Sleeping with the Secretary

“Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” — Henry Kissinger

Despite their staunch alliance, relations between Pakistan and the USA are … tense. If you were a Pakistani Prime Minister, what could be more natural than … a more personal approach to break the ice, to fill the yawning gap, to closely bring together two former intimates, these two strange bedfellows?

“Shortcut” Aziz gets shot down

According to the new biography of Condoleezza Rice, Shaukat Aziz tried to (ahem) charm Dr. Rice when she visited Islamabad in 2005:

Aziz “tried this Savile Row-suited gigolo kind of charm: ‘Pakistan is a country of rich traditions,’ staring in (Rice’s) eyes …When Rice sat down with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who fancied himself as a ladies’ man, Aziz puffed himself up and held forth in what he obviously thought was his seductive baritone,” the book says. [Link]

Aziz was not some wide eyed naïf when it came to the ways of the West. He was a former ibanker, a VP at Citibank who had worked in London, Athens and New York. He may have had good reason to consider himself an experienced ladies man, a master of international affairs as it were, but he clearly met his match:

He bragged — to Western diplomats, no less — that he could conquer any woman in two minutes… There was this test of wills where he was trying to use all his charms on her as a woman, and she just basically stared him down … By the end of the meeting, he was babbling. The Pakistanis were shifting uncomfortably. And his voice visibly changed…” [Link]

He could conquer any woman in two minutes Pakistan’s response to these reports is that it’s all a cross-cultural misunderstanding:

Pakistan’s deputy information minister Tariq Azeem said that Aziz was only being polite. “The prime minister wanted to be nice with Dr. Rice,” Azeem told AFP. “Our tradition is that we should talk to women gently and decently and this was what the prime minister did…” [Link]

Poor Aziz. He completely miscalculated in his approach :

Rice, according to friends and family, had a thing for bad boys… [Link]

Although her name means “with sweetness”, nice guys finish last with Dr. Rice. Manmohan Singh would never have made that kind of rookie mistake, he would have shown Condi why you can’t spell aphrodisiac without desi. This is one part of Nehru’s legacy that we can all embrace.

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Warrior pose, corpse pose

Back when I took yoga classes regularly there was one teacher whose classes were too early on a Saturday morning for me, but who was one of the best teachers around. She was great at explaining things, had really excellent form, was really present in the moment … oh yeah, and she was really hot.

Given how incredibly healthy she seemed, I was surprised to find out that she was 8 years HIV+ . There are a number of reasons for her health – she was an athlete before she was infected, she was on ARVs, but she gave a lot of credit to her yoga practice. She taught a class for the HIV+ which probably increased the quality and also possibly the quantity of their lives.

I concede up front that Yoga can be a very important thing for people whose lives have great challenges (as American PC-speak would put it).

Still, there’s a time and a place for everything. I’m a bit weirded out by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar‘s proposal to bring Yoga to the war torn Iraqi city of Najaf.

That does look like Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) to me

Maybe I’m reacting a bit harshly. The Art of Living foundation does work in a number of different war zones teaching yoga as part of their “peace work.” It’s just that people’s needs are so large, and given the opportunity costs involved I would rather see efforts directed towards the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In short, I can’t imagine teaching corpse pose to people whose main worry is avoiding becoming a corpse themselves, teaching the Art of Living to those whose worry is the Art of Dying.

On the other hand, I’m far more favorably inclined towards the Indian Army’s yoga classes in Lebanon:

In the village of Ebel es-Saqi, in the farm country of Southern Lebanon, a new subject is being taught at the local middle school: yoga. The instructors are from the Indian army, members of the U.N. peacekeeping force. Three times a week, Lt. Col. Rajesh Kumar of the 1st Battalion Punjab Regiment instructs about 50 students and their teachers at the school. [Link]

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On The Considerable Benefits of Pineapple Juice

haagen dazs.jpg Oh. My. Gawd. Babli. Look at her blog.

It’s like, out there, I mean – gross. Look! She’s just so…FAQ.

With sincerest apologies to Sir with love, but I could not resist. I just read Uberdesi and it immediately had me reminiscing (I reminisce, I reminisce) about high school thanks to the blunt advice contained in one of its latest posts; the straightforward way it handled questions everyone wondered about but almost no one dared ask reminded me of Sassy magazine’s shocking candor. How could I not also recall furtive curiosity, the novelty of espresso drinks, 90210 and most definitely, “Baby Got Back” on auto-repeat in my Pioneer.

