Taz’s Top Ten and Thanks

How do I say good-bye to a site that gave me space to explore my identity with words, gave me the training grounds to build community virtually, and allowed me the opportunity to influence political and advocacy issues affecting the South Asian community? How do I say good-bye to a site that allowed me to build so many real friendships with so many of you? I never would have imagined that when my mother passed away so suddenly nine months ago, that a large percentage of people that reached out were people who found me through this blog and remembered stories I had written referencing her. I never really  understood the power of words this community held until those dark moments.

These past few weeks I’ve been grappling with exactly what Sepia Mutiny has meant to me in the past six years I’ve written for the site and have been playing musical montages in my head of my favorite moments. Six years – longer than any job or relationship I’ve ever had. This site provided a much needed space to dialogue and develop the South Asian American identity and, in many ways, set the benchmark with how the community voiced ourselves. I always approached blogging on this site with three things in mind – 1) write about the Desi-American experience, the narrative I was yearning for, 2) a 1:1 ratio of pop to politics posts, and 3) find the marginalized Desis and give them space. And of course – the self pep talk before every remotely Muslim post - “Fuck all the trolling Islamophobic haters – as long as they’re commenting, there’s an important reason to keep blogging.” There was always that.

To commemorate – let’s list, shall we? So here we go. My top ten most influential moments here in the Sepia Mutiny bunkers…

1. Sepia Destiny: Oh, the trials and tribulations of being a single Desi girl with dating woes and having it all laid out in blogs. Remember the Dating While Desi rules? And wondering if Dating While Desi Bradley Effect of if Obama would increase the dating pool? These posts were our most commented on the site and clearly a very important issue to many of us. Though we always had high hopes of setting up a Sepia Destiny dating tab, it never came to fruition. Luckily, many of you didn’t wait for the tab to find SM love, myself included. Thank you, Sepia Mutiny for making dating life all that much more thrilling.

2. Gaza: Is Palestine a Desi issue? To me, the connection was immediate – but how to write about it? I hit the streets for the protests, interviewing every Desi person I saw and did it again at the rally in front of the Israel Embassy after the flotilla’s were attacked. In an American world where USINPAC and AIPAC are working in coordination to promote an Indian-Israeli alliance at the Capitol – I found it even more important to push this counter-narrative out there on SM’s pages. Especially after this Bollywood dancing missile promo video. Vijay Prashad’s Uncle Swami book coming out in June has a detailed analysis, but sadly my book review won’t be on these pages.

3. Ami Bera: He folded in to returning $250 of donations from CAIR-Sacramento Executive Director, thanks to pressure from his opponent Dan Lungren during the 2010 elections. My blog post sparked an interesting dialogue between readers, donors and the candidate himself - and even led to his having to return donations from people wanting their money back. Ami Bera is at it again, running in this fall’s election. But this time his race is highly supported by the Democratic Party big shots. Let’s just hope he doesn’t fold to Lungren again. Continue reading

Relax

Blue marble

Thanks, y’all, for having me over one last time. I’ve already said my goodbyes. This curious form of public performance brought me some of the people I cherish most. It’s been a second education in the erudition of the comments. The Mutiny was alt.culture.us.asian-indian before and @allyousmartf-ers now, and this delicious salon will continue in another face.

I want to toss in one last thought. Early desi American artists began with the idea of marginalization. Their references were specific and elaborate in-jokes. But look at who’s blown up: those who gave no ground in their conception of themselves. They dabbled in the desi palette because it’s rich, not because it’s definitive. Those who started with I am a Queens rapper, or I am an art director, or I am an animator, experienced brownness not as conscription, but freedom.

And in fact it is. It is a thin layer atop a deep commonality. As a species we are, when you zoom out, genetically almost clones. The differences we draw among us are like the fictional Indiana town of Pawnee squabbling with the fictional town of Eagleton: from the outside, all look same.

