City of Brotherly Love Meetup – December 27


Oh Philadelphia, did you think we could forget you? This year mutineers have partied in Boston and LA, but now we’re bringing you a meetup in the City of Brother Love itself. Amardeep and I decided to mark the release from our respective academic bastions with a meetup with you, our lovely Philadelphia-area readers.

Guess what that means? It means you Jersey, Delaware, New York and Philly readers need to ditch the post- apocalypse that is your holiday celebration and come hang out with us. So after you’ve demolished your mom’s figgy pudding and russ malai and returned that ugly sweater your auntie gave you, head down to Philadelphia’s Chinatown section and join us at Penang, for some delicious Malyasian Indian cuisine.

Here’s what we can’t promise: Bill Cosby/cheesesteaks/an Eagles win.

Here’s what we can promise: scintillating conversation/beautiful people/good food.

Place: Penang, 117 N. 10th Street, Philadelphia, PA 1910

Time: 7:00 PM

Dress: Casual

Reservations: We need an accurate headcount to reserve a table. If you’re coming, please email Amardeep at amardeep [at]

Hope to see some of you there!

[Photo: GPTMC] Continue reading


Sometimes, you really do just have to watch the video.

Mutineers, I now present you… Finnish Bhangra –

My take? I love it. Like Absolut Mulit (full video here), it represents an incredibly perceptive outsider’s take on desi culture. The music, the singing, the imagery, the dancing, and the overall gestalt are both accurate and ironic. When “inside” and “outside” mesh so darn well, it transcends the usual boundaries and we’re forced to take a step back and recognize just how broad & progressively inviting the diaspora truly is.

The group, Shava, describes themselves and their mission well –

Welcome to the home page of Shava, which is guaranteed to be the world’s only Finnish bhangra group. Shava plays music which is meant for fun and dancing, and Shava’s gigs are a proof that their unique blend of Bollywood-bhangra dance beats with Finnish attitude and language works perfectly to free your mind and your pelvis and to make you get up and dance.

…The group’s name bears no complicated philosophical meaning. Shouting shava, shava>> is normal behaviour for Punjabis having a good time, and it is something the band is trying to teach to Finnish audiences.

Bravo. Continue reading

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Follow Up on Glenn Beck, Ganges, Cipro, etc.

Again via Media Matters, it appears that Glenn Beck has made a very brief, minimal apology about his comment about the “river that sounds like a disease” last week:

Pretty weak, no? It reminds me a bit of trying to convince a little kid to say “sorry” for something he’s done. You coax and coax, and when he finally says “sorry” in a half-hearted, minimal way you realize that there’s no remorse there whatsoever; he’s just doing it to get you to leave him alone. Glenn Beck is, apparently, that naughty little kid.

This little stab at an apology comes as the story has been starting to pick up steam in the Indian media, and as a growing number of Indian American groups have been speaking out about it. Arzan mentioned to me that he’s seen coverage of the story on a few Indian television channels, and there is also a smattering of print coverage in the Indian Express, Zee News, and Times Now.

The Indian American groups cited in the coverage have included the AAPI (Indian doctors), USINPAC, and … Rajan Zed. (Rajan Zed is still apparently the first, and maybe only, Hindu leader in the U.S. on everyone’s speed dial.) Where is everyone else?

A group called the Forum For Hindu Awakening, has also apparently filed a complaint against Beck with the FCC, though I do not expect that to amount to much.

Is that the end of it? (Next we will find out that Beck is also a paid spokesman for one of the companies that makes “Cipro,” too.) Continue reading

Cabbie Conflict

Pema Sharpa.jpgBack in grad school, I worked on a report with the LA Taxi Workers Alliance interviewing cabbies about their work and living conditions. The stories that I heard were deeply human about personal lives and labor conditions. It was common to hear stories of cabbies that would lease their cabs at outrageous daily costs. Often one cab is driven by two drivers, one taking a day shift, the other the night shift, working solid 7 days a week.

The New York Times covered a tragic story, between two Nepalese taxi drivers sharing the same cab in New York City.

Each man had come from Nepal over the past decade, and attended the same taxi-training school in Jackson Heights. For a year, they had split the $1,400-per-week leasing fee on a yellow cab, Medallion 6M83, trading 12-hour shifts behind the wheel, seven days a week.

