Thursday, December 14, 2006

Oh My God

Anton Balasingham died.

What the hell is going to happen now?

They must have been expecting this.

----------------
From the BBC:

The senior negotiator for the Tamil Tigers, Anton Balasingham, has died of cancer in London, the BBC has learned.
A Tamil Tiger spokesman in Sri Lanka said an official announcement would be made shortly.

Last month it was reported that Mr Balasingham, 68, had bile duct cancer which had spread to his liver, lungs, abdomen and bones.

He was the chief ideologue of the rebels in their war against the Sri Lankan military.

----------------

My heart did actually jump when I read about it. I have no idea what the consequences are or have anything savvy in the least to say, I am just shocked. People reading me in SL, write me, tell me what the hell is happeneing. I want the low down from the field.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bits n pieces



Great isn't it, that I have not written in AGES and now all of a sudden, three posts in a row. Some with photos even! I feel like I should say something about school.

It's great. I miss work like crazy. Just saw Clody (all you Amparites know who that is) and she has been evacuated from S. Sudan and it felt so fucking great to see her. I feel like I am in self imposed exile, which I suppose, yes I am. Or not, Was I going to get work without a Masters? Work that I wanted to do, not just work for the sake of work. I think I would wither away and die if I had to do work for the sake of work and not because it is something I love.

I can measure how I feel about something by if I get out of bed or not for it. Amazing how my bed is the great equalizer in my life. I got worried that I missed a class last week, I just could not be bothered to get out of bed for it. These are dangerous signs for someone like me. I have been there and will NOT go back there again. It really sucks. My insomnia is back but I can handle that...not getting out of bed though, that is scary.

My brain feels very full. I have two more classes this week and then a nice long break with many visitors and loved ones gathered under one roof. Yay, that is what I like.

I feel so productive since I went to the library today and returned books, got some for my sister and the fact that I feel like I have updated my blog. Small acheivable goals. Sometimes, even that bcomes diffuclt and then you really hate yourself. Oh shit, that reminds me...I was supposed to go and sign up for my exams. And I didn't. It's now 1630 so the office is closed.

Won't that be funny? That I fail out of school since I didn't go to an office, take a piece of paper from them, check to make sure I was signed up for the right courses in order to sit the exams in May? This is the UK for you, by the way. They need you to come to the office and say, yeah, that's me and my courses. Great, I can now take an exam. What the hell is email for!??!

When I first read the email that said, come to the office and do this, I thought I mis read it. And therefore ignored it. Are they REALLY going to let me NOT take the exam when I show up for it? I am assured over and over again, Z, they will not let you take it. GO AND SIGN UP TO SIT THE EXAMS!

It all just seems very silly to me, that's all.

I need to go and read about Uganda. I want to write my diss on it. Any further ideas from you lot would be great since I need to narrow it down. Haha.

Photo, that my sister took of me when she was visiting in Oct. I was asleep and she was jet lagged, therefore, she was not asleep and thought it would be lovely to harass me into awaking. Which worked.

Will write on a more regular basis. Or will try and be better about it.

Thanksgiving






This is So overdue. I have meant to put up some of these thanksgiving photos forever and have been very bad at it, much to the latent chagrin of my sisters. Photos are in random order since I cannot really bother to fix them. I am glad I have this blog since at the end of the SL trip, my computer crashed three times (count it, THREE, all in the last three weeks no less!) and many of the earlier photos are the only ones I have from the trip. Unless we count the millions of photos I have of the fishing distribution I did. But that's work.

So, thanksgiving. It was lovely. 12 people around the table. New people. Last year, I was in SL and found five wild turkeys (I feel as if I have written about this but not possible since I had not started my blog as of Nov of last year...). I didn't find the wild turkeys though I had spotted someone's pet turkey in Sept and kept it in mind. Niluka, our admin officer and Sunil Uncle, my driver went out and found them. They came back so excited, and dragged me to my car (one of those big obnoxious NGO cars) and were like, TADA! And there, in the back of my car with the ER kit and other such things, five LIVE turkeys, some scared shitless (yes, shitless), one very surly looking turkey and two that were in obvious denial they were in back of a car. I am still not sure if Niluka and Sunil Uncle thought I really needed them alive for some strange autumnal ritual but whatever, we all had a lovely feast in Ampara.

And yes, it was lovely in London as well. I am still getting to know the people here. All this takes time. I will in retrospect talk it up. But for now, enjoy the photos.

Alrighty then
















It's been ages, I know. The comments section on my blog is also now gone. If anyone out there knows how to delte just one comment, let me know. Because of one comment, I have removed all comments.
Posting first: photos for Billy boy. I caught sight oy myself smoking recently and Bill would always comment on how S. Asian it was for me to hold the smoke in my mouth. I think I caught the look exactly with my handy dandy mac's camera.

You can almost imagine I am sitting there with you, can't ya?

I should title this, Death becomes her. I really must quit.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

There is a God

Rumsfeld has resigned. Oh man, oh man, oh man. I am so super excited to be in America for this. This is huge. This is enormous and I am so happy about this.

Christmas has come early this year.

I hope the euphoria of today actually continues and does not become something that I will look back on wistfully and think how naive and hopeful we were in the first hours after this election.

Montana has come over and we are just waiting to hear about the Virginia race in terms of the control of the Senate. It looks good for the Dems right now.

This is amazing. I love politics. Hopefully, soon, I will have time to actaully write about all this cohrently and not in the haphazard manner I have been. Some of this stuff has been posted on DesiCritics.org already and man, I cringed when I aw it. It is unedited and raw but I have the issue of poverty reduction to simultaneously be battling. And to that I go....

GO NEW JERSEY! Go AMERICA!

Ok, not only did my home state of New Jersey recently say it was ok for gay marriages, we just elected a Democrat to the Senate. Thank God.

I should really tell people more about New Jersey but it is ony recently that I have come to admit that I am from NJ. I still say Brooklyn since I do feel like that is home as well, but that is more an adopted home. I was born in NJ and went to school here. I actually did two years of college here as well. Hmm.

NJ is a small state. We have the NJ turnpike which people know from the Simon and Garfunkle song. We are known as the Garden State. We have beaches, Atlantic City (smaller Vegas), Six Flags Great Gdventure, Hershey Park, Wild Water Kingdom, a huge Ikea, no sales tax on clothing, an ivy league school, close to NYC and Philly, sweet corn, awesome tomatoes, Thomas Edison used to live here, Kaavya Vishwanathan of Opal Mehta plagarism fame also grew up here.

We have also not elected a Repulibcan Senator since 1972.


OHIO you are redeeming yourself. It might be since gays are not on the ballot this time around. Democrats have picked up a seat there. They need to pick up 7 in order to get the majority as well keep the ones they have already. NJ is a kept seat since the incumbent won and there we go, one pick up and how sweet that it be Ohio.
Virginia is the big one to watch. Allen Carr of macaca fame going against this ugly guy but a Democrat, Jim Webb.
CLose close close race.

Another Senate pick up for the Democrats...in Pennsylvania...nasty Rick Santorum is out, THANK GOD. I am quite connected to Pennsylvania since it is the neighbouring state to NJ and I did live in Philly for two years. And all my sports teams are Philly teams. Eagles, Phillies, Sixers and Flyers.

Another Senate pick up in Rhode Island. Beat the incumbent. We need three more seats. CNN can hardly hide their glee. Neither can I. GO AMERICA, GO! WE can do this. This Democrat has actually beat a moderate Republican. An incumbent who did not vote for Bush in fact in the last election. Or for the war in Iraq. Poor guy. Chaffey is his name and he actaully seems like a nice guy. He's on the wrong team.

I hope the world is watching..well fuck the world (how American of me), I needed this. I needed to know that America does not really suck, it doesn't. The tide is turning and let's hope we can make this momentum and keep it going and make something of this.

Wolf Blitzer is an idiot too. I wonder if the other channels are also going ahead and projecting as soon as CNN is. Supposedly they have some formula on exit polls (which is silly since that is what we thought we Kerry and exit polls that he was going to win, but guess what, he didn't, which of ocurse lead and add credence to theories of corruption in elections esp in Ohio with electronic voting).

An exciting election show I cannot WAIT to watch is a one hour special where the Daily show with John Stewart and The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert will do a joint election special. I love John Stewart as I have said over and over and over again.

