A Mutinous Look Back at 2007

There is no point to this picture except to consider it a reminder of how INSANE this year was.

Unlike many of you lucky bastards mutineers, I am at work today, so this might be one of the most compendious posts I will ever write (stop applauding, haterz).

For the last week or so, I kept hearing variations on “I can’t believe the year is almost over!”. I was feeling that way myself until I started to pore through our archives. Now I feel like this has been a very long year, one which lasted at least 365 days.

Can you even conceive of a time before Sanjaya? Believe it or not, there was, way back in the beginning of 2007.

Let that sink in.

NOW doesn’t it feel like January 17th–the last day that the mutiny was papaya-free– was a long time ago? Speaking of Sanjaya, he’s on the list. What list? The list I made of interesting, notable or significant posts from this year.

Without further contradiction of my use of the word “compendious”, here they are, for your procrastination and pleasure:

• Obama
• Sanjaya
• Gigi
• Aish
• Gogol
• Neyyappam
• Grace
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Listen All Of Y’all It’s A Sabotage

Memorial.jpg

I Can’t Stand It I Know You Planned It
I’m Gonna Set It Straight, This Watergate…
Oh My, It’s A Mirage
I’m Tellin’ Y’all It’s Sabotage [bb]

To me, the “sunroof theory” sounded contrived; it was insult on top of murder. A lot of us aren’t buying what Pakistan is selling, with regards to the assassination of Benazir. The NYT has more (thanks, Camille):

New details of Benazir Bhutto’s final moments, including indications that her doctors felt pressured to conform to government accounts of her death, fueled the arguments over her assassination on Sunday and added to the pressure on Pakistan’s leaders to accept an international inquiry.
Athar Minallah, a board member of the hospital where Ms. Bhutto was treated, released her medical report along with an open letter showing that her doctors wanted to distance themselves from the government theory that Ms. Bhutto had died by hitting her head on a lever of her car’s sunroof during the attack.
In his letter, Mr. Minallah, who is also a prominent lawyer, said the doctors believed that an autopsy was needed to provide the answers to how she actually died. Their request for one last Thursday was denied by the local police chief.

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Siberian Tiger Escapes SF Zoo, Does What Tigers Do

Tatiana.jpg Ever since a rare Siberian tiger named Tatiana escaped its enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo (my first zoo!) and mauled two brothers after killing a third man, news sites have listed the story in their various “top ten” boxes, for most emailed, most popular and most blogged. Who knew there was a Sepia angle to this captivating, contradiction-filled tale? An anonymous tipster did, and they just rang up the mutiny; it turns out the two survivors are desi.

First, the deets:

The big cat exhibit at the San Francisco Zoo was cordoned off as a crime scene Wednesday as investigators tried to determine whether a 300-pound Siberian tiger that killed a visitor escaped from its high-walled pen on its own or got help from someone, inadvertent or otherwise.
Police shot the animal to death after a Christmas Day rampage that began when the tiger escaped from an enclosure surrounded by what zoo officials said are an 18-foot wall and a 20-foot moat. Two other visitors were severely mauled…
One zoo official insisted the tiger did not get out through an open door and must have climbed or leaped out. But Jack Hanna, former director of the Columbus Zoo and a frequent guest on TV, said such a leap would be an unbelievable feat, and “virtually impossible.”
“There’s something going on here. It just doesn’t feel right to me,” he said. “It just doesn’t add up to me.”
Instead, he speculated that visitors might have been fooling around and might have taunted the animal and perhaps even helped it get out by, say, putting a board in the moat. [KTVU]

Tatiana is the same tiger who attacked a zookeeper almost exactly a year ago, during a public feeding. In that situation, the Zoo was found to be at fault, not the tiger, which is why she wasn’t put down. As many have pointed out on message boards and in news articles, “she was just acting like a tiger”. In this latest, deadly attack, some have asked why an animal which is extremely endangered wasn’t tranquilized instead of killed. The zoo had a team which was capable of that, but the police responded first and did what they felt they had to:

The body of Carlos Sousa Jr, 17, was found with a slashed throat near the exhibit.
The other two victims, brothers age 19 and 23, who accompanied Mr Sousa to the zoo, were said to be present when the tiger escaped.
It is thought they fled, leaving a trail of blood which the tiger followed…
The four-year-old cat, Tatiana, attacked one of the brothers before police were able to distract the animal and shoot it dead. [Telegraph]

There has been much conjecture about whether a board was lowered to help the tiger (!), whether they dangled body parts over the enclosure to tease it, and whether blood and a shoe were found inside the tiger’s stomping grounds. Finally, there are a few answers: Continue reading

Where is Anu Solanki? [Updated]

Where is Anu.jpg 12.28.07: For those of you who do not read comments and may not know this– there is evidence which indicates that Anu is alive:

Authorities from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department announced they believe Solanki has left the Chicago area with a friend of hers, and that she has gone willingly. [oh, snap]

Developing…


I know we’re still shocked about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, but there’s a story about another South Asian woman which deserves attention, in case any of you can help.

