SAWLF Congress This Saturday

This weekend, Priya and I will attend the South Asian Women’s Leadership Forum Congress in midtown Manhattan. Mira Nair is delivering the keynote, and a gaggle of other accomplished South Asian women (such as Madhur Jaffrey, Roopal Patel of Bergdorf Goodman and various other luminaries) will be panelists. I love organizations that foster a sense of community between South Asian women, so I’m really looking forward to the event. Priya and I will report back next week.

Wanna come? Register online.

Comments Off on SAWLF Congress This Saturday         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   March 12, 2008

Mukhtar Mai in Sacramento


Mukhtar Mai is scheduled to appear in Sacramento on December 11 for an event presented by the Sacramento Valley Chapter of the California Credit Union League (see site for event details) and the Pakistani American Association of Greater Sacramento Valley. “An Evening with Mukhtar Mai: Building Schools of Hope Fundraising Event” includes a private dinner, public reception and opportunities to ask questions of Mukhtar Mai. Proceeds of this event go to the Mukhtar Mai School Fund to support the expansion, staffing and ongoing education of her schools.

Sentenced by tribesmen in Pakistan to be gang-raped because of an infraction supposedly committed by her brother, Mai rose to international acclaim in the years following by fighting back and testifying against her attackers and using her compensation to open schools in her village. She travels internationally to speak on behalf of women and continues to expand her schools.

Related: Mohammed Naqvi’s documentary on Mai, Shame, illustrates the international reception Mukhtar Mai has received as a cause célèbre. In this interview, Naqvi takes questions about the implications this international attention has had for her personal privacy and safety, as well as her mission of educating children in rural Pakistan.

Comments Off on Mukhtar Mai in Sacramento         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   December 4, 2007

Views From Under the Dragon


Photojournalist Lonny Shavelson and co-author Fred Setterberg took notes and and photos over three years of exploring the Bay Area from San Francisco to Fremont and its community events, neighborhoods and religious centers. The result is Under the Dragon: California’s New Culture, an illustrated look at the complicated and changing ethnic experience in the Bay Area with a focus on individuals and stories—seven stories with accompanying images, and 80 photographs with detailed captions.

Andrew Lam writes in Dragon‘s foreword

Many of the photos and stories in this book are of what I call California moments, events in which something astonishing and marvelous in the experiment of cohabitation in California is revealed.

Examples abound: an African devotee of Krishna praying to the sky; a Filipina playing the role of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi; Jesse Graham, the white preacher at the African American Mount Zion Baptist Church in West Berkeley, whose preaching moves spirits; and my favorite story, the Iranian psychotherapist who finds roots in America by attending to Cambodian refugees—a novel in the making.

a cool interactive map of the photographs
more photographs from the book
SF Chronicle review

Comments Off on Views From Under the Dragon         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   December 3, 2007

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. (

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,

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

Nose Stud = No Job

Lalji, wearing teeny tiny nose stud.

Heathrow aiport caterers Eurest UK fired Amrit Lalji, 40, of Stanmore, north-west London, who worked in an airport VIP arrivals lounge, for failing to remove her nose jewelry (BBC). She wore the stud for more than a year before a manager told her to remove it.

Eurest’s official statement includes the following information on the hazards of mixing nath and naan: “Jewellery can harbour bacteria, create a hazard when working with machinery and find its way into the food people eat.” Lalji’s temple, union, and the mayor of London have spoken out against the employer’s decision to dismiss her.

The Stanmore Swaminarayan temple and the Hindu Council UK find the firing unjust and the temple has given “a letter to Amrit, quoting Hindu religious scriptures in order to prove that wearing a nose stud is part of Hindu faith.” Lalji, who came to the UK from Kenya, says “My family is originally from Kutch, Gujarat. As a Hindu, I have imbibed the tradition of wearing the shringar of a married woman from my mother.” (The Pioneer)

Union official Tahir Bhatti states that “this is not a fair way to proceed and must be reversed and dress codes introduced which deal with all religious matters.” (“GMB Member At Heathrow Sacked For Refusing To Remove Religious Nose Pin”) London Mayor Ken Livingstone has described the dismissal as an attack on her right to freely express her religion and on her right as a woman to dress as she wishes. He argued that “the suggestion that wearing a tiny nose stud is a threat to public health and safety is frankly ridiculous. Will this company now be sacking all women with pierced ears?” (The Press Association)

More: “The nose-stud wars: Political correctness or corporate practice?”

Update: After an internal hearing, Lalji’s employer decided that “the rules relating to facial piercings were mandatory only in catering operations.” She did not engage in catering and has been reinstated. (BBC).

