Hustle Hard, Stack Paper

Several of you have sent in (thanks, Art Vandalay) Suketu Mehta’s op-ed piece “What They Hate About Mumbai“, so it’s no surprise that it is currently the second-most emailed article from the New York Times. In an essay which reminds me of everything I read about our own maximum city seven years ago, Mehta outlines all the ways Mumbai shines, while exhorting us to not be deterred by tragedy.

Mumbai is all about dhandha, or transaction. From the street food vendor squatting on a sidewalk, fiercely guarding his little business, to the tycoons and their dreams of acquiring Hollywood, this city understands money and has no guilt about the getting and spending of it. I once asked a Muslim man living in a shack without indoor plumbing what kept him in the city. “Mumbai is a golden songbird,” he said. It flies quick and sly, and you’ll have to work hard to catch it, but if you do, a fabulous fortune will open up for you. The executives who congregated in the Taj Mahal hotel were chasing this golden songbird. The terrorists want to kill the songbird.
Just as cinema is a mass dream of the audience, Mumbai is a mass dream of the peoples of South Asia. Bollywood movies are the most popular form of entertainment across the subcontinent. Through them, every Pakistani and Bangladeshi is familiar with the wedding-cake architecture of the Taj and the arc of the Gateway of India, symbols of the city that gives the industry its name. It is no wonder that one of the first things the Taliban did upon entering Kabul was to shut down the Bollywood video rental stores. The Taliban also banned, wouldn’t you know it, the keeping of songbirds. [link]

I didn’t know that last bit about the Taliban banning songbirds; there’s something very poignant about such an act. This morning, I randomly surfed through a wiki page about Osama, who once was so annoyed by music at a race track in Sudan, he subsequently stopped attending races.

But back to Bombay, where a seemingly indestructible Big B (who is a blogger, dontcha know) slept with a loaded revolver under his pillow, for the first time, ever.

Mumbai is a “soft target,” the terrorism analysts say. Anybody can walk into the hotels, the hospitals, the train stations, and start spraying with a machine gun. Where are the metal detectors, the random bag checks? In Mumbai, it’s impossible to control the crowd. In other cities, if there’s an explosion, people run away from it. In Mumbai, people run toward it — to help. Greater Mumbai takes in a million new residents a year. This is the problem, say the nativists. The city is just too hospitable. You let them in, and they break your heart. [link]

That bit I bolded made my heart crack, a little. So did this:

In the Bombay I grew up in, your religion was a personal eccentricity, like a hairstyle. In my school, you were denominated by which cricketer or Bollywood star you worshiped, not which prophet. In today’s Mumbai, things have changed. Hindu and Muslim demagogues want the mobs to come out again in the streets, and slaughter one another in the name of God. They want India and Pakistan to go to war. They want Indian Muslims to be expelled. They want India to get out of Kashmir. They want mosques torn down. They want temples bombed. [link]

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San Francisco SM Meetup, December 5? [UPDATED…again]

I can hardly remember the last time I attended an SF meetup, so that clearly means it’s time to host another one!

I am home for the first time in 14 months and I’d love to see all of you yay-urrea mutineers, readers and lurkers alike. On Saturday, December 6, let’s meet for kappi (fine, or chai) at 4pm. While I always champion my beloved, Illy-serving Caffe Greco, in North Beach, I am open to other suggestions, especially if they’re easier to travel to/park at AND the food/libations are excellent. I’d suggest Vik’s (first. Berkeley/east Bay. meetup.) but I’m sure it will be impossible for us to snag tables etc.

Leave suggestions and ideas in the comments below. I return to D.C. on December 7th, so I hope to see some of you soon! 🙂


Update: It seems like a lot of you are busy that Saturday, which makes me wonder if Friday would be easier. Please let us know: which is better, Friday night or Saturday afternoon? …which is why it’s great that we are meeting up on FRIDAY, at Udupi, at 7pm.

Any tips about whether it is better to go at, say 6:30 or 7:30 or anything else you know which could make this go smoother would be greatly appreciated.

Also, start pondering a chill place which we could go to after Udupi– ideally somewhere we’d still be able to hear each other. 🙂 Thanks! Continue reading

Using the power of the hive to keep informed

As Ennis mentioned in the earlier post, there isn’t much we, as American bloggers, can add to the story from Mumbai as it continues to unfold on the ground. The time for blogging about the specifics will come in the next few days as more facts emerge. I recommend forgetting the news channels with their endlessly repeating video loops and paid talking heads. The best place to follow what is happening in Mumbai is to visit the wiki page created to compile all information about these attacks. It is continually being updated and the references section is terrific. There is also a Google Map of the region that has been created with all the attack sites highlighted.

Twitter has also been a great way to get details about what’s going on. Try typing Oberoi for example. “Terrorists trapped” also results in a slew of Tweets.


