QUOTA OF QUOTES
“It is really sad. You sit alone the whole day and don't do anything. I would always tell my husband, ‘Why should I be here? It's a complete waste of my time.’” -- Reema Shahani of Santa Clara, among the thousands of Indians, mostly women, who, as spouses of H-1B workers, are on H-4 visas that don’t permit them to work. (San Francisco Chronicle)
"If this showbiz thing doesn't work out for me, hell, I look Mexican . . . get me one of those leaf-blowers and those (huge) headphones, there's lots of work I can get in L.A." – Indo-Canadian comedian Shaun Majumder, who stars in the new Fox sitcom “Unhitched.” (Toronto Star)
“They promised us green cards and permanent residency, and instead gave us ten-month visas and made us live like animals in company trailers, 24 to a room.” -- Sabulal Vijayan, one of more than hundred workers from India who say they paid up to $20,000 each to come to Pascagoula, Miss., to help alleviate the post-Katrina labor shortage.
"When we stay with our children we feel very old. Here, we feel young." -- Pushpa Salem, 67, a resident at Athashri, a complex in Pune modeled after western retirement homes. (AP)
"I miss that bonding, that security, that comfort, the love, the shelter. We don't feel that here. Who wouldn't want to be with their own children as long as possible?" -- Madhukar Gokarn, 73, who lives with her husband in an exclusive retirement community called Golden Nest in Pune. (AP)
THE BILLIONAIRE’S HOUSE THAT’S HELPING EVERYONE
What kind of house does a billionaire build? Well, if you're Bill Gates, you build a $100 million, high-tech house that's full of modern amenities, such as a 17-by-60-foot swimming pool that plays music underwater, a reception hall that seats 150 people and an underground shelter in case the maids and gardeners need to hide from immigration.
If you're Mukesh Ambani, the Indian industrialist, you build a house that has 27 floors, a parking garage for 168 imported cars, and three helipads, so you don't have to drive any of those cars. At least not until they build special lanes for billionaires.
Ambani's house, named Antilla and sprouting on Mumbai's Altamount Road, is costing hundreds of millions of dollars—as much as $1 billion, according to some reports—but that's no major burden for one of the richest men in the world. How rich is he? He's rich enough to contribute millions of dollars to Bill and Hillary Clinton, if only politicians weren't so ethical. He's rich enough to buy his very own island in the Pacific, if only Australia were for sale. He's rich enough to immunize and educate millions of Indian children, if only Bill Gates weren't doing that already.
There are many ways to contribute to society, many ways to help the disadvantaged, and one of the ways Ambani is doing it, his supporters have me convinced, is by building a huge house. So before you judge him, before you label his house an appalling and outrageous display of wealth, you need to look at the positive impact the house will have on thousands, if not millions, of Indians. Indeed, some people are already calling it the Mother Teresa of Houses.
Among the first to benefit, of course, are the people involved in the construction, not just the architects, engineers and other high-skilled workers, but also scores of laborers. Not only have they earned a paycheck for a couple of years, they will always walk past the house with pride, in much the same way that the workers in ancient Egypt walked past the pyramids.
Many have improved their lives by working on the Ambani house. A laborer named Arunath, for example, has managed to move his family from a one-room, ramshackle house in a Mumbai slum to a two-room, ramshackle house in a Mumbai slum. That may not seem like a big improvement, but small steps are important, which is why the Ambanis are making theirs out of marble. It symbolizes the progress that everyone is making.
While the house will be the principal residence for Ambani, his wife, Neeta, their three children and Ambani's mother, it will also give comfort and shelter to numerous servants and others. And let's not forget that the house, at a height of 27 stories, will also provide shade to any pavement dwellers nearby. (If they happen to enter the opulent neighborhood.) To the delight of animal activists, the building is also likely to offer a resting spot for pigeons and other weary birds.
The Ambanis are expected to employ 600 people in the house. They have created many of these jobs for the sole purpose of giving people an opportunity to work and gain a sense of self-worth. The indoor swimming pool, for example, is being built largely as a means to employ a lifeguard, pool boy and margarita server. Ambani has collected so many imported cars in order to give work to drivers, mechanics and insurance salesmen. Neeta has been just as benevolent.