Yes, ladkas and ladkis. Akka be so old, her first car didn’t have no bougie CD player. Uh-uh. “Auto-repeat” meant that the stereo would smack it up, flip it and rub it down for me and by that I mean, I didn’t have to physically take out the tape and reinsert it to hear the other side, not that any of you youngsters can relate to this in any way. Haha. I said “reinsert”. (Told you I was in a puerile mood).

So there’s a reason why I’ve got fornication on the brain and it’s all Uberdesi’s fault. Their blogger Amrita wrote a post with a title so naughty, I shan’t repeat it here, but I’ll quote from it liberally because any desi with a healthy attitude towards sexuality deserves some fame and appreciation.

Here’s the deal, your juices are altered by what you eat. While I can’t get enough of mamma’s fish curry, I might have to fight the gag reflex with a mouth full of fishy swimmers. Urban dictionary defines fish curry as, “the vagina of an Indian female.” Not so yummy.

That’s just wrong. I’m really sick of the “tastes like curry” remark. Enough already. What am I not sick of? Lines like this which make me laugh so inappropriately, I forget to be upset:

Who wants to be known for having a spicy taco?

No comment. ;)

Alcohol, caffeine, drugs, and heavy spices among other culprits can cause the funk-nasty taste.

And then, because Amrita is a helpful sort of gf, she breaks it down.

Here are a few tips:
*Drink tons of water and flush out your system.
*Eat plenty of fruits. As if one needed a reason to splurge on heavenly Indian mangoes. Pineapple juice supposedly does miracles.

Omnivores! I am windicated! Amrita says so:

*Eat plenty of veggies. Stay away from foul smelling veggies like asparagus, cabbage or cauliflower. This is a plus for the non-meat eaters as vegetarians taste better.
*Cut down on chowing down on spices like garlic and onion if you want someone to chow down on you.
*Cleanse out your system with green juice (parsley or wheat grass with a pinch of cardamom, cinnamon, lemon or mint).

Wheatgrass with cardamom? I didn’t think you could make those shots of freshly shorn lawn palatable, but hey, I’ll give it a try…for my health, of course. What other reason? ;)

Oh and families of suitable boys: if you are reading this, I have no idea what I am writing, I just blog what they tell me to, okay? This proves that I have the submissive proclivities you hope for in a bahu while establishing that I am very chaste; never would I ever find blog posts about what shame shames could or should taste like interesting. Nope. Not me. I am also not going to the store for some pineapple juice nor will I be purchasing a mango anytime soon. Nooooo. I don’t do things like that. ;) Continue reading

Dera Sacha Sauda and the Sikhs of Punjab

A major conflict has broken out in Punjab, between the orthodox Sikh community and a sect (which may or may not be understood as a ‘Sikh’ sect) called Dera Sacha Sauda (DSS). It’s a strange and complex issue, involving caste issues (DSS members are predominantly from what are called ‘backward’ castes), politics (DSS supporters are overwhelmingly Congress party supporters, while Punjab has for many years been dominated by the BJP-allied Akali Dal), as well fundamental questions of who gets to determine how a religion is defined.

The BBC has the basic details here:

Cities and towns across the northern Indian state of Punjab are shut in response to a general strike called by the Sikh community.

Security forces have been deployed and businesses and schools are closed for the day amid fears of violence.

Sikhs are demanding an apology from the leader of a religious sect who appeared in an advert dressed like one of the Sikh religion’s most important figures.

Sikh community leaders say it is an insult to their religion. (link)

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What you figure out when you poll American Muslims

Wednesday morning’s USA Today features a survey of the attitudes of Muslim Americans toward “extremism,” probably to show how such attitudes contrast with the views of Muslims in Europe and elsewhere. The subtext of the survey seemed to be an exploration of the likelihood of homegrown terrorists within the U.S.:

The USA’s estimated 2.4 million Muslims hold more moderate political views than Muslims elsewhere in the world and are mostly middle class and willing to adopt the American way of life, according to one of the most comprehensive surveys of this segment of the nation’s population.

The Pew Research Center study released Tuesday found that “Muslim Americans are very much like the rest of the country,” says Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. “They do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society.”

Muslim Americans, however, have a much more negative view about the Iraq war and the war against terrorism than the U.S. public as a whole, the survey found. The study also found pockets of sympathy for Islamic extremism, especially among younger people. Muslims between the ages of 18 and 29 express significantly greater acceptance than older people of suicide bombings in some cases.