My dad, a Republican for most of his life but not so starting four years ago, just pumped the arm of the chair he is sitting on and said GOOD! This is not a demonstrative man but it seems there is a local race for the House in Pennsylvania that the Dems just won away from the incubent Republican.

I love how this is creating such an energy and a buzz.

Governor succeeding Jeb in Florida is Republican named, Crist. Perhaps his running away from Bush when he came down helped. Crist is the dude I was mentioning before by the way. I just figured out his name.

As of right now Dems are 45 in the Senate and Reps are 46. House is more complicated than that but Dems are picking up seats. 7 as of now, 6 from the Reps and 1 Independent seat. Vermont by the way seems to have a lot of independents and the cool thing is that Joe Lieberman who did not win the Democractic primary (he is of Vice President fame by the way, running with Al Gore in 2000) (The primaries are within party elections to see who will represent the party in the full on election)...So Lieberman, though a Senator for years now, did not win the Democratic party and lost it to what people are calling the first YouTube candidate, Ned Lamont. Joe decides to run anyway and goes on to win as an Independent. Here is what is interesting...more Republicans voted for him as an Independent (35%) than Democrats (25%) and then there were voters registered as independents (38%) and others who voted for him.

Lots of sports people end up running for office. Interesting.


Fifteen minutes left to the Comedy Central Daily Show/Colbert Report Election BONANZA. Actually they call it the Midterm Midtacular and it is LIVE!!!

By the way, for the friends of mine who are reading this in the USA and esp in NYC....I know I haven't told you im in town but that's because I am in NJ and writing a paper and thus not seeing or tlaking to anyone and I might as well be in London. I will try and see some of you though on my way out. So, you are not allowed to get mad at me.

Lots of scandals and dumb things have been going on in this race...esp with the incubents. In Florida we have that guy running away from Bush and we have Mark Foley who is still checked into an alcohol rehab center. He was sending explicit messages to male pages. Since then his aides have said, he is gay, has an alcohol issue and was molested by a priest when he was an altar boy. Not sure why that third thing needed to be added, but I suspect it was for good measure.

There was the John Kerry joke that backfired....basically it was translated to Kerry saying the troops were dumb.

We have Pastor Ted, head of the Evangelical Church national group, saying he was gay since he was outed by a gay prostitute who was having moral issues that pastor Ted was not cool with gay marriages. Pastor Ted also bought speed but says he threw it away. He has ties to the White House but now of course everyone says they don't really know the dude.

My hero and the love of my life is now on TV. John Stewart.

OK, it is now the next day and I went to bed after watching John Stewart....not very good, but whatever.

In the end, We have indeed taken over the house. Nancy Pelosi is making history as the first ever female Speaker of The House. We are still nto sure how the Senate since the votes have been too close and can therefore be re counted. Virginia and Montana are both up for grabs. Right now in Virginia, the race I am following more, Webb is leading Carr by 6000 votes. Carr actually thought he was going to sweep in and win this handily and also then run for president in 08. HA HA. you don't say bullshit like macaca to a minority, asshole.

I am excited to start reading news from around the world to see what the world thinks about this. Has America redeemed itself in some shape or form?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

I cannot believe there is so much excitment around mid term elections. It is like having a secnd chance to show the world that we as Americans are really not bad and in fact, we have a bad president, a one who has been divinely appointed but a bad one still.

It is exciting. My first election that I can recall was in Pakistan actually. General Zia, the dictator, had just been blown up and all of a sudden, everyone came out of the wood work for rallies, speeches, votes, you name it. We went to a political rally and got in our car, got two huge MQM flags (Muhajir Qoumi Movement) and joined up and went out. To this day, I do not understand how my parents let us , three girls and the two of them, get into a car and go to a political rally in Karachi, but I suppose there was a euphoria in those days that I did not realize since I was so young.

School was let out for two days and my mom came home with a blackened thumb (she can write, you assholes who think she can't) and we camped out in the TV room with sleeping bags etc watching election TV. Election TV was amazing since I am talking about the days in Pakistan, not so long ago, when there was only one channel on TV and no satellites to escape to. TV would end at like 11 pm or so but on election night, it went on ALL night and they had these special programs. I can't recall most of them but I know I fell asleep that night feeling like the world was a good place.

Our party lost.

Two years ago I was in Houston. David, my then boyfriend, later fiance and now someone who I think hates me, had a bottle of champagne and we went to Boz's house a dear dear friend and basically the only other person I would hang out with in Houston. David and I had driven down to New Mexico the weekend before so that D could vote in the swing state and the place he was registered to vote. We missed Halloween since we did. We dorve something like 24 hours that weekend. Insane but we got the vote in.

We lost that one too.

I went to work the next day and that is when it hit me....you aren't in NYC anymore, Dorothy. This was Tex-ass and no one seemed to care that Bush had won, that the world had turned black, that we were headed to hell in a hand basket. I walked around depressed and everyone else aroudn me acted as if it were just another Wednesday. I took half the day off and went home and got into bed thinking how nice it would be to never get out.

Very soon after, I left the country, went to Sri Lanka and started saying things like, I can't go back and live in the United States till Jan 09, once Bush leaves.

I went to the UK recently, which is where I live now. Man, America, you are great and you just need some help is the conclusion that I have come to. Perhaps I am being naive and hopeful again only to have my hopes dashed but I do feel that these mid term elections, which are getting SO much attention and in fact voting is at the rate that it is in national elections (for those of you who don't know, mid term elections is for Congress (made up up House of Representatives and Senate), I feel that these mid term elections will make a difference since instead of voting on local issue, it is about National issues. There have been some great stories that have been coming out of this (like this guy in Florida who invited Bush to come and campaign with him and then ran in the other direction, which many republicans have been doing...trying to distance themselves from him).

Please please please America, let that voice be heard so that the rest of the world knows we don't sreiously suck ass.

Watching CNN coverage of this while I try and get my reading done so that I can write about Debt Relief. I am home this week, reading week at school.

Anderson Cooper, a CNN correspondent, of Hurricane Katrina fame and the son of Gloria Vanderbilt and author of the book Dispatches from the Edge and host of show: Cooper 360, is an idiot. I had expected more of him. I think fame has gone to his head. He is hot...rumor has it he is gay as well.

Publishing this post now and will come back to more election news, perhaps, later. I hope everyone who could vote today, did. If you did not, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Gaps and other things

Man, it has been way too long. I know this. I have been bad. My computer has been bad as well. London has been bad and the internet at home has been bad. All this badness has added up to zero blogging. And to be honest, I was unable to articulate much for the first couple of weeks and so, again, another justification and reason for not blogging. Not like I was all that regular before I left. I have been weird about being here and try and get every opp to go home (been home once already and going again!) and I dont think I am giving London a chance but when I think about it, I wonder why I feel as if I have to. I don't have to fall in love with every single city I live in.

That's life boy-o.


For those who I have been in touch with, I have been saying this ad nauseum so bear with me and let me get everyone else caught up. London is a multi cultural city that is badly integrated and man, it sucks to be brown (specifically Pakistani and even in that, Mir Puri's who are in Manchester. I think Manchester is five driving hours away and I have no idea where the fuck MirPur is in Pakistan...first I ever heard of it but sounds like a bunch of dirty nasty fuckers who don't want to educate their kids or themselves....all hearsay...from the other Pakistanis here, by the way....). So it sucks to be brown and there is no such thing as brown or desi or South Asian. It Asian and as my flat mates mom and ex boyfriends mom have said to me (from the same social class), there is Asian, which is brown like me and then there is chinese.

I did laugh at that.

There is no brown solidarity either. This Pakistani boy asked me where I was from and I thought he might have thought I was middle eastern or Italian or Spanish, which has happened and I said, Oh, I'm brown too.

That is not an answer. Brown from where is what they want to know. How do I explain that as an American who calls Brooklyn home, with parents born in India, emigrated to Pakistan, who had to leave Pakistan for fear of religious persecution, I, their child who though American born and bred has lived in Karachi for seven years, feels more at home in India than in Pakistan.

I opted for the easy answer. I'm Shia.

