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NBA teams add Indian spice to their celebrations

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By Karan Madhok

As of a 2013 census, persons of Indian origin make up just about one percent of the entire US population. But even though their percentage is small, there are still over 3.1 million Indian Americans. More crucially, despite being a small fraction of the overall population, Indians have managed to make their influence count: from taking a deeper role in developing their culture and expertise in North America, to evoking the foundation of their roots back in India. Now, that culture is spreading to the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The NBA has long been a progressive basketball league, accepting people of different cultures, races, nationalities, sexual preferences, and genders into their extended family. For years, various NBA teams, and the league itself has held fan outreach or heritage nights to specific target fanbases, like the Noche Latina or Chinese New Year celebrations.

With little influence around the league in the past, however, it took some time for Indians to join the party. But over the last few years, that party is finally here, and Indian heritage is starting to be celebrated with more fervour in the NBA than ever before.

In January 2016, three NBA teams continued their tradition of hosting India-related heritage nights during home games: the Sacramento Kings, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Orlando Magic. In the larger scheme of NBA events, the impact of these themed nights was small. But to the Indian diaspora in the US and the rapidly rising NBA-watching audience in India, the ‘India Nights’ were another nod by the NBA of its growing interest in Indians, both home and abroad.

Most ‘India Nights’ around the NBA follow similar themes, themes that often overplay Indian stereotypes and caricatures around the world. You want dancing? Get some cheerleaders in saris and play ‘Jai Ho!’ You want snacks? Nothing better than kebabs and curries in the concession stands. India is synonymous with colour to the West, and often, NBA arenas get decorated in a wonderful myriad to challenge a Holi celebration. Special T-shirts and memorabilia are worn by players or passed out to fans. Words like ‘Bollywood’, ‘desi’, ‘flavour’ and ‘colour’ are thrown about a lot. Indian or Indian-origin celebrities are honoured, and Indian or Indian-origin singers and dancers perform for the fans.

With every year, the spectacle is gaining more momentum, and the rise of competing ‘India Nights’ is adding that ‘flavour’ across the NBA.

Vivek Ranadive is the first Indian-born majority-owner of an NBA team, but before he made history by owning the Sacramento Kings, Ranadive briefly held a minority stake with the Golden State Warriors. Under Ranadive’s vice-chairmanship, the Warriors began a tradition of holding ‘Bollywood Night’ at their games. From the very first time in 2011, the Warriors introduced the epic ‘got Curry?’ T-shirts in honour of their young point guard Stephen Curry. Four years later, Ranadive had jumped shipped to head out to Sacramento, the Warriors had become the NBA best team, and Curry the league’s best player. But Bollywood Nights have continued in the Bay Area, and this year’s event is scheduled to be held on March 9 when the Warriors host the Utah Jazz.

When Ranadive came to Sacramento with dreams of NBA 3.0 and of making the Kings ‘India’s team’, he brought ‘Bollywood Night’ over with him. Over the last few years, this event in Sacramento has grown from strength to strength. The Kings’ players wear practice T-shirts with Devanagari script, the Sleep Train Arena gets decorated in style, Indian cuisine is on offer, and fans enjoy song-and-dance routines by Indian artists. Ranadive’s daughter Anjali, an aspiring pop-star, has also become a regular feature for halftime performances on Bollywood Nights.

When the 2016 Bollywood Night was held on January 7th, it also featured Indian-origin Miss America Nina Davulari, an announcement of the Kings’ players in Hindi, and a scintillating introduction video to reach out to fans from Mumbai to Sacramento. The Kings Dancers also dressed up in Indian garb on the night, as was Slamson the Lion, the Kings’ official mascot. Other events included Punjabi sword fighting and dance performances by the California-based Ankhiley Gabroo dance group. Sacramento native and artist Pam Shankar, of Indo-Fijian descent, sang the pre-game national anthem. The home team played the Los Angeles Lakers that night in Kobe Bryant’s last game in Sacramento and eked out a close win.

A few weeks later, Philadelphia scratched their Indian itch, too. On January 18th, the 76ers held their second annual Indian-American Heritage Night. Before the game, the Indian community and the 76ers honoured Indian Americans in Sports at the Wells Fargo Center, notably, Kevin Negandhi, an anchor for ESPN SportsCenter in the USA and Crossover Basketball and Scholars Academy, a non-profit who have been coming to Chennai for several years to promote education and values through basketball among children from lower-economic households. The event featured Bollywood music bumping outside the entrances to the court, cultural exhibits around the arena, special Indian themed 76ers T-shirts provided to the guests and a performance by Philadelphia-based dance company Aatma. The 76ers played their best game of the season to blow out the Portland Trail Blazers.

