Über Desi

Keeping it real, desi ishtyle

Sepia Mutiny ends

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Doesn’t seem that long ago that one of the major desi blogs, DesiPundit, downed their shutters. Now arguably the biggest of all desi blogs, Sepia Mutiny, is going the same way. [Sepia Mutiny]

T’was not too long ago, between 05-09, blogs were thriving: Sepia Mutiny, Desi Pundit, Ultra Brown, and if I may say so, Über Desi, were bustling with activity in the niche market of Indian sub-continental culture and pop-culture. Quality content was being generated by the hard working bloggers, at least in the first 3 instances. Then life happened, Twitter happened. Most bloggers found it easier and more convenient to microblog on Twitter, and so did their followers. Slowly but surely, the quality content dried up and previously bustling blogs became desolate arenas. Trolls and spammers took over in the comments sections of long dead posts. You get the idea.

The bloggers at Sepia Mutiny did an amazing job of building a thriving South Asian online community, and for this, they will be remembered and the blog will be missed.

Fanatics and Heretics

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Ramachandra Guha performs a colonoscopy of sorts on the close-minded, anti-intellectual, cliche-riddled, demagoguery that passes for the ideology of the Hindu extremist outfit, the RSS. [Telegraph] (via @pragmatic_d on Twitter)

It’s a fascinating read with real-life accounts from former RSS-ers and includes some hilarious points, for instance, what was the RSS’s stand during the Quit India movement?

However, the portion that stood out to me most:

“Hindus have lived in India since time immemorial; Hindus are the nation because all culture, civilization and life is contributed by them alone; non-Hindus are invaders or guests and cannot be treated as equal unless they adopt Hindu traditions, culture etc…; the history of India is the history of the struggle of the Hindus for protection and preservation of their religion and culture against the onslaught of these aliens; the threat continues because the power is in the hands of those who do not believe in this nation as a Hindu Nation; those who talk of national unity as the unity of all those who live in this country are motivated by the selfish desire of cornering minority votes and are therefore traitors; the unity and consolidation of the Hindus is the dire need of the hour because the Hindu people are surrounded on all sides by enemies; the Hindus must develop the capacity for massive retaliation and offence is the best defence; lack of unity is the root cause of all the troubles of the Hindus and the Sangh is born with the divine mission to bring about that unity.”

Replace “Hindus” with “White Christians”, “India” with “USA” and “non-Hindus” with “immigrants”,”Muslims” or “any other minority group” in the above paragraph and you have the template of a conservative talk show host in the US. Fascinating, huh?

Thoughts on the AMRI tragedy

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When I visit India, I usually end up visiting a bunch of friends, uncles, aunties and cousins. Some of them live in modern apartment complexes, towers, as they call them. Taking the elevator and, on occasion, the stairs, I can’t help but think “Where is the fucking fire escape?”. Chided, I am, for such thoughts. “You have become American”, “If there is a fire, we will just run downstairs”, “Lord Ayyappa will not let anything happen to us” are among the myriad responses I’ve gotten. And then something like this happens. [NYT]

But early on Friday the hospital, known as Amri, confronted an emergency for which it seemed to have no plan: an inferno in its basement that transformed the entire hermetically sealed and air-conditioned building into a giant chimney for a searing, smoky fire.

When the smoke cleared, 94 people were dead, scores more were injured and a nation was left asking: Is nowhere, even an expensive, privately run hospital designed for the country’s upwardly mobile classes, safe from the disaster that seems to lurk on every railway line, highway on-ramp and festival ground?

The most revealing comment, at least one by a famous person, on this topic:

Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, summed up the mood when he sent this message on Twitter: “Every time I see incidents like #AMRI I’m convinced we really are a 3rd world nation with delusions of greatness.”

Indian cities, over the last 20 years in particular, have sought to model themselves after the West; swanky malls, ritzy apartment complexes and state-of-the-art hospitals and medical care; for all this prosperity and opulence, safety and concern for human lives is still a “phoren” concept.

Jaan Pehchan Ho – a perfect trifecta


Clearly I’m late to Heineken’s “The Date” commercial, where hipster America meets Chinatown meets 60s Bollywood rock-n-roll kitsch. The first thought that came to my mind “very well done and very cool”. For your enjoyment below:

The song “Jaan Pehchan Ho” from the movie Gumnaam (1965) is, of course, instantly recognizable to any self-respecting Bollywood fan (if you haven’t watched Gumnaam, you’re not a true Bollywood fan, you SRK jock sniffer). Again, for your enjoyment below:

What many don’t know, however, is the fact that “Jaan Pehchan Ho” was “inspired” by a song 6 years earlier from a Dev Anand flick “Love Marriage”. Crazy dance moves, old school rock-n-roll music. Watch and enjoy.

Gupta v. “exotic” Indian restaurant

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An Indian family in NJ (where else?) is suing an “exotic” Indian restaurant for serving them samosas with meat, even though they were vegetarians. [NJ Ledger via HuffPo]

For an India Day celebration in Edison on Aug. 10, 2009, the group placed an order for vegetarian samosas. The restaurant assured them it didn’t make the pastries with meat. Indeed, there was no meat-filled samosa on the restaurant’s appetizer menu, and the court’s decision said the tray of pastries given to the group was labeled vegetarian.
But soon after eating a few samosas, some in the group grew concerned the pastries might contain meat. According to the decision, the restaurant eventually acknowledged it had confused the order with one for meat-filled samosas and gave the group the non-vegetarian pastries.

The family proceeded to sue the restaurant “alleging negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, consumer fraud, products liability and breach of express warranty”. This part also caught my eye. [link]

In their complaint, the plaintiffs outlined their injuries and damages in the following manner: “‘Hindu vegetarians believe that if they eat meat, they become involved in the sinful cycle of inflicting pain, injury and death on God’s creatures, and that it affects the karma and dharma, or purity of the soul. Hindu scriptures teach that the souls of those who eat meat can never go to God after death, which is the ultimate goal for Hindus. The Hindu religion does not excuse accidental consumption of meat products. One who commits the religious violation of eating meat, knowingly or unknowingly, is required to participate in a religious ceremony at a site located along the Ganges River in Haridwar, Uttranchal, India, to purify himself. The damages sought by plaintiffs included compensation for the emotional distress they suffered, as well as economic damages they would incur by virtue of having to participate in the required religious cleansing ceremony in India.’”

This story has me torn. Being raised in a Hindu vegetarian family myself, I’m can envision members of my family, particularly the elderly reacting in a similar manner (but we TamBrams are too pacifist to get involved in court cases). I’ve not read the doctrine for consuming meat and don’t know what the diktats for “Accidental Consumption of Meat” are. On one hand, I feel this family’s reaction (suing for money) is disproportionate to the incident.

On the other hand, longtime readers of this blog know my disdain for “exotic” Indian restaurants particularly their marketing, food and above all, service. This one fits in the last two. The restaurant certainly was wrong on the following counts:
- Serving food not on the menu
- Getting the food order wrong
- Serving food specifically the client demanded they did not want
- Not cross checking the order with the kitchen, despite repeated questions from the clients

And this kind of service is unfortunately not uncommon in “exotic” Indian restaurants. It’s disappointing to see the NJ Ledger, Huffington Post and other news outlets play up the “he he dumb Hindoos won’t eat meat” angle. Customers often ask for customized orders at restaurant, not just for religious reasons, but also for health reasons – food allergies, digestive issues. It is the duty of the restaurant to get it right, failing which they open up themselves to the consequences. Although, none of the customers were affected health-wise, I’m with them on suing, at least on principle.

What do you think?

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