Sarfraz Manzoor in The Telegraph, London:
Mahinder Singh Pujji, a 22-year-old Indian man, was queuing to see a film at his local cinema. The man in front of him saw his turban and uniform – Pujji was a member of the RAF – and said: “Sir, you don’t have to stand in the queue.” He ushered him to the front of the line. No one grumbled and the woman working in the ticket office, again seeing his turban and wings, refused to accept money for the ticket.
This incident would be surprising and heart-warming if it occurred today; in fact, the film that Pujji was queuing to see was Gone with the Wind, and the year was 1940. What makes this story so powerful is that it challenges established narratives about south Asian migration to Britain: it shows us that years before Commonwealth immigration there had been migrants from the subcontinent; it questions the assumption that migrants were always treated poorly, and it reminds us of the contribution many made.
South Asians and the Shaping of Britain excavates the archives for letters, diaries, books and articles relating to this subject. Taking the year 1870 – the zenith of empire – as the starting point and traversing 80 years to 1950 – a period that witnessed two world wars, the decline of empire, the fight for Indian independence and Partition – the book demonstrates that Britain has a more complex multicultural heritage than is usually acknowledged. More:
Dolphins have long been one of our favorite ocean-going animal counterparts, blurring the line that separates human intelligence and emotion from the wildness of nature. Sadly, though, this attraction has resulted in dolphins around the world being exploited for our entertainment, subjected to a life in captivity.
But now, in a bold move to protect the well-being of dolphins, India has moved to ban dolphin shows — a push that helps elevate their status from creatures of mere curiosity to one that borders more closely to that of personhood.
Late last week, India’s Minstry of the Environment and Forests released a statement banning “any person / persons, organizations, government agencies, private or public enterprises that involves import, capture of cetacean species to establish for commercial entertainment, private or public exhibition and interaction purposes whatsoever.” More:
Update: A professor who studies race and ethnic conflict responds to this map. In Washington Post
In Washington Post:
• Anglo and Latin countries most tolerant. People in the survey were most likely to embrace a racially diverse neighbor in the United Kingdom and its Anglo former colonies (the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) and in Latin America. The only real exceptions were oil-rich Venezuela, where income inequality sometimes breaks along racial lines, and the Dominican Republic, perhaps because of its adjacency to troubled Haiti. Scandinavian countries also scored high.
• India and Jordan by far the least tolerant. In only two of 81 surveyed countries, more than 40 percent of respondents said they would not want a neighbor of a different race. This included 43.5 percent of Indians and 51.4 percent of Jordanian. More:
Sabeen Mahmud has short-cropped hair and rectangular glasses; she’d fit right in hunched over a laptop at Philz or behind the counter at one of Apple’s Genius Bars. Her resume matches her style. She’s founded a small tech company, opened a hip coffee shop and organized a successful hackathon. But Mahmud doesn’t hail from the Bay – she lives in Karachi, a city more closely associated with extreme violence then entrepreneurs.
“Fear is just a line in your head,” Mahmud says. “You can choose what side of that line you want to be on.”
Mahmud represents something new in this ancient city. Mahmud “fell in passionately in love” with the first Mac she saw, teaching herself MacPaint and MacDraw in college in 1992, and devoting countless hours to Tetris. In 2006, Mahmud decided Karachi was sorely missing a space where people could gather around shared interests, an interdisciplinary space for collaboration and brainstorming. Despite the fact that in Pakistan, many women are not allowed to finish primary school, much less graduate from college and start their own company, she decided to start The Second Floor café, not letting the fact that she didn’t have any money or experience faze her. “I was living with my mother and my grandmother at the time,” she says, laughing. “I had done zero market research. I just hoped people would show up.” More:
Mosharraf Zaidi in Foreign Policy:
1. Feisty democracy
This first-ever transition from one elected government to the next is a big deal, partially because Pakistanis are depressingly familiar with military interventions preceding power transfers. But it’s also important because Pakistan’s recent experience with democracy has been so unpleasant.
The word “democracy” has become a tragic punchline in Pakistan, ever since President Asif Ali Zardari appealed to rioters reacting to his wife Benazir Bhutto’s December 2007 assassination by stating that “democracy is the best revenge.” Elected to succeed his wife, Zardari now oversees a notoriously inept government: his nominees for prime minister have all been investigated, indicted, or convicted for corruption.
