The focus of the three videos, podcast and slide-show is the Muslim community living in New York.

Three Videos


Photo slide-show


Religious extremists make him live a life of oblivion

Songs of Haroon Bacha, a Pashtoon singer living-in-exile, have been plagiarized by India’s Bollywood, one of the largest cinemas of the world, and he is the darling of thirty-seven- million Pashtu speaking population living on both sides of the Durand Line which divides Pakistan and Afghanistan. Here in New York he is living a life of virtual non-existence as his only introduction to fame and his legendary status is the microscopic Pashtoon diaspora of both Pakistan and Afghanistan settled in New York.

“I do not belong to this place. My source of inspiration is the land where I belong to and the people I live with. I cannot go there due to threats, ” says Bacha who came here on a tourist visa three-months back after being threatened by the religious zealots in North Western Frontier Province of Pakistan. Bacha left back his wife and two sons- six-year-old Wadan and five-year-old Zalan.

Bacha is among several Pashtoons who have fallen victim to the cultural policing of the Talibans. His songs were termed blasphemous by religious extremists.

” I am far but you are still in my mind I am always thinking about you,” are the lyrics of one of the romantic songs of Bacha which were termed objectionable by Talibans and termed heretic.

In the context of geo-politics, Bacha belongs to one of the most violent areas of the world today where religious extremism is spiraling high. His native province,North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, is the epicenter of America’s war against terror.

It is a lesser known fact that there are more Pashtoons, a community from which majority of Taliban cadre comes from, in Pakistan as compared to Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan there are approx. 12 million Pashtoons, there are approx. 25 million Pashtoons in Pakistan. Pashtoon dominated areas of Pakistan have seen a continuous increase in religious extremism where the symbols of moderation have been specifically attacked or coerced.

After arriving in United States on a tourist visa, Bacha was helped by Pashtoon community living in New York to settle down in Coney Island of Brooklyn area. Bacha has set-up a small studio where he rehearses daily with musical instruments.

One of his journalist friends, Majid Babar terms Bacha as a symbol of centuries-old Pashtoon heritage which faces threat from religious zealots. ” We’ll do whatever to help Bacha so that he continues to sing. His songs are an integral part of our culture,”says Majeed Babar, a Pashtoon and a New York Times correspondent who too had to escape from Peshawar after being threatened for his reporting.

The threats to Bacha and his family have not ceased. His recent interview to New York Times in which he gave details about his story sparked off series of threats by religious extremists as they contacted his family. “Somebody contacted my family and warned that I should not give interviews,” says Bacha who has ever since the publication of the report refused interviews to most of the reporters tracking his story.

The authorities seems to be completely clueless as how to instill a sense of security in people like Bacha who are facing the wrath of religious extremists. Pakistan Senator and Awami National Party leader Haji Adeel whose party is in power in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province blames Al-Quaida for leading the assault against the symbols of Pashtoon culture. “Religious extremists are behind the threats to the singers. They do not know what is Pashtoon culture and neither they have respect for it. The majority of the people of North West Frontier Province voted us as they believed in moderation. It is Al-Quaida which is behind all these acts. Otherwise we can tackle this problem within twenty-four hours.”

This is easier said than done. Absence of writ of the government in many of the areas is the main reason that people like Bacha have to leave home. Such is the high level of insecurity in the area that even the politicians of the ruling party have been attacked though they are under a tight security cover. Awami National Party, the ruling party of North West Frontier Province, is a strong proponent of moderation and it had come to power in the elections for legislative assembly for North West Frontier Province early this year, a result which had surprised many. The landslide verdict in favour of the party failed to bring peace in the area or even tame the extremists.

The present day tragedy in Pashtoon area gets an expression in many of present-day songs of Bacha which has touched the hearts and minds of the people living there.”My land is so beautiful and blessed. I wonder then why it has such bad luck,” are the lyrics of one of his songs which Bacha sang before a small-gathering of Pashtoon diaspora in Coney Island. The lyrics were powerful enough to bring to tears many among the audience.

Unity through diversity

For the photo-slide show i focussed on the Muslim community living in United States. New York was a perfect city for learning about diversities which exist within Muslim community in terms of place of origin, colour and cultural practices.


99% of cab-drivers of New York City are foreign-born. This implies that public-transportation is one of the highest employing profession for immigrants in New York City. I spoke to William Lindauer, campaign manager of New York City Cab Drivers Union.

Here’s the link for the podcast.

Branding entertainment through New Media


Jake Brenner spearheads Marathon’s Emerging Media consulting initiatives, advising established media companies on emerging media opportunities and early stage media and technology companies on growth and revenue strategies.Jake manages the sale of branded entertainment and direct response inventory to advertisers and clients across multiple programming and distribution channels. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and was a Fulbright Scholar to Singapore.Jake is Vice-President of the New York Chapter Fulbright Association and salsa dancing instructor.The work of the company can be accessed at

Marathon pioneered the use of digital technology in branded entertainment, creating digital brand integrations for CBS, FOX, Warner Bros and others.

Question What are the challenges your company faces in branding entertainment products being shown on the web?

Jake :The standards have been defined in the case of traditional media and one just has to follow the pattern already laid down. The biggest challenge for us is to get the right business model for the web so that entertainment products of our clients to be shown on web attract advertising. But this is easier said than done. Web is completely a different medium and the rules which operate here are completely different from those in traditional media.

 Question Can you elaborate?

 Jake : Consumer behaviour is an integral part of advertising therefore it is a key to understanding this issue. Consumer behaviour on web is completely different from that in traditional media. While a person on television was prepared to listen to three-minutes commercial break, on web a person is just not prepared to do the same. Web is a multi-task medium as a person does number of things at a time. In other words browsing on web is a lot more as compared to browsing on traditional media. While a consumer is seeing a programme on fire-fox he is also checking his emails on web. Attention span of the consumer on the web is less than that in traditional media.

 Question So how do you tackle this issue? Consumer behaviour on web makes it difficult for the advertisers so what do you do.

 Jake : There is an alternative and one has to understand the medium and know the people who are using it. On web one has to be very specific with advertising. Only through right targeting of the consumers, one is able to make the audience watch the advertisement. For instance automobile advertisement for a middle-class consumer in New York, who anyway uses less automobile in the day, may not be relevant but it may be relevant for a person living in other state who use more automobile in his daily life. The targeting of the audience on web is the key and then only one can make advertising a viable option. Obviously here lot of legislative issues will come into play as the question of privacy will be paramount.

 Question  How difficult is it for your company to make your clients realize the importance of use of new media technology for airing their products and also getting advertisers for them?

 Jake As more and more people start using the net and see the content there, there is a need to for the companies to make a switch over from traditional media to web. New media is still in a nascent stage yet but nobody can doubt its potential. A year back several advances were being made in this regard as people were prepared to experiment and look for unconventional ways to sell their stuff. The problem came in when the economic recession started.

 Question How are you coping up with the economic recession with specific reference to exploiting new media in your business ?

 Jake : There are two approaches. One is the vertical pattern where one invests in developing concepts for new media in our business. And wait for the returns and then invest more. Then there is the horizontal approach where we work with traditional media. Right now we have reduced our investments in new media due to the volatility but we are keeping a close watch on the trends. New media is robust and it will be wrong to underestimate its potential. This is true for our business.




Mumbai terror attack and New Media

While entire world’s attention is towards Mumbai, there was an interesting news-item in the Indian press about the use of New Media tools during the incident.