Today’s NYC Meet-Up – LAST MINUTE

Apparently, contrary to their assurances Leela Lounge is shut today after all. Thanks to Anna’s effort and Pooja’s counsel, we are moving to: La Lanterna café, 129 MacDougal St., corner of West 3rd.

This is just a couple blocks from our original location, where hopefully one of us will have the presence of mind to leave a note… :)

Note: La Lanterna has a garden so if you don’t see folks inside, make sure to check back there. See y’all at 5:00 pm (plus inflation)!

Peace and hair grease! Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

Fussballweltmeisterschaft-Alert: Abdul Ghafoor Reminisces

abdulghafoor.jpgAs promised, during this World Cup season I’ll be serving up some desified football-related posts for that arse. Today, my bhai Davy hips me to this fascinating AFP story on “Pakistan’s Black Pelé,” Abdul Ghafoor. Apparently, he was the leading light of Pakistani football in the 1960s, a midfielder on what was a reasonably strong national team:

The midfielder was part of Pakistan’s setup when it was a credible footballing nation, grinding its way into Asia’s top 10 with players in demand from league clubs in India.

Ghafoor played in Dhaka in the 1960s and later represented Mohammedan Sporting in the Calcutta league in India.

It was in Dhaka, which became the capital of Bangladesh in 1971, where he met his wife Sabiha, who also has a penchant for football.

“My husband has been a football hero in Pakistan. There was a time when we couldn’t go out because hundreds of people would gather outside and want to see their Pelé,” said Sabiha …

In a strange new-world-order twist, Ghafoor’s son Ghani is in prison in Pakistan on terrorism charges that his father vehemently denies:

Ghani, who played football for domestic teams, was arrested in early 2004 from his home in Karachi in a crackdown against extremists and remains under lock and key.

The employee of a state-owned bank was accused of planning terrorist acts and is awaiting trial at a Karachi prison.

“My son’s only fault was that he grew a beard and he played football,” claimed Ghafoor.

With Pakistani and for that matter all subcontinental football mired in mediocrity, Abdul Ghafoor is left to reminisce about the old days and root for every Third Worlder’s default team, Brazil:

Ghafoor now stays away from football grounds but avidly stays in touch with the English Premiership and Brazilian soccer.

“Now I just watch Brazil and remember our good old days,” he said.

I tried to get some background on Abdul Ghafoor and his glory days, but found next to nothing. So here’s a call to historians, football fans, or any uncles or aunties who might have memories of Abdul Ghafoor, or more generally, sub-continental football in the 1960s. Continue reading

Fear of a Brown Magnate

Mittal-steel.jpgA big current international business story is the attempted takeover of Arcelor, a Luxembourg-based steel manufacturer, by London-based, desi-owned Mittal Steel, the voraciously successful family business of Lakshmi Mittal. Arcelor is itself the result of a merger of European steel firms, a logical consolidation in its day since steel is a sunset industry in Western Europe and many firms enjoyed protections of state ownership or subsidies that EU rules no longer permit. However, European politicians have retained a bit of a proprietary cultural interest, as it were, in firms like Arcelor, since even without state ownership they possess a sort of vestigial patriotic value as “national champions,” and they still employ a fair number of people, if far fewer than before, in depressed industrial areas.

Well, ever since Mittal made his first overtures to Arcelor shareholders (which Manish blogged here in January), followed by a formal takeover bid once he got permission from competitive authorities, Arcelor has done everything possible to wriggle away from its suitor. Fair enough – that’s what companies threatened by hostile takeovers do, especially when it becomes clear that their management don’t enter into the buyer’s plans for the future. But with investment analysts lining up in favor of the Mittal bid, there’s also been, of course, speculation that even though Mittal is a London-based, London-quoted firm, it may just be a little too brown for the comfort of the European industrial bourgeoisie.

