Indian Grocery Store Security

Here's a snapshot of the security display at the local desi grocery store:

Photobucket

The display collates the views from the eight security cameras mounted at various points throughout the store. It's not a particularly big establishment, so there must be some very cool stuff (or particularly recidivist patrons) to warrant this level of Big Brother Bada Bhai attention. The naming of the subdisplays provides some clues in this respect. First, we have the Front Counter and Aisle Cams. Self explanatory. But then we have the Lota Cam and the plot thickens. In South Asian parlance, a lota is:

commonly used to store or transfer small amounts of liquids like milk or water. In the Indian sub-continent, where cleaning with water is the usual method for maintaining personal hygiene after defecation or urination, a lota with a spout is widely used as a container for this purpose.

Clearly, the owners feel the need to watch over their lota stock very carefully indeed, particularly for those fresh off the boat fellows so much at sea in the American bathroom, yet too depleted fundwise to invest in something that is so common at home. I wonder how many shoplifters have been caught trying to leave the store after sheepishly concealing a lota somewhere on their person.

Next we arrive at the pickle cam. Again, it must say something about this store's pickle collection that they feel the need to watch it so carefully. It is indeed very extensive but again, I have a hard time believing would be thieves trying to slip pickle bottles up their sleeves or down elsewhere. It takes all types, I suppose.

Pooja cam and Pooja cam2 are nods towards the store's collection of puja supplies which are indeed quite extensive and expensive. Same is true for the Divya Cam. The Lamb Cam leaves me a little befuddled however as I am sure they don't have any killer sheep penned up just waiting to escape thus necessitating round the clock surveillance. Rather, it's the frozen foods section. The meat must be amazing indeed to be worth all this security. A pity since I avoid red meat these days.

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- January 22, 2011 6:40 PM // Humour

The Onion's Fake Mag Covers

A reminder from Slate:

Pointing out that the Onion is funny is a bit like pointing out the sky is blue. It is perhaps the most-praised comedy brand in existence, and its brilliant headlines and videos constantly ricochet around the Web. But it's worth seeking out what may be the most overlooked treasure on the Onion's Web site: the archives of the Onion's Sunday magazine.

What makes me love the 234 covers featured here isn't just that they're hilarious—though they certainly are; it's that they so fondly parody the magazine form. Parade, the Sunday Times Magazine, ESPN, the newsweeklies: Each of these comes in for loving scorn.

An example:

And another:

All the fake mag covers you could possibly want here.

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- July 18, 2010 12:41 PM // Humour

It Starts With A Word

Word leads to

Sentence which leads to

Paragraph which naturally runs on to

Page

Chapter

Book

Championing by obscure art lit critic

Series

Out of print fishwrap.

Discovery by out-of-luck down-to-his-last-cocaine-line film director at an Inland Empire bake sale.

Indie Film Adaptation

Sundance

Director's Cut DVD with unrated, unnecessary extra footage containing nothing lurid.

Poorly dubbed Telenovela on Univision.

Included on re-release Director's Cut 10 Year Anniversary Edition DVD.

Criterion Collection

Endless marathon reruns on Star TV in between pan parag and Vicks commercials with all the good bits excised

Bollywood "adaptation" with much denial by producers that this is not a frame by frame ripoff of the original.

Entire "adaptation" almost instantaneously available on YouTube in 10 minute chunks.

Fan Tamil dub edit goes viral.

Hipster bloggers tweet up a storm.

Gritty dark re-imagined remake or origin story prequel greenlit in Hollywood. With money from Indian conglomerates.

Untimely death of original auteur in tragic hot tub accident observed in back page of The Big Sur Times.

--

Hat tip.

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- June 11, 2010 3:50 PM // Bollywood , Film , Humour

Shortcuts

Cross posted on sharidelic.

The SMS/Text shortcuts seem to have become the new lexicon of the 21st century. What started off as a language of convenience is gradually taking over the English language. I often get emails written in short-form, like the following (from a very sweet friend, I should add):

Hi
recd ur msg on fb.
nice to hear from u after so long.
u must have been busy with ur lil one.
see u n da lil one soon!
S

I have to admit that I find this extremely annoying — why bother to write when you don’t have time to spell out words? I haven’t figured out a way to politely convey that to this friend of mine. Perhaps she’ll get the point when she reads this post :-) It’s okay to use it for text messaging, for tweeting (to best utilize the 140 word-limit on Twitter) and maybe for a quick Facebook update but it’s not nice to write letters just with initials. I have also noticed that this trend is more popular in India as compared to the US — my inference is based on my experience of living in these two countries only. I’m guessing, it’s the influence of the rampant SMS culture there, which can probably translate to any heavy text using community across the globe.

