If you dare, write short-shorts

Today is Friday and that means that at some point in the next 21 hours, I’m going to write 55 words which contain an entire story. I’m not that big on memes but this one (“55 Fiction Fridays”) is precious to me, because it reminds me of writing exercises and workshops and english minor-y goodness. Por ejemplo:

She nervously adjusted her sari, hoping no one noticed. So far, the night had gone flawlessly; she had made a good impression on everyone, she could just tell.

The older woman at the table noted how silk was tugged upwards. Taking a delicate sip of tea, she thought, “She’s not good enough for our family.”

I’ve consistently written one of these uber-short shorts for weeks now, but last week was the first time a fellow mutineer noticed. Abhi’s interest in the concept of nanofiction made me ponder the possibility that some of YOU would find it fascinating as well. If I further needed to justify making a mutiny out of it, know this: the good Professor Guest Blogger himself reads my “55″ and I am aware of this because he referenced one at the last NYC meetup. Not that I need to defend it or anything… ;)

Flash fiction, also called sudden fiction, micro fiction, postcard fiction or short-short fiction, is a class of short story of limited word length. Definitions differ but is generally accepted that flash fiction stories are at most 200 to 1000 words in length. Ernest Hemingway wrote a six-word flash: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” Traditional short stories are 2,000 to 10,000 words in length.[wiki]

That Hemingway example is ridiculously inspiring. One day I want to write a short that short. I don’t even know if there is a name for a short so short. There is, however, a name for the type of writing this meme encourages:

One type of flash fiction is the short story with an exact word count. An example is 55 Fiction or Nanofiction. These are complete stories, with at least one character and a discernible plot, exactly 55 words long.[wiki]

The virus is spreading throughout the brown blogosphere. SM readers Maisnon, Andrea and Chai are the three whom I go out of my way to check on (hee! no pressure, kids!), but if you decide to try it, please leave a link to your work of art in the comments. I’ll be happy if you flash me. :) Continue reading

“Golly jeepers, where’d you get those peepers…

ash

peepshow, creepshow…where did you get those eyes?”

:+:

Earlier today, I was at the most forlorn CVS in downtown DC, stalking my unbelievably elusive prey (one, just one OTC elixir without Pseudoephedrine, i.e. that which I have a horrific reaction to) when I saw this…eye-catching display.

I love makeup and while my proclivity to purchase two lip glosses a week would lead you to believe that my all-consuming obsession involves THAT, it doesn’t.

Mascara.

I am as fanatically devoted to mascara as Abhi is to that evolution stuff. ;) Eyelashes are so important, that’s why the right curler is key; it’s also why every model, actress, pageant winner, celebutante and drag queen wears fakes…in Jennifer Lopez’s case, MINK fakes.

I like my eyelashes. I wasn’t born with eyebrows, but I lucked out on the lash tip and girlfriend, you best believe I work it. All I wear is L’oreal mascara. Because it is the best. So, like some unstoppable force pulling me towards the mothership, I was brought to this display.

I noticed two things: a brand-spanking-new type of mascara in a curiously-fat container and one flawlessly beautiful woman channeling Maria Callas, in that exact order. She looked slightly familiar but I couldn’t place her immediately. A second later, I remembered seeing Aish’s face by L’oreal’s lipsticks and that’s when it hit me– she IS one of the faces for the brand. Yes, it was TMBWITW. I’ve never seen her in a movie, which is probably why I had to arrive at my conclusion in such a strange, round-about way. One look at the fine-print, which always tell you who’s in the ad confirmed it. Continue reading

Dear Mushie: Shut up. Sincerely, Pakistan’s Women

stop it.jpg The walking P.R. disaster who is PakistanÂ’s president canÂ’t get a break. Nor should he, since he is a dick AND a weasel. I hate to throw two slang references to the male anatomy in the same paragraph, but damn Gina…if youÂ’re going to front like youÂ’re cold-blooded, have the balls to follow through with that unwise approach. Pervez, denying that you made a heartless comment which the entire world heard is only soiling the bed you made and have to lie in…no pun intended.

Care for some background, in case you’re just joining us?

Almost two weeks ago, I posted that the clue-free President of Pakistan was staying at the Roosevelt Hotel in NYC and that a protest was planned outside of it, to shame Mushie into owning his countryÂ’s pathetic approach to human rights for women. Later, I blogged about his sputtering reaction to the vocal horde outside his temporary Manhattan quarters.