Breaking news: Terrorist attack ongoing in Bombay

The revolution will not be televised, but I’m glued to CNN-IBN coverage live of this horrific attack. Here’s the short version from the BBC:

Gunmen have opened fire at a number of sites in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay), reportedly killing at least 10 people and injuring others. Police said the shootings appeared to be terrorist attacks. Gunmen opened fire at seven sites including a train station and a restaurant popular with tourists. Shootings were also reported near two hotels and at a hospital. At least two blasts, suspected to be grenade attacks, were reported. [BBC]

According to IBN, terrorists are still holed up and fighting the police, most likely in Oberoi Hotel, Taj and possibly in Colaba. The attack seems focussed on the popular areas of South Bombay, the posh supposedly secure areas, in order to spread panic and terror.

I’m going to close the comments, because they get ugly and we have little to add to the regular news coverage here at SM. If you feel an urge to discuss it and contribute what you have heard, I suggest you discuss the matter on the SAJA post.

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Preeta Bansal for Solicitor General?

To follow-up on Taz’s post earlier this week, several new sources including New York Magazine are reporting that President-elect Obama will soon tap Preeta Bansal as the United States Solicitor General:

Preeta Bansal, a Harvard-educated litigation partner at Skadden, is rumored to be President-elect Obama’s choice for solicitor general. That person argues the government’s position at the Supreme Court (which will still be dominated by conservatives). “It’s making the rounds in New York’s legal circles, absolutely,” says a former colleague of Bansal’s. She was New York’s solicitor general under Eliot Spitzer and a counselor to then–assistant attorney general Joel Klein in the Clinton administration; she was an adviser to Obama’s campaign and now serves on the transition team. She’d be the first woman and first Indian-American to hold the job. [Link]

Ravi and I wanted to interview Preeta at the DNC in Denver but we weren’t allowed to. There were certain folks who you could only interview with permission from Obama’s people. That’s how you knew they were likely to get a top spot in a possible future administration (or be a top bundler). If this turns out to be Obama’s pick it also will serve as a major nod to his Asian American supporters. We’ll then see if Bansal has what it takes to go ten rounds with the likes of Scalia and Roberts. What I also want to know though is, what about Neal Katyal? Obama has said that shutting down the blight that is Guantanamo Bay is one of his top priorities. Why not give Katyal a leadership role in a possible commission to shut it down? From a recent PBS interview:

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, President-elect Obama, as we said, has said he will shut it down. Should he stick to the promise? And can he? What are the issues there?

NEAL KATYAL: Right. He should absolutely stick to the promise. I mean, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the defense secretary, Robert Gates, have both said that Guantanamo is now a net national security loss for the United States. So there’s a security reason to do it above and beyond the simple humanitarian one. [Link]

Oh hell, I’ll just come out and say what I’m really advocating for: Katyal for SCOTUS. Continue reading

There is a First Time for Everything!

Given our people’s track record in professional sports in the United States (virtually nonexistent outside a small handful), I was pretty surprised to see the following story on the Pittsburgh Pirates signing two Indians, yes Indians, from India — Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel — as pitchers. From the article:

The two 20-year-old pitchers, neither of whom had picked up a baseball until earlier this year, signed free-agent contracts Monday with the Pirates. They are believed to be the first athletes from India to sign professional baseball contracts outside their country. Singh and Patel are believed to be first athletes from India to sign professional baseball contracts outside their country.

Patel (L) Singh (R)

I think these are probably the first Indians to sign professional baseball contracts period. I could be mistaken, but I don’t think there are even any Indian-American or South Asian American professional baseball players. The way this happened is pretty interesting. Singh and Patel came to the United States six months ago after being the top finishers in an Indian reality TV show called the “Million Dollar Arm. ” The show drew about 30,000 contestants and was trying to find athletes who could throw strikes at 85 miles per hour or faster. One would think this would be possible in a country of over a billion. Hmm, not exaclty. But while neither pitcher threw hard enough to earn the $1 million prize, Singh made $100,000 from the contest and Patel made $2,500, plus his trip to the United States.

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I’ve Never Cuddled Brown Before

I always imagined that my great (Desi-)American (nonfiction) novel would take readers on the misadventures of a single desi girl, with the first chapter starting with The Cuddle Party. That’s right, a party where people cuddle. I have been borderline obsessed with this idea for the past few years, and thought it would be a perfect first misadventure. The parties are usually gender balanced, cost a small fee, and are moderated to take you on a journey through the power of touch. Not an orgy. Just of hugging and cuddling.

I never actually made it to a party, though I had every intention to. I thought I had missed my opportunity when I found out last month (through the Cuddle Party LA listserv – yes, I subscribe) that they had cuddled their last party. Never to fear, intrepid Current TV reporter and fellow brown girl Tania Rashid to the rescue. [via boingboing]

Three points of interest for me from the video:

  1. I love that Tania’s biggest fear before going into the party was exotification of the small brown girl by the big white slimy people. And her mocking quote, “I never had brown before.”
  2. I love that her source of empowerment from the experience was her ability to say “No.” May not have been the point of the cuddle parties, but hey, at least the brown homegirl got empowered.
  3. I love Current TV and their user generated five minute long shows. A voice like Tania’s (young, brown, female) would have been lost if it wasn’t for spaces like Current.