This brilliant piece by an an Indian American Comedian Dalia McPhee called “What’s with all the initials?”, describes my sentiments perfectly! Here’s how it goes…

I got up and that was the good part.

Then I got on my PC to see CNN, then I IM-ed my friend JD on AOL, then my CPU went AWOL. And, JD’s all LOL, guess ur S.O.L. And, I’m LOL? LOL?, FU u SOB!!…

Check out the rest of her show along with four other talented Indian comedians on the Indian Comedy Tour DVD available on Netflix. You don't have to be an Indian to enjoy the jokes, they are pretty universal!

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Shari Acharya - June 3, 2010 12:06 PM // Humour , TV , Theater

Band On The Rack

Recently, I came across Life In A .. Metro, a nice enough paean to the joys and sorrows of living in a big, soulless city - in this case, Mumbai. No bring-the-action-to-a-standstill dance tamasha here, the film being part of the wave of what I call multiplex films. Instead, the director asked a rock band to take one for the team, inserting them into the film periodically to underscore poignant moments. They look like they really suffered for their art. If you examine the frames closely, a subtext emerges. Here we go.

We first meet the band during the opening sequences and look! They are drenched already. They don't look very happy right from the beginning.

Life In A Metro - Band 01

Can you feel the pain? You know he can. Also, I presume PortaPotties were scant at the shoot.

Life In A Metro - Band 02

Now the director has put them on a windy rooftop. Without any railings. The poor lead singer looks close to being swept away.

Life In A Metro - Band 03

Next, we see them in train station, trying to hold on against an oncoming crush of commuters. This is tough to watch.

Life In A Metro - Band 04

And another round of indiginity. Performing next to a construction site and ladders? Can you say bad luck?

Life In A Metro - Band 05

As if that wasn't enough, look at the poor band's mode of transportation! Rickety motor bikes rushing at top speed. My, my. That doesn't look very safe at all. Whatever happened to tour buses?

Life In A Metro - Band 06

After all of this, can you blame the rest of the cast for being sympathetic? Some start to feel the pain for themselves.

Life In A Metro - Band 07

Having had enough, the band tries to make a quiet getaway. Inasmuch as the harmonica playing will allow...

Life In A Metro - Band 08

Caught! And punished! Poor band now has to play sitting in the bay.

Life In A Metro - Band 09

Finally, the director dumps the band back in the station where they have to perform just to pick up enough loose change for their fare. Shame!

Life In A Metro - Band 10


There really should have been a disclaimer "No Bands Were Harmed During The Making Of This Film" but now we are left to wonder about their fate. Will the Poor Little Brave Band That Could make it back home safely? Will there be a sequel to their story? Kudos, brave band, kudos.

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- May 2, 2010 10:58 AM // Bollywood , Humour , Music

Kal Penn goes back to his roots (and buds)

Ref: Kal Penn upgrades from the White House to the White Castle


The election of Obama to the Presidency was for many people an experience akin to that of a first-time raver. A tsunami of dopamine floods your skull, lighting ablaze every last neuron. And in that cresting wave of impossibly good feelings you have ideas. Some wicked cool ideas. Like, you know, what the world really needs is a Ministry of Cuddling and maybe a Treasury of Stolen Kisses. And if only, somehow, you could just talk to Osama Bin Laden and give him a hug. He would renounce terrorism, move to the Bay Area, open up a hookah bar (called 'Arabian Nights', natch) and become a DJ of some repute, known for throwing down chill Islamo-Arabic beats.

But now it's morning. This isn't Reagan's "Morning in America". It's morning in an abandoned warehouse along the industrial edge of Oakland. You are slouched in one corner on the cold, hard concrete. And in the stark light of day you see that the cool Jamaican Rastafarian with whom you had a brilliant conversation last night is decidedly neither Jamaican nor a Rastafarian. He is Ben, a middle-aged Jewish guy with fake dreadlocks, who works in the back room of the local herbal therapy store and lives in Mrs. Chao's basement in Chinatown. The slinky rave goddess who lit up the dance floor with you and with whom you had this really, really amazing connection is a pink-haired, slightly chubby 19-year old named Amber from Contra Costa county who is slumped over your shoulder crying because her baby daddy Hector just texted, promising her an ass-whooping because he came home from a night of gang banging to find their infant son alone with her preteen brother.