As the human rights and women groups protested outside the Roosevelt Hotel against the treatment of rape victims in Pakistan, Gen Musharraf said that such protests should be held in and not outside Pakistan.[link]

Well, today he got his wish. Continue reading

Tigers and Monkeys…oh my.

In my continuing quest to blog about hot, desi rocker-girls until one of them reads my flattery and marries me, I bring your attention to Shonali Bhowmik, the lead singer of the New York indie rock band Tigers and Monkeys [via Gothamist]:

Shonali Bhowmik straddles several lines, living in two different worlds with perfect ease, and whether it’s music and comedy, the law and rock n roll, or balancing her Southern roots and East Village hipness, she does it with style, making it all look effortless. Having grown up in Nashville, Tennessee, the “30-ish” Bhowmik started her acclaimed band Ultrababyfat while in law school in Atlanta, and has continued to play in New York as leader of her band Tigers and Monkeys, who’ve opened for Sleater-Kinney and, most recently, Ted Leo at South Street Seaport. Armed with bluesy rock songs that highlight Bhowmik’s sultry drawl that can border on a sneer, the band rocks with tracks like “Loose Mouth” and “Something’s Gotta Give,” and are set to release their debut EP in November. She’s also part of the offbeat movies/music/comedy show Variety Shac, along with Heather Lawless, Andrea Rosen and Chelsea Peretti, hosting the monthly Williamsburg event and taking part in their hilarious video shorts, about everything from a potluck a workout. When Bhowmik spoke with Gothamist about being an Indian-American woman in indie rock, the power of being onstage, and playing for thousands of people, her enthusiasm for her musical career rang through loud and clear.

I mean come on.  The names of the two songs available for download on the Tigers and Monkeys website are called “Vampire in a Dirty City” and “I’ll Ruin Your Thoughts.”  How hot is that?  Perfect for me since I live in a dirty city and I ruin lots of peoples thoughts on a daily basis.

Q: What do your parents think of your career now?
A: They have been completely supportive of whatever I do, they fully approve now that I’ve been using my law degree to an extent. I definitely think that they’re surprised that I’ve stuck with music and it’s what makes me the happiest. They totally are a rare find when it comes to traditional Indian parents. I’m sure they’re wondering if I’m gonna just keep dating boys, they want me to get married. If they had an idea of my social life, they’d probably flip out. They come from such a different culture, they probably would never understand what I consider it to be a success in terms of music.

There is hope!  Check out the video as well.  VH1′s description of her previous band Ultrababyfat gives more info on her musical roots.

Q: How would you describe your sound? There’s something very Southern about it to me, in part because of your accent, but even the rock songs seem a little slower, a little more sensual or something.

A:  Tigers and Monkeys is a bluesy pop rock band in the vein of the Pixies and the White Stripes, mixed with country, and there’s a darkness to it. There’s a haunting sound beneath it all. Most recently I used minor chords a lot and I used to use major chords a lot and that’s a little more of a positive sound, so there’s a darkness that I’m grasping onto that makes me feel good.

Continue reading

The Parsi in the Presidio

Fort SumterFollowing up on their account of South Asians in the American Civil War, Francis C. Assisi and Elizabeth Pothen describe the life and times of one Conjee Rustumjee Cohoujee Bey (a.k.a. Anthony Frank Gomez).  The story is so rich with detail due to the fact that Bey/Gomez wrote letters throughout his life to Henry Ward Beecher who mentored him after he entered this country.  Henry was the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  From the account:

For the purpose of our story, Henry Beecher takes on a pivotal role because it was his family that befriended the Indian prince, later converting him to Christianity and renaming him Anthony Frank Gomez. In the course of next two years, the Indian prince not only learned about Christianity from Beecher but went on to become his protégé. He was a regular visitor to the Beecher household. He became an avid reader. He listened as Beecher preached against slavery, for political candidates, women’s rights, evolution, and his own idea of romantic Christianity that recognized God’s love for man and the availability of salvation for all. He engaged in intellectual discourse with the Beecher sisters.

Gomez, the scion of an Indian princely family, was at ease in that elite company. His British education, aristocratic bearing, and close links with the Beecher family, endeared him with major New York figures of the day, a group that included abolitionists, writers, and social theorists, as well as national and international personalities.

Beecher was a Reverend in the Plymouth Congregational Church and spoke with great vigor and conviction that slavery was a sin.  Guided by his mentor and his new religion, Gomez joined up:

26-year old Antonio Gomez answered the call of President Lincoln, and began his service in the US Navy: aboard the USS North Carolina at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, on 8 February 1862, as Ward Room Steward.

