A Little Xenophobic Nastiness from Sen. Conrad Burns

Conrad Burns, Republican Senator from Montana, recently said the following:

Republican Sen. Conrad Burns, whose recent comments have stirred controversy, says the United States is up against a faceless enemy of terrorists who “drive taxi cabs in the daytime and kill at night.”(link)

Looks like a garden variety anti-immigrant slur — they seem to be coming hot and heavy this year (the theme this campaign season seems to be brown-baiting: Latinos and Middle Easterners/South Asians). I suppose it would be possible to say, “well, he’s just talking about terrorism, he never said ‘immigrants’ or ‘South Asian immigrants.'” First, as far as I know no taxi driver is currently being accused of a connection to terrorism, so he’s not literally talking about taxi drivers, but the types of jobs working class immigrants usually start off with when they reach the U.S. Second, this is in fact a slur because it attempts to demonize those same immigrants by lumping them (us) in with genuine threats to American democracy. According to Conrad Burns’ thinking, immigration is terrorism. Wonkette says it with admirable succinctness: “Racist and Insane!”

By the way, it’s not the only WTF caliber comment Senator Burns has made recently:

He has drawn criticism in recent weeks for calling his house painter a “nice little Guatemalan man” during a June speech. Burns, whose re-election campaign is pressing for tighter immigration controls, also suggested that the man might be an illegal immigrant. The campaign later said the worker is legal.(link)

Hm, I think I might go give my $25 to Jon Tester for Senate. Apparently it’s a close race; I vote we Macacatinate** him.

**Macacatinate: (v.) to inflict a mutinous, internet-based critique than can cause poll numbers to shift once the mainstream media grabs hold of it. Continue reading

Los Angeles End-Of-Summer-Blowout Meetup

Seems like everyone else got one. DC got one a couple of weeks ago. Even the Bay Area is getting one this weekend. Except for us. What about us? It’s been months since our last one. It was all I needed to make my summer vacation the best summer vacation ever.

Well as Sepia Mutiny Temporary Super Star, I’m here to change things around.

You KNOW you just want to go to a meetup with us. Come on, all the cool mutineers are doing it…

It’s time for the Sepia Mutiny Los Angeles End-Of-Summer-Blowout MEET UP!


I can hardly wait. Unlike L.A.’s last meetup, we are going to shift things around. It will be evening-ish (7:00 pm). And it will be at a Bar. Being the electoral advocate that I am, I will let the Los Angeles Bloggers/Commenters/Lurkers have a couple of votes:

1.) Friday, September 15th or Saturday, September 16th?

2.) Someplace downtown (Golden Gopher) or on the westside (Palomino Euro Bistro)?

Please RSVP and vote in the comment section what day would be best for you, and which “side” you prefer. My personal vote is for Friday night at Golden Gopher. But I’m willing to compromise, especially if it means that one of the following folks can come: Abhi, Shruti, Janani, VMN Rao, Ami, Rajan, Ani, Payal, Anjali, Vivek, Mad Guru, Arun, Rohit, Rahul, and Lata. And of course, I’m sure there are plenty more Los Angeles readers that I’ve left off who are of course, strongly urged to make an appearance.

There will be a prize for the mutineer With the Longest Drive to come to the meetup- is anyone coming from The OC or The Valley? Prizes will be also be distributed for Best Dressed and Funniest Macaca Joke- it’ll be like our own mutinous awards ceremony- tis the season afterall. I’ll tantalize you even further because, just like the at the Emmys, no one will turn away from our event without an infamous goody bag. We’re going to have to tax you on that though. Come on now, how can you pass up on coming to a meetup like that?

Yup, that’s what I thought. We’ll be seeing YOU at the Los Angeles End-Of-Summer-Blowout Meetup!

Continue reading

That invisible stuff and…The End

According to an account of the Hindu mythology, Hiranyagarbha, meaning the golden womb, is the source of the creation of the universe. It is one of the Vedic myths which explain the origin and the creation of the cosmos and the universe. The legend states that the Hiranyagarbha floated around in water in the emptiness and the darkness of the non-existence for about a year, and then broke into two halves which formed the Swarga and the Prithvi, and most likely other parts of the universe. It is believed that Brahma was born from the Hiranyagarbha. [Link]

It has been way too long since we have had a nerdy science post to get everyone’s juices flowing. An article this past week in Science Magazine gives us hope that cosmologists are getting closer to understanding where it all came from and where it all might be headed. The Chandra X-Ray Observatory, named for Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, captured images of a smoking gun. Via Science (subscription required):

This composite image shows the galaxy cluster 1E 0657-56, also known as the “bullet cluster.” This cluster was formed after the collision of two large clusters of galaxies, the most energetic event known in the universe since the Big Bang.

