India Currents Turns 25


If you’re on the west coast, more so in California, then you might have grown up in a home that got India Currents in the mail, a monthly magazine with an Indian-American point of view. Or maybe you’ve picked up a free copy at a desi grocery store or restaurants. And of course today its award-winning content is published online too. This month IC celebrates a quarter-century of continuous publication.

Mercury News profiled the publisher and co-founder of the magazine, Vandana Kumar.

Vandana Kumar was an arranged-marriage bride, lost her husband to cancer, has a gay cousin, knows techies who came to Silicon Valley on H-1B visas, is friends with Chinese “tiger moms,” and struggled through the college application process for her twin sons.

Since 1987, she and a team of writers have delved into all of those stories — and more — in the pages of India Currents, the oldest and largest Indian-American magazine on the West Coast, which is celebrating its 25th year of publication this month. (Mercury News)

The article mentions that IC’s mission of providing information about cultural events was “inspired by Kumar’s brother-in-law, Arvind Kumar.” I didn’t realize he was a co-founder too until I read another article in IC itself, Sandip Roy-Chowdhury’s piece about the magazine’s origins. Roy-Chowdhury shares the story of IC’s founding by Vandana Kumar, Arvind Kumar and Ashok Jethanandani, a story that seems to start with Trikone, a publication for LGBT South Asians. Continue reading

Family Matters: Mr. & Mr. Iyer

In Mr. & Mr. Iyer, based on a story by Lavanya Mohan, a son tells his orthodox Tamil family that he’s going to get married, and they go through four phases of processing the news. That’s about two minutes per phase given that Charukesh Sekar’s short film in English and Tamil is about eight minutes long. (I don’t know Tamil but felt like I could follow along for the most part with the English and with help from the blog post linked above.) Naturally, his family is excited about his decision.

But, there comes the trouble. He has a surprise in store for them. What is the surprise? Will the family accept it? Will they break rules to make their son happy? Will conventional practices and beliefs allow him to get married to another man? Man? (Thamarai)

Via Uncubed. Fans of Goodness Gracious Me may remember a clip from that show that ends on a similar note, with parents seemingly most concerned about a gay child finding a partner of the same background.

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>1 Billion People…

… are hungry. So notes a widely cited piece by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo in Foreign Policy.

But is it really true? Are there really more than a billion people going to bed hungry each night? Our research on this question has taken us to rural villages and teeming urban slums around the world, collecting data and speaking with poor people about what they eat and what else they buy, from Morocco to Kenya, Indonesia to India.

Despite rising incomes & cheaper than ever food, for some reason, too many poor folk are simply choosing NOT to expend their $$ on nutrition –

Despite the country’s rapid economic growth, per capita calorie consumption in India has declined; moreover, the consumption of all other nutrients except fat also appears to have gone down among all groups, even the poorest. …at all levels of income, the share of the budget devoted to food has declined and people consume fewer calories.

[Indians] and their children are certainly not well nourished by any objective standard. Anemia is rampant; body-mass indices are some of the lowest in the world; almost half of children under 5 are much too short for their age, and one-fifth are so skinny that they are considered to be “wasted.”

So what’s going on? And what should “we” do about it?

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Structure within Houston Gujaratis resolved?

guj.jpgAbout two and a half months ago I brought your attention to the fact that there is population substructure in the Gujaratis of Houston. That might sound strange, but here’s the back story. Over the past ~10 years or so there has been a project attempting to catalog common human genetic variation, known as the HapMap. The HapMap began with East Asian, West African, and European groups. But over the years it has been expanding. The first South Asian population added to the database were people of Gujarati origin in Houston, Texas. Therefore, you had a situation where in the medical genetic literature there was a lot of talk about “Gujaratis from Houston,” as if that was a group of particular importance.

