Has being South Asian given you the strong desire to….talk?

If your answer to the subject of today’s post is “yes,” then Red, White, n Brown has found a way to fit your needs!

Radha Modi, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, is conducting a study on the experiences of people with South Asian ancestry, who were either born in the U.S. or emigrated to the U.S. before the age of five, and currently live in the New Jersey, New York, or Long Island area. Modi will be interviewing people over 18 who fit those criteria, and she’s currently seeking interview subjects. 

South Asian organizations, and related groups who seek to improve the South Asian community, will have access to the aggregate results of the project.

“The more stories and experiences I collect, the more I can offer in terms of helping the larger society understand South Asian experiences in the U.S,” says Modi,

All participation is completely confidential, and interviews will be done in a location of your choice.

Interviewees have to currently live in the New Jersey, New York, or Long Island area. Do you fit the requirements and want to talk about your experience as a South Asian? Email Radha Modi at radmodi@sas.upenn.edu or call her at 856.281.4547. 

Are you not located in the tri-state area and still ready to express your thoughts on South Asian American related topics? Red, White, n Brown invites you to submit any form of expression to redwhitenbrown@gmail.com. 

Here’s to hearing from you!

Nepali Mela

The 2nd Nepalese American Festival took place on July 6, 2014 in Jackson Heights, New York.

The great success of the first festival led to an even larger scale event this year.

The Non Resident Nepali Association coordination council organized the occasion with the goal of uniting the Nepali community and introducing Nepali culture to Americans.

The United States Ambassador to Nepal, Peter Bode, made an opening speech.

Those who attended received the opportunity to taste Nepali food, view Nepali art and artifacts, and observe Nepali dance and musical performances.

Watch the videos and see if you can match the crowd’s enthusiasm!

 

A South Asian Francophile Novelist and Medical Student

Spruha Magodia is a 23 year old who lives in Philadelphia. A medical student originally born in India, she graduated from Rutgers University in 2012. Some of her accomplishments include receiving honors in her French major and publishing a novel at the age of 13.

1. Tell us about your ethnic and cultural background.

I am Gujarati. I grew up knowing how to converse in Gujarati, Hindi and Marathi. Mumbai has a very cosmopolitan background and I have always been raised to be appreciative and inquisitive about other cultures. When I was little, I remembered the thrill of the non-stop staccato of fireworks during Diwali, the star-shaped lanterns hanging from nearly every other home, and the intricate rangoli patterns and dias decorating doorsteps. One of my favorite holidays was Holi, when we threw colored powder on each other and had water-balloon fights with friends and family. A memory that always comes to mind is the monsoon season in Mumbai, when I would make small paper boats and watch them sail with the incessant stream of rainwater, only to find them later, all bunched together into a formless pile of debris by a drain.

2. Discuss the environment in which you grew up.

My childhood was actually split between three countries. At the age of seven, we left India and stayed, for a brief period, in Florida. After Florida, we lived in Canada for a few years. But then, when I was ten years old, due to my dad’s new job, my family had to move to the United States. I was teetering on the cusp of being this precocious yet blissfully happy child who was all positivity all the time and someone who was becoming more observant of the world around her, who was beginning to see things in a different light, especially the negative things. I was starting to grow up. We moved to New Jersey and I began sixth grade not knowing anyone. For the first time in my life I remember being scared.Till now, it is the only time I can really remember feeling “alone.” Later that day, I made friends with whom I am still friends with even today and that feeling of loneliness was quite short-lived; however, its intensity, even as I recall it now, in memory, is so palpable. No one forgets that first moment when they felt like an outsider, no matter how brief and transient it was.

3. How did this affect your perception of the world and identity formation?

Moving around taught me that moments are fleeting and transient, and that wherever you are, you have to make the most of the time you’re given, regardless of the situation. It also made me realize the force of my own resilience; I never wavered, I always moved forward with hope, embracing new people and new ideas and a new version of myself. And this strength and resilience comes directly from my parents, who have taken brave steps to chart out a unique journey for their children. 

