Friday, December 25, 2015

My name is Khan and I'm not a terrorist!

I stole the title of my blog from a popular 2010 Bollywood film which is so relevant in the current environment that we live in. It's controversial to be a Muslim today or even have a name that sounds like one. A Jamie is treated like a human being, but God save you if you are a Jamal. That name will raise high-security alerts. The sirens will go off. Folks dressed in uniform will surround you, point their guns and ask you to raise up your hands. No, not to whip the nae-nae, but to do a comprehensive body cavity search that you didn’t ask for. 

So many things happened over the last few months. The clock boy Ahmed Mohamed was falsely crucified for allegedly carrying a clock bomb to school, when in fact all he did was created an innovative handmade clock. Creativity is mistaken for terrorism! Why? Because his name was Ahmed! So many innocent doctors and civilians were killed when an aerial bomb was shot at a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan…sadly mistaken as terrorists.  So many normal folks just casually doing their normal chores got killed by insane shooters. Don’t ask me which gun shooting incident I'm talking about because there have been more than 350 mass shooting incidents in the United States this year. If you have guns on sale in the same stores that sell fruits and vegetables, what else is bound to happen?

The most horrifying story was when very recently the Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump called for barring all Muslims from entering the United States. Also saying, if he becomes president, he would consider requiring Muslim-Americans to register with a government database. That’s Islamophobia at its worst. Sure the man is known for making crazy statements about people and especially the minority community. He almost built a virtual wall all across the Mexican border. He called his presidential opponents' maniacs. And now he crosses all limits of bigotry by calling for a carpet ban on Muslims, which also includes Muslim-American citizens…which is just insane. But surprisingly the more outlandish Trump gets, the higher his popularity ratings go. Makes me wonder…who are these folks who religiously follow and support him? 

With all that bloody news that flooded our world, one good news came out from Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed thousands of refugees by personally visiting the airport to receive them. Looking at Trudeau’s gesture, I’ve already started taking lessons in Canadian politics. Yeah, I now know that Canada has a Parliamentary system like Britain, unlike America’s Congressional system. That’s my first lesson. 

Well, the story that took the universe by storm and that almost zeroed down on all the heartbreaking news was the man Steve Harvey’s awesome-possum hosting of the 2015 Miss Universe contest. Mistakenly crowning Miss Colombia instead of Miss Philippines with the Miss Universe title may be one of the craziest mistake ever done on live television. But it was one of my favorite things that happened. It looked like comedy to me. But the whole world panicked about it. The whole world criticized Harvey for a mistake that actually didn’t need that much attention that it got. No one died. No one was injured. But everyone, from a student, businessman, worker, employee, celebrity, millionaire, billionaire, politician, you and me, criticized Harvey for not doing that one job right. Only if the world panicked and went helter-skelter the same way when 42 people including Doctors Without Borders were mistakenly killed at a hospital in Afghanistan. And when so many civilians become victims of senseless wars across the world.

It’s that time of the year when we make a snowman and wrap ourselves in multiple layers of clothes to beat the cold. But this Christmas, it’s colder in Bombay than it is in the Washington, D.C. area. It's 21 degrees C in DC right now, so we are making a snowman out of mud and walking around semi-nude. Don’t know whether it’s climate change, global warming or the El Nino effect. All I know is I love the damn weather and wish it’s going to be like that the whole winter. Happy Holidays and have a great New Year Y'all! And yeah, Merry Easter, Steve Harvey! 

It’s going to be 2016...How time flies! 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

God, forgive us for we don't know what we are doing

Years of wars, invasions, air strikes, drones, terrorism and thirst for oil has led to the chaos in the world today. Besides, all this greed has also given birth to the so-called Islamic State who aimlessly butchers people in those troubled regions. In the middle of these wars and brutal terrorism, the people who have nothing to do with anything that's happening, either get brutally killed or worst, get killed by a blunder made by a joystick operator of an unmanned flying object equipped with bombs.  What do you call those...yeah drones! People living in those troubled regions don’t deserve that. They’ve not signed any freedom bond that gives us the right to aerially bomb their regions in the hope of killing terrorists. All they want is a normal peaceful life that most of us in the rest of the world has been blessed with. 

