I’ll Show You Islamic Hood (ie)

Sepia Post2.jpg Our recently retired around the way desi girl made a come back this past week in New York. Not in music, but in fashion. Yes, the queen of sparkly spandex and fake purple flowers on derby hats debuted her new line at same time as New York’s Fashion Week.

As promised, M.I.A. has launched her limited-edition clothing line, and the “Okley Run” store is open for business on her Web site. While the prints are pretty much as outlandish as you expect, the prices for each individual piece are a bit insane—and not in the “clashing colors that actually look better and better the more you focus on their dissonance” way, or even the Crazy Eddie way*. [idolator]

A quick glance of the online store had me come to a screeching halt — directly on the image of a sweatshirt labeled, “Islamic Hoodie.” It could be that the fasting from Ramadan has me extra sensitive, but it seems that everywhere I look I see images of hijabs as the latest fashion icon. I saw it on a shirt at a festival last week, and now this. On the Okley Run site the image of the sweatshirt could not be enlarged but I did see the eyes of a woman in niqab with what seemed like an explosion over her head. Could that really be what she was trying to say? What could M.I.A. have meant by this logo?

This would take some investigative blogging. The image on her site was simply not clear enough to decipher. Luckily, I just happen to live in one of the two cities where Opening Ceremony, the only store carrying her line retail, is – Los Angeles. Continue reading

Interstate Love Song

India's GQ.PNG

Last week, SM reader “S” emailed us a tip about the October issue of National Geographic:

Just wanted to send a quick link to a story I worked on for ngm.com (National Geographic magazine). It’s a story about India’s highway project and has some amazing photography. The photo map has photos submitted to our site by readers.

The highway project is called the Golden Quadrilateral (GQ), and it is

…the brand-new, 3,633-mile expressway linking the country’s major population centers of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata. [ngm]

Some history behind the project:

Announced in 1998 by then Prime Minister Atal B. Vajpayee, who is credited with giving the project its grandiose name, the Golden Quadrilateral is exceeded in scale only by the national railway system built by the British in the 1850s. For decades after its 1947 independence, India practiced a kind of South Asian socialism in keeping with the idealism of its founders, Gandhi and Nehru, and its economy eventually stalled. In the 1990s the country began opening its markets to foreign investment, led by a pro-growth government and staffed by an army of young go-getters who speak excellent English and work for a fraction of the wages paid in the West. Yet India’s leaders realized their decrepit highways could hobble the country in its race toward modernization. “Our roads don’t have a few potholes,” Prime Minister Vajpayee complained to aides in the mid-1990s. “Our potholes have a few roads.”
Ten years after Vajpayee’s announcement, the GQ is among the most elaborately conceived highway systems in the world, a masterpiece of high-tech ingenuity that is, in many ways, a calling card for India in the 21st century. Seen on a 48-inch flat-screen computer monitor at highway administration headquarters in Delhi, the GQ seems as beautiful as a space capsule. Its designers describe it as an “elegant collection of data points,” or a gleaming, “state-of-the-art machine,” a technologically advanced conveyor belt moving goods and people around India with seamless precision.

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If you’re male, you may not want to read this…

…lest you wish to spend the rest of the day with your legs tightly crossed, doubled-over with sympathy pain and terror (thanks, JTMoney!). Via our news tab: Kir Royale the betta.jpg

A 2cm long fish apparently found it’s (sic) way into the penis of a 14-year-old boy from India in a bizarre medical case.
The patient was admitted to hospital with complaints of pain, dribbling urine and acute urinary retention spanning a 24-hour period. According to the boy, the fish slipped into his penis while he was cleaning his aquarium at home.

Uh…I’ve either had or been around home aquariums since I was a toddler. I have never had a fish slip anywhere, while I was cleaning anything. Hell, I haven’t even had one of these bizarre pedicures.

Professor Vezhaventhan and Professor Jeyaraman, who treated the boy and later wrote a paper on the case, explained: “While he was cleaning the fish tank in his house, he was holding a fish in his hand and went to the toilet for passing urine. When he was passing urine, the fish slipped from his hand and entered his urethra and then he developed all these symptoms.”

