Ho Ho Half-Lotus

adbusters santa
Santa’s asana this holiday season.

A levitating Santa on a blissful yoga break is an Adbusters mascot for Buy Nothing Christmas.

Buy Nothing Christmas is not really about refusing to spend a dime over the holiday season. It’s about taking a deep breath and deciding to opt out of the hype‚ the overcrowded malls‚ and the stressful to–do lists. It’s about reminding ourselves to really think about what we are buying‚ why we are buying it‚ and whether we really need it at all. (Adbusters.org.)

Not a bad message to take to heart for the rest of the year, in addition to this season of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and free shipping deals.

More: Shopocalypse, buynothingchristmas.org.

Comments Off on Ho Ho Half-Lotus         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   November 27, 2007

Miles To Go

To commemorate the upcoming Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Gandhi’s birthday, non-profit Saheli organized a 5K Run/Walk to Stop Violence Against Women in Burlington, Massachusetts, for Saturday, September 29, with co-sponsor Burlington Police Department (The Boston Globe). Over 1500 Indian residents live in the town according to the Institute for Asian American Studies at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

In Hindi Saheli means “a female friend; a shoulder to lean on,” explained Rita Shah, director of Saheli, which was founded in the Boston area 11 years ago and dedicates itself to helping South Asian women. The Run/Walk was planned to raise money for its Women’s Assistance Fund, which helps women on an emergency basis without requiring committee approval. The program assisted 23 women this year.

For more details on the organization, Saturday’s Run/Walk and to register visit Saheli online.

More: DVAM; Gandhi Jayanti

Comments Off on Miles To Go         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   September 28, 2007

Homeland Security Targets Turbans

airport security
Getting through the metal detector is not enough for travelers wearing turbans.

Having Sikhs remove their turbans in public at airports is “like asking a woman to take off her blouse in public,” said J.P. Singh, president of the Sikh Center of the San Francisco Bay Area in El Sobrante. “It’s that bad.” (“Sikh men feel targeted at airports,” San Jose Mercury News)

But a new Homeland Security policy, implemented August 4, allows airport screeners to conduct pat-downs of religious headgear at the screener’s discretion. Previously, travelers wearing turbans were searched only if they failed to clear metal detectors or other preliminary checks.

Kuldip Singh, managing director of United Sikhs, was one of three men pulled aside by a screener on August 12 at the San Francisco International Airport. The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund has heard “dozens of complaints, people being asked to remove their turbans in public and denied the use of a mirror or space to re-tie them” in the last three weeks, according to the group’s director and East Bay resident Kavneet Singh. Read the rest of this entry »

1 Comment         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   August 31, 2007

South Asian Student in Glamour Top 10

When I was a high school sophomore, I was stressing about SATs and competing in high school debate. Meghan Pasricha? She was getting laws passed.

Pasricha poses for Glamour.

The Delaware Clean Indoor Air Act, which bans smoking indoors, was a result of the young Delaware native’s efforts. An asthma sufferer, Pasricha struggled to breathe in smoke-filled rooms—so she began speaking at public hearings, founded the Anti-Tobacco Action Club with a grant from the American Lung Association and mobilized 2,000 students to help get the law passed.

Now, the 21-year-old Harvard psychology major has just been named one of Glamour magazine’s “Top 10 College Women 2007.” Since high school, she’s continued her crusade for easy breathing and volunteerism in general, founding Global Youth H.E.L.P. (Health, Education, and Leadership Program). Glamour describes the organization as promoting “youth leadership in the United States and abroad. To date, they’ve taught leadership skills to teen girls in Delaware’s foster care system, provided scholarships for schoolchildren in India and organized students at Harvard for an annual anti-smoking ‘Kick Butts Day’.”

Pasricha has some solid advice for other high school and college students: “Everyone tells young people they can be the leaders of tomorrow,” she tells Glamour, “but they can also be the leaders of today.”

Comments Off on South Asian Student in Glamour Top 10         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   June 6, 2007

Stuff Gets Stupid(er)

Stuff magazine, not exactly known for its highbrow content, may have crossed a line in its continual quest to whet the prurient appetites of its readership. Alongside a June 2007 quiz entitled “Yoga Pose, Drink or Sex Position?” wherein readers have to decide in which category names like “downward facing dog” and “reverse cowgirl” belong, an illustration labeled “Vice” depicts Hindu deities overindulging in alcohol and having sex.

For me the cartoon is troubling on a number of different levels. Although I support the magazine’s freedom of expression, as a practicing Hindu, I find those images deeply offensive. Also profoundly irritating to me is the obvious ignorance at issue here. While Indian culture today is rather prudish, ancient Hinduism acknowledged and even celebrated sexuality—witness the worship of the obviously phallic Shiva lingam, or the erotic carvings at Khajuraho. But instead of playing on those readily available themes, the artist chose instead to draw Hanuman, noted for his celibacy, having sex.
Read the rest of this entry »

30 Comments         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   June 5, 2007
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Joya Speaks To The World

Joya at UCLA
Joya at UCLA (Photo: Lluvia Gamez)

I wish I could say that I first heard about Malalai Joya, the bravest, youngest and first female member of Afghanistan’s parliament in the course of keeping up with international news or listening to current events on the radio, but the truth is she was the footnote in a coffee klatch-style video book club interview with Khaled Hosseini that I clicked through to from a Borders bookstore mass email. Over bundt cake in the kitchen with adoring fans of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, Hosseini gave props to Joya for speaking out about crimes against girls and women in Afghanistan.

