Thursday, August 31, 2006

memories of hair

Hair has always held a special importance in the life of most Sikhs, you are either a full Sikh with an uncut head of hair, or you are a Mouna, or someone who has cut their hair. My whole family went from being full Sikhs to all being clean shaven. To even trim hair was against Sikh values. When my uncle, cut his hair after a trip abroad, his parents did not speak to him for some time. A friend in school’s brother had cut his hair, and my friend wept like her world had fallen apart, and she was so ashamed.

My earliest memories of hair, were of my thick unruly hair, that never sat still. Until twelve, I had one plait that was thick but not long. At twelve my plait was unceremoniously cut off and I was taken to Habib the hairdresser, who proceeded to chop it even further, until it was a boy cut.

The only variation in hair styles that I had, were either a center parting or a side parting, or one plait or two, before twelve. My mother or maid made my plait most of the time. After washing it was big hair and a lot of it.

I remember sitting facing my grandmother’s dressing table, sitting on her stool and having my hair combed and plaited like Choti K. The style was where a portion of the front side of the hair was taken, plaited and then the center was plaited. The side section was joined with the center section. So it was like three plaits combined into one.

Once a week my mother went to the Ambassador Hotel, to the Vogue beauty salon, where she had her curly hair, washed, blow dried and straightened. She looked glamorous for a few days until it was washed, and resumed it’s wild ways.

My brother’s hair was a different ball game all together. His hair was as thick, but it needed to be tied up in a juri. Most of the time, it was brushed down and then it was lifted atop his head and a jura was created by rolling his hair into a ball, and then the end was pulled through the center and out, so it was secure. Then on top of the hair a patka was tied, that was a square piece of cloth with four strings on all sides. It was laid on top of the head, and then pulled into a knot, towards the base of the head. Then the other two sections were rolled on either side of the juri, which when combined were made into a knot. By the end of the day, his patka was off balance, off center and generally ready to be taken off. Often the position of the juri had also moved from center to either the left or the right side. On a trip to California, my brother was taken to a salon, and his long hair was cut short.

My dad did not have much hair, but he wore a turban to work. I had to hold the turban, which was five yards of starched voile. He held one side of the turban tight and straight, while the other side was twisted and rolled, so that it folded over on to the other side. He was often mad at me, if I did not hold and pull my side. When I did not the turban was lose and my father was unhappy. He put on a fifty, which was a rectangle cloth first on the forehead and tied it to the back. This held the turban in place. Then he held one corner end of the turban in his mouth, and his hands twisted the turban in a triangle building up from the head. The end piece was eventually taken from the mouth and folded over the hair and pulled down to hold the turban in place. My dad always wore different turbans than other Sikh men, they were colorful bright oranges, reds, yellows, greens and purples. He often wore tie and dye turbans in bandhini and lehariya. Once he wore his turban his ears were covered, and his hearing was substantially reduced. But in the evenings he took it off, brushed his hair down and back and went out to party.

One of my cousins, had serious issues with his hair. He had very fine, dirty brown hair, that was long and knotted easily. But he refused to allow anyone to take the knots off his hair. He was taken to Vogue, where he screamed, shouted, cried as two men held him and two others washed and tried to unknot his hair. His hair is short now and not knotted anymore.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Naguib Mahfouz


Naguib Mahfouz died today. Here is a comprehensive list of his work and his ideas.

Naguib Mahfouz is considered one of the foremost writers in modern Arabic literature. Born in the al-Jamaliyya district of Cairo, Egypt, on December 11, 1911, he was the youngest of seven children and lived there until the age of six (or twelve, depending on biographer). He began his writing career at the age of 17 He published his first novel in 1939 (The Games of Fate), and since that date has written thirty-two novels and thirteen collections of short stories. In his old age he has maintained his prolific output, producing a novel every year. The novel genre, which can be traced back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe, has no prototypes in classical Arabic literature. Although this abounded in all kinds of narrative, none of them could be described as we understand the term "novel" today. Arab scholars usually attribute the first serious attempt at writing a novel in Arabic to the Egyptian author Muhammad Hussein Haykal. The novel, called "Zaynab" after the name of its heroine, and published in 1913, told in highly romanticized terms the story of a peasant girl, victim of social conventions. Soon after, writers like Taha Hussein, Abbas Al-Aqqad, Ibrahim Al-Mazini and Tawfiq Al-Hakim were to venture into the unknown realm of fiction.

