It’s poor form to leave a party without saying goodbye. And though for a while now I’ve done little more than relax on the porch and watch the revelers come and go, it’s time now for me to head back out into the city. I’ve had a rich and productive experience here and I thank you all for the insight and the perspectives; you’ve helped me through changes and contributed to my growth in ways you don’t know. I don’t have time to blog at this point, but there are other ways to maintain and contribute to online communities, and I look forward to running into some of you in those future settings. To everyone: Go forward with honesty, kindness, and joy in our complex and ambiguous diasporic lives. PEACE. Continue reading

“Tell them that it can happen to anybody”

A writer to the tip line draws our attention to a terrible death in Indiana: “Nupur Srivastava was a distant relative’s daughter and my mother knew her well. Everyone is distraught over her passing, especially given the circumstances.” Srivastava died last week after being in an induced coma since April 3 with third degree burns over 80 percent of her body. She was allegedly doused with gasoline and set on fire by her boyfriend, Michael Wilson, who is now charged with murder. Both Srivastava and Wilson were 33.

Srivastava’s family has an important message:

[Srivastava] was rebuilding her life, setting herself on a road to recovery from alcohol abuse and toward a career in public relations or event management, [her sister Ritu] Adams said. Others saw Srivastava, petite at less than 95 pounds, as “drop-dead gorgeous,” but her sister’s low self-esteem prevented her from seeing herself as beautiful, Adams said.

She suspects that contributed to her sister staying in an abusive relationship. Police investigators are piecing those details together, Adams said. The family simply wants Nupur’s story to resonate with others.

“Tell them that it can happen to anybody,” Veena Srivastava pleaded.

“She was doing so good,” Adams said of her sister’s fresh start. “Maybe she was afraid to leave him. There are a lot of women who probably won’t speak out because they’re ashamed of their past, but that shouldn’t matter.

“People say, ‘It can’t happen to me.’ Guess what? It happened to my sister.”

Update: That link either moved or is now broken. For more information, please try here. Continue reading

Free Tasneem Khalil [UPDATED]

According to information received by the expatriate Bangladeshi organization Drishtipat, the journalist, blogger and researcher Tasneem Khalil may be released from military custody in Dhaka this evening after being taken last night from his home by the military. Drishtipat is running updates here. Tasneem writes for the Bangladesh Daily Star, is a stringer for CNN and has also carried out research for Human Rights Watch. He is also a blogger, and his site offers interesting perspectives on the political upheaval Bangladesh is currently undergoing, as well as features on social and environmental issues. Tasneem is 26 years old, married and a father of one. We stand in solidarity.

Tasneem’s work with international news and advocacy organizations has resulted in a very rapid spread of the news of his detention, which will be an embarrasment to the Bangladeshi military authorities. HRW has released a statement with an account of the nocturnal visit from agents claiming to be with the “joint task force.” HRW links to a 2006 report on torture and extrajudicial killings by the Bangladesh Rapid Action Battalion to which Tasneem contributed. All this contributes to the obvious fears for him and reminds us of the peril faced by others who may not have the benefit of such a rapid international outcry.

UPDATE: Tasneem Khalil was released this evening, local time. Per Drishtipat:

Update 9:11:33 pm BDT
Tasneem is meeting with Mahfuz Anam in his office alone. Staffers in office say he looks physically ok, but badly shaken up. He is being taken home to his wife by DS staff after the meeting with MA.

Note also this earlier update:

Update 7:10:15 pm BDT
Senior Daily Star office are huddled in office, including Mahfuz Anam. MA has released a statement. Excerpts: ” “I contacted the authorities concerned and was informed that him being questioned was not due to his journalistic work and had nothing to do with his functions at The Daily Star…. In fact, it was because of the contents of his personal blog and some SMSs he had sent recently…. Following my discussions with the authorities and because of the caretaker government’s commitment to the policy of freedom of the media, it was agreed that he would be released tonight.” Full statement is not online on DS website yet.

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india1857.jpgIf we had a tradition of open threads here, I would just open one here today and ask all of y’all to share your thoughts on the Sepoy Mutiny, a.k.a. Rebellion, a.k.a. First War of Independence, a.k.a. perhaps some other name, depending on your viewpoint and the importance you assign to nomenclature in history. I know shamefully little about this fundamental event in the history of the Indian Subcontinent, and even less about the debates that it has spurred among historians, except that I know that these have been complicated and sometimes heated.

