“Tell them that it can happen to anybody”

A writer to the tip line draws our attention to a terrible death in Indiana: “Nupur Srivastava was a distant relative’s daughter and my mother knew her well. Everyone is distraught over her passing, especially given the circumstances.” Srivastava died last week after being in an induced coma since April 3 with third degree burns over 80 percent of her body. She was allegedly doused with gasoline and set on fire by her boyfriend, Michael Wilson, who is now charged with murder. Both Srivastava and Wilson were 33.

Srivastava’s family has an important message:

[Srivastava] was rebuilding her life, setting herself on a road to recovery from alcohol abuse and toward a career in public relations or event management, [her sister Ritu] Adams said. Others saw Srivastava, petite at less than 95 pounds, as “drop-dead gorgeous,” but her sister’s low self-esteem prevented her from seeing herself as beautiful, Adams said.

She suspects that contributed to her sister staying in an abusive relationship. Police investigators are piecing those details together, Adams said. The family simply wants Nupur’s story to resonate with others.

“Tell them that it can happen to anybody,” Veena Srivastava pleaded.

“She was doing so good,” Adams said of her sister’s fresh start. “Maybe she was afraid to leave him. There are a lot of women who probably won’t speak out because they’re ashamed of their past, but that shouldn’t matter.

“People say, ‘It can’t happen to me.’ Guess what? It happened to my sister.”

Update: That link either moved or is now broken. For more information, please try here. Continue reading


By now, even the Grey Lady knows about Provoked, the new Jag Mundhra biopic starring TMBWITW as Kiranjit Ahluwalia and Naveen Andrews as her abusive husband. The actual story behind the movie is a horrific one:

Ahluwalia arrived in Britain in 1979 from India, aged 24, following an arranged marriage… Deepak immediately began to abuse her. ” … He would push me about, yank my hair, hit me and drop heavy pans on my feet…” Deepak also raped her frequently, telling her that this was his right.

[After 10 years, in 1989] One night, when she had gone to sleep after cooking Deepak’s dinner, he woke her up and demanded money. When she refused, he tried to break her ankles by twisting them. He then picked up a hot iron and held it to her face. Eventually Deepak fell asleep and Ahluwalia was consumed with the rage she had suppressed for 10 years. Approaching him with a can of petrol, she poured it over Deepak’s feet and set them alight… [Link]

Originally convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, her case was taken up by the Asian advocacy group Southall Black Sisters (SBS) who found her new counsel and sought a retrial.

Following a campaign, led by SBS, Ahluwalia’s conviction was quashed on appeal in 1992. The court accepted some new evidence … [and] Ahluwalia admitted manslaughter at the retrial…

Ahluwalia’s successful appeal against her murder conviction set a historic precedent – that women who kill as a result of severe domestic violence should not be treated as cold-blooded murderers. As Ahluwalia says, “I never intended to kill him, I just wanted him to stop hurting me…” [Link]

Ahluwalia became a cause celebre, a household name who was later honored in an unusual ceremony that included both Cherie Blair and Spice Girl Mel B.

As usual with biopics, there is some controversy over the liberties taken in the process of making the movie. The director is entirely unapologetic:

The director ‘Jag’ Jagmohan Mundhra in his defence said “Even if you tell a true story, a true story is never really a true story. How do you define the truth? None of us were really there and obviously the recollections of people who were there have changed now. Ultimately I do have to tell an engaging story. If I can’t tell an engaging story no matter what cause is at stake, nobody will see it…” [Link]

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Nice Meet-up Y’all!

A big thanks to everyone (~20 people) that made it out to the first southern meet-up (Texas-sized) that Sepia Mutiny has had. I kid you not, a few readers drove in from Austin (2.5 hours drive) and San Antonio (3 hours drive). The weather was as absolutely perfect as it ever gets in Houston (we sat outside) and the Hobbit Cafe had great beer that kept coming (as you’d expect in The Shire). The official meet-up lasted until 9 p.m. but the unofficial meet-up went well past 1 a.m. It might be a couple more months until the next Texas meet-up, but it will either be in Austin or at the SM Bureau Offices in Houston. Hope to see some more of you next time.

