All posts by Lakshmi

“Victoria” Episode 1 Recap: Meet Your New Queen

Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria Photo credit: Masterpiece/ITV

“From now on, I wish to be called Victoria.”

That line, elegantly and confidently delivered by Jenna Coleman’s newly crowned 18-year-old monarch, was one of my favorite moments of the premiere episode of “Victoria,” the new miniseries that debuted on PBS Sunday. From the moment a solemn, black armband-wearing courtier arrives to deliver the news that young Alexandrina Victoria is the successor to the throne it is clear that little has been done to prepare the teen to be the sovereign of what was then the world’s largest empire.

Raised in virtual isolation by her mother, the German-speaking Duchess of Kent, Victoria ascended to the throne without ever truly interacting with commoners or even learning the basics of sex and procreation. (The latter becomes extremely apparent as Victoria badly navigates a scandal that nearly derails the monarchy.) But the best parts of Sunday’s premiere was getting to watch the young Queen decidedly take charge of the monarchy while effectively (and often brattishly) thwarting the many adults who tried in those early days to manipulate her. We see Victoria literally laugh once and future Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel out of the room when he tries to work with her before building his government. She crumples up lists of advisors carefully prepared by her Lady in Waiting. And, in the first of many mother-daughter conflicts, she orders her mother to stop speaking to her in German (and quickly drops her first name of Alexandrina.)

“Victoria” wouldn’t be a proper British costume drama without the following: a ballroom scene in which Victoria flirted with the “wrong” kinds of men, intrigue downstairs in the servants quarters, a maid who made a VERY BAD mistake but was instantly forgiven, and mommy issues galore. Fortunately for us all, we got plenty of all of those things and the costumes and music were exceptional throughout.

One of the men Victoria inappropriately flirts with is her trusted advisor and friend Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell.)  Melbourne, who was Prime Minister at the beginning of Victoria’s reign, also served as her private tutor, instructing her on the ins and outs of government and diplomacy. While historians say that Melbourne and Victoria’s relationship was more of a father-daughter relationship than a romantic one, there are lots of longing glances and poignant conversations between the two in this series. (And really, isn’t that what we’d expect to see of two characters played by Jenna Coleman and Rufus Sewell?)

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A look back at my favorite posts of 2014

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I’ve noticed that many of my favorite writers have been compiling year in review blog posts over the past couple of days, so I thought that I’d join in on the fun. Reading many of these posts, I was immediately struck by how many writers and journalists said that 2014 was the year that things just clicked for them and that they achieved all sorts of things that they hadn’t thought were possible on this day in 2013.

That was certainly the case for me. I had spent a good chunk of 2013 temping for one of Long Island’s largest temp agencies while also freelancing, blogging for free and wondering if I should look at other career options. And while the first quarter of 2014 was fairly miserable, things just seemed to click sometime in May. In no particular order, here are my favorite articles of 2014.

Anti-Rape Clothes Fail to Address Culture Behind India’s Crisis (NBC Asian America): Amna Nawaz and I looked at the recent trend among young Indian entrepreneurs of creating clothing and other accessories that, they say, will help women ward off rapists. “I applaud the ingenuity [of these inventors]. People should do what they need to do to feel safe,” Indian journalist Sonia Faleiro told me. “But a pair of jeans does not reflect the experience of 70 percent of the population.”

The Ballad of Yoko Ono, on Her 45th Wedding Anniversary (The Toast): This March would have marked John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 45th wedding anniversary. The Associated Press’s coverage of the event was… interesting.

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The man who helped bring yoga to the West

Growing up as a child in southern India, B.K.S. Iyengar suffered from bouts of tuberculosis, typhoid and malaria – three major killers of that era. Throughout his life Iyengar, who died on Tuesday at the age of 95, credited the fact that he practiced yoga as the main reason he survived his illnesses.

Iyengar would grow up to become one of the most prominent yogis of this century and is widely credited with helping to bring the practice to a Western audience. A pivotal moment came when Iyengar first met the classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin in 1952. Menuhin was one of the first celebrities to fully embrace yoga and arranged for Iyengar – who he would call “my best violin teacher” – to teach yoga in London, Paris and Switzerland.

Iyengar went on to develop his own form of yoga that focused on breath, concentration and posture. His most prominent supporters included writers like Aldous Huxley, dancers, actors and musicians and he once famously taught Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, then 85-years-old, to stand on her head.

In an interview with Beliefnet in 2006, Iyengar stressed that yoga could appeal to anyone regardless of their religion or ethnic background.

