You’re So Punk

The Taqwacores are back with a brand new chapter…

What struck me about this clip was how 9/11 really defined how the guys built their identity. I know it is a significant marker to building the identity for South Asian American of our generation, but it is surprising to see how different people have used the experience to different paths of empowerment. For some it’s voting or service work and others it’s starting punk bands.

Band members of various Taqwacore bands have started an online blog too – The Taqwacore Webzine doesn’t just talk punk, but they write about their perspective on the Lahore bombing, Cat Stevens, or South Asian poetry. But I guess all that is Taqwacore, isn’t it? Continue reading

I like my coffee … brown and sweet

One of the first things I noticed while visiting my parents in NYC this weekend an ad (sitting in the junk mail pile) just like the one below:

McD’s is microtargetting tri-state desis with mailers that say “Taste ki baat hai!” While I like to be seen and recognized, I’m afraid the coffee flavored milkshake they call iced coffee really isn’t my cup of tea.

More to my liking would have been the Indian Mysore Coffee (“full bodied and nutty”) being offered at the local gourmet independent coffee place down the street, listed next to Ethiopian Sidamo Coffee and Hawaian Kona Extra Fancy as a Sunday special. That’s very good company to be in for a coffee that gets its flavor by being drenched by the monsoon! While they were out by the time I came by, I’m looking forward to trying an Indian beverage which doesn’t have “masala” in the name.

[Note: these are not my photos and therefore this is not my name on the ad. The pics are from Slice of Lemon, and linked back to the original post.]

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Devotional Obama

Here are two Obama tunes to get you humming as you drink your Sunday morning coffee or chai.

We’ve blogged here about Bollywood Obama and I’ve written about the Japanese town of Obama’s boppy theme song “Obama is beautiful world.” Now, a couple of young musicians in Surat–Chirag Thakker, Jayesh Gandhi and Anita Sharma–have welcomed Obama into their hearts with this catchy song that praises our new president.

We have dedicated this song to Obama and uploaded it on Youtube, so that the world could see our attempts to honor him. His down-to-earth personality, faith in Lord Ganesha and great respect for Mahatma Gandhi made us feel that he is very close to us,” said Chirag, adding that they have used names of Lord Ganesha and Gandhi in the song. [full story]

The song has elements of a bhajan (the lyrics have devotionalism), but also features the djembe, which the artists chose to include in honor of Obama’s African heritage! The video is granted, a bit amateur, but it also has subtitles (so that Obama can understand it) and was shot in various parts of Surat, including the banks of the Tapi river and the city’s municipal gardens. Overall, the three artists devoted three months to it from start to finish.

I was going to wrap up this entry, but then found this Punjabi poem by California based poet and singer Pashaura Singh Dhillon. I was moved. But then again, I get weepy pretty easily these days.

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The Force is Strong in the Young One

The chessworld is “all agog” about the youngest player to ever upset a Grand Master – 9 year old Hetul Shah

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Mark Twain

New Delhi (IANS): Nine-year old Hetul Shah created history in the first round of the seventh Parsvnath International Open Chess tournament, defeating Grand Master Nurlan Ibrayev of Kazakhstan on Sunday.

…Hetul was a class act Sunday afternoon as he not only recorded his biggest victory but also ensured a name in the record books. Hetul is the youngest ever to beat a Grandmaster, bettering the Indian record set up by Parimarjan Negi by more than a year.

The Hindustan Times gives us this player profile –

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If You Could Turn Back Time …

A break from politics and world news (and my crazy workday) to share this short, sweet video that I just caught wind of via my daily VSL fix.

It’s called “Rewind City” and is a French TV ad currently airing for Orange’s DVR service in France. Watch as the unexpressed wish of a tearful backpacker comes true when the traffic and people in a Goan village conspire to reverse direction.

Filmed in village of Assonora, 15km east of the town of Mapusa (a hub for bus travel) in North Goa, it’s directed by British director Ringan Ledwidge. The main characters came from Paris, the 250 extras came from Mumbai, and the other backpacker types came from Anjuna, home to the famous Goa hippie flea market.

The ad asks the question, “What if you could rewind a memorable moment in your life?” Not a bad question to ask of oneself every now and then.

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Stratpage Updates on Pakistan

Looks like it’s Pakistan day here on SM. So, I figured that Mutineers might enjoy a series of interesting updates on Pakistan from one of my fav milblogs, Strategy Page. My single biggest beef with Stratpage is the lack of outside links so, take everything here with the requisite grain of salt. However, their material does & has generally lined up with info from other news sources over time and it’s very valuable to find it in nice bite sized chunks here.

The stats on Afghan refugees formerly & currently in Pakistan helps frame how intertwined the 2 countries are –

October 9, 2008: In Pakistan, the government has ordered all 70,000 of the remaining Afghan refugees (there since the 1980s Russian invasion of Afghanistan) in Bajaur to return home. In the last few months, some 20,000 have already fled back to Afghanistan. Most of the two million Afghan refugees went home after the Taliban were chased out of power in late 2001…

Pakistan’s internal toll from terrorism (particularly security forces asked to confront lawless regions) gives some context to why they’re sometimes skiddish to putting more boots on the ground in NWFP –

October 8, 2008: The head of the ISI gave members of Parliament a rare briefing. Although secret, and apparently superficial, some details leaked out. In the last fifteen months, over 1,200 Pakistanis have been killed by Islamic terrorist attacks (including 117 suicide bombings). In the last seven years, nearly 1,400 security forces personnel have died fighting Islamic radicals (Taliban and al Qaeda).

