Portraying Monkeys Is Paramount in Preserving Our Culture?

Greetings Mutineers! I am Nayagan and I am guest-blogging here to fight the good fight for pittu, sodhi and the thosai which embraces us all in it’s fermented glory.


Listen up desi parents: Bina Menon, a classical dance teacher from West Orange NY, has the magical cure to all your ‘heritage preserving’ needs. Indeed, according to the New York Times, a turn in one of her stage productions (portraying an animal of the forest) will do wonders for lifting the Vestern pop-culture cloud which descended over your child’s eyes as soon as he/she exited the womb.

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With Mango Juuuuuuice! With Shampooooo!

I guess MC Vikram and Ludakrishna aren’t the only dynamic desi duo doing creative reinterpretations of hip-hop:

I can’t get over their names, Pari and Harvin…sorry, allow me to be accurate—I can’t get over ONE of their names, because I always thought it was a very bad word in Malayalam.

Random Uncle: Molay, what did you get for Christmas?
Three-year old me: Pari!
Random Uncle: *thud* (falls over in horror)
My dad: She’s so funny!

Beyond that, I must say that I was somewhat impressed with the quality of the video (though I’m rarely on YouTube, so I’m sure all the youths of today have ridonkulous video editing skillz of which I am unaware).

Once the backup dancers started..um…cranking…or light bulb-changing specifically, I was surprised at the level of thought put in to this lunacy. Backup dancers! It must have been fun to walk by all THAT. Where’s the “Making the Video” for this, complete with confused non-desis watching on the street corner?

Anyway, it’s Friday and we’re (read: I’m) stressed, so a bit of light-hearted spoofery seems apposite. It was cute enough that I’m willing to forgive Harvin (whom I assume put it on the News tab) for bringing this wee bit of awareness of Soulja Boy in to my world; I was proud of the fact that I had never heard “Crank Dat”, but for you excessively mustachioed kids, I’ll make this very good exception. Oh, who am I kidding. My motive for posting this was zimble—after you watch, I will not be the only one who has the words I used for my title STUCK IN THEIR HEAD all day.

With Mango Jooooooooose,

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Help Me Sing It, Ma Ma Se, Ma Ma Sa, Ma Ma Coo Sa

sooo much chocolate.jpg

When it comes to “hot fields of scientific research”, obviously desis are at the forefront of discovery and innovation; that’s not chauvinism, that’s just logic. Millions of brown people exist and a solid chunk of them are in science, so the odds are just stacked in our favor. But I digress. And there’s exciting stuff regarding Proteome Research to get to, so let’s get back on topic! [Via MSNBC]:

A small study links the type of bacteria living in people’s digestive system to a desire for chocolate. Everyone has a vast community of microbes in their guts. But people who crave daily chocolate show signs of having different colonies of bacteria than people who are immune to chocolate’s allure.
That may be the case for other foods, too. The idea could eventually lead to treating some types of obesity by changing the composition of the trillions of bacteria occupying the intestines and stomach, said Sunil Kochhar, co-author of the study. It appears Friday in the peer-reviewed Journal of Proteome Research.

This study isn’t biased at all:

Kochhar is in charge of metabolism research at the Nestle Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland. The food conglomerate Nestle SA paid for the study. But this isn’t part of an effort to convert a few to the dark (or even milk) side of cocoa, Kocchar said.

Here’s my favorite part of the study:

In fact, the study was delayed because it took a year for the researchers to find 11 men who don’t eat chocolate.

BWAH! In your face, people who think chocolate craving = pre-menstrual misery and weakness. MEN! They couldn’t find eleven MEN who don’t indulge.

Kochhar compared the blood and urine of those 11 men, who he jokingly called “weird” for their indifference to chocolate, to 11 similar men who ate chocolate daily. They were all healthy, not obese, and were fed the same food for five days.
The researchers examined the byproducts of metabolism in their blood and urine and found that a dozen substances were significantly different between the two groups. For example, the amino acid glycine was higher in chocolate lovers, while taurine (an active ingredient in energy drinks) was higher in people who didn’t eat chocolate. Also chocolate lovers had lower levels of the bad cholesterol, LDL.

That does it. I’m having red wine and Cadbury for dinner tonight. What to do? It’s the healthy choice.

The levels of several of the specific substances that were different in the two groups are known to be linked to different types of bacteria, Kochhar said.

They’re still not sure if it’s the bacteria that wants to be startin something, gots to be startin something or if diet affected the bacteria blah blah chicken egg.

How gut bacteria affect people is a hot field of scientific research.

I think my tummy is always warm, but that is based on highly unscientific rubbing of it, while attempting to pat my head simultaneously.

