And that’s exactly what a crowd of about 75 people did Monday
evening in an event put on by the
Asia Society in New York City, introducing Hamid’s new book.
The author of Moth Smoke and international bestseller The
Reluctant Fundamentalist joined fellow author Suketu Mehta for a conversation
on his writing style, identity in fiction and his part in the buzzing Pakistani
Getting Rich is Hamid’s “speedy third novel” in the works
for the last six years (in comparison to the seven years each spent on his
previous two). The novel carries on the second-person narrative Hamid used in
The Reluctant Fundamentalist, taking the reader on a journey across both age
and class – from young to old and from poor to rich, with themes of love,
family, and fatherhood along the way.
Calling the act of writing a collaborative process between
writer and reader, Hamid said the idea for framing the novel as a self-help
style book came the idea that while fiction is meant for the reader, authors at
times do it for themselves too, as a way of self-help.
“Clearly some need is being met by this [for the author], but
even as a reader, the transportation to another place and the ability to be in
the presence of someone else but completely by myself is a form of self-help,”
he said. “I felt it was the most honest way to tell this story.”
Hamid also carries on the lack of character names from The
Reluctant Fundamentalist with no name given to the place, the protagonist, or
other characters like his love interest, called “pretty girl” all throughout
Likening names to brands, Hamid said he wanted the novel to be
free from the connotations that come from certain names of cities or people.
the names became a way for me to see things for myself, and to show it is
possible to look for the universal in places that are thought of as
peripheral,” he said.
And while exciting thing seems to be happening in the
Pakistani literature circle – Hamid just returned from the fourth annual
Karachi Literature Festival – he sees it more as something exciting happening
among Pakistani readers.
“Young people growing up in Pakistan are looking for
alternative ways of thinking about things,” he said, noting music, fiction and
art as some vehicles. “They’re thinking about Pakistani society and what it
should be like, what they should be like.”
In addition to his book release, the film adaptation of The
Reluctant Fundamentalist is scheduled to come out in May, for which Hamid
co-wrote the script. The process taught him how different the book versus film
format is – a contrast he discusses in the novel as part of its plot.
But what he really appreciated about the film-making process
was seeing a team of 200 people work together to create art – notably, a
diverse group from India, Pakistan and England.
Because after all, the idea of self-help is really an oxymoron, as
Hamid points out in the beginning of his book.
“You read a self-help book so someone who isn’t yourself can help
you, that someone being the author. This is true of the whole self-help genre …
None of the foregoing means self-help books are useless. On the contrary, they
can be useful indeed. But it does mean that the idea of self in the land of
self-help is a slippery one. And slippery can be good.”
Watch the trailer for The Reluctant Fundamentalist!
Perhaps it is the Valentine’s Day gift that will mend the broken hearts of Sepia Mutiny fans around the country. The Aerogram,
a website created by three former ‘Mutineers’, launched on February 14
in hopes of re-energizing the South Asian American community.
really showed us that there was a need for a site like ours,” Pavani
said. Currently they have more than 400 Twitter followers, and more than
150 Facebook page ‘likes’.
really wanted people to familiarize themselves with our voice and the
topics that we were interested in before we rolled out the website.”
blog posts aren’t small potatoes either-- since the site’s launch The
Aerogram has written several widely-shared posts about various South
Asian topics. The writing is punchy and energetic, and shows a newfound
sense of what it means to cover the South Asian-American experience.
Monday’s blog post
about HBO ‘Girls’ star Lena Dunham’s visit to India and her sympathy
for all the stray dogs rather than the “poverty-stricken people,”
brought a lot of eyeballs to the website. And after a black and white
photo of rapper Kanye West posing with comedian Aziz Ansari and his
family surfaced around on the interwebs, The Aerogram posted a delightful breakdown of who’s who in the photograph.
We talked to the founders of The Aerogram shortly after the site launched, to learn about how they came up with this new blog, and their thoughts on blogging about South Asian Americans in a ‘post-Mutiny’ blogosphere.
Q: How did the site come together?
We were all writing together for Sepia Munity and we had all kept in
touch. In December I met up with Lakshmi at the Asian American Writers
Workshop and we talked about how much we missed writing for SM and how
we really wanted to carve out a space on the web.
I was really excited to hear from them, because I really missed
contributing to SM, especially when I came across interesting and South
Asian things from television and film.
Q: How did you all come up with the name ‘The Aerogram’?
Lakshmi: We were all trying to find something that we could
all identify with as South Asian Americans. Kishwer eventually came up with the name 'The Aerogram'. We all remember getting the blue aerogram envelope in the mail
from India and your relatives filling in every inch of space. So we
thought this is like that, in that you are getting all your news in one tiny space.
Kishwer: For me, I
remember we would send these letters back and forth from here to
Pakistan. And we all remembered those little blue envelopes--and we
thought that would translate really well with our audience.
I remember my entire family would all write on the one envelope and my
mom would let me write a line in the letter to my aunt. It’s funny
because I looked it up on Wikipedia and in late 2006 the postal service
got rid of the areogram letter/envelopes-- so now this is a little bit of a
nostalgic thing that everyone can relate to.
Q: Was there a hesitation to start a South Asian American site like this especially after the end of Sepia Mutiny?
My first thought was, ‘Yes, there are other South Asian focused
publications out there and there is a place for them, so why not us?’ A
lot of the sites that are out there right now are segmented. I’m
Indian-American, but I’m interested in other South Asian Americans in
the U.S. So we make it a point to be focused on the broader South Asian community.
