“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...

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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

Book Review: Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, made into a movie of the same name starring Roshan Seth and Naseeruddin Shah
This book was Mistry’s first novel, but reading through it, one does not get that impression, as the novel is amazingly powerful and gripping – with great attention to detail. Mistry develops the story around an ordinary man and his family – and uses his background to paint such a fine picture that the reader would find themselves knowing the characters intimately.
The story revolves around a Parsi named Gustad Noble, who lives with his family in a Parsi dominated building in Bombay. There are supporting characters, who go in and out of Gustad’s life, but the key is that there are several icons in the novel, including Gustad’s obsession with covering his windows with black paper, the lame Tehmul, the outside black wall of their building and the tree in the courtyard. Each of these is given enough attention that they stay sharp in the background while the story is unfolding. The idiosyncrasies of the residents of the building, as well as the description of the world beyond the black wall is gripping.
The climax of the novel is well put together, where all the surviving cast of characters congregate at the black wall, surrounded by destruction and death – and the symbolic cutting down of the tree.
Not a light-hearted novel, but it’ll be hard to put it down once you start.
Raj Bhandari

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, RajBhandari at gmail dot com

Sugar daddies

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vol. 197, April 16, 2009

reflections from self…

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I look for themes to cover in this newsletter, which get generated by something I read or is suggested by a reader.

This issue’s theme was spawned on reading an interesting article (attached) in the NY Times on “sugar daddies” and “sugar babies” (sic) – how would something so freely discussed in a national publication be viewed in the desi-American community? In addition, what is the latest on this topic, as well as sexuality, in South Asia? Is it still a taboo subject?

A little research showed that there is quite a bit of awareness both here and in India/Pakistan. As one article from India states, “when popular culture is still in the grips of the virgin/whore binary. Walking this thin line between of sexual decency and immodesty, women are pushing the envelope, blurring the lines of promiscuous behavior. It’s all too overwhelming, says Sarojini Sahoo, a feminist and Oriya writer. “If female sexuality is to be recognised by our patriarchal society, then the fundamental moral social values would obliterate…”

But in other parts of South Asia, as seen from the attached flogging article, the “patriarchal society” is desperately and violently trying to enforce their ideologies…but some signs of hope are emerging, like yesterday’s protest – “But the march continued anyway. About 300 Afghan women, facing an angry throng three times larger than their own, walked the streets of the capital on Wednesday to demand that Parliament repeal a new law that introduces a range of Taliban-like restrictions on women, and permits, among other things, marital rape…”

So read on and send me your thoughts, as well as what themes you would like to see in the future…

feedback/suggest articles

so what’s new?

Sugar Daddy.

But first, a quote which I found hilarious regarding the recent Somali pirate activities – Pirates? Really? Pirates? It’s two thousand flipping nine! Gas up a few Black Hawks and be done with it already…”

Coming to the main topic, what is the historical basis for a Sugar Daddy relationship? As the article details, Heterosexual relationships, including marriage, have long involved economic transactions, but Bailey points out that when men provided financial security, they traditionally did so in exchange for a woman’s sexual virtue (and potential to bear and rear children), not for sexual thrills. For that, they often turned to prostitutes and mistresses, involving a more frank money-for-sex exchange. It’s only in the last century that money has been traded — albeit indirectly — for sexual attention from “respectable” unmarried women…”

Very interesting and well-written article by Ruth Padawer.

And to gauge the trend in South Asia, we turn to Bollywood: Partakers of the phenomenon range from the veterans to the current reigners. Big Bachchan himself had no qualms in romancing Tabu in Cheeni Kum which incidentally depicted the story of a couple in love who had a whopping 30-year age difference… Without doing too much math, clearly the age difference is light years apart, making the Big B, not only king of Hindi cinema but the “Sugar Daddy King!”

And finally, there is hope for all the girls who thought they had lost all the eligible desi-American bachelors – the attached article shows that the sour US economy is playing the anti-cupid…

Till next time…

The DFW Desi


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in this issue

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White Rock Lake
April 18, 2009
N Buckner Blvd & E Northwest Hwy, Dallas, TX 752011

1. Ineligible Bachelors: Indian Men Living in U.S. Strike Out

2. Keeping Up With Being Kept

3. Video of girl’s flogging as Taliban hand out justice


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1. Ineligible Bachelors: Indian Men Living in U.S. Strike Out

By Shefali Anand, WSJ

Vikas Marwaha would normally be considered a good catch by Indian parents seeking a husband for their daughter. The 27-year-old software engineer earns $80,000 to $100,000 a year and comes from a family “of doctors and engineers,” according to his profile on a matrimonial Web site.

But Mr. Marwaha works for a start-up Internet phone company in San Francisco. And because the U.S. economy is wobbly, that’s a problem. Many Indian parents now are balking at sending their daughters to the U.S. to marry.

During a two-week wife-hunting trip to India in December, Mr. Marwaha interviewed 20 potential brides in 10 days. He says several parents asked him, “How has the recession impacted your job?” Mr. Marwaha says he assured them he hadn’t been affected at all, but still he returned to the U.S. brideless.

Click here for the complete article.


