Border Patrol Hassles the Well Rested

seal_customs.jpgOn a recent road trip from L.A. to Austin, my car was pulled over and hassled by the Border Patrol. By “hassled”, I mean that our car was questioned for longer than a normal amount of time which I simply attributed to the fact that the car was full of colored hair Muslim punks. We were allowed to pass without getting out of the car or a dog search. It was confusing too, since we weren’t crossing any national borders, we were just close to the Texas and Mexico border.

My “hassled” is nothing compared to the detention that Hamdan Yousef experienced at the Canadian border. He has a fascinating narrative on it over at Huffington Post.

I was returning home on a Sunday evening from a leisurely drive to Canada two weeks ago, and the Customs and Border Protection officer in the booth had a blank look on his face…Moments later, my car had been surrounded by heavily armed agents dressed in black and I was being asked to hand over my keys and step out of my vehicle.

I had entered the legal netherworld of the border, and it would be an experience to remember.[huffpost]

Yousef is detained and questioned while his car is searched. He eventually gets frustrated and goes up to the counter to figure out what is going on. Continue reading

The Desi Girl Dilemma

eye cream jar.jpgThis morning I experienced a personal mini-crisis. When I went to apply my eye cream, specially purchased on my last trip to India I realized – I had just run out. It was like one of those scenes in a movie where time stood still and zoomed in close on the empty container.

Desi girls are brown. Which means that our skin has a high level of pigmentation, unlike the pigmentation of the majority of girls in America. This means that there are probably a few common experiences that we share. At some point in our teenage make-up experimentation stage we were told to purchase the generically colored “tan” foundation and/or concealer despite it not matching our skin tone at all. We wore a ghastly bright red lipstick because someone said it looked good with our skin. Finally is the struggle to find the perfect eye cream to battle those undereye bags that a large percentage of South Asian women are genetically predisposed to and that none of the products sold here cater to.

East Asian women have Shiseido. Ambi is a line of product catering to women of color for lotions and creams. But the Desi girl doesn’t have much else, and a walk through CVS or Sephora or Nordstrom’s makeup counters is liable to give me a panic attack.

Never to fear. In my panicked frenzy this morning, I stumbled across two blogs to the rescue: An Indian’s Makeup Blog and The Indian Make-Up Diva.

Here’s what I love about the blogs: 1) These are Desi American women writing the blogs, so all of the products they use can be found here. 2) They try and review the products with a Desi girl slant. 3) They give easy to understand instructions on how to put on make up. 4) They are written with wit and charm. Continue reading

2 UPDATES: Murdered, In Front of his Three-year old Granddaughter

Update: Ekram Haque passed away today.


I just read a horrifying, heartbreaking story in the Daily Mail: Ekram Haque.jpg

A Muslim pensioner was on the brink of death last night A Muslim pensioner has died today after an appalling race-hate attack by a gang of schoolboys.
Retired care worker Ekram Haque, 67, was battered to the ground in front of his three-year- old granddaughter Marian.

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Swedish Pakistani Music

There’s an interesting documentary that was posted over at MTV Iggy of Victoria Bergsman, front woman of The Concretes and female vocals to Peter Bjorn and John’s song ‘Young Folks.’ In her latest project, Victoria goes to Pakistan to record music.

Under the moniker “Taken By Trees,” her second solo album is a blend of floaty, Northern European vocals and the traditional sounds of Pakistan. Bergsman said she went East because she is a “fan” of Sufi music and a lover of such artists as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.[MTV Iggy]

They set up a makeshift studio in the Lahore home of their hotel owner. [T]he electricity would go off for an hour every third hour. That was the least of their problems. Bergsman and Soderstrom had to pretend to be married in the traditionally patriarchal society. She also had to convince the local musicians that a woman could run a recording session. [NPR]
There is some language in the documentary that I find problematic (“Pakistan was more mysterious” or “people all over, miserable, dirty, poor, dead animals”), though overall her soft lilting voice tempered her words significantly. But what compelled me to bring this dialogue to Sepia Mutiny was an offline conversation with musician friends. MadGuru, who had just returned from collaborating with local musicians in Pakistan for his animated short Gul, stated:
“I think it’s really cool that she went there and recorded her music, but she seems really clueless about how the traditional music there is improvised and played/recorded live…I had music recorded in Pakistan last summer myself, so I do know how frustrating it can be to try and figure things out, but at least one should go to a place to record the music they play, with some knowledge of what it is instead of expecting the whole world to play like session musicians at a studio and think they lack talent if they don’t.”
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Archie Panjabi to star in CBS’s The Good Wife

Archie Punjabi.jpg

Archie Panjabi, who you’ll remember from films like Bend It Like Beckham and A Mighty Heart, is set to appear this fall in a new CBS drama called The Good Wife. (Thanks to my SM mutineer from Philly, Neha, for the tip!) The show, a legal drama, centers around a woman (Julianna Luisa Margulies) whose husband, a high-profile politician, (played by Sex and the City’s Chris Noth), goes to jail after his involvement in a sex scandal. Margulies plays the wronged wife who decides to return to her job as an attorney after years as a stay-at-home mom. Panjabi plays the role of Kalinda, an East Indian kick-ass bisexual investigator who works alongside Margulies’s character on cases. It’ll be interesting to see how this show plays out. You can see Panjabi on Tuesdays starting with the show’s premiere on September 22 at 10 ET/PT.