4. What led you to publish a novel? And could you elaborate upon it for readers who have not seen it before?

Inspired by the stories I was always reading, I felt the need to write my own. I always enjoyed creating things. Sometimes I liked to paint and draw, but most of all, I always loved to write. I remember a story I wrote in French class in elementary school about how ants were just like human beings. When I was around twelve years old, I began to write a story where the main character somehow finds himself in an alternate world (I was quite fascinated by the science fiction ideas of different and parallel universes). He assumes the identity of a dead person he had the misfortune of witnessing earlier, and it lands him in a whirl of trouble, from mistrust between new friends to acquiring a power and fame that is not rightfully his. It’s called Entwining Worlds: From the Other Side (http://www.amazon.com/Entwining-Worlds-From-Other-Side/dp/0976352303).

5. Tell us about the publishing process.

After school, I would write on my computer. An idea blossomed in my mind and the words took flight. Soon, Chapter One became Chapter Two and so forth. One day, my parents saw how much I had written and entertained the notion of having it published. That notion turned into sending out samples of the manuscript, to agreeing to a publisher, to dealing with an editor and a graphic designer for the cover, and to having a 407 paged novel held between my two hands when I was thirteen. There was a book launch and I was invited by Barnes and Nobles and local schools to speak to kids about writing and following their dreams. The best part was a series of messages I received from the elementary school kids at St. Mary’s; they were so sincere and heartwarming.

6. Describe your college experience and how your South Asian American background affected it. And how did you end up with two very different courses of study?

My undergraduate studies were comprised on a dual path of French Literature and pre-medicine courses. I’ve been fortunate to have a great relationship with my parents that leans more toward friendship and am thankful that they have always trusted me and let me chart out my own path. I lived on campus at school for the first two years, and they even allowed me to live off campus for the second half of my years as an undergrad. They never pressured me towards a particular career. As a child, I always had a fascination concerning medicine; I wanted to help others and make a difference in their lives. In fact, at my book signing, I remember saying that writing was my favorite hobby; however, it was not what I wanted to pursue as a career. That distinction, even a decade ago, was important to me.

It was the dynamic lifestyle I had as a child that really affected my college experience. In Canada, at the age of eight, I began to learn French. I fell in love with the language and the textures of the words when they were spoken correctly. I continued to learn French in middle school, high school, and spent my four years of undergrad getting immersed in the culture, the films, and the literature. My family always encouraged me to see my goals to the finish. My dad always says, “There is a difference between a wish and a goal.” Spruha, meaning “wish” in Sanskrit, made me, as a child, believe that I had some kind of super power – whatever I wished for would come true. Thankfully, a lot of what I wished for, has come true, but the practical part of me is very much aware of the work required to turn a wish into a goal and then accomplish it. And so I decided that no matter what, I would write my thesis entirely in French and become fluent in the language.

As a South Asian American, I am fortunate to have the education I received. In the States, I did not have to choose to either study the arts or the sciences – I could do both. Over here I was pressured by neither my family nor society to pick a career at a young age and work towards that and only that. I am thankful for the flexibility.

My college experience was everything I wanted it to be, for the exact reason that I did everything I wanted to do. I took an active part in the Bioethics Society and being part of that organization was the best decision I could have ever made. I was among peers who all were a source of inspiration to me and by discussing various ethical scenarios and taking the time to see healthcare from a moral lens, I discovered a new passion and a way to nudge away from a more traditional outlook on medicine.

In the eighth grade, when someone asked me “What do you want to be?” I had blurted out: “A Renaissance woman.” I knew that in concrete terms, the reply should have been “A doctor”, but the abject and sincere way in which those words somehow formulated in my mind and left my lips made me realize just how much they were true. I wanted to be in control of my own story; I did not want to take a traditional route to reach my goals. Oftentimes a course like this can have setbacks, but I knew I could trudge through them bracingly if I knew that it was my decision. I wanted to and I still want to become a doctor, and the beauty of this country is that I can reach my goal in a way that is entirely my own.

7. What did you do after college?

After college, I took a year off. I took the MCAT, I worked at a bookstore, and I volunteered at a small community health clinic. I also traveled to England and France.

8. Where are you now?

I am finally on the medical path I’ve ardently worked towards and in a few years, I get to be Dr. Magodia at last. I also get to call Chinatown, in Philadelphia, my home and I am continuously having small adventures in what is a most interesting city.

9. How has medical school affected your views on your ethnic and cultural background?

I am constantly aware that I represent my ethnic and cultural background. I was aware of that as a student in undergrad and I am certainly aware of that now. In the way that I interact with others and the way I hold myself, everything that I am is represented symbolically. I come from a very vibrant culture; our festivals are grand and colorful and originate from different stories in Hindu mythology, and yet the unifying message of all of them can be simple: family and tradition.  I was raised with the knowledge that what I do affects my family and is a direct reflection of how they raised me. I never want to disappoint them. My family and what we have been through, the adventures we have had, the lives we have led in various places, all give me the ability to focus and march on, to keep in mind that everything I need to succeed is always with me.

10. What are your future goals? Gandhi once said something along lines of “You can lead a happy life or a meaningful one. But not both.” My future goal is to try to live both.

11. How importance has your culture been to you and how has that importance evolved?

My culture, my roots, will always be a largely inherent part of who I am and will permeate, consciously and subconsciously, into everything I do. I am an Indian in America and that combination itself has its quirks and nuances. I am a child from the noise, tumult and heat of Mumbai and the bells of the Siddhivinayak temple. I am also the girl who grew up in the West and can listen to Elton John’s rendition of “Moon River” every day, for the rest of her life. I like to jam out to Bollywood songs like it’s nobody’s business. I like to combine vastly different things and see how they go together, a testament to which is my entire academic path.

What I’ve come to realize is that in doing so, I have paid tribute to the amalgam that I am, and the combination of things that make up my own identity. 

Make your own damn rotis!

In an effort to undermine gender stereotypes about South Asian women, this “Empowered Woman” meme has been going around. Credit for the meme goes to students at IIM Kozhikode in India.

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.372666242745589.96444.180543498624532&type=3

http://www.buzzfeed.com/regajha/make-your-own-damn-rotis

Visit these links to figure out whose feet a woman should always look at, why a woman must always be home at 6 p.m., and why this woman can’t get into IIT. Feel free to leave comments about your opinions on these images, how you handle gender stereotypes in your daily life, and/or any other thoughts you may have!

The Sri Lankan Soprano

 

Tharanga Goonetilleke abandoned her goal of becoming a doctor to study music.

She is the first Sri Lankan to receive an acceptance to Juilliard and has performed in the United States, South Korea, and India.

Click on the link to discover her views on the future of South Asians in opera, discrimination in her field, and the conflict in her home country.

http://www.ibtimes.com/tharanga-goonetilleke-sri-lankan-soprano-shatters-stereotypes-about-south-asians-1546059

rwb

For a more recent interview, you can visit: http://www.npr.org/2014/05/03/309213640/sri-lankan-opera-singer-followed-her-dream-to-american-stage

Confessions of a Dark-Skinned Malayali South Indian-Canadian

I don’t claim to be Mindy Kaling’s hardcore fan, but I am eternally glad that she exists. I was just as grateful when Nina Davuluri won Miss America. I was even glad that, although not South Asian, Lupita Nyong’o exists. Basically, I praise the universe for giving North America the chance to see successful women of colour, especially successful South Asian women with very dark skin.  Each time I see their presence growing in the public eye, I desperately hope that people in South Asia see how successful these dark-skinned women are, realize that Fair & Lovely is a product of colonialism, decide to create a massive pit of fire in which million of tubes of the stuff is burned in a national celebration, then this event be named as some holiday and finally: actually start casting dark-skinned women in Bollywood films. And then, from these films, the world has proof that dark-skinned Indians exist. We would be combating the colonial legacies and their ridiculous white standards of beauty!

 

A girl can dream.

 

I remember waiting for my Saturday piano class when I was nine when an Afro-Caribbean friend of mine asked me what my background was (In Canada, this is a nicer way of asking the question “Where are you from?” without alienating visible minorities). When I told her I was from India, she replied in genuine nine year old shock: “But you’re too dark to be Indian!”

How refreshing to be told by a non-Indian person who has never gone to India that I don’t look Indian.

 

A trip to South India would quite literally blow her nine year old mind.

 

Being a transnational South Asian child, I lived my first seven years of life in Bhopal and Bangalore. I basically grew up in Canada and am now getting a degree adulthood in New Jersey. In each place I’ve lived, people’s reactions to my dark-skin and my identity as a South Asian girl/women have varied. These three places and the accompanying comments on my skin tone are namely shaped by two factors:

a) diaspora communities and diversity

b)white supremacy and colonialism has temporal tentacles that reach quite far into many generations.

For my fellow piano school peer, the reason for her making that comment stems from the fact that the city I lived in Canada had an Indian population that found cultural roots from a particular region in North India. Meaning, that any child’s understanding of what Indian people looked like would be that they looked like white people, had tan to light brown skin and black and usually brown eyes. Because there was a large population of Sri Lankans who looked like myself and very few South Indians, I’ve gotten quite a few comments:

You’re not Sri Lankan? But you’re so dark. (quite a few Sri Lankan friends and high school friends)

You’re so dark you’re practically black. (my younger tan sister)

You’re so dark you’re probably adopted (again my younger sister, ironic because with brown skinned parents, either one of us could be adopted).

 

While, there is nothing wrong with being adopted, black, or Sri Lankan, I am not any of these things. I identify as a Malayali, South Indian-Canadian.

 

When I lived in Bhopal (that’s North India for anyone unaware of Indian geography),  I distinctly remember my morning rickshaw rides to my pre-school were ruined by a duo of fair-skinned North Indian seven year olds who kept telling my best friend (a four year old) that he shouldn’t talk to me because my skin was dirty. I kid you not. My skin, according to them, was dirty because it was so dark. Children, unlike adults, have not learned to hide their prejudices. I can only imagine what biased and potentially awful human beings they grew up to be. I predict that no one really admonished them for saying something so horrible because they grew up in a culture where it is enforced by the media. You don’t see any dark skinned heroines in Bollywood, which leads children into thinking that dark skinned girls are ugly and will not amount to much (because as a woman you have to be both smart AND pretty). There was another memory in which a 9 year old self was constantly bullied by a family of West-Indian Canadian children saying how ugly I was when their mom wasn’t looking (don’t even think that would have made a difference).

When I usually tell this story to children of South Asian diasporas, they are shocked and rightfully so. They also give me a pat on my back and ask me how I’m not as “messed up” as I could be. Sometimes I wonder the same thing….

My parents and relatives have never been horrible about my skin which I had inherited from both of my grandfathers. However, as a woman, especially seeing the “pretty” Indian women, I honestly thought my being a girl with dark skin was some sort of curse. When I was little I would rub my skin while in the bath, as if beneath the layers of skin, was my true whiter and prettier colour. I have felt jealousy towards my sisters and friends for having such fair skin.

But despite the self-hate I had for my skin, I got some very confusing comments. A Mary-Kay sales lady (a white lady) said that bold colours would look lovely on me. A peer of mine (also a white woman), said that she was jealous of my ability to wear daring shades of eye-shadow with my skin-tone. I laugh internally sometimes when I hear that because I don’t think they really mean the compliment. If only they knew how many women around the world force themselves into a ritual of using dangerous bleaching products in an effort to look just like white women.

I find solidarity with many other women of colour who are taught to loathe their dark complexion. I find solidarity with black women who feel betrayed when a black man tells them that he only dates white women because he believes blue-eyes and blond hair is universally more attractive. I got really angry at my sister internally when she said that my now boyfriend wasn’t crush worthy because we both looked like siblings as we shared having dark skin (as if dark skinned people aren’t allowed to date each other. The underlying message being: nobody wants dark skinned babies). My heart grieves for the dark-skinned girls who grew up in households that told them that they are ugly or not as smart because of their dark skin.