The young show a greater tendency to identify themselves as Muslim first and American second. This faith-first pattern is even more pronounced among Muslims in Europe, according to previous Pew surveys. [Link]

The trend that suggests that Muslims in America are willing to adopt the American way of life is something that I expected. We’ve often discussed here on SM that assimilation is stressed within the immigrant population of the U.S., far more than elsewhere. The fact that Muslims between the ages of 18 and 29 show a greater acceptance of suicide bombing doesn’t surprise me either. If you had given the same survey to members of any other religion I am sure the acceptance of suicide bombing would correlate with age. We live in a world where extreme violence is commonplace, and the youngest among us will therefore accept such violence more readily than the older generations. However, the last highlighted finding above did surprise me as I have personally not encountered such an attitude. Then, as I read just a few sentences further, everything was put into perspective:

Previous Pew surveys show that 42% of Christians identify with their religion before their country. Among white evangelicals, 62% say they identify themselves first as Christians. [Link]

So Evangelical Christians in America (who are more likely to have been born in America) are more likely than Muslims to put their faith before their country? That’s food for thought. The final finding in the study is also a trend that we’ve discussed on SM before. African American Muslims (particularly those with a prison record) are more likely to accept extremism.

The poll found that African-Americans are the most disillusioned segment of the Muslim American population, a possible reflection of their economic conditions and experience with racial discrimination. [Link]

So maybe what this survey has really found is that people that live under poor economic conditions and face racial discrimination are more likely to be accepting of violence as a means to change their ends. Did we really need to poll Muslims in America to figure that out?

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Is FOB a fighting word?

Pream Anandarajah is a Canadian born Tamil teenager whose uninsured Scarborough home was recently firebombed, sending his mother Jeyaluckshmi to the burn unit at the hospital [via UB]. And yes, this was an ethnic attack, but not in the way you might think. His attackers weren’t white, they were Sri Lankan Tamils, but FOBs recent immigrants instead of Canadian born. Is FOB as bad a word as n–er?

That’s right — there’s intragroup gang violence between CBD and recent immigrant Sri Lankan Hindu Tamils, serious violence:

Hours before the firebombing, a friend of Anandarajah’s was stabbed … He rattles off the names of gangs that he says recently arrived Sri Lankan youth have formed: EST (East Side Thugs); BNS; BNS Juniors; Tux Boys (Tuxedo Park); Tiger Boys; Gilders (Gilders Street). [Link]

The house is now largely destroyed

The firebombing was part of an escalating series of retaliatory attacks, including one where Anandarajah was jumped by 12 students in the high school parking lot and knifed:
Touching his neck he says, “I don’t know how I got this scar. It happened after I was knocked out. They beat me up real bad. My mom couldn’t even recognize my face.” [Link]

One major beef between the groups is the use of the word FOB:

Frequently tossed around in the escalating feud between the groups is a loaded word, used to bully, label and shame. The mostly Tamil Sri Lankan youth around Scarborough who get called FOBs say the word is used as a weapon against them.

It’s like calling a black man, n—–,” says a Grade 10 student. [Link]
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“The Over-Accesorized Label Lover” – UPDATED

The LV which is unfortunately fug.JPG

Sometimes, you mutineers will see a story which you practically demand we post. After New York Magazine’s “The Look Book” slyly dissed and dismissed a brownie who works in Private Equity who emphasized,

“I love to consume. Consuming is my specialty.”

…some of you started screeching louder than the Howler monkeys in the bunker—and that’s saying a LOT.

Natasha Mitra (r) was interviewed by Amy Larocca and though I was also left smirking at the catty aftermath, I immediately heard the diminutive angel on my shoulder remind me that we don’t know how many questions were asked and then not included, whether Mitra’s words were edited to paint her a certain way, etc.

Having typed that, if my little sister sounded like this, I’d beat her with my red Ferragamo loafer. Not that there’s anything wrong with…sounding…like…this. ;)

Such big accessories!
My bag was a really special purchase. I work with this woman at Louis Vuitton—she picks things out for me, sends pictures, and tells me to pick what I like. She called one day and was like, “I picked a bag for you, and I’m sending it to your house because I know you’re going to love it.” I think it’s called the Stratus.
How old are you?
I’m 26.
Was the bag expensive?
Yes—about $3,500. I guess a lot of craftsmanship goes into it. Accessories for me are the key. I have about twenty bags, and I don’t know how many shoes. But they’re Vuitton, they’re Versace, they’re Gucci, and they’re Dior.
And your sunglasses?
They’re D&G. I was really excited to find them. They’re wild and crazy and different.
What do you do for a living?
I work in private equity. I love the sector that I work in, which is the consumer and retail group. It’s an area that I’m passionate about. I love to consume. Consuming is my specialty.
You picked the right career.
I’m going to Harvard Business School in September. Moving is definitely going to be the most difficult part of the experience.