We’ve received several tips about a young woman who currently lives in Chicago, who has disappeared under what I think are extra-tragic circumstances. Anu Solanki is 24 years old and a newlywed from Virginia. The last time she was seen was when she was leaving her job at a hotel gift shop, on Monday, the 24th. A few miles from there…

Her car — which was still running with its doors unlocked– was found in a forest preserve parking lot late Monday afternoon.
Forest preserve police used divers to search the river in the Wheeling Forest Preserve on Wednesday, but said they would stay inside the boats on Thursday. [abc7chicago]

This is what makes my heart ache, why I wrote that this story had an extra element of tragedy:

Solanki’s husband said his wife may have gone to the river to place a broken statue of the Hindu deity Ganesh in the water, as they were told to do by a priest, to prevent bad luck. Authorities fear the woman slipped while placing the statue in the current. [abc7chicago]
“There is some concern at this point that this is a rapid current of the Des Plaines River, that it may be wise to check even further,” said Cook County Forest Preserve District spokesman Steve Mayberry. “Miss Solanki is a petite woman, and in fact, the current may have carried her further than initially believed.” [WBBM780]

Who among us hasn’t tried to do the “right” thing, on the advice of someone we trust, even if it seems superstitious? I’m just haunted by the mental picture I have of this girl earnestly, gingerly transporting this broken-but-sacred statue, on her way to the river.

While her slipping and falling while trying to do something respectful is awful enough, there’s the possibility of worse:

Police are checking the validity of a report that Solanki called a relative and said she was being watched, but then called back minutes later to say she was fine. [abc7chicago]

That report says she called a relative, this says she called a friend:

Dignesh Solanki says his wife spoke with a friend by cell phone that afternoon, telling her she was being followed by four men, then called back to say the men had disappeared. [WBBM780]

I hope she will be found soon. Chicago mutineers Neeraj and M, thank you for keeping us posted about this. Continue reading

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated (Updated)

Initial reports are coming in and SM will certainly pass on the message. First, CNN Reports

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (CNN) — Pakistan former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was targeted in a deadly suicide bombing Thursday. Media reports quote her husband saying she suffered a bullet wound to the neck in the attack.

…The attacker is said to have detonated a bomb as he tried to enter the rally where thousands of people gathered to hear Bhutto speak, police said.

Some first guesses at implications..

While President Pervez Musharraf has promised free and fair parliamentary elections next month, continued instability in the tribal areas and the threat of attack on large crowds has kept people from attending political rallies and dampened the country’s political process.

Campaigners from various political groups say fewer people are coming out to show their support due to government crackdowns and the threat of violence.

Today’s violence come less than two weeks ahead of January parliamentary elections and as many days after President Pervez Musharraf lifted a six-week-old state of emergency he said was necessary to ensure the country’s stability.

Stay tuned.

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Children in UP Manipulated in to Discriminating Against a Dalit

Who hearts the News tab? I totally do and since I had a few moments, I managed to do what I always intend but never get around to– I checked which story was currently “most interesting” as measured by the “top in 24 hr” link. Eleven of us thought the following tip, which was submitted by Condekedar a few days ago, was important:

Indian children boycott school lunches cooked by ‘Untouchable’

Condekedar wrote this rather attention-getting summary…

A sad reminder of the continued existence of caste-discrimination. This story is even worse, because it’s children who are showing their bigotry, not just prejudiced older people.

Via The Independent:

By her own admission, the lunches cooked by Phool Kumari Rawat may not always be the tastiest food the pupils at her school have ever eaten. And with more than 300 students to cook for, getting the proportions right can be a struggle.
But the children of Bibipur Primary and Junior High School near Lucknow have not launched a boycott of Mrs Rawat’s food because of its taste, but because Mrs Rawat is a Dalit, a so-called Untouchable. As a result, they say, the food is unclean.

A whole new generation, India’s best generation yet with regards to opportunity, learning the worst about others. Condekedar is right; it is extra-disheartening to read about such sentiments from little kids.

Such incidents are not uncommon in India, where caste remains a debilitating and divisive phenomenon, especially for those 75 per cent of people who live in rural communities. But the boycott at Bibipur is especially noteworthy because it is taking place in Uttar Pradesh (UP), the state which this year elected a Dalit woman, Mayawati Kumari, as its chief minister. Campaigners say that despite Mayawati’s poll victory, Dalits still suffer widespread discrimination.

First, they did right by the woman:

When the boycott of the meals began last week, local officials stood by Mrs Rawat, a widow with three children, and tried to persuade the students that there was nothing unhygienic about her food. Officials who inspected her cooking said there were no problems and one even ate the lunch – vegetables and rice – in front of the students to persuade them to end their boycott.

…but they didn’t stay strong:

But The Indian Express newspaper reports that with the children not backing down from the boycott, the authorities are now poised to sack Mrs Rawat.

Two issues are being conflated; the quality of the lunches and the hands which cook them. If it were merely about the former, I don’t think anyone would fault the kids. The revolt might even be framed as a cute rebellion by pigtailed and cow-licked children, standing up for their right to yumminess. But…

Tellingly, children who live in Mrs Rawat’s neighbourhood are still eating the lunches, while those involved in the boycott have reportedly made little effort to hide their reason for refusing to eat. “I will not eat anything cooked by that lady. I have heard my family members say that she is from some low caste. So I bring my own lunch box,” said one pupil, Shivani Singh Chauhan.