Check out some scenes from the show.

[Photo Credit]

Related posts: Panjabi having a very ‘Good Year‘, ‘Yasmin’ in Queens, The spy who loved me

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Posted in TV

Is It Time for the Desi Nursing Home?

My grandparents were social people. Once. I know this because I knew them, some 20-odd years ago as a child visiting Pakistan. They had chai with their neighbors, chatted with the doodhwalla [milkman] and bargained their way through the markets in the city of Lahore. They were lively, much-loved, essential parts of their tightly-knit community. But everything’s different now. Now, they live in the suburbs of New Jersey. Outside of children, grandchildren, occasional visits to church and medical visits, they don’t see many people. Their friends are in Pakistan, or scattered across the globe in the homes of their own children. And as they grow older, my grandparents, trapped by their deteriorating bodies, have traded scooters and cars for walkers and wheelchairs. I can see the loneliness in their eyes. But they aren’t the only ones.

Sunday’s New York Times featured an article called “Invisible Immigrants, Old and Left With ‘Nobody to Talk To,” about elderly immigrants in America whose lack of social connectedness can be caused by many barriers – including poverty, lack of transportation and language restrictions. Continue reading

Q&A with Lushlife aka Rajesh Haldar

In July thanks to a tip from mutineer Eurasian Sensation, I learned that Philly had its own resident desi hip-hop artist, 28-year old Raj Haldar aka Lushlife whose second album, Cassette City, came out in June from Rapsterrecords. As your East Coast correspondent, I did a little investigative journalism (okay, I emailed him) and got the chance to ask Lushlife a few questions one-on-one.

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Ahimsa’s Global Lingo

A few years back while I was still living in LA I wrote about the wonderful Project Ahimsa:

Project Ahimsa is a global effort to empower youth through music. The organization was founded in 2001 in response to the violent attacks on Sikhs and South Asians after 9/11. The organization operates under the auspices of the Patel Foundation for Global Understanding, a registered 501c3 non-profit based in Tampa, FL. Project Ahimsa’s mission is to empower youth though developing and supporting community based music education.

The vision of Project Ahimsa is to generate unity from the means to the ends. Funding to develop the “means” comes from music concerts featuring artists from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. Artists such as the Black Eyed Peas, The Doors, Nitin Sawhney, MC Rai, JBoogie’s Dubtronic Science, DJ Cheb i Sabbah, Karsh Kale, Bobby Friction, and MIDIval Punditz have all performed at Project Ahimsa benefit events. Attended by a diverse audience of non-Indians and Indians alike, Project Ahimsa events are built on a healthy collaboration between international artists, non-governmental organizations, public institutions, corporations, and promoters creating a diverse experience interesting to all ages and backgrounds. [link]

Here is one of several videos from Ahimsa’s website that explains what “empowering youth through music” means exactly:

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Can I get one at the “As Seen on TV”-store at the Mall?

So Foursquare* isn’t rewarding me with any points for running around my city and worse than that, GMail is down (boo! et tu Goo?). What’s a web-addicted fool to do? Check her facebook, natch. It’s a good thing I did– because that’s where I saw this:

Posted by SM reader Jisha to her feed, I found the narrator’s sorority accent to be soothingly familiar, as she gushed about the very things I love to mock: Starbuck’s redundantly-named and poorly-made “Chai tea latte“, scam-y scientology…and movies about schlubby guys who miraculously pull hot chicks.

Judging from their comments below it, Jisha’s friends weren’t feeling the clip (I believe the word “weird” was offered as a reaction). I think it’s funny. Props to Lindsay Gareth and Kosha Patel, who did such a cute job with this spoof that I can almost overlook the use of “a” instead of “an” in “1-800-uh-Indian”. Almost. Every time she intones that number, all I can think of is “An, an, AN, damnit, AN!” And yes, I know that they were probably prioritizing having seven digits over preventing glottal stops, but still. Does anyone have $19.95 which they can spot me? Like J. Wellington Wimpy, “I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a Indian today”. Continue reading

Get a Lawyer, Please!

Anand Jon. Syed Haris Ahmed. Ehsanul Sadequee. The first is the Indian born fashion designer (who’ve we’ve covered on Sepia before) convicted of one count of rape and 15 counts of sexual assault and sentenced yesterday to 59 plus years in prison. The second is a Pakistani-born American who was convicted of conspiring to commit terrorist acts back in June and who is set to be sentenced September 15 along with the third man, a Bangladeshi American. Besides the fact that these are three brown men accused and convicted of disparate bad deeds, they do share another thing in common – they chose to represent themselves in court.

First, Anand Jon. This case has been drama from the start. In July, after his request for a new trial was overruled, Jon fired his entire defense team and took responsibility for his own defense. While he read law books in a prison cell, his mother, sister and various supporters staged vigils for his release. And even after yesterday’s conviction, his family is continuing to press the Indian government to intervene in the case. Continue reading