Neeta: "I want to find work for two more people, make a difference in two more lives."
Mukesh: "If you buy a hundred more shoes and handbags, you can hire another wardrobe attendant."
Neeta: "Good idea. If I have two wardrobe attendants, then I could create another position: supervisor of wardrobe attendants. ... Let me call Isha? Isha, let's go shopping. We need to help more people!"
When your goal is to employ hundreds of people, you have to come up with some ingenious ways to keep them occupied. Hence such creative job titles as "pantry organizer," "panty organizer," "pant organizer" and "pan organizer." And, of course, "paan organizer."
In the adult bathrooms, they'll have jobs such as "perfume sprayer," "teeth polisher" and "grey hair snipper." In the children's bathrooms, they'll have "hair comber," "face washer" and "pimple cream applier."
Perhaps the building's biggest role will be to serve as a source of pride and motivation for millions of Indians, particularly children. Inspired by the Ambani house, many of them will be eager to take advantage of Bill Gates' educational programs.
Together, the two billionaires are making a huge difference.
DID THAT REALLY HAPPEN?
1. Tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams modeled saris on the eve of the Bangalore Open.
2. While using the toilet on a train in India, a woman in Rajasthan gave birth and passed out, causing the baby girl to fall through the hole onto the tracks below, where she was later rescued.
3. Bollywood director Vidhu Vinod Chopra announced plans to make a movie in which Amitabh Bachchan is paired with a woman older than 40.
4. The Indian hockey team lost to Britain 2-0 and failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time in 80 years.
5. At its annual meeting in New York, the National Business Travel Association (NBTA) presented Air India with its Outstanding Service Award.
(1, 2 and 4 really happened)
STUFF DESIS LIKE
What sort of things do desi people like? A new blog tries to answer that question, playing on stereotypes in a humorous way. Modeled after the popular site “Stuff White People Like,” the blog has already addressed about 10 desi likes, including the following:
1. Gold: As a culture, desis love gold more than the song-dance sequences of Bollywood and possibly more than emigrating to United States or United Kingdom. ? Gold takes precedence over utterly-butterly delicious Indian food during festivals like Diwali. TV ads show women drenched in gold double their body weights, making you wonder if Karnam Malleswari is no accident.
2. Copying: From code to movies to now even blogs ? desis are great at copying. ? Copying has deep life-altering effects on the lives of desis. For instance, when faced with the question of choosing a profession, desis just look at what the other desi did. And so we end up with all these desi software engineers.
3. Cricket: Desis claiming not to like cricket are immediately declared non-desis by the next “patriotic” desi you happen to meet. Cricket is pretty much the only sport that desis have deep knowledge of. ? Desis also would like to extend the concept of democracy to cricket. This is because every desi is sure of which players to pick, but with so many desis around and only eleven slots to be filled, polls remain the only peaceful solution.
She wants you to move out: “I don't believe in wasting mine or anyone else's time. With that said, please don't contact me if you do not possess a university degree/are planning to live with your parents after marriage.”
She’s very flexible: “I’m looking for decent guy, down to earth person. He may not be smart, any skin colour, does not matter. He should be respectful, self dependent, non-drinker. He may be divorcee or widow with one or two kids, doesn’t matter.”
He’s hoping for a jolly marriage: “I am very jolly, and like cracking jokes, watching movies, traveling, outing, eating out, watching TV. ? I am looking for jolly good girl, which I think will be more suitable.”
He prefers happy girls: “I do not have many preferences when it comes to girls. I like those who are straightforward, honest and always happy type.”
DESI FUN ONLINE
A funny three-minute video showing roommate miscommunication
Manoj: Telemarketer Elite
A “mockumentary” of an Indian telemarketing firm
Compiled and partly written by Indian humorist MELVIN DURAI.
[Comments? Contributions? We would love to hear from you about Chai Time, our newest column. If you have contributions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We welcome jokes, quotes, online clips and more]
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