All this could be dismissed as reading-ethnicity-into-everything, and to some extent probably is. (Though…) Still, itÂ’s remarkable to see that this week the board of Arcelor found themselves rushing into the arms of what is known in business lingo as an, ahem, white knight, in the form of a Russian firm of the new-oligarch variety. The merger deal with Severstal is framed as a purchase by ArcelorÂ… except that it is funded by an increase in ArcelorÂ’s capital via investment by Alexei Mordachov, SeverstalÂ’s 38-year-old chairman. By funding ArcelorÂ’s purchase of his firm, Mordachov takes a 32 percent interest in the merged firm, which would become the worldÂ’s largest steel producer, ahead of Mittal.

The London business writers are having a field day with this one. “The putrid stink of hypocrisy hangs in the air,” says The Observer‘s Richard Wachman, noting that Arcelor, having criticized Mittal for non-transparency in past business dealings, has found its savior in the land where opaqueness and favoritism are essential components of business success. And The IndependentÂ’s business columnist Jeremy Warner cold lays down the card:

Is it cos I’s brown? The Arcelor board appears so appaled at the prospect of takeover by the Indian-born steel magnate, Lakshmi Mittal, that it will do almost anything to avoid his clutches – right down to surrendering control to the Kremlin. Okay, so I’m exaggerating to make the point, but only a little.

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Tomorrow’s Meetup = Divine Play

UPDATE: I just got off the phone with Leela Lounge, the venue for tomorrow’s sophisticated, singular soiree– they do not open until 5pm, so that’s when we shall meet. The kitchen opens at 6, so there will be a full hour of getting faded before anyone fills their bellies with mushroom samosas to soak up all that intoxication; in other words, 5-6pm shall be a dangerous hour for the mutiny, as lycheetinis and Old Monk flow freely. Loose ships sink lips and all that. ;)

If you’re coming, leave your information in the comments, pacifically if you’ll be dragging along otras personas. The good news is, thanks to the long weekend, Leela is going to be very chill– they shooed me away from making reservations. So if you’re feeling like a “maybe”…go with that. There will be space at the table for you. Especially after one of us falls over and out of our chair, from laughing excessively loudly (Kenyandesi– that one’s for P).

Questions? Requests? Complaints which don’t contain any of the following words: Chicago, Midwest, pandits, auspicious, washcloths, plagiarism, Oregon, geography, bees? ;) Well, if I don’t hear from you, I’ll see you tomorrow, tiny creator of incriminating evidence in hand. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a few saris to tie and a wedding to flog!

WHAT: Sepia Mutiny Meetup #7
WHEN: May 28, 5pm
WHERE: Leela Lounge, 3rd between Mercer and Broadway

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The True Story of Ramo Samee, the Indian Juggler

I was browsing William Makepeace Thackeray’s wonderful and strange The Book of Snobs (1848), and I came across the following odd passage in the midst of a rant about a lady-friend’s poor table manners:

I have seen, I say, the Hereditary Princess of Potztausend-Donnerwetter (that serenely-beautiful woman) use her knife in lieu of a fork or spoon; I have seen her almost swallow it, by Jove! like Ramo Samee, the Indian juggler. And did I blench? Did my estimation for the Princess diminish? No, lovely Amalia!

But, my dear fellow, who precisely is “Ramo Samee, the Indian juggler”? It turns out he was a real person, who came to England around 1819, and lived there with his wife (identified only as “Mrs. Samee”) until his death in 1851. The juggling history website I looked at also speculates he may have gone to the U.S. and performed as “Sena Sama,” in 1817, though that’s only speculation. Ramo Samee is considered by some the first modern professional juggler in England, and he was far and away the most famous practitioner of the art in his era. He inspired royalty, journalists, and famous essayists like William Hazlitt. And yet, when Ramo Samee died he was so poor that his wife needed to advertise for financial assistance just to have him buried (cremation, I suspect, was probably not an option). Today he is, aside from the appreciation he gets on a handful of juggling history websites, completely forgotten.

Needless to say, I am pretty ambivalent about Ramo Samee (or “Ramaswamy,” probably the more accurate spelling), just as I am about Sabu, Dean Mahomed, and scores of other Indian artists and hustling “Gurus” who work “exotic” stereotypes for western applause. In the African-American tradition this type of performance is called minstrelsy, and it is seen as a shameful kind of pandering to other people’s stereotypes.