Not to be outdone, the Orlando Magic – title holders of the Best Heritage Night in the NBA for the past two years – brought back ‘India Day’ (as declared by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer) to Downtown Orlando on January 31st, in an event organized by the Indian American Chamber of Commerce (IACC). The IACC hosted Bollywood superstar Madhuri Dixit this year. A Cultural Street Fest was held pregame in front of the Amway Center, showcasing Indian dancing from various local Indian organizations. Guests enjoyed henna tattoos, sari wrapping, turban tying, free t-shirts and more. Halftime entertainment was provided by the Bollywood Dance Academy. The Orlando Magic snapped eight-game losing streak at the game with a 119-114 win over the Boston Celtics.

All of the events above have been covered by local South Asian-centric media, making more and more members of the Indian community aware of the NBA and of the league’s clout. Furthermore, the average NBA fan at these games is finding awareness about Indian culture: it may be just a Western, ‘whitewashed’ view of India, but it’s a start.

The growing attention to India and Indians has come at a strategic time for the NBA teams; the NBA office in India continues to grow its list of both grassroots and mainstream events around the country. More Indian fans are watching live NBA games on TV than ever before, and the future promises the wider availability of NBA merchandise in big Indian cities.

Meanwhile, a couple of giant Indian men are becoming role models for South Asians in the US. Last year, Ranadive’s Kings made Canadian Sim Bhullar the first person of Indian-origin to play in the NBA. A few months later, the Dallas Mavericks drafted Satnam Singh, making him the first Indian national to be drafted into the league. Both the seven-footed giants are currently playing in the D-League – Raptors 905 and Texas Legends respectively – and are on the periphery of a potential NBA call-up. Their presence would add a little more of that much-clichéd desi flavour to the NBA.

It’s a win-win relationship for NBA teams to invest in their heritage ‘India Nights’, but the biggest reason to do so may be far simpler: about winning on the basketball court itself. All three NBA teams that held Indian heritage nights in January held a losing record and were outside the playoff race. And yet, all three teams picked up exciting or impressive wins that night. Coincidence, or is evoking India bringing NBA host teams a dose of good luck on their kundlis?

And speaking of good kundlis, you know which NBA team has the brightest fortune of them all? Which team is currently the reigning NBA champion, are leading the league standings after a historically good start, are on pace to have the greatest regular season of All Time, are favourites to repeat as champions, feature the league MVP, and have become the greatest show in basketball? It’s the Golden State Warriors, the team who got properly on the Bollywood bandwagon before anyone else.

Got Curry?

(The article was first published in ekalavyas.com) (Image source: stanza.co)

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How advertisements in India are defying gender cliche

Ads playing an effective medium in moulding opinions of society

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How Indian advertisement industry is breaking the gender stereotype

Feb 27, 2017: The most important part of advertisements is the story line and it gives a spur on the social media when the lessons from the story line are timeless. Needless to say, every time a free-spirited ad is released, it not only sparks conversations over the internet but also leaves a viral trail of debates. Just in the same way, some of the Indian advertisements did when they strove to change the mindset of people with regard to gender difference. We often tend to slur women not realizing the essence of being a woman, it takes strength and an indomitable spirit to be a woman. This article will talk about how advertisements in India are leading by example and discarding gender difference.

Let’s recall some of the advertisements that did away with gender difference.

Nike’s recent ‘Da Da Ding’ ad starring Deepika Padukone as one among other female athletes is a powerful ad which got the people talking about giving importance to female athletes as well. It showcased females of a real athletic figure which is not animated and has got nothing to do with ‘legs and butts’.

(A still from Nike’s Da Da Ding advertisement)

The ad portrayed women as fierce and passionate about sports. Once upon a time, Nike’s product catered almost exclusively to marathon runners and then, a fitness craze emerged –and the folks in Nike’s marketing department knew where to mark their next move, an applause for Nike for initiating a spellbinding effort.

NewsGram brings to you latest new stories in India.

Whisper, Touch the pickle ad

(A still from Whisper Touch the pickle advertisement)

Whisper, Touch the pickle ad is another exemplary of breaking taboos surrounding women’s menstrual cycle. The whisper #Touchthepickle campaign makes an attempt to purge the baseless superstitions owing to Dos and Dont’s in menses. The ad showcases a young girl who dares to touch the pickle while she is on her periods. It conveys a sensible meaning to its viewers to break away these taboos. The ad was lauded internationally and awarded ‘Glass Lion Grand Prix’ award at Cannes International Festival of Creativity.