From the corner of your eye you see the DJ packing up his gear, throwing you an occasional disinterested look. Your eyes are crusty. Your throat is dry. You really need to take a whizz. Ben's drooling on your legs. You gently kick him off. Amber's now sobbing uncontrollably. You twist away slowly and let her slide off. You feel for the car keys in your pocket. Still there. You breathe a sigh of relief. You get up, stretch, look at your watch. It's 11:45 am. And you think, "I best get out of here. Gotta make a living."

And that's what happened to Kal Penn.

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Amar Parikh - April 3, 2010 11:00 AM // Humour , Politics

Ad Casting Requirement Fail

From Craigslist:

Nancy Hayes Casting is searching for 2 real Lipitor users for a SAG national commercial & print ad campaign.

Caucasian Male 50-65 (preferred age is 55-65)
Patient must currently be taking Lipitor brand name medication (non generic) for 1+ years
Patient must have had a heart attack

African American Male 50-65 (preferred age is 55-65)
Patient must currently be taking Lipitor brand name medication (non generic) for 1+ years
Patient cannot be taking any other cholesterol lowering medication

I am sure they must require proof of a) heart attack and b) Lipitor usage. Otherwise, expect lots of people to show up clutching their chests.

"You hear that, Elizabeth? I'm coming to join ya, honey!"

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- February 26, 2010 5:14 PM // Bay Area , Humour

Decompressing ..

From:

In America, when you get pissed off, you buy a gun and shoot someone. In Canada, you go back to your parents’ house and smoke pot.

In India, you probably would either:

a) approach your friendly neighborhood goonda.
b) lead a bandh
c) call in to the Radio Mirchi hotline to complain.
d) commiserate with the lads over strong cups of sweet tea at your local chaishop.

The answer really depends on what part of India you're from - my guess is Kolkata residents would mostly opt for (d) or (b). In Bihar on the other hand ... suffice it say, someone I met at a gathering recently compared Alabama as being the Bihar of the USA.

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- December 19, 2009 7:50 PM // Humour

Baby Names IV

Rant from friend, edited:

A couple of us expectant parents were talking about baby names last night and the balancing act Indian parents-to-be in the US have to perform in picking a name that retains some sense of Indianness while at the same time is pronounceable and doesn't condemn the child to a lifetime of ridicule.

Apropos of that, I just ran into a sweet indian lady at work who recently had a baby boy. She named him .... (drum roll) ... Sripadh. Now that's what I call muchos cojones! Naming your child Sripadh is basically raising the middle finger to any future trauma that name might inflict on the child.

But I don't mock her decision. Maybe that's another way to go about it -- if the name speaks to you, don't give a damn how it would play in this country (or in India, for that matter).

You want to name your child after his dada Sukhdeep? No other name but Hardik suits your cutie pie? Don't worry, just go for it!

With apologies to Russell Peters.

Also see this, this and this.

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- October 24, 2009 10:53 AM // Diaspora , Humour

The Humble Indian

I am a dynamic Indian, often seen clinging to the back of the bus with one index finger. I crush cashews with two opposing digits. I have been known to sweep the VT train station clean on my lunch break and force goondas to give up ladies seats. I can translate Punjabi gaalis into chaste Pushto. I write award winning Marxist Bengali plays. Indian Standard Time does not apply to me. Sometimes, I will do Matsyasana in water for three days straight, just because I can.

I woo the ladies with my elegant Harmonium playing, I can ride my scooter up Rohtang Pass to Manali thrice as fast as the DTC express and my samosas are ready by the time it takes you to roll your atta. I am an expert in tubewells, a legend in shayaris and am big in Bangladesh.

Using only my breath and fast feet, I once singlehandedly beat an entire village in Madhya Pradesh in kabbadi. I play the ghatam, I was scouted by Mohun Bagan. I am the subject of numerous khayals. When I get bored, I build Howrah bridge replicas in my back yard. I love maidan cricket. On Fridays, after school, I screen pirated Tamil movies free of charge.

I am a singer of Carnatic classical and a tout of Pawar-ian proportions. Fashionistas worldwide are in awe of my collection of slip on chappals. I am an ordinary citizen yet my bat receives fan mail. I only bowl bouncers. I am planning on touring Rajasthan with a Van De Graaff generator. My Shahrukh Khan impression has earned me fame in international circles. Aunties love me.

I can spit paan juice at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read A Suitable Boy, Gora and the Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema in one day and still had time to paint a MF Husain knockoff for my dining room mantlepiece. I know the exact location of every pav-bhaji seller in Chowpatty. I have covertly raided millitant training camps in POK and have defused transistor radio bombs in Bangalore. Gravity is optional to me.

I hop-scotch, I chillax, I gambol and I bargain at the bazaar. On weekends, I engage in full contact adda for relaxation. While meditating in the Himalayas, the meaning of life came to me but I was fresh out of neem leaves. I have fed entire wedding parties with nothing but homemade uttapam and jilebis. I breed prize winning hilsa, chase Bollywood starlets in the Maldives and have pioneered Acuvedapathy, a blend of acupuncture, Ayurveda and Homeopathy. I have played Shahjahan, seanced Gandhi and know what really happened to Subhas Chandra Bose.

But I have never left Midnapore.

Note: inspired by this and this.

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- July 25, 2009 12:56 PM // Humour

Not So Super Heroes

Exhibit A, "Speed Eater":

superhero


Exhibit B, "Squirrel Girl":

superhero


Exhibit C, "Super Govinda and Spider Simi":

superhero

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- April 23, 2009 8:21 PM // Humour

Doubtsourcing: The Sitcom

I'd first heard about doubtsourcing, the comic strip, in a techcrunch writeup. I think all desis with a) an internet connection and b) a funnybone are well familiar with the output from Badmash and this latest offshoot from one of the core group members, Sandeep Sood, seemed to have hit the ground running. Then I stopped hearing about it and the website stopped responding (it's down as of the time this post was written).

What happened? I figured with the US recession going global and a rise in forecasts for the decline in outsourcing, perhaps Sandeep's strip itself had fallen victim to the ongoing trends.

I was wrong. I caught this ad on craigslist looking for voice talent:

Male Voice Actor needed for Animated Sitcom (berkeley) Reply to: gigs-940863403@craigslist.org [?] Date: 2008-12-01, 12:56PM PST


Badmash.tv is an animation studio working on its first animated sitcom, called Doubtsourcing.

We are looking for a voice actor to play the part of Jamie.

Further web hunting revealed a slew of such ads, a Sepia Mutiny comment:

As for the studio, we are working on an animated sitcom called Doubtsourcing (should have the pilot done in a few months)

and this interview:

His most visible success, though, has been the "Doubtsourcing" comic strip and it caught the attention of a venture firm in the Valley. His potential investors suggested that "Doubtsourcing" be developed into a full fledged animated series, a sort of The-Simpsons-meets-The-Office. With Badmash already making a foray into developing an animation studio in India, it seems like a natural progression.

I found the last part of the interview to be particularly interesting:

Where do you plan to air the show? Here in the US or in India?

SS: That is an open question. We are negotiating with a few different channels including the more mainstream ones like Warner. There’s also the option of bypassing TV altogether and going straight to the web.

The italics are mine. With pundits proclaiming online video to be the killer app this year (and my day gig reliant on that fact :-), the timing for a straight to internet play couldn't be more appropriate. The recent successful VC rounds of sites like funnyordie and jibjab show the interest in generating online original humor content. There are plenty of risks with this type of endeavour, however, particularly when relying on content to go viral. As Sandeep noted himself when commenting on another piece:

There’s a ‘Jib-Jab’ effect to these types of animations. Your first piece is totally fresh, delightfully amateurish, and funny as a result. Then, unless you come with something totally new, it’s hard to recapture the same buzz again.

This is something we’ve learned first hand at badmash - if you’re trying to be purely viral, you can’t ride the same idea or style for too long.

With the badmash crew leading the way in this space for the desi diaspora, it'll be fascinating to track their approach to promoting the latest incarnation of doubtsourcing, their revenue model and, most importantly, how well it catches on. Fingers crossed. One thing is true though: with fiascoes like Satyam's going on right now, there certainly won't be any lack of material or interest on this topic!