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A Virtual Visit to a Detention Center

I’m playing a new online video game today. It’s called “Homeland Guantanamos” and it has transformed me into an undercover journalist whose task is to unearth clues about the mysterious 2007 death of Boubacar Bah, a Guinean tailor who was held at a detention center in Elizabeth, NJ for overstaying his visa.detain.jpg

“Homeland Guantanamos” is the latest multi-media offering from Breakthrough, the human rights organization which uses media and popular culture to raise awareness here and in India. [Abhi covered their video game “I Can End Deportation” or I.C.E.D. earlier this year. ]

We’ve all heard stories about immigrants (illegal and residents) being detained without explanation or for prolonged periods of time. At the website, I got to see what life might be like on the other side of the fence. I took a tour of a simulated immigration detention center and collected clues to help solve the mystery of Bah’s death (he died of a skull fracture and brain hemorrhages). Along the way, I saw other detainees (eg: a pregnant woman kept in shackles during labor) and witnessed conditions of the facilities, including the solitary confinement room, the bathrooms, and the dining hall. Though this is a simulated experience, the content is based on factual sources such as news articles, court documents, and interviews.

Why call the site “Homeland Guantanamos”? According to Malikka Dutt, executive director of Breakthrough, “the Department of Homeland Security is violating the human rights of legal and undocumented immigrants” and some of the inhumane conditions of detention centers where these immigrants are being held are not all that different from the facility at Guantanamo Bay. Continue reading

If A Desi Can Be Miniaturized & Automated…

One of those ongoing, identity debates is what term appropriately encompasses “us”. “South Asian” is a little too stuffy, geographic, doesn’t account for some parts of the diaspora, and has a slight of Oriental-ish tinge to it (South of what? Is Europe implicitly the center/norm?). I just don’t go around high-fivin’ South-Asians in da house.

“Desi,” on the other hand, has a nice congenial ring to it and doesn’t seem as loaded with meaning dependent on some relation to the “other”. Plus, it’s “soft” enough that it avoids all those debates about Indian vs. Pakistani vs. Sri Lankan vs. Bhutanese (?) and so on. A 4th gen Fijian Indian is far more easily “desi” than “South Asian”.

But alas, there’s a new sort of Desi out there that might muddy the waters a bit. One use is described here

If a Desi analyzer can be miniaturized and automated into a surgical tool, a surgeon could, for example, quickly test body tissues for the presence of molecules associated with cancer. “That’s the long-term aim of this work,” Dr. Cooks said.

Say whuh? It’s an acronym –

…a tiny spray of liquid that has been electrically charged, either water or water and alcohol, is sprayed on a tiny bit of the fingerprint. The droplets dissolve compounds in the fingerprints and splash them off the surface into the analyzer. The liquid is heated and evaporates, and the electrical charge is transferred to the fingerprint molecules, which are then identified by a device called a mass spectrometer. The process is repeated over the entire fingerprint, producing a two-dimensional image.

The researchers call the technique desorption electrospray ionization, or Desi, for short.

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The “Lingo Kid”

Everyone knows by now that I love bringing news of “freakish” (in a good way) little Indian kids to SM (see here and here as examples). SM reader Taara tipped us off to this little linguist via our tip line:

It looks like the Videographer returned a few years later to find a “grown-up” Ravi who has added even more languages into his arsenal:

Seriously, this little kid should be doing something other than selling Peacock feathers near the Hanging Gardens!

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Got Another One (in Pakistan)

Richard Fernandez (aka Belmont Club) has a great, link-filled post on the most recent airstrike within Pakistan –

…yet another missile struck al-Qaeda in the Pakistani border area. “One of al Qaeda’s top chemical and biological weapons experts was killed in an air strike by a CIA pilotless drone,” according to CBS News. Abu Khabab Al-Masri is dead, according to al-Qaeda website. Several other men were killed in the strike.

Al-Masri’s central roles in both Al Qaeda and the lives of any frequent flier are pretty impressive –

…The LA Times says al-Masri was behind the failed post-September 11 plot to blow up airplanes en route from Britain to the United States, an event now memoralized in the restrictions on passenger-embarked bottles of fluids.

The innovative techniques required special instruction. Masri envisioned his operatives injecting the liquid explosives, a highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide mix, with a syringe into the false bottoms of innocuous containers such as sports drinks, sneaking the components aboard and assembling bombs after takeoff.

…The Associated Press also credits al-Masri with training the suicide bombers who attacked the USS Cole.

This strike is only the most recent in 5-6 other high profile hits in the past few months. Tellingly, the daily, operational grinding that is being inflicted on Al Qaeda in Pakistan is also evident and likely played a crucial role in finding al-Masri –

…With the decimation of his henchmen, the master bomber was forced to venture out himself and train volunteers who were often of indifferent quality.

Masri assumed more control. … Last spring, he taught bomb-making in compounds in North Waziristan to aspiring suicide attackers, including a 21-year-old Pakistani living in Denmark and a 45-year-old Pakistani-German, according to U.S. and European officials. U.S. anti-terrorism source sees Masri’s role as a symptom of decline. “The fact he trained them himself shows you some of the limitations of the network,” the source said.

A recurring topic for me on SM is how so many of our notions of civilized state behavior get chucked out the window when dealing with technologically- / globalization-charged 21st century terror orgs. Continue reading