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The Daily Rhino
Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Who needs the Kwik-E-Mart?
rohin-simpsons.jpgOver a year and a half ago I wrote my first post for Pickled Politics, entitled ‘Much Apu About Nothing’ and it concerned my love for Springfield’s favourite shopkeeper. I sought to explain why I feel Apu is a positive character, having heard opinions against him. This has proved easily to be my most widely-read post.

Recently a publicity campaign for the upcoming Simpsons movie has developed into a contentious issue in America and Ultrabrown’s Manish has quickly become the go-to man for all things Apu. What Manish probably doesn’t realise that it was his view of Apu that inspired my article; I wanted to highlight how the British perception of Apu is so different from the American. So I figured I should chuck my two cents in, but I’ll try not to duplicate my reasons for being an Apu fan this time.

The recent ‘Apu controversy’, having made national American and Indian news, may have started as a debate about the ad campaign, but it has grown into a new dissection of Apu’s character.



It is thus fundamental to separate the 7-Eleven issue from related discussion. Examining the former first, Manish has, in several posts, argued succinctly why this promotional strategy irks him. Central to my defence of Apu has always been his context. The Simpsons parodies all its inhabitants and Apu is not a racist stereotype but a rounded, human figure.

This advertising campaign removes Apu from that context. Apu, like all the caricatures in Springfield, exists on two levels. Every character has a superficial exterior, which personifies a stereotype; they also have a rich personality which undermines all of those clichés.

I have learnt that unfortunately the fact Apu has a memorable catchphrase has resulted in it being used as a racist taunt in America. Critics of Apu argue this shows that he is the sole troubling character, which is why he draws so much flak. However I feel that sadly racists in the US would still be abusing Indians without a convenient convenience store catchphrase. The fact some Indians in the US dislike hearing “thank you, come again” reveals more about how American society has latched onto tormenting Indians than the racism of Apu.

Upon initially viewing the dozen-or-so Kwik-E-Marts, I loved the idea and I still do. The one point upon which I agree wholeheartedly with Manish is his criticism of the role the real-life shopkeepers have played in this saga. The majority of 7-Eleven employees affected by this campaign seem to be of Asian origin. Almost all seem game for a laugh, but dressing them up as Apu can surely not be in their best interests.

I think the Brits reading this will feel the way I initially felt, that there’s no harm in assuming the role of Apu for the month. But once again context is paramount. My view of the American experience for an Indian, shaped predominantly from the writing of Indian Americans and Harold and Kumar is one where Indian shopkeepers can frequently be the subjects of abuse. If this is indeed the case, the dumb racist’s conflation of a stereotyped Indian and a real one will only be reinforced by an Apu outfit and name badge.

However, if Indian shopkeepers aren’t subject to more abuse than others, then I can’t see any difference between the UK and the US, so I once again see nothing wrong with Apu. The basis for criticising him or his place in this advertising is grounded in the assertion that America is inherently racist, whether this is true, you decide.

I do not buy the argument that Americans are not familiar with Indians, which is cited as making Apu more harmful than other stereotypes. Firstly, I think “Americans don’t know any Indians” doesn’t wash anymore, secondly many of the stereotyped minorities are those Americans might be unfamiliar with like the Scots or the Japanese. Lastly, and most importantly, no special familiarity is needed. The vast majority of Americans will be familiar with the Indian shopkeeper and that is the very reason he is in The Simpsons. He effectively needs those stereotypies so that he can be recognised in his place in the town's makeup, and to act as a framework to flesh him out.

Another sore point for those who dislike Apu is his accent. It’s a comical accent but they say it is racist. Why? Because he is voiced by a non-Indian. This is nonsense. Are we seriously suggesting that only brown-skinned actors can voice brown cartoon characters? A blacked-up white man playing an Indian on screen would be wrong. But only a bigot would complain if a Pakistani played an Indian, because they “look right”. What of the analogous “sounding right”? The Indian voice is not dramatically different in timbre or pitch.

