It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp (UPDATED w/ outcome)

You might not believe this, but we’re not really a vain bunch here at the mutiny. There’s barely a single full length mirror in the entire bunker, and it’s hard for me to move Rajni the monkey (who loves to watch herself preen) away when I need to tie my turban in the morning. We’re quite bashful really, and say awwww shucks a lot, as befits people of our rank and station in life.

This would explain why blogger Vinod failed to tell the rest of us about his latest honor (Thanks Manish!). Vinod was nominated for “The Bay Area’s Most Eligible Bachelor Contest” !!!!

We’re not asking for your votes, Sanjaya fans, they closed the polls on Friday. Instead, we’re asking you to collectively hold your breath until the winner is announced at some point tomorrow. If he wins, our very own man meat mutineer will receive an invitation to participate in the Guardsmen Bachelor Auction on May 17. That’s right … if we’re lucky, Vinod could be auctioned off to the highest bidder, thus demonstrating his strong belief in the efficiency of the market.

Just one complaint, yaaar. Whoever pimped you out used this photo when I think that this photo shows your good side. And if you win, remember, I’ve got dibs on one of the two VIP tickets and the pimp costume. A man has to look his best …

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Paging Mango Pickle…I Need Mango Pickle.

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[NB: Men, small children and intellectuals- pretend to look elsewhere and feign a lack of interest, even though I know you're going to read every esoteric word.]

Well-maintained humans, I have a problem.

I hate my tweezers.

I have every right to, they came in one of those awful pre-filled manicure kits that no one deserves to receive for Chrismukkah, no matter how evil they’ve been. I have been able to “get by” because I only used them once in a while. That’s why I never really noticed how worthless they are. How is this possible, you wonder incredulously? I have a shameful secret which is so hideous, none dare to believe it once it is revealed.

I have no eyebrows.

No, I didn’t over-tweeze like we all did when we were eleven. I didn’t lose them in an unfortunate smelting accident, nor did I singe them off while learning how to use that stove thingy with the…fire…and stuff. Uh-huh, I was born with no eyebrows, courtesy of my dear Father’s genetics, though considering everything else he gave me, I guess I’d be an ungrateful little shit if I dwell on this for too long.

My father had sparse eyebrows but he also started to grey at 30, so by the time I could even notice his brows, he was in his early 40s. Bare as they were, white hair on dark brown skin is ultra-obvious, so he wasn’t affected by his browlessness. I on the other hand, have had my chin grabbed and my face ruthlessly examined by Auntie after Auntie, who if I’m lucky, muttered something about how I once looked a bit like Hema Malini before I got all black and if I’m REALLY lucky…well, they declare something about how a face is useless unless the eyes are beautiful and the eyes, they are the worthless as the Manolo would say, without the brows. “Sho! Kashtam. No wonder you aren’t married.”

So I haven’t had to use tweezers all that much and whenever I did, I’d just borrow my Mom’s because hers worked. But now…I don’t know if mine have gone dull or if my hand-eye coordination is poo; they don’t grip a thing. I just can’t see the point of getting my brows “done”, not when they barely grow in the first place. In the picture you see above, which was taken during the only trip to Devon Avenue I’ve ever made, I got threaded.

Why? I was caught up in the brownosity of it all; Devon Avenue seemed way more desi than University Avenue, though it wasn’t quite Jackson Heights. After buying a new sari and bangles, eating fantastic chaat and drinking far too much good stuff, I wanted to experience the only part of the street I hadn’t thus far– the beauty parlors. Much like the first time my awe-stricken kundi trudged through Queens, I was amazed at the fact that there were salons that were staffed with and served just desis; as a righteous and deprived thenga, I found such a concept inconceivable.

So, in I went and when I requested getting my brows threaded, the woman pointedly asked, “Why?”. “Please,” I implored “I have to go to an engagement in two hours!” and she shrugged. After all, an idiot and her rupees are soon threaded. And a few seconds after this shot was taken, she stood back and announced, “done!”

I had felt a little something and noticed no discernable difference, but I was tickled anyway. Threaded! I got threaded! I finally, fleetingly felt at one with the South Asian “experience”.

So, unless it’s an adventure in beauty like that was, I’m not getting my brows done and that is why I need new tweezers. Now quit holding out on me– what do YOU use? Share your wisdom, so that other clueless fur balls will find it when they google this embarrassing topic in the years to come. ;) Continue reading

Skin deep

Last week I was standing in a bookstore, looking for something trashy and utterly mindless to buy. I picked up Deborah Rodriguez’s “Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil.” and read the first chapter, which was around all I could handle.

