How wellness influencers made Indian food a trend β€πŸ“ˆπŸ΄

How wellness influencers made Indian food a trend β€πŸ“ˆπŸ΄

Drop #36

"Pizza and Chill" by Sahiti Bonam*

top of mind

β†’ This week's top of mind by inkmango reader Meghna Rao. Have a smart take on South Asia or South Asians around the world? Email us to get featured.

Film and politics are old bedfellows (e.g., Hollywood and the Democratic Party). Some Bollywood stars are now publicly supporting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, despite the industry's secularism and his party's Hindu right-wing leanings.

India's $2b+ entertainment industry is a bastion of secularism: many of its biggest stars are Muslim, a religious minority, and industry insiders often marry across religion and culture. Yet, this past week, several Bollywood stars stood with Modi in photos splattered across their Instagram and Twitter accounts, including an Ellen-at-the-Oscars-style selfie.

In late 2018, Modi signed off on lower goods & service taxes on movie tickets, which helped win some friends in Bollywood, or at least Varun Dhawan. Yet, members of Modi's right-wing BJP haven't always been friendly to the film industry. A BJP media coordinator in the state of Haryana once issued an award of $1.4m (Rs. 10 crore) for the beheading of actress Deepika Padukone or director Sanjay Leela Bhansali for their part in creating biopic Padmaavat.

Coincidentally, Padukone's husband Ranveer Singh featured front-and-center in many photos, and posted a tight embrace with Modi on Instagram captioned "Jaadoo Ki Jhappi," or "magic hug."

This is one of a series of moves the BJP has made this past week to help it win votes ahead of elections later this spring: promising to reduce air pollution, reserving 10% of government jobs and school/university seats for poorer high-caste Indians, and granting residency to non-Muslim immigrants.

In a country said to have three religions β€” Bollywood, cricket, and politics β€” this BJP PR stunt is particularly sinister: millions of fans look up to these stars.
around the block

ON TREND How wellness influencers made Indian food a trend. How did the perception of Indian food swing from junky takeout to detox? The short of it: mostly white wellness influencers. Can South Asians re-possess a trend that they started over 5,000 years ago? (Bon Appetit)
β†’ Agree? Disagree? Email us your thoughts and we'll feature some of the best comments next week.

ON TREND Building Mumbai's subway: 'inside one of the world's most audacious transit projects.' Over 8,000 workers and 360-foot-long boring machines are working 24 hours a day to finish the 27-station, 21-mile subway. Mumbai will become the world's most populous city to build a subway. Started in 2016, nine miles are already complete. The $3.3b β€œMetro Line 3” is slated to open by the end of 2021 and could carry 1.6m+ riders a day. (WSJ)

TECH Matrix India announces new $300m fund. Affiliated with US-based Matrix Partners, this is Martix India's third fund. Matrix India has backed 60+ startups, including Uber rival Ola, medical platform Practo, and news aggregator DailyHunt. Matrix plans to close 12-14 deals per year, focusing on seed rounds, consumer brands, and founder bets. Indian VC is at an inflection point after the Flipkart exit (Walmart paid $16b for 77% of Flipkart) and India's ever-expanding internet access due to Reliance Jio. (TechCrunch)

POLITICS India finally has a plan to fight air pollution, before 2019 elections. India has nine of the world's 10 most polluted cities, which includes its capital, Delhi. The government unveiled a five-year plan to reduce air pollution in 102 cities by 20-30% from 2017 levels by reducing industrial emissions, vehicular exhaust, and biomass burning. The plan has $91m of funding over two years (vs. the $400m spent to build the world's tallest statue). PM 2.5 β€” the small particles that can be absorbed into the bloodstream β€” levels >50 are hazardous. Mumbai recorded an average of 147 in 2018; Delhi recorded 350 this past Friday. (NYT, Reuters)

POLITICS India reserves 10% of government jobs and seats at schools for the high-caste poor, the BJP's traditional base, before elections. Modi's BJP passed a bill introducing reservations for those whose households earn <Rs. 800k ($11,500) annually and own fewer than five acres of land. India already reserves 50% of government jobs and school/university seats for the "socially and educationally backward." The reservations may remain an empty promise: it's difficult to enforce before April/May elections and the Supreme Court could strike it. The lower house also passed a bill that grants residency and citizenship rights to non-Muslim immigrants, which could boost support for the Hindu-right BJP ahead of elections. (CNN, BBC)

EDUCATION Pakistan wants to reform its madrassas. Madrassas in Pakistan focus on the teachings of Islam's holiest text, the Quran. Since independence in 1947, madrassas in Pakistan have grown from 150 to as many as 32k-60k and enroll ~2.5m children. PM Imran Khan wants madrassas to add a core curriculum, with math, science, and English. Yet, impact might be limited: madrassa students are <10% of the school-going Pakistani population, and 22m+ do not attend school. (NPR, audio)

BUSINESS Bangladeshi garment workers and police clash in protest. Thousands demonstrated for better wages for a fourth day Wednesday, shutting down factories near Dhaka. Bangladesh’s garment industry exports $30b of goods a year, the second largest after China's, for the likes of Zara, H&M, and Uniqlo. For months, workers have been demanding a higher minimum pay than PM Sheikh Hasina's proposal; protestors want at least 16k taka (~$191) per month. (AP)
we're also following...
movers & shakers

Kaka and Figo, soccer superstars, arrived in Pakistan Thursday to help launch the World Soccer Stars; the two will bring 10 soccer stars to Pakistan in an April event to help promote soccer β€” the rise of sports in South Asia is one of the 2019 trends we are watching

Kamala Harris, California Senator, to run for the presidency in 2020; she would be the first South Asian-American and second African-American to be president in US history if she won

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Reuters journalists imprisoned on questionable charges in Myanmar due to investigating the Rohingya genocide, lost their appeal in Court β€” they were fighting their seven-year sentences

Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul, Indian cricket team members, were suspended after joking about hooking up with women on the Indian talk show Koffee with Karan

Mohammad Monir, a Bangladeshi man who distorted and posted photos of PM Sheikh Hasina on social media, has been jailed under its new stringent Information and Communication Technology laws

The Indian soccer team wins its first Asian Cup since 1964, defeating Thailand 4-1 in soccer
on our hit list

Read. There, There by Tommy Orange β€” Orange's accounts of Native American urban life resonates deeply with those whose voices have gone unheard
Eat. Masala y Maiz β€” a fusion of Indian and Mexican, the next time you're in Mexico City
Watch. Andhadun on Netflix β€” Ayushmann Khurrana plays a visually impaired pianist whose life takes a turn (Radhika Apte also stars)
Live everywhere. Aziz Ansari is on tour again
*Philadelphia-based Sahiti Bonam is a graduate in Visual Studies at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University. Her works are largely based on social issues, while exploring Indian styles of art.

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