His next assignment was with the steam sloop USS Dacotah. Gomez was on board when she served in the waters around Hampton Roads. Assigned to the James River Flotilla, she had several skirmishes with the Confederates including those in which a company of her sailors destroyed a Confederate battery of 11 guns at Harden’s Bluff, Virginia, on 2 July, and one of 15 guns at Day’s Point, Virginia, the next day. She joined the blockading forces off Wilmington, North Carolina, on 8 December and served there until 11 June 1863 when she was ordered into quarantine at New York the next month when several cases of smallpox were discovered on board…

While serving aboard the first USS Iroquois, a sloop of war in the United States Navy, Gomez saw action at the mouth of the Mississippi River, where she prepared for attack on New Orleans, Louisiana. On 24th April 1864, under Captain Henry H. Bell, Iroquois moved abreast the Forts Jackson and St. Philip, guarding New Orleans, and, after a spirited engagement, helped capture the South’s largest and wealthiest city, and key to the Mississippi Valley…

Just as the Civil War drew to a close, Beecher was the main speaker when the Stars and Stripes were again raised at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, site of the war’s first battle. The private papers and personal correspondence of Henry Beecher reveal that Gomez was present on that occasion when the Union victory resulted in a grand celebration in the former “cradle of secession.” On April 14, 1865, Union officers and dignitaries gathered at Ft. Sumter. A band played, several nearby Navy warships, including the Niagara on which Gomez was serving, fired salutes, and there were hymns and prayers as the Union flag was transformed into a symbol of a restored and victorious United States.

The rest of the article is an absorbing read detailing his life in San Francisco and his eventual burial at the Presdio with full military honors.

Continue reading

Wildflower wideo

My singer-songwriter buddy Shaheen Sheik just got her first video onto MTV Desi. Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job!

We cut a video for ‘Wildflower World.’ MTV came to the set to shoot some behind the scenes footage and an interview with me. I even got to hold the MTV microphone! It’s all so surreal… the segment is airing on MTV Desi News every day this week at 6:50am, 10:50am, 2:50pm, 6:50pm, 10:50pm, 2:50am.

She’s a law school dropout, classical dancer and blogger. Afreen afreen, eh, Nusrat?

… i have literally grown up on stage. since the time i can remember, i have been rehearsing or performing… maybe there are folks who’ve never had to strip down on the side of the stage to make a 45 second costume change with the tech guys politely turning their heads and your fellow dancers frantically tucking things and wrapping you in costumes while you can feel the sweat running down your body…

there is not another thing in my life that i’ve experienced that has given me the kind of high from dancing with abandon. not drugs, not sex, not even a first kiss with a new beau. [Link]

Amen, sistah. Listen to ‘Wildflower World’ from her new indie album, Rock Candy. I promise you she’s better than the last singing phenomenon from Berkeley  Taking struggling-artist dedication to new heights, she’s even singing the national anthem tomorrow night for the hockey team with the implausible name, the Anaheim Los Angeles Mighty Ducks.

Previous posts: one, two, three.

Continue reading

Maple leaf meetup

Upcoming Sepia meetups:

Toronto, Sunday, Oct. 2, 6 pm. I’ll be in Toronto this weekend — let’s do a meetup at Bombay Bhel (1411 Gerrard St. E.) I’d also appreciate hearing about desi arts events, great food and creative ‘hoods to check out. You can comment or email me here. Toronto represent!

Brooklyn, Sunday, Oct. 16, 12:30 pm. Mutineer / architect Arzan has generously offered to introduce y’all to the pleasures of Parsi food. Please RSVP via email [disabled] (mandatory, since only ~20 people fit in his living room):

A crowd of 10-12 people would be ideal… Sunday afternoon is traditionally the time when every Parsi household in the world has dhansak. It’s a dal and rice dish. Brown rice with a masala daal which has a lot of different ingredients. It’s accompanied by mutton kebabs and chilled beer. In fact this is one of the few Parsi traditions followed religiously anywhere and everywhere in the world…

Dhansak can be both veg and non-veg. I generally always make both…..I put the meat in last, thus I can have a veg dal and a non veg daal. Same with the kebabs…..will have the veg variety.

Thanks, Arzan!

Continue reading

‘The War Within’

I recently dismissed an upcoming Sarita Choudhury effort because she plays yet another brown terrorist.