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- January 10, 2009 7:44 PM // Diaspora , Humour , Technology

Overprotective Parents

There is a world of difference between "knowing it" vs "feeling it." Back in 2001, I came across these ads in an issue of the magazine Communication Arts. I believe they were part of a Singapore based campaign for Toyota Corolla. Naturally, I thought they were very funny back then. Now that I am the father of a 10 month old, I understand the sentiment on a whole different level. If I could enclose him fully in bubble wrap, I actually might seriously consider it :-)




Thanks to Rich Burridge for finding the pics online.
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- October 12, 2008 11:03 AM // Humour , Virj

Washout

Following the San Francisco Giants can be a tough proposition - Indian cricket fans, particularly the older ones, will probably know exactly what I mean. Never did I think, however, that someone would illustrate the point via a picture of a desi college prank. Here goes:

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- September 26, 2008 2:47 PM // Humour

Mocking Gurus

The Guardian's William Leith take on why The Love Guru flopped:

In The Love Guru, the main character is a new-age guru in the style of Deepak Chopra – in fact, he's the number two guru, always coming second behind Chopra himself. He's supposed to be a man of eastern mystery, meditation, and so on. (The character is actually pretending to be Indian.) Myers must have thought that this would be another rich seam to mine for dick jokes and jokes about flatulence and sex. But it's not. That's the problem. It's just not – partly because we don't know enough about the world of gurus and India and eastern mysticism, and partly because we're queasy when somebody takes the mickey out of it.

In other words, you can mock slackers, and you can mock 60s spies, but you can't mock gurus – it gives the audience a sort of shudder, as if we were watching It Ain't Half Hot, Mum, the 70s comedy set in the Raj.

Whereas I don't think Gurus/Indian spirituality are necessarily immune to humor, the approaches thus far have probably been too crude to succeed. Try this following sketch from the late lamented BBC program Goodness Gracious Me:

I think this works because:

  • The humor is gentle.
  • It's immediately apparent to both desi and non-desi audiences that this guy is in fact clueless. The humor stems from how our guru manages to continue fooling his gullible disciples.
  • Presence of elements audiences of all types can dig: brand names as pidgin Sanskrit, conflation with Star Wars and so on
  • .

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- August 12, 2008 7:13 PM // Film , Humour

Triplets

From a baseball blog:

I had a friend who went to high school with triplets named Veni, Vidi, and Vici.

No idea if this is true or not, but nice regardless.

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- July 29, 2008 1:06 PM // Humour

200th Entry: Desi Jersey Mafia

This post marks the 200th entry on dishumdishum and I debated on how best to celebrate. An obvious thing to do would have been to list some of the better posts but I do that already as a sidebar feature called The Dishum Primer. Instead, I thought it would be fun to showcase an older piece of writing I am particularly proud of - the saga of the "Desi Jersey Mafia", a desi version of Spinal Tap, if you will. They would have been big in Bangladesh. Except they didn't really do Bangla Rock, you see. Apache Indian style dancehall and Digable Planets era hop hop was more their scene. The rap itself grew out of an exchange on the newsgroup alt.culture.us.asian-indian. You can find the early seed here. That was in April 1994, nearly fourteen years ago. Talk about dating yourself!

I didn't do any work on it for nearly a year until it came time to trot out some stuff for the annual Holi function at my grad school. With my partner in crime, Subra, we fashioned an entire narrative with verbal nods to A Tribe Called Quest, GangStarr and Das EFX. Yes, they were very big then. Given I was already mucking about with a high end Mac Quadra for my thesis work, it was a no brainer to actually record and create a track. I wish I had it lying around now to share but the files ended up in digital nirvana, sadly.

I remember being worried on the eve of the performance that the audience wouldn't be able to hear the words, so we passed out lyric sheets in advance. To no avail as it turned out. The whole thing fell a bit flat, at least by my standards. I consoled myself with thoughts of being too ahead of our time etc etc and went on to other things.

It wasn't until I began occasionally e-mailing out the lyrics that things started to happen. Somehow, one such missive triggered a chain e-mail reaction amongst desis in the Northeast - from what I understand, the usual comment was "check out this cool rap. Grad students in Ithaca seem to have entirely too much time on their hands!"

Then, in '99, I received the following e-mail from noted Asian American scholar Vijay Prashad:

You will no doubt be rather surprised to hear from me after all these years (admittedly only three years). My reason for writing is rather urgent, so forgive me for getting right to the point. I have a book that is in production (Karma of Brown Folk) with the University of Minnesota Press. In it, I use several lines from "Desi Like That" by your fine group, Desi Jersey Mafia. Of course, I give full credit to you and the group.

