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Mindy Kaling isn’t Responsible for Being Your Diversity Councillor

This discussion does not apply if you have not seen The Mindy Project. The discomfort that I felt therein but convinced myself that at least it is helmed by Mindy Kaling, smart as woman.

The same sort of discussion one can have about the character of Rajesh Kuthrapalli in The Big Bang Theory. Does it make me uncomfortable that his Indianness can be the butt of jokes or that every character is given equal treatment in that sense. So if Sheldon’s social inadequacies are the source of much amusement, why not Raj’s inability to pick up women?

I know that it is a hard balancing act. Getting gigs to write, to produce, commercial considerations and being a person of colour who has fought and fought to even to be there. Diversity? Representation? Or keeping the job and getting more?

When I produced for Radio New Zealand I had to be very mindful of not making all my work about ‘ethnics’ but all New Zealanders. That I am Indian and speak in a strange Indo-Kiwi-down-with-the-bros accent was enough ‘representation’. That I could do mainstream stories without anyone questioning their legitimacy AND could then go on to tell a story about Muslim women, which no one dare question. I was lucky.

But when it came to producing an independent gig it had to be about Asians. I mean, I could not do the blokey New Zealand humour and get funding could I? The trick then was to bring a huge dose of irreverence. (Hail Jon Stewart!) The Asian Radio Show was on air from 2008-2012. I was lucky.

So I feel for Mindy yet I know what the ladies are talking about in this post from Neelika Jayawardane. The thing for Mindy Lahiri now is to have a East Asian nerdy boyfriend and for him to dump her because she is too frivolous. Yeah even if she and Danny have kissed as we knew they would from the first episode.

Dreams Don’t Have Labels Of Caste And Religion – Nagraj Manjule reminsces about his life and ‘Fandry’


drsapna:

The resurgence of Marathi cinema makes me immensely proud in a way that I cannot explain. I am the last person in the world, I would like to think, who believes in ideas such as patriotism and nationalism thus by default, parochialism. Growing up in Girgaum, Bombay, watching Marathi theatre ranging from sangeet natak (musicals) to Vijay Tendulkar‘s masterpieces, old arthouse cinema (Jabbar Patel in particular) as well as the madness of Dada Kondke, knowing inherently that a Maharashtrian audience receives and consumes visual performing arts in a different way, I could not understand why it was limited in its outreach. Or why it faded away.

Now I do and so I feel happy to see the renaissance. From the inane commercial to global cinema it is an amazing spectrum. Then we have artists like Nagraj Manjule whose life experience will always make for brilliant storytelling. I watched this trailer of Fandry and wanted to see the film, I wanted to cry, to feel angry, frustrated, come out of the theatre pumped up to change the world. This film will never release in New Zealand but I imagine myself doing all the above anyway. Nagraj has nothing new to say yet it needs to be told over and over to sensitize us. So thank you Nagraj. Here is to more path breaking stories via Marathi cinema.

Originally posted on F.i.g.h.t C.l.u.b:

Since the time we saw Nagraj Manjule’s debut feature ‘Fandry’, we have been shouting out from rooftop that it’s a terrific debut and a must watch. Click here to read our recco post. This week, Fandry is releasing outside Maharashtra, and with English subtites.

The show details – Date: February 28 to March 6

Delhi NCR
PVR MGF Mall 9:10 PM
DT Cinemas Vasant Kunj: 3: 30 PM

Indore
PVR Indore 5:00 PM

After the film’s release and the acclaim it got all over, Nagraj wrote a piece for Maharashtra Times. Much thanks to @GoanSufi who came up with the idea to translate it in English for wider reach, took the permission, and did it for us. Do watch the film if you haven’t seen it yet. And then read it.

Nagraj-Manjule-photo

Remembering   Fandry

Now that Fandry has released, I’m reminiscing about all those incidents that are linked with it. These…

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On The Intentional Circus Of The Mistress.


