Chinese expansion fears revealed

Saturday, 8 January 2011

The Australian intelligence agencies suggest China could overestimate its own capabilities with a significant risk of strategic miscalculation and instability.

”The nature of the [People’s Liberation Army] and the regime means that transparency will continue to be viewed as a potential vulnerability. This contributes to the likelihood of strategic misperceptions,” the document says.

”The rapid improvements in PLA capabilities, coupled with a lack of operational experience and faith in asymmetric strategies, could lead to China overestimating its military capability. These factors, coupled with rising nationalism, heightened expectations of China’s status, China’s historical predilection for strategic deception, difficulties with Japan, and the Taiwan issue mean that miscalculations and minor events could quickly escalate.”

Need a clear-eyed analysis such as this for India as well

India- 50m jobs needed

Monday, 20 September 2010

Download now or preview on posterous

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Financial Review

From the Sydney Morning Herald today:

A man was killed after his car collided with a large cow,
sending the creature flying into the air before it landed on the
car rooftop and crushed the driver.

Read the whole (short) story here.

That Indian accent again!

Friday, 11 May 2007

Via turbanhead a link to MC Vikram and Ludakrishna’s Greatest Hits, here.

More information is provided:

For those who have never heard of MC Vikram or his sometimes sidekick Ludakrishna, they are two Indian-Americans who have fused comedy and hip-hop / rap along with their experiences growing up as Indian Americans. There are plenty of references to the burping “uncles” (burping out loud after a meal or whenver you feel like is not considered rude in Indian culture but makes young Indians cringe when elders do it here in the States), drinking Frooti (a very popular mango drink available in small cardboard squeezeboxes), wearing lungis (sarong-like cloth worn my men in India) and of course being an FOB (fresh off the boat).All the songs are parodies of popular rap/hip-hop songs interspersed with short skits. Both MC Vikram and Ludakrishna have performed at various colleges and universities in the US (usually at Indian Student Association sponsored events.)

So sit back, relax and get FOBBED out.

I have no idea what getting ‘fobbed out’ entails and don’t think I care too much either after having listened to a few of their juvenile ‘songs’. My apologies for sending you there, if you did go.

What interests me here, though, is that it seems that making fun of the Indian accent is a growth business; not just caricatures by Westerners but by Indians themselves. When desis do it, it seems to be a reverse cultural cringe: Indians seeking to ingratiate themselves with an Indian and/or Western audience by making fun of the Indian stereotype. It serves a dual purpose, perhaps, as a form of rebellion against their parents by caricaturing them. Their embarrassment at being offspring of such Indian Indians is palpable. If only the songs had been funny, I’d have forgiven them. Sadly, they are not.

Wonder what those who take offence at the ‘racial’ depictions of the Indian accent make of this phenomenon.

Related post: The Indian accent, Apu and racist depictions of Desis

Gere’s Bollywood nightmare

Monday, 23 April 2007

From the pages of The Age newspaper (Melbourne):

Three lawyers have filed complaints in Indian courts against
Hollywood actor Richard Gere and Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty
for kissing at a public function, a news report said today.

In his complaint, attorney Poonal Chandra Bhandari accused the
actors of committing “an obscene act” in a public place, which
India’s conservative society cannot tolerate, PTI said.

Two other lawyers filed another complaint in a court in
Ghaziabad, a town on the outskirts of New Delhi, against Shetty and
private television channels for showing videos of the kissing
incident, the news agency added.

Such cases against celebrities – often filed by publicity
seekers – are common in ultra-conservative India. They add to a
backlog of legal cases in the country that has nearly crippled the
judicial system.

The complaints filed yesterday came a day after angry crowds in
several Indian cities burned effigies of Gere after he wrapped
Shetty in his arms and kissed her several times on her cheeks
during an AIDS awareness event in the Indian capital.

US actor Richard Gere holds Indian actress Shilpa Shetty in a sweeping embrace during an event for HIV-AIDS awareness in New Delhi.

