• Pravasi Deus

    The chipmeister-turned-venture capitalist Vinod Dham once explained to me why he thought Indian immigrants were so successful in the west. Take public transport in Delhi or Bombay, he said. You are at a bus-stop and you know that at peak hour the DTC or BEST bus will arrive at a random time, crammed to the footboards, and pull up 50 meters behind or 50 meters after the designated stop.

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  • Bling it on!

    We stood there forever it seemed, oblivious to the heaving mob around us and the exhortations to move on, lost in the piece of history and allure before us. Perched innocently behind a glass case, it was such a dazzling beauty that treasures worth about $ 4 billion displayed around -- a collection of rubies, emeralds, pearls and common gold -- appeared tawdry. At long last, Deepak Kavadia, my partner in this diamond fixation, emitted a soulful sigh and declared, "That, my friend, is a D plus."

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  • The Axis of Praxis

    Laura and John, get ready to take on Ravi and Xiao Ping. On three consecutive days this past week, President Bush has invoked India and China as new economic competitors to the United States. Maybe one of these days he will add Russia to arrive at a new Axis; not an Axis of Evil but an Axis of Praxis, a Greek word that describes habitual practice of an art or science.

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  • Origin of Spices

    Absent a nuclear energy deal, it appears the upcoming Bush visit to India will lack masala, a catchall Indian term that also describes excitement and verve. But here’s some good news on the real masala front: Spices are hot in the United States today. Americans, whose food is said to consist of the good, the bland, and the ugly, are peppering their cuisine with more spices than ever before.

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  • The Great Indian Aam-Bush

    March 5, 2006

    So much has been cranked out in the media about the U.S-India nuclear deal during the Bush visit that the story about an agreement that allows the princely Indian mango to be exported to America has been squished in the process. Why just princely, the mango is actually regarded as the King of Fruits in India, although I have heard the royal honorific bestowed on the pineapple in South America and the durian in South East Asia.

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  • The Fission Thing

    If, like me, you are a little bemused by all this nuclear gobbledygook fizzing around, welcome to the club. Never before has so few acronyms defeated so many people, and as we decipher the alphabet-soup of NPT, FMCT, CTBT, FBTR, NSG etc, let us resolve never again to be unclear about matters nuclear, including different ways to pronounce this vogueword: the Bush-style "nucular," the American-mode "noo-clear," the Punjabi istyle "new-kilier," and the Malayalee zstyle "noog-lear."

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  • Jaunt Action

    Till some years back, journalists periodically wrote stories about MPs and bureaucrats peeling off abroad on some pretext or the other to escape hot Indian summers at tax payer expense. A typical jaunt involved the so-called “Bhasha Cumtee” of parliamentarians, which schlepped round the world using the cockamamie excuse of monitoring use of Hindi in Indian missions abroad.

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  • The Sum of All Parts

    Till some years back, journalists periodically wrote stories about MPs and bureaucrats peeling off abroad on some pretext or the other to escape hot Indian summers at tax payer expense. A typical jaunt involved the so-called “Bhasha Cumtee” of parliamentarians, which schlepped round the world using the cockamamie excuse of monitoring use of Hindi in Indian missions abroad.

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  • The ABCD Experience

    Till recently, the acronym ABCD, for American Born Confused Desi, had a slightly pejorative ring to it. It is used to describe mostly first generation U.S born children of Indian immigrants, who, the premise went, were conflicted between their American upbringing and Indian roots. In recent years, the expression is starting to lose resonance as the distance between India and the United States shrinks.

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  • Nearer Thee to Me

    Crossing the sea was seen in Hinduism as inviting defilement of the soul. Maybe that’s why we never produced a Marco Polo or Columbus and instead waited for explorers and invaders to come to us. Somewhere along the way, we either found a way to overcome the sullying effect of sea-crossing, or the lure of the H1-B (or equivalent) was just so great we didn’t care. All bets were off. We were on our way to becoming the greatest migrating force in history.

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  • Grudging Nurses, Nursing Grudges

    The switchboard operator at the Bartow Medical Center in Florida could barely conceal her delight at fielding a call from the Indian media for Mariamma George. ''We are so proud of her,'' she gushed without preamble, surmising that it must be an interview request for the prized Indian employee voted among the top five nurses in the state and putting me through to PR.

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  • China Bait

    A couple of years back, a money changer in Shanghai startled me by bursting into Raj Kapoor's Awaara Hoon on recognising my Indian ethnicity. My efforts to return this cultural overture by whistling a few bars of Erquan Spring Reflecting the Moon, a soul-stirring Chinese tune, made no impression on him because Chinese youth seem to care little for their fine artistic tradition. The legacy of the Cultural Revolution, which decimated the arts, hangs heavy.

