Battling Burkas

If womens boxing becomes an Olympic sport in 2012, the Afghan women’s boxing team is set to become the new feel good story, the Jamaican bobsled team if you will.

These women have a lot of heart, just to train, given restrictions on women even in post-Taliban Afghanistan:

The training is sponsored by a peace group who want to give women more self-respect, and reclaim boxing as a sport in a country scarred by conflict – making martial arts constructive and not destructive. They call it “fighting for peace”. Between training sessions the boxers sit down and discuss non-violent approaches to conflict resolution.

The NGO backing the project, Co-operation for Peace and Unity, is headed by Kanishka Nawabi. He says they are teaching women to be confident and regain self-respect in a male-dominated society. [Link]

Of course, there are some men who will be threatened for precisely that reason – they don’t women playing sports, especially not violent ones, and they definitely don’t want them to become to assertive. This is why it’s a subversive action. After all, this is what is happening to women in regular schools:

In the southern Afghan province of Helmand, the Taliban is waging war not only on foreign and Afghan troops, but on education. Of 224 schools that opened after the Taliban fell, at least 90 have been forced to close because of threats and attack — especially schools that teach girls. [Link]

and the girls from the Kabul Beauty School have been threatened with death for defaming the country (not because of their beautician work but because of the other things the book says about them).

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p>Click on the image below to go to the video newsclip. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to embed it, but the video is fun, enlightening and short.

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A Documentary About Sanjay Dutt on YouTube

As many readers probably already know, actor Sanjay Dutt was just sentenced to six years ‘rigorous imprisonment’ for possessing illegal weapons, including an AK-56. Last winter, he was cleared on more serious terrorism/conspiracy charges relating to the Bombay blasts of 1993. My first thought was, oh well — no Munnabhai 3, I guess. (Or, who knows? Intezar karo, Munnabhai?)

But then there are more serious questions — one might be, is it really a fair sentence? Readers, what do you think?

In my view, even if, it’s legally a reasonable sentence, Sanju does have an explanation for owning a weapon in 1993. For one thing, as a film star (and as the son of two very famous actors), his family was a target for the criminal underworld; I’m sure he wasn’t the only one to have these kinds of weapons in his possession at the time. Secondly, as of 1992/3, the Dutts were also apparently getting regular death threats from communalists following their humanitarian work on behalf of Muslims in the areas affected by the 1992 riots. Given the total lawlessness in Bombay at the time as well as his family’s own prominence, both on screen and in politics, one can understand what he might have been thinking.

On YouTube, you can watch a BBC Channel 4 Documentary on Sanju, called Sanjay Dutt: To Hell and Back, that talks about the Dutt family, Sanjay’s troubled youth (did I mention he was a heroin addict in the 1980s?), and the events surrounding the trial. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. (Part 2 is the section that deals the most with the events leading up to the arrest.)

I also think the fact that Dutt has had this trial hanging over his head for fourteen years is pretty severe punishment in itself. While I respect the court’s judgment, today I feel bad for Sanju. The Bollywood actor who should really be in jail is probably Salman Khan: Sanjay Dutt may have been a bad boy, but at least he never killed anyone, eh? (Ok, allegedly killed anyone.) Continue reading

Archie, not Panjabi

It looks like Jughead wont be the only cartoon character wearing a crown in Riverdale any more, there’s a desi (probably ABD) character in Archie’s world (via UB). I’m happy that the character looks and sounds like the others, hopefully he wont be Hajji to Archie’s Johnny Quest.

That said, I actually associate Archie more with India than America. I rarely saw Archie in the USA, but when I went to India there was always a stack of Archie comics in my relatives’ houses in Delhi. Since I often got bored hanging around while the adults caught up on years of news, I spent many hours reading the escapades of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Reggie and Jughead. Just writing this brings back that India paper smell, and all of a sudden I’m 10 again and in my parents’ country, with all the ambivalence that entails.

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The biggest movie since Titanic…in Pakistan

One of the Christian Science Monitor’s reporters recently caught a showing of the apparently eagerly awaited film “Khuda ke Liye (In the Name of God)” in Lahore:

Why would I drive 4-1/2 hours to see a Pakistani movie?…

The film is being hailed in some segments of Pakistani society as the most important cinematic event in memory…

As the title suggests, the movie is about Islam and the battle between two polarized groups – modernized elites carrying the banner of “enlightened moderation” and radicals with their “jihad” – both had claims to the religion…

For many Pakistanis – or at least those in this theater – the movie offers an explanation for the unrest around them.

