A Well-Educated Snob Gets on a New York Train…

Q: When is it all right to ask someone, “Do you know what schools I went to?”

A: Never. You just negated any glory you may have been seeking when you left that preposition chilling at the end of your question.

B: Never. What kind of an insecure kundi does that?

C: If– and only if– you randomly stumble upon a celebratory gathering where such information is relevant…like at Gold Cup, where different tents are hosted by different institutions of higher learning. Trust me, the UC tent was much nicer than the jokes hosted by Bates or Rollins.

D: Okay, one more: when you run into another alum who is temporarily unaware of what you both have in common. For example, if I ever see someone getting in a car festooned with both UC Davis and GW stickers (not bloody likely), I reserve the right to ask “Guess where I went to school?” in an effusive and ebullient manner, because those are the two places I have degrees from, too! WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

And with that admission of my middling alma maters, I have outed myself as someone who has no right to brag about her academic achievements. Good thing I live in swampy, sleepy old D.C. and not New York, where train conductors are sometimes interrogated by outraged ticket-holders who are really, really invested in where they paid for a degree.

I’m referring to the strange case of Hermon K. Raju, erstwhile Metro North straphanger and last week’s favorite viral-panni-on-tape. Raju was riding a Metro North train when other passengers allegedly complained about her loud cell phone conversation, which was purportedly profane. A conductor warned Raju about her disruptive language and the young woman exploded, defending her right to a “private conversation” while asking “Do you know how educated I am?” Raju also dared the rail employee to stop the train and asked for a refund before threatening that she would never ride Metro North again. To her credit, the Metro North employee remained calm despite the torrent of education-fu aimed her way. Raju, on the other hand…well, she was being taped surreptitiously on an iPhone.

Let’s get two things straight, right now.

One. I HATE people who yammer on their phones on public transportation. Here in D.C. no matter which subway car or bus I board, there’s always some idiot yelling, “What? I can’t hear you. Hold on, what?” Newsflash, dick. They can’t hear you because you are on a train. Yet WE can all hear you because we’re trapped on said train along with your entitled, self-centered, oblivious ass. Talking on the train is one of my biggest urban pet peeves. Please baby Jesus and Saint Anthony, prevent cell phone conversations from ever being allowed on airplanes. My cross-country treks home are already too infrequent and barely tolerable as they are; a cabin full of selfish morons discussing nothing important on their iPhones sounds like the third layer of hell. Continue reading

Caught on Tape: The Art of Aakash Nihalani

This gif, Through, is from a series of self-portraits called Once Upon a Wall, by Brooklyn-based artist Aakash Nihalani.

Through.gif His brightly colored geometric art made of electrical tape has been made and displayed on the streets, in galleries and on mixtape covers. As with his self-portraits, there’s a playful and interactive aspect to most of his work. To see that in action, watch Nihalani create and install Stop, Pop and Roll.
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Upma on Top Chef Masters: Breakfast of Champions

Floyd Cardoz is America’s Top Chef Master. He won the show’s final challenge despite LA traffic leaving him with the least cooking time of the finalists, and he did it his way. His menu featured upma in addition to rice-crusted snapper in broth and an Indonesian dish called rendang a Malaysian beef stew called randang. It was exciting to see a familiar-to-me-from-home-not-restaurants desi food like upma on the screen in the finale on the kind of show that often has me looking up its mentions of French foodie terms.

upma.flickr.jpg (Photo by ukanda)

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Channel 4 Film: “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields”

I’m going to keep this post brief and my own comments to a minimum, because I’m still processing a lot of this myself, but because of some time sensitivities I wanted to bring this to Sepia Mutiny readers’ attention now.

The U.K.’s Channel 4 has produced a much-discussed film called “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields,” which is about the way the Sri Lankan civil war ended in 2009. “The programme features devastating new video evidence of war crimes – some of the most horrific footage Channel 4 has ever broadcast,” Channel 4 says. I’d recommend watching it; all signs are that it’s going to be a part of the conversation for awhile, and the official link is only up for four more days (there are a few unofficial links in other spots, but who knows how or if that will continue).

Link to the film (please be forewarned that it contains a considerable amount of extremely graphic material–to quote Channel 4, “With disturbing and distressing descriptions and film of executions, atrocities and the shelling of civilians”):

Link to related interviews on PBS NewsHour, which includes the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the U.S., as well as someone from the International Crisis Group–

A link to a recent report from an advisory panel to the U.N. Secretary General

You can find analysis of these items, particularly the first and the third, in various spots on the Interwebs… but lots is still coming out, and it’s too early to know which pieces I find particularly strong. Sri Lanka citizen journalism site Groundviews, of course, will be one option. My purpose here is mostly to say that if you’re interested in forming your own opinion, you have a limited time to check out the movie itself. (That URL works all over the world.) Continue reading


I think it’s safe to say that our names play a big part in how we define ourselves and how others perceive us. This seems true whether a) people get your name right every time, b) you conduct a lesson on pronunciation each time you meet someone new, c) you go by a nickname, e) you go by your Starbucks name, or e) [insert your story here]. In a rhythmic reflection on his name called Ache In My Name Vivek Shraya asks “Is a name how it’s pronounced or how I pronounce it?”

