Saturday, June 30, 2007

Another cool vid

Check it out. An animation in the Wallace Gromet style and it is a taxi driver in India. I had seen this before and was reminded of its existence...

I woke up snotty. I think it's a sinus thing. If I press down with my palm right under my right eye socket, stuff oozes out of my nose. Not really an infection yet since the crap coming out is not an interesting nuclear color...maybe there is time yet for it all to ripen. Ewwwwwwwww. Maybe if I continue to smoke in my chimney fashion, the infection will come faster and get over itself faster.

Pimp My Blog

That is what I have done and I keep saying I am doing it in order to learn about new things etc so that I can do this all in Sri Lanka. Giving it a face lift now so that I don't have to do it on dial up. At this rate, I won't be even able to download the front page of my blog since dial up is going to choke and die before it let's me see any of the moving images and fancy shmancy pants (not underwear, I mean trousers, all you Brits) stuff I am attempting...poorly attempting it would seem given the post below. On my screen it is too large and obscuring my stuff on the right hand side.

I can enjoy all this for now but I think there will be a quick deletion of anything that will take up too much dial up energy (that means anything that is typed, actually), before I go. So enjoy it while it lasts. I think I am coming down with some sort of an infection. My right eye hurts and won't stop watering and I keep sneezing. Ugh. I also can't seem to stop posting pointless blogs. I think I might be ill.

Hungry Mungry

So, last summer, I got really hungry in the middle of the night, and my sister was working on her dissertation right near by with her desk lamp on, and I literally just rolled over and said, I'm hungry. I want a fried egg with two pieces of perfectly buttered toast (I have a perfectly buttered toast thing) and a fried green chilli on the side. And she being the sister that she is, she brought me my middle of the night bed. and then she proceeded to document the whole entire process. There are 20 photos in all from start to finish (I inhaled my snack in about two minutes, kissed her (maybe not, memory hazy), and turned around and went back to her bed, by the way, while she continued to work), the photos are in two separate batches. Enjoy.

Thesis? What thesis?

I was LoL-ing my ass off on this post on my decidedly new favorite website: Ugly, Ugly, Bollywood Fugly. Fucking funny shit.

And this one, titled, Uncle Chest, is basically a tribute to the true Fugliness that is Salman Khan.

One on Ash as well where the blogger, Desi Dancer, hard pressed to find ugly shots of Ash, or The Rai as she calls her, reviews a L'oreal lipstick that carries Ash's name...or something like that.

This is so totally my new favorite blog. I almost peed in my pants I have been laughing so hard.

Friday, June 29, 2007

And since we are on the theme...

I can try do two things at once. Try and see if I can embed a YouTube dohickey into my blog and also play one of the most amazing scenes from Bollywood, from the movie Sholay . Articles on Indian cinema, most of which end up mentioning Sholay in one way or another are now, finally, prolific and a sampling can be found, here, here and here. The book, Sholay: A Classic in the Making by A. Chopra is an absolute dream to read.

from zero posts for a few days to about a million. Such is the life of Z. Sorry about the no sub titles bit. Will try and find something with subtitles. And while I am googling that will also try and google, "Zehra's thesis that magically wrote itself".


For those who know and love me or love to ridicule me, you know my passion for Bollywood. I had to post this. It's awesome. Don't know who to credit but with all things desi, sharing is caring and we infringe things left, right and center without a thought for IPR (Intellectual Property Rights. Some DVD selling (pirating) desi uncles in NJ and NYC stores know what that means now...the rest of you pay attention since the way this terrible world is going, it will come back and bite us all where the sun don't shine..unless of course, you are the new Bollywood starlets who, besharam that they are, let is all hang loose...where have all our values gone? And guess who will be doing the biting, by the will the young desi lawyers (lawyer is the new doctor as far as second generation privileged desi careers go in the USA)...Sakina, I hope you are reading and that I don't have to wake up one day with your flashlight in my face in the middle of some FBI raid on my pirated DVD and CD collection!!

Bollywood gave me unrealistic expectations about desi men-- a group on facebook for everyone who thought:

