High School Guest Bloggers: Radhika and Andrew

It is never too young to begin to mutiny. Today I would like to introduce SM readers to two graduating high school seniors who are going to be guest blogging here for just the next two weeks (because school starts soon!). Here are their bios in their own words [with additions by me]

Radhika is an 18 year-old high school graduate from Houston, TX about to start at American University in Washington, DC. She is an aspiring double major in Journalism & another subject that will make her thoroughly unemployable, she also plans on saving the world [to me this means she's on the five year track]. She is currently completing a 2 month internship with Sewa International Houston, a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower refugees & low-income communities. Radhika enjoys dorm shopping [I miss dorm shopping] , fighting injustice, and traveling. You can contact her/criticize her/crush her self-esteem at radram at gmail dot com [be nice people].

Andrew is a student at The Ohio State University [forgive him, please], studying to be a doctor (apparently like everyone else in his family). Having grown up in the not-so-diverse Midwest, it is only recently that he has rediscovered his roots and has been overwhelmingly drawn to the enigma of South Asia. He hopes to become more involved with Desi American and Asian American organizations, whether it be a Bollywood dancing troupe [we will provide a Youtube clip after he dances] or activism for Asian American media representation.

Readers please be gentle. These are young minds. Only with proper encouragement will they mutiny right.

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On Amitava’s “Nobody Does the Right Thing.” (and bye for now from Amardeep)

“Write what you know” is one of those creative writing class truisms that actually happens to be true, if our goal is to tell a realistic story about a society at a given moment in time. Writers want people to believe that the kinds of fictional lives they’re asking them to live with and care about for a few hours, as they read, are actually plausible. Chances are, what makes a story seem plausible is the fact that it is based, even if only partially, on the truth.

But “write what you know” is also much, much harder than it might seem. At times, it can even feel like a chain around your neck — though that doesn’t mean you can just walk away from it. In his new novel, Nobody Does the Right Thing, Amitava Kumar acknowledges the problem directly in what might be my favorite line of the book: “If you could tell just any story you wanted, no demands ever needed to be made on your honesty.” [Another favorite line: "Bihari society was conservative; it was also corrupt, hollow to its core; you put a finger on its thin, distended skin and it split under your touch, revealing white worms"]

For Amitava Kumar, who was born and raised in Patna, in the Indian state of Bihar, it’s Bihar that encapsulates the memories and history that are what the author “knows,” and what he returns to (always slightly differently), in book after book. “Honesty” and “Bihar” live in the same site for Amitava, and yet the content of that Honesty — the Truth one seeks to represent — remains stubbornly elusive. Kumar’s recently-published novel Nobody Does the Right Thing, which was first published as Home Products in India in 2007, continues to develop this theme. It’s a terrific novel, which I think will be challenging to many readers in the Indian subcontinent as well as the West, but many of the elements that make it challenging are also what make it great. Continue reading

Guest DJ: DJ Drrrty Poonjabi

After 6 years isolated in our North Dakota headquarters, the mutineers have been getting mighty restless. Music is the one thing that soothes most of us, especially the SM Intern who keeps the longest hours and is always threatening to quit. It is therefore time that we allow a DJ into the bunker to set up some turntables in the corner. And so, I am pleased to introduce you to DJ Drrrty Poonjabi.

DP has been a lurker on our site since 2005 and a fairly regular poster from ’06-’08. He’s been a music junkie since his preteens. A drummer, producer, DJ, record collector, micro-microphilanthropist, and Time’s Person of the Year 2006. That’s what his resume said but I haven’t vetted it completely yet. Some of you may have been following his Twitter feed already or have visited his blog.

DP plans to do here on SM what a good DJ does. He will bring new musical experiences to your ears and provide you with some badly needed cool cred to impress your friends with. He also, I have learned, likes to make Gurinder Chadha jokes, which everyone can appreciate.

Please join me in saying, “hey DJ, play that record.”