The ultimate pragmatic rationale for the catalog was to allow researchers to control for ancestry when attempting to fix upon genes implicated in disease. By illustration, if Chinese have disease X at a greater frequency than Europeans, if you had a common pool of Chinese + Europeans then all the genetic variants associated with the Chinese might come up as causal, when actually it’s just a correlation with ancestry. Continue reading


A food-centric monologue from Aziz Ansari’s character Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation may be changing the culinary vernacular forever. Or maybe it’s just a funny bit from last week’s episode.

The video below fills us in on the new food lingo. You know, in case someone asks if you’d like some super water with your long-ass rice and chicky-chicky parm-parm. In the special food vocabulary coined by Tom Haverford, super water isn’t really water, long-ass rice isn’t rice at all and chicky-chicky parm-parm has little or nothing to do with *that *Parm.

If you can’t get enough of those zerts, there’s a site serving up more: Continue reading

The Ghosts of Mutiny Past

In 2006 I wrote the first of many posts here on SM about then would-be Virginia Senator George Allen and his use of the term “Macaca” to describe S.R. Sidarth, a young volunteer for the current Senator Webb’s campaign who followed and documented his opponent’s public gatherings (a very common practice now). All the main players involved are probably happy to bury the Macaca Incident. Allen certainly wants to forget about it given that he running again. The “macaca moment” is widely credited for sinking his first political career and haunts him in every article about him still. When I met S.R. Sidarth at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 I was told by others that he doesn’t like talking about the incident either and wanted to move on. Given that Webb is not running for re-election it doesn’t hurt him to move on either.

But George Allen is working hard to resurrect his career and win office again. We pick up the story at the annual Shad Planking in the Real Virginia:

As the front-runner in the GOP nominating contest to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D), former senator George Allen swamped his opponents at the annual Shad Planking festival, offering more of everything: signs, stickers, hats, volunteers and — crucially, given the hot, sticky weather — cold beer.

Jamie Radtke, Allen’s best-known foe and former head of the Virginia Federation of Tea Party Patriots, went to the Wakefield Ruritan Club southeast of Richmond with a smaller financial war chest but armed with an argument — that Allen isn’t conservative enough to deserve the Republican nomination — that she hopes will be enough to fuel an upset.

“People are looking for an alternative. They really are,” Radtke said.

Radtke’s booth at the gathering featured a large sign contrasting her views with Allen’s record in the Senate — including votes to raise the debt ceiling and for the No Child Left Behind law. [Link]

The winner will meet Kaine. I still believe that if not for the Macaca moment the 2008 election would have been Allen vs. Obama and that contest would have been much closer. I also believe that times have changed and Allen might not be nutty enough for the Republican base this time around. But I also want to go back to the title of my post from five years ago. What did Allen think “macaca” meant when he used the term? We may never know for sure but Slate’s Chris Wilson pointed out on Tuesday that what we think he meant was largely influenced by Wikipedia: Continue reading

Ruby, Parm or Manjit? — updated

Dhalla Gill Grewal.jpgCanadians vote in a federal election on May 2 and one of the most interesting races is in Brampton-Springdale, just outside Toronto. One out of three people in Brampton is South Asian, the highest proportion among all municipalities in Canada, and residents are not asking whether a South Asian will represent them in Parliament — they are asking which South Asian will represent them in Parliament. Will it be Ruby, Parm or Manjit?

All three of the major party candidates are Punjabi (just as in the neighboring riding of Bramalea-Gore-Malton). Ruby Dhalla, the Liberal incumbent, a former actress and chiropractor, has held the seat since 2004. She and Nina Grewal, a Conservative from British Columbia, were the first Sikh women to serve in the Canadian House of Commons and have twice defended their seats.

Dhalla’s chief rival is Parm Gill, the Conservative candidate, whom she defeated by less than 800 votes in 2008, and whom she accuses of inappropriate access to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

The third major candidate is Manjit Grewal, nominee of the New Democratic Party (NDP). He doesn’t appear to have much of a chance, aside from the fact that he co-owns a taxi company and will have no trouble giving voters free rides to the polls.