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Bamboo Shoots to victory


p>Earlier this week the band Bamboo Shoots, and unsigned college band out of New Jersey (finally, something good about Edison), won an MTVU sponsored contest beating out over a 1000 other bands (thanks for the tip Anmol):

Propelled by votes from college students nationwide, the foursome from New Jersey emerged as the top choice of the more than 1,300 unsigned college acts registered on mtvU’s BestMusiconCampus.com. Bamboo Shoots – fusing upbeat, danceable rock, electro and South Asian/Indian sounds – was announced as mtvU’s inaugural “Artist of the Year” via a network debut performance on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” a platform which has helped launch countless up- and-coming bands to superstardom. The band will now set out on an unprecedented journey that will see them record a full LP with Epic Records, premiere two music videos on mtvU/mtvU.com, perform on tour dates with top national artists and collect a $50,000 cash advance – all of which will be documented in an original mtvU series premiering in the fall. [Link]

Even though word was out that the group had won the MTVU contest, the official announcement came during their live performance on the Conan O’Brien Show:

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Hollywood invades

Once upon a time Indian cinema could rest secure in the loyalty of its large domestic base. Even if Indian audiences didn’t always like local movies, they were unlikely to defect to American (or other foreign) movies. However, this is all changing, as Hollywood sets its sights on the domestic Indian movie market:

… only a few years ago, Hollywood films warranted only about 100 prints, and if there were dubbed versions, they were often released after the English-language version finished its run. The tactic made most Indian moviegoers feel like second-class citizens …

The turning point, experts say, was last year, when some 400 prints of the James Bond film “Casino Royale” were released in India – including three versions in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu – simultaneously with the global debut. [Link]

In 2005, foreign films had only around 5% of the $1 billion dollars in theater tickets sold in India each year. However, Hollywood profits are now growing at 35% per year as they aggressively roll out dubbed movies as part of a global release. Despite Bollywood’s size (more people buy tickets to Bollywood films than Hollywood ones, world wide), it doesn’t have Hollywood’s deep pockets:

Movie tickets in many part of India cost $1, meaning Bollywood’s global revenues are about 2 percent of Hollywood’s, says Mr. Bose. “Hollywood can spend 8 percent of its normal marketing budget for a film and get the same amount of exposure as a top Hindi film,” says Sanjay Ram of BusinessofCinema.com in Mumbai.

The most lavish Bollywood films rarely cost more than $10 million. “Spider-Man 3″ is thought to have cost $260 million. [Link]

The new release of Spiderman3 has local moguls scared:

The film opened to Rs 19.17 crore on it’s opening weekend in India, making it a likely contender for the highest earning film of 2007 — Indian or otherwise. [Link]

“Spider-Man 3″ has already been blamed for taking the momentum from one of the few major Hindi releases this year, “Ta Ra Rum Pum” (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”). [Link]

Sequels to “Shrek”, “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Harry Potter” are all also due out later this summer. Continue reading

Meena from the morgue

Questionable Content is a cult webcomic that is a cross between Friends and Seinfeld, except for Indie music snobs instead of mainstream audiences. It’s a “slice of life” story about 20-somethings in Northampton, Massachusetts. Recently, author and illustrator Jeph Jacques introduced Meena.

Meena works at the morgue, and flirts by making Ebola jokes. (This is realistic – I do know desi women in real life who flirt by making jokes about horrible diseases). She also has all the normal tribulations of a desi woman:

Yup. It’s slice of life, alright.

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Mosque Attacked in Hyderabad

A “crude” bomb exploded at the 17th century-era Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad during Friday prayers, killing five and seriously injuring at least 25 others (Thanks, Red Snapper and Tamasha):

Minutes after the blast, Muslims angered by what they said was a lack of police protection began chanting slogans — a situation that quickly devolved into mobs throwing stones at police, who responded with baton charges and tear gas.

Some reports I’ve read state that the tear gas was used to clear the area, to help ambulances rush to and from the scene.

The bombing and ensuing clash between worshippers and police raised fears of wider Hindu-Muslim violence in the city, which has long been plagued by communal tensions and occasional spasms of religious bloodletting.
Many of those injured in the explosion at the 17th-century Mecca Masjid were severely wounded, and the city’s police chief, Balwinder Singh, warned the death toll could rise.
Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh state, where Hyderabad is located, appealed for calm between Hindus and Muslims.
Reddy called the bombing, which killed at least five people and wounded 25, an act of ”intentional sabotage on the peace and tranquility in the country.” [NYT]

Mecca Masjid, so named because some of its bricks were brought from that holy city, took 8000 masons almost eight decades to complete; it is the largest mosque in Hyderabad.