2. Activist judges
When then President Pervez Musharraf tried to fire him in 2007, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry refused to go quietly into the sun. Like his predecessors, Musharraf had used the judiciary to help him discredit and imprison political opponents, and then disposed the judges that grow a conscience or chose a different team. More:
And in New Yorker, Basharat Peer on Pakistan’s heady vote
She believes that people suffer from pain and dysfunction because they have forgotten how to use their bodies. It’s not the act of sitting for long periods that causes us pain, she says, it’s the way we position ourselves.
Ms. Gokhale (pronounced go-CLAY) is not helping aching office workers with high-tech gadgets and medical therapies. Rather, she says she is reintroducing her clients to what she calls “primal posture” — a way of holding themselves that is shared by older babies and toddlers, and that she says was common among our ancestors before slouching became a way of life. It is also a posture that Ms. Gokhale observed during research she conducted in a dozen other countries, as well as in India, where she was raised.
For a method based not on technology but primarily on observations of people, it has been embraced by an unlikely crowd: executives, board members and staff members at some of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies, including Google and Oracle; and heavy users of technology like Mr. Drudge.
“I need to do things that make sense and that I can see results from. Esther’s work is like that,” said Susan Wojcicki, 44, one of Google’s senior vice presidents, who has suffered from back and neck pain that she attributes to doing too much work at her desk. More:
Find your primal posture and sit without back pain: watch Esther Gokhale at TEDx Talks
Interview by Ayyaz Mallick. In Dawn:
Coming to election issues, what do you think, sitting afar and as an observer, are the basic issues that need to be handled by whoever is voted into power?
NC: Well, first of all, the internal issues. Pakistan is not a unified country. In large parts of the country, the state is regarded as a Punjabi state, not their (the people’s) state. In fact, I think the last serious effort to deal with this was probably in the 1970s, when during the Bhutto regime some sort of arrangement of federalism was instituted for devolving power so that people feel the government is responding to them and not just some special interests focused on a particular region and class. Now that’s a major problem.
Another problem is the confrontation with India. Pakistan just cannot survive if it continues to do so (continue this confrontation). Pakistan will never be able to match the Indian militarily and the effort to do so is taking an immense toll on the society. It’s also extremely dangerous with all the weapons development. The two countries have already come close to nuclear confrontation twice and this could get worse. So dealing with the relationship with India is extremely important.
And that of course focuses right away on Kashmir. Some kind of settlement in Kashmir is crucial for both countries. It’s also tearing India apart with horrible atrocities in the region which is controlled by Indian armed forces. This is feeding right back into society even in the domain of elementary civil rights. A good American friend of mine who has lived in India for many years, working as a journalist, was recently denied entry to the country because he wrote on Kashmir. This is a reflection of fractures within society. Pakistan, too, has to focus on the Lashkar [Lashkar-i-Taiba] and other similar groups and work towards some sort of sensible compromise on Kashmir.
And of course this goes beyond. There is Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan which will also be a very tricky issue in the coming years. Then there is a large part of Pakistan which is being torn apart from American drone attacks. The country is being invaded constantly by a terrorist superpower. Again, this is not a small problem. More:
Afiya Shehrbano responds to Jemima Khan’s piece on polygamy in Muslim communities, in South Asia Citizens Web:
Jemima Khan, enamoured by all that she has learnt about Muslim women’s exceptional rights during her time as Imran Khan’s wife, has recently ‘investigated’ British Muslim women’s partiality towards polygamous marriages as a socio-cultural refuge.
Mrs Khan herself renounced the traditional right of Muslim women to keep their maiden names after marriage but interestingly, chooses to retain her ex-husband’s identity even post-divorce. Social-celebrity affectation or not, that’s her personal choice. However, when she masquerades as a social scientist, then Mrs Khan may be well advised to read some of the prolific international scholarship by (Muslim) women on the historical intersections of polygamy with culture, religion and class and their assessment of its doubtful ‘benefits’.
Not to privilege science too much, even an anecdotal survey of some working class communities of Lahore, where Mrs Khan lived for several years, would have confirmed her thesis – albeit not with the same optimistic conclusions. Often, polygamous marriages have indeed provided some women a sanctuary…but not from poverty or abandonment, instead, from domestic violence. Once displaced, primary wives of polygamous arrangements sometimes (though not always) become lesser targets of spousal and in-law violence/discrimination. Technically, this could qualify polygamous arrangements as safer havens, I suppose. More:
Salman Hameed in Irtiqa (via 3quarksdaily):
Pakistan’s elections are scheduled for May 11th. There have already been a tremendous number of casualties – mostly by the Taliban (of the Pakistani flavor) targeting the relatively more secular parties. Here is from the horse’s mouth:
“Taliban shura had decided to target those secular political parties which were part of the previous coalition government and involved in the operation in Swat, Fata and other areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwah,”adding that “the organisation followed the instructions of the Taliban shura and that it was the shura that decided which political parties to target, where and when.”