Wots this? A reference to my bellowed alma mater? GO AGS! Continue reading

Hindi Chini Behen Behen

Hindi Chini behen behen.jpg

An anonymous tipster left a link to an “awww”-inducing story from Beijing, China, on our news tab.

After Bollywood films, classical Indian dance has caught the imagination of the Chinese, with a young woman actively promoting Bharatnatyam among her compatriots, especially the tiny-tots.
For 33-year-old Jin Shan Shan, a Jawaharlal Nehru University alumnus, it has always been a passion to become an exponent of Bharatnatyam. She has established a school for Bharatnatyam here. [The Hindu]

Like Amreekans, the Chinese are dabbling in many things desi, like Bollywood, yummy food and of course teh yoga. Can’t forget that yoga.

Aside: Is there a better cultural ambassador? We have millions of confused, middle-aged, New Year’s Resolution-keepers all across this land, taking Yoga at Bally fitness and the like, trying not to fall over when they’re attempting an Ardha Chandrasana. ;) Now people can add incense and twisty poses to the pottu, when they assemble a stereotype. :D Don’t get your chuddies all twisted, yaar. I’m just high off the cuteness in that picture (that’s Jin Shan Shan and her adorable daughter Jessie, in Beijing).

While Bollywood films, Indian cuisine and yoga have become popular in China, learning classical Indian dance is also gaining ground here, Ms. Jin said. Around 50 Chinese children were attending classes every week to learn the intricacies of the classical dance. [The Hindu]

Wouldn’t it be amazing if the arts accomplished what the Panch Shila couldn’t? Yes, yes it would be. Then again, will hundreds of stomping little kids have any effect on China’s “take” on Arunachal Pradesh?

In November 2006, China and India had a verbal spat over claim of the north-east Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. India claimed that China was occupying 38,000 square kilometres of its territory in Kashmir, while China claimed the whole of Arunachal Pradesh as its own.
Recently, China denied the application for visa from an IAS officer in Arunachal Pradesh, saying that since Arunachal Pradesh is a territory of China, he/she won’t need a visa to visit his/her own country. [viki]

An irresponsibly naive idealist can hope, right? Be the change you wish to see? Continue reading

Set Adrift on “SubcontineNtal Drift” in DC Tomorrow

Subcontinental Drift- I House.jpg

I recently emailed five questions to Sophie, who is part of the force behind D.C.’s Subcontinental Drift.

Several Mutineers discussed SD’s last event at the most recent D.C. meetup– in fact, a few of you even performed at it! I get the feeling the rest of you would be VERY interested in what Sophie and her dynamic crew are trying to do– so I thought I’d post a wee reminder that your next chance to marinate in creative splendor is tomorrow night, June 29. But first, some essential information:

Subcontinental Drift is ____?

…an effort to bring out the “basement talents of the District’s desis.” Basically, we’re trying to provide a creative space for people who are artistically-inclined (that’s a broad term and encompasses pretty much anyone from professional artists to people who like to watch other people read poetry) to connect with each other and share each other’s work.

What inspired it?

A few of us “D.C. desis” felt like there was a void in the South Asian community –in a place like D.C. where there are soooo many talented people, there wasn’t a cohesive group or space that was encouraging or nurturing that talent. The need was something that was floating around in the air, and we just grabbed it. Specifically though, the catalyst for me was when I was with Munish and Vikash at Bossa lounge in Adams Morgan and we watched Vishal Kanwar play tablas there. We’re like, wow, this is cool..let’s do more cool stuff. Something like that.

What’s the best thing about it?

The best thing is watching new artists get up in front of nearly 100 desis, and coming more and more into themselves. When you see people willing to get up there, be vulnerable, share a sacred part of themselves, and the audience is so warm and appreciative–it is the most beautiful thing.

What if someone wanted to get involved with it?

They should email us at subdriftdc@gmail.com .

What if a mutineer who isn’t lucky enough to live in D.C. wanted to emulate such awesomeness– any advice for them?

Get a few like-minded people together who are committed to the same thing you are, pick a venue, and go to the ends of the earth to SPREAD THE WORD about it. If your community doesn’t have a creative space for people, chances are people are hungry for it. As long as word spreads, people will come. And especially in the beginning, keep the vibe pretty informal and verryyy welcoming–human connection is the key!