“Yoga has a lot to offer to people, whatever [their faith]. It has no geographical boundary, gender, caste, or religion,” he said. “As each of us is susceptible to physical problems as well as mental, emotional, and intellectual problems, yoga can help us recover from these wants. It is an art to practice, a science to ponder over, and a philosophy that shows us the ways of right living.”

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

Congressman Mistakes South Asian American Officials for Members of the Indian Government

Things got very awkward very quickly during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday when a freshman Republican congressman repeatedly mistook to two senior U.S. government officials as being representatives from the Indian government.

“I am familiar with your country,” Representative Curt Clawson tells the State Department’s Nisha Biswal and Commerce official Arun Kumar. “I love your country….And I understand the complications of so many languages and so many cultures and so many histories all rolled up in one.”

Clawson then urges Biswal and Kumar to urge “your capital” – referring to the Indian capital city of New Delhi – to ease trade restrictions between the two countries. “Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I’d like our capital to be welcome there,” he said. “I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?” he asked the pair.

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Sim Bhullar Gets One Step Closer to the NBA

Could we soon see the first NBA player of Indian descent? While New Mexico State center Sim Bhullar wasn’t among the players drafted by the NBA last week, he did receive a summer league contract from the Sacramento Kings. (It should be noted that the Kings are owned by Vivek Ranadivé, the only Indian American owner in the league.) [NBC Asian America]

ETS and the College Board apologize for offensive t-shirt: The test administrators issued a statement late last week after a “culturally and racially insensitive” t-shirt was distributed at this year’s AP World History grading. [NBC Asian America]

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Goodbye to the Ambassador

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The end of the line: The iconic Hindustan Ambassador car is nearing the end of its iconic run. Read this bittersweet piece in the New York Times (there’s a video too.)

“Ramadan Kareem,” says President Obama: Read the official White House statement on the start of Ramadan here. [White House]

Please check one: Male, female or third gender: Fergusson College in Pune, India now gives applicants the option of registering as the third gender. [Firstpost]

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Dinesh D’Souza Kills Off George Washington in His New Film

Dinesh D’Souza release the film you probably weren’t waiting for: The conservative author and filmmaker is set to release his second film next week. In its review of the movie, Variety notes that the story is “evidently set in an alternative universe, kicks off the film by dramatizing the fatal shooting of George Washington during a Revolutionary War battle. ” [Variety]

Watch the latest trailer for Dr. Cabbie: The film, which stars Big Bang Theory star Kunal Nayyar, will hit theaters in September. Watch it over on YouTube.

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Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and Aziz Ansari Take the Best Selfie Ever

Oh, to be a fly on the wall: Chris Rock posted this photo to his Instagram account late Thursday night:

Radio City Music Hall. (Regram from @chrisrock)

A post shared by @azizansari on

(Dave Chappelle performed at Radio City Music Hall last night.)

Are more tech experts moving to Bangalore than the actual Silicon Valley? New data from Linkedin seems to suggest so. ” While Bangalore clocked 44% new residents with technical talent, the San Francisco-Bay Area region had 31%.” [Forbes]

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The Story of How Google Earth Reunited an Orphan with His Birth Mother

A lost child: I wrote about Saroo Brierley, the Indian-Australian adoptee who located his birth family with the help of Google Earth for NBC’s new Asian American vertical. [NBC]

Quote of the day: Over at The Nation, Hannah Harris Green interviews Saba Ahmed, the American University law student who was in the news last week after her questions at a Heritage Foundation panel were repeatedly challenged. Here’s how Ahmed describes the congressional hearings and panels she frequently attends:

I’m amazed when we go to these congressional hearings. They’re asking for hundreds of millions of dollars for the State Department budget on outreach towards counterterrorism. Out of all that money, we couldn’t hire one person who knows the Qu’ran? Every time I go to congressional hearings, again it’s budget talks. They keep on asking for more funds, and we keep on funding them. But they’re not addressing the root causes of problems.

You can read the full interview here.

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India’s Health Minister Makes Troubling Statement on Condoms and AIDS

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

That sound you hear is public health officials from all over the world smacking their heads against their desks:  India’s newly installed health minister is already raising eyebrows after recent comments about AIDS awareness in India and condom usage. Dr. Harsh Vardhan told the New York Times in an interview that more attention should be paid to “promoting the integrity of the sexual relationship between husband and wife,” rather than just on promoting condoms as a successful AIDS prevention tool. From the article:

“The thrust of the AIDS campaign should not only be on the use of condoms,” he said in a telephone interview last week. “This sends the wrong message that you can have any kind of illicit sexual relationship, but as long as you’re using a condom, it’s fine.”

Pardon me for a second, I just have to throw a bunch of things against the wall. [New York Times]

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