I think Tania and I could be fast friends. She definitely had more bravado than I would have in the same situation and I think I could use having a girl like her around as I go on single desi girl misadventures. Now, I wonder… do you think she’d be down to go with me to a Polyamorous Society meeting? Continue reading

She wasn’t even safe at Church (7 Updates/BREAKING NEWS)

She tried.

She tried to make her marriage to a violent new husband work, and when that failed, she did what she was supposed to do; she summoned the courage to leave. She got not one, but two restraining orders. She switched coasts, to take shelter with the only relatives she had in this vast country, and put 3,ooo miles between herself and her abuser. He drove across that vastness, with a single purpose: to take back what was “his”. evil asshole.jpg

She did everything right, and he still hunted her down, and killed her, in front of the Holy of Holies, in God’s own house, while a hapless congregation was on their knees, reciting prayers for the dead.

A 24-year old Indian immigrant from Kerala trying to escape an abusive marriage, was killed by her husband, who also shot two other persons injuring them critically at a church in New Jersey. [express]
The shootings happened at 11:44 a.m., a witness said.
The gunman ran from the church and drove away in a green convertible Jeep Wrangler with a black soft top and the California license 5JHD200, said the police, who identified him as Joseph Pallipurath, 27, of Sacramento. He remained at large Sunday night as the New Jersey State Police and law enforcement authorities in northern New Jersey widened a manhunt on highways and at transportation terminals. [nyt]

Police kept the parishioners inside the defiled sanctuary for two hours, to gather statements. Then,

Stunned, teary-eyed congregants emerged from their Clifton church this afternoon after a gunman shot three people in the head, killing his estranged wife from an arranged marriage, and leaving the other two victims clinging to life.
Reshma James, 24, died about 4 p.m., police said. The other two victims, identified by fellow parishioners as Dennis John Malloosseril, 23, and Silvy Perincheril, 47, were in what police termed “very critical condition.”
Friends of Malloosseril said he was near death and family members were making arrangements to donate his organs late tonight. []

Malloosseril did die tonight. Besides being on the church’s Board of Directors, he was a computer analyst who took responsibility for the parish website. Had Malloosseril survived, this heroic man would have celebrated his birthday on Tuesday. Instead, he is a victim of what the New York Times called “the climax of a violent domestic quarrel that had reached from California to India to New Jersey over the past year”. Continue reading

Alicia’s Tacky Tikka

I was just watching the 2008 American Music Awards noting that asymmetrical and gold bead worked dresses were in (how gorgeous were Leona Lewis’ and Nicole Scherzinger’s dresses?) when Alicia Keys walked out onto the red carpet. Now, we’ve seen plenty of desi cultural appropriation attire on the red carpet over the years, (remember Madge’s desification?) but Alicia’s tikka and earrings just made me tilt my head to the side and go, “Huh…”

Alicia Keys AMA getty images.jpg

You’d think with five nominations, her stylist could have spent a little more time on the red carpet outfit… I can’t get over how cheap the combination of the ‘plastic’ earrings with the tikka looked. I kinda can see how the one shoulder dress slightly resembled the swoosh of the auchol over the left shoulder, but still. It’s a stretch.

[Full length fashion disaster after the jump.] Continue reading

Exactly the same except…

I am going to make a prediction and say that within 10 years Texas is going to pull a North Carolina and go blue. Take Houston where I live as an example. The fourth largest city in the United States went very Democratic. Surprised? Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio also went purplish to blue. The vast in-between parts of Texas are red of course but do they matter that much? All is not good in Texas however, nor in other parts of the country. Don’t get complacent. Just because a guy named Barack Obama can get elected President of the United States does not mean a guy with a name like that could win a city council seat, even in a district that went blue. As much as we like to blast Piyush Jindal for his love of the Brady Bunch, he knows that in parts of the country the ends are going to justify the means for a bit longer. There is an all too illustrative example of this right here in Houston. On my ballot there were two Indian American candidates (see here and here) running for two separate judge positions. I have had the pleasure of meeting both Ashish Mahendru and Ravi “R.K.” Sandill and came away impressed by both. Ashish and his wife were even kind enough to invite me to their Diwali party in October. So what happened on election night?

127th District Judge In: 100%
R.K. Sandill, D
554,882 50.5%

Sharolyn Wood, R (I)
543,959 49.5%

334th District Judge In: 100%
Ashish Mahendru, D
532,135 48.6%
Sharon McCally, R (I)
563,517 51.4%

I think everyone reading this knows what’s up. And it isn’t just brown candidates either. The Houston Chronicle called bulls*it right away:

The night Mekisha Murray became one of only four Harris County Democrats to lose a judicial race, her husband had a quick and stinging analysis: “You have your mother to blame for this.”

And perhaps, she did. But more so, the discriminating voters of Harris County, who apparently were turned off by Mekisha’s uncommon, or ethnic-sounding name.

Curiously, the only other three Democrats who failed in their challenges of vulnerable GOP judicial incumbents also had unusual names: Ashish Mahendru, Andres Pereira and Goodwille Pierre.

Well-funded top-ballot headliners like Barack Obama may have been able to overcome the obstacles presented by their funny-sounding names. But voters seem less tolerant further down the ballot. [Link]

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