Dr. Devi Nampiaparampil, 37, is more than just a doctor.
She is an assistant professor at NYU School of Medicine, a researcher, journalist and an actress. She’s paved her own path in the medical field, all while impacting medical research and inspiring others to open their own doors.
As the South Asian Journalists Association celebrates its 20th anniversary on Saturday October 11th in New York, Nampiaparampil will take part as one of the many panelists attending the convention.
During the convention, Nampiaparampil will share tips on breaking into the industry. She followed a unique path that led her to journalism, documenting and sharing her knowledge of medicine, more specifically in severe chronic pain.
“Normally, in medicine there’s a path. After med school, you do an internship, residency and fellowship," Nampiaparampil said. “I am creating my own path as I go along."
She has appeared on more than 100 medical segments on news channels including CNN, CBS and Fox News, to name a few.
Whether it’s discussing frostbite prevention, the rise of diabetes, measles and mumps outbreaks, the Norovirus, Obamacare or football injuries, Nampiaparampil proves to be an on-air medical expert.
When it comes to delivering the news on air, Nampiaparampil said she has an hour or two to find it, read it, get ready and explain it.
As a teenager, Nampiaparampil suffered from a viral infection that led her to question her career path. Though the infection lasted a month, Nampiaparampil said the infection's severity meant it took a long time for her lung, heart and bone marrow to heal.
“It wasn’t a regular illness. When I got sick, it was sort of crazy," Nampiaparampil said. "I was out of school for almost eight months. [Doctors] weren’t sure if I’d ever go back to school at all.”
Nampiaparampil said the experience made her reevaluate her life's purpose, and it led her to want to help people become knowledgeable about pain management. “It made me wonder why am I still here. With that, I thought about maybe [doing] something for people that are sick," Nampiaparampil said.
After recovering, she decided to pursue medicine, and entered the combined B.A./M.D. program at Northwestern University. She later completed her residency and fellowship training at Harvard Medical School.
Nampiaparampil became a member of the South Asian Journalists Association when she was just a primary physician. She said her involvement with SAJA opened various opportunities, including the chance to attend networking and informational seminars.
“As time went on, I met some people from SAJA," Nampiaparampil said. "The way they were so passionate about what they do made me passionate.”
This post is part of a series of profiles for the South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA), a non-profit journalism organization celebrating its 20th anniversary with a national convention on October 11th, 2014. For more details, please click here.
This post is part of a collaboration between Brown Girl Magaine and SAJA.
Founded in 2008, Brown Girl Magazine, LLC is an online publication tailored and targeted for young South Asian women (and men) living in the Diaspora. Our all-volunteer staff of freelance writers strive to make BG an outlet where South Asian women can feel empowered, learn more about their culture and build respect for themselves. At Brown Girl, you’ll find a variety of pertinent topics covering beauty and style, lifestyle, love and relationships, current events, entertainment, and race/cultural related issues.
Dr. Mausum Momaya, the curator for the Smithsonian's Indian American Heritage Project, is the brains behind the highly-anticipated "Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape The Nation" exhibition that opens this week in Washington D.C. The exhibition is a first for the Smithsonian-- highlighting the Indian American diaspora. We talked with Momaya earlier about her preperation and excitement for the exhibit.
How did the exhibit come about?
In 2008, Indian American community members from the DC area approached the leadership of the Smithsonian saying that they would like to see something that reflects the history of Indians in America at the museums. Richard Kurin, the Under Secretary for History Art, and Culture at the Smithsonian had lived and worked in India and also had experience with Indian-focused exhibits, so he understood and valued Indian culture and heritage. A partnership was created between the Smithsonian and the Indian American community, such that, if the latter could raise some money, the Smithsonian would also contribute and push forward. Thus, the Indian American Heritage Project and the exhibition, Beyond Bollywood was born.
What has your role been in creating this exhibition?
I am the curator of the exhibition, meaning that I formulate the exhibition concept and themes, research and write content for it, reach out to and respond to queries from possible contributors, lenders and donors; and serve as a spokesperson and tour guide for it with the media and the public at-large. To prepare the exhibition, I worked with two exhibition designers, a registrar and exhibits developer (who cared for the art and the objects), two development (fundraising) specialists, several marketing/PR staff, legal and administrative staff who helped secure rights and permissions, and several handfuls of people who printed the graphics, built cases for objects, framed and mounted artwork and installed everything in the gallery. Also, there were academic and community-based advisors from around the country who provided input throughout the project.
