Humor is Not A Foreign Country

On Thursday, of all days, I called customer service. A man picked up. He spoke to me in what seemed like South Asian-accented English, but as usual, I didn’t ask him where he was, even when he said my name almost flawlessly. I generally don’t ask customer service representatives where they are. Sometimes it’s because I think that question would put them on the defensive; sometimes it’s just because I’m in a rush. On Thursday, I was in a rush. Why would I want to connect with another human? I’m BUSY. Um, right. What Vivek might call Badmoodistan. But even though I was Unfriendlyananthan, he was not. And he was the first customer-service representative I’ve ever spoken to who asked me where I was from.

HIM: Are you from Tamil Nadu? [notable tone of excitement]

ME: [taken aback by unwarranted kindness] No, my parents are Sri Lankan. Where are you?

HIM: I’m in Mumbai, but I’m from the South.

ME: Oh!

HIM: Well, madam, except for your accent, anyone would say you are an Indian.

ME: [laughs] Yeah, I was born in America.

And then: Lucky girl! he said. And suddenly, I was not in Badmoodistan any more.

I know that he’s right–I am a lucky girl. But America! America! Sometimes you have crappy sitcoms. Continue reading

Ameen Chef-testant Competes for Just Desserts

malika.ameen.jpgThe latest desi entrant to the reality TV world, Chicago pastry chef consultant Malika Ameen, has a spot on the premiere season of Top Chef: Just Desserts. The series is a Padma Lakshmi-less but pastry and pompadour-laden spin-off of the popular Top Chef.

In its initial quickfire challenge, Ameen’s meringue was all wrong, mostly because she didn’t complete the coconut concoction in time. But the cookie couturier to the stars hustled for the next round, producing a decadent and bittersweet chocolate dessert for the elimination challenge. It made the cut and kept her on the show for another week. Continue reading

Party on the Food Network!

After several months of waiting, the “Next Food Network Star” has been announced, and it is none other than fellow desi Aarti Sequiera! Lakshmi did a brief write up on Aarti as the competition to select the Food Network’s next celebrity chef began, and now we can see the results come full circle. Aarti’s show, currently titled “Aarti Party,” will be the first cooking show on national American television to focus on Indian food, and be hosted by an Indian American.

I consider myself to be an amateur foodie, and between tasting new cuisines, learning how not to starve to cook, and avidly reading others’ food blogs, I always make time to enjoy the veritable smorgasbord of culinary shows. If there are any other foodie mutineers out there, you will know that the Food Network is often mocked for its commercial drive, and celebrity chefs who are more celebrity than chef. I usually don’t watch the Food Network unless I feel like listening to Paula Deen’s comforting southern drawl, but in between seasons of “Top Chef,” “The Next Food Network Star” keeps me satiated.

I have been watching “The Next Food Network Star” since its start, and the Food Network for even longer, but it wasn’t until the third season of TNFS that I noticed something about the Food Network…its lack of diversity in both food culture and the ethnicity of its hosts. One of the contestants on that season, Joshua “Jag” Garcia, was disqualified from the competition after it had been revealed that he lied about some of his culinary experience. In his exit interview, he mentioned how the Food Network has no Latino chefs or shows featuring Hispanic cuisine, and he had hoped he could be the first to bring his culture to the channel. Shortly after, Food Network produced “Simply Delicioso.” Around the same time, the first African-American hosted cooking show premiered, “Down Home with the Neely’s.” Continue reading

Boney M, Kutty-fied.

I’m not one to really open the FW-ed e-mails, but I got this in my inbox this week and couldn’t wait for the next #MusicMonday to share. I realize as far as memes go, this may be a little outdated, but funny desi-fied music video covers are timeless (h/t Zaida).

Lola Kutty, the bespectacled woman in the front, is a VJ on Channel [V] and the alter ego to Anuradha Menon. Ultrabrown linked to some kitschy posters of Lola Kutty back in ’07. I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of Lola sooner. Then again, maybe there’s a little part of Lola Kutty that exists within all of us and I’ve always known her.