The picture of the world as it emerges from the bulk of Mahfouz's work is very gloomy indeed, though not completely despondent. It shows that the author's social utopia is far from being realized. Mahfouz seems to conceive of time as a metaphysical force of oppression. His novels have consistently shown time as the bringer of change, and change as a very painful process, and very often time is not content until it has dealt his heroes the final blow of death. To sum up, in Mahfouz's dark tapestry of the world there are only two bright spots. These consists of man's continuing struggle for equality on the one hand and the promise of scientific progress on the other; meanwhile, life is a tragedy. Mahfouz creates an intricate pattern of verbal irony which he weaves into the very texture of the novel and maintains throughout. This pattern of verbal irony engenders in the reader an awareness of the incongruity between the object and mode of expression, i.e. the realistic situation and the hyperbolic terms in which it is rendered. This awareness creates and sustains, all the way through, a sense of dramatic irony where the reader is, as it were, cognizant of a basic fact of which the protagonist is ignorant, namely that his obsession has misguided him. It is in the creation and sustainment of this pattern of verbal irony, and in the complete subjugation of the novelistic experience to a language order originally alien to it, that Mahfouz has achieved a feat unprecedented not only in his own work but probably in Arabic fiction altogether.

In awarding the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature to Naguib Mahfouz, the Swedish Academy of Letters noted that "through works rich in nuance - now clearsightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous - (Mahfouz) has formed an Arabic narrative art that applies to all mankind." Mahfouz is the author of more than thirty novels. "He is not only a Hugo and a Dickens, but also a Galsworthy, a Mann, a Zola and a Jules Romains." - Edward Said, London Review of Books.


From the Washington Post

Declared an infidel by Muslim militants because of his portrayal of God, Mahfouz survived a knife attack in 1994 that damaged a nerve and seriously impaired his ability to use his writing hand.

"They are trying to extinguish the light of reason and thought. Beware," Mahfouz said after the attack.

Al-Azhar, the highest Islamic authority in Egypt, banned his 1959 novel "Children of Gabalawi" on the grounds that it violated Islamic rules by including characters who clearly represented God and the prophets.

Born on December 11, 1911 in Cairo, the son of a merchant, Mahfouz was the youngest son in a family of four sisters and two brothers.

He obtained his philosophy degree from Cairo University at the age of 23, at a time when many Egyptians had only a primary education. He worked in the government's cultural section until retiring in 1971.

WORK ANGERED MANY

Mahfouz, who rose to prominence following his portrayal of Egypt under British occupation and the autocratic rule of President Gamal Abdel Nasser that followed, influenced writers across the Arab world.

But his fame rested on views that have attracted the anger of military and religious officials in Egypt and Arab countries.

Mahfouz's 1945 book "New Cairo" combined social criticism and psychological insight to portray living characters in popular quarters of Cairo. It adopted a realistic style that critics say started a new school of Arab writing. Another four realistic works followed.

Mahfouz stopped writing between 1949 and 1956 while he observed the changes that saw the fall of the monarchy, the end of British rule and the rise of the military under Nasser.

But he came back full force with a trilogy that covertly attacked the new army rulers. In the three works, Mahfouz narrated developments in Egypt through the eyes of a middle class family over three generations.

In the 1960s, when no Egyptians dared voice dissent, he indirectly criticized Nasser's rule in "Small talk on the Nile" and "Miramar."

Mahfouz's support of Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel brought him the wrath of many Arab countries, who banned his novels. But many of his works have been made into Arabic films and his books have been widely sold across the Arab world.

Mahfouz publicly opposed Islamic militancy, but before the 1994 assassination bid he had declined police protection. Two men were hanged in 1995 for the attack.

