One Ocean View, Two Desi Sisters

I’ll freely admit it. I enjoy reality TV. The obsession began during summer vacation in 1992 when I would sneak peaks at the first installment of MTVÂ’s The Real World. My mom hated the show (she despised MTV), but I thought the concept of getting to watch Julie, Eric, Kevin, Norm, Becky, Andre, and Heather B, regular people live their daily lives was amazing. To my 13-year old eyes, reality tv was an easily accessible documentary.

Well, the genre has come a long way since then, and has even taken a couple of steps back, but tonight ABC premieres what I like to call network television’s homage to the Real World for people who actually grew up watching The Real World, “One Ocean View.” The show, produced by Real World Producer Jonathan Murray and Joey Carson,

“revolves around a summer share beach house where eleven, attractive, single, career-driven New Yorkers flee Manhattan each Friday to escape the soaring city temperatures for a different kind of heat. One Ocean View is a show about people old enough to have real jobs, issues and baggage, but still young enough to leave all that behind and have a great time. Fun, flings and nights filled with romance heat up as the days grow shorter and the pressure builds to make this a summer to remember”(link.)

More importantly, this show marks the reality tv debut of a couple of semi-professional soccer playing, organic-pizza eating, twin sisters, Radha (l) and Miki (r) Agrawal. From some googling (thanks tvgasm) and their bios, which conveniently read almost the same, we learn that the two were quite popular at Cornell, where they both played soccer and were in the stage version of Cyrano De Bergerac, and quit investment banking to open up an organic pizza parlor in New YorkÂ’s upper east side. Apparently, the pizza parlor, which has been featured on the food network, grew out of MikiÂ’s lactose intolerance. I canÂ’t say the show is going to be good, in fact everything I have read and seen about it indicates quite the opposite, but hey, it canÂ’t be worse than divya and priyaÂ’s sweet sixteen/graduation party. One Ocean View premieres tonight on ABC at 10 pm (EDT). Continue reading

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More Tragedy For The “Elephant” Men

On March 16th of this year, Abhi wrote about a first-in-man trial in the UK which went horribly awry for six volunteers who experienced heart, kidney and liver failure after they were given an experimental drug made by German firm TeGenero, called TGN 1412:

It is an anti-inflammatory agent makers hoped would become a lucrative treatment for rheumatism, leukaemia and multiple sclerosis.[link]

When we first posted about this nightmarish story, Doctors said they were “in the dark” and that they did not know exactly how these human guinea pigs would be affected. Unfortunately, now it seems we have an answer—and it is tragic:

Victims of the disastrous “Elephant Man” drugs trial have been told they face contracting cancer and other fatal diseases as a result of being poisoned in the bungled tests. [link]
Nav Modi, 24, whose bloated face and swollen chest led to the nickname “Elephant Man”, said he did not know how long he would live.[link]
“It’s a really bizarre feeling when you discover you might be dead in a couple of years or even in a couple of months,” he said. “I feel like I’ve given away my life for £2,000.”[link]

It seems that not only were the volunteers (quite predictably) assured before participating in the trial that they would not suffer any life-threatening illnesses, they were told that after it was obvious that the test results were disastrous, too.

Four months later he still suffers from occasional lapses of memory, severe headaches, back pain and diarrhoea. (Modi) and the others had been led to believe that while their symptoms might persist for a while, their long-term future was not at risk.[link

Wrong. So very wrong.

One of the six victims was told last week he is already showing “definite early signs” of lymphatic cancer.
He and three others have also been warned that they are “highly likely” to develop incurable auto-immune diseases.[link]

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India’s Mis-take embarrasses the U.S.

The Washington Post today detailed the tragic history of Plan B (a.k.a. the morning after pill). It is crystal clear that right wing idealogy has been winning out over science for far too long. From Wikipedia:

Emergency contraception (EC) (also known as Emergency Birth Control (EBC), the morning-after pill, or postcoital contraception) refers to measures, that if taken after sex, may prevent a pregnancy.

