Lost in Translation

India Uncut points us at a series of fun blog posts over at Minor Scale.   Manoj has translated some choice South Indian film songs into anglais.  Most translations are just text but this one had pix and made me smile.   Next time some cultural elitist snob rants about how every piece of media was better in the original Tamil, Uyghur or !Xóõ, I’ll point ‘em here –

SBC 03  SBC 04 

Proof that if you can’t have the pix, some folks really do listen to the lyrics.

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Behold, the Power of Onions

theeyal.jpg I seem to be the Mutiny’s resident “protest publicist”, so why should today be any different? Join the BJP tomorrow (today?) in Delhi as they take to the streets to express their outrage over the latest issue to grip India (Thanks, Usamidalla):

Harsh Vardhan, a leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) in New Delhi, accused traders of limiting onion sales to profit from Dussehra and Deepawali festivals. Onion are an important ingredient in almost everything eaten during both festivals. “An artificial scarcity of onion has been created by traders in connivance with the governing Congress party government,” the Press Trust of India quoted Mr Vardhan as saying.

I wish I could be more sympathetic, but as long-time HERstorians are aware, I HATE ONIONS. I pick them out of my food, no matter how microscopically my mother thinks she’s chopping them; this is usually a futile endeavor though, since they inevitably leave their odious taste among the innocent vendaka and pavaka (read: bhindi and karela) who surely deserve better than such a slimy compatriot. So yeah. I won’t be at the protest. ;)

Apparently, I should take the many-layered vegetable more seriously. Not only can it make you cry if you’re chopping it, it can make you cry as it gives YOU the chop:

Onion shortages in India were responsible for bringing down BJP governments in New Delhi and Rajasthan states in 1998.


In several parts of India, onions were trading at double the price of the previous week.

Obviously, in solidarity with her erstwhile countrymen, my mother should refrain from using ooly in her legendary cooking when I go home for almost two weeks on Thursday. It’s the right thing to do, no? ;) Continue reading

Zindagi ka Zinfandel

If you had spent  yesterday afternoon strolling through sunsoaked downtown Sonoma, a nerve center of California wine country, you might have had your Mediterranean reverie broken by an extremely conspicuous member of desi America: one blue-silk-clad, bejewelled and beflowered Bharat Natyam dancer, desperately trying to find the stage of the Kathmandu Fall Festival.  I can assure you I did not blend in. This is a good thing, because the woman who finally helped us had never heard of Depot Park by name, but took one look at me and remembered that “there’s some kind of colorful festival in that park behind us? That must be what you’re looking for.” Saheli Dances in Winecountry

After the set, I looked around the stage for the usual cooler full of water bottles, and was instead greeted by a vision of wine. The usual festival array of Tibetan flags and bells  mixed with bottles and glasses  everywhere, the regular sound of corks popping interlacing with the flute and mrdangam music. Despite booths of frying samosas, the smell of vintage was stronger. Since my family doesn’t drink, we decided to complete the evening with a visit to the video store, and got ourselves the documentary Mondovino. If you’re at all interested in trade, globalization, agriculture, mercantile tradition, France, Italy, Northern California, or, of course, wine, I highly recommend it, though it is a bit long. It’s a film squarely set in Europe and the Americas, featuring titans like the Mondavi family, the ancient Florentine clans Frescobaldi and Antonieri, and a charming elderly Bordeaux gentleman named Hubert de Montille who can’t stand “monolithic thinking.”
Michel Rolland Points to India in the film Mondovino
It prominently features a travelling consultant, “the flying winemaker,” who, along with Maryland critic Robert Parker, makes and breaks wines. Michel Rolland caught my attention with a throwaway line when he was pointing out the spread of his clientele on a map,

 ”Hungary, Italy, France, Argentinia, Chile, Mexico, The United States, and oh–I forgot one over here–India!”

India?! That’s right, India. The October 17 issue of India Today has a three page spread that, at first glance,  doesn’t bode well for desi oenophilic journalism–even I know that “Brewing the Indian Dream,” is a headline directed at the wrong beverage. But what growth the article reveals within!

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A Concert for Bangladesh: Re-released

Before there was Live Aid or Live 8, there was the original, the Godfather of all arena-rock fundraising concerts: 1971′s a Concert for Bangladesh:

The Concert for Bangladesh was the first benefit concert of its kind in that it brought together an extraordinary assemblage of major artists. The two shows, a Grammy award-winning triple album boxset, and the feature film, generated millions of dollars for a charitable cause and as importantly raised global awareness of a hitherto unpublicized humanitarian disaster. It is therefore acknowledged as the inspiration and forerunner of the major global fundraising events of recent years. To quote the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan “George and his friends were pioneers”. [Link]

And from Wikipedia:

The Concert For Bangladesh was the event title for two concerts held on the afternoon and evening of August 1, 1971, playing to a total of 40,000 people at Madison Square Garden in New York.