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Bandish Projekt’s latest

This morning Taz splashed my Facebook page with a phenomenal sound and with lyrics she knew I’d love, even the curveball at 2 min 5 second that I didn’t see coming given the title of the song:

Of course, Bandish Projekt has been known to some Sepia Mutiny readers as far back as 2005. The Projekt is the creation of artist Mayur Narvekar.

Mayur Narvekar, a composer, producer, creative director, Dj, remix artist, performer and a multi-instrumentalist, calls his Bandish Projekt an emotion, an experience that can awe spectators with its live performance. An arts student from Gujarat, Mayur developed an impeccable flair for classical music, an art form that is deep-rooted in his upbringing. A tabla ace, Mayur dived head-on into the world of percussions, earning repute as a tabla player, and adoration as a jazz-funk drummer. Fuelled by his father’s vision, today he is a master of rhythm through a cross-section of genres.

He has used his roots in classical tabla and percussion training to bring to the music maturity and authenticity while his taste for strange sounds and electronic noises brings in wildness and fervour. The classical element keeps Mayur grounded, while his need for experimenting takes him to heights unsurpassed and us to the lands unexplored. It is a journey of life beyond the known. [Link]

I also enjoyed the sound and the video for “Didi”:

You can buy the tracks here.

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Brawl breaks out at Queens gurdwara

A brawl broke out at a Queens, NY gurdwara Sunday after a dispute about membership rolls turned violent.

The New York Daily News reports:

Seven people were arraigned on riot and assault charges Monday for their roles in a vicious turf battle at a Sikh temple in Queens.

Assailants wielding cricket bats and small swords disrupted prayer services Sunday morning at the Baba Makhan Shah Lubana Sikh Center in Richmond Hill, police and witnesses said.

“I’m going to kill you,” defendant Harinder Singh, 47, screamed before punching Joginder Singh in the face, says a criminal complaint filed in Queens Supreme Court.

Gurnam Singh, 47, rushed into the temple swinging a stick and lunging at others while religious ceremonies were underway, the complaint says.

The NY Post adds a bit more detail:

The attackers brought the long sword and at least one other blade, as well as a hammer, mallet and cricket bats to the temple at 101st Avenue and 114th Street at around 11 a.m., witnesses and police said.

As you can imagine, New York City’s tabloids (which include the Post and the Daily News) have had a field day with this story. Be sure to read the Langer Hall’s analysis of the coverage. Continue reading

Summer of Solidarity

final1.jpgDClogo.jpgWhen I was a teen, I knew that I wanted to make a difference in the world. I just didn’t know how. I was lucky enough to attend a week long summer campaign training when I was in college which catapulted me into the world of advocacy and organizing in the environmental movement. It wasn’t until years later that similarly themed advocacy camps for the South Asian American youth community started popping up. I was grateful for my journey, but always wish I could have had access to more at a younger age.

This July there are two 4-day camps for Desi teens, both camps taking youth through a curriculum around identity, social advocacy and connecting with local activists. The first one is DC Desi Summer, based in Washington DC. The second is one I’ve been volunteering with, the Bay Area Solidarity Summer (BASS) which is a project of the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA).

On July 22nd, South Asian American teenagers from across the San Francisco Bay Area will convene for a life-changing experience. The youth will be attending the first ever Bay Area Solidarity Summer (BASS), a four-day leadership camp for youth of South Asian heritage seeking to learn about progressive issues, gain organizing skills, connect with other South Asian activists, and develop themselves into leaders. The all-inclusive camp will provide space for young people to learn skills on how to be a social activist, as well as learn about issues affecting the South Asian community both locally and globally.

BASS is open to youth of South Asian heritage ranging in age from 14 to 19 years old. The camp costs only $50, which covers all housing and food expenses for four days and three nights. Held in the beautiful Center for Third World Organizing Training and Retreat Center (often described as the “CTWO Mansion”), the intense camp will cover a wide range of issues such as Creative Arts and Action, Racial Profiling, Hip Hop Revolutionaries, and Environmental Justice. An important component of the curriculum will be a look back at the 100 years of history of South Asian Bay Area student activism.[bass] Continue reading