Okay, mens. Here’s the part which will have you wincing:

After detecting the fish in the boy’s bladder, Vezhaventhan and Jeyaraman used a technique known as cystourethroscopy to insert a special set of forceps down the patient’s penis. Unfortunately, the fish was just too slippery to grip, so they resorted to using a rigid ureteroscope with a tool attached that is normally used for removing bladder stones.

Yeesh, even I am crossing my legs at this point. One of the most awesome aspects of being female is knowing what a speculum is, whether one is involved with medicine or not, and by awesome, I mean “atrocious”. Owww.

The fish the urologists removed, which Practical Fishkeeping believes to be a small member of the Betta genus, measured 2cm long and 1.5cm wide.

By the way, bettas aren’t just “Siamese Fighting Fish“, even though many people refer to the latter (a.k.a. Betta Splendens) by just its genus name. For those who may be wondering about it, the image enhancing this post is a picture of my dearly departed “Kir Royale“, a betta splendens who traveled to that great pond in the sky, earlier this year.

He was later admitted into counseling to help him overcome any trauma.

Speaking of trauma, aren’t you glad I didn’t play the caption game, with this one? ;) Continue reading

Bumblers boldly buying ballots?

A new study out in India claims that “in the last decade, at least one-fifth of the country’s electorate was paid cash for their votes.” [HT MR] The study also claims that this percentage (unsurprisingly) is far higher amongst those living below the poverty line, with as many as 94% of Andhra voters below the poverty line alleged to have sold their votes. The side of the bribe varies from around $3/voter up to (and this I find hard to believe) $25:

The bribe money varies from state to state. It may be Rs100-150 (a voter) in some states and it can go up to Rs1,000 in some constituencies [link]

[Huge graphic of findings below the fold]

I don’t have a problem believing that there is vote buying in India – there’s huge corruption throughout the electoral system. Furthermore, vote buying is common behavior in many democracies, including when America was younger.

Washington and Jefferson bought elections using alcohol; Washington paid 40 pounds (a huge sum in those days) to win an election against a more popular rival for the VA legislature in 1758. These practices continued after the founding of the Republic:

Some politicians had been known to buy votes and pay repeat voters. In 1823 the price of a vote in New York City was $5 and for repeat voters, went as high as $30. [link]

I’m also not surprised that poor people who are willing to sell their labor and their bodies just to stay alive might be willing to take a payment.

No, what I have trouble with is the fact that the article reports the conclusions of this study while waving their hands concerning how these numbers were estimated:

Explaining the methodology for the study, Rao said CMS used a perception, experience and estimation method to arrive at its conclusions. “Not many will admit they have been bribed to cast their vote,” he said. “But, in confidence, they would let you know if they knew someone who has taken money.” [link]

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Punjabi Parmigiana

Riffing off of Sugi’s post concerning Naan Fromage in France, and I just learned [via Camille] that the Italian dairy industry in Lombardy that produces Parmigian cheese relies on desis for 90% of their work force. That’s right, we can do more than just paneer. No more Amul for you, baby, from now on it’s only the finest Italian cheeses. We are milkmen to the world!

The first immigrants came 20 years ago to (according to the documentary clip) work as animal handlers in the circus, now the town of Novellara has 600 Sikh immigrants and the second largest Gurdwara in Europe. The Po Valley has 60,000 desis working there and couldn’t function without them. Here’s the news clip:

My favorite part is when the guy explains that he likes to hire Indians because they are patient, methodical, and extremely reliable, with a natural gift for working with animals. Clearly he’s never been to India.

p.s. can I use the fact that Sikhs run the dairies of Parma as credentials for a government sinecure?

Related news: African Lumberjacks in Canada

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Naan Fromage, S’il vous plaît

Hurray for traveling, but also: hurray for airports with sweet, stable and FREE (!) Internet connections. I have a brief interlude here in Kansas City on my way back from a reading, so I thought I’d tell you about a trip I took last month. After attending a desi wedding in Georgia (the American one!) I took the Delta nonstop to Paris (the French one!) for another wedding. And in France, I did a little desi-spotting, in the part of Paris known as La Chapelle.