Many advertisements over the years have sold the cosmetic product but fewer have tried to change the societal conception of beauty. Even fewer have tried to do both, Joy Cosmetic is the brand that did it in India.

(A still from Joy beauty advertisement)
The ad begins with showcasing a well renowned oversized comedian, Bharti Singh asking the viewers “What did you expect, 36-24-36?”, and shuts down body shamers who presumed it to be an ideal body size. The ad conveys effortlessly that an Ideal beauty has nothing to do with body and shape.The advertisement has a sensitive message and is meaningful to its consumers.

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While there is a lot of chaos regarding section 377 in India, Ebay India took an audacious stance through its ad titled “Things don’t judge”.

(A still from Ebay India advertisement)

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To celebrate Indian culture, Luxembourg City in Europe to mark September 17 as ‘India day’

The Ville de Luxembourg (Luxembourg City hall) has played a crucial role in organizing the event along with the Indian Association Luxembourg to strengthen communal harmony

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Chicago: Association of Indians in America, Inc. Illinois Chapter (AIA) proudly organized ‘Group Dance Competition Youth Talent Show on August 27, 2016 at Harper College Auditorium, 1200 W Algonquin Rd, Palatine, IL Asian Media USA

Sept 6, 2016: ‘India day’ is likely to be celebrated on September 17, this year in Luxembourg City. This event is an effort of The Indian Association Luxembourg (IAL) to celebrate Indian Culture as well as promote cultural acceptance through social interaction.

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The event will have stalls displaying Indian Culture and Tradition, which include Henna, Spices, traditional Indian outfits, Indian snacks, and Indian music. Live dance performances from various regions of India are one of the key attractions of the event, which will be commence at 9AM and conclude at around 6PM, in the place d’Armes. The event also aims to highlight ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ initiatives.

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Chicago: Association of Indians in America, Inc. Illinois Chapter (AIA) proudly organized ‘Group Dance Competition Youth Talent Show on August 27, 2016 at Harper College Auditorium, 1200 W Algonquin Rd, Palatine, IL Asian Media USA
Chicago: Association of Indians in America, Inc. Illinois Chapter (AIA) proudly organized ‘Group Dance Competition Youth Talent Show on August 27, 2016 at Harper College Auditorium, 1200 W Algonquin Rd, Palatine, IL, USA. Asian Media USA

The Ville de Luxembourg (Luxembourg City hall) has played a crucial role in organizing the event along with the Indian Association Luxembourg to strengthen communal harmony.

– by Usman Zafar of NewsGram team

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Locating Desi: A Survey to establish Identity

Political mobilization of the word 'desi' in USA

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An Indian girl. Image Courtsey: food.ndtv.com

By Shubhi Mangla

Kerishma Panigrahi, a student of the New York University is pursuing studies in issues related to religion, race, racial subject formation mainly within the context of South Indian Diaspora. As part of her course, she is currently working on “Locating Latinidad“. The study includes tracing its history, genealogy and constitution as an identity. She has started a survey to know about the personal and political identification of people of South Asian descent in USA for folks who are 18 years or older.

You may take the survey here: Locating Desi

Kerishma says, “How I identify can shift as quickly and as easily as my surroundings shift; depending on where I am and who I’m with. I could be a Gujarati, Oriya, Indian(-American), South Asian(-American), American, desi, “brown”…the list goes on. What I became fascinated by was how intertwined and slippery racial, ethnic, and national identities are and how contingent they can be on one’s surroundings—which makes it even harder to effectively locate”.

What complicated her was the word ‘Desi’. According to her, it is a word which she can feel closer to and politically identify herself with it. With her experience from living among other South Asians in US, she feels that ‘desi’ is more of an informal and comfortable word as compared to South Asian-American. She is curious to know the experience of other folks of South Asian decent about the non-existent  political mobilization of the word ‘Desi’ compared to mobilization of ‘latinx’.

Related link: Indian Diaspora in Holland

According to her, ” ‘Desi’ is also an imperfect term and there are shortcomings that may take away from people’s ability to identify with it; does “desi” have the ability to expand and accommodate this difference? Is there a disparity of identification along age group, migration status, country of origin, multiracial status? How does multiple diaspora (e.g. folks of Indo-Caribbean or Indo-African heritage) effect identification?”

Report prepared by Shubhi Mangla- an intern at Newsgram and a student of Journalism and Mass Communication in New Delhi. Twitter @ shubhi_mangla