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 and many professors are known to obsessively search 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.