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The Copycat Facebook Ban

BangladeshFlag.jpg Remember how on May 19th, the Pakistan government banned facebook? Phillygrrl wrote about how all the hoopla was over how there was one page on Facebook dedicated to the “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day!” which was in turn a retaliation to the anti-South Park activists out there. Soon after, people in Pakistan couldn’t access YouTube (that ban was lifted a few days ago, selectively).

Well yesterday, Bangladesh totally copycatted Pakistan.

Bangladesh has blocked access to Facebook after satirical images of the prophet Muhammad and the country’s leaders were uploaded, say reports. Officials said the ban was temporary and access to the site would be restored once the images were removed.

A spokesman for the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) told AFP Facebook had “hurt the religious sentiments of the country’s majority Muslim population” by carrying “offensive images” of Mohammed. [BBC]

I just think it’s kind of silly that that they are “officially” citing the cartoons TEN days after the actual “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day!” That site isn’t even up anymore. If that was really the issue, the halal-ness of the interwebs in Bangladesh, wouldn’t they have banned Facebook at the same time Pakistan did – on May 19th the day before the ‘sanctioned’ date of May 20th?

I think the real issue is that the current Bangladesh government was insulted by cartoons made about THEM. And they are using the anti-Muslim sentiment as a scapegoat. Continue reading

Guest Blogger: Lakshmi Gandhi

Do we dare hit you with yet another guest this month? Yes, we dare. Many of you already read her blog anyways, so why not read her at this party? Lakshmi Gandhi is joining us for a guest stint. She does a great job on her blog covering pop culture and politics among other topics.

And because we are South Asian I will highlight her degrees:

BA in History from Bryn Mawr College and a MA from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Alright that’s enough intro. She’s ready to go. Please join me in welcoming her.

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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.

vivek.jpg

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

Sepia Mutiny is looking for high school mutineers

The Mutiny is looking to refresh our ranks with some young blood. When I say “young,” I am talking about jail-bait really young. If you, or someone you know, meets all of the following criteria and want to take a turn as a guest blogger on Sepia Mutiny, please email me at abhi [at] sepiamutiny.com:

  1. A phenomenal writer (English class supernerd, school newspaper prodigy, master debater).
  2. Has time on their hands to write because high school (even counting all those AP classes you are taking) is a breeze.
  3. Knows their current events. We generally like generalists who can write knowledgeably about a variety of topics of interest to South Asians living in the U.S. and Canada (as opposed to someone who specializes in say, Bollywood movies from 2000-2010).
  4. Has never plagiarized in order to write a chick-lit novel.
  5. Will never admit to liking Twilight in a Sepia Mutiny post (even if he/she really does). Will also never use “lol,” “ur,” or “omg” in any form of correspondence. Ever.
  6. Based in North America, or are a North American temporarily living abroad.
  7. Has something they want to say or communicate to the South Asian masses. If you don’t have something to say then it really doesn’t matter how well you write.

Is this you?

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The Misdirected Mail Bag Vol. 1

I was probably among the first wave of netizens that signed up for Gmail when it first came out years ago. I selected a personal email address that was pretty generic and therefore regularly receives email obviously meant for someone else. At lease twice a week, beautiful Indian models send me their modeling portfolios. At some point soon I will just pretend to be the famous modeling agent they must think I am.

Sepia Mutiny also receives much email that is obviously meant for someone else. I have decided to start a new (but infrequent) series here titled “The Misdirected Mail Bag.” These are all real emails we receive and politely read. Enjoy.

From: Customer

My site: http://

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Message:

the owner,

I eat your bread Moghulai Nan regularly. Now I think you are ripping of people by cutting the quantity of flour in one single bread. total weight of the packet is 795g.now which never use to be before This is completely cheating.Please correct it immediately before I take further .

Customer

I am dying to know what that “further” action might be? Burn down the nan factory?

From: Abdoulie



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Message:

Hi i want to join the Us Army but i am not a us citizenship. i am from the gambia but i dont how to work

My site: http://

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Son we only recruit for the Mutiny…not the U.S. Army. We won’t allow their recruiters to contact our readers until they allow homosexuals to serve. Oh damn. Just jeopardized my future Supreme Court nomination.