1) the guy you've been dreaming about is going to come find you while you dance away singing in the rain
2) he'll fall instantly in love with you and respect you even though you acted like a snotty brat
3) men have honorable intentions
4) he's actually going to show up at your village during your arranged marriage and win your family's heart
5) you'll meet him on a trip to europe
6) he'll actually realize he loves you
7) i love you = i want to spend my life with you
8) he'll leave his family empire to be with you
9) he fell in love while he saw you happily dancing at your friends wedding dreaming of your own weddding
10) he has any intentions of keeping those promises he told you the first day
11) he'll fight for you
12) he won't look at another woman because he thinks your beautiful
13) he thinks your beautiful
14) he put the dupatta over your head to show you that he respects you
15) he feeds you the line..."worship 3 women, ek. durga ma, do. appne mae...aur...aur"
16) he will remain celibate if you die because he loved you just THAT much...and you also think he never checked out or thought of other women while you were alive.
17) committment is a real word and can be applied between two people of the opposite gender
18) he cares if you cry
19) every desi party/wedding you go to you expect to meet the love of your life
20) every time you go out with your girlfriends, you think the desi guy who's been staring at you all night across the club is picturing taking you home to meet his mom and not his erm
21) you think the desi guy is going to jump in there and beat up a guy who insults you for dressin skanky and dancing in the rian
22) you think you actually look hot when your drenching wet in the rain and it makes your hair look sexy and he likes it
23) he's dying to spend the rest of his life honoring you as his wife
24) you guys are going to go to switzerland during your honeymoon and you'll get to walk in the meadow in a skanky sari even though it's snowing
25) your mother in law is actually going to like you
26) your going to be a cherished "bohu"
27) for the bachelor party he'll be telling his friends how amazing you are instead of hooking up with a hooker
28) at your sister's wedding, her husbands younger brother is going to be ridiculously hot and fall madly in love with you
29) the hot desi guy who sits behind you in class actually noticed you walking in with your long flowing black hair and not the blond in the mini skirt who winked at him before leaning over to retreive the pencil she "accidentally" dropped.
30) he's a virgin...he's been waiting his whole life to "make love" to you on your wedding night just like you have been waiting for him...
31) he'll still think your hot after you've had three kids and you spend your day wearing pretty sari's with your hair in a braid cooking with your mother in law
32) in regards to number 31, you think he's not cheating on you
33) your idea of a great weekend is going to be taking your kids to an amusement park, and you think he's going to be happy doing family things instead of seeing you in a halter top and mini skirt dancing on stage
34) you think you'll make a great balance between respectable mom and wife vs. sexy wife in bed and he'll let you get away with it.
35) the love of your life is your ridiculously hot best friend (male) who was there through all your girlish dreams but you just never realized he was the one....however, once you did he already found the "love of his life" in the form of a mini skirt wearing, desi song singing, foreigner who has "traditional" values....
36) your heart skips a beat and you gaze down at your lap demurely at the talk of your "dholi"
37) your heart goes mad when a guy in a shalwani approaches and grabs your dupatta before letting you slip away before any aunties catch you...
38) your idea of flirting is smiling shyly and running away.
39) you get all choked up when you hear old songs like khabhi khabhi and start imagining your "sohag raat" when the man of your dreams (who you happened date and then marry with your parents permission..yea rite) is going to lift your ghoonghaat and then lift your face and you'll blush and look down because you know whats going to happen but ur shy because you've never done anything with him before? right?
40) When you reject him...... he will be in tears and tell his friend 'zindegi mein PEHLI hum ne keise ko DIL se chaha' and you think its a true LOVE and except it
41) When you get mad and walk away, he grabs your hand and doesnt let go
42) out of NO WHERE, an EXTREMELY good looking guy will appear and tell you how he has been in love with you for years and has to come to sweep you off your feet
43: Losing your anklet at a wedding:

Bollywood version:
You lose your anklet while running and then you realize you lost it and when you turn around, a hot desi guy is on his knee, slowly holding it up and look at you. Then you're allowed to put your foot on his knee (its like the ultimate mutual agreement) and he puts it on for you. Your thanks to him is to push his knee so he falls unbalanced and you run away into a song where you flirt with each other the rest of the night.

Real version:
You purposely lose your anklet in front of a hot desi guy and 1. he doesn't notice. 2. he looks at it and walks away 3. he bends down and picks it up, hands it to you and walks away

Reality is tough :P

44) it's raining and ur wearing a hot saree. ur umbrella blows away with the wind. a HOTTT guy comes and picks it up for u and offers u a ride home or walks u home
45) You both get trapped in bad weather and are unable to make it to your own homes, so you spend a night in a run-down cottage for safety, maintaining a good distance form each other. When you two get home, your parents will slander you and threaten to disown you because they think you did something with him. To protect your honor in society and from hatred from your parents, he will marry you and settle everything.


My uncle is visiting from Pakistan where is a he a journalist and though we are not talking about this story about a same sex couple in Pakistan who are out on bail (woman had a sex change but still medically deemed a version of Boys Don't Cry, I suppose), we keep talking about the flooding there and today at lunch (Lunch is not something we normally do at our place and it is really funny since my mom and I now need to take afternoon naps since we have a full on lunch, normally I skip lunch or have fruit or cigarettes), but we finally did some partition stories and started out by talking about memory and how different people have different stories for the same thing. We had different opinions, all four of us at the table, on partition, the past and present of it. What India and Pakistan are today, the status of Muslims, the relationships between Hindu's and Muslims etc and my mom was saying, given what she has done in her life and the places she has lived, she could never live in India. She can't live in Pakistan either anymore. I would not want to live in Pakistan but can totally see myself in India for a few years, no problem. I think part of that is because I want to be able to get a better grip on my past. When my other uncle talks about partition, he is adamant that it needed to happen. He was in college in Aligarh at the time. I am of the belief that it was a mistake. My dad says the same thing. It was a mistake. Neither my father nor I were young adults in India as it was back in the day. My dad hasn't even gone back, actually since he left as a toddler. I didn't even really grow up in South Asia though I am an active diaspora member.