Mr. Sherpa, 28, drove days, chauffeuring strivers bound for business meetings, power lunches and auditions. Mr. Chhantyal, 30, shepherded the denizens of New York’s nightlife, the decadent and the dangerous.[nyt]

The day shift driver, Sherpa, had a happier life with a wife and baby girl at home whereas night shift driver Chhantyal had a much more depressing life. It also turned out that Sherpa had just secured a car loan that would soon make him a taxi owner and Chhantyal would become his employee.

Mr. Sherpa received Mr. Chhantyal’s usual wake-up call at 4 a.m. on Sept. 12… Typically Mr. Chhantyal, to avoid complications from one-way streets, would park and wait for Mr. Sherpa on busy Broadway, which comes to life early with cabs and service vehicles headed toward Manhattan. But on this morning, Mr. Sherpa saw that his partner had parked on deserted, residential 62nd Street. As usual, Mr. Chhantyal stepped out to give Mr. Sherpa the driver’s seat. But, strangely, he let the door close and lock. As Mr. Sherpa fished for his duplicate key, he recalled, he felt the first blow.

That September morning on a Queens sidewalk, Mr. Chhantyal finally had the upper hand, swinging the cleaver that he and his roommates used to chop vegetables. Until Mr. Sherpa, on his back, somehow managed to kick the big blade from his hands, sending it skidding under the cab. Continue reading

Kumail’s Hijack by the Accidental Racist

Earlier this week, Amardeep introduced us to the hilarious Desi comedian Kumail Nanjiani. Little did I know till dinner conversation last night that Kumail had recently been comedy hijacked by the Accidental Racist (via Angry Asian Man).

The story goes like this – Kumail was scheduled to do a comedy set at the Slipper Room a couple weeks ago, when John Mayer (the musician) showed up unannounced to the show and jumped on the mic for an unscheduled five minute comedy performance… that turned into an awkward twenty minutes. Mayer’s comedy bit on the mic ate into Kumail’s scheduled performance time. Allright, fine. A famous musical douchebag takes the mic, and feels entitled to hog a comedy stage. To be expected, I guess. But then, he turned into a racist douchebag.

To hear Nanjiani tell the story, he was somewhat rattled after having had his set time cut by John Mayer, but things got awkward after Mayer referred to the Pakistan-born Kumail as “Kabul.” Whoops! Making matters even worse, Mayer apparently then began heckling Nanjiani onstage, telling him that “he looked like a brown guy but sounded like a white guy.” Double whoops! [vulture]

Check out an interview with Kumail below. They refer to John Mayer as the accidental racist at the 4:25 point.

Comedians say racist remarks all the time doing stand up. But I think what sets this apart is that, well frankly, Mayer isn’t a comedian and he hijacked a comedy set with pompous entitlement. Secondly, he interupted Kumail’s set to heckle him with racist comments.

In the words of Angry Asian Man, “Thinking you can be an actual standup comic is one thing, but interrupting another comic’s set, then making jokes about the Brown man? That’s racist! Stick to the music, Mayer (if you must).” Continue reading

Los Angeles Winter SM Meetup – Dec 20th

Dosa.jpgIt’s winter here in Los Angeles. My umbrella had to be dusted off for the few days of rain, a hoodie was pulled out for the 50 degree cold weather, and Christmas lights are wrapped up around the tall palm trees all across the Southland. Truly winter-time in Southern California.

I think it’s the perfect weather for a Sepia Mutiny meetup.

This will be a special one – Abhi has decided to unlock the ball and chain to one of our fantastic webmasters to join us for his first meetup in five years. Rajni the monkey has gone wild in anticipation. Webmaster extraordinaire Kunjan will be joining us for the meetup.

