombe habba’. We pay obeisance to goddess Saraswati and do ‘Ayudha Puja’ where we worship machines and other things that make our lives easier,” says Kavya, a resident on KR Puram.
  • Telugus – The community celebrates the Gombe Habba, the practice of setting up doll displays and distributes sweets to visitors. ‘Ayudha Puja’ and worship of the goddess Chamundeshwari on Dashami is also a part of their celebrations.
  • Bengalis – The Bengalis celebrate the festival for five days. On the sixth day, they conduct a ‘visarjan,’ the immersing of goddess Durga in water. The five days are celebrated with multiple pujas in the morning, followed by a community ‘bhog’ (lunch). Cultural programs are organised in the evenings.
  • Assamese – The Assamese people celebrate the festival of Durga Puja as a community. They set up statues of goddess Durga in large grounds, which also have food and gift stalls. Shivankar, a member of the Assam Association says, “On the last four days of the festival, we feast on homemade preparations. The maize crop that we grow is offered to the goddess.”

Bappi Lahiri Honored by The World BOOK OF RECORDS, UK, as the Originator of Disco beat in Indian cinema, ‘JIMMY JIMMY’ is World’s most popular song

After winning four Lifetime Achievement Awards this month, veteran singer-composer Bappi Lahiri has now been honoured by The World Book of Records, UK as Originator of Disco Beat in Indian Cinema, Jimmy Jimmy is World’s Most Popular song.
Image result for bappi lahiri
Bappi Lahiri – Wikipedia

The World Book of Records – London,  one of the mammoth organisations that catalogues and verifies a huge number of world records across the world with authentic certification, has acknowledged the contribution of Bappi Lahiri to global music with his immortal song ‘Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja’, which is an anthem in Russia and has been translated in Russian and Chinese, has been part of the original score of Adam Sandler’s Don’t Mess With The Zohan and Top of The Chart number, rendered by Mia. Besides the above, ‘Jimmy Jimmy Aaja Aaja’ is also sung by various singers the world over. Such is its popularity. 

 
Bappi Lahiri is also acknowledged by the global organisation for being the Originator of Disco Beat in Indian Cinema. World Book of Records – London is a paramount international organisation inspiring people to showcase their talent. Under the gracious patronage of Virendra Sharma (Member of Parliament, England) , Dr. Diwakar Sukul (London – England), Karin Heschl (Vienna – Austria), Dr. Ulrich Berk (Wurttemberg – Germany), M. Vasconcelos da Silva (Sao Paulo – Brazil), Abel J Hernandez  (Bogota – Colombia), Anil Audit (Port Louis – Mauritius) and  Santosh Shukla, Supreme Court , Advocate (India) , it encourages people to break or set new records at national or international level. 

Says Santosh Shukla, President – World Book of Records,  “We all are born with a specific purpose to contribute something exclusive to the world through our exclusivity, through our hidden and extreme potential. It is a platform for all humans in this world to showcase their unique and remarkable talent and inspire the world to go one step further and progress from strength to strength.”
 
Adds Bappi Lahiri,  “It has been one long journey with innumerable accolades over nearly five decades and over 600 films. But there is something special about ‘Jimmy Jimmy’. It always has followers in every part of the globe. Such adulation brings tears to my eyes. It is the love of my fans that keeps me going.”
About Mr. Lahiri: Bappi Lahiri Bappi Lahiri 2016.jpg Lahiri in 2017 Background information Birth name Alokesh Lahiri Born Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, India Origin Kolkata, India Occupation(s) Music composer, music director, actor and record producer Instruments Tabla, piano, drums, guitar, saxophone, bongos, dholak, singing Years active 1972–present Labels BL Sound, Saregama, Venus Records & Tapes, T-Series, Tips Industries, Universal Music Group, Abbey Road Studios, Planet LA Records Website bappilahiri.com Alokesh “Bappi” Lahiri is an Indian music composer, music director, singer, actor and record producer. He popularized the use of synthesized disco music in Indian cinema and sang some of his own compositions. He was popular in the 1980s and 1990s with filmi soundtracks such as Wardat, Disco Dancer, Namak Halaal, Dance Dance, Commando, Gang Leader, Sailaab and Sharaabi.  (Wikipedia).

I want to explain arranged marriage to white people

A recent article in BBC.com features Pakistani designer Nashra Balagamwala and her views on arranged marriage.

