Showing posts from January, 2007

Anti-Racist Politics

Priyamvada Gopal analyzes Shilpa Shetty's big brother win in terms of the politics of British Asian identity in the Guardian.

For British Asians, the public display of familiar battles poked at raw wounds, inspiring large numbers to protest. I would feel a lot more excited about this apparent resurgence of anti-racist awareness if recent years had shown more evidence of a genuine activist spirit among us. Where were these tens of thousands of protesting voices when young Zahid Mubarak died at the hands of a white racist cellmate with whom he should not have been made to share a cell? When a few hundred Sikh women protested alone at discriminatory treatment by British Airways meal supplier Gate Gourmet? When British Asian Muslims are confined illegally and tortured in Guantánamo Bay with the acquiescence of the Blair government? Why did only a small minority of British Asians speak up when "Hindu" criminals in the Indian state of Gujarat, to which many are linked by famili…

homegrown engaged cultural criticism bell hooks amalia mesa-bains

A one hour radio show interviewing bell hooks and Amalia mesa-Bains, both are authors of homegrown, engaged cultural criticism.

Bell hooks has been one of my favorite cultural critics for the past ten years. She writes about cultural politics, feminism, education from a critical perspective. She write about theory but simplifies it and does not use a lot of jargon that makes it critical without obfuscating the seminal points. This book is different from her other books, in that, it has a dialogue with a Chicano artist Amalia Mesa-Bains. The topics the two women engage with are family, feminist iconography, resistance pedagogies, public culture, multiculturalism, home, memory, altars and the day of the dead.

When speaking of innovation, they both felt that taking a product and altering it for your own is increasing dying out. Amalia gave an interesting example of how Tommy Hilfiger took over the creation, marketing and production of Hip Hop Clothing. bell writes about how the resistan…

Kiran Desai

Kiran Desai's interview in Tehelka.

For me, being Indian means being in touch with India on a day to day basis in New York — go to Indian art exhibitions, hear Asha Bhosle sing, eat in Jackson Heights, go to the houses of friends. It means the open door, the whole ease and generosity that goes with being Indian. It’s the emphasis on community and friendship, which you don’t see in the States. Everything there is so stilted. The western world is a deeply formal and lonely place. That’s the great tragedy of America. That’s what their literature is about. If you live like that, you are condemned to write that kind of literature also. (laughing) Everything is framed in deeply psychological terms, in this language of therapy. You are focussed on one individual finding meaning for themselves. But that’s not the location of our literature and our writing. We are often writing of what it means to be up against community and society. The problem is too much of the writing in the US is now c…

Serena Williams rocks


a bit of this and a bit of that

Some relaxing animation

The Nation has a powerful editorial on Bush's America.

World opinion is against it. The American people are against it. The Democratic Party is against it. The Congress of the United States is against it. The Iraq Study Group is against it. The Iraqi people are against it. The Iraqi government is against it. Many Republican lawmakers are against it. The top brass are against it. But George W. Bush is going to do it: send 21,500 more troops into Iraq. Can a single man force a nation to fight a war it does not want to fight, expand a war it does not want to expand--possibly to other countries? If he can, is that nation any longer a democracy in any meaningful sense? Is its government any longer a constitutional republic? If not, how can democratic rule and the republican form of government be restored? These are the unwelcome questions that President Bush's decision has forced on the country.

Hrant Dink murder in Turkey last week, was shocking.

Hrant Dink …

Talking of Racism

Interesting review of the Ugly Betty television show by Yeidy M. Rivero on Alternet, the author compares it to its original from Columbia.

I am an avid Ugly Betty viewer, but initially I was partial to the telenovela. Yo soy Betty la fea has a harsher, more direct approach to women's self-esteem issues, and I appreciated the inclusion of Betty's six "ugly" girlfriends-a support network, who loved her and admired her deeply. Through Betty and the cuartel de las feas (the cartel of ugly women), the narrative created a space for gender and working-class solidarity.

That said, Ugly Betty is an important and timely show. It brings forth a complex assortment of U.S. women's issues, interconnecting gender, ethnicity, race, class and, of course, dominant beauty norms. Significantly, the show also addresses the thorny migration question, indirectly confronting the anti-Mexican sentiment that prevails in the U.S.

Indian actress Shilpa Shetty’s experience in U.K.’s big brother…


I finally saw Dreamgirls, a movie I really enjoyed. The motown music was fantastic, Jennifer Hudson with her deep voice was mesmerizing. The politics of the music business was well documented, the conflict between R&B and pop music, the appropriation and dissolution of black songs and styles by white performers. The musical was set within the civil rights movement and social change of 1960's America.

The movie was also about women’s empowerment. It is a story of women finding there voice, from full-figured, single mom, Effie ( Jennifer Hudson), who challenged the conventional beauty myths of how singers should sing and look, to Deena (Beyonce Knowles) coming into her own and challenging the image her husband wanted her to portray.

David Denby of the New Yorker, reviews it positively here.

Throughout “Dreamgirls,” Condon pursues two tracks: he celebrates the chart-topping success of groups like the Supremes, but he makes it clear that what they have achieved, however excitin…

Lawyers attacked for defending detainees

Alternet has an interesting piece on Lawyers that are being attacked by the pentagon for defending Guantanamo detainees.

Bush's attack on lawyers is the latest assault on our civil liberties, which now includes warrantless surveillance of our phone calls and email, and most recently, our U.S. Mail. Although Bush says he's spying on the terrorists, those who criticize his policies, including his illegal and immoral war on Iraq, are also invariably in his cross hairs.

All Americans should heed the words of Martin Niemoller: "First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat, so I did nothing. Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did little. Then when they came for me, there was no one left who could stand up for me."

