Tag Archive for 'Sikh'

Being Bin Laden

Ricky S. Sekhon (he plays Osama bin Laden in the Kathryn Bigelow film Zero Dark Thirty) in NYT. Sekhon was born in Southall, West London in 1983 to Indian parents

My journey to becoming Bin Laden started in March of last year, when I got a call from a casting director in London, who said she had been trying to get hold of me for a week — apparently the phone number I had registered on the Spotlight database, an online resource used to contact actors, was an old one. I apologized. She asked if I could come in the next day. I said yes, what for? She said she couldn’t tell me.

The next week, I was offered the part of the world’s most notorious terrorist. My first reaction was an expletive that cannot be printed here. I am a 29-year-old native Londoner, a moderate Sikh with a drama degree from Royal Holloway, University of London — a pretty far cry from a 54-year-old Saudi multimillionaire-turned-terrorist who had been on the lam for nearly a decade after murdering some 3,000 people. I guess I do look a bit like Bin Laden — I am 6 feet 4 inches tall, about what he was. I have brown skin and a prominent nose, but it’s not as though anyone has ever stopped me in the street and shouted, “Hey, aren’t you Bin Laden?” (And I think I have a better smile — not as creepy. At least my girlfriend says so.)

It’s not that easy to be an actor of Asian ancestry in Britain or America. There are fewer leading roles for us, but then again, there are also probably fewer of us going up for those roles. More:

“… I got so comfortable in the (body) bag that, by the end of the shoot, I was known as Osama bin Loungin’,” Read here

For Indian-American politicians, the “What are you?” test

From Salon:

She Anglicized her name, became a Christian, and was heralded as a Mama Grizzly by Sarah Palin — and now Nikki Haley is the overwhelming favorite to be the next Republican governor of South Carolina.

“You learn to try and show people how you’re more alike than you are different,” Haley, who was born Nimrata Randhawa into an Indian Sikh family, admitted to the New York Times earlier this year.

Bobby Jindal, raised in an Indian Hindu family in Baton Rouge, changed his name and converted to Catholicism. Now, Louisiana’s Republican governor is regarded as a potential candidate for his party’s presidential nomination.

When asked by “60 Minutes” last year if they follow any Indian traditions, Jindal and his wife insisted that “we were raised as Americans, we were raised as Louisianans, so that’s how we live our lives.”

There’s no doubt that the religious conversions of Haley and Jindal, the two most prominent Indian-American politicians, have powerful personal and spiritual roots. But it’s also inarguable that being Christians with Anglicized names has made it easier for them to create bonds with the overwhelmingly white and deeply religious voters who dominate Republican politics in the South. More:

Ajay Banga is MasterCard CEO

From The Times of India:

An entirely India-educated financial pundit climbed a world corporate pinnacle on Monday with MasterCard Inc, the ubiquitous financial company, naming Pune-born, Delhi-educated, IIM-Ahmedabad alum Ajay Banga as its CEO.

Banga will take over the top position from current CEO Robert Selander on July 1, only ten months after being hired from CitiGroup as a potential successor.

Banga joined MasterCard as president and chief operating officer from Citigroup Inc. last August, and was given a $4.2 million signing bonus he could keep if he wasn’t named CEO by June 30, 2010, according to a regulatory filing. Banga will retain his title as president when he becomes CEO. More

Fiction for a change

The son of a Muslim father and a Sikh mother, Aatish Taseer is well-placed to explore Indian identity. David Mattin in The National:

In fact, Taseer’s novel is the more fully realised of the two. We follow our narrator, also called Aatish, and also returning to Delhi after years abroad, as he befriends a brash, ambitious personal trainer called Aakash, and charts a course through the new social highs and lows of his home city.

Plot comes by way of a murder, in which Aakash is implicated; but Taseer is quick to point out that this novel’s real significance resides in what lies around the murder – that is, Delhi, in all its beauty and brutality – rather than in the murder tself.

There’s no doubt, says Taseer, that his own return to Delhi, and the shocks it gave rise to, were the fuel that powered his writing.

“Coming back to Delhi was arresting for me,” he says. “First, I realised that growing up in the city I had been blind to certain aspects of it, which I now saw: the dirt, the poverty, the casual violence built into relationships between privileged people and servants.

“But there was also shock at what was changing. It was a social change that was creating kinds of people who simply didn’t exist before. I grew up in India amid a class sealed away by the English language, by certain ideas of dress, and culture, and westernisation. And outside of that class were people who had very little. Now economic activity was changing that; you see all sorts of people developing their own ideas of vocation, and aspiration, and what should be theirs. More:

Muslims have no monopoly over ‘Allah’

Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, a member of parliament for the Justice Party and leader of the opposition, in the Wall Street Journal:

Malaysia has once again resurfaced in international headlines for the wrong reasons. Over the last two weeks, arsonists and vandals attacked 10 places of worship, including Christian churches and Sikh temples. Though there were no injuries and the material damage is reparable, the same cannot be said about the emotional and psychological scars left behind. After numerous conflicting statements from government officials, the underlying causes of the violence are still unaddressed. Malaysia’s reputation as a nation at peace with its ethnic and religious diversity is at stake.

Malaysia’s poor handling of religious and sectarian issues is not unique. The ill treatment of minority groups in Muslim countries is often worse than the actions Muslims decry in the West. I have called attention to the broader need in the Muslim world for leadership that demonstrates consistency and credibility in our call for justice, fairness and pluralism. These values are embedded in the Islamic tradition as the higher objectives of Shariah expounded by the 12th-century jurist al-Shatibi.

We have seen Muslims around the world protest against discriminatory laws passed in supposedly liberal and progressive countries in the West. Yet just as France and Germany have their issues with the burqa and Switzerland with its minarets, so too does Malaysia frequently fail to offer a safe and secure environment that accommodates its minority communities. More:

Bush’s tailor in Bangkok

AP report in IHT:

Jesse and Victor

Jesse and Victor

Thailand: U.S. Secret Service agents have knocked on the door of a hole-in-the-wall shop run by two turbaned Sikhs to take delivery of a special package for visiting President George W. Bush – five Egyptian cotton shirts in blue and white.

Thousands of miles from Washington, the Bush family has stitched close ties with the tailors, who over the years have turned out clothes for not only the current president, but his father and other family members.

“This time, I don’t think he will have time to have a suit made,” said Victor Gulati of Rajawongse Clothier. “Besides, we would have to remeasure him.”

Click here and here for more, and here for Jesse & Victor’s Rajawongse Clothier site called Dress for Success: