Sepia Mutiny: 7/30/2004 to 4/1/2012

The Sepia Mutiny has ended but our archives are still available and you can follow us on Twitter @sepiamutiny for the time being

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We Will Wade in the Shine of the Ever

Last night, with the power out and the insomnia I have battled since puberty ruining whatever chance I had of making it to church on time, I resumed a familiar, loathsome dialog with the gatekeeper to the Land of Nod. He is very bored with his work and I am loquacious, so he uses me for his own amusement, claiming it helps make his job less tedious, even as I wish he would just let me in so I can finally rest.

He is he, because I am a she, and I refuse to believe that this sadist is female. I wear too much pink for that.

Me: 5am. 5am of the last day of this life.

He: Bit dramatic, innit?

Me: Not at all.

He: ’tis.

Me: No!

He: Your last day has long passed. You forsook that life exactly four years ago, when you chose an actual life over a virtual one.

Me: But I was coming back.

He: You always say that.

Me: But I was. Not in the way people expect, but I was. I have schemes. Schemes!

He: Annabel. How long have you been writing that one post?

Me: I am unaware of to what you might be referring.

He: Not ending a sentence with a preposition is a bit of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.

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All good things

Is our announcement that we are ending another elaborate April Fool’s joke?

Long time Sepia Mutiny readers know that SM has deceived its readers with devastating April Fool’s day pranks over the years. Go visit our site on previous April ones to see the results (exhibits A and B).

Alas, the truth is the greatest prank of all.  The wolf eventually does come…

But the good news is that our Twitter account will keep going for a while. Through it we can tell you where our writers can be found beyond this day:!/sepiamutiny

Our archives will also be up and accessible for the foreseeable future.

I’d like to thank our readers and donors.  Readers/Commenters you have to understand that without some of comments you left on our posts (and often it was your comments and not even our posts that were quoted in mainstream media) there would have been no blog.  Donors, we had a site that was both ad and influence free for 8 years thanks to you!  Please don’t (any of you) think your money was wasted.  100% of it went for server costs.

I’d also like to thank all my co-bloggers.  Those there at the beginning (Manish, Anna, Ennis, Vinod) the fresh blood (Amardeep, Siddhartha), the younger generation (Taz, Phillygrrl, Pavani) and the dozens of others who are all far more talented than I and tried to keep this site engaging.  And let’s not forget Chaitan, Kunjan, or the other admins that pitched in over the years to keep things running smoothly.

As for me, I look back with much fondness at my time here.  One thousand three hundred and twenty plus posts over eight years.  I have no idea how many actual hours that consumed but when you add that to the comment engagement and moderation I feel like I could have maybe made something of myself if I wasn’t busy blogging.  And it is too bad that we are ending today because I really want to write about this article tomorrow.  So many memories…but these following posts were my favorite ones (that I can still remember):

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Taz’s Top Ten and Thanks

How do I say good-bye to a site that gave me space to explore my identity with words, gave me the training grounds to build community virtually, and allowed me the opportunity to influence political and advocacy issues affecting the South Asian community? How do I say good-bye to a site that allowed me to build so many real friendships with so many of you? I never would have imagined that when my mother passed away so suddenly nine months ago, that a large percentage of people that reached out were people who found me through this blog and remembered stories I had written referencing her. I never really  understood the power of words this community held until those dark moments.

These past few weeks I’ve been grappling with exactly what Sepia Mutiny has meant to me in the past six years I’ve written for the site and have been playing musical montages in my head of my favorite moments. Six years – longer than any job or relationship I’ve ever had. This site provided a much needed space to dialogue and develop the South Asian American identity and, in many ways, set the benchmark with how the community voiced ourselves. I always approached blogging on this site with three things in mind – 1) write about the Desi-American experience, the narrative I was yearning for, 2) a 1:1 ratio of pop to politics posts, and 3) find the marginalized Desis and give them space. And of course – the self pep talk before every remotely Muslim post - “Fuck all the trolling Islamophobic haters – as long as they’re commenting, there’s an important reason to keep blogging.” There was always that.