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  • Dil se: In a manner of speaking…

    "Mad, bad, and dangerous to know," was Lady Caroline Lamb’s assessment of her lover Lord Byron. If a Reader’s Digest survey is to be believed, Mumbaikars -- or Bombayites -- are a rude, crude, ill-mannered brood. They don’t hold the door open for someone right behind them, they don’t help a passer-by pick-up a dropped newspaper or a pile of documents, and shopkeepers don’t thank customers after a retail experience.

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  • Yankee Comes Home

    One measure of widespread Indian immigration to the United States was provided by a Gujarati who boasted he could travel across America simply by looking up any local phone book for Patels. New bragging rights from another desi: He's got a cousin on every exit on the New Jersey Turnpike (there are 18). Built in the 1950s as part of Interstate 95 that links the well populated eastern seaboard cities, this arterial highway might soon remind you of a Bombay-Pune journey going by the number of desis you run into at its rest stops and the suburbia that lies alongside.

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  • Cowboys and Indians in Texas

    Ashok Mago winces when you ask how much money he has contributed to the American political system. No, he doesn’t fear the IRS taxman or peer envy. ''It’s something my wife should never hear about,'' he jokes. The Delhi-born, Dallas-based realtor is among the hundreds of Indian-Americans who have put their money where their mouth is in driving the U.S-India nuclear agreement to near fruition.

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  • Chutney Meri

    Learning some months back that the total value of Indian spice exports is a crummy $ 500 million annual despite the world developing more adventurous taste buds left me hot and bothered. A mere $500 million for condiments that sparked off great expeditions 500 years ago, resulting in colonization of large parts of the world?

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  • Kabhi Buss Mat Kehna

    Karan Johar’s reputation as the sultan of schmaltz spanning Sydney to San Francisco and every desi enclave in between is founded on a clutch of movies shot mostly for Non-Resident Indians and Resident Non-Indians. India that is Bharat of a dollar-a-day is marginal to his celluloid conquests.

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  • The Big Fright on the Big Flight

    It will be five years since 9/11 next Sunday. Flying has never been the same since. Stories abound of profiling in airports and on airlines. Most of them seem exaggerated -- notwithstanding incidents like last week’s snafu in Amsterdam involving 12 Indians -- and discount the burden on security officials tasked with ensuring our safety.

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  • Mal Appropriation

    So Mallus rule, do they? The chatter out of India is that Keralites are heavyweights of the season. Malayalees, it seems, hold several top administrative positions in India. To flog some mal-apropism from college days, that’s a pheno-menon extraordi-nair...

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  • Gift of the Cab

    It’s been about a hundred years since the taxicab came into service. Looking at the genus in Delhi (species Ambassador) and in Mumbai (species Fiat), they seem unchanged. Our generic taxis are worthy museum pieces. In vain did I recently beg a Mumbai cabbie to part with a door handle that unhinged from the relic as I exited, but he spurned my entreaties for the souvenir.

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  • Comedy Cubs

    A friend heading to India asked if there were any comedy clubs or stand-up acts he could ease into on a free evening. Not to my knowledge, I regretted; he could try therapeutic guffaws in the morning at a ‘laughing club,’ but when it came to late night chuckles, the scene in the ground zero of globalization was grim. We have writers in India who tickle the humerus, but none who can stand up and deliver.

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  • Wages of Languages

    A teenage nephew in Bangalore recently asked me which foreign language he should learn to augment his resume and his global employability. Like many young Indians, he knows a couple of Indian languages, so it was thoughtful of him to look beyond. We considered the world’s most widely spoken languages.

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  • Leaning towards pizza

    Some 15 years ago, when MTV and KFC -- and their likes -- first came to India, there was a furor about how we would be corrupted by western song and overrun by fast food. In time, we Bollywoodized MTV and spun off clones in our own languages -- for who has better song and dance than us? We copied McDonalds’ system of fast food and quick getaway to gin up local chains like Darshinis and Dosa Camps.

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  • Warming up a cold front

    Among the many putdowns of this vast and beautiful country, Al Capone once said ''I don’t even know what street Canada is on.'' When they said Canada, fluted Marilyn Monroe, I thought it was up in the mountains somewhere.

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  • School Scene

    Years ago, when Indian student inflow to the U.S was still modest compared to the flood now, I visited a school called New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Even in 1988, the lingua franca in the cafeteria during lunch hour was unmistakably Asian, some English interspersed with much Mandarin, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Korean etc,.