Her colleagues in the Afghan parliament do not share his admiration for her outspokenness. Earlier this week, they voted to suspend her for criticizing them in violation of article 70, a procedural rule that has not been enforced against other members despite their regular criticism of each other. What did she say? BBC reports: “A stable is better, for there you have a donkey that carries a load and a cow that provides milk.” “The parliament is worse than a stable.” Human Rights Watch is calling for her reinstatement.

Joya, 28, famously spoke out in 2003, when as an elected delegate to Afghanistan’s constitutional convention, she objected to the domination of the proceedings by mujahideen. “Why have you again selected as committee chairmen those criminals who have brought these disasters for Afghan people?” Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off on Joya Speaks To The World         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   May 24, 2007

Forced Marriages Still Not a Thing of the Past

Photo: BBC

When “Nasrin’s” parents told her they were going on a family vacation to Pakistan, she expected to be visiting relatives.

What she didn’t expect, was to be married off there—against her will and to a man she hardly knew.

Nasrin, who was only 19 at the time, was born and raised in the U.K. She was studying to be a pharmacist.

“It was basically a disaster,” she said of the forced marriage. “He was really violent and we didn’t communicate. His only way of communicating was with his fists or with that other thing men are violent with.”

Nasrin eventually escaped, but others aren’t as lucky.

The Forced Marriage Unit of the British government’s Foreign Office receives an astounding 5,000 calls each year. A third involve minors under the age of 18; children tricked (usually by their parents) into traveling abroad–only to be married off; children who are often abused sexually, emotionally, and physically.

Many of the victims are South Asian girls. Bradford is home to a large “British Asian” immigrant population. And last year alone 250 girls disappeared from that town’s school system. As Poonam Teneja reported for the BBC yesterday, it is suspected that a large number have been sent overseas, to be married off.

The head of the Foreign Office’s Forced Marriage Unit Vinay Talwar says the Office hears “stories of rapes, abductions, beatings, forced abortions and forced pregnancies.”

“(The victims) feel emotional pressure and coercion from parents, families, brothers, sisters. They are told they will bring shame on their families if they do not go along with it.”

For more information, including tips on how you can help, visit the Forced Marriage Unit of the British Foreign Office.

Groups try to break bonds of forced marriage (USA Today)
Forced Marriage Awareness

Comments Off on Forced Marriages Still Not a Thing of the Past         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   May 9, 2007

In Honor of International Workers’ Day

Immigration activists march in LA today (REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

In the 1990s, Lakireddy Bali Reddy was a respected California businessman and owner of the San Francisco restaurant Pasand Madras.

Today he is a criminal, convicted on charges of running an exploitative sex and labor ring in India and the Bay Area.

According to the Human Rights Watch, Reddy repeatedly raped and otherwise abused his employees over the course of 15 years—forcing them to work at Pasand Madras under inhumane conditions.

Author and academic David Batstone used to eat regularly at Reddy’s restaurant. When he found out what was going on behind-the-scenes there, it catalyzed his current crusade against human trafficking and slavery. He writes:
Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off on In Honor of International Workers’ Day         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   May 1, 2007

Straightening Ali

Straightening Ali
Straightening Ali cover

Amjeed Kamil, 35, has just released his debut novel.

Straightening Ali is about “family ties,” “conflicting cultures” and love. It is the story of a British Pakistani gay man whose family pressures him to enter an arranged marriage. And although a work of fiction, the narrative rings true to life.

Last month, CNN’s Seth Doane filed this video report from New Delhi, bringing attention to the struggles often concomitant with being gay in India.

“Being gay in India can get one thrown into jail in this country because of a section of the Indian Penal Code (Section 377) which criminalizes same-sex relationships,” Doane says. “The law, drafted in the 1860s when the British were still ruling … India, states: ‘Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature … shall be punished with imprisonment … and shall also be liable to fine’.”

Members of India’s LGBT communities report feeling marginal and unsafe says Doane. Some gay men see marriage as a ‘way out.’

Gautam Bhan is a Delhi-based queer rights activist and author of the book Because I Have A Voice. “A lot of gay men use marriage to be free. A lot of gay men use marriage in order to be with their boyfriends,” says Bhan, “You can wear a tiara and a ballgown … but if someone asks you, and you say: ‘Well, no, no I have a wife,’ then you’re done, you’re clear. You can do whatever want.”


Amjeed Kamil on MySpace and elsewhere
The Naz Foundation supports members of India’s LGBT communities
Read Gautam Bhan’s blog
Purchase Straightening Ali
Facebook gets rid of Arab LGBT group at the request of Saudi, Egyptian governments
India opens its first condom bar

Comments Off on Straightening Ali         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   April 30, 2007

Sakhi StreetSmarts Gala

Sakhi Logo

Sakhi for South Asian Women, an anti-domestic violence agency in the New York Metropolitan area, will hold its 6th Annual Gala on May 5, 2007 at the Skylight SoHo. Dubbed “StreetSmarts,” the event promises “sumptuous international street food” as well as music, dancing and live performances. In addition, a silent auction of South Asian artwork and jewelry, curator-led tours of the Metropolitan Museum of art and other galleries, and evenings with notable supporters such as Mira Kamdar, Shashi Tharoor and Debra Winger will help raise money for the organization. RSVP by April 27th to attend.

1 Comment         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   April 16, 2007