Date: SUNDAY, December 20th, 2009

Time: 4pm – 7pm

Place: Annapurna Cuisine in Culver City (open to suggestions)

If you can make it, please RSVP in the comments. We can hold it somewhere else if anyone has a better suggestion – I would have preferred something on the east side, but Anupurna was the only one I could thing of right now. It’s been too long – meetups are open to bloggers, lurkers, or just friends of sepia mutineers. Please come! Continue reading

The Gurkha Way

This past week, journalist Anup Kaphle posted a video he had filmed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan (via The Atlantic). In it he explains the very important role Nepali Gurkha soldiers are playing in the war effort. As you will see, this video is timely considering the core of Obama’s new strategy: using military power to buy time in order to “de-corrupt” the Karzai government and to further train the Afghan National Army. I won’t address whether the first part of that strategy is possible, but I would like to briefly address the second. One of the historic problems in training Afghan soldiers has been getting them to work as a unit. In the Afghan warrior culture, one of the ways in which a man makes a name for himself is through individual acts of valor on the battlefield. However, in modern warfare it is incredibly difficult to prevail unless acting as a diciplined team. As seen in the video, the Afghan soldiers seem to identify with the Gurkhas due to similarities in culture, if not religion. Gurkhas also speak and understand Urdu.

The Brigade of Gurkhas is the collective term for units of the current British Army that are composed of Nepalese soldiers. The brigade, which is 3,640 strong, draws its heritage from Gurkha units that originally served in the British Indian Army prior to Indian independence, and prior to that of the East India Company. The brigade includes infantry, engineer, signal, logistic and training and support units. They are famous for their ever-present kukris, a distinctive heavy knife with a curved blade, and for their reputation of being fierce fighters and brave soldiers. They take their name from the hill town of Gorkha from which the Nepalese kingdom had expanded. The ranks have always been dominated by four ethnic groups, the Gurungs and Magars from central Nepal, the Rais and Limbus from the east, who live in hill villages of impoverished hill farmers. [Link]

Nepal is on the brink of all kinds of disaster due to political and economic instability. My Nepali sister-in-law often talks of Nepal as an already failed state with no future. Even though Nepal very clearly falls under India’s sphere-of-influence, I wonder if there might be a strategic opportunity here. Can the U.S. perhaps somehow better fold contributions from Nepal into it’s strategy. I ask because mention of Nepal is often left out of our public strategic discussions. I know the video above is just one small anecdote, but some more Gurkhas working with the British and American forces there sure wouldn’t hurt if our objective is to train Afghanistan’s army as quickly as possible so we can get out.

Also, even if you aren’t interested in this post, make sure to watch the video to see the Gurkha Soliders sing “Poker Face” by Lady GaGa.

Continue reading

“The big river they have there that sounds like a disease”: Glenn Beck on India

I have been struggling and failing to find an appropriate way to respond to Glenn Beck’s latest insanity. MediaMatters has the video and the almost unbelievable quotes, which about 1.2 billion people are likely to deem to be offensive and tasteless, from a recent Beck broadcast:

For those not able to stomach watching the actual video, the choice quotes are as follows:

And also, in our research that it took us, oh about 40 seconds, we figured out that some of that money here in America winds up in the pocket of a skilled doctor that helps off-set the 20 years of schooling that he endured and the loans he took out. And – you’re not going to believe this one, Karlyn – some of that money seems to go to the 1 million SEIU workers in the healthcare industry that make slightly more here than in India. Because, you know, they have an American lifestyle, maybe a couple of cars, great union benefits, and homes with something that we in America like to call flush toilets. (link)

Quite separately from the nasty slur about India in this quote, Beck’s logic completely escapes me. If anyone can actually make sense of what he is trying to say, I would be curious to hear it. I think this is an elaborate way of saying Americans shouldn’t do medical tourism in India, but rather pay premium rates for procedures not covered by insurance, because some of the money they might be giving a surgeon will somehow go to SEIU workers? (But what’s all this about loans and so on? Is he aware that Indian students bring millions upon millions of dollars into American higher education?)

But of course, the real stunner in this ‘bit’ from Beck is the following:

I don’t want a discounted doctor. I don’t want discounted wages. I don’t want any of this stuff. If I wanted to live in India, I’d live in India. I want not the Indian lifestyle, I want the American lifestyle. I’m sure, no offense to India, I’m sure it’s beautiful and everything. I’ve heard especially this time of year, especially by the – you know that one big river they have there that sounds like a disease? Come on, it does. I mean, if somebody said, ‘I’m sorry, you have a really bad case of Ganges,’ you’d want Cipro.” (link)

While the earlier rant directed at medical tourism, incoherent as it was, had some salience to the health care debate, this bit of assholery is just utterly gratuitous.