Kishwer: I felt like there needs to be a website that really reflects
the diversity of the South Asian-American culture. What you see now--everything
is so boxed up-- you have India Ink, India Real Time. As a
Pakistani-American I didn’t feel like I fit into any of those boxes and I
felt like something was missing. In the last seven months alone, you've had a mass shooting at
a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Sunando Sen pushed off a subway platform in
New York City and the Philadelphia Mummers parade, where one group marched in 'Indianface.' While some of these incidents were hotly debated on Twitter and Facebook timelines, not all of the media coverage included a
South Asian perspective. Enter The Aerogram. A space to facilitate,
curate and archive these discussions.
Lakshmi: It's tricky because Sepia Mutiny had it's own distinct identity and we all came onto Sepia
Mutiny towards the tail of its time. So none of us were part of those bloggers on SM that people really identified with. So we all wanted to create our own identities in that respect. I mean the good thing is, is that
Sepia Mutiny taught me how to be a blogger. It was probably the biggest
audience I’ve ever written for as a blogger. So it got me attuned to the
issues that people really care about. In that way Sepia Mutiny
helped shape this site to some degree.
If you have a blog post idea for The Aerogram, send pitches to email@example.com
by Sanjana Chowhan (@Sanjanachowhan), Student at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism
Traditional Indian food never warranted a drink with it.
Who would imagine pairing anything
other than chai with a samosa? But as Indian chefs all over the world
are stripping the stereotypical 'hot and spicy' notion of the country's
cuisine, diners' palates have also evolved. A February blog post
in the New York Times' 'India Ink' section reveals that Indian
restaurants from Vancouver to New York are investing in wine pairings.
"Fruit-forward and slightly sweet picks, as well as moderately acidic
grapes like the white chenin blanc from France, are also good matches.
And since Indian cuisine is an amalgamation of different spices, a wine
with a blend of grapes can stand up to the myriad of flavors in the
dishes..." according to the blog post.
"Wine and Indian food aren’t a natural fit, because wine drinking has
historically never been a part of Indian culture, said Vikram Vij, who
owns Indian restaurants in Seattle and Vancouver, including Vij’s. 'If
you look at countries like Italy and France, the practice of enjoying
food and wine together has existed for centuries, which is not the case
with India,' he said. 'The drink of choice with the meal was always and
continues to be water because it’s the most neutralizing, or beer.'"
Sam Bhatia, principal and founder of Sufi Wines is
attempting to complement Indian chefs' endeavors, and
introduced a groundbreaking concept of launching wines specifically for Indian
traveled a lot when I worked with United Airlines and I was
constantly asked one thing, 'What wine goes best with Indian food?' And
always left me wondering," Bhatia said.
photo by Sanjana Chowhan
The love for wine and
fine Indian cuisine led Bhatia to launch Sufi Wines at Manhattan's Devi
Restaurant, last week. The
first trio presented at the 'Mirza Ghalib' event was a selection of red and white wines. "You must start with the white," insists Bhatia, it goes
well with appetizers he said.
The white wine rolls down
smoothly, the after taste throwing off just a tinge of smokiness before
it hits your belly. While the white was sweeter than usual, it hit the spot--complimenting the kebabs and vegetarian appetizers that were served and not detracting from their spice or flavor. The red wine went well with the succulent meat
"I am trying hard to break away
from the idea that Indian food is spicy and oily. Our food has robust
spices, and these wines accentuate the flavor and aroma, not take away
from it," said Bhatia.
Pultizer judging is exhausting work: from left, Peter Bhatia, editor of the Oregonian; Davan Maharaj editor of the LA Times; Raju Narisetti, managing editor of WSJ Digital Network, at Columbia Journalism School, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013.
It's the weekend of the Oscars, but the biggest event in the journalism world is the annual judging of the Pulitzer Prizes. A jury of dozens of top editors from around the US is spending the weekend at Columbia Journalism School picking finalists for the Pulitzers (those finalists are then sent to the Pulitzer Board for the final selections and announcement in April).
The three SAJAers above are among the jurors this year. But there are several other senior editors running news operations in the U.S. As you may recall, the SAJA Editors Challenge 2012 featured several of them - as you can see from the photo montage below. Don't forget to participate in the SAJA Broadcast Challenge 2013 - help SAJA raise money for scholarships!
The titles of these folks as of 2011:
Fareed Zakaria (@fareedzakaria), editor-at-large, Time and host, “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on CNN
Jai Singh (@jaijs), editor-in-chief, Yahoo News, Sports, Entertainment
On January 29, 2013, the Asian Heritage Network of the New York Times Company sponsored a talk with filmmaker Ang Lee, director and producer of the "Life of Pi," which has been nominated for a multitude of awards, including a number of Academy Awards, and already won some others. It is Lee's top-grossing film to date. Ang Lee has already won two Best Director Academy Awards: in 2006, for “Brokeback Mountain,” and the 2001 Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film for“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” The first photo here shows the silhouettes of Ang Lee (center), Mike Hale (l.), one of the paper's film/TV critics, and DavidMagee (right), screenwriter of "Life of Pi" (which was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay), onstage at The Times Center, watching a film clip from the visually-stunning "Life of Pi" starring Indian actor Suraj Sharma. The second image is of Lee responding to a question. PHOTOS BY @MIRIAMBERKLEY
This is a screen grab from the NFL Network, minutes before kickoff for the 2013 Super Bowl XLVIII. Reporter Aditi Kikhabwala updating the audience from the sidelines.
