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Book fiend,culture-vulture, world traveller, daughter of the tropics now living in the Great White North.
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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

postheadericon Romance on the Road: Traveling Women Who Love Foreign Men by Jeanette Belliveau

# Paperback: 412 pages
# Publisher: Beau Monde Press; 1st edition (May 23, 2006)
# Language: English

From the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

It's a largely unspoken phenomenon. Women from wealthy nations who travel to tropical lands to indulge in sex and romance provided by willing local men. Though there aren't clear numbers about how many women pay for sex in foreign lands,it is believed the phenomenon is on the rise.

In Jamaica it's called "rent-a-dread" -- local men who cruise their country's beaches for wealthy, foreign sugar-mamas. And in case you wondered, the going rate for oral sex is about $100, according to research conducted by travel writer Jeannette Belliveau.

According to a review, journalist and world traveller Jeanette Belliveau, 51, is uniquely qualified to finally reveal the hidden behavior of traveling women. After a painful divorce, she spent 12 years in sexual exile, with only cheerful foreign men able to provide the no-strings intimacy that was all she could handle. Her book is based on the sexual experiences of those 12 years.

The idea of women going south for sex doesn't sit well with me at all - the chances of catching sexually transmitted diseases are high, also, I feel certain many of those men who ply that particular trade are married and these rich women tourists must cause their families a lot of heartache. What do you think? Are these holiday flings seedy or are they simply harmless?

I seem to recall however that psychologists been telling us for years that women like to feel an emotional connection with a man before they are intimate with him, so where is all this hedonistic sex coming from? Also, why do women travel south for these adventures, is it for anonymity? Economic reasons? Or is it just because they find it exciting to have a fling with men from cultures other than their own. As you will tell, I haven't read the book but the very fact that this is a growing phenomenon interested me enough to want to find out more.
Friday, December 15, 2006

postheadericon The Mahabharata and Epic India: Paintings by M.F. Husain

Reading the "The Penelopiad" from the Myth Series recently made me realize how much I enjoy reading a condensed and modern version of the great epics. It also got me thinking about which epics I might like to see as part of Canon Gate's "myth series".. There are many I would like to read but the one I really,really would like to see is the "Mahabharata" (although, as motorama has reminded me in the comments, this great epic holds core philosophical and religious concepts that are central to the Vedic traditions and I would not like to refer to it as myth). For those of you who might not know, the Mahabharata is one of the world's longest epics, ten times the length of the Iliad and Odyssey combined!

Over the course of nearly a thousand years the story was told and elaborated, until between 300 and 500 C.E. the immense text was compiled in the sacred language of Sanskrit. The overarching narrative relates a battles between the army of the five Pandava brothers and the army of their 100 cousins, the Kauravas. The Kauravas resort to deeds of malicious trickery in order to defeat the Pandavas and possess their kingdom which leads to a war of near-total destruction.

One of Hinduism's most important texts, the Bhagavad Gita, is presented as the guidance Lord Krishna gives to the Pandava hero Arjuna just before the battle begins. The characters and events of the Mahabharata expose the conflicts between desire and righteousness that confront everyone human and superhuman, challenging even heroes with the difficult decisions that must be made.
(from a write up at the Peabody Essex Museum online)

If you would like to see eminent artist MF Hussain's splendid paintings of the Mahabaratha, please visit The Peabody Essex Museum site where they have created a wonderful slide show of the exhibition currently on display.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006

postheadericon Tarot Cards

You are The Moon

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Moon is a card of magic and mystery - when prominent you know that nothing is as it seems, particularly when it concerns relationships. All logic is thrown out the window.

The Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition. You may be going through a time of emotional and mental trial; if you have any past mental problems, you must be vigilant in taking your medication but avoid drugs or alcohol, as abuse of either will cause them irreparable damage. This time however, can also result in great creativity, psychic powers, visions and insight. You can and should trust your intuition.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find out.

I recently watched the movie "Rakht" in which the main character was a tarot reader and that got me interested in finding out more about the Tarot. So when I saw this quiz on Kimananda's blog, I couldn't resist. Kimananda says ,"I'm curious to know what you get as your card, and if you feel it represents the you which exists, or perhaps the you which you would like to become". The moon is the planet that rules my sun sign (Cancer) so I'm not at all surpised that it ended up being the card I got, but I'm so left-brained that I find it weird to believe that I could have dormant psychic powers and high levels of creativity.

Let me know how you fare, or if there is a more comprehensive Tarot quiz that you know of...
Wednesday, December 06, 2006

postheadericon Daaku by Ranj Dhaliwal

First off, an apology to those of you who read my book blog, for this post is pretty much a repeat of what I have there (yes, I know, I know, I have been meaning to merge my blogs, but I am having technical issues with the book blog, hence the delay).

Living in Toronto as I do, I don't often get to hear of the Indian diaspora on the West coast of Canada, but lately there have been murmors that many young men in Punjabi community are involved in gangs and gang warfare. I didn't pay the rumors too much attention until I heard Ranj Dhaliwal's interview on the CBC.

Ranj Dhaliwal, a first-time author, is himself an Indo-Canadian and lives in Surrey, BC which is home to a large chunk of the Indian disapora in Vancouver. He grew up seeing and hearing of boys involved with gangs, and 5 years ago he sat down to write a book about it, titled "Daaku" which I found to be a real eye-opener. You can see my review here.

You see, I've always been of the opinion that Desis lay great emphasis on academia or business skills, many times to the exclusion of other extra- curricular activities, so it came as a shock to me to discover that there were Indo-Canadian or Desi gangs dealing with drugs, exhortation, smuggling rings, collections and so on. The question I asked myself repeatedly was "why"? Not just that, why is this a phenomenon so peculiar to the Punjabi community and not so much to the other Desi communities ? Ofcourse, the book doesn't have the answers, it is just to make us aware of what is happening in certain communities and to tell us the story of a gangster.