A couple of years ago I was watching Aziz Ansari make silly jokes at a small NYC club about hitting on MIA in bad Tamil. Today he’s touring in a 007 tux. Still bemoaning his sex life, but on a much bigger stage. Sepia is one of our colors, one near and dear. But it is only one. Let’s launch our flicks, ebooks, startups, campaigns. Let’s let our freak flags fly.

Can’t wait to see it all, and unlike Bill, I will inhale.

Manish

As One Mutiny Stands Down, Others Rise

I first stumbled onto Sepia Mutiny as a college student, a confused but curious 2nd genner who had never had brown friends, fresh from my first trip ever to the desh and desperate to find more out more information about the a CD I had bought by some “Rabbi” with a guitar. This was the first result, and after a few more inquisitive clicks around the site, I was addicted and would never be the same again. This was IT, the in I had been looking for but had been denied for so long. Though it seem silly now, my first real desi friends would be those I met online. I was a Mutineer, and I had a mission.

Fast forward to March 2012.

Despite admitting to have shot and killed a 17 year-old armed with Skittles and a hoodie, George Zimmerman remains a free man today. The story struck a chord and has become a worldwide sensation. Just as thousands of ordinary folks of all stripes have taken to the streets to peacefully protest the outrageous impunity, a similar scene is happening right now in Punjab; the difference is that the “criminal” is slated to die for attempting to stop the targeting of his community for extrajudicial torture and killings. Here is the breakdown on Balwant Rajaona and why he was to be hanged from The Langar Hall.

On March 31st, Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana [was] set to be executed in Punjab for his involvement in the assassination of former chief minister of Punjab, Beant Singh. Chief minister Beant Singh was involved with carrying out brutal and mass killings of Sikhs in Punjab.  He is widely held responsible by many Sikhs for ordering the kidnap, torture and death of many young Sikh men.  A report by Amnesty International can be found here.

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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

So long, and thanks for all the fish

Ahem. (tap tap tap. Is this thing on?)

Hi, everyone. For the last few years I’ve been pretty much fulltime over at our twitter franchise, one of a few people trying to make sure you get all your savory brownness in an 140 character packet. As a result, I’m afraid I’m a bit rusty at this longer-form blogging.

But the truth is, as my exes can attest, I’ve never been any good at final goodbyes. I even skipped the funeral of a close friend because I couldn’t stand the finality involved in watching him get cremated, even though I knew he was already gone. But I’m afraid there’s no way to skip your own wake, and once you’re there, you might as well try to deliver a eulogy, awkward as it is.

Part of the problem is that Sepia was never just one thing, it was many. There were the blog posts, but that was just the tip of the iceberg, the part you could see. There was also everything that happened out of view, so many stories that I don’t think any one of us knows them all.

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Your Last Chance… *UPDATED*

UPDATE: To accommodate our adoring mutinous mutineers – we’ve shifted the location and time. Same date, March 31st 2012, THIS SATURDAY.

NEW TIME: 2:30pm – 6:30pm

NEW LOCATION: The Liberties Bar, 998 Guerrero Street  San Francisco, CA 94110

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What’s that you say? It’s the end of a mutinous era and you never even made it to a Sepia Mutiny Meetup? Rajni the Monkey went wild in the bunker once he heard this news and is now throwing poop at your computer screen. But ask and The Mutiny delivers – at least for the next 15 days till the April 1st door slam. ANNA revived the 55 Friday because of this tweet and hell, thanks to this forlorn tweet from @YungCoconut and @AmericanTurban, I will do the same.

Join Manish, Vinod, Pavani and myself for the Cali swagest meetup of your mutinous lifetime in San Francisco on Saturday March 31st. We know that you Alterna-Desi types have already bought your tickets to the 8th annual Yoni Ki Baat performance. “Yoni Ki heh…?” you ask? Desi, please.

South Asian Sisters are back again to present another brand new script with funny, touching, sensational, and thought-provoking raw performances submitted by South Asian women across the country! [southasiansisters]

 

For more info and to purchase tickets to the March 31st & April 1st San Francisco Yoni Ki Baat shows, please check out their site here.