Lola Kutty is a bespectacled Keralite lady who speaks English with a heavy Malayali accent. Unlike other VJs, she has curly oily hair sporting a gajra and wears silk saris. Unlike Jassi of Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin, Lola has no plans for a makeover[3]. She is a huge fan of Abhishek Bachchan[9]. Her assistant is Shiny Alex, who wears fluorescent shirts, matching slippers, and mundu folded up. [wiki]

And of course, Boney M needs no introduction. Right? Riiiight? Continue reading

Janina Opens The Gates

Remember how years ago we were all crushing on Janina Gavankar‘s alter web search engine persona, Ms. Dewey? Well she’s back, and this time she’s bringing it with full force, singing AND acting.

No word on if Janina’s working on an album, but it sounds like this Kanye cover was just a one off project. But I did learn that she was part of girl group Endera, which was signed on to the Cash Money Universal label. Which means, technically, she was the first Desi signed to the label, not Jay Sean. A singer and an actress, you may also recognize Janina from the L-Word where she played “Papi.” Her face will be all over your prime time television soon too – Janina is now playing police officer Leigh Turner on the new series vampire/werewolf/bump-in-night suburban drama The Gates which started last week.

I play Leigh Turner [on The Gates]. She’s a cop who is very good at her job but she has a pretty dark secret that she keeps to herself. The secret is rad, I couldn’t have guessed it in a million years…

> I think there is a small crop of us who are working just because we are good, not because we are good Indians. I am building a career on being as good as I possibly can be. I don’t want people to say, “She is a great Indian actress.” Like, you don’t say, “She is a great white actress,” or “She is a great black actress.” No one is saying that shit. There are a bunch of us who believe in this. Just be dope. I am just excited for the next generation where color doesn’t matter and they will be allowed to just be artists. The arts in general are just a huge part of the culture. [[complex](] What do you think? Has Janina locked you down? Continue reading

Aarti Sequeira Brings her Paarti to The Next Food Network Star

Attention, foodies! There’s a contestant who specializes in Indian food on the current season of The Next Food Network Star (Sundays 9p/8c.)

Aarti Sequeira is a Los Angeles-based food blogger and the host of Aarti Paarti, her own Internet cooking show. After working as a journalist for a few years, Sequeira’s life took a Julie and Julia-esque turn after her marriage:

A few years later, a freshly-married Aarti moved to Los Angeles, with no job prospects. Cooking dinner for her husband, actor Brendan McNamara (director and cameraman on Aarti Paarti, as well as fellow popcorn jig-er!) became the highlight of her day. She worked her way through both The Joy of Cooking and her mum’s carefully typed out recipes, each dish turning out just a little better than the last. She began to fantasize about each night’s dinner, usually as soon as she had finished her lunch, which she had fantasized about when she finished breakfast, which she’d fantasized about since going to bed the previous evening (seeing a pattern here?).

(Here’s an interesting fact about Sequeira’s journalism career: she was the co-producer of Sand and Sorrow, the 2007 documentary about Darfur that was produced and narrated by George Clooney.)

Watch a clip from the season premiere below. During her introductory package Sequeira said that her goal is to “simplify Indian cooking and make it easy for the average person. I cook rustic family meals with a lot of specific Indian spices: garam masala, turmeric, cardamom pods.”

It gets a bit emotional at 1:48 as Sequeira describes what winning would mean to her parents, who live in India:

I am very curious to see the kinds of recipes Sequeira will come up with over the course of the season. The first dish she made on the show was a very simple rasam. You can find the recipe she used here. Continue reading

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

There’s nothing more uncomfortable than accepting an invitation to a dinner party only to discover over the salad course that your host’s girlfriend is a virulent racist. Just ask Sir Ben Kingsley. published this blind item a few days ago:

“Ben Kingsley told a story on The View this morning about an unpleasant dinner he had at the home of a Hollywood actor: ‘There are times when I wish I could have said or done something differently. [For example] The last time I was here, there was an old Hollywood actor who invited me back to his home. He was with his aging German girlfriend. I was instantly nervous around her. During the meal, she said “Are you Jewish?” And I said, “No as a matter of fact, I’m half Indian and half English.” And she said “Oh my god, that’s even worse.” [audience gasps] So, I did not drop my knife and fork and say “F* you.” I stayed in a state of rage throughout the dinner. Why? Because everything happens for a reason. And now here I am with you and [pointing at the camera] if you’re still around, you racist old witch…[gesturing to The View panel] these girls have now heard it, and you know who you are! You know who you are!’