To commemorate – let’s list, shall we? So here we go. My top ten most influential moments here in the Sepia Mutiny bunkers…

1. Sepia Destiny: Oh, the trials and tribulations of being a single Desi girl with dating woes and having it all laid out in blogs. Remember the Dating While Desi rules? And wondering if Dating While Desi Bradley Effect of if Obama would increase the dating pool? These posts were our most commented on the site and clearly a very important issue to many of us. Though we always had high hopes of setting up a Sepia Destiny dating tab, it never came to fruition. Luckily, many of you didn’t wait for the tab to find SM love, myself included. Thank you, Sepia Mutiny for making dating life all that much more thrilling.

2. Gaza: Is Palestine a Desi issue? To me, the connection was immediate – but how to write about it? I hit the streets for the protests, interviewing every Desi person I saw and did it again at the rally in front of the Israel Embassy after the flotilla’s were attacked. In an American world where USINPAC and AIPAC are working in coordination to promote an Indian-Israeli alliance at the Capitol – I found it even more important to push this counter-narrative out there on SM’s pages. Especially after this Bollywood dancing missile promo video. Vijay Prashad’s Uncle Swami book coming out in June has a detailed analysis, but sadly my book review won’t be on these pages.

3. Ami Bera: He folded in to returning $250 of donations from CAIR-Sacramento Executive Director, thanks to pressure from his opponent Dan Lungren during the 2010 elections. My blog post sparked an interesting dialogue between readers, donors and the candidate himself - and even led to his having to return donations from people wanting their money back. Ami Bera is at it again, running in this fall’s election. But this time his race is highly supported by the Democratic Party big shots. Let’s just hope he doesn’t fold to Lungren again. Continue reading


Blue marble

Thanks, y’all, for having me over one last time. I’ve already said my goodbyes. This curious form of public performance brought me some of the people I cherish most. It’s been a second education in the erudition of the comments. The Mutiny was before and @allyousmartf-ers now, and this delicious salon will continue in another face.

I want to toss in one last thought. Early desi American artists began with the idea of marginalization. Their references were specific and elaborate in-jokes. But look at who’s blown up: those who gave no ground in their conception of themselves. They dabbled in the desi palette because it’s rich, not because it’s definitive. Those who started with I am a Queens rapper, or I am an art director, or I am an animator, experienced brownness not as conscription, but freedom.

And in fact it is. It is a thin layer atop a deep commonality. As a species we are, when you zoom out, genetically almost clones. The differences we draw among us are like the fictional Indiana town of Pawnee squabbling with the fictional town of Eagleton: from the outside, all look same.

A couple of years ago I was watching Aziz Ansari make silly jokes at a small NYC club about hitting on MIA in bad Tamil. Today he’s touring in a 007 tux. Still bemoaning his sex life, but on a much bigger stage. Sepia is one of our colors, one near and dear. But it is only one. Let’s launch our flicks, ebooks, startups, campaigns. Let’s let our freak flags fly.

Can’t wait to see it all, and unlike Bill, I will inhale.


As One Mutiny Stands Down, Others Rise

I first stumbled onto Sepia Mutiny as a college student, a confused but curious 2nd genner who had never had brown friends, fresh from my first trip ever to the desh and desperate to find more out more information about the a CD I had bought by some “Rabbi” with a guitar. This was the first result, and after a few more inquisitive clicks around the site, I was addicted and would never be the same again. This was IT, the in I had been looking for but had been denied for so long. Though it seem silly now, my first real desi friends would be those I met online. I was a Mutineer, and I had a mission.

Fast forward to March 2012.

Despite admitting to have shot and killed a 17 year-old armed with Skittles and a hoodie, George Zimmerman remains a free man today. The story struck a chord and has become a worldwide sensation. Just as thousands of ordinary folks of all stripes have taken to the streets to peacefully protest the outrageous impunity, a similar scene is happening right now in Punjab; the difference is that the “criminal” is slated to die for attempting to stop the targeting of his community for extrajudicial torture and killings. Here is the breakdown on Balwant Rajaona and why he was to be hanged from The Langar Hall.

