American presidents

Watch: It took a comedian of Indian origin named Hassan Minhaj to show the US President his place

‘I would say it’s an honour to be here, but that would be an alternative fact.’

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Given US President Donald Trump’s fraught relationship with the media, it was no surprise that he became the first American head of state in decades to skip the annual White House Correspondents’ dinner in Washington. It was, of course, no surprise that Trump was a recurring thread through most of the day’s speeches.

But the honours for the evening went to a comedian of Indian origin. Daily Show correspondent Hassan Minhaj performed a blistering act, unsparing in his barbs.

“I would say it’s an honour to be here, but that would be an alternative fact,” he said. “No one wanted to do this, so of course it lands in the hands of an immigrant. No one wanted this gig.”

Minhaj pulled no punches during his 25-minute act: “The leader of our country is not here. That’s because he lives in Moscow, it’s a very long flight. It’d be hard for Vlad to make it. Vlad can’t just make it on a Saturday! As for the other guy, I think he’s in Pennsylvania because he can’t take a joke.”

He even turned his attention towards Trump’s opponent in the Presidential elections, saying, “Even Hillary Clinton couldn’t be here tonight. I mean, she could have been here, but I think someone told her the event was in Wisconsin and Michigan.”

Some of Minhaj’s harshest comments were also directed towards the media. “Fox News is here,” he began. “I’m amazed you guys even showed up. How are you here in public? It’s hard to trust you guys when you backed a man like Bill O’Reilly for years. But it finally happened. Bill O’Reilly has been fired. But then, you gave him a 25 million dollar severance package. Making it the only package he won’t force a woman to touch.”

Minhaj ended his blistering performance with a reference to the US president’s propensity for tweeting, which he said was protected by the Free Speech amendment in the US constition, even if Trump did not believe in it. “It’s 11 p.m,” Minhaj said. “In four hours, Donald Trump will be tweeting about how badly Nikki Minaj did at this dinner. And he’ll be doing it completely sober. And that’s his right. And I’m proud that all of us are here to defend that right, even if the man in the White House never would.”

Also speaking at the event were legendary journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who famously broke the story on Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal. The duo traded tricks of the trade (video below) they had learnt over the long careers.

“Almost inevitably, unreasonable government secrecy is the enemy and usually the giveaway about what the real story might be,” Bernstein said to applause. “[W]hen lying is combined with secrecy, there is usually a pretty good road map in front of us.” He added an addendum to his famous maxim: “Yes, follow the money but also follow the lies.”

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The White House Correspondents’ Dinner wasn’t as well-attended as it usually is, with numerous corporate sponsors backing out. This was a protest against Trump’s policies, but also because there was a different event called Not The White House Correspondents’ Dinner, hosted by comedian Samantha Bee. In one of the segments, comedian and actor Will Ferrel turned up as George Bush, commenting on Trump with one hilarious line: “How do you like me now?”

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From Indian pizzas in San Francisco to bhangra competitions in Boston

A guide to the Indian heart of these American cities.

The United States of America has for long been more than a tourist destination for Indians. With Indians making up the second largest immigrant group in the USA, North American cities have a lot to offer to the travel weary Indian tourist. There are umpteen reasons for an Indian to visit vibrant education and cultural hubs like Boston and San Francisco. But if you don’t have a well-adjusted cousin to guide you through the well-kept Indian secrets, this guide to the Indian heart of Boston and San Francisco should suffice for when you crave your fix.

Boston

If you aren’t easily spooked, Boston is the best place to be at in October due to its proximity to Salem. You can visit the Salem Witch Village to learn about present-day wiccans and authentic witchcraft, or attend séances and Halloween parades with ghosts, ghouls and other frightening creatures giving you a true glimpse of America during Halloween. But the macabre spirit soon gives way to a dazzling array of Christmas lighting for the next two months. The famed big Christmas trees are accompanied by festive celebrations and traditions. Don’t miss The Nutcracker, the sugar-laced Christmas adventure.

While it upholds its traditions, Boston is a highly inclusive and experimental university town. It welcomes scores of Indian students every year. Its inclusiveness can be gauged from the fact that Berklee College of Music released a well-received cover of AR Rahman’s Jiya Jale. The group, called the Berklee Indian Ensemble, creates compositions inspired by Indian musical styles like the Carnatic thillana and qawwali.

Boston’s Bollywood craze is quite widespread beyond the campuses too. Apple Cinemas in Cambridge and Regal Fenway Cinemas in Fenway can be your weekly fix as they screen all the major upcoming Bollywood movies. Boston tends to be the fighting ground for South Asian Showdowns in which teams from all over the North-Eastern coast gather for Bollywood-themed dance offs. The Bhangra competitions, especially, are held with the same energy and vigour as back home and are open to locals and tourists alike. If nothing else, there are always Bollywood flash mob projects you can take part in to feel proudly desi in a foreign land.

While travellers love to experiment with food, most Indian travellers will agree that they need their spice fix in the middle of any foreign trip. In that respect, Boston has enough to satisfy cravings for Indian food. North Indian cuisine is popular and widely available, but delicious South Indian fare can also be found at Udupi Bhavan. At Punjab Palace, you can dig into a typical North Indian meal while catching a Bollywood flick on one of their TVs. Head to Barbecue International for cross-continental fusion experiments, like fire-roasted Punjabi-style wings with mint and chilli sauce.

Boston is prominent on the radar of Indian parents scouting for universities abroad and the admission season especially sees a lot of prospective students and parents looking for campus tours and visits. To plan your visit, click here.

San Francisco

San Francisco is an art lover’s delight. The admission-free Trolley Dances, performed in October, focus on engaging with the communities via site-specific choreographies that reflect the city’s cultural diversity. Literature lovers can experience a Dickensian Christmas and a Victorian holiday party at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, a month-long gala affair starting in November.

As an Indian, you’ll be spoilt for choice in San Francisco, especially with regards to food. San Francisco’s sizeable Indian population, for example, has several aces hidden up its sleeve. Take this video by Eater, which claims that the ‘Indian’ pizza at Zante’s Restaurant is the city’s best kept secret that needs outing. Desi citizens of San Francisco are big on culinary innovation, as is evident from the popularity of the food truck Curry Up Now. With a vibrant menu featuring Itsy Bitsy Naan Bits and Bunty Burrito and more, it’s not hard to see why it is a favourite among locals. Sunnyvale, with its large concentration of Indians also has quirky food on offer. If you wish to sample Veer Zaara Pizza, Dabangg Pizza or Agneepath Pizza, head to Tasty Subs & Pizza.

There are several Indian temples in Sunnyvale, Fremont and San Jose that also act as effective community spaces for gatherings. Apart from cultural events, they even hold free-for-all feasts that you can attend. A little-known haven of peace is the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple. Their Anjaneya World Cafe serves delicious mango lassi; the beverage is a big hit among the local population.

If you’re looking for an Indian movie fix during your travels, the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival’s theme this year is Bollywood and Beyond. Indian film enthusiasts are in for a treat with indie projects, art-house classics, documentaries and other notable films from the subcontinent being screened.

San Francisco’s autumn has been described as ‘Indian summer’ by the locals and is another good season to consider while planning a trip. The weather lends more vigour to an already vibrant cultural scene. To plan your trip, click here.

An Indian traveller is indeed spoilt for choice in Boston and San Francisco as an Indian fix is usually available just around the corner. Offering connectivity to both these cities, Lufthansa too provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its India-bound flights and flights departing from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.