I thought it was an excellent read, I hope you do, too.
Thursday, November 30, 2006

postheadericon Are Indian Designers Stepping up to the World Stage?

The other day, my youngest daughter, who prides herself on being very fashionable -she's only 11 years old- :) asked me to name a few Indian designers who had made it big on the international stage - to my great shame I couldn't think of anyone.

I know that henna, kurtis, embroidered Indian shawls, mohjaris, decorated table runners, brocade bedspreads etc., have been hot ethnic trends for years, and while they may be imported from India with the "made in India" stamp on it, they are usually brought to the west by international companies like Pier 1 Imports, French Connection, Old Navy and countless others. There are also little ethnic boutiques in Brampton (if you live in Ontario) that stock creations by Indian designers, but this is mostly for sale to Indian expats and do not cater to other sectors of the global market.

However, last year Ashish N. Soni was the very first Indian designer to debut his work at the New York's fashion week, so hopefully more will follow.Soni's creations are now sold in select boutiques across Europe and the United States. BTW, all these pictures are creations of Ashish Soni from the display at the New York Fashion Week.

This is what Soni had to say in New York:

"I am very proud to be Indian and I think that subtle Indian references or flavors naturally creep into my work," he says. "However, they are never in your face and require a trained eye to spot them."


"India is a very important resource for designers for fabric, embroidery, and production accessories," says Roopal Patel, senior women's fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman. "But there is a difference between being a great resource for fabric, production, and textile, and a great source of fashion designers. The challenge for many Indian designers is to be able to address a more global market and global customers."

Well, let's hope our designers take up the gauntlet and reach out to an international market - I think the world is more than ready for Indian designers to show off their wares.
Sandeep Khosla, Rohit Bal, Tarun Tahiliani, are you listening?

postheadericon No One Cares What You Had For Lunch by Margaret Mason

I average maybe 2-3 posts a week; it's not a whole lot but even so I find myself sometimes stuck for blog fodder, so I truly admire bloggers who do a post a day and always have something interesting and commentworthy (yeah beenzzz, I am talking about you, J, ML and many of this year's NaBloPoMo participants.

Anyway, if you ever get stuck for blog topics, here's a book (written by fellow blogger Mighty Girl) that claims to have a 100 ideas for you to blog about. 50 books tried one of the suggestions and you can read about it here
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

postheadericon The Soong Sisters

Hubby is in China at the moment and in his honor I decided to watch a Chinese (Mandarin) movie that I spied in the "Foreign Films" section in the library. I'm not sure why I picked this particular movie, "The Soong Sisters", after all I had never heard of them before, but I am so glad I did because this movie tells the story of pre-modern China - right from the revolution that overthrew the Qin dynasty in 1911 right up until when China became a Communist Nation in 1949- through the lives of the celebrated Soong sisters, daughters of Charlie Soong, American-educated Methodist minister and one of the main financiers of the 1949 Revolution and who made a fortune selling Bibles in China. Apparently this movie won a bunch of awards at the 1997 Hong Kong Film Festival.

"Once upon a time in distant China, there were three sisters. One loved money, one loved power, and one loved her country." So opens this historical, melodramatic chronicle of the influential lives of three daughters from one of pre-Communist China's wealthiest families. Two of the Soong sisters married important figures in 20th-century Chinese history. Soong Ching-ling (played by Maggie Cheung) married Sun Yat-sen, who led the Chinese revolution that toppled the Qing dynasty in 1911 and became China's first president, while her sister Mei-ling (Vivian Wu) married Sun's successor, the famed Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang became president of China after Sun Yat-sen and had to deal with a nation thoroughly plundered by Western powers and by local Chinese warlords. His own government was corrupt and he was eventually defeated by the communists in 1949. Chiang and the Nationalists fled to Taiwan, where he remained president, a virtual dictator, till his death in 1975. The oldest daughter Ai-ling (Michelle Yeoh) married industrialist H.H. Kung, a wealthy and powerful man who eventually became Hong Kong's finance minister.

Most of my knowledge of modern China consists of Mao's rule and what came after..this little period between the end of the Qin Dynasty and Mao, with the Japanese invasion, the civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists, resulting in the Nationalists fleeing to Taiwan and the Communists taking over power, was never well known to me until now. But then again, I am wary about promoting this movie because, having been through strict Chinese censorship, I am sure this movie presents a very biased look at history with Chiang Kai-Shek and the youngest Soong daugher, Mei-Ling being depicted as the bad fellas and with Ching-Ling who was married to Sun-Yat Sen being the most likeable. Her politics were Left-leaning and she remained in China after the communists took over, eventually becoming honorary chairperson of the People's Republic. Not surprisingly, Soong Ching-ling was estranged from her two capitalist sisters. IMO, Mei-Ling was definitely the most fascinating and accomplished of the Soong sisters.

Why are people, including myself, so fascinated by the Soong Sisters? I guess it's because China being the patriarchal society that it is, it seems incongruous to have women at the helm, no doubt, in part it was the women's wealth and their connections that heralded them onto the world stage, but even so it was quite an achievement. Indira Gandhi, Corazon Aquino are also to be admired. Not sure why the US, this great respecter of women's rights and achievements should have taken so long to see a Condoleeza Rice.

For further reading on the Soong Sisters, go here

Friday, November 24, 2006

postheadericon Favorite Foods Meme

(From the movie, "Marie Antoinette")

Thank you for tagging me, ML!

Favorite food to crunch: I'm not really a snacker, but if I see banana chips (Kerala style) lying around I cannot resist them, oh, I love the Tapioca chips as well!

Favorite comfort food: Anything my mom cooked, like her meatball curry and yellow rice, her baked chicken with almonds, her lentil soup...any food I ate a lot in my childhood does it for me.