On March 31st, Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana [was] set to be executed in Punjab for his involvement in the assassination of former chief minister of Punjab, Beant Singh. Chief minister Beant Singh was involved with carrying out brutal and mass killings of Sikhs in Punjab.  He is widely held responsible by many Sikhs for ordering the kidnap, torture and death of many young Sikh men.  A report by Amnesty International can be found here.

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The Relation

  • We are still standing in the doorway, chatting our way out, aiyo. Typical desis. (h/t @dhume01)

I thought I’d saunter away to the musical stylings of a well-known white man with connections to the mafia. ’Cause that makes sense for this desi blog.

Just kidding. I thought I’d go out myyyyyyyy way. With a point, or attempting to make one. I aim for rallying cry rather than dirge, in keeping with my bullheaded desire to cultivate optimism and seek action. Continue reading

Thank you, Sepia Mutiny

Dear Sepia Mutiny,

You’ve been a pal. No, seriously, you’re the best yaar a Pakistani-American girl could conjure. That’s why I dedicate Kishore Kumar’s soundtrack, “Chalte, Chalte” to you. The lyrics, “Kabhi alvida na kahna” translate to, “Never say goodbye.” SM, you challenged me. You educated me. You delighted me. You enraged me. And so, I thank you. All of you.

Thank you, Amardeep, my fellow Philadelphian. When I first stumbled across Sepia Mutiny years ago, yours were the first posts I followed closely.  I still go back and reference your eloquent, lyrical writings on music, authors and more. And as I go forward, I hope to keep your last post in mind. Especially this line: “[T]here really is value in spelling out an idea or a perspective at some length, and then giving readers as much space as they want or need to discuss it with you.” Longform writing, ftw! Continue reading

So long, and thanks for all the fish

Ahem. (tap tap tap. Is this thing on?)

Hi, everyone. For the last few years I’ve been pretty much fulltime over at our twitter franchise, one of a few people trying to make sure you get all your savory brownness in an 140 character packet. As a result, I’m afraid I’m a bit rusty at this longer-form blogging.

But the truth is, as my exes can attest, I’ve never been any good at final goodbyes. I even skipped the funeral of a close friend because I couldn’t stand the finality involved in watching him get cremated, even though I knew he was already gone. But I’m afraid there’s no way to skip your own wake, and once you’re there, you might as well try to deliver a eulogy, awkward as it is.

Part of the problem is that Sepia was never just one thing, it was many. There were the blog posts, but that was just the tip of the iceberg, the part you could see. There was also everything that happened out of view, so many stories that I don’t think any one of us knows them all.

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Q&A with Arooj Aftab: “I’m Tired of Exoticized South Asian Music”

Five months ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Arooj Aftab, a musician who came from Pakistan to study at Berklee College of Music. I first saw Arooj perform August 2011, at Unification in NYC, where she quickly won over the crowd with her haunting Urdu vocals. After Unification, I went back home and started listening to Arooj’s music. Disclaimer: It’s addictive. One frigid fall night, standing outside her Brooklyn apartment, Arooj, one of NPR’s 100 Top Composers Under 40, shared the story of her musical journey with me via phone.

When did you know that you wanted to sing? After I finished school at Lahore, I started college, but it just didn’t feel right. I had a strange feeling that there had to be something more exciting to do in life. I had always loved music, because of my parents’ love for music and because of the music culture in Lahore. But there were no musical schools in Pakistan, which was kind of annoying.

Now your parents must be pretty cool, to let you come to America and pursue your music. Was there ever a “No beta, don’t do this” moment? It’s such a stereotypically unstable profession. So they always have a “Oh god, why did we let you do this” attitude. But I think secretly they’re excited because they both have great voices themselves and a love for music. In 2003, I made my dad sit down and listen to a cover I did of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and he became really quiet. That was when he started to take  my music seriously. Continue reading