Birth tax

SM tipster Olinda (followed by several others) sent us this depressing article from the New York Times highlighting corruption at its worst.  Behold:

Just as the painful ordeal of childbirth finally ended and Nesam Velankanni waited for a nurse to lay her squalling newborn on her chest, the maternity hospital’s ritual of extortion began.

Before she even glimpsed her baby, she said, a nurse whisked the infant away and an attendant demanded a bribe. If you want to see your child, families are told, the price is $12 for a boy and $7 for a girl, a lot of money for slum dwellers scraping by on a dollar a day. The practice is common here in the city, surveys confirm.

Mrs. Velankanni was penniless, and her mother-in-law had to pawn gold earrings that had been a precious marriage gift so she could give the money to the attendant, or ayah. Mrs. Velankanni, a migrant to Bangalore who had been unprepared for the demand, wept in frustration.

“The ayah told my mother-in-law to pay up fast because the night duty doctor was leaving at 8 a.m. and wanted a share,” she recalled.

Cynic that I am, I could actually imagine a man whisking a kid away and demanding a bribe.  When a woman (who may have children of her own) does it, all hope seems lost.  The article goes on to describe the fact that this sort of corruption has infected basic services that stretch from the cradle to the grave.  The following quote also caught my eye because it sounds like a thing you sometimes hear about the U.S. healthcare system:

“The poor not only are paying much more of their incomes to get the same medical services as the middle and richer classes, but they are also discouraged from seeking basic medical care because they can’t afford it,” said Daniel Kaufmann, director of global programs at the institute.

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Remarkabubble Rushdie

The blazing hot publicity machine for Shalimar the Clown rolls out another feature on Salman Rushdie, this time in GQ. The cheapskate mag offers only 2 (out of 20!) sections from the print version online, so despite protestations from the Sepia Legal Dept., I transcribe the juicy bits below. Without further ado, hereÂ’s the ever-quotable Salman on:


  1. Comics
He liked Batman the most – “because he was the weirdest,” Rushdie says. “Strange thing to do, you know, hang upside down dressed like a bat and go out at night.” He was always happiest when Batman came unaccompanied. “I didn’t like Robin the Boy Wonder at all,” he explains, his voice still leaking some youthful annoyance. “I thought he was completely redundant and had a silly uniform.”

[Yes, but does he know about this?]

  1. Perceptions of his character after the fatwa, and Indira Gandhi bashing
”The thing that happened to me had certain characteristics – it was theological, it was humorless, it was difficult to understand – and all those characteristics got transposed onto me. So because it was humorless, I must be.”… Some were stung by the account of the previous few decades of Indian history in MidnightÂ’s Children. Indira Gandhi, IndiaÂ’s prime minister at the time actually sued him for suggesting that her son Sanjay blamed her for the death of her husband, his father. Rushdie eventually yielded to pressure from his publishers to remove the passage, as long as she agreed that there was nothing else in the book – a book fairly critical of her – that she considers objectionable, and he says that the Indian press concurred with his view that this settlement was more a humiliation for the prime minister than for the author.

[The Iron Lady picked that over the transistors-for-sterilization bit? Color me surprised.] Continue reading

Uptight Updike

John Updike reviews Salman Rushdie’s latest in the New Yorker. He moans about Rushdie’s precocious, hyperactive style but has the grace to quote extensively. He slowly dribbles out the master’s words to be set upon by the ravenous she-wolf bitches known as rabid Rushdie fans. Such as, uh, my ‘friend.’

My ‘friend’ here appreciates Updike cribbing from Shalimar. It sounds raw. It sounds risky. It sounds fabulous. Oh, and there’s some famous-author-whining in there too.

In a neat trick both topical and intimate, Rushdie is symbolically returning to Kashmir with this novel. Recall the rapturous prose about Dal Lake, red hair, blue eyes and a distinctive proboscis where Midnight’s Children began. It’s a journey desi authors selling into the West often make in reverse: their first few books aren’t ‘write what you know,’ but rather ‘write what sells.’ Only when they’re comfortable in their bestselling skins, and the wolves of missed rent bay at the doors of younger writers, do they return to exorcise their deeper pains: for Rushdie, the rape of Kashmir; for Michael Ondaatje, the Sri Lankan civil war.