But Ramo Samee might be a slightly different case at least in the sense that the kind of sword-swallowing and juggling he did is in fact a real historical profession in India, which goes back hundreds of years. So while clearly part of Ramo Samee’s appeal was his exotic otherness, he was doing what he did best — what he had been raised to do. And observers like Hazlitt really did find him to be a performer of astonishing skill. So even if I can’t exactly celebrate Ramo Samee’s life as a triumph, he is nevertheless an interesting figure to learn about and consider. Continue reading

Meetup May 28th in Manhattan? YES.

Ennis and Anna.jpg This past weekend at the fantastic SAWCC conference, several mutineers had helpful suggestions about Sunday’s potential meetup. I relayed my concerns about not being rushed, being able to have audible conversations AND whether we’d be able to fill our bellies with something a little more appetizing than a T-bone Steak, cheese eggs and welch’s grape. Saucy Pooja assured me that whether at The Pink Pony or Leela Lounge, we’d be fine (ain’t that right, Boo? True?)

I’m leaning towards Leela Lounge, which is on 3rd between Broadway and Mercer because another saucy lady named Yesha raved about the atmosphere. The menu wasn’t bad, either…I’m always ready to eat chaat and if a place serves cocktails with Old Monk? You KNOW they keep it real. ;)

Erstwhile guest Cicatrix had a third suggestion which I helpfully can’t remember nor find in my GMail. I add the latter situation because apparently, I got an invite to this shpot when Bongbreaker was in town…so if Bongsie, Cica or the Vij have any idea what I’m going on about, put me out of my misery via comment, spanks.

So, beyond venue we need to decide on a time. Perhaps something in the afternoon would be ideal, since I will be highly hungover after a raucous wedding in Lawn Guy Land. Also, this way people can show without missing church. How’s THAT for contrast? ;)

What say all of you? Do you have a preference between pink equestrian joints, cool new lounges and places I can’t recall? Would 3pm sound better than 5? Will Pooja not show since it’s her birthday and thus, I shall be throwing her over my knee so we can each give her a solid birthday whack? ;) Tune in next time, for…hopefully more specific information. Continue reading

We aren’t all the same

Some of you may consider it good news that the top three finalists in the the Geography Bee, hosted by the great Alex Trebek himself, were Indian American. I do not. Some of you may also think fondly on the fact that the last four contestants in last year’s Spelling Bee were also Indian American. I do not.

“Well Abhi,” you say. “Aren’t you at least happy that the top Intel Science Award ($50,000) went to an Indian American?”

No.

I am afraid. I am afraid that most Americans aren’t able to tell us apart anymore. We aren’t all “the same.” I come from a vastly different culture and tradition than those people. I am nothing like them and I am tired of all the “so-called intellectuals” that are all “bhai-bhai” and want to give us all a common label. They don’t care about us so why should we be friendly to them? Ever since Indian-American kids started winning these types of competitions I get strange looks on the subway when I am reading a book. I can hear their whispers and their suspicions. “I know what he is up to,” they think. “All those people are the same. They just sit and study vocabulary lists and almanacs. They just come to ‘our country’ to win our competitions.” Nobody sits next to me sometimes, even during rush hour, all because they think we are all the same. I’m sick of it. I can’t even take pictures at tourist attractions anymore. Park security always comes up to me and asks me if I am forming a database of important geographic sites. Last time a guard mentioned to me that his son had “lost to one of you guys in a preliminary round.”

The solution is clear to me but will take some time to implement. Through forums like this we need to do a better job of educating the public. They need to know that some of us can’t spell and instead rely on readers or co-bloggers to point out spelling errors in their blog posts. They need to know that some of us don’t know which river the Port of Rotterdam lies on. Most importantly they need to know that they having nothing to fear from the vast majority of us.