To another query that the Taliban were making ground and paving way for some parties to win the elections and denying space to others, he said: “neither we are against nor in favour of the PTI, PML- N, JI and JUI-F,” adding that “We are against the secular and democratic system which is against the ideology of Islam but we are not expecting any good from the other parties either, who are the supporters of the same system, but why they are not targeted is our own prerogative to decide.”
Shamefully, none of the parties not targeted by the Taliban have unequivocally condemned this Taliban assault on democracy. But to add to the uncertainty, just a few hours ago, Imran Khan of PTI also got injured when he fell off a lifter while getting on a stage for a political rally. This is big news as he is one of the leading contenders in the upcoming elections.
But what are the major concerns of Pakistanis? The Pew forum has a new survey out that focuses on Pakistan. Perhaps, not surprisingly, crime and terrorism is at the top at 95 and 93% respectively. But note that even Sunni-Shia tensions are labeled as a “very big problem” by over half of the respondents, and the conflict between the government with the judiciary and the military is not considered that much of a problem. More:
Sarnath Banerjee from India paints a very different picture of Berlin for his readers back home. He produces comic strips on life in the German capital for publication in an Indian daily.
Jemima Khan in New Statesman:
Aisha (not her real name), a divorced single mother with two children, recently chose to become a second wife. She was introduced to her husband by a friend. She says that at first she was hesitant. “I was like, ‘No, I can’t do it. I’m too jealous as a person. I wouldn’t be able to do it.’ But the more that time went on and I started thinking about it, especially more maturely, I saw the beauty of it.”
They agreed on the terms of the marriage by email, covering details such as “how many days he’d spend with me and how many days he’d spend with his other wife, and money and living arrangements”. They then met twice, liked each other, set a date and were married. Her husband now spends three days with Aisha and her two children from her previous marriage and then three days with his other family, unless one of them is ill, in which case he stays to help but has to make up the missed time to his other wife.
She confesses that “if he was to stay all the time I’d love it”, but says that having time off “is definitely beneficial in some ways as well”. She has “more freedom” to see her friends and her family, and it is a relief “not having a man in your face half the time, when you are cranky, and he can go somewhere else and you can manage the kids on your own”. More:
Bilal Tanweer in Chapati Mystery: (via 3quarksdaily):
There are no billboards on the streets. For the last four years, a week or so before the new season of Coke Studio is launched, most of the important billboards in major Pakistani cities are taken up by snazzy advertisements announcing the featured artists of the season. It’s the biggest annual ad campaign for any TV program and this is Season 5. It’s being touted by many to be the mother of all seasons, mainly on the basis of a wildly circulating promotional video of Episode 1 of the new season. The first artist on the promo video is a rapper: Bohemia. The video shows him in a hoodie and dark glasses, slamming out a rap number in Punjabi. ‘This is an opportunity for me to tell you what rap is—it’s poetry, it’s a message,’ he says in a close-up shot of his 3-second interview. The video cuts back to the song. By his side are the Viccaji sisters – Zoe and Rachel – who do backing vocals and harmonies but they appear to be in a more prominent role for this number.[sepoy notes: Bohemia was featured on CM a long time before "Coke Studio"] More:
Ramachandra Guha in Hindustan Times:
Among public universities in India, the University of Delhi stands out, and for at least seven reasons:
First, it has an integrated campus, with undergraduate colleges and graduate faculties in the sciences, the humanities, the social sciences, law, and even fine arts;
Second, it has an all-India catchment, with students coming in large numbers from Bihar and Orissa, from the south, and from the North-east;
Third, it has consistently had some of the best colleges and postgraduate faculties in India and even Asia;
Fourth, the campus has always been hospitable to all political tendencies. Unlike some other Indian universities, it has not been a Marxist or Hindutva stronghold;
Fifth, this pluralism is intellectual as well as ideological. In the departments I myself know best, such as history and economics, students are not force-fed a single way of studying the subject (as they would in some other universities), but acquainted with diverse theories and approaches;
Sixth, although women students and faculty are still not fully free or equal, compared to other universities in India DU has more consistently encouraged women to excel in scholarly pursuits;
Seventh, although it is a residential university, it is closely integrated with the city, since it has a large number of day scholars. Unlike the IITs and IIMs, here students can get a good education without being distanced from Indian society as a whole. More:
A guest post by Thane Richard in Kafila:
I recently read an article in Kafila – more like an angry, reflective rant – written by some students from St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. To quickly summarize, the piece criticized the draconian views of the Principal of St. Stephen’s College regarding curfews on women’s dormitories and his stymying of his students’ democratic ideals of discussion, protest, and open criticism. More broadly, though, the article’s writers seemed to be speaking about the larger stagnant institution of Indian higher education, overseen by a class of rigid administrators represented by this sexist and bigoted Principal, as described by the students. The students’ frustration was palpable in the text and their story felt to me like a perfect example of what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Except Indian students are not an unstoppable force. Not even close.