A run down on the privilege thing. Brown people in the USA, privileged. I worked agasint this privilege in the way I dressed, acted, spoke walked, talked etc. All lip service it turns out. I am not from a privileged class here and god damn, Do I miss my privilege or what?
I miss it since I would rather be the one to turn it off or no as I would like. So awful of me. At least I have recognized it.

I am contending with the ideas of class for the first time. I am contending with a lot of things for the first time, but only since they are in my face....theoretically, I knew about all this. Words, words, words.

Not so happy with all the contention when it comes down to it. Discovering disturbing things about myself. And yes, a cliche, but about the world as well.

School is getting better and better and for all ye dev people out there....GO TO SCHOOL. And go earlier than later since even with my little one year experience, the first three weeks were painful since I felt like I was wasting my time. I am not. Esp sine I am doing Political Economy of Dev, which is indeed, kicking my ass, but totally worth it. Go to school, go to school, go to school. Or getting reading lists and read this shit.

I am not happy about the academic/practioner divide. I am not going to be able to solve it so I will not talk about it. Perhaps later. It is frustrating is all I can say about it right now.

xo

Friday, October 06, 2006

Male bear seeking same, good travel and warm bed companion



Paddington Bear, where are you?

Promise to write more everyone. Safe and sound and the first week of classes are over. I love it even though the political economy class is totally going to kick my ass.
xxoo

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Rubber Ducky, You're the One...(in a million)

It is raining today which is very sad since my ducks will drown.

I bought 13 rubber ducks for a fundraiser for the Special Olympics. The 25,000+ rubber ducks are to be let out near the Brooklyn Bridge where they wil race each downstream to the South Street Seaport and there are prizes to be won. A million dollars, flight tickets, other goodies.

I bought the Quack Pack, where I got three extra ducks. I have been excited about this day at the races since I found the website (http://www.2006duckrace.kintera.org/) and bought the ducks. Besides the one in 25,000+ chance that I might win a million bucks, rubber ducks racing down the east river have captured my imagination and excitement. Well, the rain is definetly a downer on that parade but perhaps it will clear up.

Send my duckies good vibes. Will post photos soon.

ps. The UK YouGov poll made funs of Americans (which mostly, I do as well), but they have websites for luxury rubber ducks. check it out: http://www.justducks.co.uk/

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Appie the SUPER KHAAS Guest Blogger

Whenever I turn around, I see Zehra typing furiously on her cutie batootie little white mac, and I wonder, can she really have all that much to say? Of course she can. There are days I see her sitting on the couch looking out at the window, laptop in lap, barney next to her, and suddenly a burst of clicking sounds come from that futon - and her face is focused, lip often bit, yet, there's a casual elegance to her posture - as if making sense of the world around us or understanding how to contend with world poverty is something we do as a daily occurance - this nonchalance worries me sometimes, but often, I find it to be incredibly liberating - the world is simple - we chose to complicate it.

I thought I would take the opportunity to guest write on zehra's blog because she's leaving us soon - after a three month summer - and that, I figure, deserves something. something like a blog entry. I suppose I could have written her a comment, but really, that is nothing like being the guest writer on someone's blog. this is like being able to be paris hilton for a day - for a moment, to stand in the space where zehra stands - to know i have at least 8 people reading this around the world knowing what happens in my world. But not really my world, the world that zehra and I occupy. That's a very different world. My sisters and I have a small universe which we rule, and we live there and when we are together, we seemlessly, effortlessly, selfishly move into those spaces -- which are comfortable, yet, problematic because we often forget to rework some power structures, but if we stay there long enough we can even make those adjustments... this is a space that zehra and i have recently rennovated since we've lived together after almost six years - a long six years - probably good that we didn't live together sooner - everything has a time - and a place - and I had to grow up and she did too - it's easier to be kids together once we've matured.

Rather than make the entire entry about zehra - and our relationship - allow me to step for a moment out of my navel gazing, and tell you about my sticky kitchen counter. I love my kitchen counter. It's the first bonifide counter space i've ever had to myself - outside of my mother's home. it makes all the difference. however, with every chaand (moon) there must be a kala dana (spot) in order to ensure it does not get the evil eye. the kala dana for my kitchen counter is the right corner which some how gets sticky every three days. This morning I woke up and even before I had my coffee (or made zehra her tea) I grabbed a sponge, sloshed a lot of orange dishwashing liquid (albeit slightly diluted since Dina decided to put water in it) and just went at the counter. hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. and wow does that counter make me feel scorned. at least i think it does cos there's a lot of fury when I scrub that corner. now that I think about it, I'm not really sure what scorned really feels like -- hmm. or maybe I'm just repressing the memory of being scorned. In any event, this sticky counter problem really upsets me. Every few days, I will put my hand on the counter while I open the fridge and pick it up with an "ew" on my face and look up to zehra who is typing away on her computer and say, "Zehra, why is this counter always sticky!??" and she will look up momentarily and say something like "didn't you just clean that?" or "why is it?" -- or will grunt. These days she's taken a lot to grunting.

Last week I was looking at a photograph of my family from the early 80's - If I had to guess, it might have been 1982 - we all look the same - well, relatively speaking. You can see all the characters in each of our faces. Characters - that's really what we are. And so I come to an end to my guest blogging - I could go on for a while, but I think I've said enough. And all this typing has reminded me of all the typing I should be doing on my dissertation. So, on to my next cup of coffee and to the dissertation desk. (sigh)

I will miss zehra when she leaves. She's a good kid.

Cheers,
Appie (the SUPER KHAAS Guest Blogger)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Excitement

The thought of an airport when I was younger would send me into transports of infinite joy. Even going and picking someone up at the airport was enough to keep me excited for days on end.

I can remember the time when that started to fade and how perplexed I was with this. I was 9. The excitement only hit me once I was on the plane. I remember when that too faded. I was 12.

At 28, when people ask the question, are you excited about going to London, all that comes out of my mouth and palpable attitude is, no, not really.

This is considered strange. I am supposed to be really excited at the thought of London, a city, and living and studying there.

I am but there is something else there that I have not figured out...some apprehension which even when I am putting it into words, sounds just like that to me...words.

It's so expensive, I say. True but not really cause for apprehension.
I am apprehensive, I say. True, but not cause for the feeling of non excitement and in fact, one would think that adds to any sort of a rush.
I want to bad mouth it and play it down before I get there in case everyone thinks I am a loser and therefore I can think and say, Well, I thought you all were losers before I got here. Good pre emptive action on my part but a moot point since I don't really expect to be a loser and I make friends easily.
I will miss my friends and family. True but A: most of my friends are not here anyway and I miss them already and B: I will miss my family regardless of where I am and always do but it has not before contributed to present feelings.

I refuse to believe at 28, I am losing a certain joie de vivre that I have always counted on. Not possible. More and more, I think, perhaps I am in denial. I don't want to turn into one of those people who have to travel far and wide and have crazy ass experiences in order to experience a rush from life. I want it to be more simple than that.

I think it will be ok.

I am excited about graduate school. It better live up to it's non expectation I have for it right now.

9-11

I picked up my passport from the passport agency since I needed new pages stuck into it to get a visa for the UK. I passed a firehouse on my way and looked around wondering why the fuck there were so many people there....

It was the 5th anniversary of 9 11. That is what happens.

I was walking around in my We Will Not Be Silent t shirt and it was not designed that I do that on 9 11. I happen to like the t shirt and it is comfortable.

I got some not so nice stares and I didn't realize I was wearing the t shirt and thought instead I was getting mean looks for being brown, walking around in daylight with my head up and not looking like I wanted to cry that it was 9 11. I also did walk through a bunch of people standing there and I clicked my tounge and jolted my steps impatiently trying to get through the crowd taking over the sidewalk, implicit in the clicking was : get off the sidewalk bitches, I have things to do, people to see, and your mid day frolicking on the sidewalk like well dressed vagabounds with nothing better to do than have your kids tour the firetruck is infrining on my busy and important life.

Any could be reason for the mean stares. Not sure.

The minutes before 9-11 5 years later turned into 9-12 today, I stood outside having a smoky treat with my sister. She pointed out the gigantic lights that shoot up into the sky like two twin towers where the towers used to be. We could see them from our sidewalk in Brooklyn.