Food that makes the best noise: Popcorn when it's crackling!

Favorite picnic lunch: I'd carry egg salad sandwiches, some apples, grapes, cheese and a bottle of white fruity wine.

Favorite food scene in movie: Oooooh, the new Marie Antoinette movie has food in almost every scene, the desserts look like they're to die for...I would have loved to have been an "extra" in the movie just to have been around all that food!

Favorite food lyrics: Ohhhh, I know the song,except it won't come to me at the moment...I'll have to return to this

Least favorite food lyrics: "Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey, there came a big spider..."

Best food smell memory: When my mom baked her egg bread!

Favorite summer snack: Shrikand or mango yoghurt, YUM! Like Beenzzz, I love Mangoes!

Food that reminds me of the ocean: any kind of shell fish, clever huh? :)

Favorite winter snack: Hot chocolate, Apple cider, a cappucino with a biscotti...

Most likely to eat for lunch: I usually grab a sandwich, I'm boring that way.

Least likely to eat for lunch: a stinky cheese and garlic spread sandwich! ;)

Makes me gag: licorice, caviar, seaweed, edible kelp...

Food tradition I don't like: This isn't exactly a tradition, but I hate 3 or more course meals! I like my food to arrive all at once. Obviously I won't do well in a country like France!

Saturday night food: We usually eat out Saturday nights - we make a sport of finding a new restaurant to eat in every week, it's fun!

Favorite wild foods: I don't like game, but if you held a gun to my head, I'd eat duck, but that's it!

Favorite food for sex play: Ummm, seeing as this is a public blog, I'd best move on to the next question!

Favorite medicinal food: Mmmmmmmm, I love honey, I'll put honey in anything.

Food that reflects my heritage: The 3 C's: Curry, Coconut and Chutney

Food most like me: Probably pumpkin pie because it's brown, sweet and flavored with spices that come from the East!

Favorite raw food smell: The smell Alphonso mangoes....I always feel if I sniff them hard emough I might attain Nirvana.
Thursday, November 23, 2006

postheadericon You Tube: A Blessing or a Curse?

First off, let me wish my American readers a very Happy Thanksgiving! Hope most of you got to spend this wonderful holiday with your family and friends. What are the plans for your Turkey leftovers? I just love left-over Turkey sandwiches, mmmmmmmmm!

I have a question for all of you out there - I have been mulling over merging my two blogs (for those of you who don't know, I have a book blog "Lotus Reads"). I plan to do this, not just for the convenience it affords, but also because my blogger friends are a diverse lot, interested in a whole spectrum of topics, so why have two blogs when I can have one? The plan is to move the anthropologist blog over to the book blog, what do ya'll think?

And now to the post..."You Tube"- a blessing or a curse?

Culled from "The Eye-Opener Online (The Ryerson College Independent Newspaper)

A senior information technology management class was promised a five-mark increase on all their midterms after a dramatic lecture-showdown between a student and professor Carole Chauncey last Friday.

The ordeal was captured in a two-minute video available on YouTube, titled “Chauncey getting owned” and was uploaded shortly after the class. As of Tuesday, the video had received 530 hits.

The video is another example of students using technology to wage war against their professors. The availability of internet accessibility and camera phones in lecture halls fuels popular video sites such as YouTube.com and many professors are known to obsessively search ratemyprofessor.com to see what their students think about them.

Ok, so this is just one example of how lethal a cell phone camera/you tube combo appears to be. I have to tell you, knowing that so many people own cell phones with cameras these days I am very wary of offering an opinion in public or even at a gathering where the majority of people are not known to me, like a conference, a book reading/signing, a school council meeting etc. It's not like I worry about my words being used against me, it's just that with the power of editing, many things we say can be projected out of context.

What about you - should You Tube exercise some censorship (well I know some form of censorship exists already, but only after the video has been uploaded), but should the videos be screened before they are broadcasted to the public. Since some people don't have a sense of responsibility should we impose it on them?
Monday, November 20, 2006

postheadericon Vishal Bhardwaj's Omkara

Not being a literature major I haven't read Shakespeare in much depth, but like most people, I have my favorite plays of the Bard that I will read over and over: "The Merchant of Venice", "Hamlet", "Macbeth", "Twelfth Night" and last but definitely not least, "Othello". I first read "Othello" when I was 15 or 16 and I couldn't believe how darn tragic it was, since then I have read it often and every single time I come away feeling very melancholy, a feeling that somehow sits well on me especially on a grey,overcast windy day like yesterday, except, yesterday I didn't read "Othello" but rather watched the Bollywood adaptation of it titled "Omkara".

After watching Omkara last evening and "Black" the night before, I am convinced that Indian cinema has entered a brand new, exciting age...we now have a troupe of directors and actors that are keen to give us quality movies with brilliant storylines and passionate execution of those lines by actors committed to their craft. We are now seeing movies that make us go "wow" and we come away from them sated and yet wanting more.

(Ajay Devgan and Nasarudeen Shah)

Ajay Devgan, whom I always believe could whip the crown off Shahrukh's head in an instant if he really wanted to, has been perfectly cast as Omakara or Othello. I can't say he delivered the best performance in the movie (that honor has to go to Saif Ali) but to be fair to Ajay the role is such it only demanded a brooding presence, and with his smouldering eyes, intense stare and brooding good looks, who better to do that than the Devgan? Whereas the Bard's Othello was a Moor (dark-skinned and of a different race from the white Spaniards he commanded), Omkara is a half-caste, so while the racial angle may be missing, Bhardwaj has introduced something closer to home, our precoccupation with people's castes and our dismissal or veneration of them depending on where they are positioned on the caste ladder. .