Why is it that I feel the need to be able to understand partition by living in India. Duh, I think as soon as I stream of consciousness type that out: It's because Pakistan got carved out of India and India was the motherland and it was the treatment of Muslims there that made the Muslims want their own land. Both my parents were also born there and so much of me feels so much more connected to that place than any other in terms of the question "where are you from, no New Jersey is not an answer even if you were born there, where are you really from?"

Sometimes I refuse to answer questions and just say Brooklyn. I've said it ad nauseum now, but when overseas, no one even blinks when I say that and in fact, look properly satisfied with that as an answer.

That's cuz I am a bad ass.

This is obviously a much longer conversation that I will get to slowly slowly slowly on my blog. What I meant to do was talk about the same sex couple. But I think the link says it all.

yay, yay and more yay

I'm going to Sri Lanka. Yippee, Yay, Hooray. I can't believe I am this hyper excited about it. Well, I can believe it. I am going back to the same place as I was before and the people have changed, the situation (has hopefully) changed but there will be familiar faces and places and it has been great reconnecting with some of the people who are still there. I am going with a different organization this time and staff from the previous organization have found out that I am coming back and I really can't wait to see them all as well. It will be fun. When I was leaving last time, I said very specifically: the only thing that will bring me back is a job with the British Red Cross. And that is exactly what I now have. I loved the work they were doing while I was there, I like the people they have working for them and the most interesting bit for me professionally will be seeing what is is like to go into a program that is already set up, one that is running, has its rhythm already etc. When I was there before, I helped set up the program, hire new people, write proposals and gets things moving. It will be nice to see also, if those programs were successful, and the hows and whys of what went right and what went wrong. Will have to be careful though to not get too involved in that part of things since I have a new job and new responsibilities and grilling the Field Officers I left in charge of my other projects about why they did things differently from what I would have done or getting excited about how they did do things differently from what I would have done will only bog me down.

I was asked what I will be doing in Ampara and I will be: running economic recovery programs in both conflict and tsunami affected villages. This involves (my favorite bit), a lot of community participation (meetings, brainstorming sessions, plans and strategies), asset replacements, grants and loans, micro finance etc. All of this is seen through a disaster management framework which I think is sooooper important.

I think I have about ten days before I head out to London for a briefing. Not sure since my visa is still in limbo but things are looking good and if I can only get a first draft of my thesis out, things would be prefect. The thesis is due Sept 15th but I MUST, for my own sanity, have a draft before I go so that I can then change things around and think things through and make it tighter since I know that work will consume me my waking and sleeping moments the first two months I am there.

I was really lucky that one of my professors at SOAS, Jonathan Goodhand, is a Sri Lanka (and Afghanistan) expert so there was a lot I learned from him that I want to be able to apply this time around in Sri Lanka, esp since the conflict has escalated since I was last there. Ampara is still considered a conflict zone but honestly, in terms of the other areas, we are not so conflict ridden. The interesting thing about Ampara however, is that it is the district where all three populations, Singhala, Muslim and Tamil co-habitate. Co-habitate is the nice way of saying it. Each village ends up being divided along ethnic lines and we tend to deal with this more on a day to day basis rather than the larger conflict in the country. ICG, by the way, just came out with a great report on HR abuses in SL, which can be found here.

Quick question for all those dev workers who blog and may be reading this. How much information is too much information on my blog about work? I totally shied away from talking about work or even mentioning which org I worked for before and I have seen some people who talk about things openly and others who do not. I can understand if you are working in say, darfur etc, that you do it anonymously, but I don't really think that it is such a problem in Sri Lanka. Any advice on this would be very helpful.

No photos today. I haven't showered and parts of my camera are still missing which is problematic but something I really do need to fix before I get out of here. Signing off for now and I really do hope I blog again the way I used to. Ahh, the good old days...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

the dysfunction continues

so I am at this wedding in DC with my extended family and like the title of the post says, it all continues and my sis and I took some photos with my mac since we are delinquents who are refusing to get dragged into everything. The following for your viewing pleasure....and there is a whole wedding to still get through....


