Ricky and his herbs

Star NFL running back Ricky Williams shocked his Miami Dolphins teammates and sent several fantasy football owners into convulsions when he abruptly announced his retirement before the NFL season this summer, at the tender age of 27. Ricky is known to suffer from a sort of anxiety disorder and describes himself as very shy. He used to do interviews with his helmet on sometimes. He is also known for his love of marijuana which is what first got him in trouble with the NFL and was going to get him suspended. He has hinted in recent months that he regrets his decision and would like to return to the NFL. He thinks he might like to play in the Bay Area (Oakland specifically), because to paraphrase, weirdness is accepted out there. But what has Ricky been up to lately? From SFGate.com:

He’s no longer Ricky Williams the football player. He plans to become Ricky Williams the holistic healer.

It’s been more than 10 months since Williams, one of the premier running backs in the National Football League, last ran off tackle for the Miami Dolphins and four months since he suddenly announced his retirement at age 27.

Then he dropped from sight. But now Williams has turned up about as far away from professional football as you can get, as a student of the ancient Indian medical system known as Ayurveda. In the Sierra foothills, no less.

“I realized a while back that I have an innate ability to be compassionate,” he said, “and I saw that the strength of compassion is something that healers have and healers use.”

Sweet. He’s traded in one set of herbs for another. Or more likely he now uses both kinds. I am actually afraid that Ricky will fall into the hands of one of my fantasy football opponents now should he make his way back to football. A spiritually centered Ricky could be devastating on the gridiron.

“Ayurveda deals with using your environment to put yourself in balance,” he said. “I’ve realized, both on a psychological and physical level, that the things we do in football don’t bring more harmony to your life. They just bring more disharmony.”

Update: Here is where Ricky is studying- The California College of Ayurveda in Grass Valley

Econo-geek – The Indian Tax code

Back from a blogging break and I see that Anna, Sajit, newcomer Apul & the other mutineers have been doing a fabulous job keeping SM interesting & sparkling with life.

It almost hurts to post about a subject as dry as the Indian tax code but hopefully there are other econo-geeks out there who might find this succinct article pretty interesting – Project Syndicate

India illustrates the importance of a well-designed tax system. In Bangalore, high-tech companies have built world-class campuses replete with manicured lawns and high-speed data communication networks. Outside these campuses, however, lie open sewers, uncollected garbage, and roads in acute disrepair. Whereas technology companies instantaneously transmit terabytes of data to remote continents, local transport proceeds at an almost medieval pace. …India’s financial difficulties stem from a badly designed and administered tax system. Rates and rules for personal and corporate income taxes appear reasonable by international standards. Nonetheless, India’s government collects income taxes amounting to only about 3.7% of GDP, about half that in South Korea and the other Asian tigers.

Why? Insane levels of corruption… read on for the details.

Youngest certified computer geek

Microsoft’s newest certified professional is an 8 year old Indian kid. From Channel News Asia:

An 8-year-old boy in India has established himself as the youngest ever certified computer professional. This, despite being born with a severe physical deformity.

Channel NewsAsia’s Atul Jolly caught up with the amazing whiz kid. Mridul Seth is the youngest ever Microsoft-certified computer professional in the world. It’s equivalent to a degree obtained after sitting for an Engineering exam.

All this, at the age of 8.

This news actually comes to Sepia Mutiny at the most opportune of times. We were looking to add another writer to our blog. But, does Mridul have what it takes?

He cannot speak properly, but that has never stopped him from mastering computers.

He became an expert in HTML, Photoshop and Windows before he was 6.

Yeah. I think he’ll fit right in here.

The New York Times on the New Wave of Immigrants

The New York Times is running an interesting series entitled “the Next Wave on what they call, “the transplanted New Yorker.” Profiling the stories of 10 different transplants, obviously one had to be brown.

The brown portrait was written by photographer Sanjna Singh, who writes about the voyage she made one summer from her home on the Upper East Side to the man-made India in the Jackson Heights section of Queens. Sanjna’s portrait is interesting as it contrasts the modernity, if you can call it that, of Indians living in India to the self-made constraints of tradition that many immigrants from South Asia bring with them into the diaspora. Sanjna, who immigrated to New York from New Delhi about eight years ago, labels her reaction to this phenomenon aptly, as “being in the grip of a bizarre reverse culture-shock.”

She notes later,

“here in New York, I didn’t think of myself as an immigrant, because for me, the door leading back to Delhi seemed wide open, and I could return anytime I chose. Yet as I entered my eighth year in America, I was forced to recognize that this open door grew more illusory with each passing year. As I drifted further from my own country, I started to feel the need to grant space to my Indian self, right here, in New York.”

Click here to read the full profile, and click here to see all the profiles.

Three new desi Rhodes Scholars

It’s our favorite scheme by a racist diamond magnate to civilize the natives by re-educating them in jolly old England! Three desis are Rhodes Scholars this year:

Who School Hometown Major How saving the world
Ian Desai Chicago Brooklyn, NY Ancient studies South Asia Watch
Swati Mylavarapu Harvard Gainesville, FL Human rights Nicaraguan democratization
Kazi Rahman Harvard Scarsdale, NY Social studies Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee

Mylavarapu is an ex-debater. Word.

Although technology drives history (fire, metal, stirrups, guns, electricity, airplanes, computers…), technologists are usually excluded. I’m not bitter, really.