In 2007 I was a student at St. Stephen’s College for seven months as part of a study abroad program offered by my home institution, Brown University. In as many ways as possible, I tried to become a Stephanian: I joined the football (soccer) team, acted in a school play written and directed by an Indian peer, performed in the school talent show, was a member of the Honors Economics Society, and went to several student events on and off campus. More importantly, though, I was a frequenter of the school’s cafe and enjoyed endless chai’s and butter toasts with my Indian peers under the monotonous relief of the fans spinning overhead. Most of my friends were 3rd years, like me, and all of them were obviously very bright. I was curious about what their plans were after they graduated. With only a few exceptions, they were planning on pursuing second undergraduate degrees at foreign universities.
“Wait, what?! You are studying here for three years just so you can go do it again for four more years?” I could not grasp the logic of this. What changed my understanding was when I started taking classes at St. Stephen’s College. Except for one, they were horrible. More:
Kunda Dixit in Nepali Times:
On the month that Nepal is preparing to mark the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of the world’s highest mountain by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Sherpa, the news of a gangland-style fight on Mt Everest has come as a disturbing reminder of how much climbing has changed.
The partnership between Hillary and Tenzing marked the beginning of a long tradition of teamwork between Sherpas and their mountaineer employers who valued their stamina, endurance, and sure-footedness at high altitude. But the undercurrent of resentment between the ‘sahibs’ and their hired porter-guides had been growing. It reached boiling point last Saturday on the Western Cwm.
The incident on 27 April on the Lhotse Face below Camp 3 has shaken the climbing fraternity, and divided the tourism fraternity into distinct camps depending on whose version of events they believe more. But the bottomline is that the publicity has hurt the reputation of both sides in the mountain fight. More:
In the National Geographic:
The weekend scuffle between a group of Sherpas and a small band of Western climbers high on Everest has raised some basic questions about the nature of the Sherpa-climber social contract, and about the culture of Sherpas. Although the term “Sherpa” has long been a part of the popular lexicon, outsiders generally know little about the role they play in Himalayan climbing.
The Sherpas are a small ethnic group that share many cultural, racial, and linguistic features with Tibetans, who live to their immediate north. About 3,000 Sherpas reside in the drainage areas immediately below Everest; a population of 20,000 or more live in villages to the south.
Until the early 1950s, no high Himalayan peak in Nepal had ever been climbed—at least by mortals, the Sherpas say. Then, as now, they saw the Himalayan peaks and foothills as the realm of a cavorting pantheon of gods. Presciently, a prominent Sherpa Buddhist lama predicted 80 years ago that much attention would come to be focused on Everest, and that people would “suffer hardship as a result of negative deeds generated in her vicinity.” More
Manoj Joshi on the back story to the India-China standoff: In The Hindu:
In 1950, the Survey of India issued a map of India showing the political divisions of the new republic. While the border with Pakistan was defined as it is now, including the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir area, the borders with China were depicted differently. In the east, the McMahon Line was shown as the border, except in its eastern extremity, the Tirap subdivision, where the border was shown as “undefined.” In the Central sector of what is now Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh and the eastern part of Jammu & Kashmir, including Aksai Chin, the boundary was depicted merely by a colour wash and denoted as “boundary undefined.”
