Blue Friday: 55


Please understand, I’m not complaining, I’m just astonished. Very well, then. Today is Friday and that means it is time to write (and read) nanofiction. I’ve become fond of this little ritual of ours, even if it seems to make the week go by far too quickly. ;)

I am elated by the amount of thought, effort and cleverness you are all displaying in our humble comments section. What some of you can fit in a mere 55 words is astounding and delightful– each piece of nanofiction tastes like a well-crafted truffle which leaves me sightless out of joy, as I savor the supple flavors.

Enough with my fawning all over you future-Salmans-and-Jhumpas, let’s get on with it!

Like last week, my title for this post is borrowed from a song–and this is no ordinary song…’twas one of my absolute faves when I was a moody teen–”Blue Monday” by New Order. Am I sad? No, but it’s so kind of you to be concerned. I’m “blue” because I thought I’d add an extra pinch of curry leaves to my weekly lit sabzi.

Today, boys and girls, ladkas and ladkis, adas and edis, we have a theme. Cease with that grumbling at once! This is just a suggestion for you to consider as you contribute your usual morsels of genius. I must say though, “blue” is a rather expansive starting point, if you’re in the mood for a little extra writing-bondage.

After the jump: my top three… Continue reading

Being Nitin Sawhney

When it comes to music in the diaspora, there a few names that of course come to mind (Talvin Singh, Panjabi MC), but one of the most consistent and visible musicians evolving from the South Asian diaspora, and who is not universally from the UK Bhangra or the Asian Drum and Bass scene, is without a doubt, Nitin Sahwney.  DJ, producer, musician, and activist extraordinaire, Sawhney whose most recent studio-album Philtre, which has to be listed amongst his best work, is now slated to score Mira Nair’s production of Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, and is reported to be working as a producer on Indo-Canadian British transplant pop-star Raghav’s unfinished second album.  In fact, Bobby and Nihal, on their October 12 radio show on the BBC offerred up a bit of a preview of the Raghav/Nitin collaborative work entitled ”Seasons,” which draws heavily on the heavenly ’Mausam’, which appears on the Philtre album.  After having heard the original Mausam, the version featuring Raghav admittedly sounded a bit cheecky, but knowing that Nitin is producing some of the record makes me dizzy with anticipation.  Well, maybe not dizzy, but excited for sure.

Incidentally, Sawhney, who has also worked with Sting and Spanish collective Ojos de Brujo among others, seems to be in demand lately. Former Beattle Sir Paul McCartney, in an interview with Rolling Stone published earlier this month, said he initially wanted to make a record influenced by Nitin’s sound, 

“I liked the idea of toying with a kind of Asian thing, a one-chord thing. There’s an artist called Nitin Sawhney who I like — he’s a British-Asian guy. It was just a vibe I was into at the time

More SM on Nitin here.

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Earthquake Benefit in New York City

Anna wants to know what we can do. If you live in New York City, you’re in luck–you can support the arts for a good cause!

SAWCC Earthquake Relief Fundraiser: Performances & Silent Art Auction
Friday, October 21, 7pm
Asian American Writers Workshop
16 West 32nd Street, 10th floor
(btw. 5th & 6th aves, NYC)

Please join the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective (SAWCC) to help raise funds for earthquake victims in South Asia. 100% of proceeds will be donated to the Edhi Foundation and to community members giving direct aid at the grassroots level. Please bring in-kind donations of painkillers, blankets, and warm clothing*. Home-made food will be served.

For more information on in-kind donations:

 Musical Guest: Falu – “Hidden Gem” hot pick in Pop Montreal Festival, September 2005; Performances by: Alka Bhargava, Edward Garcia, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Tahani Salah, Suneet Sethi, Saba Waheed, Kron Vollmer’ Visual Art for auction donated by: Jaishri Abichandani, Amanda Cartagena, Chitra Ganesh, Swati Khurana, Maxwell Fine Arts, Saeed Rahman, Chamindika Wanduragala

Directions to Asian American Writers’ Workshop
N, R, Q, W, F, B, D, V, 1, 2, 3, 9 to 34th Street; 4, 5, 6 trains to 33rd Street

*Please do take a look at the information on the in-kind donations as the request for clothing has been cancelled for now. As of this posting they still say they need: Tents (New is best); Blankets (Used or New); Sleeping bags (Used or New) &
UNOPENED Over-the-counter Painkillers and Stomach Medicines (Tylenol, Advil, Immodium, etc).

(Forward from Saurav.)