So, in this blissful hiatus from the security line (as Kumar says, “random search, huh?”), I bring to you tales of gastronomie and naan fromage!

I can’t pretend that I had an exhaustive look at La Chapelle—time did not permit—but you know me, I managed to eat. And take pictures. Neither can I pretend to be Preston Merchant, but I did try to get some of the signs that captured the French-Indien-Srilankhan (!) vibes. Continue reading

Are You Excited… To Vote?

It’s not that I’m against Sunny Leone (NSFW). I am totally pro desi woman in any non-mainstream industry. I even blogged about her on Sepia Mutiny previously as a ‘cool desi woman under 30.’ I like her, you know, for a porn star.

But at work today, I was researching voting public service announcement (PSA) targeted toward the Asian American community. There was the bikini-clad Korean one, the kung fu epic one, the Kelly Hu bowing to George Takai one. There are even several PSAs put out by the non-profit APIA Vote that have a stream of famous Asian American actors talking about voting. But of course, none of the PSAs had a desi face.

SAJA Forum‘s Sree Sreenivasan had brought this issue up earlier this year…

…I am writing today to bring attention to the fact that to some (just some) Asian Americans, South Asians still don’t count as Asian Americans…How else to interpret these two political public service ads, created by and starring Asian Americans and aimed at Asian Americans? Take a look at each and see neither bothers to put in any South Asian faces. John Cho, one half of the “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” team is featured in both ads, but you won’t find his at-least-as-equally-famous partner, Kal Penn, in either ad… I am glad there are such efforts out there to get Asian Americans to vote. But I am struck by how ridiculous it is not to have even a token brown face in these ads. [SAJAForum]

Sree, I found the token brown face amongst the sea of voting PSAs!!! I found the one! The youth vote organization Declare Yourself has a stream of quirky/sexual PSAs targeted directly to the youth demographics (at least “quirky/sexual” is what comes to mind when I watch McLovin teaching me how to pull the lever.) Declare Yourself partnered with Vivid Entertainment to create the following PSA, starring our gal, the sole desi starring in a voting PSA, Sunny Leone.

“As an immigrant who is thrilled to exercise her right to vote in a presidential election for the first time, I wanted to do what I could to get other young people to participate,” said Leone who only recently became an American citizen. “There’s no excuse not to register -DeclareYourself.com makes it so easy.” [LVTSG]

I could go on and on about the innovation behind a voting non-profit partnering with an adult entertainment company… but I’m sure you just want to get to the video already, don’t you?

Did Sunny get you excited…to vote?

Go to Rock the Vote and register to vote online today. We have less then 45 days till Election Day on November 4th. You’ll need to re-register if you moved, changed names, or changed political parties. In most states the last day to register to vote is 30 days before Election Day.

So here’s my personal request. Though it’s great Sunny is the first desi face in a voting PSA, I think there should be more. And since the boys have Sunny, how about we gals get some brown sugar like Sendhil Ramamurthy, Naveen Andrews or Kal Penn to make a voting PSA? That would definitely rock my vote. ;-) Continue reading

It’s not a 10 gallon hat

To complete our trifecta of news from Texas, the county of Dallas finally settled a case concerning a judge who told a Sikh plaintiff that he had to choose between his right to free exercise of his religion or his right to go to court:

Amardeep Singh appeared in Judge Albert Cercone’s court to contest a minor a traffic citation. Mr. Singh was denied entrance into the court due to his turban. Unfortunately, Judge Cercone threatened that if Mr. Singh did not leave the courtroom and stayed with his “hat” on, he would be arrested. [Link]

Judge Cercone is probably just a crazy old coot of a judge whose “no-nonsense approach to the court” is full of bakwaas. (It’s not clear to me that Judge Cercone is even a lawyer by training, his website only lists experience as a businessman, but you’d think that judge training would cover something as basic as the Bill of Rights) And I know this isn’t a common occurrence – there are plenty of Sikhs in Dallas, and many of them are able to get their day in court.

Still, what has me steamed is the way Dallas compounded its mistake by refusing to admit fault. Unlike the state of Georgia, which backed down in a similar circumstance when the first amendment issues were explained, the county of Dallas persisted in its mistaken ways.

So Amardeep Singh (not our Amardeep), with the help of SALDEF and the Texas ACLU, sued under the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act and won, a process that took 2 years.

The fact that the county dug in the heels of its cowboy boots rather than admitting that they had goofed is absurd. Both the constitution and state law are pretty clear about the need not to interfere with the free exercise of religion. And Texas is hardly a state which gives judges complete control over their courtrooms. For example, state law says that prosecutors may carry firearms into the courtroom, whether the judge wishes them to or not. Seeing as the First Amendment comes before the Second, you’d think this would have been a no-brainer.

Hey Texas! Don’t mess with me either. Continue reading

Panthers guard desi-owned businesses

Things in the Houston area are only partly starting to get back to normal in the wake of Ike’s destruction. Still only about 50% of the people here have their power back (I was luckily in the top 35%) and tensions are running high, especially as you get closer towards Galveston. Taz tipped me off yesterday that some nearby gas stations (specifically the ones with a small co-located convenience store) have been hiring Black Panther party members to secure the premises and prevent potential looting:

The Black Panther Party says it deployed 17 of its members to area gasoline station convenience stores to protect them from theft in the hours before and after Hurricane Ike makes landfall.

Owners asked the group to provide private security for their property, said Major Kenyha Shabazz, chairman of Peoples Party No. 3, the Houston affiliate of the Black Panther Party.

“These are the places that service our communities with food, water and fuel,” Shabazz said. “We don’t want these places torn up.”… [Link]

As you can imagine, many of these gas station/convenience stores are desi owned. I find this to be a rather interesting (and perhaps symbiotic) relationship. A party once thought of as extremist in the 60s is now being hired by South Asian business owners (not necessarily known for racial integration into the communities in which they reside). In return, the Panthers are given a new legitimacy and may even help improve race relations since the areas they are protecting also include large hispanic populations.

Once these owners and the community residents the Panthers sought to defend might have seen each other as adversaries, partners in a relationship filled with racial tension. The Panthers’ defense of these corner stores is a nice reminder of how times have changed to the benefit of the whole community.

“We hired these Black Panther people to take care of our two stores, one here on Dowling and the other one on Elgin,” said Nabi Chowdhury, manager of a Mobil station on Dowling Street.

“We have confidence in them because for a long time we have known them, and their attitude and everything, we like,” Chowdhury said. [Link]

Taz suggested I go conduct some interviews at one of these gas stations. However, I don’t want to get shot as a potential looter (I kind of have the avaricious eyes of one).

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Slur-ricane Ike: Stress Brings out the Worst in People?

As the comments section of Ennis’ post on the GOP’s efforts to reach out to minorities indicates, many of us saw the video below on ABC News last night. I know I wasn’t the only one who immediately hit rewind, out of a combination of incredulity and astonishment.

Natural disasters are awful and over-worked, frazzled law enforcement officials are under much strain, but that still doesn’t justify ignorant reactions like the one captured above. I wonder if that same cop instructed other drivers who annoyed him or “talked back” to perhaps return to Africa or England? I’m thinking not.

Reader Suede wrote in to the tip line, with this update:

3:40am PST.
World News Now on ABC 7
Vinita Nair and her co-host are covering a story about the devastation in Texas, and they show a clip about how cops are turning people back and not letting them return.
The clip begins with a guy (desi) in a car arguing with the cop who is not letting him go through. The cop finally tells him “go back to India”. After the clip, Vinita didn’t just shove the comment under the rug, but instead, she was shocked and raised her concern about the trooper’s comments.

Go Vinita! As a massive insomniac (who grew up in a home with no cable), I have always loved WNN– I even list it under my favorite TV shows, on my facebook profile ;) . Now that the beautiful and brainy Ms. Nair is co-anchoring it, consider me a rabid fan. Yay for calling out stupidity and not glossing over the truth. Continue reading