In March 1954, the Union Cabinet met and decided to unilaterally define the border of India with China. The colour wash was replaced by a hard line, and the Survey of India issued a new map, which depicts the borders as we know them today. All the old maps were withdrawn and the depiction of Indian boundaries in the old way became illegal. Indeed, if you seek out the White Paper on Indian States of 1948 and 1950 in the Parliament library, you will find that the maps have been removed because they too showed the border as being “undefined” in the Central and Western sectors.
What was the government up to? Did it seriously think it could get away with such a sleight of hand? Or was there a design that will become apparent when the papers of the period are declassified? Not surprisingly, the other party, the People’s Republic of China, was not amused and, in any case, there are enough copies of the old documents and maps across the world today to bring out the uncomfortable truth that the boundaries of India in these regions were unilaterally defined by the Government of India, rather than through negotiation and discussions with China. More:
A collection of recipes that are fading from the Southasian palette. In Himal:
Sol kadhai with teppal
Jackfruit with teppal
Millet with ghalho
Roasted sorghum with black sesame
Sama pasham (kheer)
Jonna pelala laddu
Maldivian fresh tuna curry
A food writer dishes on the ins and outs of her profession. Suman Bolar in Himal:
When I tell people that I write about food, I unfailingly receive one of three responses (and sometimes, all three): a) “Oh! You’re a food critic”; b) “You’re so lucky!”; and c) “You’re a foodie! So am I!”
Wrong on all three counts.
First, I am a food writer, not a food critic. Food is meant to nourish and enrich our lives; it exists for our sustenance and pleasure. Food is perfect in and of itself and does not need to be criticised. Cooks, chefs, and restaurants – now those are a different matter entirely. So restaurant critic, yes; food critic, no.
Second, I am not ‘lucky’. Like any other professional, I have worked hard and spent big to be able to do what I do – I have travelled the world and sampled various cuisines on my own dime, spent time and money tracking down interesting foodstuffs and experiences, attended writing and food-related classes and workshops, and often gone out on a limb with an unpopular opinion and paid the price for my candour. More:
Salil Tripathi in The Caravan:
FOR A PHOTOGRAPHER, what sets apart a war zone from other locations is the imminence of danger. Raghu Rai had gone along with the first column of Indian troops entering what was still officially East Pakistan from the Khulna border in early December 1971. Pakistani forces had retreated to defend the capital, Dacca, as it was then known. But after they had travelled about 50 km, Pakistanis attacked with artillery fire. Rai shot photographs of wounded soldiers being taken away. After the situation subsided, Rai was relieved to find a teashop and decided to have a moment’s respite, although the Indian army major told him to be careful. Just as Rai ordered tea and biscuits, a bullet whizzed past him. “The major shouted for me to lie down,” Rai wrote. “I did, and another bullet went past me. I crawled back to the shop and was told by the shopkeeper that the Pakistani army was on the other side of the railtrack, just half a kilometer away.” Photographers are meant to be impartial observers, or witnesses. But to the Pakistani sniper, Rai was a participant, entering enemy territory, accompanied by a foreign army. He was a target, fair game. He may have come to record, but he was intervening.
The photographs Rai took during that two-week war, when the Indian army marched to what is now Dhaka and defeated General AAK Niazi’s Pakistani army, are now published in a glossy volume by Niyogi Books, one which commemorates Bangladeshi bravery, and Indian support and generosity, and documents the Pakistani army’s brutality towards civilians.
Having stored away the images for safekeeping, Rai seemed to have forgotten their whereabouts. Two years ago, he excitedly called his friend Shahidul Alam, the gifted Bangladeshi photographer, to say that the lost negatives had been found. This was a huge discovery; Bangladesh was turning 40 in 2011, and the generation that fought for its freedom was fading. Alam, who has made it the mission of his life to document the Bangladeshi saga in all its manifestations by promoting visual culture through his agency, Drik, was himself compiling the works of photographers from Bangladesh and abroad for the book he published in 2011, The Birth Pangs of A Nation. That book includes some of Rai’s photographs and went on to win an Asia Publishing Award last year. (I wrote the sole essay in that book.) More:
Sohel Rana is under arrest after the collapse of his factory building last week left nearly 400 people dead, but until now he has been a powerful figure, trailed by his own biker gang. Jim Yardley from Savar, Bangladesh, in NYT:
Barely 20 miles from the national capital, this gritty suburb is now a dusty, chaotic industrial center littered with factories that produce clothes for leading Western brands. Building codes are often unenforced, regulatory oversight is flimsy and the men wielding power often travel with armed guards.