I tried not to say anything about the Bevan Chuang circus for a long time. People have affairs, even politicians and wannabes; affairs are made public and opponents make political gain, or not. Life goes on.

But not when the wannabe is Bevan Chuang. Every time she has opened her mouth after she first revealed all on Whale Oil, she has dumped a load of excreta on the public. First it was pictures without makeup, looking sad, saying things to Lincoln Tan, appealing to his lazy journalism (more on that later), then this interview for Metro, being the Asian princess-concubine, another interview for Radio Live declaring her intentions to save us ethnics from our political apathy. I ignored it all. Why give more publicity when middle aged white men (and a Singaporean) are working for the cause?

The final straw on my ‘apathetic ethnic back’ was Bevan’s intention to re-apply for Auckland Council’s ethnic advisory panel. I am Asian, a woman and very engaged with democracy and politics. Do I need a Bevan Chuang to represent me? Even though I do not live in Auckland any more, the idea of her being on the panel and using it to get on a national platform, with drooling white men pandering, desiring, their pants about to burst yet they dare not, is repulsive.

There is nothing wrong in being ambitious, there is nothing wrong in being sexual but when that becomes the only tool for social/political climbing, making claims to represent ethnic communities, then it is time to say enough.

Did she do anything for the ethnic communities while she was on the panel? Nothing. I challenge Camille Nakhid and Bevan herself to show concrete proof of the work she did. Apart from posting on Facebook, tweeting, sending out group emails, helping organise a few events and floating around flirtatiously there is zilch to show. I once questioned Bevan for attending a conference organised by Hindu fundamentalists and she had no clue what that was. How can anyone claiming to represent migrants show such ignorance? Would one not do due diligence about the event, who these people are, what the community is up to etc? How is she going to lobby for the ethnic communities on a local level and what is she going to say? L’affaire Brown might have proved her political naivety and lack of nous to the mainstream but us ethnics have known that for a long time. We just don’t say it. Only Renee Liang wrote about the story but she extrapolated it to an imagined experience rather than discuss ethnic representation which was/is the main issue. If Bevan was not on the ethnic advisory board and still had this affair, no one would care.

Auckland Council has called for applications from potential panellists. These panels have a two-point vague agenda about advising the council. Applicants need to have governance experience but is there a constitution for these panels? An outline? What happens if the council has to get rid of a panellist? What if someone passes or has to leave? Is there a strategy for such exits and reappointments? Will the minutes of these meetings be published for the communities to know what their representative panel is up to? It is time to make the process transparent. Let us know who applied, put up their resumes online, who is on the selection panel, and how the panellists fulfil the selection criteria. Surely that is an appropriate demand from an ignorant ethnic? And it will cost less than $250,000 ja?

Bevan would fail the criteria. Broad perspective, critical and strategic thinking, judgement, politics… Yet, she wants to apply. She is scared Len will reject her but she not scared of what the ethnic communities think of her ability to represent! It is not just the conservative elements that question this.

Lazy journalist that Lincoln Tan is, his ‘news’ article in the Herald subtly pushes Bevan to the public and has Camille Nakhid endorsing her. Did he ask the other panellists what they think? Asoka Basnayake was their media spokesperson, did he get a statement from her? When did he last do a balanced piece, especially related to Bevan? From the story about the dragon baby to trying to generate sympathy for a makeup less Bevan, this is a mutually useful relationship that does disservice to the ethnic communities. Not that the ethnics trust him you know, with so many stories bordering on sensationalism and always quoting either Paul Spoonley or Bevan Chuang. (Go do a general analysis of his work.)

It is time for the ethnic communities to speak up. It is time for the Chinese community to say whether they really want Bevan representing them (because who else can she purport to represent?). There are other young, worthy Chinese Aucklanders who will actually do the job and do it very well.

