Kal Penn Leads Web War Against Time Magazine Article - My Own Private India

When Time magazine published its celebrity writer Joel Stein’s column, My Private India , on June 28, it couldn’t have ever imagined that it would trigger a Web war. And that the charge against it would be led by the Hollywood actor of Indian descent, Kal Penn ( best known for his role in Mira Nair’s The Namesake ).

Stein’s column was a supposedly funny take on his hometown Edison, New Jersey, and how the influx of Indians has changed it dramatically.

He wrote: “ I am very much in favour of immigration everywhere in the US except Edison, NJ. The mostly white suburban town I left when I graduated from high school in 1989 … has become home to one of the biggest Indian communities in the US, as familiar to people in India as how to instruct stupid Americans to reboot their Internet routers.” Penn, who was born Kalpen Suresh Modi and grew up in the New Jersey towns of Montclair and Marlboro, reacted to Stein’s column by writing a rejoinder on the Web- based news and views site, The Huffington Post, on July 2.

The response is titled The “ Hilarious” Xenophobia of Time’s Joel Stein and Penn writes: “ Were it not for the intelligent, fresh sense of humour of individuals like Mr Stein, the world may never know about Americans who happen to be of Indian descent. Gags about impossibly spicy food? I’d never heard those before! Multiple Gods with multiple arms? Multiple laughs! Recounting racial slurs like ‘ dot- head’? Oh, Mr Stein is too good! I don’t know how he comes up with such unique bits....” Penn spells out the reason for his outrage.

“Growing up a few miles from Edison, NJ, I always thought it was hilarious when I’d get the crap kicked out of me by kids like Stein who would yell ‘ go back to India, dothead!’,” he writes.

Most Indians felt Stein came across as being insensitive to Indians. He writes at one point: “ For a while, we assumed all Indians were geniuses.

Then, in the 1980s, the doctors and engineers brought over their merchant cousins, and we were no longer so sure about the genius thing. In the 1990s, the not- as- brilliant merchants brought their even- less- bright cousins, and we started to understand why India is so damn poor.”


Anonymous { July 7, 2010 at 11:11 PM }
uh...Kal penn "best known for his role in Mira who's what?".... Kal penn is best known for harold and kumar go to white castle
Anonymous { July 8, 2010 at 12:04 AM }
I read an article in India stating TIME's apology .. I feel an apology isn enough ,legal action against joel is a must .. Hope I read about this soon ..
Anonymous { July 8, 2010 at 5:30 AM }
Legal action after filling the streets of Edison with Patels ,babus and the street vendors.You never enjoyed the legal action eligiblity in India ,probably never heard about it there.
Either enjoy the article and appreciate the elements of truth or stop bringing all your cousins to the towns.
Anonymous { July 8, 2010 at 6:23 AM }
I hit you and say sorry will that be enough...No a sorry is not enough. you people enjoyed immigrats all these days and accepted services from them with very much lower prices and now sicne the economy isbad you are writing humorous (insulting) articles ...a legal action shoul dbe taken on these racists
Anonymous { July 8, 2010 at 6:39 AM }
more over we are not the illegal immigrants, we are the tax payers ...
Anonymous { July 8, 2010 at 7:45 AM }
this is such an insult , we should launch a class action lawsuit against the haters...
Anonymous { July 8, 2010 at 7:57 AM }
I realize now that Indians don't have the sense of humor required to understand the truth being told in the article.
Anonymous { July 8, 2010 at 10:31 AM }
Sense of humour... calling people dot heads and asking them to go back is racism and not humorous
Jvalin Tejpal { July 8, 2010 at 10:35 AM }
As an answer to the comment above me - That's just too much humor for us. Racist humor directed towards a particular community doesn't require a sense of humor to understand the "truth" being told.
Anonymous { July 8, 2010 at 11:20 AM }
I am not insulted though I am an Indian..If you feel hated and insulted ,learn to live here with so much resources and opportunities you could have only imagined in India.
ravi { July 8, 2010 at 3:34 PM }
dear anonymous,

why are u unnamed...is it because you dont have the sense required to understand the racist tone behind the article?...
Anonymous { July 8, 2010 at 7:57 PM }
No one likes the Jews for a reason. Jew boy Joel.
Anonymous { July 9, 2010 at 11:27 AM }
I do enjoy the Indian-ness that has come to the area around Edison…look at the Metropark station for instance…I was overjoyed seeing the Paan stains at every corner of the station…amazing….just like home away from home…
Anonymous { July 10, 2010 at 12:25 PM }
As a long time NJ Indian-American resident who has friends of all shapes, sizes, colors and backgrounds, I am proud to uphold our Indian culture and bring members of all races to experience our amazing culture. I have converted many of my non-Indian friends to our amazing food, dance, songs, and Bollywood films! So I am as shocked as each of you of Joel Stein's article and have joined the public outcry. Privately, though, I am more concerned on a deeper level. I hope you will understand:

I have been increasingly disturbed to defend our kind as 'not racists', based on some of the sick ignorance that happens within our own community as well. I know for a fact that most Indian-origin people do not participate in this ignorance and are amazingly loving people to all color and races. But by allowing the ignorant members of our community to continue, it falsely represents all of us as accepting it.

For instance, on pinkvilla.com (a blog site targeted at desi girls to experience Bollywood and Indian fashion), young Indian-American teens lambaste duskier Indian stars, forgetting that Indian beauty comes in all colors... (i.e Freida Pinto is too brown to represent India ; 'dark maid' comments to dark-skinned models..; fair vs dark wars..). These sorts of racial color comments and glorification/bashing of Indian stars based on their color are accepted as a-ok on that site. The moderators who are adults and should know better, accept and publish comments, and let it continue among these kids. The net result is that many of them who may suffer from self-image issues based on their skin color!

And more shockingly, I got several emails from my white and black friends saying there was a racist making Indian restaurant reviews calling Indian waiters 'chimps', dark, idiots, and all sorts of nonsense (http://www.njindia.us ). After vowing to get to the bottom of this, I decided to write to the NAACP to stop this. Imagine my shocking embarrassment when I realized the reviewer was an Indian-American!

In this case, how can I properly battle the Joel Steins of the world, when in fact, many members of my community are facing similar cultural self-hated, resulting in a similar ignorance to Joel's? Furthermore, many members of our Indian community too in fact dislike Edison (and honestly, Oak Tree could use some trees, flowers and major cleaning up... to show our pride.. ). I believe the solution is to clean up our backyard together. I know we can grow and change- making this painful episode, a positive step forward for our community.
Anonymous { July 10, 2010 at 1:27 PM }
Indian who is citizen of USA for 4 decades who appreciates and criticizes both his homelands:

J Stein has a right to make any statement he wants. But if he is writing an alleged pro-immigration piece for a major magazine, he better be sure he shows more explicit candor. Tucking away his compliments in equivocal jokes only confuses his audience . Clumsy mishandling of the racial slur ("dot-head") used by violent thugs of the same community only drowned out any point he had to make. Yes, it is hard to write something educational, progressive, and funny. But I cannot believe it is impossible even in your case. Therefore I conclude you knew what you were doing. Glad a lot of people called you out on it. Shame on those using racist remarks back at him.
Anonymous { July 18, 2010 at 3:54 AM }
this is a hilarious response to joel stein - http://www.menongitis.com/blog/?p=693

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