Zehra: Wow, those lights are reallly bright for us to be able to see it all the way here
Appie: Yeah.
Zehra: Makes sense actually that they are in that direction. That is where I stood and could see smoke from the towers that day.
Appie: Really? You could see it from Fort Green park?
Zehra: Yeah...I saw the second tower go down on TV and Rehan and I went outside and the first thing we did was get money from the ATM since we didn't know what to expect and then went to the park, and on the hill near the memorial and looked across at Manhattan....helicopters, sirens, and lots of smoke. We actually found pieces of paper in our backyard, singed from an accounting firm, I think, and there was a fine layer of dust and ash on everything. We didn't eat the vegetables from the yard that year. Who knows what the fuck was in that ash.
Appie: hmm..
Zehra: hmmm

Zehra: Did we just have our 9 11 moment?
Appie: Guess so.

We clicked our cigarettes together and said cheers.

Cooking

I love food tv. It has been one of the channels I have been addicted to this summer. I am now in love with Alton Brown and Bobby Flay. More with Alton since he actually tells me about food, the chemistry of it all...why ovens and grills work in the ways that they do and how they react with different surfaces of food. How different cuts of meat are in fact different and how one should buy them, cook them, freeze or not freeze them, and what to mix them up with it. How spices cannot just be thrown into a pot and be expected to react to each other but instead, how they will inevitably react with each other. How a mushroom must be washed, cut and sauteed. How potatoes have a life of their own.

It's brilliant.

I am an awful cook. I cannot cook for shit anymore.

Before food tv came into my life, I was a good cook. People used to come from far and wide to eat my cooking. I have cooked twice in the three months I have been home and both times it has been a disaster. And I was cooking two of my tried, tested and true recipes and both sucked ass. I am in shock but no longer in denial.

I do not know if this is because people in my life who couldn't cook to save their lives now use truffle oil delectably or can make potatoes sing with fresh rosemary or if I now have lost the belief that if you stick everything in a pot with some love and a suspension of belief, that it will taste great, whatever the reason may be, I can no longer cook and this makes me very afraid.

I may have to start following recipes and I do not know how this translates for the free spirit that I am. Knowing what I know about reactions, how can I blindly throw things together and expect them to do what I want them to do? To will them into submission of flavor and applause for my effortless, flawless cooking?

If I mistakenly read a manual for life, I'm fucked.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Vulgar American

London, I am coming in two weeks. This is what you all think about me...I love it!

Consider the findings of a July YouGov poll on the British view of
America and Americans. Sixty-five percent of respondents consider Americans
"vulgar"; 72% think American society is unequal; 52% take a negative
view of American culture; and 58% believe the U.S. is "an essentially
imperial power, one that wants to dominate the world by one means or
another." Only 12% of Britons have confidence in U.S. leadership.

----------------.

Isn't that fab? Sorry for the long delay in writing. I don't even know why I have been busy with. Taking in oxygen, I think.

Congrats to Johan and Vero on their marriage. I wish I had a photo of them to stick on my site.

Recent photos of me. I like that the sun is blocking most of me out.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

My archeology experience

Once upon a time, I was an archeologist. For those of you who do not know, (I don't even know who you would be, since everyone reading my blog knows me...well...I guess all you potential flat mates who I tell to go to my blog don't really know me and anyone coming over from DesiCritics), my sister is an archeologist and is in the process of writing her dissertation. And it is indeed, a fucking process. Everytime I talk to her (four times a day) I tell her, don't worry, it will get done. When I live with her, I just scream it out to her from my permanent residence on her couch and I try to do so on the hour every hour. I tell her this so that I can believe. I think it is vital that we all keep hope alive. She is putting together all the research she did in India, Rajisthan. That was three short years ago. She is still going through all the stuff and fell upon some photos (no, she does not procrastinate..its research, god dammit!) which she forwarded to me. Posting here since I feel that me and water buffaloes and peacocks are important for you all to know about.

It starts with me and John. John was a student of my sisters who used to be my work study student when I worked at the New School for Social Research. I hooked him up with a job with my sister and it was his first time in India. He was amazed that beer cost a dollar and cigarettes were even less. I think I ruined his health totally by hooking him up with the job. I was amazed that he left India alive since he was constantly going off with kindly strangers who would feed and inebriate him who knows what and sell him who knows what.

I was out in the field with my sister for about five days and it was only working in Sri Lanka were I realized, wow, I learned a bunch in those five days. It was my first field work experience and it turned out to be priceless in the way I observed (and who knew actually retained) the ways in which my sister worked with the communities there. Her work is looking at pottery from that region and the pottery shards she is looking at are WAY old but are mixed in with current stuff that people living there right now are using. It is literally littering the ground but once you get the hang of it, you can tell the difference between the old and the new stuff. One of the types was called OCP (ochre colored pottery) and I would run around colelcting it, singing, OCP, Yeah you know me!

Since I obviosuly love cameras. and after a while even a gazillion year old pottery loses its stagnant charm, my sis took photos of me hanging with the locals. It was the first time that I was hanging out with random livestock that roamed the areas we worked in and I decided we should make friends. John would work like a serious archeologist should and I woudl make friends with sheep. Or goats. Water buffaloes are a dime a dozen there and I woudl run around making horns on my head saying Tatonka! Tatonka! re living one of the only things I retained from Kevin Costners movie Dances with Wolves. I think he was talking about bison but they all look the same to me. I didn't really want to make friends with the Water Buffaloes since some of them are HUGE (even in then rain starved, drought laden Rajisthan) but under pressure of a camera, I thought I should at least attempt and I found the most malnutritioned, anemic, child Water Buffalo and pretended to want to be his/her friend. S/he was more into my sunglasses. Well, to be fair, both of us were.

In all my time in South Asia, I had never really been to the rural parts till this experience. Good thing since then I spent a year in Ampara in Sri Lanka which though a town by some standards was still rural to me. Going out in the field with my sister was...interesting. I didn't think I was the kind of person who could survive a rural life.

I don't knwo what that sentence means anymore. I did survive. And not just survive but have a lovely time. Part of the lovely time was complaining about it. I suppose I got lucky that when I did live in a rural area, I had others there, like me, who were also living it. We all bonded over that (over many things). If I had to be the only person, yeah, not sure if I could hack that. But who knows. Anyhow. Enjoy the photos and send good dissertation vibes to my sister. We need them.

A priceless lesson learnt, by the way on this trip was that getting heat stroke SUCKS ASS. I didn't cover my head one afternoon on a cloudy day and the morning was great, but as soon as the afternoon hit, after lunch, I had a headache that nearly killed me and dehydration that again, nearly killed me. Black hair in hot areas is a bad combination and I might not burn with my dark skin but god damn, that heat stroke was awful. My sister pumped me full of water (she made me drink so much water and salt and sugar in an hour that my veins were popping everywhere) and then she massaged the water into my body somehow. I peed clear water the whole next day...amazing. I don't really know what she did since I felt like death but what ever it was, it sho as hell helped. This is why in Sri Lanka when I was running surveys out in the field and had twenty kids (young adults...we made sure to not let the appearance of a sweat shop come through) to look after, I would badger them to keep their heads covered (hats, scarves, umbrellas, whatever, I didn't care) and to keep drinking water. As I told them, I don't care if you get sick, I care that one of you might not come to work tomorrow and my survey won't get done. Now cover your head, take a sip of water and get back to work!

My sister badgered me to keep my head covered. I ignored her, esp since she is my elder sister. Lesson Learnt.
























Friday, August 25, 2006

I am Aamir Khan from Rang De Basanti...with boobs.

So, the good thing about short hair is that it changes from week to week so I don't get bored. I showerd today and put on yet another long lost t shirt and went about my day and then while microwaving something, caught my reflection. Holy shit, I thought...I am Aamir Khan from the movie Rang De Basanti (for those of you who have not seen this film, GO SEE IT!!). To prove my point...some photos. I'm not saying I am his twin. Just saying..we could be long lost siblings from the movie.
Aamir kahn photos from my private photo album since we are best buds. (private vault can be found at: www.rangdebasanti.net).







a>





The Jungle Monkeys that I am related to






Ok, how could one not love the jungle monkeys that I am related to? These photos are probably about 6 weeks back when I could barely get any of my hair to bunch up in my hand and still, they made me little pony tails that stuck out from all angles. They are going to KICK my ass for putting photos of them up but I would like to point out that I am the one who looks MOST fucked up and therefore, an ass kicking is not in order.
I love my sisters.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Marrying career women

The Forbes story making the internet rounds. Noer wrote a controversial piece about how it sucks to marry a career woman. It was pulled off the internet VERY quickly and then is up again with a rebuttal right next to it by Corcoran.