George W. Bush must immediately renounce Stimson's threats and re…

Martin Luther King Jr's thoughts on War

I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution.


Kabir Helminski feels Rumi’s popularity in the West is because of
1. A universal voice beyond the concerns of conventional religion.
2. Boundary between divine and human love is left ambiguous
3. Rumi is ecstatic and intoxicated with Gods love, those qualities are lacking in most people these days.
4. He is the clearest, most powerful voice of cosmic, divine love.

Rumi’s soul was set ablaze after his meeting with Shams of Tabriz, a mysterious vagabond.

Some of Rumi’s poetry, in The Rumi Collection translations by Coleman Barks, Robert Bly, Andrew Harvey, Camille and Kabir Helminski, Daniel Liebert, Peter Lamborn Wilson, among others.

With Us

Even if you’re not a seeker,
still, follow us, keep searching with us.
Even if you don’t know how
to play and sing,
you’ll became like us;
with us you’‘’ start singing and dancing.

Even if you are Qarun, the richest of kings,
when you fall in love,
you’ll became a beggar.
Though you are a sultan, like us you’ll became a slave.

One candle of this gathering
is worth a…

Chandralekha RIP

Chandralekha passed away December 31st, here is a tribute from her partner. I saw a very powerful piece that she had choreographed for women's day in Delhi last year, it combined dance, yoga, sexuality and philosophy.


Iconoclastic dancer Chandralekha passed away on December 31. Companion Sadanand Menon remembers

On January 13, we will gather under the neem trees Chandra loved at 1, Elliot Beach Road, Chennai. There was not a blade of grass there when we first made it our home. Just a sandy acre barrened by the sea. The salt air ravaged everything until someone advised the sturdy wind breakers, the casuarina and the eucalyptus. After that Chandra turned the compound into a forest of banyan and mango and tamarind. But most of all, neem. There are 70 neems on the plot now. She was prouder of them than the entire corpus of her work.

Under these trees then we will gather. Through a scatter of recorded voice boxes, Merce Cunningham, Pina Bausch, Lin Hwai Minh, Sardo…

Brett Lee featuring Asha


Hafiz, a.k.a. Shams-ud-din Muhammad (c.1320-1389) was a Persian poet, born in Shiraz. He has written an estimated 5000 poems, of which 500 to 700 have survived. Hafiz is part of the Sufi tradition, and he considered himself one with God, and often describes that experience in his poetry. Rumi, Kabir, Saadi, Shams, Francis of Assisi, Ramakrishna, Nanak, Milarepa and Lao Tzu are all known to have achieved perfection or union because of their extraordinary romance with the beloved.

Hafiz grew up the youngest of three sons of poor parents. His father was a coal merchant and died when Hafiz was in his teens. He worked as a baker's assistant by day, and used the money he earned to pay his tuition for studies at night. He learnt classical medieval education: Koranic law and theology, grammar, mathematics and astronomy. He also mastered calligraphy. He studied the great Persian poets: Saadi of Shiraz, Farid-ud-din-Attar and Jalal ud-din Rumi.

His teacher was Muhammad Attar, who he often ha…

Wake Up To Your Life Ken McLeod

Ken Mcleod, Wake Up to Your life.

This book has taken me over two months to finish, and I think I have only understood 5% of it. It is very dense, with a lot of information and practise guidelines, along with examples from the life stories of Mulla Nasrudin. But it is different from any other Buddhist book that I have read, in that it focuses on how patterns get created and methods to dismantle them from our lives. He does not use a lot of Buddhist terminology but uses more psychological terms but within a Buddhist framework to wake up to our naked, open awareness.

He defines Buddhism as a set of methods through which we wake up to what we are and stop the cycle that generates and reinforces suffering. He gives central importance to attention. We are what we experience. Presence is knowing, directly in the moment, that we are what we experience. Attention is the strong, stable and volitional attention cultivated in such disciplines as meditation. Active attention is composed of mindfuln…

cherry blossoms in January


Blood Diamond

This holiday season, I have been seeing way too many violent films for my liking. Starting with Casino Royale, to Babel and Children of Men to finally, Blood Diamond. I can’t take the violence and brutality any more. It seems what the U.S. is doing in Iraq, is inspiring film makers to make descriptive, brutal movies, what is edited out of CNN’s broadcast is inflicted on us on the big screen.

Blood Diamond is about the diamond trade in Sierra Leone, where civil war has broken out between the rebels and the country’s leaders in an attempt to control the diamond trade. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Danny Archer, a Rhodesian-born diamond smuggler who, having been orphaned during his native country’s violent struggles in the 1970s, has spent most of his 30-some years crisscrossing the continent as a soldier of fortune and a merchant of misery.

The New York Times has a searing review of the movie.

..this film betrays an almost quasi-touristic fascination with images of black Africans, who func…

Fisk and Chomsky

Robert Fisk on Saddam Hussein and Noam Chomsky on Iraq.

Happy New Year

Wishing everyone a happy and peaceful new year free of war and violence in 2007.

Nir Rosen has written on Saddam's sectarian hanging in Iraqslogger.

The Sunni Islamo-nationalist website Islam Memo claimed that the Safavids (Persians, meaning Shias) burned Saddam's Quran after they killed him. They also said that Saddam exchanged insults with the witnesses to his execution and cursed one of them, saying "God damn you, Persian midget." The same website also claimed that Ayatolla Ali Sistani blessed Saddam's execution and that the Iraqi government refused to provide Saddam with a Sunni cleric to pray for him before the execution. Finally, they asserted that Saddam said "Palestine is Arab" and then recited the Muslim Shahada, testifying that there is no god but Allah and Muhamad is his prophet, and then he was executed. The website claimed that following his death Saddam's body was abused