I think saying there is a racial barrier to voices as well as skin is dangerous ground. If a white man should not do an Indian accent, then can an Indian comedian not impersonate a white celebrity or voice a black cartoon character? The accent itself is criticised as unrealistic, but if based on a genuine thick Indian accent, opposition to Apu would not stop.

Annoyance at Apu’s accent is based on a false double standard, exposed by today’s multicultural society. The white West and the brown East are now intimately intertwined. When Western, but brown actors adopt ridiculous accents, such as Kal Penn in Van Wilder (the actor credited with trying to reclaim Apu’s phrase), there are few complainants.

But there is no reason why someone born and raised outside India is more qualified to attempt an Indian accent simply due to the fact his skin is brown. Those who don’t like Hank Azaria voicing Apu don’t ask for a test of ‘Indianess’ in a replacement candidate, they would be appeased by just Asian heritage. I have British Indian friends who do a more fake Apu-like Indian accent than some white friends. Indian actors make fun of regional accents in Indian films, but it’s OK cos that’s brown-on-brown. This is all phoney. The belief that “only our kind can make fun of us” is unhealthy and reactionary.

Most Indians, in whatever country, like Apu. Comments on British, American and Indian blogs have overwhelmingly favoured him, so Manish is firmly in the minority. It seems somewhat condescending to insist Apu degrades convenience store employees if they themselves have no problem with the character. It would be more condescending still if their views were dismissed as being insecure eager-to-please immigrants.

Levelling the notion that if we are party to the Apu joke, we are condemning future generations of brown-skinned people in white countries to racism is unwarranted. Forced attempts to reclaim a phrase or reject a cartoon character are laying the onus on us to change our ways instead of those guilty of racism.

I feel I haven’t addressed everything, so I will do my best to participate in comments. If you wish for a more detailed examination of Apu, please do read my first piece. Manish and I have both written plenty about Apu. His massively commented-upon Comment is Free article criticised the 7-Eleven campaign. He and I are agreed that the subtle nuances of Apu’s character are lost in the adverts. But we remain in disagreement about just about everything else to do with Dr Nahasapeemapetilon.

Many of the CiF comments are along the lines of “I’m X and my community is mocked as well, but I don’t complain”. Not all of these statements can be explained away by Indians being less familiar to Americans, and while I do not think Indians complain more (as has been alleged), I am not sure I fully understand why Apu is so much more of a talking point than any other character. I cannot help but feel some of it is due to the fact he is a key main player, which is a testament to his importance, not his subjugation.
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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Try before you prescribe
Originally published in the June issue of Medical Student Newspaper.

How can you ETHICALLY suggest anything for your patient without trying it for yourself? Following a long line of self-experimenting medics, I enlisted some help to make sure I was
doing right by my patients.

IT all started last summer. My good friend Froy (star of the October Rohinplasty) and I had been consuming alcohol whilst watching the blasted World Cup. Soon afterwards we found ourselves re-enacting Streetfighter II on Richmond Green.

Normally I am Ryu and a sure-fire victor. Perhaps it was the Cobra I had been drinking, but I chose Dhalsim this time; Froy was Zangief. One spinning pile-driver later and I was in West Middlesex Hospital demanding morphine for my dislocated and broken thumb.



They appeased me with nitrous oxide. Despite Froy inhaling far more than me, void of any injury that he was, we took it upon ourselves to learn about more of the things doctors prescribe for patients.

By the way, nitrous oxide is truly a wondrous trip. I thoroughly enjoyed my analgesia, even though I had to wear a vomit bowl on my head to stop those goddamn bats getting at my hair.



DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS

We ask for dietitian input frequently at St. Peter’s, chiefly because two of them are hot. Apparently they also supply food things for lazy patients. Lazy? That’s my middle name!



