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.


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.

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


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.

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).

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.



Samundar by Babbu Maan has generated over 1.7 million views on Youtube!

Babbu Maan’s new music video on Youtube that has generated over 1.7 million views! 

Link to Babbu Maan’s new music video on Youtube that has generated over 1.7 million views!

“Music has a distinct place in my life. In this world of music, ghazals are something that touches my soul the most. The verses and subtle nuances open floodgates to the deepest emotions in me. There is nothing more beautiful than a ghazal composition” says the leading light of the Punjabi & Indian Music Fraternity, Babbu Maan who will mesmerize the audience with his silken voice in his forth coming light ghazal “Samundar ” to be released under the prestigious banner of Swag music.

“Samundar” seeks to transport listeners as it works its way to ecstatic peaks with driving rhythms, concise refrains and the spiraling improvisations at which Babbu Maan is unsurpassed. His voice has a raw, impassioned tone and an acrobatic agility. Whether he repeats a refrain with ever-increasing intensity, streaking through elaborate zigzagging lines, letting loose a percussive fusillade or sustaining a climactic note, he has made “Samundar” that united virtuosity and fervor.

Babbu Maan says “The song is a blend of melody, romance & depth. The music of the song assails your senses, calming the mind in one magnificent sweep of transcendental sound. Looking forward to the response from the audiences”

Babbu Maan is one of those singers & composers who require little analysis. Every aspect of his oeuvre has already been examined and written about. This quest for elegance in sound and avoiding excess in every aspect has also prompted this master musician to introduce new genres and songs to the audience. Driven compulsively to discover new sounds and meanings, he seems invincible. Babbu Maan competes only with himself, constantly resetting the rules of his own game.

Name of the song- Samundar; Released under the banner of Swag music; Music, Lyrics, Composition, Singer- Babbu Maan; Produced by- Munish Sharma; Video Director- Sukh Sanghera.


Sunny Leone’s commercials : Condoms and Ghee !

Canadian-born Indian-American actress and model, Sunny Leone who is currently active in Indian film industry is also making waves in the Indian Advertising industry.

Sunny Leone has worked hard to shed her image of a “former pornstar” but that reputation seems to be following her around. The “Navratri Themed” Condom Ad featuring Ms Leone faces opposition In Gujarat, Goa and elsewhere.

Now, there is news that Sunny Leone is planning to shoot a commercial for a much more uncontroversial product: Fresh Desi Ghee!


“It is neither the gym nor the latest diet programmes, it is ghee that has helped me maintain my physique” quipped Sunny Leone.

In order to promote Dholpur Fresh’s desi ghee, Balaji Creators has roped in Sunny Leone in their latest commercial.  Commenting on the campaign strategy , Puneet Sharma of Balaji Creators says

“Featuring Sunny Leone for the ad has been great since she is the face & inspiration to many Indian women and epitomizes hard work and perseverance – an apt quotient for the product. This is the first time we are working with Sunny Leone, infact this also the first time that she is promoting a food brand. The back drop of the ad is very different from other ghee ads. We aim to transport the audience to a different era which epitomizes quality & originality which Balaji Creators stands for”


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It’s so hot in India, you could fry an egg on the sidewalk!

So hot that you could fry an egg on a sidewalk

We have all probably heard the saying “It’s so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk!” Turns out you could do just that if you happen to be in Titlagarh, Odihsa in India  where tempratures have touched a scorching 45.5 degree Celsius, second only to 45.7.


The video has been retweeted over 500 times with many expressing disbelief.

Q&A from Library of Congress:

Is it possible to fry an egg on the sidewalk if it’s hot enough?

Answer:  Yes, theoretically. But it doesn’t actually get hot enough.  “This question comes from the saying “It’s so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk!” How many kids, hearing it, actually try? Most likely they end up with a mess resembling scrambled eggs more than one sunny-side up. So what’s the problem?”