Check it out. You will have to cut n paste it since I am too lazy to link it up.

http://www.forbes.com/home/2006/08/23/Marriage-Careers-Divorce_cx_mn_land.html

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Recluse, part 187434 of a 8745948758 series.

OK, I admit it. I haven't left the house in about a week, mebbe more (what day is it today? what month? what year?). I have no idea what fresh air smells like (unless it's through the bathroom window) even though my parents have about an acre of land, a closed swimming pool and a lovely deck. I have felt no need to go outside and instead, hang out with my mom, where the two of us pitter potter around. When she asks me what I am doing, I tell her I am writing a book. I say the same thing to my sisters, both of whom, I think are convinced I am depressed or have lost it.

I feel great. The hunter in the house, my dad, goes out everyday to work and brings us, the gatherers, groceries. It's tons better than Fresh Direct since I don't have to wait for them at home (moot point since I am home all the time, but what I mean more from that is that I don't have to answer the door, or shower, or change my clothes or make my hair, which I am now despairing about. The stupid thing will only grow 6 inches in one year!!). My mother has decided to share her cigarettes with me, the one reason I would have to leave the house, and in a recent conversation last week when I was planning on leaving the house, to buy cigarettes, she said, oh don't worry, I have another carton. Great. We never have to leave.

I have been in NYC for the first two and a half months of being home and I felt, frankly, a little lost there. My friends were no longer there and I was so NOT into the idea of meeting new people and being friends with them. I like the friends I have. If you don't have to offer what they have to offer, fuck off and leave me alone. I was tired of answering stupid questions about Sri Lanka and what I really wanted to do was sit on a couch and read or write and not do anything but when you do that in NYC, a vibrant, lively, wonderful city with a million and one things going on every second, everyone, including yourself (peer pressure) thinks you are a loser. Also, everyone talks about themselves, they will ask questions but not really listen to answers, which pisses the shit out of me. Everyone should shut up, listen to me and ask prescient questions having only to do with me.

I came to NJ to hang out with my parents, I thought for about three or four days but then realized, OMG...these two people will lavish all sorts of attention on me and I don't have to do shit in return. Genes rule and I don't ever have to leave NJ. I feel cocooned like the twin babies of my friend, www.desparatechickoo.blogspot.com.

I have been home (USA) for about three months. In Sri Lanka, working the hours I was and with the intensity I was, I felt as if I were living under a rock. A whole WORLD was happening out there and all I really knew about was the intricacies of housing policy or lying cheating bastard fishermen in the East of SL. Hurricane Katrina took place and I had no idea what the fuck was going on and thought, it's the US, they will take care of it. I suppose, we have, in the manner that we are taking care of everything else in the world at the moment.

I came home and was glued to alertnet.org. I passed a quiz they have on current events with flying colors. I felt all proud of myself to be caught up with the world. Watching American news shows has just become less painful. Well, with the JonBenet Ramsey case opening up again, it is still painful. Watching Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld is now less painful since I know I will see them at night on the Daily Show with John Stewart, which I watch religiously every night since it gives me relief.

What I have decided however is that I know nothing about the world. I suppose more precisely, the world that I live in. That right now is the USA.

We will treat this post as a choose your own adventure since I have two veins in which to take this conversation. First is the political rant and then I will get to the other one at a later date using the same intro. Spoiler: Neither is leading you to any light at the end of any tunnel.

This is my country. I love America. I feel like I have to say that all the time now in case people get the wrong idea. I hate what our current government is doing and I am shocked that Americans will not get up and pull out their hair and scream and shout. I don't and just bide my time since I am leaving soon. That is no excuse. Another more plausible excuse is that I am terrified of speaking out. I have been wanting to write about this for a while.

I am indeed terrified of being a brown (macaca), Muslim, Pakistani descent American living in America. I feel terrorized by America, my own god damn country right now. I need to go to London soon and I have no idea which sniveling passenger is going to decide that they don't want to sit near me, or next to me and thus force me off the plane which everyone encourages them. In the stories out here right now about planes being turned around or bearded men or arab looking men not being allowed to board planes because of fears of the other passengers, my question is....where the fuck are the people who will stand up and say, enough is enough?!?! That person, unfortuantely, cannot be me. I am (as in 'my people') the one being terrorized, harassed and marginalized so my standing up for this means shit. It's the others out there (basically you white, black, east asian, anyone not brown peoples) who have to stand up for my rights.

After 9-11, my parents, immigrants in this country (who the INS would come and beg for them to become citizens, anad even then, my mom took her sweet time to become one), said to us, their daughters, stop protesting, stop yelling and shouting. They will lock you up and we will never be able to find you. I won't speak for my sisters but I recall, vividly, scoffing and saying with great confidence, *I* am a born and bred American citizen. No one can take away my rights away from me. If I see my country, this democracy doing something I disagree with, I will not stand by and watch this. In this vein, I took part, among various other forms of protest, in a NYC wide protest against the Iraq war on March 27th of 03 and was arrested for civil disobedience. At no point did I feel fear and I went through the whole entire process calmly and unscathed. I was proud of being part of a great American tradition, 60's style, of peaceful protest to bring about change. It didn't bring about change but it was an act that mattered to me.

I am afraid to protest now.

This makes me very sad.

I don't know if this is because I am out of NYC for the time being. NYC is a big ole bubble. I feel most protected there in a strange way. Stranger still, with all the protests going on in the whole world with Lebanon, I don't feel as if NYC represented in a big way. Maybe I am out of the activist loop but that too is a good perspective to have, especially in NYC where we feel as if the world revolved around us. If I, someone who does follow things like this, had trouble seeing that representation, forget about the rest of America and the rest of the world seeing it. That is problematic.

Besides not being in the bubble of NYC, I am out in suburban NJ where like most Americans, I now get an overexposed dose of the news. I don't even need to go into how terrifying that is, and in fact, after 9-11, I had written a piece for www.chowk.com that spoke about my parents watching news 24/7 and being terrified of going out. My mother wears a scarf and my father is a big (really big) bearded man. Again, I had written about this in some derision and implied that they were slowly going mad. Their sanity right now seems more intact than mine.

For someone who has just spent the last year and half advocating for change in another country, how hollow and false does my work now seem to me? VERY. I feel frustrated, helpless and a odds with what I should do with my feelings of fear and love for a country that is by all accounts, my country.

I hope to God to not find myself in a position to have to defend a fellow brown person from being allowed on a plane. I will do it. It matters to me (and chances are, he, and chances are it will be a he, has been quinteplet checked) I just don't know what the outcome will be. It seems almost pointless for me to be the one protesting now.

Why can't we as Americans just take the isolationist stance we had taken under....was it Wilson? All the problems would go away if we leave the rest of the world alone. It really is that simple.

Well, I would like it to be that simple.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sri Lanka 101.

The main actors:

GoSL: Government of Sri Lanka. The president and prime minister posts tend to circulate between four or five political families.

LTTE: Liberation Tamil Tiger Eelam. Allegedly the only voice of the Tamil resistance. Leader V. Prabhakaran. Offical LTTE site

Karuna Faction: Split off faction from the LTTE said to represent the eastern Tamils. Led by Colonel Karuna

SLMM : Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission. Nordic truce monitors who are now in trouble since many EU countries have banned the LTTE and the Tigers refuse to have members of those countries serve on the SLMM (Finland, Sweden, Denmark are out, only Norway and Iceland are in). Norway is the big player in this having brokered the Cease Fire Agreement (CFA) to begin with in early 2002.
Eric Solheim is the Norwegian star of the peace process.

The country is definitely back to war. I was working there for a while (year and a half) and therefore have something to say about this but first and foremost, a short history lesson. I want everyone to know that this is just stuff I picked up and it is not, by any means, a definitive history (can history really ever be?) and I feel it is necessary to know this background information to really understand where the country is at now.

