The age at when you learn what’s what

Late last week I received a tip (on our Sepia Mutiny tipline) about an upcoming play in Seattle,Washington. The play, MOTHER IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE, by Taniya Hossain, is being performed by the Repertory Actors Theater and starts this weekend. The tipster Nitya is one of the actors and sent me the full press release with a detailed description: Mother in Another Language – Press Release.pdf (24 KB). Seattle area Mutineers, go check it out, and let us know how it is:

Tickets: Available online at

Adults: $15 Students: $12 Children 17 & Under: $12 Seniors 65+: $12

Groups (10 or more): $12 per person (available through the Ticket Office only, (206) 292-7676)

But merely informing you about this play is not what this post is actually about at all. Sorry Nitya! You see, on the first pass through her email tip I stopped reading as soon as I saw her name. The name was familiar to me. Nitya and I went to elementary school together in San Jose, CA in the 80s. I didn’t know her too well back then. In fact, I can’t remember a single interaction or conversation I had with her, although surely there were several. But I did remember her name and the fact that she had long braids and an even longer last name. When I mentioned the tip to them, my parents remembered her too! As memory serves, myself, Nitya, and another kid Sanjay (who is now someone I regularly meet up with in Los Angeles) were the only three brown kids in our school year. In the 80s all brown kids knew each other, even when they didn’t know each other. You know? When I replied to her tip and asked her which elementary school she went to, Nitya was as surprised as I was. What a small world! She says she can somewhat remember my 10-year-old face but not well enough to recognize me today. Even though Nitya and I did not really know each other well in elementary school, she indirectly played a part in a defining moment of my life (about which she has no idea…until now). It is a memory so strong I can replay it perfectly in my head 25 years later.

Fifth grade, late one afternoon (I recall that it was late spring and very sunny outside). Our teacher, a grumbly bear of a man, who was a Korean War veteran and had definitely killed enemy, declared that he was pleased with the great progress our class had made that week and decided we could have the 40 minutes until afternoon recess off. This was a surprise because he had a reputation of being the toughest teacher at the school. I once memorized the Gettysburg address in three hours on a Tuesday night because he said it was due Wednesday. He meant the following Wednesday. On this afternoon Mr. P decided we could do whatever we wanted for fun as long as it was inside the class. Some of the girls in the class, the pretty ones who could get away with anything, had an idea. Boys that age are too slow to come up with anything good when put on the spot. The idea these clever girls came up with was to play the Newlywed Game: Elementary School Edition. Amazingly, surprisingly, I was picked to be one of the 3 “husbands.” My wife was a girl named Juliet.

Keep in mind that I was not a popular kid. I was small and nerdy but well liked. You know that sound and feeling you experience when you get a rental car and turn on the radio and it is on full blast on some rap station that the previous renter was listening to and you awkwardly fumble to turn it down before the bass blows out the windows? That’s what my heart sounded like when I was picked to play this game.

Continue reading

Dash the Curry

indian-spice.jpgHitting the interwebs and twitterverse today is a story out of Wales that makes you scream, ‘that’s racist!” It’s the story of a teacher who thinks she can aerosol the Brown away.

Elizabeth Davies, 48, was accused of “humiliating” children aged between three and six by using the aerosol spray on them on nursery class. Mrs Davies, a nursery schoolteacher for 20 years, taught at a inner-city school where more than half of her pupils were Bangladeshi.

The hearing was told she accused Bangladeshi children of smelling of onions or curry – and would say “there is a waft coming in from paradise” before blasting the air freshener. [telegraph]

I’m show you wafts of paradise, Mrs. Davies. You should know better than to be OCD about aromas if you are going to be a school teacher of preschoolers!

Mrs Davies is also accused of spraying other children who broke wind, washing their hands with pine disinfectant and making them stand on newspaper for accidentally wetting themselves.

Mother-of-two Mrs Islam said the spray was “usually” for children who had English has an additional language. [telegraph]

This case is just abhorrent. It’s difficult enough going to school as a pre-schooler. Do you remember it? Being four years old, having to say good-bye to your mother at the classroom door, walking into a room full of strange kids, and having to make new friends? Remember navigating which language to use or why your skin was browner than the others? Really though, it was simply about wanting to belong. What Mrs. Davies was simply uncalled for, and what she did could only be called racist.

Thank goodness she was fired after a parent complained. May her next job be a waitress at an Indian restaurant. Continue reading

Do that Guju you do!

gujcluster.jpgThe 2009 paper Reconstructing Indian population history was a watershed in understanding the genomics of South Asians. Before this point the studies had been with unrepresentative samples, fewer markers, or, South Asians were only a sidelight. This paper put the focus on South Asians to elucidate the group’s population history (it still undersampled eastern South Asians, though this seems part of the plan because of their focus on two, not three, ancestral Indian components). If you want to know more about the paper, here is the ungated version. But in this post I want focus on an issue which you can find only in the supplements to the paper.

The HapMap project, which surveys genetic variation in world populations, has a set of Gujaratis, from Houston, Texas. This is currently the primary population of Indian origin you have to work with in the public data sets. There are other South Asian populations in the public domain, but their number of markers is far lower. So the Gujarati sample is very useful right now. But one thing that immediately jumps out at you is that there are in fact two Gujarati clusters. In the PCA plot I’ve extracted from the supplements you see the two largest components of genetic variation. PC 1, the x axis, separates whites from South Asians, and PC 2, separates one group of Gujaratis from everyone else. What’s going on here?

Continue reading

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mutineers!


