Bewitched, Bothered or Bewildered…

someone gonna get hurt real bad.jpg

…is Abhi? Not our Abhi of course, but the other Abhi, the one who vedded TMBWITW on Friday, as millions of far-less-fortunate people cursed his luck for snagging such a delicious piece of barfi [Thanks, Sushma :)] . Since you mutineers just loooove engaging in conjecture regarding what’s actually going on in random paintings in Indian restaurants, I thought you might also yenjoy deciding what on earth Big B’s little B was thinking at this moment.

While you do that, I’m going to try and give the outstanding, fifth DC SMeetup the sort of write-up it deserves. And after I do THAT I’m going to tell you why 80% of the people who read Perez Hilton deserve to be sterilized, lest they reproduce more racist idiots… Continue reading

Recycling While Brown

Given what happened last week in Virginia, the events described in this post might seem trivial, but I feel quite strongly that they are not. What’s at issue is a fundamental question of civil rights — the right to live one’s life without being harrassed, investigated, or needlessly spied on.

The Indian-American poet Kazim Ali teaches at Shippensburg University, which is a little west of Harrisburg, PA (and not too far from where I myself teach).

On his website, he recently described how his “suspicious” behavior led to his entire campus being shut down. The behavior in question? Recycling. He was doing nothing other than dropping off a stack of printouts of poems to be recycled when someone from the campus ROTC called the police:

A young man from ROTC was watching me as I got into my car and drove away. I thought he was looking at my car which has black flower decals and sometimes inspires strange looks. I later discovered that I, in my dark skin, am sometimes not even a person to the people who look at me. Instead, in spite of my peacefulness, my committed opposition to all aggression and war, I am a threat by my very existence, a threat just living in the world as a Muslim body.

Upon my departure, he called the local police department and told them a man of Middle Eastern descent driving a heavily decaled white Beetle with out of state plates and no campus parking sticker had just placed a box next to the trash can. My car has New York plates, but he got the rest of it wrong. I have two stickers on my car. One is my highly visible faculty parking sticker and the other, which I just don’t have the heart to take off these days, says “Kerry/Edwards: For a Stronger America.”

Because of my recycling the bomb squad came, the state police came. Because of my recycling buildings were evacuated, classes were canceled, campus was closed. No. Not because of my recycling. Because of my dark body. No. Not because of my dark body. Because of his fear. Because of the way he saw me. Because of the culture of fear, mistrust, hatred, and suspicion that is carefully cultivated in the media, by the government, by people who claim to want to keep us safe. […]

One of my colleagues was in the gathering crowd, trying to figure out what had happened. She heard my description–a Middle Eastern man driving a white beetle with out of state plates–and knew immediately they were talking about me and realized that the box must have been manuscripts I was discarding. She approached them and told them I was a professor on the faculty there. Immediately the campus police officer said, “What country is he from?”

“What country is he from?!” she yelled, indignant. (link)

Now, I normally try and avoid the “rant” voice, but I must say, I’ve had just about enough of these incidents. Don’t the campus police at Shippensburg U. have a minimum criterion for “suspicious”? Was it necessary to call the state police and the bomb squad? A faculty member dropping off a box of papers by a recycling bin at a semi-rural university simply ought not to have to deal with this kind of nonsense. It’s just insane. Continue reading

55Friday: The “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” Edition


I wore burnt orange and maroon today, did you? I almost feel guilty hosting a flash fiction fete on a day which is dominated by vigils and remembrance. But maybe this is exactly what we need, maybe this will be an outlet or a distraction or a comforting little bit of familiar. There is no theme this week; the title song is there for an entirely different reason than “usual”. It is one of my favorite songs of all time and it means quite a bit to me. It conjures youth, loss, sadness, faith and eternity the moment I hear its first few notes. It is what I listened to when I wrote a letter to Minal Panchal on Tuesday. It’s a song which moves me, which breaks my heart a little whenever I hear it and that is why I can’t get it out of my head.


Write 55 words about whatever moves you and post it below. If you can’t do that, but you can write a poem, a haiku or a slightly shorter or longer piece of flash fiction, feel free. While I usually try and insist on adhering to the 55-word shape, this is a week for inclusion, sharing and acceptance, so whatever you want to leave is welcome. Continue reading

Be bold if you want to succeed

You may have heard that recently a desi furniture retailer in Toronto got into a bit of hot water for selling a sofa with the tag shown below to a black family (Candians of Ghanaian origin). As paragons of racial sensitivity and spin, we thought Sepia Mutiny should offer some public relations advice to our Canadian brethren.