Nearly everyone reading this can relate to this story at least a little. I certainly know what it is like to silently sit in a state of rage after hearing a racist remark at a party, wishing I had either a) called the person out, b) immediately gone home, or c) both. I have to admit that I’m a bit jealous that Kingsley got to verbally tear this woman to shreds on national television. Who hasn’t imagined doing that?

Watch the video below for the full effect of Kingsley’s tale (complete with faux German accent.) The look on his face as he shouts “You know who you are!” is priceless.

How have mutineers handled situations like this? What would you have done differently if given a do-over? And any guesses as to who hosted this ill-fated dinner party? (Most of the Gawker commenters think it’s this Hollywood legend, which, if true, would make me more than a little sad.) Continue reading

She Just Pulled a Kaavya

Hey Karmacy, I think some girl in India pulled a Kaavya Viswanathan on your lyrics (h/t Deepa).

Evidence 1 (skip to 4:35 to see her “rap”):

The original Karmacy video of Blood Brothers:

If I knew Final Cut Pro, I would have edited the videos next to each others, but I think you get the idea. Okay, fine. I do realize that these American/Indian/Wherever Idols are an elaborate form of karaoke and no one ever sings original material. But, is it just me, or does she claim the lyrics as her own? (And who is this Patel rap referred to by the judges?)

She auditioned with the same Karmacy song. Audition video below the jump. Continue reading

Guest Blogger: In Which Vivek Shares Some Roti With Us

I know that you, like me, may be sad today: Lost is over, and that means no more Sayid–no more curly-haired desi smartypants!

But I’m here to tell you it’s going to be okay: here at SM we have discovered his doppelganger.


This is Vivek.

You might recognize him: he’s been an SM comment thread regular, and he’s one of the co-founders of Pass The Roti on the Left-Hand Side. (The all-growed-up version of him does bear a resemblance to Naveen Andrews.)

He is funny and smart and incisive and an excellent writer, and even better than all those things, he is generous and kind! The blogosphere needs more of all of these things! So we thought we’d invite him into the bunker for awhile.

Vivek was born in Madras, grew up in Tucson, and resides in New York. He makes a living as an “IT dork” (his words) and also cooks a mean mutton biryani. Like me, he plays the saxophone. Bunker jam session shortly.

Welcome, Vivek. It’s gonna be fun sharing Interwebs with you. Continue reading

Watch What Happened, at the State Dinner

Salahis and O.jpgI admit it. I watch two of the Real Housewives series [to be clear, I mean NY and NJ-- no ATL for me, that's alll mutineer Vinod ;) ]. When it comes to mindless entertainment with which to while away time on a cardio machine, this reliable train-wreck is mesmerizing to behold.

Earlier this month, when Bravo introduced their newest programming, it looked as if my adopted hometown would not be the next player in the RH cesspool. After all, Bravo proudly announced that Beverly Hills would be the next frontier for fame-whoring, with nary a peep about boring, old DC. And yet…

Today, the Daily Beast has confirmed from two sources that the so-called White House gatecrashers, whose prank ultimately cost presidential Social Secretary Desiree Rogers her job, are poised to take center stage once again as the most visible members of the upcoming Bravo series “The Real Housewives of D.C.” After one of the most visible reality series auditions in history–yes, Bravo cameras were on hand as the Salahis arrived for that ill-fated White House event–the couple has now been fully embraced as the focal point of the series, expected to premiere in July.

A source close to the series tells the Daily Beast that Bravo executives were more than relieved to learn the Salahis wouldn’t be prosecuted. In-house viewing of the audition footage and sample programs made it obvious that it would have been next to impossible to edit out the commanding presence of the statuesque platinum blonde, Michaele. [db]

Oh, good! They won’t be punished for their dangerous antics. Whew, that’s such a relief. I mean, let’s focus on what matters– good television!

According to Gawker, footage of Tareq and Michaele crashing the State Dinner which was held in honor of Indian PM Manmohan Singh will be shown during the DC season finale. Bravo’s slogan is “Watch What Happens”, and I probably I will. Am I rewarding bad behavior? Yes, but if I had the self-restraint required not to gawk…I wouldn’t read Gawker. Or enjoy Bravo. Continue reading