ACHE IN MY NAME (short film) from Vivek Shraya on Vimeo.

If Shraya’s name sounds familiar then maybe you’ve heard his music or read his short stories. His alterna-electropop musical history includes collaborations with members from the groups Tegan and Sara, and Marcy Playground. Shraya, who grew up in Edmonton, self-published his first book last year, God Loves Hair, an illustrated collection of short stories about a queer desi youth growing up “as he navigates complex realms of sexuality, gender, racial politics, religion, and belonging.” It’s on the American Library Association’s Rainbow List and was selected as a finalist for the 2011 Lambda Literary Awards. Continue reading

Get Drugged By Lazarus

I don’t know if you realize this, but there’s a lot of bad music out there, particularly bad music by Desi artists. I’ve been pretty consistent with these Music Monday posts at Sepia Mutiny for the past six months, and the only requirement I have is that the musician or song that I profile has the be something that I myself would download on to my iTunes and embarrassingly blast loudly in my car. That being said, I have to dig through a lot of ear bleeding songs to get to one that really moves me. But I get so excited when I find something that I want to share.


Today’s #MusicMonday comes through an interview I found at Brown Girl Magazine of the doctor-hyphen-rapper out of Detroit, Lazarus. A Pakistani-American artist, his lyrics are conscious and gritty, and his beats are Detroit ferocious.

With over a million views on the above video, I clearly have learned about Lazarus after all the other kids have. I kind of love how he is unapologetic about pursuing his medical degree and a rap career at the same time, as can be heard in his song “Living the Dream.” Ain’t no shame in improving yourself. Lazarus dropped a mixtape called Lazarus Story this past September, which can be downloaded for FREE online through this link right here. Continue reading

Dancing in the Streets, Mumbai Eshtyle

What would happen if a Bollywood Desi boy fell for a Brooklyn Gori girl, all on the streets of Mumbai? (h/t Girish)

Bachna Ae Haseeno (BollyBrook Remix) from Anne Marsen on Vimeo.

Va, va, va….How charming. Reminds me of the story where that white girl in India got married to the rickshaw driver. Remember that story? Not so far from the real life, na?

BollyBrook is short for Bollywood Meets Brooklyn. This unofficial guerrilla music video for Bachna Ae Haseeno (Hindi: बचना ऐ हसीनो) was shot through the streets of Mumbai, India in four days during mid-March 2011. In English, “Bachna Ae Haseeno” means something like “Save yourself, pretty girls.”[bollybrook]

And some words from th actress playing the hipster…

Being white in India, even Mumbai, invites a lot of stares in itself, so for a white person to walk around with an obnoxious attitude and an accessory as impractical as empty frame ray bands was just a hilarious image for me…I also wanted to compare and contrast this with the character of Bollywood Boy. Both characters are obnoxious in their own ways and they find that after they get over themselves that they can develop a genuine connection and friendship with one another. [bollybrook]

Do you like? Is it fun and playful or stereotypes gone wrong? Continue reading

Family Matters: Mr. & Mr. Iyer

In Mr. & Mr. Iyer, based on a story by Lavanya Mohan, a son tells his orthodox Tamil family that he’s going to get married, and they go through four phases of processing the news. That’s about two minutes per phase given that Charukesh Sekar’s short film in English and Tamil is about eight minutes long. (I don’t know Tamil but felt like I could follow along for the most part with the English and with help from the blog post linked above.) Naturally, his family is excited about his decision.

But, there comes the trouble. He has a surprise in store for them. What is the surprise? Will the family accept it? Will they break rules to make their son happy? Will conventional practices and beliefs allow him to get married to another man? Man? (Thamarai)

Via Uncubed. Fans of Goodness Gracious Me may remember a clip from that show that ends on a similar note, with parents seemingly most concerned about a gay child finding a partner of the same background.

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A food-centric monologue from Aziz Ansari’s character Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation may be changing the culinary vernacular forever. Or maybe it’s just a funny bit from last week’s episode.

The video below fills us in on the new food lingo. You know, in case someone asks if you’d like some super water with your long-ass rice and chicky-chicky parm-parm. In the special food vocabulary coined by Tom Haverford, super water isn’t really water, long-ass rice isn’t rice at all and chicky-chicky parm-parm has little or nothing to do with *that *Parm.

If you can’t get enough of those zerts, there’s a site serving up more: TomHaverfoods.com. Continue reading