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Yoga? Heavyset and Black Women Need Not Apply

Yoga and the Western world. Yoga in the Western world. Yoga for the Western world. Yoga comes from the Western world. Know what I mean? These last two weeks there are has been an online storm about yoga and appropriation, especially by skinny white women. This post ‘It Happened To Me’ brings to the fore how removed yoga is from its Indian roots except for the use of Sanskrit words and concepts of mindfulness that suit the ideas of existence within these parameters only. Attend a yoga session with someone who cannot pronounce the Sanskrit words, who talks of being in the moment and does it all slowly and deliberately, and then you will know. It cracked me up. I really don’t need white people telling me about my culture and practices the same way I don’t need bearded patriarchal self-styled gurus turning yoga into a mystical art. To me, yoga is about self awareness and practicing it as a way of life. But when someone from a privileged existence turns it into a race issue and body issue, and hence political, that becomes a matter for discourse.

Neelika Jayawardane analyses it well in her post linked at the top of the page.

Now for an academic analysis.

Backpacking 701. Samoa.


It was time. Itchy feet urging me to figure out my next travel destination. Two years since I partook in any transnational perambulation with the intention of adventure and the eternal search for place. A colleague at work suggested one of the islands. A short break in the sun, away from the Wellington winter. The Pacific Islands have never been on my radar as a destination. The sun and sand and sleek, tanned, non-bathing bodies lounging at beach resorts disconnected from the locals is not my idea of a holiday. But you don’t have to do just that, my colleague said. Drive around the islands, visit the markets, go to church. Yeah, I never thought about that. Samoa in my backyard and I did not see it! So it was. Backpacking 701. Cheap, economical and keeping me on my toes.

There was a band playing at Faleolo airport as we walked out from immigration; a bunch of dudes in lavalavas strumming guitars at 3 a.m. Welcome to Samoa. Talofa lava.

The first ferry to from Mulifanuana Wharf to Salelologa, Savaii at 6 a.m. carries cargo. Passengers huddle around the sides, shielding themselves from the sun, watching the magical dawn over the Pacific Ocean.

Savaii is the bigger of the two main Samoan islands but less developed. Villages line the coast from top to bottom. I stayed at Jane’s Beach Fales, swimming in the Pacific Ocean and gazing out at the horizon enjoying the downtime. There was nothing else to do except church on Sunday. I have never been to mass and it was an interesting experience. The service was in Samoan and English. When the priest spoke about giving, he looked at all of us, the visitors, and spoke only in English. Geddit :-) After the service he individually thanked us for attending mass. Then, true story this, as narrated by Rusty from Glenorchy, the priest saluted Heil Hitler to an elderly German couple! They took it well Rusty said. Samoa has a history of German settlement before the World Wars but I am sure it was still not kosher eh? Okay, bad joke.

I took a taxi guide (Ropeti Paulo, phone 7254413) around Savaii and the state of the villages was interesting. They get poorer as one goes northwards. Lots of big churches every two villages and double the poverty. God seems to be taking a lot here, not giving. My guide talked about tsunamis, cyclones and bad weather getting worse. What he meant in his limited way I suppose was the reality of global warming. I also suppose few big economies would care if these Pacific Islands were annihilated. Just the other day a New Zealand court rejected a bid by a Kiribat man seeking asylum here. The first ‘climate change refugee’ in the world.

Three days later I was in Upolu, in the capital Apia. The bus ride from the wharf to the city was just like being on a Maharasthra State Transport (ST or eshtee as the locals call it) except that the bus was smaller and very colourful. Apia is a mixture of the rural and the urban with some gorgeous architecture thrown in. I stayed downtown at Tatiana’s Motel close to the bus depot, the flea market and shopping. Apart from generally walking around and absorbing the goings-on, as I love to do, there were two places I wanted to visit.

The Robert Loius Stevenson Museum is housed in the home he built. A gorgeous abode oozing history. After RLS died a German businessman bought it, then the colonial New Zealand government took it over before the first head of independent Samoa moved in and moved out. The story is that some crazy RLS fan offered millions for the structure to be restored to its past glory and be a museum. Good for us. :-) I re-read Treasure Island before visiting Samoa and my gosh was it fun! Now all his books are on my to-read-again list. (Trivia-RLS introduced pineapples in Samoa when he brought them over from Hawaii.)