So, I am indeed back home and done with London and it was all very lovely, but not as lovely as coming back home, which is always lovely (I can say that now, though there used to be a time when it was not lovely, lucky me), and I made some awesome friends out there and barely wrote on my blog while I was there but I am headed back to the land where I started blogging, Sri Lanka and I did end up getting a job, a little faster than I thought I would but again, managed to be at the right place at the right time and best of all, just found out that Emma and Byron, who are featured with photo on my blog, here, and have their own blog here, are going to be in SL with me. Hooray. I also, JUST figured out that the weird button that looks like an old fashioned diaper safety pin on the top of this text box is a little button to insert websites into the text of my blog in the cool way everyone else does. Any inserted websites you would find earlier on my blog were done painstakingly by going into the publishing part of my blog and cutting and pasting and deleting and rewriting stuff which now I feel stupid about. So, now I can insert shit into my blog willy nilly like so and so and so. The three sites that I am most on these days.

I need to write my dissertation of 10,000 words before I go off to SL. I like the topic and it is an economic one and a conflict one (DDR stuff, which you can go here to read more about), and shadow networks/economies and there is a whole host of people to read on that topic.

I am actually in DC right now for a wedding so I need to go and get all dressed up and maybe I will take a photo and post it here but for the meantime, a recent snap so that you all can see how much my hair has indeed grown. This was from the last time I was home. I am steeling myself for the inevitable comments I will get in Ampara from everyone I used to work with who will say, Zehra Madam, Why did you cut your long hair since now you look so ugly. Yay for the straight talk and zero vanity one is allowed to hide behind with polite words.

Much love and empty promises to write regularly.

Rushdie and Knighthood and the Furor

Just read this piece on a blog (House Negro) that I check out every once in a while and I liked it. Pasted below. And I am back home but not for long. Amparites, I'm coming back. Visa pending, mid July. Roll out the dusty red carpet for a homecoming...zx

The Other" and the Western media"

The Western media has latched onto the Rushdie Knighthood affair with the same fervour that influenced its coverage of The Satanic Verses over a decade ago. The TV screens have been filled with images of rent-a-crowds in [insert developing, predominantly Muslim country here] burning effigies of varying artistic merit.* A few newspapers have tried as hard as they can to find someone, anyone!, who will put a new fatwa on Rushdie.

Such coverage feeds into the myth of the West as a bastion of free speech (and hence civilisation) against the hot headed hordes of the Muslim periphery. Rushdie, the millionaire Western intellectual of Indian Muslim origin, becomes a symbol of defiance. All very Orwellian.

I for one don't much care about the knighthood, nor why Rushdie accepted it (there's a good op ed in The Guardian on this point). That indifference includes whether the knighthood was a deliberate gesture. I don't know but suspect there's a good chance it was a matter of insensitive ignorance rather than deliberate attempt to inflame. If our faith in who we are as Muslims is weak then we will give our enemies the satisfaction of our offence and anger. Better yet to accept that the knighthood is an empty gesture from a long irrelevant monarchy.

What I do care about is why we are offended by Rushdie's knighthood. Personally, I find it offensive more because of Britain's past criminality as a colonial ruler, and present criminality in Iraq and Afghanistan. Accepting the knighthood sends out the message that you endorse the institution which has caused such havoc around the globe. Given Rushdie is the son of a former colony, and has written about the trauma of British rule in India, makes it all the more disappointing. But am I surprised? Not really. You see Rushdie, like Hirsi Ali, is a member of Western elite society. This elite society is not homogenous or static, but it certainly has very little in common with you or I. Rather than judging Rushdie because of the colour of his skin or his Muslim-sounding name, we have to realise he is just a novelist who gets paid a lot of money to write. He's also a celebrity (read - has an ego the size of a Vikrem Seth novel), so lapping up a knighthood is probably just his sort of thing. And no, I am not resentful because he dates supermodels...

If you are offended by Rushdie because of The Satanic Verses I would politely recommend reading it or, if you have already read it, re-reading it. While I have struggled through it twice with limited success, I have nevertheless concluded that is an important book for those with an honest interest in understanding Islam. And here I really speak of Muslims, not those non-Muslims who think all the world's problems are due to Islam.

* Speaking of these riots, you may have noticed that a lot of these riots are in Pakistan. One reason for this is that it is very easy for any group to literally hire some lads to hold placards and burn things for them. There's a riot, particularly in Karachi, every other week in Pakistan. From the images I've seen the riots over Rushdie have been disappointingly small. In fact, the biggest riots, with the exception of large protests in Karachi a few weeks back, tend to follow shocks losses by the national cricket team. This is not to say there is only limited interest in the Rushdie knighthood among Muslims. It's impossible to say really, and as I've said in a previous post, it's not very useful to paint all Muslims with the same brush. For example, I imagine Muslims in Gaza don't care two ships about the knighthood. So there you go.