Madame Gandhi kicked off the South Asian Block Party, which featured a who’s who of South Asians in showbiz to promote the Joe Biden and Kamala Harris presidential ticket Wednesday on Zoom. But Kumail Nanjiani brought the emotion, talking about how President Trump’s actions during the coronavirus pandemic have locked down his wife, Emily V. Gordon, who has an immune deficiency as seen in their movie “The Big Sick.”
Nanjiani was sometimes overcome by emotion as he spoke about how fortunate they were to have medical insurance when they did, otherwise they would have had to deal with a $1 million bill. “She was in the hospital for a month,” he said. “The idea that someone could be financially bankrupted and in a hole for the rest of their lives, just because they got sick is disgusting.”
The other person he worried about was his mother, he said. She no longer felt welcome in her home of 10 years. “In the last four years, just to see her scared to leave her home, she says, ‘Where do we go now. They don’t want us in America.”
Mindy Kaling joined toward the end of the event. Kaling, who most famously had made a YouTube video making masala dosas (stuffed crepes) with Harris, talked about her personal connection with the senator in a chat with Anjula Acharia, the powerhouse behind Priyanka Chopra. “I am so proud that someone who looks like me has the same beliefs as me,” she said discussing education, immigration and not locking children in cages. “We can’t be ignored now. We’re like A students, and let’s be A students in voting.”
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Aasif Mandvi, who emceed, intermingled dad jokes with pleas to the South Asian community to vote. In 2016 some of the races were decided by the small margin that could have been the desi community in states including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida. “We are the difference,” he said. “Even in Texas, there are enough South Asians, if they voted for Biden-Harris could turn that state blue. Harish Jajoo is running for Congress in Sugarland. Turn Sugarland to Jilebiland. I know that joke is bad, but where else am I going to use it.”
Ravi Patel hosted a Zoom party for his family in which he encouraged them to vote for “Kamala ben [sister].”
Speakers including Ashok Amritraj, Aparna Nancherla, Preet Bharara, Janina Gavankar, Liza Koshy, Poorna Jagannathan, Sendhil Ramamurthy and Safina Jaffrey, who asked viewers to contribute to the campaign, volunteer and to make a plan to vote for themselves. Some like Lilly Singh and Rizwan Manji said they were Canadian and could not vote in the U.S. election, but asked Americans to vote for Biden and Harris.
“This is all Donald Trump’s fault and we’ve got to stop it,” said Madhur Jaffrey. She reminded viewers about how in the previous century, Indians were banned from owning property or voting, and it is important to stop that backsliding.
According to a note on the Zoom meeting 1.3K people watched, with tickets at $20 for students, $50 for guests and up. “This is personal,” said Vinay Reddy, a Biden speechwriter, referencing the strong ties many South Asians have to Harris, whose mother emigrated from Chennai, India.
DJ Rekha played tunes for the dance party that followed.