Mahfouz's funeral is set for Thursday.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hina Saleem's murder in Italy

NYT has a shocking story in Italy, where a Pakistani father slit the throat of his daughter and buried her in his front lawn.

The trigger was the gruesome killing on Aug. 11 of Hina Saleem, a 20-year-old woman whose family moved here from Pakistan and who was found buried, with her throat slit, in the garden of her family home in a small town about 12 miles north of Brescia.

The tragedy ballooned into a cause célèbre after media reports alleged that Ms. Saleem had been killed because her traditionalist Muslim father objected to her Western lifestyle. She smoked and wore revealing, low-slung jeans like many young women. News reports said she had been living with an Italian man. Her body was found after her boyfriend reported her missing
.

I am glad that the mother has squarely blamed her husband for her daughters needless death, and did not blame her murder as a cultural crime.

[On Thursday, Ms. Saleem’s mother, Bushra Bakum, dismissed notions that religion had played a role in the killing. She told reporters that Ms. Saleem had been a constant worry to her parents.

“She stayed out without explanation, we never knew where she was and with whom, she was simply a daughter who did not obey,” Ms. Bakum said. She also said she would not forgive her husband. “It’s his fault and no one else’s.”]


It is amazing that second generation immigrant men are not killed, for living a western life style. It is the women who have to preserve so called conservative cultural traditions that often control and repress them sextually, physically, financially and socially. A woman that says no to such traditions is seen as falling out of her culture and disrespecting her family and their honor. Often the punishment given to these women is to serve as an example to other women who might challenge their families or cultural norms. Is honor more important than one's childs life? Is what other people say and think of you more important than the well being of your children? Is it honorable to kill and murder?

zebra

  Posted by Picasa

papa panda

  Posted by Picasa

mei and tan

  Posted by Picasa

tan hanging

  Posted by Picasa

baby panda tan xiang

  Posted by Picasa

panda sculpture

  Posted by Picasa

mei xiang

  Posted by Picasa

panda at the dc zoo

  Posted by Picasa
  Posted by Picasa

more fountains

  Posted by Picasa

fountains

  Posted by Picasa

enid haupt gardens at the smithsonian

  Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

How does one deal with reality?

The reality of dealing with a foetus with down syndrome? What would you do? Abort or deliver? You can see the kicking moving arms and legs and body, a heart beat. But you are not sure? Its just a statistic it started with a risk factor of 1:2500 because of her advanced maternal age (35) that is.
Then a test later its suddenly became 1:13 what changed?, the test that was not supposed to be done? Now it has been done. The doctors without blinking a fat eyelash say go have an amniocentesis, here’s your prescription for it.

Thats invasive she thinks, it has caused miscarriages and punctured an intestine to a close friend’s daughter, killing her. She is not ready to die yet, nor let the foetus die for a comparative statistic. It is not a diagnostic tool.

She looks for options, scours the internet for information. There are other procedures like a detailed sonogram which look for soft markers and can let her know without invading her body with a needle, puncturing the womb and taking some tablespoons of amniotic fluid. The fluid will be grown in a lab to see what comes up.

The doctors casually mention, once you know you can still abort. Or if you don’t want too at least you know what you are in for. Everyone wants a perfect child, healthy in body and mind. But does not get one. Genetics has gone pretty far in that most major birth defects can be figured out before the child is born.

How do parents deal with children with disabilities, she might be a good person to ask. Soon she might know first hand. Then again maybe she wont. But it has woken her up to the realization of that possibility.

a full moon

  Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Democracy Now and Craig Murray

Questions have been raised over whether British authorities were pressured by the United States to make the arrests last week in the alleged terror plot to blow up transatlantic airliners. We speak with former British ambassador Craig Murray who says, "The one thing of which I am certain is that the timing is deeply political. This is more propaganda than plot." [includes rush transcript]
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A judge in Britain has ruled police have until next week to continue to hold 23 suspects arrested in the alleged plot to blow up airplanes bound for the United States.
British police arrested 24 people in raids last week. One person has since been released. No one has been charged with a crime.