Our “aerial” war against the Islamic State has been going on for years now. But the aerial strategy just doesn't seem to be working. In the bargain, ISIS is getting bloodier and more brutal with more civilian lives lost. And no one has any accountability for these casualties? Logically, when a strategy doesn't work after giving it a shot for years, it’s time to change the strategy. Also, we need the accountability of the number of civilians who have died because of those faulty air strikes. Even their lives are as precious as ours. We may be people with different nationalities, religion, race, and color, but we’ll belong to the same planet. How about that?

Brilliant cartoon depiction by Simon Kneebone

Although we are losing our fight against ISIS, there are so many people from those terrorized states like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and others that have kinda won over terrorism by escaping into safer havens. They sure are risking their lives by trekking those difficult routes in hope of living a normal life, but it’s better to take a risk than to live in hell. Our global coalition is still struggling fighting ISIS, but these civilians have won and we need to do everything that we can to help them and welcome them into safer havens. But instead, we raise up our hands refusing to absorb them into the state as refugees. Why? Where is our heart? Where is our conscience? Where is our soul? Where is the accountability?

The world was sensitized about the refugee crisis only after the photo of a three-year-old kid washed ashore came in public eye.  Everyone was silent about the crisis until the heart-wrenching photo was released. Although that photo is something that shouldn’t have been in public space because of its sensitivity, I’m happy it did, because it sensitized people and got them to force their governments to welcome refugees. And it’s not only Europe’s responsibility to make sure that refugees are given refuge…it’s a global responsibility. And I don’t know why the United States and others are still silent over the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world today. 

There are so many wars going on around the world. Will someone tell us what's happening in Yemen and Ukraine right now? If we continue to be silent about these other current wars happening around the world, it will soon reach boiling point leading to more civilian deaths and more civilians taking treacherous routes to safer havens. History shouldn’t repeat itself, especially at a time when we have made the biggest advancements in technology and science. We have reached the moon, we are exploring Mars and have passed by the last planet in the solar system, but, there’s still no place for people on the only planet that is inhabited by human beings and not aliens. 

Getting emotional and being compassionate is not a weakness. Those are just signs that we are creatures born with a conscience and a heart. And, as this 13-year old Syrian boy, Kinan Masalmeh, so beautifully sums up his countrymen's feelings saying, “The Syrians need help now. Just stop the war. We don’t want to go to Europe. Just stop the war.” See video, 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fourth of July came a few days early

This week was one awesome week for you America with two back-to-back decisions made by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). In one ruling, SCOTUS saved the ever controversial Affordable Care Act, making subsidized insurance accessible to every American, irrespective of gender, race, color, and status in society. And then, in the second ruling, SCOTUS went all out to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. Both these decisions were passed in a week, but the years and years of protests, marches, activism, and advocacy that have gone to make this happen is what needs to be appreciated. Nothing happens overnight. Both these decisions scream victory for the people. And America, you should be celebrating. If I were you, I would pour some wine in my glass and sip it eating some chicken kababs for sure.

Also, you know what America, looking at the power that you as citizens have showcased to change old- outdated-traditional laws and demand equality for all…this should be enough motivation for you to vote in the 2016 presidential elections.  You just have no excuse this time.  

Besides the 2016 presidential campaign also has the laugh factor in it. It already looks like half of America is running to become president. So many candidates already and still many more are expected to make that big presidential announcement in the days to come. We’ve all heard those speeches that promise change and all that hype and rhyme in them. That’s all cliché no? The only thing, not cliché is Donald Trump's entry into the race. He's the spice in this race. He enters the race by literally coming down an escalator to the sound of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" anthem. Hope he sticks around till the end...because he is sheer entertainment.

It sure was a good week after the tragic mass shooting at Charleston which took lives of nine innocent men and women. Besides, the worst and the cruelest thing was the place at which the shootings happened. A church is a place where people drop their guard and surrender themselves to God and his teachings. Also, what was unbelievable is the heart of the people of Charleston who forgave the shooter for what he did. I'm still angry with what happened to those innocent people. Sure, it takes a big heart to forgive, but how long will America forgive? This is not one rare random incident that has happened. We have witnessed so many other incidents with the same motive of hatred toward a particular race. History seems to keep repeating itself and this needs to stop because it’s outrageous to have folks treated differently, made to feel different, and now even being killed for who they are. And then we say, enough of this talk on racism and that we are tired and just heard too much of it already. But no, it's not enough. We don’t only need to talk more, but also do more to bring an end to something that just makes no sense.