I realize that I was far from the target audience for such a book. I’ve never had a haircut in my life, and I’ve never been to a spa. I’m not a very sympathetic audience for stories about how the women of Kabul felt better inside because they felt more glamorous outside (well, inside their burkas). Furthermore, I am a guy, and this was a tremendously girly book:

When Deborah Rodriguez arrived in Kabul in 2002 as part of a charitable aid mission, what she saw appalled her… It was a land of bad haircuts, poorly applied makeup and no styling gel. To Rodriguez, a Michigan hairdresser with a can-do attitude, task No. 1 was obvious: get these poor people some beauty salons. [Link]

Despite my lack of personal experience with the topic, I was willing to suspend disbelief and work with the book’s basic premise, namely:

…hairdressing … is one of the few truly viable options for would-be female Afghan entrepreneurs. There’s a huge demand for such services, as many Afghan women sport elaborate hair and makeup styles under their burqas. At the same time, it’s work that can be done entirely in female company – a necessity in a segregated society. [Link]

My problem was not the subject but the condescending tone of the book. It was “City of Joy” meets “Steel Magnolias,” the usual story of somebody in the first world who finds their calling “helping” people in the third world, where the only purpose of the poor and unfortunate is to serve as a backdrop to the protagonist’s journey.

For example, the opening chapter tells of “Roshanna,” a friend who had been raped and thus was no longer a virgin. Roshanna was terrified of her wedding night, when eager crowds await a bloody rag — the telltale sign of virginity.

Ms. Rodriguez sprung into action, whipping out nail clippers, cutting her finger, dripping blood on a handkerchief and instructing Roshanna to place it under a cushion. When the time came, she could swap it with another one. The next morning, she writes: “When I rush into the hallway, I see that Roshanna’s mother is wailing for joy. ‘Virgin!’ she shouts at me triumphantly, waving the handkerchief stained with my blood. ‘Virgin!’ “… [Link]

C’mon now. Afghan women have never figured out how to fool their husbands with chicken blood after thousands of years? It took a spunky hairdresser from Michigan with a can do attitude to come up with this? Roshanna’s mother didn’t help her, and was even fooled by the simple deception? As if!

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Oil of Ofay

yourface_chart.jpgI know I’m plowing a slightly old furrow here (Manish blogged about this product when it launched back in ’05), but in light of the Guardian commentary today by Sarita Malik that Red Snapper posted on the news tab, and the latest round of skin-ism and politics-of-appearance debates on the comment threads, I thought it might be useful to reproduce the scientific chart to the right. It’s an analysis by Emami Ltd., the makers of “Fair and Handsome” skin lightening creme for men.

The product website is a gold mine of manipulation, insecurity generation, and odd Indian advertising lingo, complete with a list of “free sample receivers” and “hey gals! give your opinion also” exhortations. It’s also, obviously, testimonial that at least in Desh, skin-ism is still in deep effect.

We all know intutively that the phenomenon extends to the diaspora, but how much, and with what consequences, is a matter of (endless) discussion. I have to say that although I found Malik’s commentary well written and to the point, she offered little concrete evidence of skin color discrimination among desis in the UK, and she undermined her piece by referring to Fair and Handsome as a Hindustan Lever (makers of Fair & Lovely) product, which it isn’t. Continue reading

SM Memo: Nars “Hindu” is Very Brown

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The mission came my way via Abhi over a month ago, a reader had contacted our comment line with the following:

The high-end cosmetics company NARS has a new lipstick shade called Hindu…I wonder how a shade called Jew or Protestant would fare in the public eye? Is the idea that all Hindus have temptingly red lips? To be fair, there are also shades called Afghan Red and Gipsy. What do you think?

Said Abhi, “This one is ALL you.” Said me, “HELL YES!” I love Nars. If I’m not wearing Chanel makeup, I’m glowing because of the most notoriously named blush of all time. One problem– “Hindu” proved more elusive than I imagined. It was sold-out all over town. The intrigue grew; if it was so desired, I had to keep it under surveillance for the sake of the Mutiny. I finally located a tester of it at Blue Mercury Apothecary (apothecary!) and made my way to my prey.

Part of Nars’ Holiday ’06 collection, “Hindu” had sold so well, it would take a month for me to procure one for the Mutiny. “Nars just didn’t make enough,” my source said, as they prepared the tester for germ-phobic me. I loathe such situations, because I prefer to examine communal cosmetics on the back of my hand. The allegedly-disinfected lipstick was headed right for me. I started to panic, but then I remembered that every Mutiny requires pain and sacrifice.