Questions have been raised over whether British authorities were pressured by the United States to make the arrests. A senior British official told NBC News that British police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least another week to try to obtain more evidence. The British official suggested the attack was not imminent, saying the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets. Some did not even have passports.

Now, a former British ambassador is suggesting that the timing of the arrests has been deeply political and should be viewed with skepticism. Craig Murray is Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan. He was removed from the post two years ago in part because of his outspoken criticism of Uzbekistan's human rights record.


Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan.

- Read Craig Murray's article: The UK Terror plot: What's Really Going On?
- For more information: CraigMurray.co.uk
The British government is reportedly considering an airport screening system that would include identifying passengers by their ethnic or religious background. Security at British airports was radically tightened last week after authorities claimed they foiled the alleged terror plot. Increased passenger searches have caused significant delays at airports in Britain and calls have increased for profiling to select travelers for searching.


Gareth Crossman, Director of Policy at the British civil rights group Liberty.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
RUSH TRANSCRIPT
This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
Donate - $25, $50, $100, more...

AMY GOODMAN: Craig Murray is Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan. He was removed from the post two years ago, in part because of his outspoken criticism of Uzbekistan's human rights record. He was in the studio with us here in New York City recently. He now joins us on the phone from Britain. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Ambassador Murray.

CRAIG MURRAY: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the case and what questions you have for the British government?

CRAIG MURRAY: Yes. I think we need to be rather skeptical about this case. It's being used to cause a tremendous amount of hype, a tremendous amount of disruption at airports, and really put the fear of terror up to levels as high as the government can actually get up again, but it doesn't seem to be based on a very great deal of evidence. And certainly the claims that this was going to be bigger than 9/11 and that it was an imminent attack appear to be very dubious.

There’s, as you've reported, no sign that the people had plane tickets. It's very difficult to bomb a plane without a plane ticket, no sign that they’d actually made any bombs yet. And the evidence is that these people had been under surveillance for quite a long time by the British Security Services, who hadn't seen any need of the early arrests. And then a combination of some new intelligence coming out of Pakistan, which it seems very likely was got under torture -- it was certainly got by interrogation by Pakistani intelligence services -- and pressure from United States officials has led to this, to the arrests, still nobody charged, and the most enormous political propaganda being made of the case.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Ambassador, in an article you've written here in the United States for Counterpunch, you raised a track record of the British government, in terms of holding folks under antiterrorism statutes. Could you talk about some of those numbers that are not well known here in the United States?

CRAIG MURRAY: Yes, certainly. The British government has passed, since September the 11th, four new antiterrorist laws, four different traunches of legislation, and under those bills, over one thousand Muslims have been arrested, but very few have been charged. Less than 12% of those arrested are ever charged with anything. And then of those who have been charged, very few are convicted. In fact, just about 2% of all those arrested are ever convicted of anything, and of those convicted, the large majority of those aren’t convicted of anything to do with terrorism. They're convicted of something else that the police happened upon, while they were taking their houses apart, just the sort of happenstance finding of something else illegal. So, you know, we've got very good reason to be very, very skeptical of these continual arrests of Muslims. We've had a whole series of so-called plots, which made the front pages at the time but turned out simply to be untrue.

AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador Craig Murray, you talk about President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair having a conversation about these arrests. Can you explain the whole issue of the timing and what you understand they talked about?

CRAIG MURRAY: Yes, they spoke, according to -- and I should say, my source of this is the mainstream media. Sky News, which is the Fox News affiliate over here, showed still photographs, which they said were -- heard George Bush having this conversation with Tony Blair, in which they discussed the timing of the arrests, and they discussed them on the Sunday before the arrests were made the following Thursday. And that's very peculiar to me. That immediately rings all kinds of alarm bells. I mean, if this is a genuine potential imminent terrorist operation, it's strange that all these amazing new hold-ups at airports weren't introduced for another four days until after the people had been arrested. That seems strange.