Saif Ali Khan, another favorite of mine, is paan-chewing, chapped lipped, scruffy Langda Tyagi (Iago in Othello) and he delivers a strong and memorable performance ( his was also the meatiest role in the film). His role stays quite close to that of Iago's except, he is Omkara's bro-in-law in the film instead of his lieutenant, and Viveik Oberoi (Kesu) is Cassio or Omkara's successor.

Instead of Venice, Omkara is set against the milieu of political and gangster warfare in the dusty, rustic interiors of India's Uttar Pradesh and it follows a warlord's descent into sexual jealousy and the wreckage resulting from his amorous obsession. Set as it is in the western villages of Uttar Pradesh the language is a dialect of Hindi and although abound with "gaalis" (cuss words) of the very worst kind, it is perfectly and ably rendered by the cast of the film.

In Othello the object of Desdemonia's object of infedility is an embroidered handkerchief, but in Omkara, in keeping with Indian traditions and values, it has been replaced by the cummerband. Kareena Kapoor plays Desdemonia and while her acting is superb, I think the women in Omkara are totally overshadowed the powerful roles that the male actors possess.

(Saif Ali Khan and Ajay Devgan)

Omkara is a dark movie with fierce emotions - there's strong loyalty juxtaposed with harsh betrayal, insane jealousy with unconditional love, raw passion, undying devotion, terrible recklessness, and all of these emotions in ample measure. The cinematography is fantastic, the music will blow you away, but best of all, each of the actors has put in a performance that is worth their weight in gold. Vishal Bhardwaj has truly pulled off a marvellous feat with a very worthy, and in some ways, an even more complex, Othello in "Omakra".

But I will tell you I was disappointed that Vishal Bhardwaj chose not to end the movie in typical Indian movie style (they all lived happily ever after) but chose to remain true to the story of "Othello" to the end, because as you will know, "Othello" ends on a terribly tragic note and so does this wonderful movie.

Now I'm off to see "Maqbool" which is Vishal Bhardwaj's remake of MacBeth.

In re-reading my post I realize I haven't done much of a review so for those of you interested in knowing more, let me guide you to The Storyteller's blogspot for a more detailed one, or to my favorite reviewer, Blogical Conclusion.
Saturday, November 11, 2006

postheadericon The Queen's Hinglish

Culled from the BBC:

Are you a "badmash"? And if you had to get somewhere in a hurry, would you make an "airdash"? Maybe you should be at your desk working, instead you're reading this as a "timepass".

These are examples of Hinglish, in which English and the languages of south Asia overlap, with phrases and words borrowed and re-invented.

A dictionary of the hybrid language has been gathered by Baljinder Mahal, a Derby-based teacher and published this week as The Queen's Hinglish.

Satellite television, movies and the internet mean that more and more people in the sub-continent are exposed to both standard English and Hinglish.

This collision of languages has generated some flavoursome phrases. If you're feeling "glassy" it means you need a drink. And a "timepass" is a way of distracting yourself.

A hooligan is a "badmash" and if you need to bring a meeting forward, you do the opposite of postponing - in Hinglish you can "prepone".

So, why are people sitting up and taking notice of Hinglish?

There are more English-speakers in India than anywhere else in the world (David Crystal, a British linguist at the University of Wales, recently projected that at about 350 million) and with Hinglish now being the preferred way to speak for most Indians,the world's Hinglish speakers may soon outnumber native English speakers!

The Christian Science Monitor had this to say:

While most of the Indians who come to the West to work in the information-technology sector speak English, the sheer numbers of Hinglishmen in IT makes it almost inevitable that some Hinglish words will get globalized.

The subcontinental tug of Hinglish is already being felt abroad. In Britain, the No. 1 favorite meal is an Anglo-Indian invention called Chicken Tikka Masala. And last week, Microsoft announced the company's decision to launch local versions of Windows and Office software in all 14 of India's major languages, including Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu.

Language expert David Crystal has described India as having a "unique position in the English-speaking world".

"[It's a] linguistic bridge between the major first-language dialects of the world, such as British and American English, and the major foreign-language varieties, such as those emerging in China and Japan."

But there are much older crossovers between English and the languages of the Indian sub-continent, with many words imported from the soldiers and administrators of the British Raj.

These borrowed words include "pundit", originally meaning a learned man; "shampoo", derived from a word for massage; "pyjamas", meaning a leg garment and "dungarees", originating from the Dungri district of Mumbai.

Even the suburban-sounding "caravan" and "bungalow" - and the funky "bandana" and "bangles" were all taken from Hindi words.

When I lived in India my friends and I always spoke "Hinglish" to each other, but when we spoke to our teachers, parents and later, to our bosses, we made sure we spoke "pucca" (proper or the Queen's English) because speaking Hinglish was indictive of not having had a proper education. How things have changed!!! This year when I visited India, most everyone spoke Hinglish, the crossover language has gained credibility and how! With the popularity of movies like "Bend it Like Bekham" and "Bride and Prejudice", I'm convinced Hinglish will soon be spoken in large numbers outside of the subcontinent.

I have a question for you...are you a purist where English is concerned? Robert W. Burchfield once said, "The center of gravity for the English language is no longer Britain. American English is the greatest influence on English everywhere" Do you worry that it has now moved from the British or American way of speaking to second-language users like the Indians or the Hispanics? I must admit that even though Hinglish is what I prefer to use for everyday parlance with my friends, I still drool over the Queen's English.
Monday, November 06, 2006

postheadericon Hyphenated - Canadians

Indian Minature Painting
of Mughal Woman

(The stamp depicts Laura Secord making her way
through the bush during her famous walk
to inform the British that the
Americans were going to attack Canada.)

Today, 06 Nov, my family and I became official members of Canada, yes, we are now citizens of this wonderful country and the Great White North. Ofcourse, it's not everyday that people embrace a new country, infact, most people never do, so the impending event really had me thinking long and hard on what it was going to be like to swear allegiance to another country. In honor of the event I'd like to share something I wrote in April this year and maybe sometime later I will write another post on what it means to me to have embraced a different motherland.