The Tamils want a separate homeland and have been fighting in this regard for a while now. Everyone knows that. The Tigers are now supposed to be the sole voice of the Tamil people and they claim that ALL Tamils belong to the Tigers, which is not true but they like to think it is and in this vein, coerce villagers, students, young women, old women, young men, old men, kids etc to learn how to defend themselves. For those Tamils that do join the resistance (ah, and I said I would be objective), it is like joining a gang. You don't get jumped in (unless you are a child soldier) but you do get jumped out.

No one should underestimate the power of the Tigers. You could be part of the huge Tamil diaspora, but you will not break the code of silence once you have left. You will be killed, regardless of where you are. An excellent documentary dealing with this can be found at the BBC website here, called No More Tears Sister about Tamil activist, Ranjani Thiranagama, who did belong to the LTTE and then left but continued working in Jaffna.

The Tigers have an interesting history in that there have been lots of internal struggles and to get an idea, read the book, Inside an Elusive Mind – Prabhakaran by M. R. Narayan Swamy. Swamy goes through the two decades of history detailing the rise of Prabhakaran, the leader of the resistance movement. The book stops short of mentioning Colonel Karuna, a recent thorn in the side of the Tigers at the moment. The Tigers want a separate homeland that is in the north and the east of the country. The northern Tamils are seen as the elite Tamils and the eastern Tamils are marginalized within their own movement and in this vein, we have the Karuna Faction split within the LTTE.

Karuna split from the LTTE since he felt that the eastern Tamils were not getting full pieces of the pie and I have no information on how valid his claim is. Karuna has, in a cyclical Sri Lankan pattern, joined forces with the government to take the Tigers out of power. This is very reminiscent of the Indian government in the late 80's, early 90's joining forces and supplying weapons to the LTTE to get the Indians out who had originally come in to help the government rid themselves of the LTTE. The Karuna faction is being armed and trained by the Sri Lankan Army (SLA). It has been one of the demands of the LTTE at recent peace talks (February was the last one, the ones for March were postponed and then dropped all together) that non-state actors be disarmed. In a blatant slap in the face, the Karuna faction opened up a "political office" in Batticaloa (the eastern district bordering north of Ampara) in April.

A hardliner government was voted in November 05. Mahinder Rajapakse ran a hardliner campaign and was backed by the JHU (militant monk party…don't ask but these monks in complete Buddhist monk ensembles are some of the most angry men I have ever seen…real rabble rousers who will go on hunger strikes, incite hatred and march in protest. There seem to not be enough meditation practices to keep them busy otherwise. Hunger strikes and protests are fine. It's the hatred incitement part I can't get over ).

Ranil Wickramesinghe, famous for being the PM when the CFA was signed in early 2002, and loosely speaking, a candidate for peace, was running but the Tigers in an interesting development, asked Tamils not to vote. They didn't and the hardliner won.

According to people who had lived there for a while and were neither Muslim, Tamil or Singhala, the Tigers did this since they wanted to go back to war. The CFA was already falling apart right before the tsunami, tsunami happens (Dec 04) and luckily, the whole country turns to relief and recovery efforts. The relief and recovery is also fraught with political problems (aid sharing with the north and east of the country where the damage was severe, and even more so since basic infrastructure was already war ravaged), and accusations of the Tigers using the opening of the borders as an excuse for bringing in more weaponry. The government did hold back funding and the Tigers probably did bring in weaponry and money for the war chest. We were constantly compared to Banda Aceh in Indonesia, for many reasons (their construction efforts seemed to be MUCH faster than ours in SL), the one reason most talked about was how Indonesia took this opportunity and worked with and found a peaceful solution to their separatist/rebel issue.

To get an idea of how there are indeed two states within a state right now, to get to the Vanni (Tiger controlled areas north central in the country) there is a demarcation line where in order to get anything to the other side, you first have to get checked by the SLA and then 100 meters down the line, by the Tigers. So bringing in cement or sand for reconstruction means having to unload your entire truck (and this is Sri Lanka so it's not like this is in bags) first on the government side and then on the LTTE side. There is an ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) monitor who sits on the lines and just watches what is going on. There is lots more to say about the work of ICRC, but not in this post. Nothing happens in the Vanni without Tiger permission. There is no SLA there…there is no GoSL there. For a while, the tiny country of Sri Lanka had two time zones. This changed in April of this year where the rest of Sri Lanka went to Tiger time (also Indian time). This was not political. It had to do with electricity consumption and also the monks looking for karmic calm. You can read more about that here.

The second part of the BBC newspost on the time change is funny since resident bigwig literati man science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke decides it is inconvenient for him to now make international phone calls.

In his annual Hero's Day speech last year on November 27, 2005, 10 days after the National Election, Prabakharan talked about waiting to see how the struggle for Tamil independence would progress under the CFA and also that if things were not to the satisfaction to the LTTE, the new year would bring changes and they would intensify their struggle (the Tamil and Singhala New Years were on April 13th and 14th). It was not to his satisfaction. (surprise surprise…this megalomaniac has said time and time again, he will NOT stop till there is a Tamil Eelam). There had been a shadow war for a while there and over the past weeks we have come to a full on war. Neither side is well equipped but neither side will back down. Over a water dispute in Trincomalee (a once gorgeous harbour), we have moved to the holy grail of Sri Lanka, Jaffna. Everyone loves the Northern peninsula of Jaffna and everyone will keep bombing it till they get a piece of it. It has been under both SLA and LTTE control, one of the most cultured places in the world in its heyday and now a bombed out military spoil for whichever side is occupying it at that time. Right now, it happens to be the SLA.

The GoSL is training and equipping the Karuna faction. The GoSL is made up of hardliners who have required all Tamils in Colombo and other areas to register with the police. They do marginalize the Tamil people and are being bitches about meeting basic demands of the Tamil people. The LTTE forcefully recruits people and is ruthless in fighting for its Tamil homeland. They do recruit child soldiers. They have one of the highest rate of suicide bombers of all guerilla outfits in the world (last I checked) and have no qualms at all in using them. They are bitches for ruining the lives of ordinary Tamils.

When I first went to SL, I was sympathetic to the Tamil cause. Of course I was. A majority power oppressing a minority. I worked with Tamils in Ampara and my field officer, a young man of 20 wanted to just study. Get his college degree, a Masters and then a PhD. One of the most able young men I have worked with who was actively being recruited by the LTTE and actively harassed by the STF (Special Task Force who roam the streets of conflict areas to keep the peace, i.e. tote guns and attitude and harass all ordinary Tamils). He wanted nothing to do with either and just wanted a life. He has lived his entire life under war.

In my opinion, both sides suck ass and I wish I had a solution, but of course, I don't. I loved working in Sri Lanka and I met lovely (mostly racist to the other side) people but never have I seen a country so stubbornly sticking to war. Well, Palestine and Israel, I suppose.




Me and the team in Ampara at my going away party. A mix of Tamil, Singhala and Muslim. I want to say that we can get along. I don't know about that.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Old photo



An older photo of me that I found on my sisters cell phone. Me in the studio when we used to the weekly radio show. It was great. We called it the banana chutney mix. If I had to hazard how old this photo is, my guess would be...2 and half years ago. I don't look all that different. Except for the hair now.

Hmm.

I was totally posing for the camera phone.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Yay for my laptop

I am very happy my lap top is back with me. I was very sad that it had gone for repairs. I don't like blogging on anything else but this. Which is silly, but that is how I am. Besides my rush to want to blog, I am looking for London Apts like a mad woman. I think it gives me something to do and somehow, miraculously, I seem to think that I will find a place to live. A place which will be to my liking as in a nice space. A pretty, cosy, funky but not too funky space with an honest to goodness kitchen table and an honest to goodness kitchen. I have realized that a good kitchen is such a priority for me. What the hell? I haven't cooked once...oh no, wait, I have only cooked once since I got back from SL. Much to the horror of Appie and M who I am living with and who are used to me cooking up a storm. And they have a cool, totally equipped kitchen. I am hoping the cooking thing is not lost to me forever and that I will still want to. I feel the urge every once in a while. The urge to sit on my ass however and watch Appie cook instead is stronger. She is just so pretty while she makes my tea, brings me snacks and makes me breakfast, lunch and dinner, esp in the new kithcen which frames all her actions so I feel like I am watching a Food TV special, "To Z with love, Appie".