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Cutie Patootie #81

Whenever I reluctantly finish a great story, I find myself longing for the “next”. Too bad for me, since the odds of discovering what happened to the protagonist whom I’ve come to adore are usually unpossible. Not today. :)

Thanks to an anonymous tipster, I now know what happened to Abilass Jeyarajah, the child who came to represent the heartbreak of the tsunami. You might remember the excruciating circumstances he survived, before being reunited with his family:

Initially, eight other couples had tried to claim him, sparking a drama that captured hearts around the world and became a symbol of the tragedy that killed nearly 31,000 people on the island.[msnbc]

Technology made the sword of Solomon unnecessary:

Abilass was given to his mother and father by hospital officials after a local court ruled that DNA tests confirmed he belonged to the couple, who lost him in the Dec. 26 tsunami.[msnbc]

Here lies the caption to the Reuters picture above, which leaves me wanting to pinch chubby cheeks (but all I get is screen): Continue reading

Hard asses make good soldiers

SM readers are probably aware that I enjoy spotlighting animals whenever I can.  The latest beasts to rise to blog-worthiness are the noble asses of the Pakistani Military.  The only easy day was yesterday.  The BBC reports:

They have their own parades, rigorous training and dedicated doctors. They are treated as fully fledged soldiers.

Some villagers used to laugh at how much time the army spent on them.

But now the mules of the Pakistani army are proving saviours for some of the tens of thousands of quake survivors still stuck atop inaccessible mountains.

Nine days after the killer quake struck Kashmir and parts of northern Pakistan, the army mobilised its animal transport units (ATUs), or what’s left of them, to reach inaccessible areas – sometimes without any human assistance.

These units of specially trained mules have been a critical link in the logistics serving the Pakistan army – and the Royal Indian Army under the Raj before that – in the mountainous northern regions and Kashmir.

Anyone that has participated in high altitude climbing knows that mules can often be invaluable.  In addition to carrying supplies, mules and their cousins can help carry you should you fall ill, as many poor quake victims surely have.  My friend and I were accompanied by a friendly mule named Carlos while on a mountain in Peru.  Because of our manly egos we told each other that it was better to leave the other on the side of the mountain than be helped onto the mule.  We had this conversation out of earshot of Carlos of course.  Beasts of burden have been invaluable to armies for centuries, if not longer.

Military officials dealing with the ATUs say there were more than 2,000 mules deployed in Kashmir when the quake struck.

An officer in the border region of Chikothi in Kashmir told the BBC news website that “only a fraction survived“.

The army takes the loss hard – these mules enjoy a status no less than that of a fully fledged soldier.

Like men, they have to go through a rigorous selection procedure followed by several months of training before they can be formally drafted into the army.

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Apu’s got a blog!

When I read Anna’s recent post on the desi celebrity blogger of the moment, the comments of Chick Pea and Jai Singh caught my eye:

what’s next… apu and manjula’s blog from the kwik-e-mart life?

That would be a fantastic idea for another new-topic thread here on SM — we could all just keep adding fictitious “diary entries” by Apu. Manish, Abhi etc — do you guys want to make this happen ? I think it would be a lot of fun and potentially hilarious too.

Inspired by their comments, I decided to scour the internet to determine if that most redoubtable of Indian-American television celebrities, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, was indeed a blogger.  And, um, turns out he is.  (Sorry if that was anticlimactic.) 

Of course, it’s possible that the aforelinked blog was not actually written by Apu, but rather by some sort of sick Apu impersonator.  In which case, would the real Apu Nahasapeemapetilon please stand up?  Please stand up?  Please stand up? 

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We Have No Excuse

saima.jpg …when those who have so little are giving so much. That’s what I’m left thinking, after reading the BBC before bedtime:

People in India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands are yet to recover from last year’s tsunami, but they are now helping South Asia quake victims.
…A senior official of the Andaman and Nicobar Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Mohammed Jadvet, said the first consignment of relief materials included 200 tents, over a 1,000 blankets and three tonnes of biscuits.

So, while Kofi Annan slams countries for only committing to about a tenth of what quake victims need, victims of the tsunami–who are still suffering from their own tragedy which stole 200,000 lives all over Asia– have donated to local quake relief efforts. Maybe the world is suffering from “disaster fatigue”.

“The islanders could not come out of the trauma of the 26 December tsunami. Thousands are still staying in intermediate shelters. Still they have decided to help the quake-hit people of Kashmir,” the official said.
“This shows the true spirit of the islanders.”

Reading such news takes me back in time, to other words read before bed that were so different and yet, similar. They taught me about the significance of small gestures:

“And he looked, and saw rich men putting their donations into the treasury. And he also saw a certain poor widow donating two mites. And he said Truly, I tell you, that this poor widow has cast in more than all of them: for they have all given but a portion of their great wealth, as an offering to God, while she, in her poverty, has given all that she had.”~ Luke:21

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Homer converts…Rev. Lovejoy in shock

In my daily efforts to help bring you guys the most interesting stories from around the world, every once in a while I am just blown away.  Today is one of those days.  ABC News (via AOL news) reports on the revelation that Homer Simpson has embraced Islam:

After 17 seasons of entertaining U.S. audiences, “The Simpsons” can now be seen on Arab television. While U.S. foreign policy is not always a hit overseas, there is a huge audience for American popular culture.