[Dedication:] … in loving memory of my Kashmiri grandparents…

In Kashmir it is paradise itself that is falling; heaven on earth is being transformed into a living hell… Everywhere was now a part of everywhere else. Russia, America, London, Kashmir. Our lives, our stories, flowed into one another’s, were no longer our own, individual, discrete… The world was no longer calm…

… he wanted to know what it would feel like when he placed the blade of his knife against the man’s skin, when he pushed the sharp and glistening horizon of the knife against the frontier of the skin, violating the sovereignty of another human soul, moving in beyond taboo, toward the blood…

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‘Aishwarya Jones’ Diary’

What happens when Prides collide? Aishwarya Rai and Colin Firth are filming a $70M sword-and-chappals epic with Sir Ben (via DesiFans). Harvey Weinstein is backing Rai again despite the disappointing U.S. box office of Bride and Prejudice. It’s called The Last Legion:

The Last Legion is an epic adventure based on acclaimed author Valerio Massimo Manfredi’s international best-selling 2003 novel of the same name. The film is set against the fall of the Roman Empire in 470AD and its last emperor, 12-year-old Romulus Augustus…

Over-run with rebellion, Rome is a city on the brink of chaos and destruction. Imprisoned by rebels on the island-fortress of Capri, Romulus, aided by the clever strategies of his teacher Ambrosinus (Sir Ben Kingsley) and the heroic skills of his legionnaire Aurelius (Colin Firth), escape the island. Despite the turbulent events around them, this small band of Roman soldiers, accompanied by Byzantine warrior Mira (Aishwarya Rai), are determined to continue their mission to restore the Empire. This resolute group sets out on an arduous and dangerous trek for Britannia in search of the Last Legion, in their bid to make one final stand for Rome. [Link]

Colin Firth …. Aurelius
Ben Kingsley …. Ambrosinus
Aishwarya Rai …. Livia  [Link]

Finally, we’ve got a suitable hero for the queen of mock chastity: not Colin Farrell, but Colin Firth, the serious Darcy in a ridiculous jumper. Though now that I mention it, the other pairing would have been interesting, the louche Lothario meeting chastity princess:

Farrell: ‘You know, I’ve dated a desi woman before.’
Aishwarya:Strippers don’t count.’

Instead we get Aishwarya Jones’ Diary. ‘Aurelius, do these knickers make me look fat?’

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Burqa provocateur (updated)

Pakistani-Norwegian stand-up comic Shabana Rehman is a burqa provocateur (thanks, Srinath):

Rehman… was born in Karachi but raised in Norway… [Link]

She typically begins her act wearing a burqa, which she then strips away to reveal a tight, red cocktail dress… She notably made headlines in the popular press last week by dropping her pants and baring her buttocks at a film festival in Haugesund, in southwest Norway. “I want to show that in Norway, you can do such things without being lynched or arrested… You can’t do a stunt like this in Karachi or Kabul.” [Link]

She’s pulled both a Madonna and a Demi Moore:

Rehman then went on to kiss vigorously Norway’s female Culture Minister… seeking to make a point about a debate raging in the country’s Pakistani community over a film scene showing a young Pakistani girl kissing a Norwegian boy… [Link]

‘In Norway there are approximately 70,000 Muslims out of a total population of 4 million [1.75% of the population]… My answer to their reactions was to paint my body with the Norwegian flag and pose in the nude.’ [Link]

The 5’4″ woman pulled an old Jewish and Punjabi wedding trick upon a fundie with suspected Al Qaeda links who took asylum in Norway. If only he were Jewish, he’d have known what was coming

Rehman came on stage and said she wanted to carry out a “satiric test” to find out if Mullah Krekar was as strongly fundamentalist as some of his critics believe. When he approached her, she grabbed him and lifted him up in the air.

Krekar… became furious, grabbed the microphone and began speaking in Norwegian for the first time that evening. “… she has no right to carry or touch me… ” Krekar said, and promised to lodge a complaint via his lawyer. Rehman… told newspaper VG she also wanted to show that if she could lift him, he could hardly be a danger to national security. [Link]
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We are not the enemy.

Well, ain’t this some fabulous reporting from the New York Post (Thanks, Nina):

If you were in Manhattan yesterday, you might have thought an enemy force had taken over the island and severed the East Side from the West.
The invaders were not al Qaeda, but the Pakistani Parade and Festival, which stormed Madison Avenue from 23rd to 41st streets; the Daytop Village Street Festival on Madison from 42nd to 57th; and the Church of the Good Shepherd street fair on Third Avenue from 23rd to 34th.
The occupying armies ate up 45 blocks in the city’s heart from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., plus time before and after to set up and take down.

LittleGirl.jpgI’m consumed by a wrath which makes me want to kick something. An enemy force? A festival which STORMED Madison Ave? Are you kidding me?