After nine innocent people were killed, so much of time was spent speculating whether this was a “hate crime” or whether it was “terrorism.” When in reality any kind of hate that is violently expressed is terrorism. Hate and terrorism are just words in the English dictionary. They don’t change reality. We don’t need experts sitting on news desks, analyzing whether this was a “hate” or a “terrorist” crime. We don’t call it “hate” because the shooter’s name was Dylan. What if his name was Khan? Would we still call it hate?

Also, I still fail to understand how anyone can buy guns without any background checks in America. How can a store that sells fruits and vegetables also sell guns? So buyers not only visit their grocery stores to buy guns but also have the luxury to sit in the comfort of their homes and buy it online. And then, even after so many mass shootings and one incident even involving the death of innocent children, how does anyone do nothing about it. Why is it so difficult for the most advanced country in the world to do anything to stop guns from reaching the hands of evildoers? 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Raising a glass of beer over Ireland’s same-sex marriage vote

Sister, I think that's a "yes" no?

I love firsts. But nothing like the kinda first that has (and can) impact the world. The recent popular vote in support of same-sex marriage in Ireland is one-of-a-kind. The "yes" vote certainly makes it legal for same-sex couples only in Ireland to marry under the Constitution, but that decision made by the citizens of Ireland, through a popular vote was felt across the globe. Most civilized nations watched this verdict very closely. More so wondering how can a so-so Catholic nation that decriminalized homosexuality decades ago change its course so drastically. How did that ever happen? And more so, when Ireland is still a nation that bans abortion. Times have changed…yeah…times have really-really changed. And why wouldn't it?

But then, again, equal rights are for everyone. Ideally, everyone is born with their rights. No one needs no vote to be baptized with their rights. Well, maybe, we'll reach there soon too. Many folks argued that marriage is between a man and a woman and that the basic purpose of marriage is reproduction. That's absurd! It’s weird to say that one man and one woman enter into marriage because they want to reproduce. What about companionship? What about couples that get married so late in life, when they cannot have children. Don’t we also call that marriage?

Ireland joins 19 other nations that legalize same-sex marriage. But what makes Ireland's decision significant is its gumption to leave it to the people to decide what's right for them. Unlike other nations, it didn't wait for the legal courts to make this important decision. More than half of Ireland citizens came out to vote, out of which more than 60% said yes to same-sex marriage.

In the United States of America, it takes 50 states to decide whether same-sex marriage should be legalized or not. For now, 36 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage through the legislative process. Hopefully, the Supreme Court's decision which is expected next month will change that state-by-state approach, and legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. In India, although being openly gay or lesbian is no longer taboo, same-sex marriage is still illegal. But the good thing is people are openly talking about it. There are debates and LGBT parades that happen frequently all across the country. And then there's Russia, the Middle East and many African nations which are still intolerant to gays and lesbians. Folks out there are still “in the closet” about who they are. In these nations marriage is a far-off thing. Hopefully, this decision in Ireland will warm up talks and discussions in intolerant nations, making it a first step toward allowing people to live the way they want to live without fear. And this cliché about “coming out of the closet” never really exist ever. No individual should be made to feel vulnerable because of her sexual orientation. 

Equality is so simple. It’s about living a free life irrespective of gender, religion, color, wealth. But we human beings simply gatecrash into lives of others with our so-called “life rules and expectations” and complicate things. And it’s of course not cliché to say Live and Let Live.

I don’t drink beer, so can someone just drink a pint of beer to celebrate this great Irish victory on my behalf. They say Murphy's Irish Stout taste really good. Cheers ;-)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Why Madonna Still Stands Out

Madonna surely knows how to keep her critics employed. She just needs to shake a leg, and boom, they get obnoxiously critical about different things right from her age, her dating habits, her dance moves, her marriages, her relationships, blah blah blah blah. The day her album “Rebel Heart” hit iTunes, critics ranted about the music lyrics which according to them was too immature for her age. But at that time, most of them were silenced for being too sexist. But when Madonna recently kissed Drake at the Coachella music and arts festival in California, haters sharpened their claws and went full on criticizing her for assaulting a man on stage. But hey man, isn’t that between Madonna and Drake. It’s none of our business because the man she kissed is an adult, so how about leaving it to that. But then, any kinda publicity is good publicity, so hey you critics, you are Madonna’s publicist. Anyway, I would kill for that kiss from Madonna, lucky Drake. 