As East Pakistan struggled to become the separate state of Bangladesh, tremendous political and military turmoil led to a massive refugee problem. This problem was compounded by torrential rains causing devastating floods and threatening a humanitarian disaster.

Bengali musician Ravi Shankar consulted his friend George Harrison regarding a means of providing help to the situation. Harrison recorded the single “Bangladesh” to help raise awareness and pushed Apple Records to release Shankar’s single “Joi Bangla” in a dual-pronged effort to raise funds.

Shankar also asked Harrison’s advice regarding a small fund-raising concert in the United States. Instead, Harrison took over and persuaded his friends to join him at a large concert at Madison Square Garden. The event was organised within five weeks.

A well-reviewed re-release of the concert on CD and DVD drops in record stores Monday. Continue reading


The other day I was reading a rather ho-hum review of the new Steve Martin movie Shopgirl when this sentence caught my eye:

Tweely narrated by Martin (not as Ray), directed with a dose of barbiturates by Anand Tucker, underscored with a plaintive cello and piano, this is among the most noneventful romantic triangles ever committed to celluloid.

It appears that Shopgirl, that seemingly whitest of whitebread romantic dramedies, was directed by an international jetsetter with desi roots:

Tucker, the son of an Indian father and German mother who was born in Thailand, grew up in Hong Kong and has lived in London since he was 18.

Rediff features a recent interview with the director, who is probably best known for directing the art-house hit Hilary and Jackie.  Tucker (his father changed his last name from Thakkar) has also been tapped to direct a big-budget adaptation of The Golden Compass, the first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

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Mutineer Meetup: San Francisco- October 30

Saheli and  A N N A, last SF meetup at Greco I’m still high off all the fun I had at Arzan’s adorable apartment, at the Brooklyn Meetup last week, so I feel like having some more meetup-induced bliss.

A week from today, join me at Caffe Greco in North Beach (in San Francisco) for a bit of a survivor’s brunch (since I will be recovering from what is sure to be a legendary Saturday night, filled to the brim with debauchery, mais oui). Two o’clock work for you? That should be perrrfect, to get all your tardy kundis there by Three.

Why will I be at home on the Wessss Saeeeed? To celebrate the vedding of a very special Mutineer, who is precious to a few of us North Dakota-bunking bloggers. If I didn’t have to schlep my mom back home on the Saturday after that blessed event, I would’ve had the meetup on Sunday, November 6. Who knows? If you whine prettily, I might hold office hours at my belowed Greco THEN, too. ;)

VHAT: Meetup!
VHEN: October 30, 2pm
VHERE: Caffe Greco, 423 Columbus Ave

Come painted and coordinated, because ye shall surely be photographed and flickr’d, that much is true. Can’t wait to meet you, and bounce off the walls from the cappuccino drip that Greco always hooks me up with…last time I was there for SIX HOURS, so no carping in the comments section ten days from now about how you were late and we were already gone. I keed, I keed! ;) Continue reading

Third I’s Third San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival

Soon it will be time to get your filmi on–Third I, the Yay Area’s own promoter of South Asian independant film–has put Third I San Francisco International South Asian Film Festivalout the schedule for it’s third film festival, bringing desi masala, fine art, and social commentary to The Roxie and The Castro. Here are some of the descriptions that grabbed my interest:

Junoon's Salman Ahmed: It's My Country Too

What does it mean to be an American Muslim? This revealing and engaging documentary follows Pakistani American Rock star Salman Ahmed of Junoon, as he explores stories from a community as diverse as the progressive “Allah made me Funny” comedy troupe, to a prominent family that founded the “Muslims for Bush” campaign. (Link)

Komagata Maru and Indian-Canadian Immigration

On May 23rd, 1914, the Japanese shipping vessel Komagata Maru, chartered by Sikh businessman Gurdit Singh, arrived in Canada’s Vancouver Harbor. Aboard were 376 migrants of Indian origin, citizens of the British Empire who believed it their right to move and settle freely within its domain. Upon anchoring, however, the passengers were prevented from disembarking by local Canadian officials, whose decision reflected a growing nationwide resistance to non-white immigration. (Link.)