This little bit of ignorant commentary is all yours thanks to a Real Estate/Opinion writer named Steve Cuozzo. The title he chose for his piece is awesome:


Granted, Cuozzo was referring to three different events while frothing-at-the-ass, but to mindlessly lump in another culture’s Independence Day with a mere street festival wasn’t very bright, considering the purpose of the lumping. Celebrating Pakistani Independence is sleazy, stinky and chintzy? Foul? I’ll tell you what’s foul: sloppy writing, ignorant thinking and pure disrespect. Continue reading

We have a reporter at the scene

The reason that blogs are so relevant is that you ALWAYS have a woman (or man) on the scene.  In this instance SM reader and frequent commenter, Maitri is at what is soon to be ground zero for potentially the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. in decades (although hopefully she is fleeing as I write this).  Some believe that the entire city of New Orleans may be destroyed on Monday.  Now personally, I don’t usually believe in weather.  I don’t even check the weather in the morning before I leave my apartment.  I will break-up with a girl if I catch her watching the Weather Channel.  I have long believed that “weather” is a hoax pushed on us by the umbrella and sun-block lobbies.  This one looks like it may be the real deal though.  Maitri breaks it down for us:

Update 3: A gloomy prognosis still. Even Bob Breck isn’t feeling the hurricane mojo, and that bodes badly for staying in a 130-year-old house. New Orleanians, board your homes and leave. August 27 21:02

Update 4: Up surveying all animated predictions of our impending local weather pattern. Landfall anon, i.e. tomorrow PM. Dinner in the Quarter last night (tomato, lettuce and Diet Coke with Shiraz chasers – anything the gastrointestinal tract can keep down) saw veteran residents discuss seriously the act, not just the thought, of getting out of here. Then again, there are the brave ones staying such as Mac and KFrye, who plans to “stand out on my balconey and shake my fists at the storm.” Good plan – is the webcam all set up? Time for push-ups before hauling stuff to car; hey, the CPUs have got to go. August 28 6:57

Because of what seems to have been excellent planning, the state of Louisiana sent out the evacuation notice in plenty of time.  Really, it seems to have been superbly handled and this will hopefully prevent loss of life.  Get ready for shocking oil prices though.  25% of the U.S.’s refinery capacity is in the center of that green and red blob.  Also, I’m sure we will get to see congressman Bobby Jindal in action around his state.  

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The Rock of the Marne

A moment of silence:

The Department of Defense announced today [Sat] the death of a soldier, who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Spc. Hatim S. Kathiria, 23, of Fort Worth, Texas, died on Aug. 22, 2005, in Baghdad, Iraq, where an enemy rocket impacted near his position. Kathiria was assigned to the 703rd Forward Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga. [Link]

MSNBC has more:

A soldier who called Fort Worth home died in Iraq this week. Hatim Kathiria joined the U.S. Army just months after emigrating to the United States from India.

The 23-year-old had studied to be a software engineer, but work in that field was hard to come by. So, he joined the Army to earn citizenship more quickly and to make money to send to his family.

Kathiria was sent to Iraq in January, the same month he got married and received his U.S. citizenship. He was full of promise, and hoped to advance in the military while saving money for graduate school and preparing to help bring his family to the U.S

…Shortly before he died, Kathiria told his wife that he wanted his body sent back to India to be buried in his hometown. That will happen after a military service in Washington, D.C.

Here are this month’s fallen.

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They got married the next day

My mom, who works for a department store in the D.C. suburbs, asked me if I would be willing to write a post on SM about her co-worker Smita. My dad sent me an email: AbhiandSmita2.jpg

You may want to post this on “Sepia Mutiny” i.e. if this type of things are accepted per your protocols……

SmitaÂ’s husband (whose name is Abhi) will die within about two months unless he gets a bone marrow match. The story is particularly sad. My mom told me that the night before their wedding they received a call from the doctor for Abhi, who wasnÂ’t home at the time. Smita told the doctor she was his fiancé and that she would relay the message. The doctor told her Abhi was dying of Adult Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. They went ahead and got married the next day. The two are desperately seeking a bone marrow match and have made this flyer (click on the picture) appealing for help. Many of you reading this post may end up at the annual NetIP conference in Atlanta next weekend to find a love match. If you do attend make it priority #1 to give just 5 drops of your blood for the database. Even if you can’t help save Abhi you might make a difference for someone else. Click the image below for the schedule at NetIP.

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Midnight’s towers

The Empire State Building is lit green and white this weekend in honor of Pakistan’s independence. Manhattan’s parade starts at 12:30 pm today and goes down Madison Ave. from 41st to 26th Sts.

The 23rd St. tower’s lighting is still on IST. Maybe it’s reactionary political commentary; maybe it’s a statement of solidarity; maybe, like vegetables and viceroys, it only morphs at the stroke of midnight.


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