The other place I wanted to see was the cigarette factory that New Zealand built. This was after ‘smoking is injurious to health’ became a public health issue globally (as a Wellington doctor working in the public sector told me). Samoans smoke a lot; everyone smokes, from old men and women to young people. There are a few hoardings across the islands that warn about the harmful effects of smoking but few pay heed. New Zealand already exports fatty meat leftovers to Samoa, America feeds Samoans Spam. Western colonial powers do have a lot to answer for apart from invading countries and creating empires. Anyway, I went hunting for the cigarette factory because I was curious. Very inconspicuous it was, behind the beer factory, apparently making Rothman’s cigarettes.

The cigarette factory in Apia. As close as I could get to it.

The cigarette factory in Apia. As close as I could get to it.

Fatty meats for Samoans.

Fatty meats for Samoans.

One thing very obvious in Samoa is the Chinese presence. Not the old Chinese-Samoans nor Chinese tourists but Chinese money. Samoa’s new parliament house is made from Chinese money, the roads are being built by Chinese money so is other infrastructure. My taxi driver back to the airport told us that the Chinese are even sending over labour to work at cheaper rates than the Samoans. Of course the quid pro quo being fishing quota because Samoa has pretty much nothing else to offer. So while post Kyoto protocol talks are stalled China has already depleted the oceans of fauna. And it is more than just being a big country with a hungry population. This is about global power and hegemony. Look at Chinese presence across Africa. (I think I should learn Mandarin beyond the four sentences I can speak *wink*.)

I loved Samoa. The people are lovely and warm. I loved the sound of the water, its changing nature and colour. It is definitely on my list of places to visit again. Like China, Hong Kong, Berlin, Sikkim and Dharamsala.

I love the anonymity of travel; the mere act of wandering in search of belonging but not quite. I see myself as an integral part of humanity rather than from a specific place. Samoans would ask me, where are you from? One taxi driver called me palagi (pronounced paa-laa-ngi, white in Samoan), another asked if I was half Samoan and half Maori and a third if I was a Latina or Spanish. Only one guessed my origins. Of course my tattoos confuse people even more. Can’t wait for my next expedition.

(For photos visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/drsapna/)

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At the Protests for Trayvon Martin in New York City

By Us I mean the ‘other coloured folk’, middle class migrants chasing the American (replace with any other Western country) dream. What does the shooting of and subsequent acquittal of the shooter, George Zimmerman, mean to us? Do we think that something like this will not happen to us because we are:

a-not black

b-highly educated

c-employed

d-acquiesce with the dominant white folk

etc?

Just because we, the other coloureds, categorise ourselves more like the white but not those black/indigenous/dole bludgers blah and blah we continue to be an accessory to discrimination. Our rights did not happen automatically. Many Treyvons gave up their lives so we could be treated as ‘equals’ in this world. To forget that is to deny our skin colour and place on this earth. Because one day it might happen to us one day.

Many words have been written and said about the acquittal and many academic arguments had about race. This post encapsulates it perfectly.

Foucault and social media: life in a virtual panopticon


drsapna:

The Kardashians are an example of living in the Panopitcon. Years ago, when I did my Reality TV paper as part of my Masters in film, tv and media studies, it was the beginning of reality tv. Ozzy and Sharon living their life on the MTV cameras. Now we all regulate our behaviour under the virtual gaze of known and unknown spectators. Even as I write this I regulate my words if not my thoughts. For posterity, cached in the virtual world, to be dug up by an internet anthropologist. This analysis is of course of the Western world by the Western world. When I browse through online posts and expressions of my fellow Indians it makes me want to dissect the behaviours of a people that only until a few years ago lived in a Luddite desert and have been suddenly thrown into a connected world without any priming whatsoever. I am a digital migrant but, may I say of myself, a very well integrated one. And it was through following a path of self awareness and regulation because I know the Panopticon exists. There are many Indians who wouldn’t have a clue hence a study of life online in a post globalised, free market, mofussil and metropolis India would be a fascinating read.