Indeed, Karma of Brown Folk came out later that year and we were in it. I have my own complimentary copy of the book to prove it too. Courtesy Google, here's the actual place in the book where the excerpt appeared, ahead of a chapter, "On Authentic Cultural Lives", dealing with Asian migration to the United States.

Enough of the preamble. Here's the whole thing. Enjoy:

Yo my name is Soam , that's foam with an S
them dudes like my duds, see I'm dressed for success
I higgedy diggedy my Mama, I'm as built as Bhima
taller than a tree and I sting with my degree
I drive a Honda Civic, but to me it's a Ferrari
Hemanta on the speaker - 'cause I'm a Bengali
but hey, 'nuff of me, I got work to do,
so let's go and chill with the rest of my crew

see my man Subra, he's smooth with the ladies
they call him every night, just to ride in his Mercedes
he takes them out to dinner, he makes them laugh and scream
When stuff is getting rough, he wakes up - "just a dream!"

And my homeboy Harish, what else can we say?
He's cooler than December, he's hot, hot like May
He's well educated, got a high school diploma
"What's two plus two?", "I'll leave you in a coma!"

Yo, I'm Suresh and I'm a supah jock
I read Byron, I pump iron, I'm built like a rock
some say I'm da brain, but I'm tha body too
I'm supah badd, hottah than vindaloo

But we be to rap what raga be to veena

'Cause we're cool like dat, we're cool like that, we're desi like that,
yeah we're desi (echo)

(Reporter)
Desi Jersey Mafia: really happening band
Tell us how they formed, please make us understand

Arre bhai aur bahen, sab shuno shuno
let me tell this story, that you really ought to know

Back in the days when I was a teenager
Dazed and confused was the status of my nature
Desi, pardesi what was I? "Just crazy?"
Easy said my daddy, stop sweatin' bout your future
Be hittin' all your books like there be no tomorrow
Straight A's, it pays, that'll drown your sorrow
"O bhai" said I, must give this s*** a try
So EE was to me, like the Nile was to the Pharaoh
The years be passing by and I wasn't getting younger
One day, hai hai hey, it hit me only stronger
No life, no wife, no culture, just this drive
Like vindaloo with no aloo, no way to kill my hunger
My brain was cast again in a frizzy stormy state
Then I got the answer and this I now relate
"Rap, all that, add some bhangra, it's so phat
Mix like begoon-bhartha, you'll down it just like that"

I be to rap what gulli be to danda

'Cause we're cool like dat, we're cool like that, we're desi like that,
yeah we're desi (echo)

(Reporter)

Desi Jersey Mafia, go on with your story
how you found each other, your way to fame and glory

Well I was low on dough, Harish was on the dole
Subra had been dissed, and Suresh was on parole
it didn't take too long, to make us understand
to get those checks and chicks, we had to form a band
We tried fusion-grunge, Suresh played the sitar
Harish beat the drums while Subra picked the guitar

Had to get a deal, with a record label
show them our stuff, showed them we were able

( Pseudo ragga rap interlude )

well that didn't work, but we had to get heard
I got my man Mark, to put in a good word
....................................Word
this did not work either, things were getting hectic
we had to change approach, try another tactic
it was no use, we had nothing to lose
we made him an offer, offer he couldn't refuse

We be to rap what raga be to veena

'Cause we're cool like dat, we're cool like that, we're cool like that
we're cool like that, we're desi like dat, we're desi like that, we're
desi like that, yeah we're desi(echo)

I'm Bengali like dat, charm the lerkis with my bhasha
"arre moshai kemon achen, ei to bhalobhasha"
but we have brains and Karl Marx, our russgoolas are sweet
I sing and dance like Rabindrasangeet

I'm Tamil like dat, I'm a Testarossa
I'm hot and I'm spicy, like masala dosa
I count like Ramanujam, you gotta give me dap
and here comes Badri, to blast you with his rap

I'm Punjabi like dat, I drink lotsa lassi
I also drink whisky, I'm not really fussy
I like tandoori roti and I dance like I'm langra
don't dare laugh at me, just check out my bhangra

I'm Gujrati like dat, no I'm not called a Patel
let me make things clear: I've never owned a motel
echoes of my name resound the Khyber Pass
you wanna know why, do the Dandiya Raas