Damn it, nobody talks about her music which Madonna is “The Madonna” we know her for. Attacking the queen of pop citing her personal life is so cowardly and sexist for God sake. I listened to her sonically cohesive album “Rebel Heart” over ten times already and still, my ears want more. She is a rockstar man. Right from those vulnerable song lyrics to the beats, Madonna only goes to show that you gotta keep driving that car as long as you can. Retirement, what crap is that.  She’s got the moves, she’s got the voice, she’s got the attitude, she can give all the 20s and 30s something a run for their money. The best part about “Rebel Heart” is she had already anticipated what her critics would say, and I believe she has responded to them through her music saying, “You know you never really knew how much your selfish bullshit cost me. Oh, f$ck you” (Song: Unapologetic Bitch). 

Each song has a message. "Ghosttown" conveys hope in the collapsing world we live in. "Living for Love" is a sad breakup song. “Unapologetic Bitch” (my favorite) is a cocky ‘don’t mess with me’ fun song, “Devil Pray” is a song that condemns doing drugs. And all those fabulous lyrics are intertwined with some thumping reggae, soul, rap, ballad influence.  

Who doesn't like controversial pop artists like Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus? I love their music but they are different from Madonna in many ways. Since she began over 30-years back, Madonna has been some kinda controversy or the other. But she always seemed to connect all that shocking weirdness with a goal that was brilliantly expressed through her music. Right from gay rights and women equality, Madonna has addressed these issues through her music. She has opened up so many doors for artists today, that everything that she was once criticized for in the past is no longer considered taboo anymore. She's also politically and socially well informed which in a big way makes her different from today’s artists. She’s not only bold and does whatever she wants, but she does all that with awareness of the world, which is pretty impressive.

Madonna is fierce, fearless, and sure intimidating. She’s invincible and still a leader in the pop music circuit. Can’t wait for her next album already. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Little bit of Jon Stewart in my life

A few months back, I thanked Jon Stewart for being a part of my life by writing a blog article which of course he didn't read, but I couldn't resist expressing my heartfelt respect for him. Coming from India with a journalism and communications background, I needed to understand American politics and everything about how this country does its thing. I didn't know who to turn to understand all that. Until, I found Jon Stewart who literally taught me everything about America, its people, and its politics. Today after about three years, whatever I know about America is because of Jon Stewart. He is like my guru. Imagine connecting with a person I haven’t met or talked to. He has got that aura about him. 

The news about Stewart’s departure from The Daily Show was shattering. I don’t know why, but I just felt that I lost something. I began to crazily tweet, Instagram about how devastated I was after getting this news. I began to mourn for someone who I was thankful for. I became crazy. Stewart is a guy I wanted to watch every single day and over the weekend when he didn't have his show, I watched those extended interviews which never aired on prime time. If I as a foreigner feel so much about Stewart’s exit from The Daily Show, I can’t imagine how Americans are coping with his exit. Hey America, if I were you, I would make a pledge for his return and get the whole of the United States to sign to bring him back. Can’t just let him go, can we? And even more at a time when 2016 election is around the corner. Who’s going to make sense of the “God-alone-knows-who’s-running” 2016 elections? Stewart, can you like go after that? 

There are some who are comedians, and there are some who are late night talk show hosts, and then there are some who are news anchors. But Jon Stewart is all three in one. He has a wit of a comedian which is unmatchable, the charm and aura of a late night talk show host like never seen before, and knowledge and analytical ability of hard news like no anchor person in the media today. Besides, his presentation of all that hardcore news to an average layman is mind-blowing. In a true sense, he is magical.

Besides that, Stewart comes off like a genuine human being who cares for people. There are so many issues and concerns that an average American faces today. Stewart makes sure he carries those unheard voices through the show. Right from Eric Garner, Ferguson, school shootings, elections, religious intolerance, race in America, same-sex marriage, equal rights – he has a response and reaction to all these issues. He makes real sense of issues that an average American has to deal with every single day. Like most people on television today, Stewart is not sitting there to suck in the camera lights and fame of the job. In fact, he is effectively using the medium to convey a message to the public. His humility and his genuine respect for his team is contagious. 

The Daily Show calls itself a phony satirical comedy show when in reality Jon Stewart has taken it to a level where there’s nothing phony about it. Stewart is one-of-a-kind and to replace him, Comedy Central needs a news wizard with a charm of a late night talk show host, wit of a comedian, someone who is genuine and of course, not someone waiting to be famous. That’s going to be a tough search for sure.

Jon Stewart, I’m going to miss you a lot. Thank you for being there and being my guru. I hope I get a chance to meet you in person someday. Oh God, what is this colorless liquid coming out from my eyes :-)

Related Link:

Read my earlier article on Jon Stewart: Link to the blog post

Friday, January 30, 2015

Modama Bromance

Yeah, President Obama was a chief guest at India’s 66th Republic Day, the day when India’s Constitution came into force.  That was a busy power-packed three days date with President Obama being the first U.S. president in office to attend India’s grand Republic Day celebration. Many things happened during these three days. Even before the president visited India, U.S. media went lady gaga over the whole visit. While Indian media did a balle-balle about the whole president’s visit, so much so that it felt as if Jesus Christ was coming. C’mon you media fellas, like hashtag #hesonlyhuman , you didn’t have to do all that. 

Before the parades, the two bros sat down for a cup of tea. And c’mon…Mr. Modi prepared that cup of tea with his own hands for the president. The Republic Day parades were so good. Loved all that the participants did at the parades. The motorcycle and military parades were my favorite. Like, it was so acrobatic, so colorful, so talented. Many power packed speeches were delivered and grand dinners were hosted for the president. Many expansions of trade and investments between two countries were agreed upon. New defense and civil nuclear cooperation were some of the greatest highlights. 

Well, I believe the most striking highlight of the visit was the president’s farewell speech at Siri Fort in New Delhi and the hilarious pinstriped suit that Mr. Modi wore on one of the days.  

At his farewell speech, President Obama opened up about what he thinks about India and her people. He spoke about India’s diversity, rich cultures and the different languages that she speaks, but in the same breathe he also talked about the religious intolerance in the nation, which indeed is a reality. I wouldn’t care if it was someone else saying this. But we need to remember that the speech on inequality was coming from a man who himself has been discriminated and treated differently because of the color of his skin. Even after 50-years of the civil rights act, the United States of America is still fighting racism. Similarly, India cannot deny the very fact that it is still fighting religious intolerance. Additionally, the speech was an eye-opener of what the world really thinks and knows about India. India is no longer an emerging economy, it has emerged and that’s what keeps it in the spotlight. Besides, very soon India is going to surpass China as the most populated country in the world, keeping it even more in the spotlight…although nothing to be proud about.

Why should a man have lesser opportunities from others because of the faith he follows. The beauty in India is still a strong democracy despite the different backgrounds, color, languages, and religion of its people. And the nation can get bigger and be a greater force if everyone irrespective of where they come from, the religion they follow, gender, has an equal opportunity to prove themselves. Religion or no religion, female, male, lesbian, gay, transgender, everyone should be treated equally and be given an equal opportunity. What’s the use of GDP, profits, firsts, if we don’t know how to treat our own people? 

Yeah, and who can forget Modi ji’s suit, hashtag #ModiSuit. Like really Mr. Modi, did you spend millions of dollars to stitch that suit with your name written on it a zillion times. Like really-really-really Mr. PM, did you really have your name on that suit? And even if you like your name so much, you can have it printed once, why do it over and over and over again? Didn’t expect this from you Modi saab. So listen, world, if you ever forget the name of India’s Prime Minister, all you got to do is check out his pin-striped suit on which his name is written in bold.  

Having said all that, I know that I won’t be administered 1000 lashes and 10-years imprisonment for throwing in a little satire about the most powerful person in India, Mr. Modi. That’s the beauty of a democracy. And that’s the beauty of India. Happy Republic Day folks!

Namaste! Bohot bohot dhanyawaad! Senorita, bade, bade desho mein! Now you know what I’m talking about.