But also, what are the Prime Minister and the President doing discussing the details of forthcoming arrests? That should be an operational matter for the experts, for the professionals and the security services and the police who are responsible for this kind of surveillance. They should be acting at the correct moment, when the evidence is in place and when they're certain that the people are, in their view, definitely involved, and when they can secure their conviction. They shouldn't be subject to pressure from politicians, as to when they move.

And one of the results of this is, I don't think we will ever know whether or not there really was this threat that, you know, we're told was greater than 9/11, and the officials have said it was going to cause murder on an unimaginable scale. Well, we'll never know, because if you arrest people before they even buy their airplane tickets, even if it does turn out to be true, that these people had, as is alleged, been bragging about what they were going to do in internet chat rooms, how do you know if that was really serious or if it was just talk, if you don't let the thing develop to a stage where you actually really see what's happening? But instead, I think we all have to suspect that for political reasons, Blair and Bush had the arrests made early.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Ambassador, you've also raised questions about the involvement of Pakistan and some of the arrests occurring there and information gleaned from interrogations of people held by the Pakistanis.

CRAIG MURRAY: Yeah. There are several points here. One point is that allegedly both the Pakistani and the British intelligence services had infiltrated this group. So the question is, was there agent provocateur stuff going on here? You know, were the Pakistani intelligence services themselves egging on people to do some kind of bomb plot? Was there an element of that in the British intelligence services?

The other question is the use of torture. Some of the information came from Pakistan intelligence from alleged militants picked up on the Pakistan-Afghani border. Now, then, you know, Pakistan is a dictatorship, and its security services are pretty brutal, and human rights organizations there have said that almost certainly that would have involved torture. And I know from my experience in Uzbekistan that in such circumstances, under torture or the imminent threat of torture, people will say anything in order to stop the pain, and , you know, they will spill out the names of hundreds of people they know back home in the UK and say, “Yes, he’s a terrorist. He’s a terrorist. He’s a terrorist. Please stop beating me.” So, you know, there are all kinds of reasons to be skeptical about this.

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Ambassador Craig Murray in London, former ambassador to Uzbekistan, who while he was the ambassador there, started to expose the level of human rights abuses that were going on in prisons, where thousands of political prisoners were held. Ambassador, NBC reported a Pakistani intelligence official told them that Rashid Rauf, the main suspect in the London bomb plot, was taken to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to point out al-Qaeda training camps, and AP reported yesterday that Pakistani intelligence officials are discounting the U.S. government's claim that the plot was the work of al-Qaeda. According to the officials, the suspects were too inexperienced to carry out the plan. Can you comment on this?

CRAIG MURRAY: Yeah, the idea of any serious links to al-Qaeda seems to be imaginary at the moment, on top of which, this gentleman in Pakistan who was providing so much of the information is himself quite an interesting character. He fled the UK to Pakistan several years ago, when he was wanted for questioning by police in connection with the murder of his uncle. Now, there was no indication that that murder was anything to do with al-Qaeda, anything to do with Islam at all, anything to do with terrorism. This is a guy who fled the country, rather than be questioned about the murder of his uncle, and he's now the valued intelligence asset who's giving the information on this bomb plot. Now, that surely must raise some additional questions about his credibility, as well.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, the British government is reportedly considering an airport screening system that would include identifying passengers by their ethnic or religious background. Security at British airports was radically tightened last week, after authorities claimed they foiled this alleged terror plot, but increased passenger searches have caused significant delays at airports in Britain, and calls have increased for profiling to select passengers for searching. Gareth Crossman also joins us on the line from London. He is a Director of Policy at the British civil rights group Liberty. Welcome to Democracy Now!

GARETH CROSSMAN: Good morning -- or afternoon.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Your reaction to these discussions now about possible profiling of passengers?

GARETH CROSSMAN: Yes, I think the initial reports, which seem to be suggesting that there was going to be some sort of two-tiered screening process, which would be one process for basically British Asians or British Muslims and one for everyone else, are extremely worrying. To be fair to the government, they have backed down slightly from that in the last few days, and following discussions with colleagues in the European Union, it seems that the move towards more intelligence-based screening might be what's actually being proposed, the distinction being that intelligence-based profiling might take race or ethnicity as one factor, amongst several, when considering profiling. The devil is in the detail in this sort of thing, but it does seem that, you know, the initial concerns that we and many others had, that essentially this was going to mean that there were going to be two queues, one of Asians and one of everyone else, is unlikely to happen, at least that's how it appears at this moment.