Originally posted on Philosophy for change:

This is the first instalment in a three-part series.

Part 2. I tweet, therefore I become
Part 3. The call of the crowd

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You start the day bleary-eyed and anxious. You stayed up late last night working on a post for your blog, gathering facts and memes from about the web and weaving them into an incisive whole. Has it produced a spike in the stats? You sign in on your iPhone as you brew the coffee. But it’s too early to slip into the professional headspace – you decide that you don’t want to know. Someone has messaged you on Facebook, so you check that instead. Japanese manga mashup! Killer breaks off the cost of Lombok. Lady Gaga is a man and we have photoshopped evidence to prove it! A friend will appreciate that one, so you share it with her directly. Perhaps not something that you’d want…

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The Other Wellington Report.


In response to The Wellington Report by The Dominion Post. Because the voice of the ‘other’ is missing so how can it be a balanced report? See for yourself. All Pakeha faces and voices. No tangata whenua (Maori), no Pacific, no Chinese/Indian/Middle Eastern/other ethnic migrants or refugees. Not even international students. When Wellington and the surrounding region has three universities whose business is dependent on all those foreigners paying high fees.

So what does one make of this exclusion? That The Dom Post is racist? Or that the editor has no imagination?

Now I can be labelled Just Another F$%^%ng Auckland, JAFA come lately on the hills of this little capital. Fair enough. I lived in Auckland for eleven years so I am attached to that place but I am also a wanderer. Life brought me to Wellington and ten years from now I might be Berlin or Hong Kong, my favourite cities. I cannot predict. The only thing I’ve learnt is that wherever I live I must take ownership of that place, to immerse myself in it, to participate, to give rather than take. So I am.

The Dummy’s analysis of The (One-Sided/Racist/Unimaginative) Wellington Report.

The no-brainers:

  • That Wellington airport needs a longer runway to bring in international flights
  • That the region needs to be unified to make better economic sense
  • That we need to be attractive to businesses and the creative sector.

(Note: Pakeha businesses from the Western world and creatives only from Hollywood or from Asia too? Guess who has the money? ;-))

  • That Wellington and region should not be dependent only on government.
  • That we need better infrastructure in terms of motorways and digital connectivity.
  • That all the above will attract jobs to the city and rejuvenate it.
  • The above will also attract tourists and make it the coolest little capital again.

D-uh. A Somali from Newtown could’ve told you that (but the editor didn’t think of asking perhaps).

Waste of space 1:

  • Jo Coughlan talks about her daughter not finding a seat in any restaurant on the Queen’s Birthday holiday. That is how buzzing Wellington is.

Question: Did the daughter just go to Courtenay Place/Cuba Mall (because that is her idea of Wellington)? If there were more restaurants in buzzing suburbs then she might have found a seat? And she did not think of going to Jackson St, Petone? Too downmarket and working class? Oh but that is not Wellington. My bad.

One more question: Why does Kelburn, the centre of Victoria University, not have more student based commerce such as cheap eating places, bubble tea and karaoke bars?

The  Top Cuisine Food Bar in Marsden Village, Karori, makes a mean black bean chicken. Why does he not open a yum cha place, I asked him. Too dead he says. Maybe instead of always having to go into town to eat at a restaurant, people could detour to a suburb if they had a choice? East Asian students from Kelburn could pop over too?

Waste of space 2:

In her column about Wellington, Rosemary McLeod spoke only about botoxed Auckland women and the ugly houses on Paritai Drive.

D-U-D-E, even Aucklanders don’t care about botoxed women and the houses on Paritai Drive. There is so much else going on.

Big, big chip on the shoulder and existing in a really, really small world. She does eh?

Besides, comparing Oriental Bay with ‘any Auckland beach’ is an even bigger waste of precious space. It is like arguing with geography. Each place has its own charm.