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I came across a post by the always interesting Manish on Ultrabrown, frothing about the way Indian accents are depicted by whitefellas (in or out of brownface- or brownvoice in some cases), especially Apu in the Simpsons.

He has many problems with the accent used by Apu (as spoken by Hank Azaria): it is ‘crudely done’, ‘a poor imitation’, ‘a travesty’ (of the real Indian accent), ‘crudely pasted’, ‘synthetic’, ‘artificial’ and how ‘gut-level revulsion this churns up’ in him just talking about it. Strong words and fair enough, being his opinion. But he goes on to say in a couple of places including a comment I left, that this caricature of an Indian accent is racist, including this:

It’s not that only desis are allowed to do desi humor. It’s that the version done in the U.S. exists only in the U.S. and Britain and is done only by white people — it’s artificial. It’s badly done partly because the language lacks Hindi phonemes (as you know, Spanish and Hindi have soft consonants missing in English), but also because of a racist lack of interest in doing it well.

Let’s look at this a little closer.

Manish feels that it is racist because it is a poor imitation or ‘synthetic’ version of an Indian accent and because it creates or perpetuates a stereotype of Indians in the USA and UK. But that is just caricature, isn’t it? It can be offensive but most humour is offensive to one party or the other.

If racism is

a belief system or doctrine which states that inherent biological differences between human races determines cultual or individual achievement — with a corollary that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others (Wikipedia)

then doesn’t that rule out cultural differences such as language or accents? Is the way we speak English (and there are so many regional accents for Hinglish) a characteristic that defines us as a race? In that case, if I spoke with a plummy British accent would I then not be part of the Indian ‘race’? What a great way to escape racism!

And which Indian accent is acceptable then? Is is that of the Bengali with the b’s instead of the v’s, is it that of the Maharashtrians with there hard ‘t’s and d’s or the Malayalee english pronounciation with the oily vowels and funny consonants? Well, the accents of UK desis Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal are held out as an example of an Indian accent done well. Oho, so it is the accent of the upper middle class ‘convent’ or ‘public school’ educated upper middle class kids that meets with approval! But that is no more Indian than the faux upper-class stentorian English accent that we used to hear on All India Radio’s news from Surajit Sen and others in the 70’s and 80’s.

And what is the subtext when Sellers- or now Steve Martin- send up the French in the Pink Panther films or how the German accent is stereotyped by Hollywood (ve haff our vays). Is that racist too?

And here’s the nub. All these representations of Indian or other accents are but caricatures. Why should they have be close to the real thing? Whether they were too lazy to do the work to get it right (as Manish and another comment leaver have said) is besides the point! It’s meant to raise a giggle with the target audience! Yes, naina, it was mocking of Indians as is most humour mocking of some person or group. You don’t have to like it but you cannot wheel out the ‘R’ word for someone making fun of your accent! It might be also insulting, revolting, boring and any number of other adjectives, but racist- I don’t think so.

To accuse people of racism seems to be the first resort of the educated Indian whose hypersensitive antennae perceive a slight where none may be intended.

As the thoughtful comment by musical points out

Hindi movies take the cake when it comes to racial and linguistic stereotyping. Even desis mock each others accents! What about all the South Indians saying Ayyo Rama, all the Bengalis saying Uri baba, all the Punjus saying Balle Balle, all the Sindhis saying Vadi Saayin-all bad stereotypes, all perpetuated by us, the desis.

These are all examples of one social class making fun of another social class for general amusement. It really has nothing to do with race. Given time the stereotype of the Indian in the West will change from the mindless depictions of Sellers, to that of the current call centre agent stereotype to something that more accurately represents the Indians that people in the mainstream meet.

No, girls and guys, un-knot your chaddis, relax the sphincter, unwind yourself (as Kaa the snake said to Mowgli in The Jungle Book) and put a smile on your face. Then go and make some more jokes about Mumbaiyya Hindi, Malayalee English or Punjabis with American accents (heard venture capital guru Vinod Khosla talk?).

In short, get a sense of humour.

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