Washington: The United States is
sending a comedy group comprising of three Indian-Americans on
a seven city tour of India to spread the message of religous
tolerence among other things as part of its regular global
cultural exchange programme, an official said on Friday.
"We are indeed sending an Indian-American comedy group.
We are supporting a seven-city tour that they are making
around India. They're called Make Chai, Not War, and this is
part of our regular global cultural exchange programme that we
do around the world," State Department spokesperson Victoria
Nuland, told reporters at her daily news conference.
Beginning January 4, the three Indian Americans, Rajiv
Satyal, Azhar Usman and Hari Kondabolu, would travel to
Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Patna and Ranchi.
"The reason we decided to support this tour is because,
among the things that they are known for is their talk about
religious tolerance, about the importance of breaking down
prejudices and about the positive experiences they had growing
up as Indian-Americans in the United States," Nuland said in
response to a question.
"In addition to doing shows, they'll also be holding
audience discussions on these issues of religious tolerance,
and doing workshops and having some interviews with the
press," Nuland said adding that the seven city tour costs
about USD 100,000; of which the US Embassy in New Delhi is
supporting them with a grant of USD 88,000.
Satyal and Usman, who created "Make Chai Not War", say
that their comedy is not based on making fun of anyone's
Instead, their jokes and stories are mostly
self-deprecating and introspective.
"I am a believing, practicing Muslim," Usman says in a
"This, to me, means that I won't do sacrilegious,
blasphemous, or heretical material.
I will however, make fun of human stupidity,
narrow-mindedness, and religious fundamentalism."
Usman believes there is an important and qualitative
difference between jokes that disrespect deities, teachings,
ideas, beliefs, creeds, theologies, sacred symbols, or other
profound aspects of religion itself, versus jokes about human
frailties, idiosyncrasies, and moral failures, which are all
"There would be a lot less trouble in the world if people
could learn to not take themselves so seriously, if we could
learn to assume the best about each other," Satyal says.
"Our show is meant to help people loosen up a bit. We
have fun with all religions, including our own. We try to be
good-natured, not mean-spirited," he added.
First Published: Friday, December 30, 2011, 11:59