AMY GOODMAN: Gareth, your reaction to the judge’s ruling that the suspects continue to be held? The law, what, under the new antiterrorism laws of Britain are that they can be held for a month without a charge, but a judge has to agree to it every week, of them being held without charge within that month.

GARETH CROSSMAN: Yes, I mean, this is actually something that was subject of the most recent -- we've had so many, but the most recent terrorism act that was passed by the British parliament. Initially the government were actually after 90 days detention -- that's three months, that's the equivalent of actually a six-month custodial sentence in the UK -- before being charged. The previous time limit had been 14 days. It was extended by compromise up to 28 days.

Now, what will be interesting is what happens if these people are still being held around the 28-day mark, because we know, because the government has said, they still really do want to get 90 days detention. And what possibly might be a concern is if there are hints that people might have to be released, because they can't be detained for long enough. Now, 28 days is a long period of time to hold people in custody. This is prior to any charge being brought.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And if the government appears before a judge to request an extension, do they have to present any reason or just is it a mere formality?

GARETH CROSSMAN: Yeah, what you actually have to do is that you have to satisfy the court that there is an ongoing investigation and that it is necessary for one of several reasons, the essential reason being because you're still in the process of gathering evidence, that further time is needed. The judge will then weigh the arguments for and against and will make a decision as to whether or not he or she believes that further detention is, in fact, justified. And this process can continue up until the cut-off point of 28 days.

AMY GOODMAN: Gareth Crossman, I want to thank you for being with us, Director of Policy at the British civil rights group Liberty, and also Ambassador Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. Thanks for joining us.

cricket and Pakistan

B.B.C has described the details of what happened between the umpires and the Pakistani cricket team. The umpires decision seems to be unfair considering it cost Pakistan the match.
Cricket is seminal in Pakistan in uniting the country.
The second generation Pakistani men in England are obsessed with cricket, it often comes before family and work. The cricket team makes them feel whole, beating England makes them feel strong, like it is their front against racism they have faced growing up.

They penalised Pakistan five runs and allowed England batsmen Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood to select another ball.

Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq was clearly upset at the decision, but play continued without further incident until tea.

After the interval, however, the tourists failed to return to the field, and the umpires eventually removed the bails after walking onto the pitch for a second time.

Thirty minutes later, Pakistan finally made it onto the pitch but were told to head back to the dressing room because the umpires would not be coming out.

Khan said the team had been insulted by the accusation of cheating.

"The umpires have concluded the ball was deliberately scuffed and we are absolutely 100% sure that is not the case," he said.

"What we feel very resentful about is that the captain was not informed something was going wrong with the ball and told to contain it.

"Umpires are within their rights to decide without consulting but there was no consultation with anyone and no evidence seems to have been given.

"One or two of the management staff have had a look and are convinced this is a ball which has been hit about for 56 overs.

"We think it's the kind of ball you'd expect to see and there is no evidence of deliberate scuffing. We hope the ball will be showed so people can make up their own minds about it."

Play officially ended for the day at 1813 BST with England - who had already won the series - on 298-4, 33 runs behind Pakistan.

Australian Hair is no stranger to controversy, having famously no-balled Sri Lanka spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing in the Melbourne Test of 1995.

He also reported Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi for scuffing the pitch with his boots in the second Test against England last winter.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna

I saw Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, this weekend. It was a terrible movie, with Rani Mukherjee and Shahrukh Khan pretending to be lovers but with no real chemistry. Preity Zinta had the best lines, for instance she said why is a man never questioned when he does not spend a lot of time with his child, but a woman is questioned ? Abhishek Bachan was the most genuine and the best actor among the group. The movie lacked passion and was filled with a lot of fake tears by the actors and actresses that lacked genuine emotions. By the end of the three hours, we left with a bad taste and a feeling of how empty the movie was.