Forms of EC include:

* Emergency contraceptive pill –referred to simply as “emergency contraception,” “ECPs,” or “ECs”, or “morning-after pill” –are hormones that act both to prevent ovulation or fertilisation, or perhaps the subsequent implantation of a fertilised egg (zygote). ECPs are not to be confused with chemical abortion methods that act after implantation has occurred.
* Intrauterine devices (IUDs) – usually used as a primary contraception method, but sometimes used as emergency contraception.

As opposed to regular methods of contraception, ECs are considered for use in occasional cases only, for example in the event of contraceptive failure. Since they act before implantation, they are considered medically and legally to be forms of contraception. However, some who are anti-abortion define pregnancy as beginning with fertilisation, so they consider EC to be a form of abortion. These claims remain controversial; see Controversy section for more detail. [Link]

The key thing to understand here is that idealogically driven elements in this country, working with the Bush Administration, have tried to equate the use of the morning after pill with abortion. When the public is misled in this way many feel they too should work against allowing over-the-counter sales of such a pill. This analogy is simply untrue. The morning after pill is a form of contraception. It works to prevent conception in the first place in cases ranging from rape and insest to when a condom breaks. It was back in 2004 that an independent FDA review board made up of scientists and health professionals recommended that the pill be sold over-the-counter:

”By overruling a recommendation by an independent F.D.A. review board, the White House is putting its own political interests ahead of sound medical policies that have broad support,” said Phil Singer, a spokesman for Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign. ”This White House is more interested in appealing to its electoral base than it is in protecting women’s health.”… [Link]

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Bay Aryan Invasion

I’m currently California dreaming, so I didn’t have time to write an anniversary post for Sunday (I always forget anniversaries, so this is true to life).

However, that doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten you, dear readers. No, quite the contrary. Even though it has been two whole years we’ve been together, everything I see still reminds me of you. For example, on Saturday I was on my way to Adolph Gasser’s in San Francisco when I encountered my very first Patelco credit union.

How could I help but stop and take a snap? When I saw it I could think of nothing more than how much I wanted to share it with you, to know what you thought of it, to bask in the way you smile at me when we encounter something new.

The next day, I was out for a stroll in downtown Palo Alto and saw a BMW 325ci with the vanity plates you had always threatened to get for my Subaru. It was as if you were right there with me, laughing at our little secret joke, teasing me. I almost started to lean down to say something when I realized that you weren’t there. But rest assured that not a moment has passed when I didn’t think of you and how very lucky I am. I don’t deserve you all, I really don’t.

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Heritage Camps for adopted Indian children

Just over a week ago SM commenter DesiDancer returned from a trip to Colorado and emailed me the following about a wonderful experience she had there:

I was invited to come teach dance classes at the East Indian Heritage Camp, last weekend. The organization, Colorado Heritage Camps, Inc. offers a series of ethnic camps (Latin American, Chinese, Korean, Desi, etc) every summer, for adopted children and their parents. They draw on members of the ethnic community to volunteer and help engage the families in culturally-minded activities during a 4-day camp, up in the mountains. In addition to fun stuff, there are also panel discussion with several different age groups, dealing with cultural identity, issues that may affect adoptees and their parents, and several child psychologists contribute to the curriculum. In addition to the dance classes I taught, I sat on a panel for jr. high aged kids, discussing reclamation of culture, biculturalism, and other issues…

Over the course of 4 days, several of the activities included Ayurvedic medicine, traditional dance, Bollywood dance, Rangoli drawing, traditional vegetable painting/block printing, games like Cricket and Gilli-Danda, yoga, cooking classes, music lessons, and lectures on Indian holidays, Indian weddings, travel to India, Indian history–with a weird specialty class in Freedom Fighters, and a book group. We ate desi food, and every night was a party with desi music. The closing night of camp, all the little kids (and big kids) performed dances from their classes, and the parents in my adult class performed a dance for the families, too. I’d spoken to one of the Directors of the camp about getting a DVD of “Calcutta Calling” to screen at the camp, one evening, but I think she is going to arrange it for next year instead. Though she said she watched the video stream at PBS…They loved the documentary.