A heartfelt thank you to everyone who entered our Valentine’s Day Haiku-Writing Contest. We received a number of fun, creative entries. But the judging itself wasn’t too difficult. We turned to our sweet tooth for the answer. Congrats to Mutineer Richa, who sent us this titillating gem.

You are sweeter than/ Gulab jamun or laddoo/ Give me just a taste

Once we picked a winner, we quickly put Rajini the monkey to work on a special design to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Okay, actually, Kunjan crafted a heart-shaped gulab jamun and snapped a quick pic. Thanks to Kunjan for his V-Day efforts. Happy Valentine’s Day, mutineers! You can check out a larger version of the graphic below the jump. Continue reading

The undersampled 1 billion (genetically that is)

nastruc1.pngTwo issues compel this post. One is practical. The other is more, shall I say, spiritual (or at least fun!). In regards to the first, a few weeks ago I reviewed a paper which reported that the efficacy of response to a particular leukemia treatment regime was dependent on the amount of Native American ancestry an individual had. One has to be specific here, because many people who are white or black American have significant Native American ancestry (Brett Favre’s paternal grandfather was Choctaw), and many people who identify as Native American may not have as much Native American ancestry as others. But for the purposes of this blog post, I want to bring to your attention the figure above, which I extracted from the paper. Its implications may pose a major problem in the future for South Asian biomedical research in the United States. Continue reading

Guest Blogger: Razib Khan

He has been a commenter since the very beginning of SM. It makes sense that he finally has a shot as an actual guest blogger here. Please welcome Razib Khan who has most recently been unzipping his goodies and posting them all over the internet as a way for people to get to know him better and also learn a little about themselves. The next month might be somewhat esoteric at times, but it will definitely be a learning experience. And maybe he’ll coax a few more of us to unzip our South Asian goodies in the name of science.

Continue reading

February 11

riot girl small.jpg

I couldn’t have been alone in this, but it was only after the news of Mubarak’s departure that I watched for the first time the video of Asmaa Mahfouz making her appeal for the gathering that became the protest action of January 25. That video, when posted on Facebook, became a rallying cry. As I learned a bit later from this interview with Mahfouz, January 25 was chosen because it is observed as Police Day in Egypt, and she was interested not in honoring the police but in pointing out that they were the arm of oppression. In the video you see this twenty-five-year-old woman speaking with great anguish of the three Egyptian men who had set themselves on fire to protest. It is humbling, and so wonderfully inspiring, to realize that such a tumultuous movement, one that has moved the entire world, could have had such small beginnings. Continue reading

Submit Your Entries to SM’s Valentine’s Day Haiku-Writing Contest!

sepiamutiny - v-day.jpg

I absolutely adore Valentine’s Day. Loads of chocolate and the proliferation of red and pink to brighten up the dreary winter days – what could be better? Being the shameless romantic that I am, I decided to put pen to paper and come up with a love poem to post on the valentines I was mailing out. Here’s a few I came up with…

Your biodata sweetheart/ makes my heart beat fast/ Calling mother now.

I love you more than/ Gulab jamens and ladoos/ Not that I eat sweets.

Ah, that I could run/ Fingers along your sari/ Too much Bollywood.

Be my Shah Rukh Khan/ And I promise that when your/ Dancing stops, I won’t. Continue reading

Hari Gets Special

There are those comedians that play upon their own stupidity to make people laugh at them. And then there are the other comedians, the smart comedians, that can make witty social commentaries on the state of the world, make you think, drop knowledge, and make you laugh really hard. I have got to say that after seeing Hari Kondabolu perform this week with his troupe Laughter Against the Machine, he is definitely of the latter variety. It’s about time the world noticed. Comedy Central has. This Friday at 11pm, Hari Kondabolu has his very own half an hour long special, Comedy Central Presents: Hari Kondabolu. Set your DVR and be prepared to laugh and groan.

I virtually sat down with Hari to ask him a few questions about his forthcoming special, what makes him funny and his tension filled relationship with his brother. (Check out Phillygrrl’s previous interview with Hari here). Read below.

Taz: Are you nervous about what is going to happen on February 11th, 2011 at 11pm?

Hari: HA! You’re making this sound like a catastrophic event that will take place 4 times that night in the various mainland U.S. timezones. Honestly, I think it’ll be fine. I filmed the thing months ago and it’s been edited down to 22 minutes and there’s nothing else I can really do besides hope the edit looks good and captures the spirit the jokes were written in and how they were performed live that night. I’m anticipating that some people will like it, some people won’t and that I’ll definitely be seeing some mean spirited messages on a variety of social media and probably in the comments section of this very blog post. Am I right, brothers and sisters?

T: What is the absolutely funniest thing to you right now? Something that made you laugh so hard you had milk come out of your nose type funny?

H: I’m embarrassed to admit this, but the last thing that made me laugh out loud was how a friend on twitter described the Black Eyed Peas as “, Fergie…Michaelangelo and Raphael.” It was a well-placed Ninja Turtles reference. Seriously, I am ashamed.

T: Do you feel like you need to censor yourself and your comedic material the more famous you become? Because, I don’t know if you realize that, but getting your own Comedy Central special makes you preeeeetty famous. Continue reading

Sunny Owes You

Who needs a song that says “I love you” when “I Oh You” does the same?

Sunny Ali & The Kid does it again, with a new single that harkens back to the two step slow dance in the high school gym days. A free song download for your heartbroken but mending lover this #MusicMonday.

Bonus: Earlier this week, inspired by the events in Egypt, Sunny released Tahrir Square Dance, a SoundCloud punk beat evoking rioting moshpit sounds. I can’t stop obsessing over the revolution in Egypt, and now I have a soundtrack to go with. Continue reading