Fortijuice: “A distinctive aroma and a refreshing initial tang. However marred by an iron-y aftertaste, somewhat remeniscent of blood. Goes well with hospital hotpot, but a shameful 150kcal per bottle makes this drink a disappointing 2/5.”



Did you look at Fortijuice and think “looks like some good shit, but I want it as a mousse?” Well damn this is your lucky day. It would be if Forticreme - the gelatinous equivalent of Fortijuice - wasn’t such a revolting pot of quivering horrors. A sad 0/5.



I’m an unshamed fan of Scandishake. Available in the holy trinity of milkshake flavours but the strawberry stands out. A light, tasty whip of calories and vitamins, the fact you have to mix it yourself only adds to the outrageous fun. With a healthy 600kcal per shake, its real plus is it supplies 70% of the suggested saturated fat intake in one easy glass of goodness. An effortless 4/5.




1 spoonful = 1 steak

Calogen is the undisputed gangster in the wild world of dietetics. Reading the nutritional info is enough to strike fear in the hearts of most men, with 250ml packing almost 5000kJ. Upon corking the bottle, one is greeting with a welcome bouquet of strawberry triglycerides. A curious mercury-like surface tension causes it to remain on a spoon when held upside down, but the taste is laced with surprising velvet, supported by a bra of marshmallow. 5/5.



FLUID REPLACEMENT

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent hours on end wondering what IV fluids actually TASTE like. We took the Rohin & Froy (double) blind taste test. Saline vs dextrose vs gelofusine.



I chose gelofusine. I did this quite deliberately, it was obvious from its darker hue, because I really wanted to drink a COLLOID. Little did I know, I already had - Calogen is a fat emulsion. Somehow I wish I had not gulped the gelofusine with such gusto. I’d imagine this is what man juice tastes like. Remind me to ask the nurses later. Taste: 0/5.

Froy samples an old favourite, normal saline. Although not with any KCl though, that would be weird. “Saltier than a salty sea dog that’s been sailing on a sea of salt in a giant salt shaker with a hull full of salt, who’s just overdosed on salt because he ate some salted peanuts that were salty but not salty enough.” Salt value: 5/5. Taste: 0/5.



PROCEDURES



Cannulation is one of the most common procedures patients undergo in hospital - it is a popular way of getting MRSA. I started with a pathetic blue but then steeled my resolve and chose the green venflon, as not only did it complement my yellow T-shirt nicely, I was attracted to its impressive flow rate of 120ml/min.



Sweet mother of God, I never realised how much this hurt. Maybe due to the fact I was cannulating myself, but something made this excruciatingly painful.

However the pain was relieved by a sensation I recommend to anyone - a big flush of refridgerated normal saline. If I took heroin, I’d definitely put it in the fridge.
If. Pain rating: 3/5.



BM testing. This is so painless I can’t even be bothered to write about it. It’s lame, I don’t get why people do this. Who wants to know their blood sugar? Boring! Pain rating: 0/5.



People always seem to moan about ABGs over venflons. As far as I can tell, it’s the other way round. I enjoyed seeing my arterial blood fountain out into a syringe. I quite fancy an angiogram now. Radial approach, wooo! Pain rating: 2/5.



THINGS WE MIGHT HAVE TRIED. MIGHT MIGHT MIGHT.



Morphine is a powerful and dangerous opioid analgesic and sedative. It can cause respiratory depression, itching, and constipation. Froy and I are off to spend the rest of the afternoon lying in the sun watching cricket.

The legal bit: So that the editor of Medical Student Newspaper or any Daily Rhino-reader does not perform any further painful procedures on me, neither I nor Medical Student Newspaper advocate taking any of the products mentioned in this article unless prescribed by a medical professional. All products utilised were expired or unsuitable for patient use.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Shilpa and Shakespeare cockroaches
I HAVE received a bunch of emails from this guy, who must've got my address from Pickled Politics. The most recent simply had this post's title as its subject and is re-published below. I figured it needed to be shared with no alterations at all.





