The Relation

  • We are still standing in the doorway, chatting our way out, aiyo. Typical desis. (h/t @dhume01)

I thought I’d saunter away to the musical stylings of a well-known white man with connections to the mafia. ’Cause that makes sense for this desi blog.

Just kidding. I thought I’d go out myyyyyyyy way. With a point, or attempting to make one. I aim for rallying cry rather than dirge, in keeping with my bullheaded desire to cultivate optimism and seek action. Continue reading

Listen To Your Mother

The Sh** People Say meme began with a simple Sh** Girls Say, which frankly, I didn’t bother to watch. Then other versions began popping up. I finally clicked play when I saw Sh** Sri Lankan Mothers Say via approximately a bajillion Sri Lankan people who were highly amused:

I will helpfully subtitle this for you.

Amma: Eat eat eat eat eat eat eat eat eat EAT

Translation: I love you

Amma: [In this scenario] you will die; [in that scenario] you will die

Translation: If anything ever happened to you I don’t know what I’d do

Amma: If you wind up in hospital I’m not coming!

Translation: I would be there in a hot minute

The HI magazine is a nice touch. Also, since I saw this on FB, I hereby invent Sri Lankan Social Media Amma. “This one is carrying on with that one with the poking and the friending and that fellow! Have you used the Sri Lankan Foods application? Do you think this Facebook wall is your social media hotel for you to post and go as you please?”

Very good for you. You go! [update: Sh** Sri Lankan Fathers Say after jump] Continue reading

McHindi: Sunday Photo

Ask not what Sepia Mutiny can do for you; ask what you can do for Sepia Mutiny! The picture above is courtesy of tipster Ashish, who ran after a bus to take this picture for us. As he notes, it is an ad in Hindi, for McDonald’s. It was on a SamTrans bus in Menlo Park this summer. I intended to put it up back when he originally sent it, because did I mention he ran after a bus for us? and also the picture is cool? but now it is cold and grey and I am glad to have just recalled this and to be posting it now, because among other things it is a nice reminder of summer and running and outdoor things. (I hope those of you on the East Coast have power and are warm and safe.)

Anyway. Hindi on the side of a bus in America, for the quintessential American fast food chain, which is now selling various South Asianish foodstuffs, by which I mean mangoes and coconuts are involved. If you have tasted any of these foodstuffs, please revert.

UPDATE: from the crowdsourcing on my FB wall—since I am not a Hindi speaker—this ad references pineapple-mango smoothies made from real fruit (the word “real” didn’t make it into the photo, so that part’s an educated guess). The ad further informs us that these smoothies are cooler than the month of August in San Francisco. Thanks to Aruni, Salil, Oindrila, Sucheta, Sumita, Zain! Oindrila offers this review of the smoothie, which she had several times this summer: “It was too much pineapple and not enough mango imo. I like my exotic cliched fruit.”

Arun Gupta and The Occupied Wall Street Journal: Desis at Occupy Wall Street, Pt. 4

(h/t @vetoshield for Tweeting this video)

Speaking of desis at Occupy Wall Street, last week I chatted with Arun Gupta, one of the founders of the Occupied Wall Street Journal. Gupta, who talked with me on the phone from a road trip to visit different sites of protest, has been working with newspapers off and on for the past two decades, and writes for publications like AlterNet and Al Jazeera. He’s also been with the Indypendent for the past 11 years. He told me about making the first issue of the Occupied Wall Street Journal happen in under 24 hours.

(Time-sensitive note for New Yorkers: If you want to hear more from Gupta, The New Yorkers editor, David Remnick, is moderating a discussion about OWS tonight at Florence Gould Hall in NYC. 7 p.m. In addition to Gupta, the event features NYer staff writers John Cassidy and Jill Lepore, as well as former NY governor Eliot Spitzer. Online tickets are gone, but a limited number of free tickets will be available at the door.) And a BONUS read via Sonny Singh: Manissa McCleave Maharawal in conversation with Eliot Spitzer about OWS in NYMag, here. I blogged about Manissa earlier in this series.)

Continue reading

‘It Was So Important That We Were All Together’: Desis at Occupy Wall St., Pt. 3

If you go to Zuccotti Park at 4 a.m., you will see them: a contingent from Occupy Wall Street’s People of Color (POC) working group, standing with others who are banding together to protect protestors from a city effort to clean up the space—widely viewed as a coded way to shut down OWS. Continue reading

The Color of the Call: Desis at Occupy Wall Street, Pt. 2

a video about people at the protests one week ago, courtesy of Thanu Yakupitiyage

“We must not miss the chance to put the needs of people of color—upon whose backs this country was built—at the forefront of this struggle.”