What does this exhibition mean to you as a South Asian-American?
I self-identify in many ways: as South Asian American, an Indian American, a daughter of immigrants, a feminist, a person living with a disability and a person who feels strongly about injustice associated with class privilege in the United States and globally. These identities are intersectional for me, rather than be a laundry list that I can separate in my daily experience. Working on this exhibition affirmed that some of my identity has been shaped through living as a South Asian-American, but much of it has been shaped by other factors. It has also strongly affirmed a quote from the exhibition for me: “Indian Americans are as diverse as America itself.”
That being said, working on this exhibition as a South Asian American has been a way for me to honor the experiences of the different living South Asian American generations. For my parents and their generation, I hope the exhibition honors the journeys they’ve taken and the struggles they’ve endured to build lives for themselves and us in this country – to give us the strong foundation that made so many things possible in our lives. For our generation, I hope this exhibition reinforces the idea that we have an amazing heritage that we don’t have to leave behind in order to belong and that this drawing upon of different identities is fundamental to being an American. And for children and young people, I hope this exhibition show them that their roots here are deep, nuanced and extend far beyond stereotypes.
What do you think will shock visitors the most about this exhibition?
I think visitors will be surprised to learn that the first person of Indian origin to set foot on Indian soil came in 1790-- just 14 years after this country was founded. Early Indian immigrants in the 1800s and 1900s built the railroads, worked in lumber mills, established small businesses & trade links with South Asia and labored on and later owned farms, some of which are still owned by the same families five and six generations later. For me, and I hope for others, this history sheds new light on contemporary debates about patriotism and who is American.
What was the most challenging thing about putting this exhibition together?
Deciding what to include was the most challenging aspect of the exhibition as we encountered so many meaningful stories, wonderful photographs, telling documents and resonant artifacts. We selected artifacts, art, objects and images that exemplified the contributions that Indian immigrants and Indian Americans have made to the U.S. and that that tell a larger story in and of themselves. In this way, curating is as much an art as a science, adding and taking out things and stepping back to see the larger whole. Also, it’s my belief that an exhibition isn’t finished when it opens to the public but rather just the beginning of an expanding and extended sharing that lives in the gallery, in social media, in classrooms and at dining tables through conversations. As the Smithsonian, we also see this exhibition as a first step rather than a definitive account.
Do you see this exhibit as the start of something bigger for the South Asian community?
Yes! In addition to showing at the Smithsonian for over a year, Beyond Bollywood will travel around the country for five years thereafter. When it travels, we hope that local communities will expand the exhibition with their own stories, photographs, art and artifacts. This is as important in “enclaves” like Edison, New Jersey as it is in small towns and rural communities across the United States. Today, sharing stories isn’t just the purview of museums and cultural institutions. With the increased affordability of various technologies and tools and the spread of social media, more and more people can participate, and we hope this inspires South Asian communities to tell stories in their own voices and communities. We also hope that through Beyond Bollywood, non-South Asian Americans get to know better their South Asian American neighbors, friends, co-workers and classmates.
Roshan Ghimire is a student member of SAJA. He recently graduated from University of the District of Columbia with a degree on Mass Media.
Aamir Khan, India’s internationally acclaimed actor/director was honored last month with the American Abroad Media Award for his successful effort to create awareness on India’s social problem through popular T.V. show “Satyamay Jayate” (Truth Alone Prevails). His T.V. program has an estimated viewership of 800 million worldwide.
Giving his acceptance speech at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington D.C, Khan said, “I have no idea how the work that we started back home would interest somehow outside India.”
Launched in 2012, the Sunday morning talk show tackles India’s pressing social problems like forced abortions of unborn girls, sexual assault, alcoholism and domestic violence. Khan said, the combination of his team's expertise in social issues and the capability to transform that expertise into the visual story is the reason behind his show’s success.
“Me and my friends are trying to do this show with love, because we feel we are part of the problem, and we are also part of the solution.” said Khan. His director wife, Kiran Rao, accompanied him to last month's ceremony. Last year, Khan was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine and was later selected as one of TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2013.