Film on Calcutta’s Red Light Kids shortlisted for Oscar

Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman’s Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids, a documentary about children of prostitutes in Kolkata who try to start a new life, has been shortlisted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as one of the contenders for the best documentary feature Oscar, according to rediff.com

A portrait of several children who live in the red light district of Kolkata where their mothers are prostitutes, Born Into Brothels, celebrates New York-based photojournalist Briski’s efforts to change the lives of the youngsters. She gave them cameras and taught them how to take pictures, leading them to look at their world with new and hopeful eyes.

Earlier in the year, the 85-minute long film distributed in North America by THINKFILM was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival where it garnered top reviews. Winner of the Audience Award at Sundance, it has been shown at over 20 other film festival winning prizes at most of them. The final five nominees for best documentary will be announced along with the nominees in 24 other categories January 25, and the 77th Annual Academy Awards will be handed out February 27.

Making Water: Paging Morarji Desai

Water is becoming increasingly scarce, all over the world. In India, perhaps fewer than a third of all Indians have access to “decent sanitation and high quality drinking water.” (See V’s earlier post on the subject) Nor is this just an Indian problem. Some of Australia’s biggest cities, for example, may run dry in just a few years, perhaps as early as 2006.

What is to be done? Well, there is the ancient vedic practice of Shivambu or Amaroli, but despite Morarji Desai’s best efforts, drinking one’s own urine has not(ahem) gone down well amongst the general population.

But don’t despair. In Singapore, they have harnessed the braininess of Brown scientists in the US to produce NEWater!

NEWater is the product of Singapore’s new water-treatment system, and it is wastewater that has been purified through advanced synthetic membranes called ZeeWeed. That’s right: The crystal-clear NEWater that gushes through the country’s faucets isn’t gurgling from a mountain spring. Most recently, it was flushed from a toilet. [Salon.com]

This process is the brainchild of Ashok Gadgil:

In December 1992, an outbreak of a new and dangerous strain of cholera began in southeastern India. Within months it had spread into neighboring countries, killing up to 10,000 people. The tragedy inspired Ashok Gadgil, an Indian-born scientist working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, to look for a new way to purify drinking water. Using science no more complex than the ultraviolet light emitted by an unshielded fluorescent lamp, he built a simple, effective, and inexpensive water disinfection system. Dozens of these systems are now installed around the world. “At the bare bones, using the simplest engineering, we could disinfect water for half a cent per ton. That’s shockingly cheap. You could disinfect water for one person, a full year’s drinking supply, for a couple of cents.”

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Julie Ann Titus thinks Anand Jon smells


Goddess bless Nirali Magazine, for being so gosh-darned entertainin’. You MUST peep this excerpt from the excellent website’s interview with our favourite female reality show reject– it seems that Julie Ann Titus of America’s Next Top Model fame has some memorable opinions on certain fashion designers:

You said you specifically want to do men’s apparel. Why?
Everybody goes so crazy with women’s clothes—it’s not even fashion anymore, it’s costume. I just think guys look better in their clothes. My dad always dressed up in really nice suits for work. I thought, guys should wear suits all the time. And I want to incorporate Indian style, too. I was so excited when I met designer Anand Jon on the show.
What was that experience like?
I saw him walk into the room, and I went crazy. I mean, I’ve studied his work. But he was an interesting character. I wouldn’t want to hang out with him, that’s for sure.
Why not?
I respect him as a fashion designer. But he was very, very rude to some of the girls. He seemed so boring to me. I asked him what part of India he was from, and he asked me, what part of India are you from? So I said I’m from Kerala, and he looked at me kind of crazy. He’s Malayalee, too. He asked me if I knew any Malayalam, and I said I only knew the bad words. Then he says, “Shouldn’t you be serving us or something?” [Titus and the other cast members had to serve four of the girls who won that week's model challenge.] So I walked away, cursing at him in Malayalam. He said, “Oh, so now you know it?” And he smelled bad. The girls looked at me and were like, are all Indian guys like this? And I was like, nope, just this fool right here. Later, my parents told me that they know him through family friends.

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The ‘big bang’ launch

Among Bollythemed entertainment, Bombay Dreams on Broadway and Bride and Prejudice in the UK have both trended sharply downward after strong openings. Two other desi (but not Bollywood) projects, Vanity Fair and Harold and Kumar, also did weak box office.

It’s tempting to conclude from the business torpor that America is not yet ready for desi culture, that the existing revenues reflect mainly interest from niche, culture-sampling subcultures. But take a look at it from the perspective of the ’big bang’ launch: the $1B marketing campaign for the presidency, the $250M spent on the Windows 95 launch and so on. Creating a market via customer education is far more expensive and time-consuming than just selling into existing positioning slots (Spiderman 2). The former is a long-term campaign, while the latter is straightforward, tactical awareness-raising: hit the magic 7+ impressions per customer, and you’ll get higher sales.

I’m pretty sure fusion desi culture in the U.S. is not a fad. It’s a strong subculture with intense palettes, a supporting South Asian American population and rising awareness. So each desi cultural product, no matter how it performs, is also an in-kind contribution to the ‘big bang’ launch for Desis in America. This launch is being done in pieces, as befits a small, innovative product growing organically. The endgame is probably similar to the awareness and saturation of desi subcultures of the UK or Canada, albeit more dilute.

So while Meera or Mira or Gurinder or Kal may be nibbling discontentedly on their numbers, they can take some consolation in their contributions to a larger campaign, no matter how unintentional.