A fantastically energetic collision between clusters of galaxies has demolished a challenge to the law of gravity, providing the clearest evidence yet for the existence of intergalactic dark matter.

For decades, astronomers have inferred that unseen matter lurks within and between galaxies. Luminous stars alone, they realized, don’t exert enough gravitational force to explain how individual galaxies spin and clusters of galaxies clump together. Something invisible must be pulling, too.

Some of the extra matter in galactic clusters is just hot gas. But even more mass seems to exist in the form of “nonbaryonic” dark matter, made of something other than ordinary atoms.

A few holdouts have insisted that the observations could be explained by modifying the law of gravity at great distances. But a new result from the Chandra X-ray Observatory satellite offers clear-cut evidence that dark matter really does infuse galactic clusters. “It demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that dark matter exists,” says Sean Carroll, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, Illinois, not involved in the study. [Link]

I love that there is an invisible physical force (that should be therefore measurable) out there that is stronger than gravity and yet remains invisible to detection by us except by inference. Its just a good mystery (which we all need once in a while). Continue reading

Indra Lal Roy, WWI Fighting Ace

indra lal roy.jpgA bit of military history trivia for the history buffs…

This afternoon I got an email from someone doing research on a World War I fighter pilot named Indra Lal Roy.

Unsurprisingly, I knew nothing about the subject, but through a little digging I did come across a couple of pages in a book called Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History by Rozina Visram that has a couple of pages on Indra Lal Roy. It turns out the interesting thing isn’t that he fought in the war — in fact, there were thousands of Indians on the western front — but that he managed to get into the elite Royal Flying Corps (RFC). He was one of only four, and (at least on the internet) he is the only thing about which anything is concretely known: Continue reading

IMPORTANT: SF Meetup…rescheduled?

A few weeks ago, I put up a monster meetup post outlining social possibilities for my three cities: NY, DC and SF. New York’s Summerstage meetup (soundtrack provided by Talvin Singh…sort of) was epic, DC’s was private and fabulous and San Francisco…um…gosh, this is awkward. It’s not you, it’s me. 😉 Two out of three ain’t bad…

Here’s the story, morning glories: originally, I was supposed to be in Baghdad-by-the-bay for the entire beginning of September, from the first through the tenth. We planned a meetup on the 9th and it was good. Unfortunately, we may have to rethink that thought. I landed in heaven Northern California at 11pm yesterday and I’m leaving on Tuesday. Which means that on the 9th, I’ll be in DC, probably at work. We have two options:

1) Meet tomorrow evening (spontaneous! edgy! unpredictable! fun!), since I will be in the city all day.

2) Meet sometime this weekend, i.e. Saturday or Sunday. I had assumed that all of you international bright young things would be out of town because of the holiday, but I’ve heard from a few of you (coincidentally, all my favorite peeps) that I am quite wrong, that you WILL in fact be right here in the bay. Goody!

What do you want to do? Pipe up or forever hold your mattar.

Oh, and because I feel terrible about this calendar cluster #>@%, I’m letting you see a picture which was taken a few days before the LAST SF meetup I hosted; it was never supposed to go public, since it shows two mutineers wackily impersonating an uncle and an auntie…well, that and it’s someone’s proof. Peek the illicit photo after the jump. 😉 Continue reading

A Dosa and a Dream

I can’t begin a food post without sharing an experience from a few nights ago. A group of us had dinner at Indus Valley, a reasonably well-regarded desi restaurant at 100th and Broadway in New York. At some point the composer Philip Glass walked in, and one of our group, a big fan, went into a state of beatific darshan that threatened to destabilize our meal. It got worse when Glass and his companion sat at the table next to ours. My fellow diner was finally able to compose himself, give Glass props, and return to getting our eat on.

