How #SouthAsian #Americans Are Building a New #AmericanDream

Some second-generation South Asians grew up in less fortunate circumstances than Bazaz and Kondabolu. They were raised by parents who slaved away in physically demanding blue-collar jobs that more often than not were low paying. Notably many Indians from the state of Gujarat bought and ran budget motels. South Asians without money or advanced education washed dishes, stocked shelves at grocery stories, and drove taxis, which is what Tanzina Ahmed’s father did. (Click here to read about how Indian Americans came to own half of U.S. motels.)

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When Ahmed came to New York City from Bangladesh in 1990 as a five-year-old, she barely spoke English. The language barrier made it difficult to make friends at school. Despite her struggles or perhaps because of them, Ahmed excelled in school. She got impressive results on the SAT, including a perfect score in the verbal section.

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Book Review: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry

Nominated for the Booker Prize. On Oprah’s Book Club.

As the Guardian put it, the book is “A masterpiece of illumination and grace. Like all great fiction, it transforms our understanding of life”.

After reading the 600+ pages of the book, one may say that this is an understatement. The essence of the book can be summarized in the words of one of the Yeats-spouting characters: “After all, our lives are but a sequence of accidents – a clanking chain of chance events. A string of choices, casual or deliberate, which add up to that one big calamity we call life”.

However, the story about four strangers, whose lives intersect in a very strange manner, is spell-binding. You can get completely engrossed in their day-to-day struggles, prodded along by a cast of supporting characters, who are as colorful as they are diverse. Even though each of the supporting characters could be spun off into their own story, Mistry brings them in and out of the lives of the main characters with ease, leaving you wondering about what in their lives caused this behavior.

Mistry gives enough attention to detail – describing the surroundings and the daily struggles so well that one wonders how much research was put into the book. Being a Parsi, Mistry’s detailed description of Dina’s life is understandable, but his description of the other two main characters is straight out of a Satyajit Ray movie -at times, it becomes hard to separate fact from fiction.

As Shakespeare says in King Lear, the wheel comes a full circle, in the end.

The human misery is described well, but maybe Mistry wrote this book in a dark frame of mind – there are brief flashes of kindness and gaiety – but most of the book, including its ending, will make you question your emotions.

Definitely not a book to be read on a Spring afternoon, surrounded by vibrant flowers and chirping birds – for that gives a new meaning to life…this is a book to be read when you feeling melancholy – and can empathize with the characters, being a part of their daily struggle for things we take for granted.

So get a glass of good vino, and prepare to dive in the lives of Dina, Ishvar, Maneck and Om – and be ready to shed a tear or two…

– Raj Bhandari

Post Aziz Ansari, 6 Tips for Safe Dating in 2018

A few of “Grace’s” comments reveal that she has been hurt (maybe in similar ways) by other men before. When I read “coercion,” I recalled a 23-year old woman (friend of a former roommate) who said: “I wasn’t really into it” and “I felt like I was coerced” after she got out of a short relationship with a slightly older teaching assistant in her law school. In my mind then, this was the type of strong, smart, and assertive woman that I didn’t think could be coerced into anything. But that’s how she felt, and others’ feelings should not be dismissed. I remembered how some of her fellow law students empathized, while others judged her for going out with a man in hopes of getting a better grade.

Modern Romance

Source: Post Aziz Ansari, 6 Tips for Safe Dating in 2018

“Every new child born is proof that God is not yet discouraged of men”

The attached article talks about Sean Penn being the keynote speaker at the AAPI convention. Pretty standard fare, except it was desi related – one, because of the 2000 Indian doctors and their families in attendance, and secondly, Penn acknowledging his inspiration for doing relief work in Haiti came from a quote by Tagore.

As you may know, Penn has been recently in news for spending millions and most of his time in Haiti camps – as CNN describes it, “Penn is hardly new to heroic endeavors. He’s flown to the eye of a hurricane, to the front lines of war. A few years back, he traveled to Iraq and Iran and wrote about both countries for the San Francisco Chronicle.

He was in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina — his right arm bears a tattoo that says: “NOLA, Deliver Me.” His presence in all those places and now in Haiti draws skepticism and ire from those who think that celebrities use tragedies to burnish their public images. Penn has been mocked and caricatured by filmmakers, writers and talk-show hosts for taking up causes.

But he brushes it all aside. Someone, he says, has to get it done…”

Sean penn So how did he get his inspiration from Tagore? As penn describes it, “There is a connection between my presence and all of you. I am not a religious person, but in 1989, I was working in Omaha, Nebraska, and everyday I would take the main road back and forth to the production offices of mine in a house that I rented by the University (of Nebraska). And there was an alleyway, and in that alleyway there was some graffiti and the graffiti said, ‘Every new child born is proof that God is not yet discouraged of men.’ That was the former poet laureate of India, Tagore, who’d written it (the original line).”

To laughter, Penn noted that it had taken “some time to track down, but it made a very strong impression on me because it’s a kind of fuel every time something like Haiti happens.”

http://movies.rediff.com/report/2010/jul/26/the-indian-who-inspired-sean-penn.htm

Interesting – at least it looks like he is using his celebrity power to do good…and spreading the message. 

…and my favorite Tagore quote: “Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf...