In July my family and I will celebrate our sixth year in Canada. Often people ask me if I have started to feel Canadian - I'd love to respond in the affirmative because it's almost like your adopted mother anxiously wanting to know if you love her - but the truth is, I feel more Indian than ever!

Don't get me wrong - I love my adopted country and I am loyal to it. I am grateful for all the opportunities it has provided me and my children and in return I will give it the best years of my life, but none of that changes who I am inside, for I will always be Indian. But my children, ahhh, that's another story. They are growing up Canadian; they speak perfect, unaccented English, they ski, they have pool parties, they speak French and do all the things Canadian kids do, except, unlike most Canadian kids, they have Indian parents!

So, when Friday comes around they accompany us to the temple. In March, we celebrate Holi (the festival of color) with our friends; they listen to Hindi music at home and watch Hindi movies (not always out of choice, I will admit, but because it is what my husband and I are watching and they are happy to join in); they eat curry and rice almost everyday of the week and best of all, spend every second summer in India. What does that make them? A few years ago saying they were Indian-Canadians would have seemed unpatriotic, but these days it seems everyone is happy to embrace their hyphenated identities, so I say it with pride: my kids are Indian-Canadians!

What sparked this post? An article by Jhumpa Lahiri ( Pulitzer prize winning author of "Interpreter of Maladies" and "Namesake") in the recent issue of Newsweek. She explains with candor and insight what it was like for her to grow up with two identities, working hard all the time to merge them into one and the effect it has had on her life. The last paragraph of the article is particularly poignant.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006

postheadericon Santhara

Death is not a topic everyone is comfortable reading about or discussing, so I won't be at all offended if you don't read or comment on this post.

I'm sure everyone has heard of the barbaric Indian custom of Sati - the immolation of a widow on her husband's funeral pyre- which was outlawed in 1886 and I'm sure all of us who live in this day and age heave a sigh of relief that these practices no longer take place, but what if I were to tell you that while Sati might be outlawed the practice of "Santhara" is still alive and thriving? So, "what is Santhara" I hear you ask. Santhara is a Jain custom where a person upon deciding that he or she has had enough of this world takes up a fast unto death. While suicide and euthansia continue to remain against the law, apparently Santhera is permissable, begging the question, what is the difference between Santhara and Euthanasia or Santhara and suicide?

Apparently, The Shwetambar sect of the Jain community condone the practice because they claim it is the ultimate spiritual achievement, but sociologists do not agree for the simple reason that it is mostly women who undertake the fast. They (the sociologists) think the practice is sexist and that like the widows of Varnasi, these poor widows of Rajhastan (the state in India where the highest number of "Santaras" take place) are cajoled and sometimes forced to fast unto death by attaching religious glamour to what they are about to do.

In the last one week five cases of Santhara have been reported in Rajasthan, of which two people have died. Annually, over 200 Jains embrace death every year. Isn't it time someone took some action?

I wonder if I have any Jain readers - I would love to ask them what they think of this religious practice.
Saturday, October 28, 2006

postheadericon Gautam Malkani taught me what a Desi is!

Sasgirl pointed me to a really informative article recently. The article had to do with Gautam Malkani's book "Londonstani" which incidently has somewhat of a cult following among the South Asian community in London and to a smaller extent, here in Toronto ( the book and I had to part ways after about 50 pages because I just couldn't get used to the lingo, but for the readers that persisted the book was a rewarding read indeed).

Anyway, in a nutshell, Malkani's novel revolves around a gang of desi rude boys in London, England who are prone to cellphone scams, beating up white kids who call them "Paki," and obsessed with bling, bodybuilding and girls. Now, how is that different from any other gang of street kids one might be tempted to ask...what's different is that initially immigrant East-Indian kids followed a certain stereotype: we were all studious, conscientious, timid...almost subservient. Then, according to Malkani, in the early '90s, we were not only rejecting that, we were morphing into something aggressive and embracing gangsta rap and asserting our ethnicity in OTT (over the top) ways.

Malkani explains, and I paraphrase, that minority (Indian) communities find it difficult to integrate quickly and effortlessly, so, they may do just the opposite, that is voluntarily isolate themselves from other communities, trying to build up their self-esteem and identity so that when they reintigrate into society later on, they do so from a position of strength and on their own terms. They no longer integrate by trying to be like the predominant culture (in the case of Londonstani, the British) . With their East-Indian backgrounds and culture they know they are different and whereas they once feared that, they now embrace it. This has provided a new definition of Britishness or American-ness, as the case may be. The result is what is termed as Desi subculture- a fusion of South Asian and the mainstream, in everything from food to music to clothing.

According to Malkani, the word “desi” literally means countrymen and refers specifically to the diaspora of the Indian subcontinent. It is broader than terms such as Indian, Pakistani, Hindu, Sikh or Muslim, and yet narrower than the term Asian or even South Asian. It acts as a self-determined alternative to the word “paki” and the enthusiasm with which it has been embraced suggests a conscious decision against appropriating the offensive word paki and trying to turn it into a positive the way black kids have done with the word “nigger”.

Last year, “desi” appeared as a noun in the Oxford Dictionary of English, having been first introduced as an adjective in 2003. Meanwhile, mainstream media outlets have employed it
for programming - such as the BBC’s Desi DNA show - and even an entire channel in the case of MTV Desi. There is also the Desi-Lit book club of which I am a proud member!

All this semantics is important because, as a result of the word’s development, desi is now closer to the term “latino” than “Hispanic”, and it has come to refer to a loose subculture rather than a rigid ethnicity.