American Abroad Media (AAM) also honored Kathryn Bigelow, an Oscar winning film director and producer, last night for her stunning portrayal of characters and conflicts in her movies.
Bigelow is the director of “Hurt Locker”, a 2008 American war drama about a three-man bomb squad during the Iraq war, and “Zero Dark Thirty”, which chronicled America’s decade long man hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Bigelow is the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director for "The Hurt Locker” in 2008.
Indian actor/director Aamir Khan talks with the press at the American Abroad Media Awards in Washington.
Doug Wilson of America Abroad Media introduces Aamir Khan.
Director Kathryn Bigelow and Aamir Khan after the award ceremony.
Aamir Khan and his wife, filmmaker Kiran Rao at the awards dinner.
(L-R), Aamir Kahn, Kathryn Bigelow, Steve York and Ann Hornaday hold a panel discussion at the 2013 America Abroad Media Awards Dinner at Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on October 28, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Shwankia Narayan is a graduate student at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism
Dr. Prabhjot Singh is the Director of Systems Degisn at The Earth Institute and the co-chair of the One Million Community Health Worker campaign. He is also an assistant professor at Columbia University and a practicing doctor. On September 21st Singh was attacked by a group of nearly 20 young men who were yelling anti-Muslim and hateful slurs. The NYPD dubbed the attack as a hate crime--something Singh is all to familar with. Last year Singh, along with Simram Jeet, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on how hate crimes are recorded and tracked. SAJA student member Shawnkia Narayan spoke
with Singh about his own reactions to the media coverage and the larger lessons learned from his attack.
Dr. Prabhjot Singh speaking at the SAJA Gala and Awards Dinner
Q. What do wish people asked you about the incident on September 21st?
A. You know I think that a lot of people were surprised by my response. And in many ways they thought it was very gracious. I hope that over the course of the next few months, and next couple of years people actually start to ask, 'Well where did that come from? And what are you going to do about it?' Over the last couple of years I’ve really gotten to know the heartbeat of this [Harlem] neighborhood and we know a little bit about where the young men came from. I’m quite sure I’ve probably visited near their homes doing house calls as a doctor, and we’re also building a social enterprise that employs people like their family members and otherwise. And in many ways even though that response sounded just gracious, but it was a sense that this was our community and we’re going to end up engaging and following through with the work we’ve already been doing. So yes there is a problem but I want to get back to the work and I’m hoping people ask, 'What is that work?'
Q. What are the issues surrounding your story that is absent in the media coverage?
A. One thing is that there was another woman who was assaulted that night-- probably by the same group of men. She was a Muslim woman from Somalia wearing a hijab. And I learned about her because she was two beds down from me in the emergency department. And I met her husband and we got a sense that it happened around the same time, same group of people. But she’s a new immigrant, her ability to speak and kind of articulate herself certainly wasn’t there. And in many ways she’s a group that is mot likely in fear of being identified with the Shabaab in Westgate. And so in many ways I don’t think that we as a country, as a media know how to handle this type of story. And that you have this woman who we don’t know how to treat-- we don’t know how to speak about her and in many ways omitted. So I wish we dug a bit deeper and figured out how do we talk about it.
Q. After having gone through this ordeal, what is the one piece of advice you would give to young people of color?
A. In the vast majority of my life, 99.9% of interactions, the distinctiveness of who I am and where I come from has been an incredible asset. People remember me. I’m held responsible for what I do and say. And the same thing for anybody that looks different from the status quo. And so in that sense, make sure you really feel comfortable in your skin enough that when something happens, good or bad, you’re able to say: this is who I am, this is who I speak for and with, and it’s something to be proud of.
Q. Can you talk about your work with One Million Health Workers?
A. Yes, it’s something I spend most of my time doing. I grew up in Nairobi and Kenya and what I do professionally is bring innovations form low-resourced countries, like rural India or rural sub-Saharan Africa, find innovations in community health and bring them back to places like Harlem. At the same time, we are working to scaling up those innovations we discover all across sub-Saharan Africa. Community health workers, rapidly training people from communities and are hired to do specific task around making a healthier community, [these] are the only ways sub-Saharan Africa is going to be able to reach it’s health goals. Same thing with India, which has 600,000 of [community health workers]. So our goal is to bring up that number to a million in Africa and match the numbers in India and actually bring the same innovations to America.