I went to the last Subcontinental Drift and I’ll be at tomorrow’s, as well. The atmosphere that Sophie, Munish, Nina, Mona, Nabeel, Vishal and Surabhi create is extraordinary; upon being dragged to last month’s event, a friend of mine from out of town was actually envious of us DCists, because he thought the open mic/dance performances/live music/stand-up comedy/ridiculously good sangria made for one fantastic night. I agreed and immediately grew mindful of how lucky I was to live here, where creativity manifests like this. I’m telling you, the very air in that room pictured above felt charged, different, exhilarating. You should go, and see for yourself. :)

Subcontinental Drift
An open mic for and by South Asian Americans.
-experiments in words, sound or art
-spoken word
Friday, June 29, 2007
Cost: FREE and we have drinks and snacks!
La Casa Community Center
3166 Mt. Pleasant Street NW
3 blocks from the Columbia Heights metro stop.
(Green or Yellow Line)

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Sensually Flawed (But We Know It)

Yay, more Kama Sutra.jpg

Look what I found in my GMail this morning!

The Dance of the Kama Sutra
Get this sensual dance fitness video two months before it’s available anywhere else. [Borders]

I hate wincing before I’ve had my morning kappi. When I went to get my normal small-drip-with-egregious-space-for-cream, I sighed and said, “make it a large”. I need all the energy I can get to deal with potential exotification.

Here’s what I discovered about the sensual fitness video which will be released on July 31:

Follow-up to the fun, top-selling Bollywood Dance Workout; Offers a unique workout with sacred sensual moves for your body and soul
Acacia announces the July 31, 2007 DVD release of Dance of the Kama Sutra with Hemalayaa, offering an exciting new program using meditation and playful movements from Indian dance to help women cultivate their sensuality.
The Kama Sutra, an ancient Indian text, promotes the cultivation of sensuality as a sacred duty. The need to cultivate and reconnect with our sensual selves—the goddess at the core of every woman—remains as strong as ever, but the din and rush of modern life make the opportunities all too rare. Through playful movements and heart-centered meditation, yogini and Indian Dance expert Hemalayaa takes you on a journey of discovery. Find the freedom and fullness of expression that come from embracing yourself and your body, just as you are. Join Hemalayaa, creator of The Bollywood Dance Workout, in a dance of love and laughter that instills confidence, joy, and poise. Gesture by gesture, swish by swish, we remember that we are—and have always been—divine dancers. [link]

Swish by swish, even!

The “ick” was at a roiling boil within and I cynically wondered who was behind this project…and yes, it’s true, I did not think it was someone brown. Just who was Hemalayaa?

Hemalayaa teaches yoga and Indian dance in Los Angeles and offers frequent workshops and retreats around the world. The daughter of Indian parents, Hema’s yoga training began at home at an early age, and she went on to study yoga, philosophy, and meditation as well as asana. Hema’s in-depth study and practice of classical Indian dance informs how she teaches yoga. A life devoted to yoga and dance animates Hemalayaa’s playful spirit. Many of her retreats and workshops culminate in a night of dance. Hema loves turning her students on to the vibrant styles of Indian dance, from the classical to the latest moves from Bollywood, bhangra, and Indian MTV. [link]

Oh, snap. She is desi. And I’m uber-fond of people named Hema, too. I felt vaguely ashamed, because I was aware of how I had immediately cut her a bit of slack which I clearly wouldn’t have extended to someone unbrown. I am teh suck. The flawed, biased suck. At least I know it, right?

What now? My exoti-dar was still going off, though it had been significantly muted. Should I be happy that homeslice was doing her thang? Or was it okay to cringe, at the title and over the audience this was intended for, if the demographic I was imagining was accurate? What’s your take? Continue reading

America’s Got… Kashif, Hai Hai

America’s Got Talent is kind of the summer replacement for American Idol. For the most part it’s awkward amateurs getting “gonged” by the judges — with the occasional semi-professional dance/martial arts troupe showing up to keep the audience awake. (Oh, and Jerry Springer is in there, just basically being Jerry Springer.) Toward the end of last night’s episode, my jaw dropped when they put this guy on:

What’s your reaction to this? I don’t think it could be rated very highly as a specimen of Bollywood dance, though Kashif is pretty committed to those Hrithik-esque moves he’s doing. He seems very simple and pure; maybe that’s why the judges think he’s charming?

Unfortunately, the innocent-foreigner thing can only take you so far; I think Kashif should show up at the callbacks in Vegas with a flashy B-Boy outfit and a massive diamond necklace (courtesy of Jacob the Jeweler) that says KA$HIF. Otherwise, those shirtless pseudo-martial arts guys (tacky as they are) will eat him for breakfast. Continue reading

Ninde Achan Aara, Nel?

Sreesanth Swinging His Bat…. Dhoom Machale?!