So, are all Indian expats desis? I don't think so. To me, a "desi" is a person of Indian origin, living outside of India and embracing all things Indian. For instance, I have a lot of Indian friends here in Canada who are, by their own admission, "coconuts" - brown on the outside, white on the inside. They could not and would not like to be considered Desis.

What does being Desi mean to you?
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

postheadericon Batting my eyelashes!

FINALLY, a cosmetic enhancement I might be tempted to try!!! OK, I'm kidding, but longer lashes is always a good thing, isn't it?

Culled from CNN/IBN:

"DO you think you've seen it all when it comes to cosmetic surgery? Look more closely.

Eyelash transplant surgery wants to become the new must-have procedure for women -- and the occasional man -- convinced that beauty is not so much in the eye of the beholder as in front of the eye itself.

Using procedures pioneered by the hair loss industry for balding men, surgeons are using "plug and sew" techniques to give women long, sweeping lashes once achieved only by glued on extensions and thick lashings of mascara.

And just like human hair for that is the origin, these lashes just keep on growing.

"Longer, thicker lashes are a ubiquitous sign of beauty. Eyelash transplantation does for the eyes what breast augmentation does for the figure," said Dr Alan Bauman, a leading proponent of eyelash transplants.

"This is a brand new procedure for the general public (and) it is going to explode," Bauman said during what was billed as the world's first live eyelash surgery workshop for about 40 surgeons from around the world.

Under the procedure, a small incision is made at the back of the scalp to remove 30 or 40 hair follicles that are carefully sewn one by one onto the patient's eyelids.

Only light sedation and local anesthetics are used and the cost is around $3,000 an eye.

The technique was first confined to patients who had suffered burns or congenital malformations of the eye.

However, word spread and about 80 per cent are now done for cosmetic reasons.

For many women, eyelash surgery is simply an extra item on the vast nip-tuck menu that has lost its old taboos.

More than 10 million cosmetic procedures from tummy tucks to botox were performed in the United States in 2005, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

The figure represents a 38 per cent increase over the year 2000.

Twenty-seven year old Erica Lynn with long auburn hair, breast implants and a nose job, had eyelash transplants three years ago because she was fed up with wearing extensions on her sandy-colored lashes.

"When I found out about it, I just had to have it done. Everyone I mention it to wants it. I think eyelashes are awesome. You can never have enough of them," Lynn said.

Bauman, who practices in Florida, does about three or four a month. Dr Sara Wasserbauer, a Northern California hair restoration surgeon, says she has been inundated by requests.

"I have been getting a ton of eyelash inquiries. If I had $10 for every consultation, I'd be a rich woman,” she said.

The surgery is not for everyone. The transplanted eyelashes grow just like head hair and need to be trimmed regularly and sometimes curled. Very curly head hair makes for eyelashes with too much kink."

I do realise that "eyelash curling" might seem a frivolous topic to post about, but in doing so, I'm trying to get an opinion on cosmetic surgery in general...would you do it? Do you think it betters a person's chances of getting a good job, a great date? Does it improve one's self-confidence? Or is cosmetic surgery a dangerous obsession? What fuels it? Why, as a society, are we creating a standard of beauty that is artificial, that doesn't even exist in nature? Why?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

postheadericon 3 Thingy's :An All About Me Meme

Thank you, Melissa, for tagging me!!!

3 Thingy’s: a Friday Meme
(hope no one minds my doing it on a Sunday!)

3 things that scare me:

Global Warming
Driving through a snowstorm (and goodness knows we get our fair share in Canada)

3 people who make me laugh:

My kids
Russel Peters
George W.

3 things I love:

A girl's night out (don't get too many of those anymore unfortunately)
One on one time with my daughters
A good book!
The fragrance of sandalwood (oops, that's 4!)

3 things I hate:

A lack of curiosity

3 things I don't understand:

Sci Fi
Taxes (told you, Melissa ;)

3 things on my desk:

A ton of journals
photographs (not framed)
coffee cup

3 things I'm doing right now:

Looking at my desk wondering which kid I can pay to tidy it up!
Thinking about getting another cup of coffee
Getting ready to talk to my mom in India

3 things I want to do before I die:

Go back to India on a sabbatical
A stint as a reporter, a journalist or both
Work for a while with Global Volunteers

3 things I can do:

Strike up a conversation with just about anyone
Play the piano
Read Arabic

3 ways to describe my personality:

I'm curious about everyone and everything
Highly empathetic

3 things I can't do:

Exercise at the gym (it bores me stiff)
Public Speaking
Change a car tire

3 things I think you should listen to:

Russel Peters
ME! :)

3 things I think you should never listen to:

Your naysayers
Negative people

3 favorite foods:

Coconut curry
Green gram payasam
Mangoes (yeay, Beenzzz)

3 things I'd like to learn:

To paint with oils
Web designing
Conversational French

3 beverages I drink regularly:


3 shows I watched as a kid:

Mind your Language (A British Comedy Serial)
The Jeffersons
Three's Company

Not sure who to tag, not too many people read this blog.

Shelliza, have you been tagged yet?
Anocturne, would you like to do this?
Sruthi, how about you?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

postheadericon Diwali दीवाली

Tomorrow is the start of my favorite festival of all time -Diwali or the Festival of Light, so named because of the tradition of lighting lamps all over the house and outside the house, too!

Tomorrow, the 19th, is called Dhanteras, the birthday of Lord Dhanwantari, the god who according to Hindu mythology, grants immortality. People generally buy new utensils or metal objects as auspicious items which they believe will ward off evil and ill health for the rest of the year and bring peace and prosperity. Tomorrow is also the birthday of God Yam, the god of death and lamps will be kept lit througout the night in respect to Him thus hoping to prevent untimely deaths!

Oct 20 is "Chhoti Diwali". Again, we will have lamps and little "diyas" lit all over the house and along the walkway leading to the house. The kids will paint "rangoli" designs on the front porch and light pathakas (firecrackers), eat sweets and have lots of fun!

