Indian bureaucracy fumbled tsunami warning

One of the things that the 9/11 report brought home is that in major disasters, there are always early warnings from experts in the field.

The vaunted British-style bureaucracy in India responded with its usual alacrity to the incoming tsunami warnings:

[T]he top brass of the Indian Air Force knew their Nicobar Air base had been submerged a full hour before the waves struck the mainland coast…

The Indian Meteorological Department knew of the earthquake within minutes. Its first fax went out two and half hours later, and was sent to the home of the previous government’s science and technology minister, rather than his successor… “[I]t was a Sunday. Time was taken by the officer to get ready and get into the car…”

“There have been four tsunamis in India in the last 100 years, and it is well-known that an earthquake of such a large magnitude generates a tsunami. There was no system in place.”… “A country that hopes to run the call centers of the world could not call its own people.”

It took time to get into the car? IIT kids broadcast large porn videos in under 30 minutes, and they couldn’t pick up the phone?

Welcome to the old new century.

Happy New Year from Sepia Mutiny

On behalf of the mutineers, we wish all of our readers – and especially our commentors – a happy and safe New Years. If you’re ever curious what drives a labor of love like Sepia Mutiny, it’s cuz most of us obsessively hit the reload button to see the feedback and commentary generated from y’all (including and sometimes especially GC ;-) . We built this house but you guys make it a lively home.

Roughly half of the Mutineers will be welcoming the New Year in NYC while others will be in DC (and possibly LA?). If you run into any of us at a party and mention the blog, we’ll be honored. BUT, distract us too much from the revelry with a discussion of blogging, the Left/Right divide or what GC just said… well, it’ll still be interesting but… other folks at the party might catch on to what dorks we actually are. And we can’t have that.

The past 6 months have been swell — here’s to the next 12. Have fun and stay safe.

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Blogging about news about blogs reporting news

Have you deconstructed the title to this one yet? The New York Times reports on the role blogs are playing in disseminating news and information about the Tsunami in South and South East Asia:

For vivid reporting from the enormous zone of tsunami disaster, it was hard to beat the blogs.

The so-called blogosphere, with its personal journals published on the Web, has become best known as a forum for bruising political discussion and media criticism. But the technology proved a ready medium for instant news of the tsunami disaster and for collaboration over ways to help.

I know that this post is a bit self-serving in that it occurs as a blog entry which is pointing out the value of blogs, but nonetheless I think it shows neophytes or the jaded non-believers that blogs can be relevant and worthy of a visit even if non-political in nature.

Bloggers at the scene are more deeply affected by events than the journalists who roam from one disaster to another, said Xeni Jardin, one of the four co-editors of the site BoingBoing.net, which pointed visitors to many of the disaster blogs.

“They are helping us understand the impact of this event in a way that other media just can’t,” with an intimate voice and an unvarnished perspective, with the richness of local context, Ms. Jardin said.

That makes blogs compelling – and now essential – reading, said Dr. Siva Vaidhyanathan, an assistant professor of culture and communication at New York University and a blogger. Once he heard about the disaster, “Right after BBC, I went to blogs,” he said.

The following quote in the article demonstrates the dedication of (or metal defect within) bloggers:

Dr. Vaidhyanathan said he was leaving for a long-planned trip to India today and, if possible, hoped to visit relatives in Madras. “As long as there is electricity and Internet access, I’ll blog,” he said.

I personally think that is a much cooler motto than that of the post office.

Coke pays homage to Mulit

Coca-Cola recently released a great Bollywood-inspired ad in Spain, Portugal and Italy (thanks, GG). The ‘Del Pita’ ad retraces The Party, The Guru and Russell Peters’ wisecrack that the only thing a desi accent is good for is cutting tension.

In the ad, a desi waiter livens up a dreary party by bursting into a Bollywood song. Here’s the really cool part: it pays homage to Absolut Vodka’s unforgettable Mulit parody – pink shirt, shiny belt buckle and all. Watch the clip.

Update: Boing Boing reader JJ Merelo says,

… it was released last summer and become an instant sensation: the theme has been even featured in the new year’s eve TV shows, replayed over and over as a ringtone, and so forth. The party does not really look like a Spanish party, it rather looks like a british party. Believe me, I’ve been in Spanish parties. And a bit of trivia: it’s actually a girl who sings it, it’s a kind of ‘bollywood asereje’, since it’s not really in hindi (or telugu, for that matter), but in mock-indian language, and it was originally done in Argentina. There’s also a pointer to the spanish Coca Cola site: Link, and a story by a popular hispano-argentinian blogger: Link.

Asereje is that catchy track by Las Ketchup written in nonsensical language. Here’s a machine translation of the Argentinian blogger’s post.

Spaniards are somewhat familiar with Bollywood, as the films are widely available at mainstream DVD stores in Madrid.