So the Arab satellite network MBC is bringing the cartoon saga of Springfield to the heart of the Arab world. “The Simpsons” has been exported overseas and is now called “Al Shamshoon.”

With Omar instead of Homer, and Badr substituting for Bart, MBC hopes to win coveted young viewers. After all, 60 percent of the Arab world is 20 years old or younger. [link]

Here is the catch.  In an act of what can only be described as “censorship wizardry,” MBC has to convince its audience that the entire time Homer is at Moe’s tavern, he is simply enjoying a cold mug of…soda.  Oh wait…

Moe’s Bar has been completely written out of “Al Shamshoon.”

…MBC is making some changes as the characters go from American to Arab. They will remove references to things forbidden by the Koran, such as bacon, beer, and other references that might be construed as offensive.

Homer Simpson’s ubiquitous Duff beer will now be soda in the Arab version of the show.

Ooooh, that’s–got–too hurt–the Duff man.  Apu can’t sell hotdogs anymore but will instead sell “Egyptian beef sausages.”

With characters who are Jewish (like Krusty the Clown), Hindu (like Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu) and Christian (like the family’s pastor, Rev. Lovejoy), Al Jean — “The Simpsons” executive producer — says those changes mean they aren’t “The Simpsons” anymore.

You can watch a video of the story on the AOL website I linked above.

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Posted in TV

Will they or won’t they?

There is a game of high-stakes foreign policy poker being played in Washington right now between the U.S. and India with respect to nuclear cooperation.  As with most issues of late, the normally homogenous Republicans are showing signs of a spine again by demonstrating thinking independent of their party leader.  The Washington Post reports:

Congressional leaders crucial to the fate of a controversial U.S.-India nuclear deal are pressing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to consult them before proposing legislation to implement the agreement.

The leaders make their case in a letter which congressional aides said reflects deep unease about the deal’s consequences and the way the administration secretly negotiated it, without input from lawmakers who must approve it.

“We firmly believe that such consultations will be crucial to the successful consideration of the final agreement or agreements by our committees and the Congress as a whole,” they wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Reuters.

Many members of Bush’s Republican party, which controls Congress, and also many Democrats fear the deal excessively benefits India and undermines international efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons.

Of course, this is all really about Iran.  India surprised people last month by voting with the U.S. in threatening to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council (where it could potentially be punished) for its nuclear activities.   The genie is out of the bottle with respect to nuclear technology so we may as well spread weapons to our friends if they will help us prevent the spread to our enemies.  The U.S. however, wants assurances that their technological gifts won’t be used for India’s weapons program:

The separation plan is at the heart of the nuclear deal because it is meant to ensure any U.S. or international cooperation with India advances only the South Asian nation’s civilian energy program, not weapons development.

Burns said the separation issue will be central to his talks in New Delhi this week but it would probably take a month or two for the plan to be drawn up.

Once a clear separation plan is offered by India, it will be easier to ask the U.S. Congress for the necessary changes, he said.

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Indo-Caribbean arty party

SAJA presents

West Indies Records
art photos with Caribbean roti at Arts India in Manhattan. Maybe they’ll spin some chutney.

Building Bridges – The Indo-Caribbean Diaspora

… a panel discussion about the culture of the Indian communities in Guyana, Trinidad, Suriname, New York City, and beyond. With photography, Caribbean food…

  • Rohit Jagessar, owner RBC Radio, historian, film director, “Guyana 1838″…
  • Ramin Ganeshram, journalists & author of “Sweet Hands: Island Cooking From Trinidad and Tobago”
  • Preston Merchant, documentary photographer
  • Annetta Seecharran, executive director, South Asian Youth Action! (SAYA!)
  • Karna Singh, director, Heritage & Preservation Program, Rajkumari Cultural Center
  • Darrel Sukdeo, freelance journalist (moderator)

Also check out this gallery of 45s sung by Indo-Guyanese musicians.

Related posts: Kitchrie cultural fest in Queens, Sampling chutney, Caribbean desis aren’t feelin’ the love, NYT reviews Naipaul’s ‘Magic Seeds’, Desis in Trinidad

Tuesday, October 25, 2005, 6:30-8:00 pm, Arts India Gallery, 206 Fifth Avenue, 5th floor, New York, NY (between 25th & 26th Streets; R or W trains to 23rd St.); free, no RSVP

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