Conclusion: Some Wellingtonians need to get a life and many have a fixation with Auckland. All the other important types The Dom Post featured are afraid of the coloured people coming in their precious city even though they know that the empire is gone.

‘Other’ ideas:

A city is made up of people; is because of the people. If a large part of the local population is excluded from any discourse about its identity and future, then how would people have a sense of belonging? How will they contribute, why should they contribute? Wellingtonians, as constructed by The Dom Post, are rich, white, hip, caffeine consuming politicians, creatives or businesspeople who live in their own little world; whose concept of existence comes from the West. As if detached from global realities and from the local requirements of the hoi polloi. They only talk to themselves about themselves.

New Zealand as a whole needs migrants and skilled labour. Wellington does too if dependence on government employment has to be minimised. With this new population will come commerce, diversity, new ideas and a new buzz because this new population will not be from England. Those days are gone and the days when migrant labour was imported, only to set them up in ghettos before Dawn Raids.  This new population will be global, of those travelling where there is work; of transnational people who might choose to stay if they like the life, if they have the diversity and variety. That is the discourse to be had. But if The Dom Post does not see this new citizen of the city, only whiteness, then those in there are merely meditating on their umbilicals. In a fear-of-change fashion.

Wellington is sister city to Beijing. Not a single word about how that relationship can be enhanced. (Gawd, more Asians! What does one talk about to these Orientals? Not cricket eh old chap?)

If we were sister city to L.A. might the report be orgasmic about it then?

Wellington can learn a lot from my two favourite cities-Berlin and Hong Kong. One with a small land mass and fear of damage from cyclones and tornadoes. Yet HK is defiantly democratic with the speediest internest in the world, a strong economy, big film industry and vibrant expatriate community that only adds to the madness and buzz. It is also a tourist destination. A walk through Kowloon at any time will prove that. Berlin, flat and wide, with a history of devastation through war and political division yet rebuilt again and again. Bergmanstrasse, Kreuzberg, Freidrichshain…how many buzzing suburbs, a strong heritage and culture, amazing architecture, migrants ranging from North Africa to Turkey, Vietnam and Korea that add to the vibe. Plus lots of introspection about Germany’s history.

Why? Because both cities welcome people from all over the world.

Wellington does not have to look at Auckland but at the people who live here, the coloured other, the tangata whenua. They are not going to go away by ignoring them as The Racist Wellington Report does. Because they are the people of this city, the present and the future. They will stand up and be visible. One day. Soon. That is The Other Wellington Report.

White Women in the Indian Imagination: Alexandra Delaney


drsapna:

An interesting post. Many things the writer says are true including the Indian male gaze but she completely bypasses that such behaviour is more than a local cultural, social or religious product, that globalisation and the free market have actually underscored even more, the idea of Indianness and ‘the other’; that the notion of feminism is deeply entrenched in the Indian imagination, male or female, as a white, Western concept of disregard, disrespect and disruption (because the original movement never considered non-Western, coloured women and their environments, still does not). The sustained portrayal of Caucasian women as loose and easy is a result of all the above, unfortunately.
….maybe this calls for a post of my own because it is beyond the simplistic discourse that Ms Delaney presents. It is a brave post anyway.

Originally posted on Kafila:

This is a guest post by ALEXANDRA DELANEY: 

“Yeah, Indian guys think white girls are easy”, a British-born Indian remarked nonchalantly to me this week. Normally I’d be shocked by such gross racial stereotyping (of Indians) but in this case I’m inclined to agree. Not because Caucasian women by their very skin colour or cultural preferences are any more promiscuous than their South Asian sisters, but because of their sustained portrayal as loose and morally deficient. The image of the sexually liberated and ‘easy’ white woman runs deep in the Indian imagination, a perception which is drip-fed by the country’s all-pervading mainstream media.

The brutal rape and murder of an Indian student in New Delhi last December followed by numerous sexual attacks on foreign women has sparked international outrage. This year alone, a Chinese woman was date-raped in New Delhi, a Korean woman was raped after being drugged in Bhopal…

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