If you are having Super Bowl withdrawal like many of us, here are some ways to reconnect with one of the most memorable championship games - in any sport - that we have seen. Not just because of the dramatic blackout, but also because of the quality of play.
Here are some South Asian connections for this year's big game, starting with a chance for you to listen in to our fifth annual SAJA-SAMMA Super Bowl webcast, presented with BlogTalkRadio (we've crossed more than 2 million listens over the last five years):
SAJA, the South Asian Journalists Association, and SAMMA, South Asians in Media, Marketing and Entertainment Association, present their fifth annual BlogTalkRadio conversation about the biggest day in American sports - from a South Asian perspective.
Join us as hosts Vijay Setlur (@VijaySetlur), Raakhee Mirchandani (@raakstar) & Sree Sreenivasan (@sree) chat with three ESPN anchors Adnan Virk (@adnanESPN) and Zubin Mehenti; Amar Shah (@amarshahism), digital features editor of NFL.com (see the Super Bowl trailer he wrote and produced: http://on.nfl.com/11qSbWA) as well as with filmmaker Evan Rosenfeld (@evansss), who is directing "Birth of a Sport," about the Elite Football League of India, which is the first professional American football league in South Asia, with teams in five cities in India, two in Sri Lanka and one in Pakistan.
My 9.5-year-old son helped me produce the webcast, keeping track of who got to speak how often. He also wrote down the names of two possible South Asian stars on the U.S. sports horizon. Satnam Singh Bhamara is a 14-year-old who is taller than Yao Ming was at the same age; and Roshan Lobo is the best player in the EFLI, the American pro football league trying to establish itself on the subcontinent (he's been invited to tryout with some undrafted players here).
Meanwhile, more South Asians connected to the NFL...
Other South Asian NFL notes: SAJAer Aditi Kinkhabwala - @akinkhabwala - who joined us as a guest from the Dallas Super Bowl when she was with WSJ, is now a reporter for the NFL Network; Manish Mehta is the NY Jets beat reporter for NY Daily News; Fellow NFL employees include Manish Jha, SVP, Digital, NFL; Vishal Shah, VP, Digital Media, NFL; On the team side: Paraag Marathe is chief operating officer of the San Francisco 49ers and has played a pivotal role in the business side of the operations. This season, Shripal Shah rejoined the Washington Redskins as senior VP and chief strategy officer. And, of course, the new owner - and most famous moustache - on the Jacksonville Jaguars is Shahid Khan (see the glowing "60 Minutes" profile: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50134050n
In addition to all this, it was great to see Virk anchor the 10 pm ET ESPN SportsCenter, doing NBA highlights while he waited for the game to finish; Mehenti anchoring the 11 pm ET ESPNews; and Kevin Negandhi anchoring the 9 am ET SportsCenter (he was to join us again on the webcast, but was under the weather during our webcast, so couldn't make it). For some reason, he chose the ESPN audience over the SAJA audience!
A friend posted this comment on Facebook "Great broadcast Sree, Vijay, Rakhee and all the sportscasters and NFL folk involved.....Fascinating to hear about Evan's film on and discuss American football league in India and the South Asians involved in football....etc....Thank you SAJA and SAMMA for hosting...."
Below are photos of Virk and Mehenti in action, including a shot of Virk giving NBA highlights while I watched the Super Bowl picture-in-picture, plus one of Mehenti at the start of his show.
That's Zubin Mehenti in the middle
Here is Kevin Negandhi, prescient tweeter!
Some Super Bowl and other sports coverage by SAJAforum over the years:
A still from "Festival of Lights," starring Jimi Mistry and Ritu Singh Pande.
[This is a post by SRILA NAYAK (@srilanayak on Twitter), a Master's student at Columbia Journalism School is a freelance journalist interested in books, politics and government.]
Shundell Prasad’s "Festival of Lights" opened on November 9, 2012, in New York. The movie portrays the Guyanese Indian community in New York, which emigrated from its politically turbulent
homeland in the 1970s and 1980s.
Prasad’s maiden film, which she wrote and
directed, tells the story of a family broken up by political violence:
3-year-old Reshma (Melinda Shankar) leaves Guyana for New York with her mother
(Ritu Singh Pande). Her father, played by British-Indian actor, Jimi Mistry of "East is East" and "The Guru" fame, is denied a visa to the United States and Reshma and
her mother are forced to leave Guyana without him.
The film telescopes the complexities
of Indo-Caribbean-American identity through Reshma’s struggles as an
angst-ridden teenager in 1980s Queens, NY and her journey to Guyana in search
of her father and her lost cultural roots.
A graduate of New York University’s Tisch School
of Arts, Prasad has worked for HBO and CNN and she currently resides in Los
Angeles. Prasad, who moved to New York with her family as a six-year-old, made
her debut as a filmmaker with an autobiographical documentary, "Once More Removed" (2007), that chronicled
her own journey from her home in New York, via Guyana, to India, a country her
forefathers left a century earlier to work as indentured laborers in the
plantations of the new world. The film showed Prasad tracing her mother’s
lineage to Muzzafarpur district in Bihar through ship records in Guyana.
Shundell’s second documentary "Unholy
Matrimony" explored the issue of forced marriage of minor girls in Pakistan.
She answered some questions from SAJAforum about the her career and her latest film.
What did you learn about Indo-Guyanese identity in the
course of filming "Once More Removed"? To make an independent
film about one’s own background is gratifying. I had a fascination with my
Indian origins because it was such a mystery to me. In the process of making Once
More Removed, I learned that the Guyanese people and other people who got shipped
around the world to work in sugar plantations have an amazing lineage that we
are a part of. Our families lived in India for thousands of years and the
cultural heritage that is ingrained in us simply doesn’t fade away after being
outside the country for more than 100 years. There was an amazing sense of
completeness for me personally because I had grown up in the West, not having a
tremendous amount of Indian influence.