Namrata Joshi has reviewed the movie in Outlook and I agree with most of what she says about it.

Despite an unprecedented media hype, Karan Johar’s KANK remains a largely underwhelming experience. It’s overlong and plodding but the core problem is the two key players, Dev (SRK) and Maya (Rani) and their extra-marital relationship, which is neither convincing nor moving enough to make a connect with the viewers.

Karan does make some calculated departures. He looks at infidelity in a non-judgemental way, doesn’t take any moral stand on the issue and doesn’t resort to the usual sindoor and mangalsutra tripe. But, like his earlier films, infidelity too gets grounded in the familiar friendship versus love debate. Should you marry someone just because you have fallen in friendship than in love? What should you do when true love comes after marriage? And so you have Dev and Maya, both rude, bad-tempered, whiny, grouchy, self-pitying people. That’s ok; losers too have a right to fall in forbidden love. But then what is it that draws them so inexorably together; where is the incredible pull? Do you walk out of a marriage because of a bad mood day, do you fall in love with another person because he is as much of a sourpuss as you are? And when in love, don’t you grow and change? Dev and Maya stay stiff and stuffy, more affected than affecting.

The star acts are uniquely colourless too. Rani with her designer tears looks like a bland mannequin and SRK is well SRK, only less charming, more grating. Take his grand entry. As he lifts that T-shirt to reveal his dimpled face and stretches his arms (which remain eternally stretched in Mitwa), it doesn’t create magic, only orders you: "Look at me, I’m a star".

Karan claims KANK came to him from Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset. But there you could feel the bonding between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy even through their everyday conversations on Paris streets. You could feel that passionate spark between Amitabh and Rekha in Silsila, you could see the dilemmas on the tender face of Leela Naidu when her old love returns in Anuradha. Clandestine love has to be made of sterner stuff than KANK

Friday, August 18, 2006

Khushwant Singh, Upinder Singh and the History of Delhi

The Attic Delhi is organizing 12 talks at IIC on the history of Delhi. The first talk was very well received with a sold out crowd at IIC, overflowing into the gardens outside. Khushwant was articulate, funny and filled his talk with a lot of anecdotes. I do not have a transcript of the talk, but I do know it has been videotapped and look forward to hearing it.

Amardeep has written about Khushwant and his writings here

The Attic is proud to announce the first talk in a series of 12 talks at the IIC. Details of the others will be sent soon. The first is by Khushwant Singh who talks about his father Sir Sobha Singh


Sobha Singh was a 22 year old contractor working on the Kalka-Simla railroad when he visited Delhi in 1911. He was present at the Delhi Darbar at which King George V declared that the capital of British India would be shifted from Calcutta to Delhi. He saw his opportunity and took it.
“Rarely was a man so identified with the birth of a city as Sir Sobha Singh was with New Delhi, translating into sand stone and marble most of the imperial blueprints of Lutyens and Baker. Few builders in the world have left behind as tributes to their genius such an imposing list of edifices encompassing most of the colonial face of Delhi as he has done.” This series of lectures and events encompasses many facets of the life of Delhi- its history, architecture, cuisine, music, environment, and the arts. We welcome you to these events co-sponsored by The Attic, India International Center and The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).

tuesday 1st august

6.30 pm ‘IIC Main Auditorium’
“My Father, the Builder” By Khushwant Singh

The first in this series of lectures is by Sobha Singh’s most famous son. Khushwant Singh has written about every topic under the sun – the sex life of Delhi, his favourite women, Sikh history, Indian politics, humour including the best Sikh jokes in seven volumes and some forgettable comments on Rabindranath Tagore and Sanjay Gandhi.