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  • You too. Happy New Year

    Recently, a few of us in Washington DC who write for papers in the sub-continent got a call inviting us for lunch at the State Department. Unlike our-baap sarkaar, Uncle Sam is tight-fisted in these matters. Free lunches are rare, and usually we hacks pick up the tab. So we trickled into the Harry S. Truman Building, as the State Department edifice is formally called, a little nonplussed about the sudden largesse.

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  • Travels along the Ind-US

    History is bunk, Henry Ford is famously quoted as saying in a remark condensed to gratify American penchant for brevity, at some risk to accuracy. But many Americans love history. Hitting the nostalgia button is a good way to engage erudite Americans.

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Indiaspora Articles 2003 - 2006



August 17, 2003
Power Equations

August 31, 2003
Engineering an Indian success

September 14, 2003
A 9/11 story: Jupiter outshines Mars

September 28, 2003
US media and India massage

October 12, 2003
ACBD Chronicles: Americans Captivated By Des

October 26, 2003
The Networking of Brand India

November 9, 2003
Politics, the last frontier for Indian-Americans

January 4, 2004
Where are all the Ph.D’s gone?

January 18, 2004
Aloo Kofta v Campbell Soup

February 1, 2004
Bollywood needs a new act

February 15, 2004
A Small Frown in America

February 29, 2004
Software and hard stones

March 14, 2004
Mona Darling’s Dinner Party

March 28, 2004
The Other IITs: India’s intellectual treasures

April 11, 2004
Touched by an Indian

April 25, 2004
The sword that Mallya bought

May 9, 2004
From Coolie to Cool Dude

May 23, 2004
From feel good to feel better

June 6, 2004
To Bee or not to Bee

June 20, 2004
Mississippi Myth and Masala

July 4, 2004
Of Madras Men and Boston Brahmins

July 18, 2004
In the land of Milk and Money

August 1, 2004
Security

August 15, 2004
Return of the Goras: The Americans are coming!

August 29, 2004
The Indian sparkle at Antwerp

September 12, 2004
Young India, Old USA

September 26, 2004
Outsourcing Sports

October 10, 2004
The Capitalist Yogi

October 24, 2004
Outsourcing Elections

November 7, 2004
Physicians, Heel Thyself

November 21, 2004
Sommelier, Soprano, Tailor, Chef

December 5, 2004
Yale fellow, well met

January 2, 2005
The (Lost) Generation Ex

February 6, 2005
Baglihar and the Bank: Pakistan’s Patelitis

February 20, 2005
H'wood tales: From Sabu to Ash

March 4, 2005
The Bete-NRIs

March 20, 2005
Heights of Aspiration

April 3, 2005
Pod Poojan

April 17, 2005
Left Brain, Right Brain

May 1, 2005
Spiritual Software

May 15, 2005
Reva Seva

May 29, 2005
Coming to America – post 9/11

June 12, 2005
AAPI aur hum: Doctors Without Borders

June 12, 2005
Travels of the Uberyogi

June 26, 2005
India, the proliferator

July 10, 2005
Patel Tales

July 24, 2005
Guests who came for The Dinner

August 7, 2005
Soft Power, Hard Look

August 21, 2005
Food for thought/ Currying Favors

September 4, 2005
Going for Gold

September 18, 2005
The New Jews

October 2, 2005
Yogi Bearer

October 16, 2005
Tour de Farce: Nanny Service

October 30, 2005
Paging Dr. India

November 13, 2005
Dhurrie Dreams

November 27, 2005
Rocking for Rajasthan

December 11, 2005
The College Economy

December 25, 2005
Pod Pooja

January 7, 2006
Pravasi Deus

January 22, 2006
Bling it On!

February 5, 2006
The Axis of Praxis

February 19, 2006
Origin of Spices

March 5, 2006
The Great Indian Aam-Bush

March 19, 2006
The Fission Thing

April 11, 2006
Juant Action

April 15, 2006
The Sum of All Parts

April 29, 2006
The ABCD Experience

May 14, 2006
Nearer Thee to Me

May 28, 2006
Grudging Nurses, Nursing Grudges

June 11, 2006
China Bait

June 25, 2006
Dil se: In a manner of speaking…

July 9, 2006
Yankee Come Home

July 23, 2006
Cowboys and Indians in Texas

August 6, 2006
Chutney Meri

August 20, 2006
Kabhi Buss Mat Kehna

September 3, 2006
The Big Fright on the Big Flight

September 24, 2006
Mal Appropriation

October, 2006
The Gift of the Cab

October 15, 2006
Comedy Cubs

October 29, 2006
Wages of Languages

November 12, 2006
Leaning Towards Pizza

November 26, 2006
Warming Up a Cold Front

December 10, 2006
School Scene

December 24, 2006
You Too. Happy New Year!

January 7, 2007
Travels Along the Ind-US