1. Respond to the customer’s complaints right away

The day after the discovery was made, Moore says that she called Vanaik Furniture and Mattress store, where the purchase was made, to address the issue. But her phone call was unreturned. At least three other calls were made to the store. Those were unreturned as well. [Link]

Don’t make the customer chase you, it looks bad. And don’t leave the sofa with a customer who is offended by it. Instead, offer to take the sofa back right away. Remember, this is one of your best selling pieces of furniture and you can charge a notoriety premium if you auction it on eBay. Put the tag proudly on display and sell it to the highest bidder. The only color that matters is green.

2. The best defense is a good offense

Your response thus far has been to pass the buck, which is OK for a start. So Romesh Vanaik, owner of Vanaik Furniture, blamed his supplier, Paul Kumar of Cosmos Furniture, who blamed the Chinese manufacturer, who blamed the company that made the auto-translation software, which blamed the out of date dictionary it was using [Link].

You really should go a lot further, though, and seize the initiative. Mount a press conference, stating that you are gravely offended that the Chinese have wrongly appropriated this term when they should have used “Macaca Brown” or “In need of Fair-and-Lovely Brown” instead. Use this press conference as an opportunity to announce your new dining sets, offered in Chinky Yellow, Redneck Pink and Lazy Injun Red.

3. Never plead ignorance, it makes you look weak.

Romesh Vanaik, owner of Vanaik Furniture … added that he had not known the meaning of the N-word. “It’s amazing. I’ve been here since 1972 and I never knew the meaning of this word,” said Vanaik, a native of India. [Link]

Big mistake. Ignorance is no excuse and who will ever believe you’ve been in Canada for 30 years without knowing what that word means? Instead, advertise your racial behavior proudly. Tell them that it doesn’t matter when a macaca does it, since we’re not white we can’t be racist! Furthermore, point out that this is proud part of Indian culture. Then announce a “West Indian week” where all the workers show up in blackface, just like in this Indian TV show [via UB]:

Continue reading

The Chaat of Destiny

Some paragraphs were accidentally omitted from Somini Sengupta’s recent article on Chaat and other Delhi street foods in the New York Times. Because I am a super-devoted-Somini Sengupta groupie (a “Sengroupie,” you could call me), I was sent the missing paragraphs as a gift, under strict order not to reveal my sources:

The reporter visits a lost alleyway in Mastinagar, a suburb of Delhi. In the alley are an endless variety of special chaat stalls unknown to western taste-buds and unimagined by western food tourists. This is as “street” as it gets; if pressed, the people of this alley all state that they have never been near an air-conditioner or even a piece of plastic. Indeed, it is highly unclear whether the residents of Mastinagar have ever been outside Mastinagar, or even know that their “Shehr” is in the city and state of Delhi (indeed, one resident referred to the city, rather anachronistically, as “Tughlakabad”). In the lost alley, one finds an almost infinite variety of Chaats, some of which were tasted by a reporter. A short list of the highlights follows:

Orientalist Chaat: This type of chaat will fulfill all your desires for mystical knowledge and understanding, and set your brain on fire. If this chaat is eaten, it is said, the eater will learn a thousand yoga poses (a DVD is included), a thousand Sanskrit chants that will lead to Enlightenment, and perpetual unity of mind and body in pure relaxation bliss. After eating, you will have reached the other side of the moon, tasted the stars, found the ergonomically perfect chair, and finally know the answer to the question, Why Did the Bodhi-Dharma Leave For the East? (NOTE: Insiders report that Orientalist Chaat is exactly the same as regular Chaat, only 10,000 times more expensive.)

Erotic Chaat: This chaat is an aphrodisiac composed entirely of garlic and crushed Viagra powder. Not especially tasty, but surprisingly “potent,” as a reporter subsequently discovered.

Chaat Feng Shui: This Chaat, which is composed entirely of wind, water, and garam masala, is not meant to be eaten, but rather dispersed around a room in need of redecoration. Pirated Chaat Feng Shui originates from China, which continues to flood the Indian market with inexpensive rip-offs of actual Feng Shui. Continue reading

A New Set of Wheels

A fascinating group of news stories discusses the goal many auto companies have of building the next generation of really cheap cars for the 3rd world mass market.

Singing and Dancing into the Future

Businessweek reports –

Renault-Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn is betting that for autos, the magic number is under $3,000. At a plant-opening ceremony in India Apr. 4, he was already talking up the industry’s next challenge: a future model that would sport a sticker price as low as $2,500–about 40% less than the least expensive subcompact currently on the market. Renault-Nissan is the first global automaker to take up the gauntlet thrown down in 2003 by India’s Tata Motors, which plans to launch a $2,500 car next year.

India is target #1 on all fronts — design, manufacturing, marketing, and, of course, the ultimate consumer. Instead of looking outside for economic growth, this is a story of internally sourced, created, and most importantly executed growth.

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Nothing Meek In Her Voice

rishiheadshot.jpg A couple weeks ago I was standing on the train during my morning commute, my arm stretched all the way up so my finger could curl about the ceiling pole, idly twisting about on my toes in a half-turn to survey the crowd and eye-scape their morning reading for titles, authors, snatches of prose. What are they reading? I always wonder, like a ghost watching a feast. These days it makes me ill to read on the train, and I feel like I never have time to read real books–spoiled by my steady diet of magazines and blogs, I can’t quite digest those bricks of literature. That morning there were some romance novels, a Crichton, Guns Germs & Steel. A woman shifted, and behind her a gray-suited man’s folded back New Yorker came into view, the familiar Deco font, and like my mother’s voice the desi words sharpened into focus:

Karma, by Rishi Reddi, Harper Perennial; $12.95: Each of the stories in this startlingly mature collection shows first- and second-generation Indian-Americans attempting to manage the disconnect between cultures. The premise is hardly a new one, but Reddi’s understated prose and her choice of details give her revelations a quiet power.(link.)

Some part of me groaned. Karma? You’ve got to be kidding me. That’s really the best title you can come up with? Saying the premise is hardly new seems like the understatement of the generation. My skimming glance over the title story (then findable online, now sadly only partially available online as a pdf excerpt) quickly got me to a line that seemed worrisomely familiar:

. . Shankar and Neha were deposited on the threshold of their new life.

Oh not, not another catalog of the first apartment’s goods! Quick, do they mention those EIGHT DOLLARS? Continue reading

DC: Brunch Meetup THIS Sunday? [UPDATED]

sepia brunch.jpg

We’ve had some rough times in the bunker…when Manish and Vinod first broke up…when Ennis was told he couldn’t smuggle anymore adoring groupies in and pass them off as interns…when Manish and Vinod broke up again…when the lemurs went on strike to protest the lack of parties…when one of our guest bloggers developed a very rare allergic reaction to…ah, never mind.

My point is, what we faced before were minor challenges; this has been a rather difficult week, as we confronted far more sobering matters, which affected us all. This week, we dealt with real pain, as tragedy reminded us of how fleeting life actually is. Such “big news” always means more traffic, which means more moderating and more possibilities for this or worse, this.

So, I’m a little down right now and I know many of you are, too. This is what I propose to lift our sepia spirits: an eleventh-hour sort of meetup at reliable and hospitable Heritage India this weekend. Perhaps what this community needs is…more community. Let’s bond, y’all! You know you want to. All are welcome: trolls, lurkers, smurfs and elves included. Vogons, however, will not be tolerated, since it’s highly possible that they might be feeling poetic and no one deserves that.

We can do brunch like we did the first time we were there, at the third DC Meetup or we can have dinner like we did the last time we were there, at the fourth DC meetup which was also our first-ever SM Channukah extravaganza. No, that wasn’t convoluted at all. 😉 The more significant issue is that we haven’t met up in FOUR MONTHS.

Dinner on Saturday, April 21 at 8ish


Brunch on Sunday, April 22 at Noonish it is!

Either way, I feel like it is an apposite time to revisit Heritage; I’ve had a sad sort of craving for Golgoppas and I’d like to sate that, in memory of someone else who loved them.

FYI: Heritage is Metro accessible (Red line).

Heritage India Brasserie
1337 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 331-1114

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Paulose? Puh-leaze

One of the two major keynote speakers at this year’s NASABA conference in San Francisco is going to be Rachel K. Paulose, United States Attorney for the District of Minnesota [Thanks Maisnon]. Yes, that Rachel Paulose.

On the one hand, this makes sense – she’s a very prominent desi legal figure. As we said before, at age 33 she is:

the youngest serving U.S. Attorney, the first woman to hold that position in Minnesota and the first U.S. Attorney of South Asian descent. [Link]

So of course she’d make a great keynote speaker. The other speaker will be Kamala D. Harris, the District Attorney of San Francisco, so Paulose is the bigger fish of the two.

Then again, there has been a lot of controversy around her. Since our last post about her, which dealt with her credentials and swearing-in ceremony, a number of other problems have cropped up, including an unprecedented vote of no confidence from her subordinates who demoted themselves rather than work for her:

On April 5, 2007, three of her top administrators — First Assistant U.S. Attorney John Marti, second in command; civil division head Erika Monzangue and criminal division head James Lackner — voluntarily resigned those positions, reverting to simple assistant U.S. attorney status, reportedly in protest over Paulose’s management style. [Link]

This is very highly unusual since the key people in her office took a rank and pay cut both to avoid working directly under her. It’s strange enough that the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee may even investigate.

And just recently, to top it all off, the Republican Senator from Minnesota, Sen. Norm Coleman, has done a 180 in terms of his support for her. Whereas earlier he took credit for her nomination, now his office is claiming that the Senator never nominated her at all.

Paulose is clearly a hot potato, which should make for a lively convention. If anybody is going, let us know if she gets asked anything interesting when she speaks, OK?

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