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.