We be to rap what Kapil be to cricket

'Cause we're cool like dat, we're cool like that, we're desi like that,
yeah we're desi (echo)

Well I've been to the east and I've been to the west
One thing is for sure, Desi girls are the best

We dig Madhuri like that, we dig Dimple like that
Juhi, Raveena and Sushmita like that
my girl she's no ho, don't take her name in vain
She's Lakshmi, she likes me, She's a devi just the same
And for the local girls, what more can we say
Parul, Anusha, Alpa, Make our day
Monami, Raguini, Rash and Deeya too
Mridula, Shonali, Dhati, Reena, Indu
and for those that dis us, you don't know what you're missing
come on Soam tell them - "It's all in the kissing"
if we left you out, and you want to let us know
we are new age guys, meet us past this show

We be to rap what Kama be to Sutra

'Cause we're cool like dat, we're cool like that, we're cool like that
we're cool like that, we're desi like dat, we're desi like that, we're
desi like that, yeah we're desi(echo)

Yeah, some of the references are really dated. Who remembers Digable Planets' "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)" anyway? Or Dimple Kapadia? And yes, there are some real cringe worthy moments in there. But it still brings a smile to my face. Surely, that's worth something after all those years.

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- April 7, 2008 9:48 PM // Diaspora , Humour

Benny Lava And Globalization

In this day and age of easy multimedia dissemination, there's no real place to hide. On the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson's Thriller, I went hunting for evidence of its influence on desi dance and Bollywood on YouTube. If anything, I found the South Indian film industry to be far more overt in their "homage." But globalization is a two way street and one particularly egregious copy of Michael's moves, once intended for a regional Indian film audience, is now available for all and sundry. In fact it was a huge viral video hit. By now you must have seen it already but here goes anyway:

Now, here's the part about the two way street: after it gained in popularity, YouTube users began taking the video and adding their own twist. Like farts. Or splicing in the original Thriller video such that you can now see the desi version with Jackson warbling on the soundtrack juxtaposed against Michael dancing with the audio from the Tamil soundtrack. The latter actually works better, IMHO:

The best remix, however, was done by popular YouTube prankster, buffalax. He added subtitles, not intentionally bad translations a la Wayne's World, but vaguely phonetically accurate transliterations with hilarious results:

This was a big hit by itself, garnering over 2 million views. Interested, I dug into buffalax's back catalog. He's done Punjabi bhangra as well (Daler Mehndi's video for Tunak Tunak but his greatest hit was for a dance sequence from South Indian star Prabhu Deva. It's a scene from the movie Pennin Manathai Thottu. Entitled Crazy Indian Video .. Buffalaxed, this clip was a monster YouTube hit, garnering around 3.7 million impressions:

As you see in the opening credits, Buffalaxed has no idea about the context of the original video, nor does he care. His is a strictly phonetic deconstruction of the Tamil lyrics and it's brilliant. Blogger Pramodh writes:

Mike Sutton is a 24 year old dude from Ohio. His hobby is to find some foreign videos in YouTube and make up the lyrics just the way they might sound in English. The twist is that he makes the lyrics hilarious. And he calls himself Buffalax in YouTube. On August 18 2007 he relased a video and called it a "Crazy Indian Video Buffalaxed!" And in a few months its popularity in the internet went up so much that Urban Dictionary decided to add the term Benny Lava in their Lingo. So far it had 2+ Million views and still going strong.

Searching for views on Benny Lava, I found an interesting trend: bloggers (by and large non South Asian) and YouTube commentators found it to be hilarious. But some also noted their enjoyment of the actual dancing in the video itself. An interesting way of crossing over: come for the humor, stay for the moves. Pramodh adds:

Prabhu Deva the actor in the video is now known as Benny Lava all over the internet. Yesterday I was having a conversation with a friend who studies in Ohio. She said that some of the students performed the Benny Lava dance in her school.

This subtitling approach by buffalax has inspired others but by and large, it seems to be a one trick pony. Buffalax's recent efforts in other languages haven't really garnered anywhere near as many hits. Still, it's another example of the ebb and flow across cultural divides that a megabazaar like YouTube can produce.

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- February 15, 2008 1:45 PM // Bollywood , Dance , Diaspora , Humour , India

When you're down, just ...

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- July 7, 2007 8:35 PM // Humour