“I had been dying to see this movie,” Sara Malik, a 17-year-old student, dressed in jeans and a powder-pink T-shirt told me after the movie. “It’s an amazing story, because it explains what really happens behind things like the Lal Masjid [Red Mosque],” she said, with nods of agreement by nearby school friends. The violent weeklong battle between religious militants and the Pakistan Army this month in Islamabad was unnerving for the entire country and unlike anything the youth of the country had ever witnessed. [Link]

A synopsis of the movie, about musician brothers caught up in a post September 11th world, can be found on the film’s website. Adding to the local relevancy of the film (as mentioned by the young woman above) was the recent Lal Masjid siege (a.k.a. Operation Sunrise) against the militant Ghazi brothers:

Abdul Rashid Ghazi of the Red Mosque, for example, made one of his last anti-vice stands against the release of “In the Name of God.” Mr. Ghazi called the movie blasphemous and anti-Islamic. “We won’t allow this,” he warned the government earlier this month.

Ghazi was killed a few days after uttering those words at the hands of the Pakistani military, and the movie is now showing all over the Punjab province, the Pakistan Army’s stronghold, in the city of Karachi the financial capital, and a few well-to-do surrounding towns in Sindh. It is unlikely to make its way west to the provinces bordering Afghanistan and Iran. The uncensored movie is not only likely to be rejected by the provincial governments led by Islamist parties, but also by the Pashtun and Baluchi tribes themselves, who are portrayed as violent, cunning, and chauvinistic religious fanatics in the movie. [Link]
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Now We Are Three.

“Put up a post, please. Now, if possible.”

“Like…a test post?”

“Yes. A post. Any post.”

“Um…okay.”

I leaned back, then giggled. I was in a silly mood. A few moments later…

i’m brown irish, actually.

there once was a group of brown nerds
who spent all their time toying with words
they all loved to blog
(some from a city with fog)
b/c let’s face it, a social life’s for the birds.

(mc sharaabi, out)

“Ta-da!”, I trilled, to my late German Shepherd, Rani.

A few moments later, a terse reply appeared: “thanks.” Don’t ask me how, but I knew that his trebuchet-lettered, monosyllabic response had been punctuated by one mighty eye-roll, instead of just a period.

And that’s how it all began, on July 30, 2004

::

It was dizzying, the start of this thing, this “project”, this labor of love, loathe, learning and light.

Political ads were everywhere, constantly reminding us that we were cynical spectators at the race to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; so were news stories, about outsourcing, racism (clumsily cloaked as wit), and profiling. Three years ago, we were outraged over the very same things. Normally, this would depress me, but I can’t despair, not now, not over this. This is extraordinary. The issues may be the same, but everything else is different, because we are different. We are here.

::

July, 2004.

I wrote a post on my original blog, HERstory.

Manish wrote a post on his original blog, vij.com.

Abhi emailed us, plus two more.

“Guys, I can’t believe so many of my friends are still undecided about whom to vote for…yet when I show them your story on Mamta, Anna, or yours on Michigan’s GOP, Manish…then they’re suddenly more decisive. You know what we need to do? We need to centralize this, all of this information…because the conventions are coming and what is at stake is so important…we need to reach more people.”

There were murmurs of agreement and empathy.

“Guys, I think we should create a group blog for this stuff. Think about it– all of our readerships overlap a little bit…the same people who might read Anna, sometimes read Manish or me….it’s great that we’re raising awareness about these desi news stories that get no attention otherwise, but we should focus our efforts, so people aren’t going to different places. This is the first year they’ll allow bloggers at the convention! We need to do this. Now.”

And we did.

For approximately six hours, furious rounds of emails passed, a few instant messenger chats popped and one phone call was made…then, we paused. The most difficult decision we had faced yet stymied us, putting a consummate, thudding halt to our spectacular telesis.

Uh, what would we name this goo-covered thing, which was “crowning” and about to force its debut any minute now?

Desirati?

Indian Ink?

Blogwalla?

Tamarind.

Amar Akbar Anthony?

Dishoom Dishoom?

XDesi?

BrownAmerica?

Desispiracy?

PanDesi?

Desinfect?

Desified?

Shotgun Rishta!

Desintegrate?

Blogging While Brown.

We each had submitted close to a dozen names; we ranked and re-ranked, and then calculated which idea had what percentage of support. It was exhausting. It reminded me of sorority rush, when prospective pledges ranked the houses they liked and we did the same on the other end, hoping that without too much delay or effort, everything would get sorted and everyone would be happy.

Uh, no.