Silk Threads


2. Keeping Up With Being Kept

By RUTH PADAWER, NY Times

AT FIRST GLANCE, the Web site SeekingArrangement.com seems like any other dating site. Most of the men are looking for fit, sexy women, and most of the women want nice guys who can make them smile and laugh. But if eHarmony or Match.com is a chatty social mixer, Seeking Arrangement is a down-and-dirty marketplace where older moneyed men and cute young women engage in brutally frank transactions. They’re not searching for longtime soul mates; they want no-strings-attached “arrangements” that trade in society’s most valued currencies: wealth, youth and beauty. In the cheesy lexicon of the site, they are “sugar daddies” and “sugar babies.”

There’s the 18-year-old from France asking for $5,000 to $10,000 a month from “a mentor who can provide me with the finer things in life and keep me happy!” And the 49-year-old investor from upstate New York willing to pay $5,000 a month for a “daytime playmate” for “intense connection without commitment.” Critics say the site is at best a convenience store for adulterers and at worst a virtual brothel, but Brandon Wade, Seeking Arrangement’s 38-year-old founder and chief executive, is unperturbed by the criticism. “We stress relationships that are mutually beneficial,” he says. “We ask people to really think about what they want in a relationship and what they have to offer. That kind of upfront honesty is a good basis for any relationship.”

Please click here for the complete article.


3. Video of girl’s flogging as Taliban hand out justice

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Mobile phone movie shows that militant influence is spreading deeper into Pakistan

A video showing a teenage girl being flogged by Taliban fighters has emerged from the Swat Valley in Pakistan, offering a shocking glimpse of militant brutality in the once-peaceful district, and a sign of Taliban influence spreading deeper into the country.

The two-minute video, shot using a mobile phone, shows a burka-clad woman face down on the ground. Two men hold her arms and feet while a third, a black-turbaned fighter with a flowing beard, whips her repeatedly.

“Please stop it,” she begs, alternately whimpering or screaming in pain with each blow to the backside. “Either kill me or stop it now.”

A crowd of men stands by, watching silently. Off camera a voice issues instructions. “Hold her legs tightly,” he says as she squirms and yelps.

After 34 lashes the punishment stops and the wailing woman is led into a stone building, trailed by a Kalashnikov-carrying militant.

Reached by phone, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan claimed responsibility for the flogging. “She came out of her house with another guy who was not her husband, so we must punish her. There are boundaries you cannot cross,” he said. He defended the Taliban’s right to thrash women shoppers who were inappropriately dressed, saying it was permitted under Islamic law.

For the complete article, please click here


Featured Non-Profit

A new section in this newsletter, providing exposure to deserving South Asian Non-Profits. Suggestions welcome

Suggested on FB by Rick Koluri. NetIP Dallas also sponsors a child in India through Baal Dan (details on their Scotch-tasting fundraiser here).

Mission: To help street children, slum children, and orphans in India as directly and efficiently as possible, while investing in ways to provide these children with an education.

Founded by Tanya Pinto of Dallas – see the NBC 5 video coverage on their site.

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The great Indian Bling Connect

Forecast for 2009 is to go the Naomi Campbell, Heidi Klum and Christina

Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera

Aguilera way.

Fashionistas, take note. Indian accessories truly are the next big thing worldwide. And there’s sound reason for this forecast. Indian fashion never had a field day like it did last year. International celebrities including the likes of Pussy Cat Dolls, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Paris Hilton, Goldie Hawn, Elizabeth Hurley and Naomi Campbell made their most fashionable public appearances wearing Indian accessories. And Indian jewellery designers swear that this trend is here to continue in 2009.

Jewellery designer Rina Shah, who’s beaded flat sandals are a favourite with supermodel Naomi Campbell, says, “Last year, Indian designs made a deep impact internationally. As the trend picked up and more Hollywood celebrities began sporting an Indian bling factor, it put immense responsibility on us to come up with better designs. In 2009, Indian accessories such as blingy sandals will be more silhouette-oriented. Moving away from heavy zardosi and aari work, modern embellishments such as depiction of castles, horses etc will be in. The runway will flaunt models wearing pumps with pearls and Swarovski crystals encrusted on it.”

Supermodel Heidi Klum took her wedding vows with singer husband Seal in Benaras last year, dazzling the Ganga banks in chunky maangteeka, bangles and chabi ka challa, providing a high for Indian accessories in the international circuit. Neena and Shibani Aggarwal give a thumbs up to the maangteeka and the armlet. Says Shibani, “Elizabeth Hurley too stole the show on her wedding day by sporting a maangteeka. Armlets are going to be in this year.” Varuna D Jani is of the opinion that international celebrities often get drawn to designs which not just look different but which also come with good finish. “Bracelets which will make an instant style statement will be in,” she forecasts.

“This will be the year of cuffs and necklaces,” predicts Alpana Gujral who’s bold jewels are an eye-catcher. Hersh Kotecha who is all for faux leather and skin fabrics says the patent look will be in. “The payal or strap-up look till knee-high with gladiator sandals will be hot.”

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Potpourri/The_great_Indian_bling_connect/articleshow/4057090.cms