When Pakistani designer Nashra Balagamwala produced a board game about arranged marriage, most news reports about her wrongly assumed she was dead against it. Actually her position is far more nuanced. And one goal is to explain to people in the UK and elsewhere how it works.

Balagamwala’s kickstarter campaign generated a lot of buzz and raised thousands of dollars more than what she was seeking.

Balagamwala was at the Rhode Island School of Design in the US when she came up with the idea.

“I was about to head home to Pakistan at the end of the year, and I had some proposals waiting for me, so I started stalking the Facebook accounts of those guys to find something about them that my parents wouldn’t approve of, so I could get out of meeting them. And then I thought to myself, ‘Why not get rid of the problem once and for all?’ So I created a list of every ridiculous thing I’ve done to get out of an arranged marriage and turned it into this light-hearted board game.”

 

She tested her game out on her friends, a mixture of South Asians and white Americans.
An American male friend was in fits of laughter while playing. He admitted to Balagamwala that he’d been worried the game would trivialise the subject, but said that he now had a better understanding of it.

art-nashra[1]

Link to an article in scroll.in

Book Review: Bollywood Kitchen

Bollywood and Indian food are perennial topics of conversation among desis in pardes. The Indian diaspora in the North America, Europe especially in the US and UK has done a great job of ‘importing’ wholesome doses of both.

Indian entrepreneurs regularly take over movie theaters across US and Canadian cities to screen latest bollywood hits. This continues to be popular despite the pervasiveness of Youtube, digital streaming and to some extent torrents and (illegal) movie file sharing. Watching a movie on the big screen and enjoying a nice dinner at a local Indian restaurant is a common pastime.

SreeRao
Extract from the book

A recent program ‘Getting to know Bollywood, one meal at a time’ in the popular NPR program, Marketplace, features the new book “Bollywood Kitchen: Home-Cooked Indian Meals Paired with Unforgettable Bollywood Films.” In the interesting interview, the host Kai Ryssdal interviews the author Sri Rao.  The Indian-American author talks about working between two film industries, being part of the first generation of American-born Indian-Americans and what his mom said when he told her he was writing a cookbook.

Rao describes his background and the reason for bringing Bollywood and Food together in the book

Yeah, so I’m from a small town in central Pennsylvania, and I was one of very few nonwhite kids in my community growing up. Every day after dinner, my parents would pop a tape into VCR and we would watch these fantastic Bollywood movies, and that’s how I learned the language. That’s how I learned about the music and the culture and so many of the traditions of where my parents came from.

The Indian food in America is now its own thing. And as people like me are starting to come of age now — you know, I’m one of the oldest American-born Indians in the country. Immigration from India was only legalized in 1965. At that time in 1965 when immigration was opened up from India, there were only 10,000 Indians in the entire country, my dad being one of them. And now there are over 4 million I believe, something like that. And so you’re starting to see us as a group come up and sort of find our voice in various fields. So people like, you know, Mindy Kaling and Aziz Ansari in entertainment or Kamala Harris and Nikki Haley in politics. And then in the world of food, this is one of the first or one of a few cookbooks that have been written by someone born in America who is of Indian descent.

Check out the book, Bollywood Kitchen: Home-Cooked Indian Meals Paired with Unforgettable Bollywood Films, on Amazon:

 

Image from the book

 

 

The reviews thus far have been quite flattering

publishersweekly.com

Readers expecting wildly complex preparations and nothing but showy musicals will be pleasantly surprised on both fronts, as Rao offers a refreshingly diverse set of movies as well as recipes that are easily sourced without sacrificing flavor or requiring too much time to prepare.

Houston Chronicle

In “Bollywood Kitchen,” Rao gives new meaning to “dinner and a movie” by creating menus inspired by classic Indian films. Example: Keema (ground beef curry), rajma (kidney bean stew) and naan crisps that are evocative of the lavish melodrama “Devdas.” Masala-crusted salmon, rice and lentils, grilled asparagus and mustard seeds, and mint/cilantro chutney drawn from the Oscar-nominated “Lagaan.” Pan-seared cod with curry leaves and lemon rice with lentils, peanuts and chile for “Guru,” the rags-to-riches story of a self-made billionaire and the woman he loves.

Our editor, Mohan, posts on Amazon Just what a desi mom ordered! 

Sri’s new book touches on the heart of two things that keep desis in pardes going: Bollywood and desi food. For those like me of Indian origin, who grew up on a steady diet of desi movies and food, the book is a walk down the memory lane.