After blazing through vision, expectations, concepts and possibilities, unanimously agreeing, almost immediately, on all of it (No meetings? GREAT. No deadlines or assigned stories? Awesome! No expectations or rules, beyond the barest minimum of guidelines, which all seemed to pop out of our heads identically and simultaneously? FANtastic. Some of us have never [and still never!] met? Who cares?)…we were stuck.

“What about Sepia Mutiny?”, I blurted out.

Silence. Continue reading

One mic

Since I have been traveling almost non-stop for the last several weeks, I never got a chance to report out on the Beats, Rhymes, and Life event that I organized with some friends in Houston a couple weeks back (July 19th). As a reminder, I was trying to emulate the success of Washington D.C.’s Subcontinental Drift series by bringing some soul to the south (by getting some of Houston’s South Asian artists together for a night). I was hoping that word of mouth would get about 50 people to show up. Half an hour into the event I was sweating as only about a dozen people showed. Thank goodness for the reliability of Indian Standard Time. Well over 100 people showed on a Thursday night! The drum circle was ridiculously good and we had spoken-word pieces, belly-dancing to Dhoom 2, a comedian, and DJ Raj Swift among the acts. The lesson here is that all you need is a city and one mic. Just make it happen in your city if you really want to see something like this there. Click below for larger pics of the event:

By the way, the best part is that Roopa got over 30 people signed up that night for her cousin Vinay’s bone marrow drive. When I worked the A.R. Rahman concert in Houston a month ago we only signed up ~70 people out of a crowd of thousands. Way to represent here.
And for those of you asking…we’ll do it again.

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Hillary’s balancing act

This morning’s Los Angeles Times had an article examining the way in which Hillary Clinton often straddles the fence on the outsourcing issue by cleverly playing to both Indian Americans and to big labor (two of her big money supporters):

To many labor unions and high-tech workers, the Indian giant Tata Consultancy Services is a serious threat — a company that has helped move U.S. jobs to India while sending thousands of foreign workers on temporary visas to the United States.

So when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) came to this struggling city to announce some good news, her choice of partners was something of a surprise.

Joining Tata Consultancy’s chief executive at a downtown hotel, Clinton announced that the company would open a software development office in Buffalo and form a research partnership with a local university. Tata told a newspaper that it might hire as many as 200 people.

The 2003 announcement had clear benefits for the senator and the company: Tata received good press, and Clinton burnished her credentials as a champion for New York’s depressed upstate region. [Link]

In this arrangement, both sides appear to win. Buffalo gets new jobs and a big Indian business becomes more credible in its future dealings with the U.S. My impression is that most Indian Americans (especially second-gen) don’t care much about the outsourcing issue purely on its merits either way. There are a lot more important things to debate. What is much more important to Indian Americans is the skill with which the candidate handles the issue. The slightest hint of xenophobic or protectionist speech in an attempt to assuage big labor (or xenophobes) pisses off the South Asian voter. Obama’s campaign figured that out the hard way earlier this year. In truth, Obama and Clinton both want desi money but they have to pocket it by staying just far enough away that they don’t come off as curry lovers. For example, earlier this month wealthy IITers held their annual alumni conference in Santa Clara. IIT + Silicon Valley = $$$. Destitute John McCain would have been there in a heart beat if invited. Clinton however, appeared by videocon. This way she could appeal to Indian Americans and get their money without pissing off big labor by actually being in a room full of foreign educated Indians. That’s some skill. The true test for Clinton (and the other Dems) lies ahead. Big labor is getting smart about her game and is begining to raise a ruckus:

… in Buffalo, the fruits of the Tata deal have been hard to find. The company, which called the arrangement Clinton’s “brainchild,” says “about 10″ employees work here. Tata says most of the new employees were hired from around Buffalo. It declines to say whether any of the new jobs are held by foreigners, who make up 90% of Tata’s 10,000-employee workforce in the United States.

As for the research deal with the state university that Clinton announced, school administrators say that three attempts to win government grants with Tata for health-oriented research were unsuccessful and that no projects are imminent.

The Tata deal underscores Clinton’s bind as she attempts to lead a Democratic Party that is turning away from the free-trade policies of her husband’s administration in the 1990s and is becoming more skeptical of trade deals and temporary-worker visas. [Link]
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Hyperwhite or Ultrabrown?

As brown blog folks, we know a thing or two about nerdiness. I was surprised therefore to see this NYT article about the research of Mary Bucholtz, a linguist at UCSB who has been studying nerds for the past dozen years. According to the article, Bucholtz argues that nerdiness is essentially exaggerated whiteness:

Nerds – not just white people any more

Nerdiness, she has concluded, is largely a matter of racially tinged behavior. People who are considered nerds tend to act in ways that are, as she puts it, “hyperwhite.”