Rangoli picture courtesy Sandhya Jain

Oct 21 is DIWALI! After dusk we will have the Lakshmi Puja, seeking wealth and prosperity for the whole year. This is the evening we cook a feast, invite friends over, light more pathakas, exchange sweets and play cards until the wee hours of the morning! :)

Oct 22 will be a quiet day

Oct 23 is "Bhai Dooj". This day is observed as symbol of love between sisters and brothers....sisters apply "tika" (dot) on their brother's forehead and receive gifts and blessings in return. I don't have a brother so I guess I won't be celebrating Bhai Dooj.

For some fabulous Diwali detail please visit the incredibly talented FoodiesHope blog!
Tuesday, October 17, 2006

postheadericon A day in someone else's shoes, ok, veil...

The Guardian (UK) has an article this morning about an English (Muslim) journalist who wore the hijab (veil) for a day. "...she was shocked by how it made her feel - and how strongly strangers reacted to it"...

Although the article was more about her reactions to seeing herself in the veil and less about the people she encountered, I couldn't help but be fascinated by her attempt to understand what it actually feels like to be a veiled woman.

This reminds me of the time Oprah had two white man volunteer, with prosthetics, make-up and the whole shebang, to pose as black men.. it is only when they spent time in a black man's skin did they understand the daily problems and prejudices they faced. I remember so distinctly one of them telling Oprah how he could never get a cab, because no one would stop for him, not even a fellow African-American driver. I guess there are always a few life lessons to be learned when we spend time in someone else's skin. I think it makes us less quick to judge people and less fearful of people we perceive as being different from us...

Read more from the Guardian here

Thursday, October 05, 2006

postheadericon For Love's Sake?

My dad sent me this article from the Times of India - I read it and my jaw dropped to the floor. Surely, this is isn't love, but a very flawed idea of it.
Monday, October 02, 2006

postheadericon Where in the World is Anthropologist ?

Shimmering silks, glittering jewels, doe-eyed maidens, the sound of feet tapping and bells jingling, hennaed hands, beautiful tabla beats -where in the world was I this time?

Give up? We were at the terrific Harbourfront Dance Festival also known as the Kalanidhi Dance Festival. I went with friends Mukta and Rehana and we were very lucky to witness two of India's very popular dance styles, the "Kuchipudi" and "The Odissi".

The Kuchipudi , which hails from the state of Andhra Pradesh in India, is one of India's seven main classical dance styles and although very similar in style to the better-known Bharat Natyam, the movements tend to be more fluid and the pace is faster. The Kuchipudi dance began as devotional enactments to the life of Lord Krishna and were performed exclusively by men. However, over the last 50 years the dance has undergone a revival and is now performed on the modern stage around the world by both men and women One of the highlights of the Kuchipudi dance is when the dancer dances on the rim of a brass plate - I don't know how to describe it except to say that as a feat it is jaw dropping and aesthetcally it is mesmerizing. I hope you all can treat yourselves to a Kuchipudi recital some day.

Look here for some wonderful Kuchipudi pictures.

The performers last evening are known as the Kuchipudi Dance Collective,do visit their website for a look-see.

Odissi Dancer

Next we were bedazzled by the Orissa Dance Academy with their lively, colourful and enchanting performances of the Odissi dance. The Odissi probably originated as a temple dance and this particular program we were privileged to see had many components to it, my favorite one (only because it is a dance trend heading for oblivion) was the Gotipua Dance, performed by young boys (usually under 8 years of age) dressed in female attire. The Gotipuas lead a life of vigorous training under the supervision of their gurus. These are usually poor kids dedicated to the temple by parents who either cannot afford to look after them or because they have vowed to sacrifice a child in exchange for a boon like good health, etc. These little dancers are never allowed to go back home, not even to perform a parent's last rites -once they are given up they become the sole responsibility of the guru (the teacher). They undergo vigorous training, learning to bend and twist their bodies to strike acrobatic poses -one has to see a performance to believe what these little dancers are capable of.

Here are some pictures of Odissi dancers.
Sunday, September 17, 2006

postheadericon Movie Review: Abeni (2006) Nigeria

Actors: Sola Asedeko, Amzat Abdel Hakim, Jide Kosoko, Aboh M.
Akinocho, Kareem Adepoju, Moufoutaou Akadiri, Idowu Philips, Bukky Wright

Director: Tunde Kelani

Release Date: 2006 April

Language : Yoruba with English subtitles

Watch out Hollywood and Bollywood, for there's a new kid in town! Its name is Nollywood, it hails from Nigeria and is all set to take this neighborhood by storm! It's true, Nollywood or the Nigerian film industry is one of the largest in the world today and poised to get bigger. According to the Guardian.UK :
In Nigeria, the average film costs between £10,000 and £15,000, is shot on video in about a week, and released into a bustling market where 100,000 videos are sold in one morning.

Nigeria is a young democracy (about 6 years old) and making videos or movies is one way for young Nigerians to tell their stories after years and years of having no freedom of speech. Last night, at the TIFF showing of "Abeni" Tune Kileni, the director, informed us that there are atleast 50 new releases in Lagos every week! If that's true, Nollywood sure leaves Hollywood and Bollywood in the mud!

Coming back to Abeni, although it was the toast of Africa at the film festival, to me the story lacked depth and conviction and the cinematography lacked the slickness of Bollywood. From the sets, the acting. the horrible canned music playing in the background right through the movie and the quality of production, I would have preferred to have it classified as a home-made movie.

Like I said, the story lacked depth, but after talking to a couple of regular Nigerian- film goers I have concluded that most Nollywood films are about young people going to university, rich people having affairs (a la our mid-morning soap operas on the idiot box) or films about rich girl marrying poor boy and getting hell from the parents because of it. I guess, what I am trying to say is that, the industry is not big on social issues, they prefer pot boilers with cliffhanging endings, however, Abeni was worth watching because it showcases the unique Yoruba culture that flows between Nigeria and Benin.