Silk Threads Fashion Extravaganza Benefiting the American Cancer Society

By Carlisa Dorsey on May 6, 2010 http://www.dfwtalkscancer.org/

The American Cancer Society was the charity of choice at Silk Threads, Inc.’s April 25 launch of their new collection. The exclusive, invitation only event was held at the Rosewood Crescent Hotel in Dallas. At the close of the fashion show, Society Regional Vice President Maria Clark was presented with a $2,000 check from Raj Bhandari, Silk Threads co-owner and long-time volunteer.
“Mr. Bhandari has served on our Dallas Executive Management Board for many years. He has been very influential in helping us elevate cancer awareness in our communities, raise funds, and cultivate collaborators who share in our vision to eliminate cancer,” said Clark. “We are thankful for Silk Threads’ support in our fight against cancer and honored to be a part of such an exciting event.”
The collection showcased traditional South Asian bridal wear, as well as more trendy tunics. Silk Threads, known for its vibrant use of colors and hand-made embroideries, is the design house of choice for more than 400 high-end boutiques and catalog houses in the U.S. The minority, woman-owned business has been a leading provider of designer mainstream and ethnic apparel for more than 18 years.
Bhandari is also is a member of the Society’s Corporate Hero Circle inaugural class, a program that offers Dallas professionals the opportunity to network with business and community leaders, while fundraising and educating others about the Society’s life-saving mission. To learn more about Corporate Hero Circle, visit corporateherodallas.org <http://www.corporateherodallas.org/&gt; .

By Carlisa Dorsey on May 6, 2010 http://www.dfwtalkscancer.org/The American Cancer Society was the charity of choice at Silk Threads, Inc.’s April 25 launch of their new collection. The exclusive, invitation only event was held at the Rosewood Crescent Hotel in Dallas. At the close of the fashion show, Society Regional Vice President Maria Clark was presented with a $2,000 check from Raj Bhandari, Silk Threads co-owner and long-time volunteer.”Mr. Bhandari has served on our Dallas Executive Management Board for many years. He has been very influential in helping us elevate cancer awareness in our communities, raise funds, and cultivate collaborators who share in our vision to eliminate cancer,” said Clark. “We are thankful for Silk Threads’ support in our fight against cancer and honored to be a part of such an exciting event.”The collection showcased traditional South Asian bridal wear, as well as more trendy tunics. Silk Threads, known for its vibrant use of colors and hand-made embroideries, is the design house of choice for more than 400 high-end boutiques and catalog houses in the U.S. The minority, woman-owned business has been a leading provider of designer mainstream and ethnic apparel for more than 18 years.Bhandari is also is a member of the Society’s Corporate Hero Circle inaugural class, a program that offers Dallas professionals the opportunity to network with business and community leaders, while fundraising and educating others about the Society’s life-saving mission. To learn more about Corporate Hero Circle, visit corporateherodallas.org <http://www.corporateherodallas.org/&gt; .

Book Review: Atlas of Unknowns, by Tania James

Book Review: Atlas of Unknowns, by Tania James

This is a debut book by Tania James, an Indian-American born and raised in Kentucky.

The book is set in the southern Indian state of Kerala, and follows the story of two sisters, Linno and Anju Vallara, and the cast of characters surrounding them. Linno has an childhood accident, and loses a hand – prompting her to become withdrawn in school, and ultimately dropping out. However, she is a brilliant artist, and eventually becomes an expert in creating invitations for rich clients abroad.

Anju, on the other hand, is very ambitious and determined – so much so that when she gets a chance to win a scholarship to New York City, she uses deception to win it. Her life in New York – first as a guest of the uber-rich socialite Sonia Solanki in Manhattan, and then as a refugee in Jackson Heights in Queens – is transformational, converting her from a shy, introverted student in a tony school, to a world-weary worker in an Indian salon, ordering McDonald’s in shorthand like a native.

On the periphery of their lives, we learn about their parents, Melvin and Gracie – their frustrations to being married in a loveless marriage, the introduction of Bird in their lives, and mysterious circumstances leading to Gracie’s apparent suicide.

The storyline is just a small part of what holds the reader’s attention, as it unfolds in two continents thousands of miles apart. The attention to detail, especially of small-town Kerala, and the simple description of the beauty, is riveting: “They bump along between paddy fields that, in stillness, reflect the sky’s blue with such clarity that grass seems to spring from liquid sky. At the water’s edge, a medley of palms bends low, each falling in love with its likeness, while webs of light spangle the dark undersides of the leaves…

James uses the technique of “flashback” or bringing in the past in snippets of memory in the middle of the story, which keeps the reader wanting more. The theme of love is the undercurrent in the novel – be it the bonds between the sisters, infatuation of Bird towards Gracie, or the lack of love between Melvin and Gracie. The second half of the book focuses on what the sisters do to re-connect – with their little victories, and crushing defeats – which keeps the reader cheering for the underdog.

If one could compare this debut novel to Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pulitzer-winner debut “Interpreter of Maladies”, there would be similarities in the treatment of characters, getting the reader involved with the character intimately, and the low-key endings – but the biggest difference would the prose. James throws in pithy sentences so nonchalantly that one has to re-read the section to fully appreciate the meaning: “When the man turns, Linno glimpses his face, sallow and sedate, like a zoo animal tired of shrieking against the bars of his cage…”

The other interesting note is that each of the characters has unfulfilled dreams and desires – from the main cast to the rich Mrs. Solanki, to Ghafoor, the salon owner – but the reader is given an open license to peruse these in the dark alleys of their mind. A very appropriate sonnet from the book sums it up:

But it’s when I sleep that time goes still

With the moon as witness at the windowsill.

So whatever I have kissed in dreams

I’ll keep at least in part.

– Raj Bhandari, Jan 19, 2009

The DFW Desi, Vol. 200

reflections from
self…

This is a landmark issue of
the newsletter – starting
with a small personal list in
2001, this labor of love
has come a long way eight
years later – thanks to all of
our 18,000+ active readers
for their support and
appreciation.
However, as we move
forward, we need to see
where we can use the latest
technology to bring you
what I think you want –
pertinent news, in a concise
format, when you want it…
So for this issue, we will do
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