The illustrated book has brief movie reviews and recipes interspersed with glossy photographs from bollywood movies. If you are looking for an Informative and entertaining primer on Bollywood and some Indian-American recipes, this is the book for you.

Move over Medical Tourism, #BegTourismIndia is the next wave !

A couple of days ago, news of a Russian tourist found begging outside the famous South Indian shrine of Kancheepuram went viral.

The backpacker from Russia, Evangelin apparently arrived in India recently. On September 24 he travelled from Chennai to Kancheepuram. After visiting a few temples in the town, he went to an ATM kiosk but was unable to draw money as his debit card’s PIN had got locked. After he was unable to withdraw money from the ATM, he got desperate. On seeing some beggars sitting outside the Sri Kumarakottam Temple, he joined them and started seeking alms using his cap.

Videos and pictures of Evangelin ‘begging’ went viral and media and digirati went wild over the story. The local police in Kanchipuram stepped in, and after verifying his documents, offered him some money to enable him to go to the Russian consulate in Chennai for assistance. This saga also prompted Indian External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to tweet

The story does not end here. This week, the Russian tourist was seen begging in the busy T Nagar area in Chennai since Saturday. He was reportedly charging excited Diwali shoppers Rupees 100 (about $2) for selfies with him. Evangelin reportedly told the media that he had tasted ‘good money’ through begging and could use this to finance his travels in India.

TheHinduTourist
image: The Hindu

 

Russian consulate in Chennai had earlier reported that Evangelin had not contacted them and that they will assist him in when he contacts them. The Mambalam police in Chennai detained him after he continued begging in the city.  On being questioned, he told the police that he sought alms as per Lord Shiva’s wish and was quoted saying “I am a devotee of the Lord Shiva. I wish to travel across the country.”

Officials seem to be helplessly watching this saga unfold. The police was quoted saying “He holds valid travel documents and visa papers, and cannot be deported immediately.”

Indian entrepreneurs are exploring a variety of tourist ventures including Medical Tourism. The Evangelin saga  has interesting implications for #BegTourismIndia :

  • Enterprising startups may spring up offering #BegTourismIndia for backpackers
  • Tech savvy tourist-beggars may take to social media by creating facebook and whatsup group, sharing tips on begging, and about tourist hotspots
  • Some may offer Caucasian backpakers ‘coaching classes’ in the subtle art of begging at temple steps

Grand, Green Diwali around the world this year !

Diwali or Deepavali is the Hindu festival of lights celebrated every year in autumn in the northern hemisphere. It is an official holiday in Fiji, Guyana, India, Malaysia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and recently Sindh Province in Pakistan.

In the years past, American President Obama made a point of wishing Indians and the Indian-American community for Diwali (link). Last year, ‘candidate’ Donald Trump’s Daughter, Ivanka celebrated Diwali at a Hindu Temple (link). The Trump administration looks set for ‘grand’ Diwali celebrations (link).

TrumpDiwaliHindu
Image from The Hindu

 

The grand Indian festival of Diwali is traditionally associated with noise and din of firecrackers, sometimes in excesses.  As we approach Diwali this year – scheduled to fall on Thursday, October 19 – there is a lot of hype over ‘Green Diwali’

The Rangoli of Lights.jpg
Image: Wikipedia

The Indian Supreme Court set the ball rolling by banning fireworks in Delhi ahead of the festival this year. “Let’s try at least one Diwali without firecrackers,” said one judge as the court announced the order Monday. According to BBC

“The court said it wanted to test if banning fireworks would make a difference to Delhi’s air quality, ranked among the worst in the world. The ban on the sale and distribution of firecrackers will last until 1 November. Diwali falls on 18 October.”

Even school students are jumping onto ‘Green Diwali:’ The students of Sant Isher Singh Public School on Monday took out a rally. Principal Inderjeet Kaur Sandhu flagged the rally which commenced from the premises of the school. (TOI).

Supreme court’s directive is not without controversy as a Voice of America article describes

The order has raised a firestorm in the city of about 18 million as it gears up for Diwali on October 19. Complaining that the order strikes at the heart of a quintessential Hindu tradition, critics compared it to banning Christmas trees on Christmas. Jubilant supporters pointed out that the top priority is the health of citizens in a city where the air turns toxic at this time of the year because of slower winds and colder temperatures that trap more pollution.

 


Check out GaramChai.com ‘s feature on  Diwali in North American and around the globe.