Let me include a short synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes:

Abeni (Sola Asedeko) is a beautiful, ambitious young woman born to a rich father. Akanni (Abdel Hakim Amzat) is a handsome young man who has pulled himself up from poverty. When he was a child, his father worked for Abeni's father and the children were sweethearts, but Akanni's recklessness led to his whole family relocating across the Nigerian border to Cotonou, in Benin. When Abeni and Akanni meet by chance as adults, their romantic fate is sealed. He is already engaged and she is set to be married off by her father, but this couple has other plans.

Friday, September 15, 2006

postheadericon Acid Attacks on Women in the Subcontinent

Right across the road from my mother's childhood home there lived a family with two daughters in their twenties. I was at the age when one tends to idolize girls older than oneself and so, whenever I went to visit my grandmother I would spend hours admiring these two Anglo-Indian sisters with their honeyed eyes and golden-brown hair. Shortly after my 10th birthday I noticed that the older girl had dropped out of sight. After many weeks had gone by, I asked my grandmother why Rivalli* was nowhere to be seen and she told me (my grandmother was not one to mince words) that Rivalli's boyfriend had thrown acid on her face in a fit of jealous rage. Being only 10 years of age, I didn't know the damage that acid could cause so imagine my shock when I saw Rivalli several months later to find half her face had been eaten away by the acid and she had a permenant limp owing to damage caused to her feet by the acid.

Sadly, I would go on to meet and know a couple of other women who were victims of acid attacks. Whilst in High School, two of my classmates were also victims with one of them losing an eye due to the corrosiveness of the acid. The Indian newspapers were full of sad stories of young men who would resort to acid throwing when they felt spurned by the object of their affection. I read recently that such cases are also very common in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Infact, in Bangladesh, acid throwing is so prevalent that they even have a special hospital and rehabilitation centre for victims.

So, I found myself wondering why some men use this cruel method to exact revenge on a lover who has spurned his attentions and why acid-throwing happens to be a favored measure of retaliation for men from the sub-continent but hardly found elsewhere?

Let's try and tackle these questions together- I think one of the big reasons men in the subcontinent favor acid-throwing is because acid is cheap and easy to buy here. Sure, there are regulations on the sale, use, storage etc., but the rules are lax, also, in the male-dominated societies of the sub-continent, the man loses face when rejected and so he wants the woman to lose face, too, pun intended. Statistics tell us that women who have been left scarred or disfigured in an acid attack seldom ever get married, they are ostracized by their family and friends and are unable to find jobs. Their lives are all but over.

So, the next time the world celebrates an International Woman's Day can I ask all of you to remember the victims of acid attacks? True, in most cases their lives are spared, but because they are shunned so much by society I am sure a lot of them wish they were dead.

* Names have been changed.
Friday, September 08, 2006

postheadericon Incha Allah Dimanche (2001) - a review and a rant

In the aftermath of World War 2, France attempted to replenish its weakened work force by recruiting men from North Africa, in particular, Algeria. In the mid-1970’s, the French government relaxed its immigration policy to allow the families of Algerian men to join them. INCH ALLAH DIMANCHE provides us with a deeply moving memoir of the sense of isolation and vulnerability that the immigrant family experienced upon their arrival at a time when racial integration was virtually non-existent.

I found this movie extremely moving and it's no doubt because I could identify with the main character, an Algerian wife and mother, Zouina who was forced to leave her family and friends behind in Algeria to join her husband in a country that was so alien and unfriendly to her. She is so lonely that the minute she hears of another Algerian family in the neighborhood she plots (her husband doesn't like her to leave the house) to go visit them. When she does find the family she is greeted warmly enough, but the minute the lady (Mallika) realizes that Zouina is there without her (Zouina's) husband's permission, she goes ballistic and throws her out the door. This scene might seem overdone and highly dramatic to a lot of viewers, but many immigrants, after they move to a new country, seem to enter a time warp. They do not keep up with the times and the changes in their home country and are thus far more traditional than their people back home. To simplify, I find some of the Indians I meet in Canada hold the traditions and values that people in India held over 20 years ago. It can be quite weird!

Last year in Toronto there was a spate of suicides among young women from Vietnam and Sri Lanka( the motivating factor, the medical people say, was depression). Upon further investigation it was found that the one common thing between these women is that they were all recent immigrants! Something more needs to be done to make integration easier for these young men and women that come from countries so different from their host countries. In our globalized world, immigration and relocation is not just beneficial to the immigrant but also to the host country ( a lot of countries in Europe have an aging and negative growth population and are in desperate need for young families). Immigrants bring in a lot of money, young blood and important and much needed work skills. It is our responsibility to see that they feel welcome and are able to integrate quickly and painlessly. I am sure well-meaning people will point out the scores of organizations (charitable and government- run) that help with integrating immigrants, but it's not enough to just teach them English and give them a set of skills, we need to to have social programs where they can meet people who have the potential to be "friends" to these people. Loneliness can be a terrible thing. While work is fine, what gets these people is their inability to meet and socialize with people in the long evening hours or on the weekends.

I do apologize for the rant but this is a cause that is very close to my heart. I have contacted the appropriate authorities and have volunteered to set up a social program - they have promised to "look into it". This was 2 years ago.

But to return to the movie, it is a splendid effort with each of the actors (children included) playing their part to perfection. I have read that this award-winning film is based on director Yamina Benguigui's own experience growing up as the child of immigrant parents amid the tumult of Arab assimilation and the women's rights movement in France. The music is Algerian and hauntingly beautiful and I will miss not being able to listen to it on a CD. I will not miss seeing the hideous furniture and wallpaper from the '70's however!