It’s my first time, Mutineers, so be gentle. I’m a total Cricket virgin and if you’re mean to me about what is sure to be an amateurish post, I’ll be scarred forever– whether I end up a frigid fan or not is in your hopefully kind and capable hands. ;)

After hearing about Mallu hotness Sreesanth (thanks, DTK), I had to visit ye olde YouTube to find out about this right-arm fast-medium-pace bowler, who is a right-handed tailender. Apparently, excessively lippy South African Andre Nel questioned Sreesanth’s heart/courage/skillz after Sreesanth evaded something called a bouncer. Sreesanth responded by hitting Nel for a six and then performing a dance I’d normally associate with an end zone. Oh, that was just brutal to write. I can’t imagine how many men I’ve just annoyed. ;)

I may not know a damned thing about what is arguably the most popular sport in all of South Asia, but I know the art of trash talk well and if anything could get me to fall in love with this very Brown game, it’s the video I’ve posted above. Set to some probably-famous song I’ve never heard before (“Dhoom Machale”), it’s way more fun than the other YouTube clips which came up when I searched for the new object of my lecherous (he’s eight years younger) affection. Not since I was kicked off our co-ed IM team in grad school for illegal (and may I add, utterly justified and deliciously violent) tackling during a flag-football game have I been so delighted by the immaturity of declaring “in your face!”. Gopu, I heart you. :)

UPDATE: The Google Video seems clearer, so I swapped it. Continue reading

Old folk can still dance

I was thinking about the fact that, as an over 30, I am now officially old. I mean, James Bond is now a 30-something, which makes this the first time in my life that I have been in the same decade as a Bond actor.

However, between popping arthritis medicine and obsessing about the fact that I have to settle down before it’s too late, I remembered something. Old folk can still dance. I don’t just mean gorgeous professional dancers like DesiDancer, I mean ordinary uncles and aunties. I’m not saying that they can grind, freak or krump (although I’ll bet DD can krump like a clown) I mean that they can dance which is to me a far more beautiful thing.

Herewith, exhibit A [via Vinod], Gurdas Maan’s Babe Bhangra Pounde Ne:

If I can dance like that, when I’m that age, I’ll be a happy man.

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That’s NOT How You Do The “Head Thing”

never do that again please.JPG Dear Nidhi M.,

Thank you very much for sending Sepia Mutiny a story idea via our tipline three hours ago. It was so kind of you to think of us as you went about your day.

Since you have demonstrated your generosity already, I feel emboldened enough to wonder if you’d be willing to go a bit further in showing your devotion to this mutinous cause. Do you bleed Sepia? If so, would you graciously consider donating one of your eyes to me? I lost mine when I clawed them out, after watching the link you helpfully enclosed with the following succinct statement:

Nike teaming up with 24 hour fitness mixing and mucking up classical indian dances with bollywood and strange robotic aerobic moves.

Mein Gott, that’s almost poetic. You were right. And now, I am in so much pain because of it. I’d gouge away at the intern’s face, but she took one look at me and ran screaming to Rajni the lemur’s room. At least she didn’t have to watch Jamie King train three mostly wooden dancers in his “Rockstar workout” of “far-East funk”. Nor did she have to hear his priceless wisdom, which I feel I must contradict fervently after watching this entire fiasco:

There are no rules. If you’re feeling the music, you can’t go wrong.

TRUST me. You can indeed go wrong. Especially when you employ that uber-abused cliche which has appeared on browndating dot com so many times, my friends have turned it in to part of a drinking game (“OMG, he prefaced it with ‘good blend of’…DOUBLE SHOT!”).

Of course, I am referring to that bi-cultural, directional claptrap which automatically disqualified all otherwise-promising candidates from suitable debauchery; Mr. King’s spin on it didn’t prevent the gagging, not after what I saw. “East meets West on the dance floor”? Come to any random desi party and you can abuse “South” as well, i.e. “when East meets West on the dance floor, two rabidly horny underage hormones often move South in order to simulate an act which MummyPapa would spank them unconscious for, for even pondering”. Anyway. When this man who has choreographed Madge exhorts us to “just get out there and show your Bollywood style!”, I don’t think he realizes what fresh hell he is inviting the world to suffer through by doing so.

Chick Pea? Are you out there? Have you done your surgical rotation yet??? That faint, scratchy squawking you hear is Abhi, frantically paging you to the bunker’s painfully rustic OR. Go, scrub your hands already! My anesthesiologist Dr. Walker is already prepping me for surgery. As for the rest of you, just know this and remember it well– when you dance like that, you make the baby Jesus cry. Worse than that, you also piss off our Desidancer.

Blindly yours,



(more pictures after the jump, click to enlarge them…if you dare) Continue reading