So some new things for you all. Ummm....hmmm.

I am less obsessed with Sri Lanka. Just as the fighting intensifies, I am less obsessed. It has taken 3 months for that to happen. So, in fact, it can happen that once you leave the Island, you leave.

There is a new blog that I would like to draw everyone's attention to. It is, for some reason, being fucked up and not joining the other blogs in a line on the right side of the page, but whatever. I am not a computer genius...actaully, I am just able, genius is a far cry, so we will just say it is being special and hanging out by itself on the bottom of the blog column. It is written by a dear friend who is the mother of twin baby girls. Check it out. I like it lots. It is brand spanking new and already, I am hooked. I am going to make the cookie recipe on there...even though it is for teething babies, it sounds yummy.

Also, an update on existing blogs. It seems Mr Byron Pakula of Melbourne Aus has time at work so he now updates his blog more regularily with weekend escapades which is awesome. I miss the Colombo Plaza champagne brunches. Ah well. Emma continue to diss the blogging world and maybe, if we are lucky, will write another entry before she leaves.

Alka and David's Romanian doc blog is more up to speed now. That is great news since there are some AWESOME photos on there now of their project. I love it.

Bill is still being lazy. No updates there since he is naughty and doesn't care and won't update his blog while the rest of us worry if he is ok. Esp with the country going to hell in a hand basket.

There are days when I wish my hair grew faster. I don't like it short today. I want to put it back and not think about it. It will not allow me to do so.

In all the listings that I respond to on gumtree, loot or craigslist for housing in London, I refer everyone to the blog. One woman read my blog and said we could never live together which I was SO amused by and emailed all my friends about since I thought it was so hysterical but it turns out that I mis typed a word and she ended up on a bible thumping site. Once I have found a place to live, I will post an entry on the wonderfully bizarre responses I have received from potential flatmates. I say words like flat and let now. Not apt and rent.

An annoying thing that I am discovering about LSE and SOAS is that ALOT of Americans are going to be there. And the bitches are all looking for a place to stay. There are some, and good for them I say, who already have places...seems they have been living there for a while but then there is a whole plethora of early 20's Americans looking high and low. Things may get ugly with all of us caliming to be less American than the other...

It's bed time now. My head hurts from all the apt hunting. It's fucking annoying.

Dear perfect place with perfect roomates, find me.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The DJ me.

Some older fun stuff for all of you. I wrote this a while back. I like it. I actually wrote this when I was in SL before moving to Ampara and I was a columnist for www.chowk.com. That ended real soon since I barely had time to do much, esp write. My column was called Zehra Crossing. I thought that was really cute. My editor came up with the name. If I were a super girl, I would have kept on it and submitted stuff regularly. I am not so super.

I have lots to write now especially since my lap top is now fixed and back with me. Yay.

------.

Somehow, there I am. In a black sari, head phones on and Sree is handing me the microphone, encouraging the 800 people in the room to accept me as their DJ for the evening. I know there were some emails involved before this handing over of the microphone but it had all seemed so far away and in theory a great idea.

The groom himself is a DJ, which in itself is nerve wracking, but he wants to give me a chance since I’m young, new and inexperienced. A chance at DJ-ing…his WEDDING!?! Our songs lists were almost identical since I’m really an aunty under this young body and know better than anyone how to groove a desi wedding. I’m already sweating profusely and wondering if a sari was the best idea. I take the mic and say:

Hi, I’m Zehra, your DJ for the evening.

DJ’s should be given chelas who do all the talking. I am by no means a shy person but when competing with food, beautiful women, beautiful clothes and a festive atmosphere, and being a connoisseur of such events, I know for a fact, the DJ is the last person they want to pay attention to. But maybe I was hasty in deciding that. I get some looks from the young men prowling the floor and decide again, the sari was indeed a bad idea.

Dinner music is Asian underground. Karsh Kale, Talvin Singh, Cheb-I-Sabbah type stuff. Easy enough. All of a sudden I have nothing to do but need to look like I’m earning my money and fiddle around with some dials with no idea of what they do. Bad idea. I flip through some CD books instead. I think back to the two female DJ’s I know, Rekha of Basement Bhangra fame and Ashu Rai of the wonderful Desilicious parties. They always look busy and professional.

I put some pep into the way I flip through my CD’s. I also think longingly of the Brooklyn lounges I’ve played in and really just how different this mass scale experience is. People come up and even though I haven’t started really playing the good stuff, ask for my card, which I lie and say I’ve forgotten to bring since I don’t have any and I really just get looked up and down by all the desi aunties who are having weddings soon.

I can see them assessing me as an accessory at their child’s wedding. If I can play nominally good music, I’ll have more gigs lined up. Fine with me. I got this gig off an email list where the bride said she wanted a DJ who didn’t answer to a Tony or Johnny. Someone basically normal, looking to make some extra cash.

Dinner is over and the party needs to get started. It is the time to disco.

Sakina is with me and thank god for her. We are used to each other’s styles and eccentricities having been sisters all our lives and more recently, two of the three co-hosts at a 2 hour weekly show on Dhoom.FM. I am the calm one and she is the one who snarls at people. Again, somehow there I am, snarling at someone. There were, I think, three little kids and two young men involved who were touching my CD’s and asking me what kind of crap I was playing.

This is why DJ’s have booths. To get away from all the requests and the general ill will of people who want to hear bhangra since they are a half Punjabi wedding. They are at a half Punjabi wedding where I was specifically told by the groom’s family that yes we are Punjabi and yes we hate bhangra so stay away from it and stick to film-y music.

‘Don’t you have any bhangra’ and when I say no, he rolls his eyes at me and huffs. Him: Straw. Me: Camel’s back. I turn to Sakina and clip the words,

Get Him Out Of My Face Before I Shove These Headphones into His Ears And His Face Into The CD Mixer And Yell: Play What You Want Motherfucker. You Think This Is Easy? Bajaow Music! BAJAOW!

God bless her, she does.

I am told this is how desi DJ’s start. A rites of passage of sorts. Just make sure it is a passage and not the end of the hall. You play at a desi wedding. You watch the drunk uncles swing around the aunties and come and ask you for the 7th time that evening to play It’s the time to disco. Uncle, I just played it, I can’t.

You deal with him in his drunken state, taking out a $20 bill and handing it to you and saying, play the song. It makes me want to be dressed in a bright pink peshwas, covered in gold, adaab-ing him smiling through my eyelashes.

He returns to the dance floor and even though I’m not going to play It’s the time to disco, the question remains: Do I take that 20 bucks or not? Is there anyway, in the spirit of how it was given to me, that I can quickly pick it up without anyone noticing and stick it in my sari blouse? Or is that really cheapening myself? What are my limits to self cheapment?

$19 is the carefully calculated figure I come up with and the $20 till they aren’t soaked in my sweat, itch a little inside my blouse. I need the money and he obviously doesn’t. The sari was a good idea after all.

The dancing crowd has thinned out to those who are enjoying my mix. It really is the other way around. My mix is accommodating those people that I like on the dance floor. Runners talk about a high and with DJ-ing there is absolutely one. Everything is in sync and you absolutely control the fervor of the dancing, the movements and moods of everyone out there.

It is a feeling of power and control that is difficult to describe since it seems so small but these people have given over control to you. Control over how they are going to feel at that particular moment. You have to anticipate where you want to take them and how. How long and how far and there is a trust that exists between the DJ and the dancer where there are times that I can play a new or eclectic piece that they may never have heard of and it is always a risk. Either I will break the rhythm and people will leave or, and this is an amazing moment, they will let me take them wherever and however I please. It is for moments like these that I love to DJ.

A DJ friend of the groom takes over as it gets closer to 11:30 (the cinderella moment at desi American weddings since the hotel halls they rent are adamant about when the wedding is over) and I’m done. It doesn’t stop uncles, aunties and bachas from coming up to me and asking for It’s the time to disco.

“Disco disco disco khisko disco” I chirp to the little kids and they run away.

I get onto the dance floor. I’ve been a dancer more than a DJ. I used to be a tough dance floor nut to crack. Once you’ve been on the other side though, it’s a different story.