I don’t know if you guys are like me but every time I read about another “incident” in the news I think, “Great. Now they will think that we are all capable of this kind of thing.” Here was the latest:

A woman teacher in Bhubaneswar has been arrested for inflicting three children with burn injuries on finding mistakes in their homework, police said on Sunday…

On Friday evening, Kabita allegedly lost her temper after she found mistakes in the home work of the kids. She punished them with a hot iron, a police official said. [Link]

Moderates in the community need to come forward and speak out against these types of heinous acts. We can no longer afford to remain quiet while a radical minority dictates our image. We should denounce this sort of thing immediately and work to educate the community by pointing out that a lot of us are only average in intelligence and will work to demand the same from our children.

I just wanted to get a dialog started on all of this before next week. In fact, usually I am a little afraid to even leave the house during this period which I often refer to as “hell week.”

Thank you all for your attention. I look forward to a productive dialog.

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Girls On Film

In March of this year, MTV Canada was relaunched after a failed attempt on digital cable a few years ago. Many rolled their eyes and chose to swear undying allegiance to their beloved Much Music, but I was rather looking forward to the Big Satan taking over Toronto’s Masonic Temple as headquarters. Heck yeah I want to know what those pretty kids on 8th and Ocean are up to. More earth-shattering relationship how to’s on Laguna Beach, s’il vous plait. Most importantly, I wanted to see if they would hire any desi VJs, which they did do in the form of one Aliya-Jasmine Sovani. She doesn’t get much air time while sharing the MTV Live stage with six other VJs and what I have seen has been aptly described as “a woman so perky she makes Kelly Ripa look like Sean Penn in mourning.” Sadly, I don’t gel too well with perk peddlers on TV.

Sovani used to produce for Much Music and switched over to MTV to work in front of the camera. This left me wondering why Much wasn’t adding any brown to the VJ payroll. After all, they hired my supremely cool childhood idol, Monika Deol, in the late 1980s. My mum was never as horrified at my solitary whinin’ to Shabba Ranks videos if Monika announced them. Oh Monika, you were everything and everything was you. A Canadian music channel is nothing without proper Canadian representation. Continue reading

Posted in TV

The Coming Care Drain: Nurses in the Immigration Bill

Everyone knows the ‘brain drain,’ I presume — the flight of educated professionals from the Indian subcontinent in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s to the west. A number of the immigrants were doctors, who were in desperately short supply at a time when the U.S. population was spiking. My own family was part of that event, which admittedly must have hurt the progress of health care in India itself (though I don’t know if this has ever been formally studied).

And while there now are, perhaps, too many doctors in the U.S., there aren’t enough nurses. According to one statistic in today’s New York Times, there were 118,000 nursing vacancies in U.S. hospitals last month, and the deficit could reach as high as 800,000 in the next decade. Now the U.S. Senate’s immigration bill contains a clause that will remove the immigration cap entirely for qualified nurses from India, the Philippines, and China.

The lack of qualified U.S. nurses is due mainly to the lack of places to train them; nursing schools turn away scores of applicants since there simply aren’t enough Professors of Nursing around. But despite the severe shortage, the American Nurses Association is opposed to the current measure, which it calls “outsourcing.”

The repercussions on the health care systems of the affected countries could be severe, even if there is some overall benefit to the local economy:

The flight of nurses from the Philippines, a former American colony, has provided a huge boost to a weak economy, through remittances. Some government agencies there have encouraged the export of nurses, who send home billions of dollars each year to their families.

A nurse in the Philippines would earn a starting salary of less than $2,000 a year compared with at least $36,000 a year in the United States, said Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, a medical professor at the University of the Philippines who led the country’s National Institutes of Health.

He said the flight of nurses had had a corrosive effect on health care. Most Filipinos died without medical attention in 2003, just as they had three decades earlier. (link)

For the Philippines, there’s already a care drain. The same may be in store for India if this bill passes and goes through the House, as seems likely.

Incidentally, there is already a recruiting company, called RNIndia, that specializes in bringing Indian nurses to U.S. hospitals. And Abhi talked about another side of this issue here. Continue reading