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Guest Blogger: Amitava Kumar

It has been a while since we put a new guest blogger in front of you. So here is a treat. Author and professor Amitava Kumar will serving up some hot mutiny for you. From Wikipedia (where tired and sometimes lazy bloggers go for bio quotes):

Amitava Kumar is a writer who was born in India and is currently Professor of English at Vassar College. Kumar is the author of Husband of a Fanatic (The New Press, 2005 and Penguin-India, 2004), Bombay-London-New York (Routledge and Penguin-India, 2002), and Passport Photos (University of California Press and Penguin-India, 2000). He has also written a book of poems, No Tears for the N.R.I. (Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 1996). The novel Home Products was published in early 2007 by Picador-India, and will appear in the US in August 2009 under the title Nobody Does the Right Thing. Early in 2009, Picador-India published his book Evidence of Suspicion, which will be published by Duke University Press in August 2009 under the title, A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb: A Writer’s Report on the Global War on Terror. [Wiki]

I spent a few solid days chatting about writing, blogging and politics with Amitava at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver where he was there as press. Fantastic guy and I like how his mind works, or rather how he sees the world. Hoping in the coming weeks that you get that same glimpse.

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“Internet Hindus”: Another Twitter-versy

After reading the recent article in the New York Times on corruption in the IPL, I went over to Amit Varma’s blog, India Uncut, to see if he had any comments on Lalit Modi et al. I didn’t find anything right off, but instead a reference to yet another Twitter controversy that I’d missed, in this post.

A journalist with IBN Live, Sagarika Ghose, had posted a few Tweets (for example) lamenting that a group of what she called “Internet Hindus” had attacked her for comments she had made: “Internet Hindus are like swarms of bees. they come swarming after you at any mention of Modi Muslims or Pakistan!”

Other journalists have also picked up on the phrase. Here is an interesting column by Ashok Malik in the Hindustan Times that picks up on the critique. Amit also linked to a column by Kanchan Gupta defending the “Internet Hindus” here, along the lines of “screw the pseudo-secular MSM,” though I personally wasn’t all that impressed by the overblown rhetoric. (Call me an Internet Skeptic.)

Actually, Amit Varma’s own comments on the phenomenon of extremism on the internet seemed wisest to me:

If Ghose was, indeed, bothered by trolls, she would have done well to keep in mind the old jungle saying, ‘Never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty and the pig enjoys it.’ The internet empowers loonies of all kinds by giving them a megaphone–but no one is forced to listen to them. The noise-to-signal ratio is way out of whack on the net (Sturgeon’s Law), and any smart internet veteran will tell you that to keep your sanity, you need to ignore the noise. Ghose, poor thing, had tried to engage with it.

We all know that people are more extreme on the net than they are in real life. The radical Hindutva dude who wants to nuke Pakistan on the net will, in the real world, sit meekly at Cafe Coffee Day arguing the relative merits of Atif Aslam and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. (link)

Yes, exactly. Varma goes on to discuss Cass Sunstein’s recent study on “group polarization,” and has some thoughts on what that might mean for India-Pakistan relations. It’s worth reading the whole thing.

Meanwhile, here is my own humble contribution. There is indeed such a thing as an “Internet Hindu” — by which I mean, someone who expresses extreme views online while living a very moderate or even secular lifestyle in the real world. But there are also Internet Muslims, Internet Sikhs, Internet Christians, and Internet Marxsts — all of them potentially irksome if you say something they don’t like. Hindus do not have a monopoly on saying extremist things online.

I’m really not interested in having a discussion along the lines of “who are the worst offenders?” if it’s at all possible not to go down that route. (Pretty please?)

Rather, I would be curious as to whether we could use this as an opportunity to reflect on the issue of “group polarization” Varma mentions, and how and whether the habit of talking to people on the internet is a factor in magnifying differences. How have your own views and habits changed as a result of being on the internet, talking about issues related to the Indian subcontinent? What are some positive effects, and what are some negatives? Continue reading