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Guest Blogging from Singapore & Malaysia

Greetings, Mutineers. Abhi and the gang have graciously allowed me another round of guest blogging, this time from Singapore and Malaysia. As you may recall, I am at work on a photography book about the global Indian diaspora and reported from Kenya last January.

For this junket through Southeast Asia, I’ll be joined by V.V. Ganeshananthan. Sugi is Sri Lankan, a writer, and a newly elected member of the SAJA board. Her first novel, Love Marriage, will be published by Random House in April. She, too, is working on diaspora issues, especially those affecting the Sri Lankan communities around the world.

We’ll be posting here, jointly and separately, during the first few weeks of January from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and other places in between.

Tamils from India and Sri Lanka, along with Malayalees, Punjabis, and Sindhis have been in the region for a very long time, as traders even before the colonial period. In the late 19th century, Tamils were brought over in great numbers by the British as laborers in the rubber plantations and railroads (the majority of persons of South Asian origin in Singapore and Malaysia are Tamil). Singapore even served as a penal colony for Indian convicts and as a conduit for indenture, as the city was built partially on forced labor. Singapore even had its own Sepoy Mutiny in 1915. Continue reading

Ghosts of Christmas (and other times) past

I’m always a bit hesitant to write what might be viewed as a “personal” entry on these pages. I used to have my own personal blog for those types of musings but decided to give it up because of the pressures of a full time job and this blog. I also don’t want to be presumptuous and assume that the vast majority of SM readers care about my life (as opposed to my writings highlighting something of interest or importance to the South Asian American community). That being said, today is a holiday (when SM readership plummets for obvious reasons), and so I figured I’d get away with some personal blogging. Since many of you seemed to enjoy my previous entry about my arduous toils in my basement, I thought I would serve up one more entry based on the booty recovered from the nine tons of refuse we removed from down there over the last three days.

First off, I know some of you don’t believe me when I say I’m a Grinch. Do these pictures finally convince you? I could tell even at a young age that this new-fangled Santa Claus was an imposter:

Leave this one alone. He’s bad to the bone. (Age 1)

And Frosty? Please. The only large snowball I care to associate with is a snow cone with watermelon syrup:

Where is Frosty’s left hand?

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Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai 2007

India and China are just about to wrap up joint military exercises, 45 years after the border war which put an end to the phrase which serves as the title of this post. The CSM reports:

The decision to hold joint Army exercises, ending tomorrow, in China’s Yunnan Province, is admittedly a small measure. But it is the first time the two armies have cooperated in such a way, and it comes on the heels of rapidly expanding Sino-Indian ties in business and politics…

This being the first Army exercise between the two countries, it has been small. Only 95 Indian soldiers have traveled to Yunnan Province, where they are participating in counterterrorism drills. But the joint exercise is expected to become an annual event, helping each side become better acquainted with the other.

“These are building blocks being put in place,” says Rahul Bedi of Jane’s, a London-based military analysis firm. “It’s a part of the learning process…” [Link]

And what did they name these exercises? Operation Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon? Sadly, no. That would have been the name if only I were in charge. Instead, the name given to these joint training exercises was “Hand-in-Hand 2007.” Hand-in-Hand? These are supposed to be warriors not playmates. For your viewing enjoyment I have posted some of the most exciting pictures from the the last several days:

Chinese soldier teaches Indians that the best way to defend against a sledge hammer to the head is by using the nearest pile of bricks for protection. They swear it works and that Indians should try.

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Skeletons in the basement

The last two days I have been performing back-breaking, grueling, utterly soul crushing labor…in my own house (well, my parents house). Have you guys ever read a news article about some reclusive old guy who had a lifelong hoarding problem (a.k.a syllogomania) and when police finally entered the house they found a rotting, partially eaten corpse buried underneath a pile of junk that was formerly on one side of the only navigable lane through the house? Yes? Then now you know what my dad is like (known as “Yo Dad” to some who read SM). My dad left with my mom for India earlier this week so I flew home to help my brother clean out the house without any resistance. I wanted to solve this looming crisis before my dad made the local news in the “odd news” segment. Over the last two days we’ve been cleaning out stuff (mostly stored in the basement) that spans back 40 years! I won’t bore you with descriptions of 20-year-old used shower curtains or “Indian luggage bags” filled with spiders. I will take you straight to the good stuff. First, check out these two cricket bats. I remember they were purchased on a trip to India in 1982/3 in Ahmedabad (I was ~7). Notice anything shocking on one of them?

Was I an angry militant batsman as a child?

Can someone please explain this to me? Why would a child’s cricket bat say Hitler on it? I can understand why the one on the right has Sunil Gavaskar’s name…but Hitler?? As best as I can guess, the bat makers meant to spell “Hitter” but misspelled it as “Hitler.” Why did my parents even buy me this cricket bat? This could REALLY come back to tank my candidacy if I ever run for office. This is a closet skeleton right up there with GW Bush’s and Obama’s cocaine use.

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