—from CALL OUT TO PEOPLE OF COLOR from the #OWS POC Working Group

How Hena Got There

Two Thursdays ago, after Troy Davis had been executed, Hena Ashraf protested his killing at a rally in New York City. The group that she was with didn’t have a particular plan, she says, but “we ended up on Wall Street.”

It was her first time at Occupy Wall Street, a movement that’s rapidly gaining steam and numbers. And a week ago, by her fourth time there, Ashraf had become a game-changer: one of a group of desis who stood up and insisted that the movement’s primary declaration edit language that referred to racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination as though they were things of the past.

“We definitely stood out,” Ashraf told me. At that point, she explained, the protests were still overwhelmingly white. (We spoke on the phone Sunday night; she was two blocks from Wall Street, heading back to the protests.) But, she added, over the course of her visits to the site, she’s seen them become more diverse.

Continue reading

Desis Take Action At Occupy Wall Street

 video courtesy of Thanu Yakupitiyage

I no longer live in New York, and I was following the Occupy Wall Street movement only vaguely when last week, something on FB caught my attention… and kept it. It was a lengthy note by Hena Ashraf, chronicling how she and a few other desis had gone down to Liberty Square on Thursday night and argued to change some of the language in Occupy Wall Street’s primary declaration.

I recognized some of the names in her story from my own time in New York: Sonny Singh (of, among other things, Red Baraat) and Thanu Yakupitiyage, an immigrant rights activist who is also a Lanka Solidarity member. And another, whom I didn’t know: Manissa McCleave Maharawal. These four, it seemed, had formed the posse primarily responsible for the intervention that had me riveted.

Here’s how it looks in the Occupy Wall Street notes:

Block 4—Grievance in supporting a document that claims that my oppression on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, religion, and things not mentioned on this document are something that happened formerly and not in the present day.

Continue reading

Digital Diaspora: The South Asian American Digital Archive


I love me some primary sources/historical material, so imagine my delight when I discovered the South Asian American Digital Archive, which I first heard about from a friend of Vivek’s. You can get lost on this site for many hours, looking at everything from the Gadar Party to old SM favorite Dilip Singh Saund (and by the way, I would like a dollar for every time he has been mentioned on SM).

It turned out that Vivek’s pal, SAADA President Samip Mallick, was working on SAADA with, among other people, a friend of a friend of mine, Manan Desai. The two of them agreed to do an interview about it for Sepia. This interview was conducted via the standard Interwebs. Continue reading

Way To Go, Anika / A Speech for Libraries

This is a video of 14-year-old Anika Tabovaradan giving an impassioned speech about the need for libraries in Toronto. It is 2 a.m., she hates public speaking, she’s been waiting for four hours to talk, and a bunch of Toronto officials–including Mayor Rob Ford–are watching her. AND SHE IS AWESOME.

Way to go, Anika. You reminded me how much I love libraries, librarians, and community space.

(Here’s the related article in the Toronto Star, and a tip o’ the old hat to Romesh H, who pointed out the vid in the first place.) Continue reading

Channel 4 Film: “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields”

I’m going to keep this post brief and my own comments to a minimum, because I’m still processing a lot of this myself, but because of some time sensitivities I wanted to bring this to Sepia Mutiny readers’ attention now.

The U.K.’s Channel 4 has produced a much-discussed film called “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields,” which is about the way the Sri Lankan civil war ended in 2009. “The programme features devastating new video evidence of war crimes – some of the most horrific footage Channel 4 has ever broadcast,” Channel 4 says. I’d recommend watching it; all signs are that it’s going to be a part of the conversation for awhile, and the official link is only up for four more days (there are a few unofficial links in other spots, but who knows how or if that will continue).

Link to the film (please be forewarned that it contains a considerable amount of extremely graphic material–to quote Channel 4, “With disturbing and distressing descriptions and film of executions, atrocities and the shelling of civilians”):

Link to related interviews on PBS NewsHour, which includes the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the U.S., as well as someone from the International Crisis Group–

A link to a recent report from an advisory panel to the U.N. Secretary General

You can find analysis of these items, particularly the first and the third, in various spots on the Interwebs… but lots is still coming out, and it’s too early to know which pieces I find particularly strong. Sri Lanka citizen journalism site Groundviews, of course, will be one option. My purpose here is mostly to say that if you’re interested in forming your own opinion, you have a limited time to check out the movie itself. (That URL works all over the world.) Continue reading