Mississippi Gas station owner shot by “Scream” killer

This story in the Mississippi Clarion Ledger is disturbing on several levels. The first is the personal story:

After several years, Vinod Taneja was to be reunited with his wife Monday night at Jackson International Airport after years of being apart.

Taneja, 56, had come alone to the United States from the couple’s home in northern India to make a life for them.

He opened Highway 80 Mini Mart in south Jackson a few months ago and was the store’s only employee.

But about two hours before his wife’s flight was scheduled to arrive at 10:30 p.m., Taneja was shot and killed at his store at 5049 U.S. 80 West.

“He wanted to make a home here,” said Hitesh Desai of the India Association of Mississippi. “The fact that his wife came here under these circumstances is demoralizing.

As if the cruel fate of that in itself isn’t sad enough, the circumstances of his death take a bizarre twist:

No one has been arrested, and a motive has not been established in Taneja’s death, said Jackson police spokesman Robert Graham.

A man wearing a “Scream” mask and dark clothes came in the store and shot Taneja, Graham said.

The mask and a piece of clothing were found in trash near the store, police said.

Continue reading

South Asian American communities react to the quake

In response to the devastating Tsunamis that assaulted the coastal regions of South and South East Asia, South Asian Americans are trying to get past the worry and grief and move on to the task of getting aid to the victims. From NJ.com:

“Nothing happened to my family, thank God,” said Balija, who is president of the Hindu American Temple & Cultural Center in Morganville [NJ]. “A lot of fishermen live near the sea . … They don’t even know what they lost. It’s unbelievable. It’s very devastating.”

Balija said members of his temple would meet to determine what resources should be sent to victims. Meanwhile, other organizations were beginning to organize their rescue efforts yesterday.

“We are very much concerned and sorry about this,” said Pradip “Peter” Kothari, president of the Indian Business Association and Indo-American Cultural Society in New Jersey. “We have to talk to the different organizations and temples and figure out what is the best way to react.”

The San Jose Mercury News also reports [reg. required] on the beginnings of an aid effort:

[Lata] Patil, active with the Indian Community Center in Milpitas [CA], said she also planned on contacting other community members to begin coordinating aid. Others were trying to reach relief organizations such as the Red Cross to help.

White House officials said relief efforts were already under way to help people in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, a string of 1,192 coral atolls off the southwestern coast of India. Other countries would also receive aid as the extent of the disaster becomes clear, officials said. President Bush expressed his condolences Sunday to disaster victims.

“We’re working on ways to help,” said U.S. State Department official Noel Clay. “The United States will be very responsive.”

If you would like to help, a good place to start is to visit the Red Cross Website:

You can help those affected by this crisis and countless others around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance, and other support to those in need. Call 1-800-HELP NOW or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish). Contributions to the International Response Fund may be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

In addition, here is a link to the website of the Sri Lanka Association of Greater Washington, which is collecting donations. Sri Lanka was reportedly the hardest hit area.

Update: Manish and others inform me of this EXCELLENT blog that has popped up specifically to address this crisis.

Not really a desi post… The Left/Right Divide

Several posts (for ex., here and here) have ignited quite a firestorm of comments and degenerated into Left vs. Right name calling. This being a blog and we being Desi, I suppose it’s understandable that eventually, things have gotta get political.

I found this post from Eric Raymond an interesting read for many of our “lefty” commentors (Sluggo/Liberalpundit, Anjali, Desinar, etc.) trying to understand why the “righty” folks (myself, GC, Razib, etc.) react the way we do to so much of the rhetoric -

IÂ’ve been reading a new blog called Left2Right, founded in mid-November 2004 as an attempt by a group of left-wing intellectuals to reach out to intelligent people on the right of the American political spectrum. It is indeed a thought-provoking read, but the thoughts they are provoking are not necessarily of the sort they intend. …One advantage my libertarianism gives me is that while I disagree violently with a lot of right-wing thinking, I understand it much better than most leftists do. The reverse is not quite as true; while I do believe I understand left-wing thinking pretty well, most right-wing intellectuals are not so ignorant of leftism that I have an unusual advantage there. They canÂ’t be, not after having passed through the PC indoctrination camps that most American universities have become.

What proceeds is a GREAT “Lefties are from Mars, Righties are from Venus” sort of discussion. In this particular case, how the Left often talks past the Right even when they’re trying to meaningfully engage them. (the fact that Raymond is writing from a Libertarian perspective is, as usual, major bonus points ;-)

For example, this quoted passage and its response could practically have been lifted verbatim from some of the stuff in our comments – Continue reading

Giant tidal waves kill thousands in India, Sri Lanka

Double-check any plans to visit coastal cities on the eastern shores of South Asia:

The world’s most powerful earthquake in 40 years rocked northern Indonesia on Sunday and launched tidal waves that swamped villages and seaside resorts across Asia, killing more than 700 people in five countries….