As for the LAST CHANCE AT GOING TO A SEPIA MUTINY MEETUP…

  • New Time: 2:30pm – 6:30pm
  • Date: Saturday, March 31st, 2012
  • New Location: The Liberties Bar, 998 Guerrero Street  San Francisco, CA 94110
  • Facebook Event Page Right Here

 

Please comment below if you will be able to make it! Since this is the last meetup – EVER – I highly suggest out-of-towners fly into SF for a Cesar Chavez long weekend of Mutinous fun. If you have a bar/lounge suggestion (that is open at 4:30pm) do let me know and we can change the local, as long as we keep it in The Mission. And if you can’t come to the meetup but want to keep in touch - you can always find us on twitter, too.

It’s not goodbye – it’s just a farewell, for now. I’ll see y’all on the internet flip side and by that I mean IRL.

Learning How to Embrace Thanksgiving Turkey

As Thanksgiving 2011 winds down, I thought I’d share this fun piece the playwright Wajahat Ali wrote for Salon about how his family eventually came to embraced that “confounding bird,” the turkey:

Now, I don’t begrudge my parents their position toward turkey. It’s a confounding bird for most immigrants, who are generally more comfortable with the bleats of a goat or a lamb, the squawks of the simple-minded chicken. The turkey was an enigma: a heavy, feathered bird with its “gobbledygook” mutterings, freakish red wattle and vast supply of dry, juiceless meat.     “Do the Amreekans realize it is dry?” ask my still perplexed relatives living in Pakistan. “Where is the masala? The taste? The juices? Why do they eat this bird?”  

 

What did you serve this Thanksgiving? Did you desi-fy your turkey? (Aarti Sequeira has a recipe for tandoori turkey here.) I grew up in a vegetarian household, so no turkey for me, but we did have pumpkin raita and cranberry chutney on the table as a nod to the holiday.

Los Desi Kung Fu Monkeys

Today’s #MusicMonday comes from Tijuana, Mexico via a tip from my friend Sasha. I’m surprised I’ve never heard of them, especially given that the band opened for Voo Doo Glow Skulls over the years. Los Kung Fu Monkeys is a ska band w/ two Pakistani brothers (Hassan and Tarek) that was formed in 1997, has six albums under their belt and has toured with Vans Warped Tour. AND, they sing bilingually in Spanish and English. Take a listen, what do you think?

To me, the sound is classically Southern Californian ska punk, with a little bit of tequila thrown in. I’m a sucker for punk covers (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes anyone?) and am really digging this Boys Don’t Cry cover. According to their facebook, they are working on their latest demo and have an international tour planned for early 2012. Follow Los Kung Fu Monkeys here on Facebook and on Twitter.

Also, I do realize there are South Asian diaspora migration stories of every kind, and I’m really curious as to how the Pakistani brothers ended up in Tijuana, Mexico. Is there a big South Asian population in Mexico? Anyone know?

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.

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How Will We Remember?

On this day I woke up to images of the twin towers falling on TV, eerily similar to what happened ten years ago at the same time. Deliberately, I’ve avoided the videos over the years, quickly changing the channel, images of people jumping from the building permanently embedded in my memory already. But today, I watched. I needed to be reminded, I guess. Where will we be in 300 years of remembering? This is Chee Malabar & Tanuj Chopra’s interpretation.

The video was created as a DVD insert to the Asian American Literature Review Tenth Anniversary of September 11th issue.

So many of our communities have borne witness to so much over the past 10 years; it behooves us to critically consider the moment and its aftermath—the various political, legal, and civil rights repercussions, particularly for the communities most directly affected, South Asian, Arab, Middle Eastern, and Muslim American. But how can we do so, when so many of the voices of affected communities remain unheard? [AALR]

 

You can order your copy of the AALR special issue online here now.