Shwankia Narayan is a graduate student at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism
Award-winning broadcast journalist Soledad O'Brien was SAJA's keynote speaker at this year's Gala & Awards Dinner. The chairman of Starfish Media Group recently signed on with Al Jazeera America to produce long-form broadcast pieces for their nightly news program "America Tonight". During the SAJA awards ceremony, O'Brien spoke about her interracial family and her struggles to break into what began as a racially monotonos journalism career. SAJA student member Shawnkia Narayan spoke with O'Brien about her journalism career and her upcoming projects.
Soledad O'Brien give the keynote speech at the 2013 SAJA Gala and Awards Dinner
Q. What is the one thing a young, budding journalist at this time needs to know or do?
A. I think the rules of journalism haven’t changed in the 26 years I’ve been in this business. You have to be hardworking, you have to do the work, you have to study, you have to be smarter, you have to work harder than everybody else. You have to do all those basic, boring entry-level skills really well. The fetching-of-the-coffee and in my case the removing-of-the-staples. People are looking for who gets it. Who is willing to work hard to get something and that’s how I judge people. The technology of course has changed, but really the things that will make you successful is working really hard often for really low money because you’re passionate about the industry and the career. That’s what I’m looking for in people when I hire.
Q. Where do you see the role of minority women in media and what does this mean for news?
A. Well Kate O’Brien’s hiring as the President of Al Jazeera [America] and has been a really great step. I mean if you look around at the other networks, there are no women running the networks. So to me that was a really amazing step by Al Jazeera. And you see a large number of women in journalism schools so what we need is to move those sheer numbers in the j-schools to actually sheer numbers in powerful positions behind the scene.
Q. What is that one experience you've had that made you feel you had made the right decision in pursuing journalism?
A. I knew that the first five minutes when I was in the business. And I was removing staples from the wall and fetching coffee. I just loved it, and I was part of a team of people that would get to tell stories. I loved being part of that team of people that dictated who was going to be in those stories and the face of who would tell those stories. I felt like that was very powerful even when I was at the bottom level --the person on the totem pole. I knew that I could have an opportunity to help shape how those stories were told, and that to me was at first great fun but as I got more experienced I realized it was a great responsibility and opportunity.
Q. Are there any plans for the next “In America?”
A. Well nothing right now. I’ve done "Black in America", "Women in America" and "Muslims in America". We’re still figuring it out as we start up our production company. I produce pieces for Al Jazeera, and for HBO "Real Sports", and I aslo do some work for CNN, National Geographic and other partners, I haven’t really thought about it yet. But we are at a time where the country is more diverse than ever, so if anything, we need more “In America’s” than fewer for sure.
Q. You have a new role on the Sundance Channel's new show "Dream School" where you help at-risk high school students. How was that experience for you?
A. It was really fun. We shot it a couple of months ago. It’s amazing, I do a lot of work in education and personally, I’ve been very involved and invested in the education of young people who are really struggling. So it was both incredibly frustrating because there are kids who really don’t see how important their education was in the way the adults saw it for them. But it was also incredibly rewarding because there are kids who when they really got it and bucked down to work, you could see the lights go on in them.
Q. How important is mentorship in this field?
A. It’s really important. I had about 10 mentors, I was always really good at finding people and surrounding myself with them and more importantly, guide me. So I had lot of mentors and I was really lucky and fortunate. My mentors were my bosses because I was working with them everyday, so they were really great at providing advice and information, and after that I sort of expanded my net. Mentors never come to you, mentors are busy. So surround yourself with people who are willing to help but it’s your responsibility to make that first step.
Sarah Mahmood is a student at Wellesley College studying Political Science and Economics
This year, for the first time in The Miss America Pagent history, a South Asian-American was crowned as Miss America. Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America on September 15th, but her win also prompted a social media backlash of racist and hateful posts and tweets. The 24-year-old Davuluri, however, spun the negative comments around and is now spending her year as Miss America campaigning on a diversity and cultural competancy platform. At SAJA's annual Gala and Awards Dinner, Davuluri spoke about her campaign and how becoming the next Miss America meant breaking down stereotypes.
Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri speaking at SAJA's Annual Gala and Awards Dinner
platform for Miss America is celebrating diversity. Why is this
important and what steps do you plan to take towards making society a
more welcoming place for people of all backgrounds?
A: I launched a new campaign called Circles of Unity and
I've asked everyone to tweet me pictures, thoughts, and ideas about what
it means to be culturally aware with [hashtag] #circlesofunity. So that's been my
national campaign that I'm travelling across with, as Miss America and
it's actually taken off. I'm really excited about the response.
you feel disheartened after the racist fallback on Twitter? What does
that say, if anything, about America's acceptance of diversity?
A: It was an unfortunate situation, but the reality
was that for every one negative tweet, comment, or post, I received
dozens, hundreds, and thousands words of encouragement and support. To
have that kind of support from not only Americans, but people across the
world, was amazing.
ESPN's Kevin Negandhi speaking at SAJA's Annual Gala and Awards Dinner
Kevin Negandhi is an award-winning sports anchor for ESPN's "SportsCenter". A long time member and supporter of SAJA, Negandhi was a trailblazer in the field of sports journalism as the first South Asian American to anchor a national sports program. As the emcee for SAJA's annual Gala and Awards Dinner, Negandhi talked about about everyone in the room is their own trailblazer for going against the grain and pursuing a career in journalism and media.
Q: In 2006, you became the first Indian-American to anchor
a show on a national sports network. Have you witnessed any changes in
diversity in sports journalism since then? Are we seeing diversity in
national sports as well?
A: Absolutely. In ESPN, they've hired four South Asians
on air. That makes me really proud because we're breaking down
stereotypes each and every day. It's not just one person. We're showing
that there's a variety of different backgrounds-- from Gujrati to
Pakistani, to South Indians. And I love that. I feel that we're
educating while breaking down the walls. We're saying, 'Hey, we
have the same interests that you do, and we're as American as you are.
We grew up on sports the same way, we have the same background.' When I
go on air, I don't really think about it. It's when I
take a step back and gain some perspective, so I love that. I just go about my business as a sportscaster. I
think that's conveyed on T.V. Hey, I love what I do, and I'm here every
morning to bring you the latest news.
There were just as many smart phones as there were guests at the annual SAJA Gala and Awards Dinner last Saturday. We asked guests to use the hashtag #saja13 to gather their Tweets, posts, and photos from various social media sites. SAJA also recently started a VINE account and tested it out at the gala. Check out highlights from our 2013 Gala:
The Department of Defense has released a new security training test that warns federal agents of the “high threat” a hypothetical Indian-American a could pose. This woman should be considered suspicious because of she has money troubles, travels abroad to visit family in India and “speaks openly of unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy.”
The “Cyber Awareness Challenge” created by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), includes a slide about Hema under a section called “insider threats.” According to the training program, Hema frequently travels overseas and her political opinions could be considered a threat to security due to “possible divided loyalty.”
The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA)'s "Cyber Awarness Challenge" featureing 'Hema' (image via The Aerogram)
Writers from the South Asian news and culture website The Aerogram said they had a, “Hey! That sounds like me!” moment when they read the news, first published on the Huffington Post.
“I thought it was disturbing that the federal government would consider me or someone like me a 'high threat,'" Pavani Yalamanchili, a writer and co-founder of The Aerogram, wrote in an email. "Traveling to where our parents and, or grandparents, were born is not just about visiting friends and family. It also helps us to be aware of other parts of the world, first-hand, and makes us grateful to live in the U.S. and have so many opportunities here.” Yalamanchili said. She said that training programs, like the DOD's latest, could put her at a disadvantage if she were ever to apply for a job within the federal government.
The Aerogram’s Lakshmi Gandhi took the training test online and noted that the character who frequently plays high-risk poker was less threatening than Hema. "If the fictitious Hema is anything like me, she spends about 80 percent of her time in India visiting her great aunts and eating mithai," Gandhi wrote in an email. (And for the record, Gandhi notes that the remaining 20 percemt of her time is spent shopping). "That vacationing in a foreign country is apparently much riskier than potentially having a gambling addiction or frequently risking your entire life savings, is a bit baffling.”
Gandhi also found the training discriminatory. “If Hema had exhibited genuinely suspicious behavior, that would be one thing. But to insinuate that she has divided loyalties merely because she visits her family twice a year is quite dark and ugly and sends the message that The Pentagon does not really want immigrants, or the children of immigrants, in their employ."