Thoughts? After reading some of your emails, I’m tempted to respond with a “Tell us what you REALLY think”, but I’m certain you will already do that. I also look forward to the inevitable, “I know her, and, and–” which will appear below at some point. TWO DEGREES of separation, people. The fact that we couldn’t prove it with two random desi models doesn’t mean the theory is invalid, aight? Continue reading

Don’t Want No Dark, Dark Man…

Avishkar and several other mutineers sent in a story tip from Reuters about a rather unusual wedding complication, so I realized I better post it ASAP, lest I see it in my inbox yet yanother time. ;)

When it came to our color-obsessed culture, I thought it was the girl’s complexion which mattered. I guess turnabout is fair play. Sort of.

Turned down for marriage due to his dark complexion, an Indian man staged a hunger strike outside his would be bride’s house for two days before she finally relented, an official said Saturday.

Didn’t he know they make fairness creams for the new, metrosexual, dark brown man?

Saral Prasad, the 23-year-old groom in eastern Bihar state, said he would not budge from the girl’s village home after she refused to marry him earlier this week in an arranged marriage because he was too dark.
Rajani, 19, changed her mind after two days and the couple got married, Arun Kumar Mishra, a village council official said.
“We were all taken by surprise but Rajani was finally moved by the gesture of the young man and married him,” Mishra said.

Rajani was not quoted as saying, “I just want everyone to shut up and go away already, for Pinter’s sake”.

Most Indian women, especially those in rural areas, often have no choice in matters of marriage, and are coerced into it by relatives and parents.

Yes, of course..we Indian women have no choice with regards to anything and are coerced in to everything we do. Just this past Saturday, at the meetup, I was coerced in to drinking my Madras coffee later than I wanted to, because our poor waiter was so overwhelmed with 26 people ordering at once, he forget that I asked for it. Thrice. Obviously his being an Indian male was why he oppressed me by not sating my caffeine fix. :p And yes, yes…the meetup write-up…it is coming. Continue reading

The lost continent of Kumari Kandam

I’m sure the science-fiction geeks amongst y’all know about the lost continents of Atlantis, Lemuria and Mu. These are the “missing continents” that were submerged in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans respectively.

[The story of Atlantis has its origin in the Platonic dialogues, while Lemuria was hypothesized in the late 1800s as an explanation for why there were Lemurs in both Madagascar and India but not in Africa or the Middle East. Both are now beloved of mystics and kooks. Nobody really cares about Mu, although it is sometimes confused with Lemuria.]

However, I’ll bet you’ve never heard of the Tamil analogue, the lost continent of Kumari Kandam! Proponents say Kumari Kandam is Lemuria, different names for the same continent that once covered most of the Indian ocean:

Sri Lanka together with India, Indonesia and Malaysia were a part of this continent. Many islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans are remnants of this continent that in ancient time covered the whole area of today’s ocean. [Link]

The lost continent of Kumari Kandam

It turns out that everything does not actually come from India, it comes from Kumari Kandam. And by everything, I do mean everything.

“Homo Dravida” first evolved in Kumari Kandam; it is the cradle of civilization; the birthplace of all languages in general and of the Tamil language in particular. This is where the first and second great ages (Sangams?) of the Tamils happened, not in India, but in the true Dravidian homeland, further south.

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The Unsinkable Monty Brown

monty.jpg

Like Tori and some rather old rodents (oh, like any of you are old enough to remember them), “I don’t like Mondays”. I thought you might feel similarly about today; if so, then perhaps you, too, will find this picture irresistibly smile-provoking. Marinate in the exuberance:

England’s Monty Panesar (R) celebrates with Ian Bell after dismissing the West Indies’ Corey Collymore during the fourth day of their first test cricket match at Lord’s in London May 20, 2007.

Now if you wanted to play our favorite caption game with this photograph, I don’t think anyone would object to such fun. And finally, to all the patient-with-a-novice, possibly-in-withdrawal cricket heads out in Sepia-land…I told you I was no fair-weather-padawan. :) Continue reading