When she was done with me, I was wearing a very brown lipstick with excellent texture, which reminded of a sheer version of Chanel’s “Very Vamp”. I expected redder tones, not the muted brown which I was studying. I also thought there would be more glitter, since it’s very visible in the tube. The staff praised the end result; I was less convinced by the “Hindu” effect. Maybe for the office, but it was too dull for my scenery-chewing tastes. I was thrilled that it looked so good on South Asian skin, though.

“Would you like to be put on the waiting list?”

I hesitated; normally I would have politely declined, but Abhi had tasked me with more than just scouting “Hindu” out:

My biggest question is can a nice Christian girl such as yourself be labeled a “heathen” if they apply this? If you kiss a nice Mallu boy with “Hindu” lipstick on, what would happen!

In the name of the Mutiny, I gladly put myself on the line to complete this mission; alas, I did not find a suitable partner for such a life-or-death covert operation. Abhi, forgive me. Continue reading

American Babel

Back in the day, I had an Italian co-worker who had the oh-so-Italian name “Enzo” coupled with the deadly, oh-so-Italian accent. The amazing thing about Enzo was that it didn’t matter one bit what was actually coming out of his mouth – the ladies in the office always had the same swooning reaction, “oh Enzo, say ‘operating system’ again. It sounds so sexy.”

Blech.

Despite having a pretty American accent myself (with an occasional touch of TX), I knew enough about how the world worked to know that one day, just once, I’d love to hear women swoon at the Indian accent. And on that day, my proverbial ship would finally come in and perhaps a few perceived ethnic slights would be righted. But, as Russell Peters once quipped, the primary thing the Indian accent is good for is cutting the tension.“The primary thing the Indian accent is good for is cutting the tension.”

The lesson? Enzo’s Italian accent evoked the exotic beauty, power and grace of a Ferrari the same way DesiTalk brought forth the rugged manliness of Apu.

So, the following commercial didn’t really move my meter much. TV Junkie that I am, I’ve usually got the boob tube on in the background while working. And, as a result, I probably get more than my fair share of 30second pop culture. So like many of you, I’ve come across a series of TV commercials for L’Oreal Cosmetics starring none other than our own Aishwarya RaiContinue reading

More Friday Hotties (Illicit Pakistani Style)

mariyahmoten.jpgDid someone call for more hotties? Well, this desi hottie is at the center of a brewing diplomatic incident. You see, Mariyah Moten entered a beauty pageant on China’s Hainan Island — which is becoming a sort of tacky Asian Costa del Sol — representing Pakistan, but clad in the most un-Islamic attire that you see in the picture to the right. Not only that, but Mariyah isn’t even a Pakistani citizen to begin with. She’s a naturalized US citizen. So basically this semi-naked American chick is giving Pakistan a bad — or at least, unclad — name at a third-rate beauty pageant in some Chinese seaside town. All this courtesy of the Daily Mail (via a kind tipster on the News tab):

“We have asked our missions in Washington and Beijing to investigate this because it is against our policy, culture and religion,” senior Culture Ministry official Abdul Hafeez Chaudhry said. …

Moten, a student of hotel management at the University of Houston, was born and brought up in the Pakistani city of Karachi.

Mr Chaudhry said Pakistan – which does not hold beauty contests – might take the issue up with China, depending on the result of the investigation.

He also said the government might withdraw from Moten special privileges offered to people of Pakistani descent such as visa-free travel to Pakistan.

Well. This story clearly called for further investigation, and Sepia Mutiny can now report that the beauty pageant was, in fact, Miss Bikini Universe, and it was the first time that Pakistan was represented in that hallowed competition. She was entered by an organization called Miss Pakistan World, which holds beauty pageants for women of Pakistani origin from its base in Canada. Miss Pakistan World is quite a full fledged operation with, it might be noted, corporate sponsors in both North America and in Pakistan. Continue reading

The World Cup: First Week Impressions

brazilian.jpgThe people have spoken! And they want more Brazilian hotties World Cup coverage. Armed with this unambiguous mandate, I offer you the Sepia Mutiny update on the World Cup, now that one-third of the first round is over and we have seen every team in action at least once.

First, the Desi Angle (TM): your Great Brown Hope, the Mauritian-Indian French midfielder Vikash Dhorasoo, came on for the final ten minutes of an insipid and stultifying France-Switzerland match that produced the two teams’ third draw in their last three confrontations. Brought on to give France some much-needed energy, Dhorasoo did well in the short time he had, and nearly scored with a searing shot from range that just missed the far post. Watching amid a thin, pessimistic French crowd on the otherwise lovely rear patio of Brooklyn restaurant Jolie, Mr Kobayashi and I nearly choked on our merguez sandwiches as we watched the potential First Desi Goal in World Cup History skim barely wide. It was not to be, but with the French first-stringers not showing much verve, the Hope may well see more playing time in the next two matches against South Korea and Togo.

