Guest Blogger: Maitri from New Orleans

On Tuesday it will be one year since Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Spike Lee’s HBO documentary “When the Levees Broke” and Tulane historian Douglas Brinkley’s book, The Great Deluge have recently appeared. Both are extraordinary, and if you vote or pay taxes in the United States, you owe it to yourself to watch and read what collectively we allowed to happen.

If you are stirred to learn more, one of your next ports of call should be the website of Maitri Venkat-Ramani, New Orleans resident and citizen journalist extraordinaire. If you have a lot of work today, you may want to delay checking out her site as you are likely to spend hours rummaging the archives and following links to the testimonials, fact compilations, photo sets, commentaries and other resources that she and her fellow New Orleans citizen-journalists have developed for the past 359 days.

A few days ago, in a reflective mood, the sister wrote this:

A displaced resident of New Orleans and a loud civic voice, I had no stomach for superficial news and what Christiane Amanpour describes well as “happy-camper war-and-disaster-zone travelogue.” I was confused and frustrated from not knowing what was going on with the city, so I pacified myself by stepping in as a reporter and turning VatulBlog into a bullhorn in the NOLA PA system network. This was my catharsis and each time I received an encouraging comment, letter or phone call from an anonymous émigré, it reminded me that I was not alone, others were suffering a lot more and I had to keep writing.

My blog was a single candle. Soon, I found other candles like WetBankGuide, GulfSails and Gentilly Girl and the shining beacon that is Think New Orleans, which shares a lot of my own standards on knowledge work, information, content, archival and sharing. The fire caught from there. Writing about New Orleans over and above their jobs, not as their jobs – the woes, the recovery, the administrative blunders from the federal government on down and our own exploration of identity and the nature of self in a city hit by an unnatural disaster – all of the NOLA blogs linked to from my site share that conscience and that personal touch. A greater free, searchable, linked repository of news, data, research and a somewhat coherent set of thoughts on the re-discovery of ourselves.

She went on to offer this very sweet shout-out:

It was also through this blog that I found Sepia Mutiny, the vibrant and thoughtful salve to that within me which is Indian, Kuwaiti, American and everything in between.

Maitri, the honor is ours, and we are thrilled that you will be sharing for the next month, at this of all times, your perspectives with Sepia Mutiny readers.

Ladies and gentlemen, all the way from New Orleans, Louisiana, put your hands together and make some noise for one strong sister, Maitri Venkat-Ramani.

31 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Maitri from New Orleans

  1. Welcome aboard Maitri!

    To prevent any confusion, just a clarification for the rest of you. We ain’t just injuns here, honest or otherwise.

  2. Maitri – the artwork you have posted on your site is intriguing. Oh, and good to see you as a guest commenter.

  3. Ditto on comment #7. I look forward to reading your work. I spent the last two nights watching spike lee’s documentary, ’twas eye-opening.

  4. Many ladies have a feather boa of some sort. This sister had an actual boa constrictor for five years.

    Damn. That’s just about all we need to know.

    Welcome to the Mutiny, Maitri.

  5. Not a comment on her site as such, but I was intrigued by this part of your sentence; “A few days ago, in a reflective mood, the sister wrote this”.

    In what cultural context is the term ‘sister’ used here? [racial? national-background?). Is it simply a translation of the commonly used term 'behan' (Hindi) used to refer to any lady (of roughly the same-age as the speaker) as a term of respect or is it a version of the African-American term 'sister' used to refer to any person of similar racial roots? Or worse, is it the awful 'rakhi-behan' thingy that caused much mirth in college campuses in India. :-) [or does it refer to any lady who is "Indian, Kuwaiti, American and everything in between."]

    Another aside: Why is the password for comments ‘brown’?