This documentary explores the little known ethos of neighborhood photo studios in Indian cities, discovering entire imaginary worlds in the smallest of spaces. Tiny, shabby studios that appear to be stuck in a time warp turn out to be places throbbing with energy. As full of surprises as the people who frequent these studios are the backdrops they enjoy posing against and the props they choose – affording fascinating glimpses into individual fantasies and popular tastes. (Link.)

And of course there will be some Bollywood—our man Shah Rukh in a really big turban: Continue reading

As American as a Chevy or a Cola

Upendra Chivukula, who in 2002 became the first Indian American elected to the New Jersey assembly, is running for re-election.  New Kerala.com reports:

Chivukula, currently serving his second term in the New Jersey State Assembly, hopes his track record on how he has helped his district while in office will get him re-elected.

“I have brought $4.9 million into the district to provide aid to various municipalities; the various legislations I have sponsored, some in process, such as prompt-pay laws for healthcare providers to compensate, better definition of customer care so that insurance companies cannot escape their responsibilities.

This is a work in progress. You keep working on it,” said Chivukula, the Indian American who has sponsored a Science and Technology Caucus in the state legislature and was instrumental in establishing the World Languages and International Studies Caucus.

“The most important issue facing people are property taxes and how to provide relief,” Chivukula, who has also expressed interest in running for the US House of Representatives in November 2006, told IANS.

“Number two is how to make healthcare affordable and providing access to healthcare.”

Methinks this is the wrong political environment in which to focus on priority number one, so maybe he will concentrate instead on number two, which deserves more attention anyways.

American Public Media’s radio show Marketplace did a story this past Thursday on Chivukula, which also featured Congressman Bobby Jindal (thanks for the tip Manan).  The ~4 minute story discusses the rise of political muscle within the Indian American community.  In the story, Chivukala tells the reporter that even though his last name is difficult for most Americans to pronounce, he thinks he can get elected.  To paraphrase, he tells her to, “just think if you drive a Chevy and drink a Cola.  Then put them together and you have Chivukula.”  Continue reading

Knock your butt back to the stone age

Noone ever said technological progress was either monotonic or pareto optimal. This old, but somehow overlooked article from MSNBC gives us one fascinating case – a group of island dwellers right smack in the path of last December’s tsunami who nevertheless emerged with most of their, uh, possessions, pretty much intact –

PORT BLAIR, India – Two days after a tsunami thrashed the island where his ancestors have lived for tens of thousands of years, a lone tribesman stood naked on the beach and looked up at a hovering coast guard helicopter.

He then took out his bow and shot an arrow toward the rescue chopper.

It was a signal the Sentinelese have sent out to the world for millennia: They want to be left alone.

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The Final Frontier

For today’s edition of Science Friday here on SM, I thought I would write about the science story that made the biggest impact in this past week, as well as the one closest to my heart.  The theme of this week’s Science Friday will be Human Space Exploration.  What are countries around the world, including the U.S., India, and China doing in order to keep their societies at the forefront of space technology?  The “prestige” of nuclear weapons pales in comparison to the prestige and society-wide benefits that a country gains on the road to putting its citizens in space.  Anyone can make nukes, but only three countries (U.S., Russia, and China) have the economic power and human capital to put people into space and return them safely.

China continued its impressive run by following up its first human mission with this second one that placed two men is space for five days (the equivalent of our Gemini Program from the 60s).

Chinese astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng, known as taikonauts, were declared to be in “fine condition” after their 5-day spaceflight which ended at 4:33 a.m. Monday, Beijing time. The mission, lasting 115 hours and 32 minutes, was more than five times longer than China’s maiden manned mission in 2003.

“We feel fine,” Fei told a crowd of well-wishers. Nie expressed thanks to the Chinese people for their “concern and support.”

Wu Bangguo, No. 2 in the Communist party hierarchy and head of the country’s national legislature, was quoted by Xinhua as saying the second manned space mission was a “complete success,” and a “milestone” in China’s space technology development. [Link]

What about India?  Is it even trying to keep pace with its ambitious neighbor?

… as China begins planning a lunar mission in 2007, and with the US and India declaring an interest in another Moon landing – and a manned flight to Mars – are we seeing the dawn of a new space race?

“Once China had announced its first unmanned lunar spacecraft, India came along and said that they were also interested in unmanned lunar exploration,” Philip Clark, of the British-based Molniya Space Consultancy, told BBC World Service’s Analysis programme.

“They’ve now signed an agreement with the European Space Agency for joint experiments with the Indian spacecraft…

While India’s space programme is relatively small, it has made considerable strides in recent years, putting a number of satellites into orbit. [Link]

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