But today marks the official sesquicentennial commemoration of the start of the Mutiny/Rebellion/War, and by way of launching the conversation, I present three different takes that are in the news today. First we have Mani Shankar Aiyar, India’s Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, who gave the official start to a youth march from Meerut to Delhi a couple of days ago. His remarks to a RediffNews correspondent emphasized the secular nature of the uprising; he observed that India today can learn from the uprising the importance of pluralism, secularism and religious understanding:

The significance of 1857 for today’s youth is that it makes you realise that we all are one people in spite of our diversity.

The freedom-fighters who revolted against the British in 1857 were mostly Hindus in Meerut. After disobeying their British superiors they went straight to the Mughal king, Bahadur Shah Zafar, and made him their king.

They had no ill-feeling for the Mughal king though he was a Muslim. This is the kind of secular bonding these soldiers had in them.

Our young generation must remember that united we stand, and though we are a diverse people we have to maintain our unity. That is what the message of 1857 was to all Indians. …

This is another message that Bahadur Shah Zafar and the freedom-fighters of 1857 wanted to pass on to the future generations. No matter what your religion and region be, respect all religion and maintain harmony. …

We have to remember the fact that India has the second largest Muslim population in the world. We have more Muslims than in Pakistan and Bangladesh but we Indians live together peacefully and I am proud to say all Muslims are my brothers.

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Caribbean Queen

MIA-pitchfork.jpgWho dat? Why, that’s your girl M.I.A., doin’ the damn thing in Jamaica during a video shoot last week; a tipster on the news tab blessed us with a link to this and several other photos from the shoot posted at hip arbiter Pitchfork Media. Apparently the sister’s new album, called Kala, drops in August; we’ve already gotten down to “Bird Flu” a few months ago, and now if you check the Pitchfork item you’ll find a link to a MySpace page that offers a stream of another new song (though not on the album), called “Hit That.” The topic is, um, exactly what it sounds like — a pure sex/party jam, containing interpolations of previous classics of the genre like Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Shake Your Rump.” Anyway make of the music what you will, but I’m digging the pan-Third World aesthetic that M.I.A.’s been putting forward of late in her videos and indeed, her choice of settings; she’s a reverse ambassador of mash-up globalization, bringing it back to its multiple sources, and the brown skins, big butts and ramshackle backdrops express a politics far more creative, democratic and satisfying than the tired and tendentious tigers of her first go-round. Continue reading

Halal in the Family

sonsacrifice.jpgA Son’s Sacrifice is a 27-minute documentary about a halal slaughterhouse in Ozone Park, Queens, run by a Bangladeshi immigrant and his son, Riaz and Imran Uddin; the film, by Israeli-American Yoni Brook and Kashmiri-American Musa Syeed, who met while studying at NYU Film School, has just won Best Documentary Short at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. Beyond the clear Ibrahim/Abrahamic allusion, the title refers to son Imran’s decision, at age 27 and holding a degree in communications from Clark University, to return to Queens and take over the family business. From an article in the Queens Times-Ledger:

The film is not just about a live meat market, according to its makers. It is a metaphor for the immigrant experience. Brook described the proliferation of live markets in and around New York City as an act of defiance against assimilation. It is an opportunity for immigrants to allow their American-born progeny to experience directly the culture of home by witnessing halal ritual slaughter.

I don’t know that I’d call that “defiance against assimilation” — it might just be evidence of a different kind of assimilation or, since the whole idea of “assimilation” is both so imprecise and so loaded, maybe we should just be talking about the constant process of formation of metropolitan culture in the era of globalization. In any event, the film earned an item in yesterday’s New York Times, in which the reporter visits the slaughterhouse: Continue reading

“Americanizing Shelley”

“When circumstances throw an American country boy and a Himalayan village belle together, the ‘apple pie’ gets a smattering of ‘masala,’ only to prove that ‘You Can’t Curry Love!'”

That’s from the official synopsis of a film called Americanizing Shelley that’s being released this weekend. It’s a production of something called American Pride Films, and stars Namrata Singh Gujral. It had its premiere at the Nashville Film Festival (wonderfully known as NAFF) a couple of weeks ago. Here’s the trailer:

In the video post here, Michelle Malkin endorses the film, describing a scene that is “highly unpopular in HollyWeird” and says that “for once, it will be worth shelling out the big bucks… to support a movie that supports America.” According to this website, the film is “riling the hate-America brigade.” It interviews Singh Gujral, who says she’s “not a political person,” although as Vinod noted here two years ago, she’s certainly been, er, honored in a political setting. As for the early reviews, the LA Weekly calls the film “minor but sweet,” while the Washington Post dismisses it for “embarrassingly low-rent production values.” Finally, although the film appears made for the mainstream U.S. commercial market, Variety opines that “screenwriter and star Namrata Singh Gujral will probably find her most appreciative aud among young Indian moviegoers who want something outside the arthouse.” Your thoughts? Continue reading