I hitch up my sari just a wee bit. It’s my turn to let go.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Lebanon

My silence on my blog about this is unpardonable, but it has been difficult to write about it since it is very upsetting. There are also people far more qualified than me to write as well whom I read obsessively. My fave blog in all this is that of Rasha Salti. (www.rashasalti.blogspot.com). Biased on that blog since I met her right before she left to go to Beirut two days before the bombing started. Other good blogs are: http://siegeoflebanon.blogspot.com, a great one is http://www.openlebanon.org, which gives "headlines" from other Lebanon related blogs and opens one up to a bunch. Beirut Spring is another good one with links to news articles, opinions and the comments section is amazing.

It has been approx a month and today attention is being diverted in America from the foiled terror plot of bombing airplanes etc...Brit citizens, originally Pakistani I think and yeah, all America now wants to talk about it how they will hydrate themselves between the security lines and the time they get on the plane. It is very inconvenient and therefore, we must talk about it on every single news channel and devote reporters time and energy, not to mention that of the viewers to listen to unsuspecting passengers who went to US airports and realized they would have to be delayed by some hours to get to their vacations or homes and would have to throw out shampoos, gels, beverages, toothpaste etc. Those poor, poor people. So unsuspecting. God damn terrorists who hate the idea of convenience. Those convenience haters. Mayor Bloomberg of NYC in a statement said, well, if we are to be inconvenienced by the lines, and delays of some hours at our airports, so be it. I laud this brave man to stand up in the face of American inconvenience.

How annoying that I have to throw out bottles of water or toothpaste....in a huge trash can at the airport. A big abyss of a trash can with used toilettries and beverages of Americans that could probably fill the gaping holes in the now bombed out city of Bint Jbeil. I mean, how inconvenient, esp when my well stocked convenient corner store is close by regardless of where I live in the US.

People don't have basic sustenance and are dying (and don't need to if the IDF would just give clear cut clearance for aid convoys!!!!) and we obssess about our lack of convenience in this country.

The news channels were surreal all day and the UN is still dragging its feet (or having its feet dragged) on a peace plan for Lebanon.

Life is amazingly, still going on. Tourist buses were out in NYC since today was a gorgeous day. A mother in the Bronx office I work at had a cell phone conversation designed for everyone to hear how she was not going to let her teenage daughter the life she had set up for herself and there will be concerts and parties, movie openings, me looking for an apt in London, my dishes arriving finally from Sri Lanka, bills to pay, subways to get onto, people to meet, clothes to buy and wear, cigarettes to smoke, coffee to drink and yeah, the passage of time to navigate. Amazing how we will sense that passage so differently, isn't it?

I wish I were there for this. Getting a visa is an issue for me. Amazing courage these people have to make a civilian convoy to get to the hard hit south to get them the much needed aid.

Press Release-Lebanon: An Open Country for Civil Resistance
Beirut August 7, 2006

Press Contacts:
Rasha Salti, +961 3 970855
Huwaida Arraf, +961 70 974452
Samah Idriss, +961 3 381349
Wadih Al Asmar, +961 70 950780


On August 12, at 7 am, Lebanese from throughout the country and
international supporters who have come to Lebanon to express
solidarity will gather in Martyr's Square in Beirut to form a civilian
convoy to the south of Lebanon. Hundreds of Lebanese and
international civilians will express their solidarity with the
inhabitants of the heavily destroyed south who have been bravely
withstanding the assault of the Israeli military. This campaign is
endorsed by more than 200 Lebanese and international organizations.
This growing coalition of national and international non-governmental
organizations hereby launches a campaign of civil resistance for the
purpose of challenging the cruel and ruthless use of massive military
force by Israel, the regional superpower, upon the people of Lebanon.

August 12 marks the start of this Campaign of Resistance, declaring
Lebanon an Open Country for Civil Resistance. August 12 also marks
both the international day of protest against the Israeli aggression.

"In the face of Israel's systematic killing of our people, the
indiscriminate bombing of our towns, the scorching of our villages,
and the attempted destruction of our civil infrastructure, we say No!
In the face of the forced expulsion of a quarter of our population
from their homes throughout Lebanon, and the complicity of governments
and international bodies, we re-affirm the acts of civil resistance
that began from the first day of the Israeli assault, and we stress
and add the urgent need to act!," said Rasha Salti, one of the
organizers of this national event.

After August 12, the campaign will continue with a series of civil
actions, leading to an August 19 civilian march to reclaim the South.
"Working together, in solidarity, we will overcome the complacency,
inaction, and complicity of the international community and we will
deny Israel its goal of removing Lebanese from their land and
destroying the fabric of our country," explained Samah Idriss, writer
and co-organizer of this campaign.

"An international civilian presence in Lebanon is not only an act of
solidarity with the Lebanese people in the face of unparalleled
Israeli aggression, it is an act of moral courage to defy the will of
those who would seek to alienate the West from the rest and create a
new Middle East out of the rubble and blood of the region," said
Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement and
campaign co-organizer. "After having witnessed the wholesale
destruction of villages by Israel's air force and navy and having
visited the victims (so-called displaced) of Israel's policy of
cleansing Lebanese civilians from their homes," continued Arraf, "it
is imperative to go south and reach those who have stayed behind to
resist by steadfastly remaining on their land."

If you are in Lebanon and want to sign up and join the convoy, contact either:
Rasha Salti. Email: convois.citoyens.sud.liban@gmail.com . Tel: +961 3 970 855
Rania Masri. Email: rania.masri@balamand.edu.lb. Tel: +961 3 135 279
or +961 6 930 250 xt. 5683 or xt. 3933
If you are outside Lebanon and want to sign up and join the convoy,
you should know:
1) You need to obtain a visa for Lebanon and for Syria if your plan is
to enter Lebanon from Syria.
2) We don't have the funds to cover for the cost of your travel,
however we can help with finding accomodations.
For questions and help for all internationals please contact Adam
Shapiro at: adamsop@hotmail.com


You can also sign up on our website: www.lebanonsolidarity.org

This campaign is thus far endorsed by more than 200 organizations,
including: The Arab NGOs Network for Development (ANND), International
Solidarity Movement (ISM), Cultural Center for Southern Lebanon,
Norwegian People's Aid, Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Lebanese
Association for Democratic Elections, Frontiers, Kafa, Nahwa
al-Muwatiniya, Spring Hints, Hayya Bina, Lebanese Transparency
Association, Amam05, Lebanese Center for Civic Education, Let's Build
Trust, CRTD-A, Solida, National Association for Vocational Training
and Social Services, Lebanese Development Pioneers, Nadi Li Koul
Alnas, and Lecorvaw.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Lovely days in Brooklyn

Brooklyn is of course, as lovely as ever. I cannot belive it has been 10 days since I wrote last. naughty naughty Z. As most everyone knows by now since I sent out a mass email, I did get into graduate school and SOAS here I come. I was desparate to find a place to live, but for some reason, I am not anymore. I think I need to just get there and figure it out and it will be ok. If anyone thinks I am being unreasonably naive, let me know. Reasonably naive is fine. I realize it will not be cheap. I am looking with another person (met her on the internet, seems very sweet, will be in the same program and we are both brown!). I think this will work out in the end. Finding a place. It makes all the difference to see it, you know. And for people to meet and see you. My search so far has led people to my blog believe it or not since they want to know a little about you and I get lazy and bored saying the same things about myself, so now I tell them just to go to my blog. Ha ha. One guy said I seemed more cultured than the average smeggy London student. I like the word smeggy. I am only guessing what it means. It is my new favorite word.

The photos, by the way are from Brooklyn and today, my sis and I got into a car (we could have walked but were lazy about it) and drove to the Brooklyn waterfront since she very badly wanted ice cream and wanted only this ice cream. I now carry my camera with me EVERYWHERE which is very fun so we took photos, which was nice since the sun was setting by the waterfront with the Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn Bridge looking very lovely. Lots of tourists come there, something that I was not aware of and perhaps it is more now since it is summer. My most vivid memory of this waterfront is after 9-11 standing there and looking at all sorts of helicopters and water police people wizzing around on speedboats etc. Very bizarre at the time...well, still bizarre.

So, my sis was very happy with her ice cream, I was having a bad hair day, the evening was nice and cool and there were many tourists there.

Enjoy!