But the high-def production, now called The War Within, also stars cutie-patootie Nobel scion Nandana Sen, who played the sister in Black. It also stars our cereal Cyrano, Aasif Mandvi. Although the Village Voice pans the Mark Cuban-financed movie, now I have to see it. That’s a double chocolate fudge sundae of pillow lips, subcontinental curls and attitude, and if anyone tells you they don’t see questionable movies just for the stars, they’re lying.

Pillow lips, subcontinental curls and attitudeThe War Within follows in the introverted footsteps of Hassan (co-writer Ayad Akhtar), a Pakistani wrongly imprisoned and tortured for terrorist affiliations… The film’s title may seem to spill the beans–will the watchful Hassan carry out his mission or renege after enjoying America and flirting with Sayeed’s ravishing sister (Nandana Sen)?–but in fact, whatever inner conflict rages looks to us like moping and staring blankly out at the East River. (Time killed gazing from the beach or dock is a telltale sign of indie floundering.)

Shot in DV by Lisa Rinzler, Joseph Castelo’s modest drama struggles for verisimilitude, but it wears clichés like concrete boots… [Link]

Here’s a plot summary:

Hassan undergoes a radical transformation and embarks upon a terrorist mission, surreptitiously entering the United States to join a cell based in New York City. After meticulous planning for an event of maximum devastation, all the members of the cell are arrested, except for Hussan and one other. With no alternative and nowhere else to turn, Hassan must rely on the hospitality of his former best friend Sayeed, who is living the American dream with his family in New Jersey… Hassan takes advantage of Sayeed’s generosity while plotting his strategy and amassing materials to create explosives. Eventually, Hassan’s skewed religious fervor clashes with his feelings for Sayeed and his family, especially Sayeed’s sister Duri. [Link]

The movie opens in NYC this weekend and in LA next weekend.

Previous post here. More on Sarita Choudhury here, Aasif Mandvi: one, two, and Sen’s brother Kabir: one, two, three.

Continue reading

Dancing in the Streets

The DC Arts Commission presents the Dance Festival DC 2005, which opens tomorrow with A Bhangra Dance Party: A childrenÂ’s dance workshop celebrating South India at the Sitar Center on 1700 Kalorama Ave, NW. The free festival will feature performances and interactive workshops showcasing a wide array of folk and traditional dance forms throughout the city.

And yes, I noticed. While I am of course excited about the inclusion of South Asian dance forms in this yearÂ’s festival, I wish the description of the events would match the titles. Bhangra is indigenous to North India and Pakistan, so the correct title, if the folk dance in question was Bhangra, would be a dance workshop celebrating North India/Pakistan or Dancing in Punjab even. Yeah, it might not be as catchy or succinct, but accuracy should perhaps be more important. I know Bhangra is better known than say Kuchipudi, but Kuchipudi is actually represented in the second workshop, Global Fusion: A Kaleidoscope of dance, music, and song from around the world. Maybe they meant a childrenÂ’s dance workshop celebrating South Asia? Alas, this is a minor quibble.

South Asia will also be represented by the Natyabhoomi School of Dance at a 2 pm performance on Saturday October 1, at the National Zoo.

View the entire schedule here, and watch a 30 second preview clip of the dance festival here. Continue reading

Yep. There is a sucka’ born every minute.

This story left me conflicted.  On the one hand I hate to see ignorant people (tourists in this case) taken advantage of.  On the other hand I feel like all those wanna-be hippies that slurp up exoticised “Indian” culture deserve what they get.  The Guardian reports:

India has always had an embarrassment of riches for the traveller: marble Moghul tombs, grand palaces, palm-fringed beaches and Himalayan treks. Now the country has a new tourist attraction on offer: the village.

To anyone who has spent time in India’s villages, paying to sun oneself while cattle loll and cowpats dry under the sky might seem a little far fetched. But for Renuka Chowdhury, India’s tourism minister, the villages can easily be repackaged as exotic destinations where foreign tourists can enjoy rural pursuits such as drawing well water and churning butter.

“We will encourage people to come and stay with Indians – the way Indians live – and learn from the masters … This will bring the world to the villages,” Ms Chowdhury told Reuters.

The more adventurous tourists can sample the army camps of Kashmir, a state that has been wracked by an insurgency since 1989 and where more than 80,000 people have died.

“Sample” army camps in Kashmir.  That’s rich (although not unprecedented). I bet they charge extra if you want to be introduced as a Dalit into your chosen village.  Don’t get me wrong, there ain’t nothing wrong with slumming it.  Just do it for the right reasons.

Continue reading