Comments Off on Nose Stud = No Job         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   September 19, 2007
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(Not So Much) Naveen in Brave One

Andrews and Foster filmed The Brave One in New York. (

While browsing movie listings over the weekend, I noticed that the cast of The Brave One, the latest Jodie Foster star vehicle, includes Naveen Andrews. As a Lost fan impatiently awaiting the next season scheduled for sometime never in 2008, this piqued my interest. Andrews plays Foster’s “sensitive, guitar-strumming male nurse” fiancé named David Kirmani. Or he does until he dies at the hands of thugs, an event that happens early in the film as the catalyst thrusting Foster’s character, radio host Erica Baines, into vigilante mode.

While Terrence Howard‘s role as a romantic interest and detective on the trail of the vigilante sounds like it would ameliorate the suspiciously UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT quality of Andrews’ early demise, that may be small consolation for us fans of Lost‘s Sayid looking to see more of Andrews on the big screen. Maybe we should rent Bride and Prejudice or My Own Country instead (actually, Netflix is nugatory on that last title, so maybe not). As for my ultimate choice of movie for last weekend? Rebel Without a Cause. No Naveen (just Dean) but rewarding nonetheless. 🙂

Comments Off on (Not So Much) Naveen in Brave One         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   September 17, 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

Hamid on Hate

Hamid Mohsin
Mohsin Hamid (Photo: Carolin Seeliger)

Earlier this week the Washington Post offered four opinion articles featuring perspectives on America from Muslim writers, including “Why Do They Hate Us?” from Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Moth Smoke. Being born in Pakistan, raised in the States from age 3 to 9, going back to Pakistan and returning to the States for his college and graduate education, in addition to working in NYC provides him with a “textured” view of the U.S. and its foreign policy.

While the main topic is Hamid’s diagnosis of and advice for dealing with anti-Americanism, the piece also offers a glimpse at his own identification as partly “they” and “us.” The encounter he describes in a Dallas bookstore—an elderly gentleman with Hamid’s book in hand points to the man on the cover and asks, “So tell me, sir. Why do they hate us?”—may be seen in contrast to a typical reaction he noted receiving after the publication of his second novel, a work focused on an extended encounter between a Pakistani man who tells his story to an American stranger in a Pakistani cafe: “People often ask me if I am the book’s Pakistani protagonist. I wonder why they never ask if I am his American listener.”

Read the full article for Hamid’s analysis and a transcript of the subsequent chat between Hamid and Post readers.

Comments Off on Hamid on Hate         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   July 25, 2007

Vendors Warm Up to Hybrid Wedding Scene

The business of tying the knot.

How do you keep a ballroom’s fire sprinkler system from disrupting a wedding when the ceremony features a sacred fire (and the electric havan is presumably not an option)? Foxchase Manor manager Antonio Cecchi, whose staff assists with an average of 80 South Asian weddings a year, has perfected a technique. “The key is to keep the fire in a portable container, and then when you’re done, you carry it outside and close all the doors before blowing it out.”

The Washington Post’s “Two Cultures, Slowly Uniting In Matrimony” explores how, like Cecchi, photographers, dress designers and horse handlers have responded to the “rise of a hybrid wedding scene.” The story suggests that attempts to accommodate go in both directions, and have mixed results. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off on Vendors Warm Up to Hybrid Wedding Scene         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   July 20, 2007

Laughing Liberally With Hari Kondabolu

Monthly political comedy showcase Laughing Liberally Local 415 hosts two comics tonight, July 16, 8pm, at San Francisco’s Make-Out Room. Seattle-based Hari Kondabolu (Jimmy Kimmel Live, HBO US Comedy Arts Festival) and nationally touring Marga Gomez (“Los Big Names”, “The Twelve Days of Cochina”) are headlining.

The Daily noted Kondabolu’s appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show earlier this year, but I didn’t see the Kimmel clip until this morning. I can sympathize with the Microsoft Word glitch he describes (or I could before I had the uncomfortable experience of “Ignore All”-ing my name, and then later taking the more palatable step of “Add”-ing it)!

This spring, Kondabolu appeared together with musician/comic Ahamefule Oluo in a video podcast on race comedy for the April issue of multicultural Seattle magazine NW Colors. Kondabolu believes that “comedy can be used to address racism by actually pointing out racism.”

“A big part of my comedy is taking really big subjects and really big ideas and finding ways to express them, finding simple ways to explain complicated things.” He started writing and performing stand-up when he was in high school and ran for vice president in high school to create a comedy night. “All my early jokes were basically old Chris Rock and Margaret Cho jokes with ‘Indian’ in it.” Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off on Laughing Liberally With Hari Kondabolu         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   July 16, 2007