EDITOR’S NOTE: I asked my friend Anand Rao (no relation), whose parents are off-the-boat Indian, for his opinion on the brouhaha. Astute readers may recognize Anand as the so-called Terror Dentist (OK, so I called him that) and the rest of you might find it instructive to read up on his experience with racial profiling before reading his take on all this:
So, we’re about to get the proverbial chakra spinning:
As an arm-chair journalist, I would probably say that the picture does not accent or further the interview that was dictated to Phawker. I have to ask why you decided to use that drawing as the header for your piece on Saira Rao. Clearly, her book has little (if anything) to do with Indian-American identity issues. The use of the gavel and scales was a clever way to proxy the trident and damaru (drum) traditionally portrayed by Shiva (btw, my reference to the chakra comes from Vishnu which he carries along with a conch shell and mace). But the story and the picture do not harmonize, in my opinion. And it’s an easy road from harmony to cacophony especially when religious/ethnic depictions are involved.
Still, I can’t say that I agree in full with Nita’s remarks. I can attest that there’s an ignorance in our society which believes that all Indians “wear diapers, have eight arms and worship cows.” As many ABCDs (that’s American Born Confused Desi or Indian-American) in this country, I have had to field such comments. Jon, you and I have personally lampooned the complete ignorance of a particular few that believe all brown people with funny names are terrorists. I would hardly call that illustration a “lampoon” of anyone; in fact, I would consider it a compliment to be depicted as the destroyer, though I would have Conan the Destroyer since he’s got better biceps! I also find no hint of any racial overtune on this depiction. After all, how many in our audience would even conclude that we were indeed looking at a Hindu deity (well, Phawker’s audience could, but not too many others like, um, PHILEBRITY! HA! just kidding?)
I’m in the middle of my work day, so I’ve gotta cut this short. I’ll end by saying I like the illustration as an illustration per se, meaning that it’s nice as it stands alone. In fact, I’ve always enjoyed Phawker’s drawings. I see no racial slur in this particular depiction, yet there may be some that might see it as such. Nita makes some points, but overall, my feelings is that she is one person and does not speak for the ABCD community (whatever that might mean).
Dr. Anand Rao
[Photo by JEFF FUSCO]