As a linguist, Bucholtz understands nerdiness first and foremost as a way of using language… Bucholtz notes that the “hegemonic” “cool white” kids use a limited amount of African-American vernacular English … But the nerds she has interviewed, mostly white kids, punctiliously adhere to Standard English… By cultivating an identity perceived as white to the point of excess, nerds deny themselves the aura of normality that is usually one of the perks of being white. [Link]

I’m willing to concede part of her point – that “cool” culture in America has to do with black culture, and that nerds define themselves self-consciously against it. That’s why (as she points out) black nerd figures, like Urkel, are so amusing. It’s worth reading her whole argument, but I’m not going to quote it at greater length here because I’m more interested in what she leaves out, namely immigrant nerds or FOB nerds.

Growing up in New York City, we had nerds of all colors, sizes, shapes and flavors, but the median nerd was probably an immigrant kid of some sort. It didn’t matter where your parents came from, just that they weren’t born here and that you yourself may have emigrated as a kid.

Since I went to a geek high school, I grew up with Eastern European nerds, tons and tons of east Asian nerds, and yes, brown nerds. And it wasn’t about people defining themselves against blackness — African nerds with their white short-sleeve shirts, slacks and ramrod straight posture were just as nerdy as an IITian or MITian around. [Which is precisely why "blackness" gets tricky when talking about immigrants - are you going to call African immigrants Oreos just because they don't fit stereotypes of "black Americans"?]

As a matter of fact, I would go as far as to argue that brown nerds aren’t hyperwhite but ultrabrown. They weren’t trying to emulate the squarer parts of American culture, in fact they were uberdesi . They wore polyester short-sleeve shirts, coke bottle glasses, were very earnest and spoke grammatical english. And yes, before somebody brings up the distinction, they were not just geeks but pukka nerds. Continue reading

5000

It’s poor form to leave a party without saying goodbye. And though for a while now I’ve done little more than relax on the porch and watch the revelers come and go, it’s time now for me to head back out into the city. I’ve had a rich and productive experience here and I thank you all for the insight and the perspectives; you’ve helped me through changes and contributed to my growth in ways you don’t know. I don’t have time to blog at this point, but there are other ways to maintain and contribute to online communities, and I look forward to running into some of you in those future settings. To everyone: Go forward with honesty, kindness, and joy in our complex and ambiguous diasporic lives. PEACE. Continue reading

Whoa– is dating White not right?

this is why i only date brown.JPG

…because according to some commenters, apparently, it isn’t. Suddenly there are commentS about hot Desi girls choosing white guys over their own– and I emphasize the plural aspect of “comment”, because that’s what caught my attention– this wasn’t some one-off virtual rant. Frankly, Mr. Shankly, I’m shocked. While some of the people who are leaving the eyebrow-raising statements seem to be new, I’m fully aware that the normal pattern of Sepia engagement is:

Random Googling –> Sepia? What the-? –> Hmmm, interesting –> Lurking –> and then finally, posting.

If these anti-miscegenation fans have followed that tried-and-true process, then they’d be aware that there are more than a few members of the Mutiny community who are the products of interracial unions; I can’t imagine that they’d be so tactless as to disparage such pairings when they reflect someone like Siddhartha, Desidancer or SemiDesiMasala’s ancestry.

So, maybe these are just mischief-instigating trolls, having some wicked fun via drive-by hate-spewing.

Or are they?

I think there’s more to this– and that’s why I’m publishing this post. Let’s have it out, then. Some of you seem to be in the mood to REALLY tell us what you think, so here’s your deluxe chance. Almost everyone here is anonymous. :) It’s safe to be honest.

The following comments were left on my post about a woman named Aarti being chosen as one of the cuter people on the Hill:

hillside: Also I’ve never dated an Indian girl either, probably partly because so many of the hot ones like the two on this list are into white dudes. [sm]
Sheetal: (referring to comment above)
I’ve noticed this too. What is up with that? [sm]

Sheetal followed that comment by excerpting the following portion of the Hill article, making sure to highlight certain significant words by “bolding” them.

Skipper is a native of Chicago but both parents are from India — something that had worried her when it came to the issue of marriage. The handsome man in church soon became her boyfriend, but he was American and Caucasian, far from what she thought her parents would ever accept.

Okay, loud and clear. Jamie Skipper is Desi and she married a Caucasian (never mind that Desis are Caucasian, too). Yet another commenter seemed to agree with hillside and Sheetal: Continue reading