I’m looking forward to the day this guy falls back into obscurity. A few months ago, left-leaning activists launched a campaign to get Beck’s advertisers to pull back from his show. While they were successful, it hasn’t done anything to slow him down. Beck’s provocations are working: his rating continue to be high, no matter how many times he’s mocked by comedians and spat at by bloggers. It’s hard for me personally to get newly outraged when this guy has been, for months, comparing President Obama to Hitler and the like.

Still, the level of offense these statements could provoke in India itself, if the comments end up being covered in the Indian media (hint hint), could make things interesting for Beck. (Here’s a tip for any Indian journalists reading this: Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News, also owns Star TV… Hmm…) Continue reading

Are vigilant parents the first line of defense?

In case you missed it this morning, it was announced that five young Muslim men from the Virginia suburbs were arrested in a jihadi safehouse in Sargodha, a city in northern Punjab. Trying to get in to Al Qaeda is kind of like trying to get in to the mob it seems. If you don’t have someone to vouch for you and you don’t know how to act the part, then you may be shit out of luck:

The men contacted extremist organizations, including two with links to al-Qaeda, and proudly told their Pakistani interrogators that “We are here for jihad,” said Usman Anwar, the local Pakistani police chief whose officers interrogated the men, all Muslims from the Alexandria area.

Anwar said police recovered jihadist literature, laptop computers and maps of different parts of Pakistan when the men were arrested near Lahore on Tuesday. The maps included areas where the Taliban train. The men first made contact with the two extremist organizations by e-mail in August, officials said, but the groups apparently rejected their overtures because they couldn’t find people to vouch for them. [Link]


They were rebuffed in both places because of their Western demeanor and their inability to speak the national language, Urdu, an investigator said… [Link]

The Washington Post identifies the five men:

The men, who range in age from 19 to 25, were identified by Pakistani officials and sources close to the case as Umar Chaudhry, Waqar Khan, Ahmad A. Mini, Aman Hassan Yemer and Ramy Zamzam. Chaudhry’s father, Khalid, was also arrested in Pakistan and is being questioned, authorities said. [Link]
Continue reading

A New State in India: Telangana

The biggest story in India this week appears to be the central government’s agreement to allow a new state to be carved out of Andhra Pradesh, called Telangana. The new state will include the tech-powerhouse city of Hyderabad, and will be predominantly Telugu-speaking. One news article I read put the estimated population of the new state at 35 million people.

Here is what the new state will look like

telengana map.jpg

I have known of agitations for a separate Telangana state for awhile, though I must admit I do not know the history in depth, and would be glad to be enlightened by readers who know the region better than I do. However, Wikipedia does offer a few helpful background facts. First, the region that will become Telangana was, during British colonialism, part of the Princely State of Hyderabad, and was only formally merged into Andhra in 1956 — and even then, the merger was controversially imposed by the central government. The agitations for a separate state have been going on for at least 40 years; in 1969, 400 people were killed in agitations for a separate state of Telangana.

I had earlier thought that language was a factor in the demands for Telangana, but in fact language is not mentioned by supporters of this movement, since Telugu is spoken in the other half of Andhra as well. Rather, the focus seems to be on access to irrigation and economic opportunity (see this interview). Are there other factors that people know of?

The news has resulted in the mass resignation of Congress Party-allied MLAs in the other part of Andhra Pradesh, suggesting that the Central Government may not be able to easily sustain its promise to create Telangana without making lots of new promises to the other half of the state. That, or we might see one of those major regional political realignments in Indian politics that can cause seemingly strong governments to fall. (Incidentally, the BJP had promised to create a Telangana state when it was in power, but was unable to do so. However, during the BJP’s five years in power it did create three new states in northern India.)

The news is also expected to give a new boost to other statehood agitation movements in other parts of India; Gorkhaland is one that is often mentioned.

Do you support the creation of Telangana? Isn’t it possible that acceding to these statehood movements in India might lead to a further weakening of an already weak central government? Also, do you think these movements might feed a sense of monoculturalist ‘separateness’ that could make the region a less inviting place for people from different ethno-linguistic backgrounds who happen to live there? Continue reading