Tanzila Ahmed, an activist, storyteller and politico based in Southern California, said the DOD is fortunate to have South Asian Americans working in the federal government as it “doesn't always treat the South Asian and Muslim community judicially.”
She points out that the two largest cases of insiders ratting out government secrets are white men – Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. “I haven't heard of a case where an Indian-American woman with a large debt that frequents travel to India who has been in the news for the same thing. So if news is a reflection, white males are clearly who the government have to worry about.”
She also wonders about the connection between well-traveled Indian-American women and ratting out job secrets. “As a Bangladeshi-American woman that is well traveled and has lots of debt, I sure as hell would never work for the Defense Department." Ahmed also wants to know: "Who is this Hema? I think we could be fast friends.”
Do you agree or disagree with Hema posing a hypothetical threat to American security? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
You can also take a version of the
training test online here.
In 2005, steel giant
ArcelorMittal contracted with the government of Jharkhand, an eastern state in India, to construct a
steel plant at an estimated cost of $8.79 billion in the thickly
forested and scenic districts of Khunti and Gumla.
Journalist and tribal rights activist, Dayamani Barla with human rights lawyer Mililani Trask (Credit: Carolyn Lupton for Cultural Survival)
The proposed steel plant,
requiring 12,000 hectares of land would have displaced innumerable families,
submerged 40 villages and devastated the region’s natural ecosystem. But, by early
2010, the ArcelorMittal project had been forced out of Khunti-Gumla by a mass
movement of tribal residents. One of the chief architects of this movement was
38-year-old Dayamani Barla, an indigenous human rights activist and journalist
from Jharkhand’s Mundar tribe.
Last week, Barla received the first annual Ellen L. Lutz Indigenous Rights
Award at the American Indian Museum in New York City. She was honored for her decade-long campaigns against the exploitation of
natural resources by corporations and the persecution of Jharkhand’s tribal
“I visited nearly every
home in the 40 villages to inform people about the losses and destruction they
would face from the steel plant. I received death threats and was asked to stop
meeting with villagers and village committees. I thought 'I I stopped
mobilizing the survival of hundreds of thousands of people would be threatened,'”
The award was presented by Cultural Survival, a
Massachussetts-based non-profit that champions and advocates the rights and
heritage of indigenous communities around the world. Named after the late Ellen
Lutz, a global advocate of human rights, executive director of
Cultural Survival and professor of law and human rights at Tufts University,
the award honors deeply committed and courageous human rights work on behalf of
indigenous people’s culture, communities, lands and languages.
Survival commended Barla for her pioneering leadership of “the people’s
movements against corporate and government-led land grabs and other injustices
that threaten the survival, dignity, and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples.”
Over 60 nominees were submitted for consideration, according
to Mililani Trask, a human rights lawyer and member of the Ellen Lutz award
committee. Barla, who worked as a domestic servant for many years, before she
distinguished herself as a journalist, worked to protect the Adivasi people's
“This woman came from poverty and humble beginnings,” said Trask in her
speech. “Today she is recognized globally by the governments and the most
powerful of the globalized industries as the voice of Jharkhand—that is where
her advocacy has placed her.”
Barla was dismayed by the Indian mainstream media’s
lack of interest in covering the humanitarian crisis faced by India’s tribal
communities. She was one of the first female Adivasi journalists in India. Barla, along with a few colleagues, created Jan Haq (People’s Rights), a journalistic
endeavor devoted to Jharkhand’s indigenous communities. Eventually, she started reporting on tribal
issues for Jharkhand’s local Hindi language newspapers.
Haq, Barla and her
small staff traveled across villages to find readers, increase circulation, and
report and write news. She also
regularly urges the editors of Hindi newspapers to increase coverage of
Jharkhand’s indigenous peoples. “I continue to write for Hindi newspapers and
also write in my native Mundari language for various Adivasi cultural
organizations. I wrote my first article in Mundari,” Barla proudly pointed out.
“I used to write about issues affecting Adivasi society, but
then thought it is not enough. I
also wanted to get involved in people’s struggles. My motto is to be both a
journalist and an activist in Adivasi battles against injustice and corruption,”
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.