Developing… Continue reading

A Third Serving of Caste

…via SAJAforum. This ran in the WSJ today, as we were still discussing caste on this blog. What excellent timing for a barely-mediocre cartoon.

A very stupid toon.jpg

What do you think? Over at SAJA, commenter Sendhil had the following to say, which left me giggling:

If this is from the WSJ’s “Pepper… and Salt” spot, it’s not unusual that it’s not funny. Those cartoons are funny less often than “Fred Bassett”. I have concluded that they must serve some other, hidden, purpose, like sending coded messages about tomorrow’s Dow performance to the members of the Trilateral Commission.

Fred Bassett? Ouch. Continue reading

Whole Grain Naan @ Whole Foods: Not So Much.

After much kvetching about it, I will cave and put up a post so you aren’t tormented by South Indian perfection everytime you hit F5.

I find it wickedly hilarious that the only thing I had “ready-made” was also about…food. :) Don’t worry– these Naan looked a lot better than they tasted, which was not very good. How do you cook something with ghee in a tandoor and STILL have it taste like a pita?


I keep it fobulous, y’all.

No, really. I’m going to. By my conservative estimate, we have people from twelve different countries working on my project; several of them bring food from home every day, which they nuke in the microwave, which means the fragrance/reeking odor permeates the entire office suite.

501754291_7d08d0e4e1.jpg When my Pakistani colleague heats something up, it smells vaguely familiar. Same for the Turkish food. But everything else…seriously, someone needs to pass a law which prohibits the reheating of SEAFOOD in microwaves. Vomitacious. That’s what that is. So, I am no longer going to be considerate to the point of paranoia about eating brown food at work, especially not when the Pakistani food comes here in big plastic dabas to facilitate multiple servings– people love desi food, so the man sweetly brings extra. That’s how I got some unexpected halwa a week or so ago. He was walking around the same way my Mom does at home, at the end of lunch, looking for someone to finish the last portion (whether they want to or not), so he could wash the dish. I was already full and in no mood for sooji halwa, but I got a big ass serving of it and you best believe I cleaned my plate in time to pass his inspection 20 mins later. :)

So. This is naan I found at Whole Paycheck on Sunday. I had absolutely no hope of it being good, especially since it has “BEST New Food Product in America” stickered upon it. I mean, it’s at Whole Foods. How authentic could it be? Still, stupidity springs eternal, innit?

Well, it is not the real deal or even remotely close, despite the fact that it is made (allegedly) in a tandoor, with ghee no less. But after the first two disappointing bites, I found myself going back for more. It tastes like really soft pita bread. Or a cross between pita and naan. As long as it doesn’t taste like Bisquick (I’m looking at you, lazy desi restaurants!!!), I’m open to destroying something pickled with it. I’m surprised to report that the “regular/white” type tasted much better than the whole-grain-loaded version pictured above left. Too bad, too. The wheatish ones looked somewhat like my mom’s puris…but they taste even more like pita bread than the “white” naan do.

Since I was already in an experimental mood, I tried a DIFFERENT brand of Kaduku Manga pickle: “Nirapara”. Verdict? Not bad at all. Tastes more home-made than my belowed Grandma’s brand, but that is because it has an edge I can’t quite determine the origin of– and imperfection feels homely. No matter. It’s my “work” kaduku manga. I’ve got half a case of the real deal safely squirreled away at home, where it belongs. Continue reading

Reminder: The DC Meetup is THREE DAYS Away!

Get in my BELLLY.jpg

Actually, it’s less than three days away, but who is being pedantic…not me, especially not when there is gluttonous dosa and vada consumption to anticipate in my near future.

D.C.’s sixth meetup will occur this Saturday at Amma’s Vegetarian, in Georgetown at 1 o’clock isharp. Since none of you read that, I’ll restate it, this time with formatting:

WHERE: Amma’s Vegetarian Kitchen, 3291 M St. NW, Washington, DC 20007, 202-625-6625

WHEN: Saturday, 1pm

WHY: Because you asked for it!

Lakshmi, MuraliMannered, Ashu, Arun, Coffeeface, Portmanteau, Sriram and at least three others have all tentatively RSVP’d– what about you? For all of you who are thinking, “There’s always next time”, don’t. There may not be. Besides, brunch this weekend sounds enticing, doesn’t it? Yum. Carpe dosa! Continue reading