Via that brother at Ultrabrown, here is a YouTube video of Dhorasoo’s entrance and shot. I couldn’t find a still photo — if anyone out there has found one, holla at me.

And that concludes the Desi Angle (TM). Now for the true heads, here’s an appreciation of the tournament so far, with a Daljit Dhaliwal tie-in for those who read all the way to the end. Continue reading

It’s On !!!

bagan-1911.jpg On July 29, 1911, the gentlemen to the right lifted their first IFA Shield as Mohun Bagan defeated the East Yorkshire Regiment by two goals to one. Founded in 1889, Calcutta’s Mohun Bagan are Asia’s oldest football team, and to this day a major force in Indian soccer, along with perennial in-town rivals East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting. Calcutta remains a hotbed of Indian football, with the most famous clubs and the most ardent and knowledgeable international football fans.

A memory: Midway through the US-hosted 1994 World Cup, I learned that my grandmother was ill and unlikely to survive. I flew to Calcutta from Boston, where I had attended two 1st-round matches and one 2nd-round (the Nigeria-Italy of tragic memory). For two weeks, my father and I held death watch in the family house. Our sole distraction was the World Cup matches that beamed in to the ill-tempered black-and-white television at ungodly hours of the night. In this nether state we saw the heroics of Romania’s Georghe Hagi, Sweden’s unlikely run, and Branco’s 30-meter free-kick that broke the Brazil-Netherlands tie. At 8 a.m. the armada of doctors would appear. They too had risen at 3 to watch the games. We’d analyze Colombia’s strange collapse or Brazil’s atypically dull style as they hovered over my grandmother, our own drama sadly easier to predict than, say, the fact that Brazil would beat Italy in the final on, of all things, a missed Roberto Baggio penalty.

Costaricafan.jpgMinutes away as I write this, Germany and Costa Rica will kick off this year’s tournament. In Calcutta, LCD and plasma television sales have doubled, says the Telegraph. The paper provides its readers with an invaluable feature on World Cup viewing tips which will be useful to sepia aficionados worldwide.

It covers dress:

The price may be a little steep at Rs 2,700, but Adidas is seeing team jerseys of Argentina, Germany, Spain and France fly off the shelves in city stores. Ditto for Nike jerseys of Brazil, Portugal and Holland, priced at Rs 2,495.

Posture:

The TV set should be at eye level, at a distance of at least five to six feet. Sit upright in straight-backed cushioned chair with head and lumbar support….

That Calcutta is becoming more conscious of the cramp and the cringe is clear from the queries reaching gyms about what to do during World Cup viewing.

“An erect posture should be maintained while sitting for such long hours because if the posture is faulty back trouble is inevitable. Reclining chairs are not advised,” says Divya Himatsingka of Gold’s Gym.

Exercise: Continue reading

Pore Some Thekalikya On Me

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I may no longer have pink hair and my square-toe docs are 3,000 miles away, but I like to think that being punk requires more than such outward signals. I’m nowhere near as in to anarchy as I once was, but I still totally love the idea of DIY everything. In honor of that hallowed part of punk ideology, I present to you the following blurb which features advice from some desi beauty expert whom I’ve never heard of…I ganked it from the May 2006 issue of Jane, which I’m trying desperately to stay fond of, even though it is suddenly for 20-something women. WTF?

Oh, Sassy…how you are missed. You are the only reason I still subscribe to the monthly which is supposedly your phoenix.

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DIY pore shrinkage

Here’s an easy way to minimize the appearance of enlarged pores courtesy of Anjali, who was formerly the Martha Stew of Indian daytime TV and now is head of product development at Shobha salon in NY.
Using a blender, puree one medium unripe tomato (the greener the better…) with one teaspoon of honey– this will mix the astringent power of the fruit w/the natural moisturizers in the honey. Apply the pulp to a freshly washed face, leave it on for 20 minutes, then rinse.
And if your problems go beyond skin issues, toss the remaining puree into a shaker, add some salt, a little vodka and a lot of ice. Shake, pour, drink. – Celia

Um, no, I haven’t tried it. But I was the guinea piglet for L’oreal’s latest mascara so I think I should get a pass on this little experiment. If YOU are brave enough to smear extra sweet salsa on your punim, do let us know if this results in less holes in your face, thanks . Continue reading