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Are more blue helmets the answer?

Things are deteriorating pretty rapidly in Lebanon with the latest horrible incident of civilian casualties:

The UN secretary general has called on Security Council members to take urgent action after 54 Lebanese civilians were killed in an Israeli attack on Sunday.

Kofi Annan asked council members to put aside differences and call for an immediate ceasefire, opposed by the US.

More than 30 children died in the Qana attack – the deadliest Israeli raid since hostilities began on 12 July when two Israeli soldiers were seized.

Israel is suspending air strikes for 48 hours, according to a US official. [Link]

Whatever tactical advantage Israel is hoping to gain with these airstrikes, it is losing strategic and diplomatic points by the day. The best way forward being discussed seems to be to a plan to deploy U.N. soldiers who are well-armed and provided with rules of engagement that would allow them to fight Hizbollah in order to control Lebanon’s southern border. Israel has said they would be okay with this as long as the U.N. soldiers would actively enforce instead of simply monitor. It is well known and openly derided that the U.N. has a very poor track record when it comes to enforcement duties. Nobody seems to want to put their soldiers into this hornet’s nest although they all agree that it’s a good idea in theory. Where do the U.N.’s Blue Helmets typically come from? It may surprise some of you:

The UN Charter stipulates that to assist in maintaining peace and security around the world, all member states of the UN should make available to the Security Council necessary armed forces and facilities. Since 1948, close to 130 nations have contributed military and civilian police personnel to peace operations. While detailed records of all personnel who have served in peacekeeping missions since 1948 are not available, it is estimated that up to one million soldiers, police officers and civilians have served under the UN flag in the last 56 years. As of November 2005, 107 countries were contributing a total of more than 70,000 uniformed personnel–the highest number since 1995.

Despite the large number of contributors, the greatest burden continues to be borne by a core group of developing countries. The 10 main troop-contributing countries to UN peacekeeping operations as of February 2006 were Bangladesh (10,172), Pakistan (9,630), India (8,996), Jordan, Nepal, Ethiopia, Uruguay, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.

About 4.5% of the troops and civilian police deployed in UN peacekeeping missions come from the European Union and less than one per cent from the United States (USA). [Link]

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“Omkara,” “Othello,” and the Dirty Business of Politics (a film review)

We went over to the multiplex in Doylestown, PA yesterday to watch Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara on the big screen. It was nicely done — relatively crisp at two and a half hours (not bad for a faithful rendition of a Shakespeare tragedy), and unpretentiously shot in rural Uttar Pradesh. It was also well-acted by a group of talented actors — Ajay Devgan, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kareena Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Viveik Oberoi (formerly known as “Vivek”), Saif Ali Khan, and Naseeruddin Shah. The standout performance is probably Saif Ali Khan’s Langda Tyagi (Iago), though I also thought Konkona Sen Sharma was quite good as Indu (Emilia). omkara_1.jpg

Omkara bears some similarities to R.G. Varma’s Sarkar in that it takes the gruff realism of modern Indian gangster pictures and applies it to politics rather than the criminal world — the point being, of course, that there isn’t that much difference between the two. While Varma’s Sarkar was an allegory for the Shiv Sena’s Bal Thackeray, the “Bhaisahib” in Omkara is a rural political chief, perhaps a Chief Minister like Bihar’s Lalu Prasad Yadav (formerly known as “Laloo”). In his home environment, he commands near absolute authority and devotion from his followers, though the legal system at the Center (commanded by “Auntyji,” possibly a figure for Sonia Gandhi) is constantly nibbling away at his fiefdom. In Omkara, Bhaisahib is in and out of court, and he relies on his faithful “General,” Omkara, to handle his equally corrupt political rivals — sometimes by exposing them (via MMS video sex scandals, no less), and sometimes by simply shooting them down. Continue reading

Our Cotton Anniversary

A few days ago I quipped to my fellow bloggers that Sepia Mutiny has now lasted significantly longer than my longest relationship. I like to think it is because I only invest my time in fruitful causes . Therefore, I may as well romance you guys. First some mood music. I was just going to quote some lines from the most appropriate song but Siddhartha found the video for it on YouTube:

I’m actually going to keep this entry short because I am sure one or two of the other bloggers will also write a post about their perspective on our second anniversary (which is tomorrow). On the internet things live and die pretty fast. I wasn’t sure if we’d last this long and we still have a ways to go to get to where some of us want to see the mutiny heading. Especially with elections coming up all of us are trying to make sure we keep a good balance between having fun and serving a purpose with what we write here. We are also trying to keep a good balance between being awake and needing to sleep (and not getting fired from our jobs or flunked out of graduate school).

What I wanted to do is to just say thank you all for this relationship. Because of this blog I have met people that my life would have been poorer without. I say that as both a reader and as a blogger. Maybe some of you can say the same. I hope you guys stick with us for at least another year and maybe its time some of you lurkers de-lurk.

On behalf of the bloggers, the intern, and the monkeys in our basement, Happy Anniversary.

For those of you feeling nostalgic here is the archive from August 2004.

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Terrorism or High-Tech Consulting? Hmm, tough choice

I had one of those ‘whaaaaaat?’ moments reading the coverage of the latest arrests in the Mumbai 7/11 blasts investigation. Faisal and Muzamil Shaikh are brothers; Faisal is thought to have arranged for several others accused of conspiracy in the bombings to go to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) training camps across the border in Pakistan. It seems unclear exactly what Muzamil’s role was, though this paragraph in the Times article does contain a surprising detail:

Faisal Shaikh, the police said, appeared to have organized the passage of the others to Pakistan for military training. Muzamil Shaikh, on the other hand, while eager to follow his brother into a radical Islamist group, seems to have had second thoughts after being offered a position at Oracle. He had been employed on a contract basis, said a police officer who was part of the interrogations, pending the completion of company training. (link)

This is the first time I’ve heard of someone not in a movie choosing between life as a murderer, driven by a distorted kind of religious ideology, and life as a highly-paid employee in a blue-ribbon multinational corporation.

I’m also trying to parse Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz’s statements on Friday regarding the arrests so far:

Notwithstanding India’s assertions about the Lashker-e-Taiba’s (LeT) involvement in major terrorist strikes like the July 11 blasts in Mumbai, Pakistan has said it has no “prejudicial” evidence against the group.

Pointing out that the LeT was banned in his country, Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said, “We donÂ’t see any evidence of their activity thatÂ’s prejudicial.” (link)

What does he mean exactly by “prejudicial evidence”? Since the suspects have confessed to training in Pakistani territory, you would think that would be “dispositive” — at least on the question of whether Pakistan is doing enough to clamp down on the LeT. Perhaps he’s specifically referring to the 7/11 blasts? Even if so, this is a frustrating response: a more responsible thing to do would be to send troops to Muzaffarabad and surrounding areas, and destroy any camps that are still operating. A more responsible thing to say would be, “sorry.” Continue reading

55Friday: The “Black Metallic” edition

Yesterday, I wrote the first of two posts about the anomalous attention paid to (in that case) two brown actresses by the popular “Go Fug Yourself” blog. Fluffy as that post might have seemed, the discussion it prompted was by no means insignificant. My delayed epiphany about Mindy and Parminder was inpsired by their skin, specifically, how it didn’t conform to what much of the diaspora considers beautiful. It was the color of their skin and I know fellow older alt-music fans, it wasn’t black metallic.

This Friday, my thoughts move aimlessly, passing so many things: beauty, skin, pigmentation, fireworks, torture, St. Catherine of Alexandria. Perhaps your mind is similarly adrift– if so, write. Write about any and all of the above, or none of it if it doesn’t move you. The important thing is that you write a very short story, a tale so brief, it is composed of exactly 55 words. Ah, this Friday wanes, my energy with it…think of me when I’m sleeping. Of all the secrets that I’m keeping, some of which, I promise, will surface below…but only after you spill yours, my dears. Continue reading