From: Our revenge for Shilpa Shetty
To: rohin at pickledpolitics dot com
Date: 03-Jul-2007 20:41
Subject: Shilpa & Shakespeare cockroaches


Dirty English = Shakespeare cockroaches

Stupid English = Humpty Dumpty



Shilpa should have abused back her uncivilized english abusers by insulting them as, Shakespeare cockroaches and Humpty Dumptys, but unfortunately, she did not know it. Otherwise, if she had known these two remarks, she would surely have insulted back her tormentors with the remarks of Shakespeare cockroach and Humpty Dumpty.


We are now spreading this message in the Indian community all over the world. We request all our fellow Indians to use the insults of Shakespeare cockroach and Humpty Dumpty, each time they come under abuse and refuse to suffer in silence. If you do not respond abuse with abuse, then the racist remarks used by uncivilized and evil english will continue and will grow further. If you abuse back with the remark of Shakespeare cockroach, then the uncivilized english will think twice before abusing you.


This is the only practical way to deal with the abusive and evil Shakespeare cockroaches and Humpty Dumptys, who are the biggest fascists of the world. England is a fascist country and we now call it, Nazi England.



We love our Shilpa.

We hate Jade Goody, the Shakespeare cockroach.

We hate Jade Goody, the Humpty Dumpty.

We hate Nazi England.



Very very very angry against Shakespeare cockroaches,
Rajesh Kumar & friends,
France


1) Shakespeare cockroach
2) Humpty Dumpty

------------------------------------

Shakespeare cockroach is a humiliating slur against the dirty english and is used against all english people. Those english who have no brains and are stupids, are called HUMPTY DUMPTYS.

Shakespeare cockroach is a very very humiliating slur against all dirty english.

Humpty Dumpty is a very very humiliating slur against all stupid & brainless english.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

SHO me the exit
Cross post on Pickled Politics.

SEVEN
of the suspects arrested under suspicion of involvement with the terrorist attacks over the last few days are NHS junior doctors or medical students. Britain's threat level has only today been stepped down from 'critical' to 'severe' and heightened security at airports remains in place. As a shifty-looking NHS junior doctor flying out of the UK on Friday, these events have had particular resonance.

Almost three months after junior doctors were in the news protesting a disastrous job shortage, a friend at work quipped "I think some of these guys are taking their MTAS protests a bit far." Hey, perhaps these guys were just pissed off at being laid off...


Mohammed Asha

"Brilliant": Mohammed Asha topped his class several times.

Two Iraqi doctors seem to be at the heart of the attempted terror campaign, thought responsible for both the Glasgow Airport attack and two unsuccessful bombs in London two days prior. A British cleric working in Iraq had recently been informed of an impending attack on Britain by an Al Qaeda leader, with the ominous warning that "the people who cure you will kill you."

The suspects, of Iraqi, Saudi, Indian and Jordanian origin, have opened a debate on the role overseas doctors play in the British health system. It is a widely acknowledged fact that the NHS survives on the contribution of doctors trained abroad. Many would go so far as to say that the NHS would not exist today had doctors from the sub-continent buoyed it through its early decades. Today approximately 128,000 of the 277,000 doctors on the GMC Register are from overseas medical schools.

The requirement of a work permit for foreign junior doctors only came into place last year, as the UK was producing more doctors itself (many of whom are now leaving for Australia, New Zealand and Canada). Medical Student Newspaper covered the fact that even overseas undergraduates in British medical schools, who pay almost £100,000 in tuition fees, were instructed to apply for work permits despite being halfway through training.

The normal vetting process for doctors involves a professional and linguistic assessment (the PLAB) and a probation period working in the NHS before a full registration is offered. Doctors from the EU are exempt from these checks. No doctors are specifically questioned on their political views.

Members of British Muslim medical groups, such as Dr Abdula Shehu of the Muslim Doctors Association, are afraid there will be a backlash against Muslim doctors. To me, this sounds improbable. Doctors can't be picked out on the street - most people know doctors via being treated by them. I doubt people will suddenly assume their family GP Dr Hussain is a terrorist.

However not much has been said about medical students, who interact with a far more diverse group of people than doctors. We have previously touched upon the religious fanaticism that lurks on British university campuses and I'm sure there will be sympathisers amongst British Muslim students, just as there is likely to be some ill will toward normal Islamic students.

What appears to be happening is a questioning of Britain's reliance on overseas doctors. Gordon Brown has already pledged a review of NHS recruitment and 'skilled migrant workers' background checks. Intelligence agencies said they will have to "widen the net" when searching for potential bombers. A somewhat romantic illusion that doctors are above activities like terrorism has been laid to rest, but the debate over the ability to cure and kill is a fascinating one.

The Times today revealed details of the two Indian suspects, now known to be cousins. Both spent most of their time in the UK socialising only with other foreign doctors, often just Indians. Details of the other suspects' lives is patchy, but again most character testimonies have come from Muslim friends and acquaintances. In my hospital accomodation, a cluster of several apartment blocks, several are populated solely by immigrants. It is quite possible to have a job in the NHS and live with, work with and socialise with only those from outside the UK.

The disparate group of eight people seem linked only by two things, being Muslim and medicine.

The NHS is prohibited from actively recruiting from countries at risk of a 'brain-drain' (though less than a quarter of recruitment agencies the NHS uses has signed up to this), but a doctor from such a country is entitled to apply independently. A huge proportion of the NHS is accounted for by foreign workers, with thousands of doctors from 150 countries, nurses from the Phillipines, India, Ghana and Nigeria or cleaners from Nepal, Ghana and Nigeria. These countries' health systems are woefully understaffed.

In the wake of 7/7, we clutched at straws for what might have driven those men to kill. Poverty, social deprivation, a lack of feeling British. This time, whilst I can assure you juniors doctors are not flushed with money, they are certainly not on the poverty line. These doctors had no call to feel British as they weren't, but it seems apparent they resented the country they had chosen to work in.

Their reason for attacking the UK might have been the same as previous terrorists, but how did they become subject to such extreme views in spite of their high educational level and respected job? Much could be speculated about doctors from Iraq - they sought revenge for a fallen friend, an insult to their country - but then why were Indian Muslims angry?

I realise I am posing more questions than I am answering. I do not feel increasing security checks on skilled migrants will solve the problem. We do not know if some of these men (and woman) were radicalised in the UK. For me, and many like me, the very nature of the NHS is under scrutiny. A thoroughly British convention, it is a puzzling behemoth of nations. Isolation for someone new to the UK is very easy in the NHS - how many other mass employers routinely provide cheap digs next to your workplace combined with 60 hour weeks?

The NHS remains perpetually over-stretched and under pressure to cut waiting times; see more patients; improve treatments. None of this is possible without sufficent staffing, frequently drawn from the countries that need medical professionals the most. Whilst not apparently linked to recent events, the fact the NHS is driving thousands of its best and brightest abroad every year can only be worrying.

I'll end with an anecdote. After the Tsunami, I spent a month working at relief camps around Sri Lanka's coast. I returned to Heathrow with a shaved head, a month's tan, a big rucksack and four days of stubble. The security officers saw me a mile off and took me to a special area where they searched me and my bags. They rummaged through sweaty clothes and pirate DVDs, firing a series of questions at me.

As soon as the chap looking through my bag found my stethoscope, both officers immediately packed everything back in and apologised for bothering me. I was sure the "I'm a doctor" line would be an evergreen get-out clause for airport security. Oh well, wish me luck this weekend.

(Kind of related, I thoroughly recommend Michael Moore's new film, Sicko.)

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