    :-)

  6. In what cultural context is the term ‘sister’ used here? [racial? national-background?). Is it simply a translation of the commonly used term 'behan' (Hindi) used to refer to any lady (of roughly the same-age as the speaker) as a term of respect or is it a version of the African-American term 'sister' used to refer to any person of similar racial roots? Or worse, is it the awful 'rakhi-behan' thingy that caused much mirth in college campuses in India. :-) [or does it refer to any lady who is "Indian, Kuwaiti, American and everything in between."]

    yes.

  7. Oh yeah, and I love the fact that a couple months ago we had The Barmaid and now, Ms. Maitri…Tamilians represent!!! Add ANNA, Chai, and others to the mix and we have quite the potent combination of amazing ladies representing the Dirrty Dirrty South of India. Kudos y’all.

  8. Another aside: Why is the password for comments ‘brown’?

    What would you prefer? Macaca?

    Quizman quiz thyself.

  9. Maitri: Welcome to the land of the “Mutiny”. Your own website indicates that you are Tamil Brahmin Iyer, and your “Gotra” is “Vatul” – a Pravara of Bhrigu, I believe. Not that it matters but we are (including Abhi – obviously) are Saamvedi Modh Brahmin and our Gotra is “Vishwamitra”. As you have said let us not forget we all are Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Although some of the folks who visit and joins in the mutiny – you may wonder sometime – are still Cro-Magnon or Neanderthal, and will try and give you rael hard time. Good to know you are also “Geoscientist”. I might send some work your way helping me to perform probabilistic site-specific seismic hazard analysis for anywhere in the lower 48 states. Come aboard !!

  10. Is it just me or is Yo Dad trying to ‘arrange’ something between Maitri and Abhi? ;)

  11. Hiya Maitri aunty…sincere welcome and jappis and stuff.Hope u will also pass on any desi-nawlins recipes u mighta concocted or come across, not just a phenomenal window into the soul of NOLA. Man we know what’s up for the most part down there and in iraq, and not much has been done right even w/ billions spents over the years. WTF!? Really makes one feel hopeless and helpless.sorry cant express hideous feeling inside more cogently. anyhooo, Mycaca can kick their kaka’s non-honor-student ass !! –

  12. Dear all,

    Thanks for the warm welcome. The monkeys in the bunker like me, they really, really like me.

    “Scientific data visualization specialist” is just another way of saying that I am paid to play with programs that render my geo-data in 2D, 3D and 4D, and that I enjoy a first-person gaming experience when immersed in my data. This has all kinds of applications in statisti-craft.

    Abhi’s Dad – Vatul is indeed a Pravara of Bhrigu (a Vaishnava rishi). I may have to send you to someone else for seismic hazard analysis as my work is in the interpretation and processing of seismic data for oil/gas prospecting.

    And, Jai, I’ve watched SM commentary long enough to know all about the derailment. Thanks for the heads-up, though.

  13. Mr Kobayashi:”What would you prefer? Macaca?”

    Ah, so the password refers to skin color? I thought this website was not about that at all. What does skin color have anything to do with commonality of interests?

  14. Sepia Mutiny, you rock my socks…this blog is so cool. Taz, and Maitri in one week! My inner politico is jumping for joy!

  15. .and I apologize for bringing this topic into this thread. Maybe, another thread (on SM itself) is more appropriate for it.

    Welcome Maithri. Looking forward to reading your posts.

  16. Maitri is a wonderful gem of a person, and we are so glad she is here with us in New Orleans. This world needs more folks like her.

    Namaste!

  17. Beige Siege: No, I am not trying to arrange anything with anybody. As we speak, Abhi is somewhere in Teton or Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, camping and hiking with his younger brother, far from civilization where I cannot even reach him by cell phone. Most of the the so-called ABD do not buy the concept of “arranged” anything, especially Abhi. So relax, and let us all please act like Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Maitri: Duly noted. Oil and Gas is no good for me. If you ever get into “Nuclear” give me a call. Once again Welcome!

  18. Quizman,

    Why is the password for comments ‘brown’?

    Because it’s easier to spell than “wheatish” :)