ARTHUR J PAIS
December 23, 2011
Rajiv Satyal is rehearsing the jokes he will tell next month as he tours even cities across India with two
fellow Asian-American comedians:
‘Punjabis are the soldiers of India,’ he
says.’ Unless you’re my size. Then you
become a comedian.’
There will not be raunchy jokes, he says,
adding that at some events in America,
his desi fans keep demanding ‘more non-
He offers another joke he wants to pres-
ent in India: ‘There’s been a lot of fuss
made over an article that came out claim-
ing, ‘Condoms Too Big for Indian Men,’ he
could say deadpan. ‘Hey, in India, every-
thing is longer — cricket matches are
longer than baseball games; Bollywood
movies are longer than Hollywood’s;
Indian weddings are longer than
American ones. We gotta make up for it
Satyal, Azhar Usman and Hari
Kondabolu will perform at the State
Department’s goodwill ‘Make Chai Not
War’ program in Mumbai, Chennai,
Bangalore, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Ranchi
and Patna, January 4 to 19.
From left: Azhar Usman, Hari Kondabolu and Rajiv Satyal
Running soon in India:
Make Chai, Not War
Satyal, a former Procter & Gamble mar-
keter, has opened for Dave Chappelle,
Tim Allen, Kevin Nealon and Russell
‘They call people like me almonds,’
Satyal might tell the Indian audiences.
‘That’s because we’re brown on the out-
side and white on the inside. Though they
should call us coconuts, because we’re
hairy. Indians are hairy — the men, too.’
Make Chai Not War, which Satyal
founded with his friend Azhar Usman,
has performed in cities across the United
States and Canada.
How to get Asian kids to ask questions in school,
Virginia meeting brainstorms
ARTHUR J PAIS
Goutam Gandhi knew well that his comments about his 10-year-old daughter, who was hesitant to raise her hand in classes, were similar to the comments
teachers make of Asian students across America. Partly this
was cultural, he thinks, and partly it is also because of the
fear that others may laugh at the accent (of recent immigrants) and partly it is from watching other Asian students
not asking questions.
‘That’s a pattern,’ he said addressing over 50 people at
Hermitage School in Richmond, Virginia. ‘I can tell you, in
my culture, they will be quiet. Even if they have a question,
they just won’t ask.’
Teachers can help the students realize that asking ques-
tions or requesting more information is perfectly alright,
several participants said echoing Gandhi’s thoughts.
By expressing his thoughts about the phenomenon, he
and many other parents — who recently gathered at the
Hermitage High School with their children and met with
the teachers — hope some good will come.
The event was organized by the Asian American Society
of Central Virginia and the Henrico Education Foundation
to discuss the challenges Asian parents and students face
The society represents 16 Asian countries.
“Some of us talked about why we should break the stereo-
types and participate in the class discussions also were
thinking of our fellow students,” said Cynthia Alam, adding
that her Indian friends often felt too shy or nervous about
Bangladesh-born Cynthia speaks with an American
accent, but it was not easy for her to surmount her shyness,
she said. Daughter of physician parents, she said in an
interview that when she was younger, she was really quiet.
The sophomore who wants to study medicine added, “I
didn’t want to ask questions because that would mean that
I didn’t know anything. Because of my cultural back-
ground, I felt like I had to be perfect. I also thought if I
asked questions my teacher may think I am not smart. I
have also noticed that other Asian students who were born
and raised here could also have the same complex I had.”
But she noticed that students who got high grades were
quite vocal in the class.
Parents can help the children, along with the teachers, in
understanding class room dynamics, she said.
She said she is worried about the attitude of many chil-
dren born in America who are worried how their parents
speak and how they dress — or, more important, what their
peers may be thinking about the Asian parents.
“This is true of my many friends, including Indians and