Mango Nationalism

This mango business is no joke! Despite my best efforts and those of my fellow mutineer Ennis to steer the whole mango conversation in absurd and salacious directions, it seems that out among the high and mighty, the triumphal return of the Indian mango to the American market is proving to be a very serious deal. Mango Diplomacy is being discussed at the White House, courtesy of none other than

Raghubir Goyal of the India Globe held up a basket wrapped in colored cellophane. “Mangoes from India arrived, and here is a basket for President Bush,” the reporter offered. “My question is: What message does mangoes bring, as far as India-U.S. relations are concerned?”

In return Snow had only this:

For one of the few times during the briefing, Snow smiled. “I don’t know. It is my first mango-related inquiry,” he admitted.

Undaunted by this callous official indifference, however, Mango Nationalism is, um, ripening among proud Indians and Indo-Americans here, if submissions from Fareed Zakaria, David Davidar, and Shashi Tharoor to SAJAforum are any indication. Apparently Tharoor thinks that American ignorance of true mangoes, while surely just as grave as our ignorance of cricket, is a more redeemable condition:

After years of penury, where what passed for mangoes in American supermarkets was a travesty of the term, we at last have the real thing! I used to believe that true mango lovers could sue American groceries for false advertising — the tasteless, fibrous, tart and flavor-challenged fruit they sold did not deserve the name of mango. Now we should urge every American we know to try a real Indian mango. They’ll never think of mangoes the same way again.

Full quotes from all three eminences plus a comment thread here. Mango pride is sweeping across the land. Will there be a backlash? Continue reading

Flesh for Fantasy

mangonyt.jpgWhat “luscious, incomparable mangoes” you have! Now people can “go mad for the beautiful, supple flesh,” which we have “denied [ourselves] too long.” The subtext of articles and quotes from restaurateurs and political dignitaries about the re-legalization of U.S. imports of Indian mangoes is positively… fruity.

On less sweet a note, it seems that between production and transportation costs and the stranglehold exercised by Mexican mangoes (how dare they!) on U.S. distribution channels, Alphonsos may cost up to 10 times more than the plebeian mangoes currently available at your local yuppie food mart, tropical store or bodega. The pleasure of the Indian mango, it seems, shall be known by elite mouths only. Continue reading

Out, Damned Loophole!

Do you remember those school exercises in which you look at the same news events through the coverage of two or more different newspapers, to show how devices such as placement, framing and choice of words make a big difference in the overall effect of the story? It’s an old-school method but a good one, and for any teachers out there looking for material, a story in today’s New York Times that has gotten picked up in a number of other papers offers a fine case study. Let’s read it together, shall we? The headline is: U.S. Seeks Closing of Visa Loophole for Britons. We begin with the statement of the problem:

LONDON, May 1 — Omar Khyam, the ringleader of the thwarted London bomb plot who was sentenced to life imprisonment on Monday, showed the potential for disaffected young men to be lured as terrorists, a threat that British officials said they would have to contend with for a generation.

But the 25-year-old Mr. Khyam, a Briton of Pakistani descent, also personifies a larger and more immediate concern: as a British citizen, he could have entered the United States without a visa, like many of an estimated 800,000 other Britons of Pakistani origin.

The next graf is where the action is. In two tight sentences, it provides the scoop (Chertoff’s recent talks) and describes the problem as a “loophole,” a framing that, as you can see, percolated up to the headline, and thence to other papers, Google News links, and so on.

American officials, citing the number of terror plots in Britain involving Britons with ties to Pakistan, expressed concern over the visa loophole. In recent months, the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, has opened talks with the government here on how to curb the access of British citizens of Pakistani origin to the United States.

We proceed now to some analysis. The article plainly suggests that the reason Britain is resisting Chertoff’s proposals is that accepting them would be damaging to the governing Labour Party. Don’t take my word for it:

At the moment, the British are resistant, fearing that restrictions on the group of Britons would incur a backlash from a population that has always sided with the Labor Party. The Americans say they are hesitant to push too hard and embarrass their staunch ally in the Iraq war, Prime Minister Tony Blair, as he prepares to step down from office.

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