And perhaps no one wielded power more brazenly than Sohel Rana. He traveled by motorcycle, as untouchable as a mafia don, trailed by his own biker gang. Local officials and the Bangladeshi news media say he was involved in illegal drugs and guns, but he also had a building, Rana Plaza, that housed five factories.
Upstairs, workers earned as little as $40 a month making clothes for retailers like J. C. Penney. Downstairs, Mr. Rana hosted local politicians, playing pool, drinking and, the officials say, indulging in drugs. More:
Naresh Fernandes / Taj Mahal Foxtrot:
“Boss, this girl has something,” drummer Chick Webb’s male singer (seated on the left) told him. “You must hear her.” Webb couldn’t see the need for that. Though he cut one of the strangest sights in jazz – a drummer bent over by spinal tuberculosis, with partially paralysed legs – Webb was one of the earliest legends of swing. In 1931, by the time he was 26, he was leading the house band at the famous Savoy Ballroom in Harlem and was, in the words of his contemporaries, “the daddy of them all”. He simply couldn’t see why he needed a girl singer.
But his front man was persistent and brought over a singer he’d heard at the Harlem Opera House. The drummer was, of course, bowled over by the 16-year-old Ella Fitzgerald and she spurred the Chick Webb band on to even greater success. Young Bardu Ali, who had discovered Fitzgerald, didn’t do badly either. He would go on to lead his own band, the Bardu Ali Orchestra, and eventually open a rhythm and blues club in Los Angeles. No one could quite have predicted this for the boy who had been born Bahadour Ali, the son of an adventurous embroidery trader from the Hoogly region in India.
I discovered the existence of Bardu Ali last month as I devoured Vivek Bald’s fascinating Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asia, a rigorous, captivating study of early Indian immigrants to the US, More:
Shot by the legendary Jack Cardiff – the Oscar-winning cinematographer of ‘Black Narcissus’ – this is one of a number of short films that he made in India in the late 1930s.
Anup Kutty in The Times of India:
Like most men from my generation, I did not learn about sex from my parents or teachers. It was my neighbourhood video rental man who was responsible. I believe he is no more. God bless his soul.
All those years ago, when he was alive, my friends and I would troop into his parlour every week. After some pointless nudge-nudge-winkwink we would be rewarded with a videotape that contained the secrets of adulthood. My first porn movie was a ’70s classic featuring the mature Kay Parker who, with her chipped tooth and ample breasts, seduced teenage boys. Like most first times, it wasn’t a pleasant experience. I threw up during the money shot and swore never to watch porn again.
It took me just a couple of days to be back at the video rental store. By then a whole new world had opened up along with fresh facial hair and a change of voice. My new teachers — the brunette Racquel Darrian, the oriental Asia Carrera and the blonde Jill Kelly — taught me that a woman’s genitalia looked nothing like a cow with horns and that it was capable of far more than just “receiving the spermatozoa discharged from the male organ”. With cable TV came the secret 11.30pm slots for “double X” flicks. If one was in a mood for local flavour there was always Surya TV’s late night Malayalam and Tamil porn. My schooling was now complete. More:
What’s porn got to do with it?
Sunetra Choudhury in DNA:
It’s an encounter I’ll never forget. I was going around Khajuraho a few years ago and there, among the teeming French tourists and the tour guides who keep trying to push you towards the `sex’ temples, were these two middle-class, middle-India couples. Unlike us, who’d made our way all the way from Delhi, these two couples looked like they weren’t from very far. The reason I say that, is because as soon as we entered the temple complex, the two men instantly sat down on the lawns as if the famed sculptures were like a boring history lecture and they’d much rather soak in the sun.
But it’s not them, but the reactions of the women accompanying them, that became an eye-opener for me. While the depictions at the temple made our jaws drop, made us giggle at times like school girls and sometimes even embarrassed to look, these two women went about their exploration in a calm, inquisitive way. More:
Alex Sayf Cummings in Salon:
The strange story of “Get Back,” its politics, and its bootlegs tells us much about the limits of what musicians, even hugely popular and politically engaged ones, can say in popular music — and what’s at stake in the battle over file-sharing and free culture today.
An early version of the song, known to bootleggers as “No Pakistanis,” began with Paul McCartney muttering, “Don’t dig no Pakistanis taking all the people’s jobs.” Many Americans have heard similar complaints, having listened to the anti-immigrant invective of Joe Arpaio and Tom Tancredo for years. Brits are also familiar with such rhetoric, seeing the British Nationalist Party ride their slogan of “British jobs for British workers” to prominence in the last decade.