Waves crashed into coastal villages over a wide area of Sri Lanka — some 1,000 miles west of the quake’s epicenter — killing some 300 people and displacing thousands of others, said military spokesman Brig. Daya Ratnayake. Parts of the northeastern districts of Muttur and Trincomalee were inundated by waves as high as 20 feet, said D. Rodrigo, a Muttur district official.

In India, beaches were turned into virtual open mortuaries with bodies of people caught in the tidal wave being washed ashore. At least 150 were recovered around the coastal town of Cuddalore, said deputy Superintendent of police K. Panniselvan. Some 100 others were found around Madras, the capital of Tamil Nadu… Thirty-six were killed in neighboring Andhra Pradesh…

Wishing you a Merry Christmas/Christmus/Krishna

Commentator Shahnaz Chinoy Taplin writes in India Currents magazine, about her experiences with hybridized Christmas celebrations after coming to America. As reported by New California Media:

At a conference, “Clash or Consensus,” held in Washington D.C. in 2003 and sponsored by the Global Fund for Women and the Women’s Learning Partnership, I met Zainab Bangura, chair and co-founder of the Movement for Progress, a political party in Sierra Leone. When asked how it was to be a Muslim in her country, she replied: “Muslims and Christians are so integrated through marriage and in other ways that in Sierra Leone we call Christmas Christmus.”

Her comment transported me back to my youth in Bombay where we celebrated “Christmus” in a predominantly Hindu India. My Muslim mother attended a convent school and loved going to mass on Christmas Eve. Our ugly green plastic tree was strung with multicolored, electric fruit bulbs until one year when I conspired with my young and foolish maternal uncle to persuade my young, but slightly wiser, mother to let me light the tree with birthday candles—the “real thing.” Against her protestations, we lit the candles, and in a flash the tree burst into a burning inferno! Doused with buckets of water, the fire was extinguished, and passed lightly into memory.

But could the “Christmus” of her youth survive, after being trasported to America?

But Christmus didn’t always translate well for American-born children. My best-planned but worst-received Christmas was celebrated with our 4-year-old son on a December visit to the Bharatpur bird sanctuary. I was excited about doing an “Indian” Christmas for my bicultural child. From the bazaars of Jaisalmer and Jaipur, 11th-century desert towns in Rajasthan, my husband and I picked up miniature silver figurines for Riaz—a camel, an elephant, a lion, a precious Nandi (Lord Shiva’s bull), and horses in different sizes. I thought these little personable creatures would be perfect gifts on the heels of seeing live tigers and elephants in the wild at the Ranthambore Wildlife Sanctuary. Merrily decorating freshly cut branches and simulating snow with toilet paper after I put Riaz to bed, I had high aspirations for an unforgettable Christmas. Wrong!

For our son, who was used to freshly cut Christmas trees in San Francisco and had grown up with images of Santa coming down the chimney to munch on cookies and milk, this improvised Christmas in Bharatpur paled in comparison. Dissolving into tears, Riaz wailed, “Santa forgot about me, his reindeers couldn’t find Bharatpur …” I tried to reassure him. “How could Santa not find Bharatpur? It is next to the Taj, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.”

I guess nothing is perfect. As for me, I cried whenever I didn’t get Space Legos. At least we should be thankful that we can celebrate however we want. In some places (like at the college across the street from our family home in India), people are looking to ban (often through physical violence) days like Christmas and instead to promote days like “Traditional Day: A day to see how a girl looks in traditional dress.”

Gruesome

From Reuters UK:

Indian police have arrested a man they say kidnapped a two-year-old girl before roasting her on a fire and eating her because he was starving.

The gruesome incident took place in a jungle hamlet in Nellore district in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh about a week ago, a police officer said on Friday, and came to light after the 42-year-old man was later discovered gorging on a buffalo carcass.

“He was caught and handed over to us by villagers who found it strange that he was eating such a large animal with his bare hands with flourish,” the officer told Reuters. The man was arrested on Wednesday.

I really struggled with whether I should post this one or not. Really messed up things happen in the world all the time, but many are just isolated acts committed by truly sick individuals. I only post it because I have long been concerned about the ecological, economical, and social implications of the bush-meat trade in Africa. People wipe out entire species including the great apes (whose cut-up body parts look no different than a human’s) because they are hungry or because they know they can get money for the illegal meat on the black market. Then, last year it was reported that armed militias were actually hunting and eating the Pygmy population in Africa. The Pygmies appealed to the U.N. for protection. Anyways, what I took out of this was the thought that although this was probably a very very isolated incident, the fine line between widespread practices and insanity is a bit blurry at times.