Suddenly another of my companions let out a piercing yell and pushed back from the table with great speed. Yes, there was a big old cockroach crawling up the tablecloth — not the short dark ones you often see in NYC kitchens, but a tropical-quality beast, two or three inches long (though not the flying kind). A minor tamasha ensued, during which Philip Glass turned to me and said, with an air of wisdom, “Don’t worry, they have very small appetites.”

Cockroaches happen; celebrity sightings happen too. But what was truly shocking was that the macacas brothers running the restaurant did not comp us even a round of drinks or dessert, let alone a meal, in recognition of the disgusting insect experience. I guess it shouldn’t have surprised us, seeing that they were already trying to seat a couple at a nearby two-top while the cockroach hunt was still on, but come on, what the hell kind of restaurant management is that? So, folks, if you go to Indus Valley at 100th and Broadway, watch out for big-ass cockroaches and don’t expect a discount.

Which brings me to the subject at hand. Perhaps in response to a desi dining landscape that, except in a few fortunate neighborhoods and towns, consists of the same old slop doled out from the same buffets, plus a few “nice” places that look fancy but aren’t necessarily up to snuff in the hygiene department, the idea of desi fast food — cheap, standardized and franchised — becomes a more and more compelling alternative.

Continue reading

Reva Nation


I thought I had eyeballed the future when the first Smart car crossed my eyes, speeding down Sheikh Zayed road a few years ago. In a city like Dubai where petrol is cheaper than pop yet parking mostly comes in either the illegal or the parallel form a Smart car looked like it just might live up to its moniker. I was naive. It is today that I am really peering into that which is in store and yes it is also a small car. I like small cars but I like electric cars better.

Via Popgadget, a Bangalore-based company has been making the coolest little electric car known as the Reva since 2001. According to the site the Reva goes 85 KM on one charge through a 15 Amp socket. It boasts dent-proof ABS body panels, a dual-breaking system, climate control seats, and over 2000 colours to choose from while “elevated seats and a wide door provide excellent ingress/egress especially for ladies in saree and senior citizens”. Much better than having to sit sideways on a scooty.


Last year the Reva Electric Car Company produced a super prototype of the next generation, an electric roadster called the Reva NXG. This bad boy comes equipped with a modem, GPS navigation, MP3 player, and a 125 mile range per charge. Plus it just looks cool.

The Reva has sold 900 units in India and is also on the roads in Malta and the U.K. The base price in India is Rs. 250, 000. Having never so much as looked at a car’s price tag there I don’t know how expensive this is in comparison to other cars on the road. Please feel free to enlighten. Have any Mutineers spotted or driven these vroom-vrooms in their town? Continue reading

Has It Been A Year Already?

It was a second line and a jazz funeral to mourn the Katrina-dead and celebrate the rebirth of this city. For two hours this afternoon, colleagues and I braved the hot sun and humidity to see … our well-dressed salesman of a mayor, Ray Nagin, his wife and Lt. Gen. Russell Honoré wave at us while a brass band and dancers slid past us on Poydras St.??! “Forget this, next they’ll start throwing beads,” I said while contemplating returning to work. That’s when the fire trucks inched towards us, and the Fire Marshall and his men and women somberly walked behind them, no waving, no music, no fanfare. Hot tears filled my eyes as I put away my camera and thanked them from the bottom of my heart and lungs. The EMS and NOFD were the most hardworking people during the flood, have worked tirelessly since then in a rebounding city threatened by drought and arson, and only recently got a paltry 10% raise.

The Louisiana Military and National Guard vehicles poured forth and the crowd erupted in applause. We are a thankful city, y’all, even with full awareness that such a presence here on the 29th of last year, and not five days later, would have saved many of the thousand dead.

My Katrina evacuation photos weren’t released until yesterday, the first time I was able to relive the gut-wrenching anxiety. Sifting through my pictures, I wondered how many came back that evacuated with us. Was it the last time a number of them saw New Orleans? What a way to close a life chapter. On the other hand, it isn’t simple even for those who remained and returned, especially for the middle-class and business owners whose livelihoods were either damaged by wind and flood or, a year later, may fail due to increasing insurance costs and a dwindling consumer base. With less than half of pre-Katrina New Orleans residents back home, over 70,000 of them living in 240-square foot FEMA trailers, and the rising cost of living, penny-pinching is the norm.

In the high and dry French Quarter, the tourist section is littered with t-shirt and novelty shops owned by families of South Asian descent. When friends show up in town for the first time and want to buy the obligatory Bourbon St. and Mardi Gras t-shirts, I walk them to Decatur St. and to a large store owned by a lovely Sindhi couple and their Oxbridge-educated daughter. On a recent visit, the lack of business was so appalling that I insisted on paying full price, ignoring the loud objections of Aunty and Uncle to the contrary. “Arre, bacchi, how can we take this much from you? It’s not right.” [A note to non-desis: haggling is in our blood and must be conducted, usually at the behest of the store-owner] It is now my personal responsibility to pay full price to Paul (Prakash), Jim (Jahangir), Simon, Kendra, Don and every single small business owner whose store I frequent in New Orleans. “Buy New Orleanian” is the new motto around these parts. But, how long will our activism alone keep these endeavours afloat?

Our ill Hindu points me to an article in today’s Beeb that addresses just this dilemma: South Asians Recall Katrina Disaster Continue reading

Police Brutality? Deport That Man!

Earlier this month SAALT sent around this statement in response to the following event that took place in Edison, New Jersey:

Community members in Edison gathered on August 2nd, 2006, at a rally to protest incidents of police brutality that an Indian man, Raj Parikh, allegedly experienced on July 4th, 2006, by an Edison police officer. The rally on August 2nd occurred after several unsuccessful attempts by community members to address their concerns with government officials. At the rally, a group of approximately 60 South Asians were met by counter protesters who made anti-immigrant and racist slurs, such as, “How many of you are illegals? You must’ve slid under the border to come here”; “You’re all cockroaches! Go home!”; and “If you behave like animals you will be treated like animals”. Mr. Parikh was scheduled to speak at the rally but was unable to do so, because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials appeared and arrested him. Apparently, Mr. Parikh was out of status and had an order of deportation against him.

The statement that was sent out included the following recommendations; a) to ensure Mayor Choi’s office leads an investigation that is detailed and public, b) a declaration from the mayor’s office and Edison Police Department. to clarify official policies between local law enforcement and immigration authorities, c) to have elected officials and civic leaders commit to community forums to address the racial tension, and d) to require the Edison Police Department employees to receive a diversity training and meet with the South Asian community members. High but simple basic demands needed to be taken in a community with such a large percentage of South Asians (5th on the list of cities with the highest South Asian American population.)

This past Friday, Mayor Choi attempted to address the community, but was met with much disdain:

Holding a microphone, Edison Mayor Jun Choi stood alone Friday night facing Hilltop Apartments, a complex almost entirely populated by Indian-Americans.

The mayor’s critics and political observers say Choi, 34, has mishandled the racial controversy over the Indian’s arrest. Barely eight months into office, Choi faces opponents on both sides of the dispute. For Choi, who never held elected office before becoming mayor, it has been a test of how well he can maintain the balance between his Asian-American constituency and the rest of the township, which has become increasingly diverse. [link]

It’s not just the members of the South Asian community who are disapointed here: Continue reading

Are there like any desis up there?

For the past week I have been absent from this website while on an anthropological excursion for SM (like anyone but my monkey assistants even noticed). Sometimes a blogger just needs to get out of their bunker and talk to the real people. The question I was seeking an answer to was a profound one. Do those states…you know, the ones up there near the Canadian border…do they even have any desis that live there? For my excursion I needed a field assistant. My brother (we will call him P to protect his real identity) has lived in Idaho for the past two years and served as a good travel companion.

From L.A. I flew to Portland, Oregon where I had a layover. While walking from one gate to the other I had my first desi sighting. It was a Sikh man with a long flowing beard and an unusually large turban who I spotted in the TSA security line. Upon closer inspection however, two things became clear. First, the man was white and not desi. Second, he was a TSA screener and not a passenger.

Four hours later (damn airline delays) I landed in Spokane, WA where I collected my possessions at baggage claim. I began to re-arrange some of my gear when a woman walked up to me holding a sign.

Woman: Excuse me but are you Mustafa?

Abhi: Heh. No, sorry.

Woman: I’m sorry but you are the only one that looked like he was…lost.

“Lost” of course was a very clever euphemism for “brown.” I didn’t mind though. The name “Mustafa” reminded me of a powerful figure with a glorious mane. For just a minute I forgot about my military short haircut and hummed a little Hakuna Matata as I waited on the curb for my brother to drive up.

Continue reading