Many who hear the song today are startled to hear this sort of cranky posturing from the Beatles, the lovable moptops who told us that “All You Need Is Love.” Bootleg versions of “No Pakistanis” have even won the hearts of neo-Nazi groups like Stormfront, who believe that the Beatles were really on the side of the white man’s cause all along. (The white supremacist band Battlecry even recorded its own clueless version of the tune.) If released today, a similar song would likely ignite controversy, regardless of the songwriter’s intentions.
The year, of course, was 1968 – a time of race riots, political assassinations, and social ferment. Into this heady atmosphere walked a British M.P. named Enoch Powell – the Tancredo of his day. More:
A new type of tarantula about the size of your face has been found in northern Sri Lanka. Scientists found the spiders — with a leg span up to 8 inches across — living in trees and the old doctor’s quarters of a hospital in Mankulam.
Covered in beautiful, ornate markings, the spiders belong to the genus Poecilotheria, known as “Pokies” for short. These are the tiger spiders, an arboreal group indigenous to India and Sri Lanka that are known for being colorful, fast, and venomous. As a group, the spiders are related to a class of South American tarantula that includes the Goliath bird-eater, the world’s largest.
The new spider, named Poecilotheria rajaei after a local police inspector who helped the team navigate post-civil war northern Sri Lanka, differs from similar species primarily in the markings on its legs and underside, which bears a pink abdominal band. More:
What really happened after Raymond Davis killed two men in the street in Lahore. Mark Mazetti in The New York Times Magazine:
The burly American was escorted by Pakistani policemen into a crowded interrogation room. Amid a clatter of ringing mobile phones and cross talk among the cops speaking a mishmash of Urdu, Punjabi and English, the investigator tried to decipher the facts of the case.
“America, you from America?”
“You’re from America, and you belong to the American Embassy?”
“Yes,” the American voice said loudly above the chatter. “My passport — at the site I showed the police officer. . . . It’s somewhere. It’s lost.”
On the jumpy video footage of the interrogation, he reached beneath his checkered flannel shirt and produced a jumble of identification badges hanging around his neck. “This is an old badge. This is Islamabad.” He showed the badge to the man across the desk and then flipped to a more recent one proving his employment in the American Consulate in Lahore.
“You are working at the consulate general in Lahore?” the policeman asked.
“As a . . . ?”
“I, I just work as a consultant there.”
“Consultant?” The man behind the desk paused for a moment and then shot a question in Urdu to another policeman. “And what’s the name?”
“Raymond Davis,” the officer responded.
“Raymond Davis,” the American confirmed. “Can I sit down?”
“Please do. Give you water?” the officer asked.
“Do you have a bottle? A bottle of water?” Davis asked.
Another officer in the room laughed. “You want water?” he asked. “No money, no water.”
Another policeman walked into the room and asked for an update. “Is he understanding everything? And he just killed two men?” More:
Teju Cole reviews Sonali Deraniyagala’s memoir Wave in The New Yorker:
Sorrow flattens her. Then sorrow gives way to anger and suicidal fury, and it takes a dedicated group of relatives and friends to lock away the knives and hide the pills and keep her from self-harm. There’s a period of alcoholism, and for a while she harasses, with demonic inventiveness, a Dutch couple who have rented her parents’ home. Grief is a frightening condition, and at its extreme is like the sun: impossible to look at directly. That Deraniyagala wrote down what happened is understandable. But why would some unconcerned individual, someone who has not been similarly shattered, wish to read this book? Yet read it we must, for it contains solemn and essential truths. I am reminded of what Anne Carson wrote in the introduction to “Grief Lessons,” her translation of four plays by Euripides:
Grief and rage—you need to contain that, to put a frame around it, where it can play itself out without you or your kin having to die. There is a theory that watching unbearable stories about other people lost in grief and rage is good for you—may cleanse you of darkness. Do you want to go down to the pits of yourself all alone? Not much. What if an actor could do it for you? Isn’t that why they are called actors? They act for you.
Carson is writing specifically about Greek tragedy, works of tragic fiction, and of course a book like “Wave” is only too real. There’s nothing put on about Deraniyagala’s suffering. But part of what Carson says applies. In witnessing something far-fetched, something brought out before us from the distant perimeter of human experience, we are in some way fortified for our own inevitable, if lesser, struggles. More: