LGBT While South Asian

Parag Mehta and his partner Vaibhav…Photo courtesy of The Guardian

The Guardian recently wrote a piece on how Indian Americans accept their sexual identities while maintaining their positions in South Asian American communities.

LGBTQ youth have always faced isolation and apprehension at the prospect of coming out to their parents.

For South Asian youth, these feelings can become exacerbated because of parents who are “deeply in denial about homosexuality” and come from countries where homosexuality has been criminalized.

The Guardian piece profiles Parag Mehta,Sunu Chandy, and Radha Patel, Indian Americans who identify as LGBTQ.

Mehta came out to his parents after two suicide attempts. His medical doctor father searched for a cure for homosexuality. When he discovered that there was none, he wrote a letter about his son to the community, asking them to support him as they always had.

Dr. Mehta said, “‘There is a shame that’s associated with this, especially among the older generation, who are all too willing, …to get their gay children married off to members of the opposite sex, simply to maintain appearances.'”

Chandy accepted her parents and their mixed feelings about her sexual identity until she adopted a child with her partner. She then offered an ultimatum: If they did not accept her completely, they would not be able to interact with her grandchild. They attended her subsequent wedding, but Chandy remarked upon other family members who did not attend and her own discomfort at attending weddings with people from India.

Patel remarks upon the race and class distinctions her community has made when people pursue others from different castes, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

She elaborated upon a girl who married someone of Hispanic descent by saying, “‘She was not only disowned by the entire community, but her own parents disowned her.’”

To read the article in full, click the link below. Feel free to share your opinions and experiences in the comments section.

Sunu Chandy, her partner Erika, and their family. Photo courtesy of The Guardian

Adnan Syed Will Get to Appeal His Case

Image courtesy of

After years of prison time, and a couple months of unprecedented media attention, Pakistani-American Adnan Syed will receive a chance to appeal his life sentence for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee.

Syed maintained his innocence but was nevertheless found guilty in 2000.

His case has recently come to light after the release of the podcast Serial, which analyzed his case in great detail.

Syed was convicted after an anonymous call to police. The officers subsequently subpoenaed his cell phone records, which revealed repeated calls to people who ultimately accused him of the crime.

Syed is appealing his case on the basis of ineffective counsel, as his lawyer did not thoroughly investigate a potential alibi.

For those who are curious, read on to discover more about the legal consequences of an appeal:

For those who are unfamiliar with the case, you can listen to to familiarize yourself with the details.

Harry Potter Meets Bollywood

Imagine a Harry Potter film in Bollywood style.

Aloo parathas and chai in the Burrow every morning. Saris as daily uniforms instead of robes. Super super sales with many more opportunities to haggle in Diagon Alley. Smiling faces adorned with kohl at the Yule Ball. The tamasha of love triangles and a tragic chorus  of “Ahs” to echo the lovers’ sorrow. A long song and dance routine between Hagrid and Madame Maxime in the mountains as they search for giants. And the party to end all parties for Fleur and Bill’s wedding.

Click the link below to view the potential cast of this certain blockbuster.

Note: This project has not been deemed reality. It is purely wishful thinking from South Asian American Harry Potter fans.

South Asian American Makes His Mark on TED

Photo courtesy of

Bassam Tariq, a filmmaker and butcher with Pakistani roots, participated in the TED Global Fellows Class of 2014.

Tariq is well-known for his documentary entitled “These Birds Walk.” Since joining the fellowship, he has give an exhilarating TED talk and produced a short film to raise awareness about polio vaccinations for Pakistani people working in the UAE.

According to the TED blog, Tariq’s varied projects have a centered source: What drives his work is a desire for an authentic representation of the Muslim community’s humanity.

Tariq’s films have received recognition for their sensitive perspectives on difficult societal issues.

Here is a link to “These Birds Walk”:

The Red, White, n Brown Ride so far

Red, White, n Brown has been around for almost one full year. We, the moderators, have loved hearing reader suggestions and following both your posts and your comments.

Here is a WordPress report on our work:

An excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,300 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

We are looking forward to continuing in 2015. Please feel free to submit ideas and potential entries to

And please comment on individual entries! We want to hear from you!

Have a very Desi New Year!

Meet Kamala

Image owned by Marvel; found on the WordPress blog of Hannah Givens

A brown female superheroine who relies on the Quran in times of trouble?

Kamala Khan has impressed critics and lay comic readers with her fresh personality and real struggles.

(Superhuman powers go a long way, but heroes and heroines alike still have to deal with feelings and family members!)

A Jersey City native, Kamala practices Islam and engages in the local community…all while posing questions about what it means to be herself and fighting to save the world from evil.

Kamala belongs to the Ms. Marvel series. She is not the first Muslim character to appear in a Marvel comic book, but she is the first Muslim to serve as a lead.

Pakistani-Americans have described Kamala’s portrayal as one that provides relateable struggles without exoticized and stereotypical characteristics.

Feel free to share your thoughts and questions about Kamala Khan and her experience as a South Asian American.

Image from Marvel; found on the WordPress blog of Hannah Givens

What’s in a Name?

Image courtesy of

While Buzzfeed is most commonly known for its entertaining lists, the RWB team came across one of its more complicated pieces.

This article, written by Durga Chew-Bose, details the complexities involved with having an ethnic name in modern America.

Read on to reflect upon how identification impacts identity and how one person came to terms with this.

“You need to find to find a way to harmonize your obligations with justification of your passion.”

Photo courtesy of Hidden Grounds

Low lighting, communal tables, Indian art, and shelves of coffee beans decorate the walls of Hidden Grounds, a South Asian themed coffee shop located in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Anand Patel and Spoorthi Kumar left their corporate jobs at Johnson and Johnson to establish the store, which opened in July 2013.

“I always had a passion for coffee. I grew up next to a coffee estate. It was basically ingrained in my blood,” said Kumar.

The South Asian aspect of the business came about organically as their parents helped them decorate the shop.

It describes our nature. A part of me wanted that,” admitted Kumar.

They started incorporating South Asian traits in “subtle” ways, such as through art and pictures.

“The fact that we know so much about our cultures resonated with the business,” Patel added.

After the art came the masala chai, the signature product of Hidden Grounds. Made from scratch, the drink is made from ginger, assam tea, and spices from India.

A Hidden Grounds chai comes straight from the stove and carries a flavorful kick that gives the drinker a taste of the Motherland. Hidden Grounds chai challenges the mainstream perception of chai in America, a perception often based on chai tea lattes from grab and go coffee shops like Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts.

When customers order chai at Hidden Grounds, the salespeople transparently explain their product and even give a small sample to combat the “misalignment of expectations” that results from lack of knowledge about  authentic Indian tea. Rather than create a watered down beverage, Kumar and Patel do their best to educate customers about chai. 

Their business has fostered the philosophy of passing down knowledge.

“You have to start…perception of chai from scratch,” reflected Patel.

Another South Asian menu item is the Bombay sandwich, a sandwich made from mint chutney, grilled vegetables, whole wheat bread, and Indian cheese.

“It reminds me of home,” reminisced Kumar, an Indian native.

Patel and Kumar started a coffee shop in New Brunswick due to their troubles finding a place where young people could sit down, hang out, and chat. The two have done their best to maintain this open culture as business owners.

“We make an active effort to be in front of the customer at all times or whenever possible,” said Patel. 

Hidden Grounds is active in the New Brunswick community, catering events and participating in the local Farmer’s Market. It also hosts internal events, including a monthly comedy night. A customer even hosted an event with tea which had a “great turnout.” Another customer worked with Hidden Grounds to host a cold brew cocktail event where patrons could taste test alcoholic caffeinated beverages.

“It’s about building the community however you can. I never feel like we’re a coffee shop. We’re much more than that,” stated Kumar.

New Hidden Grounds projects include bottled iced coffee and efforts to source coffee from India.

Though the business has been a big hit in New Brunswick, Patel and Kumar are very aware of the difficulties that entrepreneurs face.

Passion itself doesn’t necessarily start businesses,” Patel commented.

Both Patel and Kumar encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to know their product, the market, and the perceptions of people who interact with both.

When it comes to entrepreneurship, people become really excited about ideas. They don’t follow up. They don’t do the rest. You need to do a lot of research, plan it. You need to figure out how to fill the gap [in the market],” observed Patel.

Patel notes issues for South Asian American entrepreneurs in particular.

“We live in this cocoon where we’re told, ‘You need to go to college and get a 9-5 job.’ As South Asians,[who are often expected to] fit into categories, you need to break out of the cocoon. You need to fulfill your obligations, but you need to find a way to justify your passion…a way to harmonize your obligation with justification of your passion.”

If you want to see how Kumar and Patel harmonized their obligations with their passion, in a culturally authentic atmosphere, visit Hidden Grounds on weekdays from 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m., Saturday from 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., or Sunday from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

For aspiring entrepreneurs who would like further advice, Patel has welcomed correspondence at

From arranged marriage to dating counselor…

Image courtesy of Randy Glasbergen

Red, White, n Brown readers wanted more articles about dating in the South Asian world, and your moderators are committed to fulfilling your requests!

Here is an article by Beejoli Shah, a South Asian American author.

Shah describes her mother’s solid dating advice and credits her keen interpersonal knowledge to an arranged marriage: 

My mom had to learn how to build a relationship using things besides romance: She and my dad had to figure out together, in their early 20s, what was important to each other if they wanted to last the long haul. That grounded approach to marriage, coupled with the anecdotal anthropology of growing up outside her cultural comfort zone (as one of very few Indians in Fort Wayne, Indiana), has made her more of an expert on dating and relationships than I was ever willing to give her credit for.”

While arranged marriage remains a complicated issue, in the best and worst circumstances, Shah reflects upon her mother’s experience and how it affected her perspective.

Let us know what you think in the comments section, and feel free to share your own experiences on this topic that regularly impacts South Asian Americans.