I find solidarity with dark-skinned women who saw Lupita Nyong’o winning an Oscar or being lauded as an “it girl” and were proud of their black femininity (representation matters!). I sigh in disappointment that Bollywood would rather caste Katrina Kaif, a half white woman who can’t speak Hindi, as a leading lady than a darker Indian women who is just as pretty and can speak the language. I find solidarity with dark-skinned anime fans who have a very limited number of options on what character they can cosplay while their white peers can easily cosplay Asian characters. 

When I saw that Nina Davuluri won Miss America, I was elated that an Indian woman who was not fair and was South Indian could be considered beautiful and talented.

At the same time, I cynically knew that she, like Freida Pinto, would never be a cast as a Bollywood actress in India. 

-Post submitted by Srutika Sabu

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OoBaDt9cvQ#t=560

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OoBaDt9cvQ#t=560

This short film discusses the cultural appropriation of yoga and who benefits from it.

The film also answers questions such as, “What is yoga really? And what is it not?”

Listen to the perspective of Nisha Ahuja, an actress and playwright who has practiced yoga and delved into the world of ancient Vedic medicine for years. 

Credit goes to Toby Wiggins for having made the film. 

Feel free to agree, disagree, or share general thoughts in the comments section.

If you would like to write a response to this video, email redwhitenbrown@gmail.com!

Arangetram is to Bharatnatyam as Pahim Path Mangalya is to…

The National Women’s Dance Troupe of Sri Lanka will stage a Kandyan dance showcase on August 9th, 2014 at the College of Staten Island.

Kandyan is a classical Sri Lankan traditional dance form that originates from Buddhist traditions.

This event represents more than just a way for community members to discover Kandyan: It will serve as a graduation ceremony for students to showcase their abilities. (The Sinhalese term is “Pahim Path Mangalya.”)

Despite the prominent Sri Lankan community in Staten Island, it has been difficult to find a large and local Buddhist center to host the event, as well as financial resources to fund such a specific initiative.

A grant from Staten Island Arts, however, modifies this situation and enables the American debut of the Pahim Path Mangalya. The College of Staten Island will host the performance.

If you are interested in discovering Kandyan for yourself, you can go to the College of Staten Island’s Center for the Arts on August 9, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. There will be an admission fee of $28.

D-E-S-I, Desi.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee treats words like autochthonous as quotidian vocabulary, inspires reading the dictionary as a mere practice exercise, and confuses the most learned adults. For the first year since 1962, it boasts not just one…but two teenage winners.

And both of them happen to be South Asian. 

Sriram Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe, Indian Americans from New York and Texas, tied for first place after they exhausted the spelling bee word list. Aside from a talent in spelling, both are musicians with precise professional goals. (The Huffington Post reports that Hathwar aspires to be an ophthalmologist while Sujoe aspires to be an engineer.)

But they do not represent the only Indian American winners.

According to CBS, the past eight winners, and 13 of the past 17, have Indian origins. The trend began in 1999 after Nupur Lala’s victory, which was later featured in the documentary Spellbound.

Indian American children have also held excellent records in geography and mathematics bees.

Their stellar records have been attributed to various factors, including institutional support, cultural focus on education, the Indian education system, and self-confidence

 

To watch Hathwar and Sujoe’s epic win on Youtube, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8Azya1xGUk

Tell Us How You Feel…

 

Dear Readers,

We love bringing you current events, inspiring videos, amazing submissions, and yes, even memes of hairy chested men.

We love bringing you, well, everything Red, White, N Brown! And we hope you love us too :)

Here’s your chance to tell us how you feel. We have created a (VERY SHORT ) survey, and we’d like to get your feedback on our blog. Tell us what you like, (what you didn’t like), and how we can make this RWNB better. Just click on the survey link below:

https://fr.surveymonkey.com/s/WDM3PYK

And if you need a reason to do it, we’ve got celebrity endorsement….

We’d take Rajni’s word for it ;)