Was "Festival of Lights" also informed by your personal experiences
as an American with Indo-Guyanese roots?
by Sagar Atre (@sratre), Student at Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism
For the first time in its history, the SAJA awards gala and dinner was held in Washington, D.C. at what is popularly called the home of journalism in the United States, the National Press Club. The gala received a fantastic response from journalists, students and even many who support its mission and its sincere dedication to journalism and South Asia.
Prominent names from the media industry like CNN Chief Business Correspondent Ali Velshi, who was also the keynote speaker, Sree Sreenivasan, the newly-named Chief Digital Officer of the Columbia University, and noted NBC producer Subrata De, who was awarded the SAJA Leadership Award, were in attendance.
Anusha Shrivastava, SAJA President and a reporter for Dow Jones FX Trader/Wall Street Journal said, “We are happy to be in Washington for the first time in our history, and we love the response that D.C. gave us. Another very encouraging happening is the exponential rise in the amount of scholarships we gave away this year to upcoming journalists, from $1,200 in the year 1999, to $50,000 this year, I feel we’re getting better and better at what we aim to do; support high-quality journalism about South Asia and the rest of the world.”
Awards were presented to the winners by board members and various dignitaries from the journalism world. Scholarships to high school, undergraduate and graduate students of journalism were given away, along with awards for working journalists in categories like Outstanding Business Story on South Asia, Outstanding Enterprise Reporting on South Asia, Outstanding Arts, Culture or TravelStory on South Asia, Outstanding editorial/commentary on South Asia, Outstanding visual storytelling on South Asia, and the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding reporting on South Asia.
Subrata De, executive producer of MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports, was presented the SAJA leadership to a standing ovation. She was congratulated through a specially recorded message by her long-time colleague and celebrated NBC journalist Brian Williams, who said that working with a courageous, upright and impeccable journalist like Subrata was his honor. De, while receiving the award, expressed thanks to her parents and her humble beginnings in a town in Northern Canada, Thunder Bay. De said that her career is driven by an urge to do the best in whatever she did.
In his keynote address, Ali Velshi of CNN shared his journey as a journalist and offered analysis on the current economic situation in the country and the world. Velshi noted, “This financial crisis requires a great deal of thought now and not when we have the next debt ceiling crisis, which will be soon. But as we all know, it is a politically dangerous move, which makes it unfeasible right before an election.”
Velshi also commended SAJA for its support of journalists, saying, “I am heartened to see the strong and solid networking opportunities SAJA is providing to journalists of all ages; these scholarships and networking opportunities are crucial not only for young journalists, but also for seasoned journalists who must continuously reinvent and redefine their modes of story-telling in this digital age. I am glad the journalists of today have this opportunity, and I hope this organization and network grows and strengthens over time.”
At SAJA, we've watched South Asian journalists become a bigger part of the media landscape than we could have imagined when we got started 18+ years ago. Not only are reporters and anchors much more commonplace, they are also covering some of the biggest stories of our time - in all sorts of fields.
This morning, around 9 am ET, Americans tuned into two of the biggest sports channels - ESPN and ESPN2 - for coverage of breaking news about the Penn State scandal report by former FBI chief Freeh. And there were two South Asians on set helping explain the report.
On ESPN, Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN), co-anchor of the 9 am-noon edition of "SportsCenter" talked to football expert and Penn State alum Matt Millen. Over on ESPN2, Adnan Virk (@AdnanESPN) was guest-hosting "Mike & Mike" with Buster Olney and discussing the Free report, too.
Both Negandhi and Virk did a terrific job handling the live, breaking news in a calm, collected, helpful manner for viewers without letting their own reactions to the horrifying details of the report cloud their professionalism. Good work, gents.
You might recall that both have been fixtures (along with fellow SAJA ESPN anchors Zubin Mehenti and Anish Shroff - yes, four South Asian anchors ESPN) on the annual SAJA-SAMMA Super Bowl Sunday webcasts each February. You can listen to the 2012 version, featuring Negandhi, Virk and Mehenti at this link.
July 2007: That's a Preston Merchant photo of Bobby Ghosh, world journalist and snappy dresser (down to his red socks), posing in front of two of his many iconic Time covers.
Below is a memo from Rick Stengel, the top editor at Time magazine. He says three things about Bobby Ghosh (@GhoshWorld):
Ghosh to become editor-at-large, roving the country and globally writing stories.
Ghosh has a new book, "The New Middle East" coming out this spring.
Stengel calls him one of "Time's greatest assets" and cites several of the cover stories he wrote over the last year.
Congrats to Bobby, a great SAJA member and role model who always helps young journalists who seek him out for advice. He was one of our 11 editors in the SAJA Editors Challenge - check it out. And below the Stengel memo you'll find a video of Ghosh interviewing Pakistan's Imran Khan.
Over on his blog, Prem Panicker reminds us about one of Ghosh's most widely-read piece: "The piece he is best known for is this chilling sit-down with an Iraqi suicide bomber; here, he discusses with Bob Garfield of On the Media how that story came about, and what the experience was like [transcript here]."
[To reach Bobby Ghosh, e-mail saja(at)columbia.edu (subject line = pass onto Bobby Ghosh) or use the comments section below.] From: "Stengel, Richard - Time U.S. Date: March 8, 2012 10:07:34 AM EST To: +TI-TM-ALL_TIME_EDIT Subject:Staff Announcement
From: Rick Stengel
To: All TIME Edit Staff
I'm delighted to announce that Bobby Ghosh has been promoted to editor-at-large. Bobby is one of TIME's greatest assets and this past year was one of his best yet. He kept us on top of the Arab Spring with a series of cover stories, features, blog posts and tweets which helped our readers make sense of one of the world's most important stories. He's also done much-talked-about international covers on Turkey's Erdogan, Leo Messi, and The World After Gaddafi − all of which match up with his classics on life in Iraq. Bobby, of course, was our Baghdad bureau chief for five years, and this year as deputy international editor, he kickstarted the renewal of the international magazine. His summer journeys issue for international on the scholar Ibn Battuta is still being talked about. Bobby just completed the TIME book 'The New Middle East,' which is coming out this spring. Bobby will become a roving correspondent doing both international and domestic stories, and not only on foreign policy hot spots but his other loves, food and sports. Bobby's mixture of great and intrepid reporting, unique insight and powerful writing is a recipe for what makes TIME exceptional. Please join me in congratulating Bobby on his promotion and new assignment.
A 2011 video of Bobby Ghosh interviewing Imran Khan of Pakistan:
[To reach Bobby Ghosh, e-mail saja(at)columbia.edu (subject line = pass onto Bobby Ghosh) or use the comments section below.]
Nearly twelve years ago, an Indo-Canadian beautician Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu was found beaten and dead in a rural ditch outside of Ludhiana in Punjab, India, after secretly marrying a poor rickshaw driver.
When journalist Fabian Dawson, a previous recipient of SAJA’s Daniel Pearl Award, broke the story, he immediately suspected something amiss in Jaswinder’s death. Teaming up with Harbinder Singh Sewak, publisher of the South Asian Post, Asian Pacific Post and Filipino Post newspapers in Vancouver, Dawson’s suspicions led the duo to a decade long crusade around the world to find the truth about Jaswinder’s death.
After 10 trips to India, three documentaries, a made-for-TV movie, a website called justiceforjassi.com, and a book of the same name, the Supreme Court of British Columbia issued arrest warrants on January 6 against Jaswinder’s mother and maternal uncle, who are currently being held in custody pending an extradition hearing to India where they face charges of conspiracy to commit murder.
Jaswinder’s death brought to light the dark and harrowing world and culture of violence against women amongst some South Asians in North America. Dawson spoke to SAJA about the recent arrests, his own personal dedication to seeking out the truth, and what happens next in Jaswinder’s story.
In addition, click here to read the Vancouver Province column that Dawson wrote on the case.
How did you feel when you heard about the arrests of Jaswinder’s mother and uncle, and their pending extradition hearing to India?
I was relieved, but also surprised at the timing of the incident. It has been over 11 years. We had just released our book, “Justice for Jassi” three weeks earlier, and we were working with the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) when the police decided to execute the warrant. The big question is, why aren’t they charged in Canada? They have just been arrested at the request of Indian authorities to be extradited to face charges. So while there is some sense the wheels are justice are moving, it is moving very slowly.
After news broke of Jaswinder’s death in 2000, what was your first indication that there was more to her death than met the eye?
I went to her house to cover the murder story, another tragic story of a Canadian killed overseas. I had no idea what was behind this thing. But as I was talking to the Uncle at her house, he kept saying, “we are not involved, we didn’t do anything, we never killed her.” It was an unsolicited response. When I got back to my office, I started phoning India, and it wasn’t very long for the story to unravel, with the Indian police saying they suspected it was an honor killing orchestrated by the mother and uncle in Canada.
In reading about the investigative work you took on to find the truth about Jaswinder’s death, it sounded at times you became less of a journalist, and more of a personal crusader.
You don’t normally do this. In every journalist’s life, one or two stories tend to stick with you. Sometimes in journalism you can’t be a mirror for social change and reflect what is going on. You also have to be a vehicle for social change.
What was it about this story that led you to stick with it for more than a decade?
First was the innocence of the girl, but mostly it was because the story kept developing at every turn of the way. The story had a life of its own. After my original story, it kept being followed up around the world because others were fascinated by the sensational killing. It gave an insight into the culture clash in the South Asian community in North America. It’s a curious phenomenon, as in the people in India are far more modern and Westernized than some families that live here. Families live in cocoons and bubbles, and manifest the stuff against the children who have grown up in the Western world.
What did you learn about honor killings in the process of reporting this story?
I am a firm believer there is no honor in honor killings. Honor-based violence like the Jassi case are very extreme. I’m confident that more than 95% of honor-based violence goes undetected. It’s not honor, but it’s greed and money, wrapped around honor, especially in the South Asian community. It’s also an issue that happens in a variety of communities.
What’s next in the case?
We expect (the mother and Uncle) to apply for bail hearing and be released. If they face charges, that might take between 5-10 years. The story is not going to go away anytime soon.
When the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement began on Sept. 17, 2011, in New York City's Zuccotti Park, it was hard to imagine that the protest would spread across many cities in the U.S., let alone go global.
Here's a look at OWS in various South Asian countries.
OWS IN INDIA: 2011 was a year of anti-corruption and "people power" protests long before anyone had heard of Zuccoti Park. Therefore, the traction that OWS has received in India has been mixed.
Occupy Dalal Street was launched in October. Dalal Street of Mumbai is like the Wall Street of New York, but the "ODS" has failed to gain momentum. In October, Hindustan Times reported that ODS Facebook page had only 36 likes. As of today, the Facebook page has only 192 likes and it was last updated on Nov. 4. However, other, more individualized protests have arisen in other parts of the country.
The day after the awards ceremony, SAJA and CPJ hosted a conversation about the state of press freedom in Pakistan with Cheema and Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia director. You can listen to the conversation below.
We just got an email from the administrator of a new fellowship in the UK that's open to South Asians from everywhere:
I am writing from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, about a new writing fellowship we are currently accepting submissions for. The Charles Pick South Asian Fellowship is an award specifically for new and unpublished writers of South Asian descent, to allow them the time to work on their writing. I thought it may be something of real interest to your mailing lists and contacts, and any help you can give me in helping to publicise this would be greatly appreciated as, as we want to make sure as many writers as possible have a chance to apply for this. I have included below some copy about the fellowship and details on application, and wondered if it would be possible to post this in the ‘Fellowships’ section of the SAJA Forum on my behalf?
We love it when people read SAJAforum closely enough to know specific sections, so the answer is, clearly, yes (though we would have posted this anyway!).
The Charles Pick Fellowship is a six-month residential creative writing fellowship with an award of £10,000. The fellowship will begin October 1st 2012.
The Charles Pick South Asian Fellowship seeks to encouragement by giving support to the work of a new and, as yet, unpublished writer of fictional or non-fictional prose based in South Asia. The writer should be from South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Burma/Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan,Uzbekistan), but does not need to be domiciled there.
Application forms must be submitted with an original typescript of 2,500 words. All applicants must provide a reference from an editor, agent or accredited teacher of creative writing.
If you have visited Zuccotti Park recently, you may have seen a man in his thirties leading a meditation session of about 30 protesters.
A midst the chaos that is inherently part of Occupy Wall Street movement, that's Rasanath Das or Chelakara Ramanth (his given name), a former investment banker and an Ivy League graduate who now wakes up at 4:30 a.m. for daily prayer and occasionally goes to Zuccotti Park to lead meditation sessions.
ElectNext founders liken their website to a dating service. But instead of setting you up with a singleton with a penchant for wine and salsa dancing, you may end up with Barack Obama, Herman Cain or Mitt Romney.
Founded by Philadelphia-based Keya Dannenbaum, an MBA student at Wharton, and Paul Jungwirth, a software engineer and PhD candidate at UPenn, the website was created for the politically active citizen, and those interested in voting smart, to explore which candidate’s agenda matches their own ideals.
Earlier this month, the duo took the winning prize for startups at the O’Reilly Web 2.0 Expo, an annual showcase of web-based businesses held in New York.
Dannenbaum’s idea started as a graduate student at Princeton, where she she realized that what she was learning about politics in the classroom didn’t match up to what was going on in Washington.
“After learning all of this democratic theory, I felt there was a huge disconnect in what actually happens in the election process,” Dannenbaum said.
She left Princeton to get involved with the Hilary Clinton campaign in 2008, but it wasn’t until she started her MBA that she teamed up with Jungwirth to launch ElectNext, supported by the Wharton Venture Initiation program.
The process is relatively simple. Log in to the free site (you can use a Facebook account, too), choose what issues matter most to you, and answer a few questions about where you stand on those issues. The ElectNext algorithm delivers the candidates that align with you, and those who don’t.
Dannenbaum said users sometimes are shocked by the political candidate with whom they are matched. My own results – John Huntsman – were certainly surprising.
After receiving feedback from over 500 users, the team is planning to incorporate a forum where users can share their views and have a debate and share their thoughts.
“It really adds depth and nuance to the site,” Dannenbaum said.
The site is currently in its Beta stage, with a plan to launch in mid-November.
NOTE: On Friday, Oct. 14, SAJA & Columbia Journalism School hosted Imran Khan, Pakistani politician, cricket legend, Chancellor of the University of Bradford (UK) and author of a new book, "Pakistan: A Personal History," in conversation with Bobby Ghosh, World editor of Time. This is one of several SAJAforum reports on the event.
By Jasmeet Sidhu (@JasmeetSidhu), a student at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. Photograph by Ted Regencia (@tedregencia), also a student at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.
When Imran Khan, legendary cricketer and now politician in Pakistan, first entered the room for his talk sponsored by the South Asian Journalists Association at Columbia Journalism School Friday night, a crowd of eager and giddy men and women swarmed him, pulling out iPhones, Blackberries, and whatever else picture-taking devices they had on hand.
The adoration is a strange sight for those uninitiated to the cult of Khan, especially given the fact that he is a politician in a politically troubled land.
But Khan of course, is not just a politician. While observing normally serious journalists, lawyers, and activists turn into exhilarated fans, it is clear that Khan is a larger than life force, a strange mix of a sports star, political visionary, intellect and celebrity, the likes of which are unprecedented even in the Western world.
In New York City promoting his new book, "Pakistan: A Personal History," Khan spoke to the packed crowd on such heavy topics as the war on terror, corruption and tribalism in Pakistan, and the prospects of his political party in the next election in his country. He was interviewed on stage by Bobby Ghosh, World Editor of Time.
And while many present were eager to probe him on issues like the blasphemy law and Pakistan's relations with India, others were simply satisfied to see their childhood hero in the flesh.
"We're all very giddy," explained Ammara Afzaal, 21, a student at New York University. "We signed up immediately when we heard about the event."
"We both felt very unreal here," said an ecstatic Fatima Khan, 20, who grew up admiring Khan in her household.
This dichotomy continued throughout the evening: a sincere, and sometimes tense discussion about the future of Pakistan and its politics, intermixed with adulation from a crowd that pulsed with excitement, and snapped photos every few minutes.
The fandom reached an apex at the very end, when Khan, who barely finished his last sentence, was swarmed by a crush of admirers seeking an elusive photograph with him. The intensity of the crowd even caused Columbia professor Sree Sreenivasan, the host of the evening, to appeal to the crowd, "Please let him go down the center aisle (to exit). Please!"
Khan, surrounded by handlers that helped move him through the crowd, appeared unfazed at the reaction that he was getting, clearly used to his celebrity.
Though the night's event touched on several issues facing Pakistan, one has to wonder whether Khan's status as a legendary cricketer distracted from a more serious conversation about Pakistan's future that night.
As Omar Akhtar, a Masters student at the Columbia Journalism School, tweeted: "We lost a great opportunity to ask Imran Khan some tough questions."
NOTE: On Friday, Oct. 14, SAJA & the Columbia Journalism School hosted Imran Khan, Pakistani politician, cricket legend, Chancellor of the University of Bradford (UK) and author of a new book, "Pakistan: A Personal History," in conversation with TIME's Bobby Ghosh. This is one of several SAJAforum reports on the event.
By Hiten Samtani (@HitSamty), a student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Additional reporting by Suhrith Parthasarathy (@suhrith) and photographs by Purvi Thacker (@purvi21), both of Columbia J-School.
Cricket legend and Pakistani prime minister hopeful Imran Khan spoke about his party's vision for Pakistan, the country's need for rule of law, and the implications of the War on Terror to a standing room only crowd at the Columbia Journalism School on Friday evening. In conversation with Bobby Ghosh, World Editor of TIME, Khan showcased his trademark swagger and charisma, but sidestepped tough questions in what was a crowd-pleasing but ultimately unfulfilling talk.
Ghosh gave the audience a lesson on how to do a refreshing introduction of a public figure; he mentioned Khan’s book, “Pakistan: A Personal History,” and said he felt “a twinge of sadness” that he could no longer see Khan as simply the heroic sporting icon of his youth. Ghosh asked Khan about a statement in the book in which Khan says that he could always see an opponent in his grasp on the field, and that he had now begun to feel the same way about politics. “The opponents are on the mat and they won’t be able to get up,” said Khan, with a touch of arrogance and his familiar thrusting palm gesture. “The public wants change and they want PTI,” he said, referring to the upcoming elections and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party.
Khan said he wrote “Pakistan: A Personal History” for the youth of the country. “Never have I seen them so confused, about secularism, Islam, etc., ” he said. “There needs to be a direction.” Khan drew zealous applause from the crowd when he said that the one positive thing Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari had done is that “he had exposed all the political forces in the country, by buying them.” Khan hailed the vibrant independent media in Pakistan as vital to promoting Pakistani interests, rather than those of the politicians. When Ghosh asked him about the Arab Spring and why there was no parallel in Pakistan, Khan said that the 2007 “Lawyers’ Movement was the Pakistani version of the Arab Spring, but it was hijacked.”
The discussion moved on to the U.S.-led "War on Terror," a phenomenon that Khan said was the other reason he wrote the book. Khan--in a statement that will likely thrill Republicans--said “people don’t use guns just because they carry guns,” referring to the “million armed men from the tribal areas. You win the war when you win the people’s hearts and minds,” he said. “The Pakistani government should have asked the men from the tribal areas to isolate al-Qaida right in the beginning.” Instead, Khan said, “Musharraf made a blunder; under pressure from America, he sent the army into the tribal areas in 2004.” This was, Khan said, “an insane and immoral way to war, with artillery, F-16s, and helicopter gunships bombing villages. As a result, thousands have died, more than 3.5 million have been internally displaced, and the economy has lost $70 billion, compared to the $15 billion in foreign aid we received.” He also said that these were the reasons why “80 percent of Pakistanis perceive the U.S. as a bigger enemy than India.”
Khan took a stand against U.S. aid to Pakistan, saying, “if you do not respect yourself, no one will respect you.” He insisted that the Pakistani economy was “not poor, just mismanaged,” and drew a comparison to the election patterns in the country, stating that “35 million people were unregistered to vote, and 37 million votes out of the total 80 million cast were bogus.” He promised that his party would root out this type of corruption and establish a robust and independent justice system.
The talk was organized by the South Asian Journalists Association, and Khan’s cricketing and philanthropic appeal had drawn a large number of Indians. The conversation moved towards India-Pakistan relations. “Does India represent an existential threat?” Ghosh asked, and Khan said, “No. But it’s in the military genes, and hence the army has played a disproportionate role.” Khan said that relations between the two countries would remain fragile “unless we are confident that our intelligence agencies will not play a part in cross-border violence. One act like Mumbai will bring us back to square one.” When asked how India and Pakistan--countries that began in such similar circumstances--had taken such different trajectories, Khan said “Jawaharlal Nehru embedded democracy in India, while we (Pakistan) lost our only great leader (Mohammad Ali Jinnah).” Khan also referred to the East Pakistan crisis (which led to the eventual creation of Bangladesh in 1971) and cited these incidents as reasons why “our democracy never took off.” When asked by an audience member about Track II diplomacy and the difficulty of cross-border travel, Khan diverted the conversation to a more entertaining but less difficult answer about a cricket series in 2005.
Khan was then asked about whether he would repeal the blasphemy law, which erupted into controversy following the January 2011 assassination of Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab, who spoke out against abuse of the law. “I was the only politician to side with Taseer,” Khan said. He then went on to give a history of the blasphemy law, and condemned the death of rational dialogue in Pakistan. But he did not definitively answer the question of whether he would repeal the law.
When asked about politics, religion, and the rural people of Pakistan, Khan said that people in rural areas tend to be more politicized, because their “lives depend on it. But they were petrified that they’d be on the wrong side, and so they would go with the powerful criminals.”
In the most insightful exchange of the night, Khan said that rural people do not think about the secularism issue, and that it was a topic more often heard “at dinner parties in Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi." In response to an audience member’s question about extremism in the tribal areas, Khan said that collateral damage from this war is what created the Pakistani Taliban. “If someone killed my family, I could become a suicide bomber,” he declared. He assured the audience that a robust rule of law would be a core mandate of his party’s time in office, but did not offer any specific policies towards this goal, other than insisting that the War on Terror had to end.
There were the inevitable questions about cricket, notably about the spot-fixing scandal. Khan fielded these with aplomb, and obliged a few of the swarm of supporters eager for a handshake and a photo op. But while he showed an acute understanding of his people and his desired place in their history, tonight, even with Ghosh and others pressing him, there was little straight talk about Imran Khan’s strategies to fix Pakistan.
Thanks to the Intelligent Garbage Monitoring System implemented by the Indian city of Hyderabad, residents can now check online to see if their neighborhood trash bin has been emptied on time.
The audience applauded when Dr. Sameer Sharma, Municipal Commissioner of Hyderabad, spoke about the garbage monitoring system during a presentation at Columbia University on September 14. Sharma spoke at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) as part of the Global Mayors Forum program.
According to the SIPA’s website:
“SIPA’s Global Mayors Forum showcases the leaders of the world’s most dynamic cities and the School’s conviction that cities are the world’s most important laboratories for creative policymaking.”
Sharma outlined many of his projects that are intended to make Hyderabad India’s best-governed city. He shed light on Hyderabad’s history, the challenges faced by the city, and on development policies.
Hyderabad is the sixth largest city in India and is the state capital of Andhra Pradesh. The city is also known as “Cyberabad” for its ever-growing information technology center. “Hyderabad has become a world city,” Sharma said.
Arun Venugopal (@ArunNYC), reporter for WNYC Radio and former editor of SAJAForum, was interviewed yesterday about the Occupy Wall Street protests. In this video, you can see his updates of what's been going on, along with what the coverage has been like.
According to the New York Times, US officials have concluded, based on classified intelligence, that "senior officials of [Pakistan's] spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence," directed the killing of Asia Times Online investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad, who disappeared in Islamabad on May 29th, "in an effort to silence criticism" of the agency:
The intelligence, which several administration officials said they believed was reliable and conclusive, showed that the actions of the ISI, as it is known, were “barbaric and unacceptable,” one of the officials said. They would not disclose further details about the intelligence.
* * *
The disclosure of the intelligence was made in answer to questions about the possibility of its existence, and was reluctantly confirmed by the two officials. “There is a lot of high-level concern about the murder; no one is too busy not to look at this,” said one.
A third senior American official said there was enough other intelligence and indicators immediately after Mr. Shahzad’s death for the Americans to conclude that the ISI had ordered him killed.
“Every indication is that this was a deliberate, targeted killing that was most likely meant to send shock waves through Pakistan’s journalist community and civil society,” said the official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the information. [link]
The anger over Mr. Shahzad’s death followed unprecedented questioning in the media about the professionalism of the army and the ISI, a military-controlled spy agency, in the aftermath of the Bin Laden raid.
Since that initial volley of questioning, the ISI has mounted a steady counter-campaign. Senior ISI officials have called and visited journalists, warning them to douse their criticisms and rally around the theme of a united country, according to three journalists who declined to be named for fear of reprisals.
* * *
The efforts by the ISI to constrain the Pakistani news media have, to a degree, worked in recent days. The virulent criticism after Mr. Shahzad’s death has tempered a bit.
A Pakistani reporter, Waqar Kiani, who works for the British newspaper The Guardian, was beaten in the capital after Mr. Shahzad’s death with wooden batons and a rubber whip, by men who said: “You want to be a hero. We’ll make you a hero,” the newspaper reported. Mr. Kiani had just published an account of his abduction two years earlier at the hands of intelligence agents. [link]
This "counter-campaign" now may also have a legal component, in the form of a petition recently filed in the Supreme Court by a former government official seeking to ban certain journalists and media organizations from criticizing military and intelligence agencies:
The petitioner, Sardar Muhammad Ghazi, a former deputy attorney general for Pakistan, filed the petition under Article 184 (3) making the federation through Ministry of Information secretary, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), Geo TV anchors Najam Sethi and Hamid Mir, and Ijaz Haider, who wrote an open letter to ISI chief Lt General Shuja Pasha in the Express Tribune, as respondents.
* * *
"The pen pushers and anchor persons are spitting venom against the ISI and the armed forces," he said.
Ghazi contended that after the May 2 Abbottabad operation, which resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden by US forces, and the attack on PNS Mehran in Karachi, a well-organised campaign was launched in the world media targeting army and ISI
"The anchorpersons and the writer jointly and severally are trying to run down the army generals and as such their command stands eroded in the eyes of the force being commanded by them," he stated. [link]
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 39 journalists have been killed in Pakistan since 1992, with eight journalists killed in 2010 -- making Pakistan the year's deadliest country in the world for journalists -- and at least five journalists killed so far in 2011. Overall, Pakistan ranks 10th on the CPJ's Impunity Index, which is based on unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of the country’s population.