He talks for the first time today about his father whose life was so linked with the building of Imperial Delhi. How a boy educated up to class five, feeling the lack of his education, studied English and many other subjects with a Maharashtrian tutor for two hours every evening after dinner for 15 years. How titles and honors were bestowed on him due to his enterprise skill, ability and integrity and how the best in the land, Viceroys, Generals, architects, bureaucrats, nationalists and politicians dined at his table. Khushwant Singh delves into family archives and talks not only about his father but about a fascinating slice of early 20th century British history peopled by a host of colourful characters, Lutyens, Baker, Walter George and Lady Willingdon. The enterprising Sindhi and Sikh contractors Lachman Das (who built Parliament House), Narain Singh (ancestor of the Imperial Hotel), Dharam Singh (stone & marble), Basakha Singh (North Block), and the skilled and unskilled craftspeople from Punjab & Rajasthan.


The next lecture is by Professor Upinder Singh.

tuesday 22nd august
6.30 pm IIC Annex Lecture Room
“Discovering the Ancient in Modern Delhi” by Upinder Singh


Most Dilli-wallahs visualize their city extending from somewhere near the Qutb Minar to somewhere beyond the Red Fort and recollect a vague connection between ancient Indraprastha and the Purana Qila. The more discerning might recall the famous iron pillar in Mehrauli or remember reading about the legendary seven cities of Delhi.


But Delhi from the stone age to the times of the Rajputs stretches much further than one can imagine. From an-open air shrine in the village of Tilpat to an inconspicuous mound in the village of Sihi and from stone implements in the area of Delhi University to the layers of civilizations revealed in archaeological digs at the Purana Qila in search of the ancient city of the Pandavas.


In the second of the Sir Sobha Singh Memorial Lectures on Delhi, Upinder Singh will take you on an illustrated, whirlwind tour of Delhi and will show you how ancient remains have a habit of turning up at the oddest places – at popular picnic spots, in farmer’s fields, in people’s courtyards and in small remote village shrines. She will tell you one of the many stories of how ‘Dilli’ got its name and how the ancient, medieval and modern rub shoulders in Delhi’s landscape. How broken sculptures of Ganesha and Vishnu are worshipped in goddess shrines in villages in and around Delhi. How an ancient iron pillar came to stand in the courtyard of a medieval mosque, why a medieval Sultan invested so much time and money in hauling two Ashokan pillars from Haryana to adorn his palace and hunting lodge and how these pillars got involved in a still continuing worship of jinns and pirs.

Upinder Singh taught Ancient Indian History for many years in St. Stephens College and now teaches in the History Department of Delhi University. She travels to remote sites and has an eclectic interest in many subjects ranging from the ancient history of Orissa to the evolution of Buddhist sites, from ways of understanding the inscriptions of Ashoka to explaining the early cults and shrines of Mathura. She is the author of Kings, Brahmanas & Temples in Orissa (1994), Ancient Delhi (1999), a children’s book, Mysteries of the Past: Archaeological Sites in India (2002), and The Discovery of Ancient India: Early Archaeologists and the Beginnings of Archaeology (2004).

little miss sunshine

Interesting article in Yale Global on India’s response to terrorism. It seems to be quite different from the U.S. response.

Since 1994, India has suffered almost 20,000 fatalities as a result of acts of terror, losses that dwarf those suffered by the US and Israel. Despite these losses, New Delhi has been very reluctant to initiate cross-border military strikes against targets based in Pakistan, where supporters and perpetrators of acts of violence directed against India have found safe haven.

The author, Micheal Krepon, concludes the article by describing the situation if India did strike targets in Pakistan and the consequences that would follow. He also shows alternate routes to controling terrorism.

Because this scenario is sufficiently grim and plausible, preventive action in India and Pakistan is worth taking in the form of heightened domestic security against extremist groups and renewed diplomacy. A disproportionate share of this burden falls on India because its leaders understand far better than their counterparts in the US and Israel that military power is not well suited to combat terrorism. But at some point, reaching for the hammer could become New Delhi’s unwelcome choice.

On a completely different note...

Saw some interesting movies this summer Heading South- a movie set in Haiti, describing the sex tourism industry where Western women come to Haiti to get some sun and sex. The consequences of the tourism on the local population is subtly detailed with a chilling end.

Another fun movie was Little Miss Sunshine, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE

Meet the Hoover family: Olive, a seven-year-old, slightly pudgy, aspiring beauty queen; her father, Richard, a struggling motivational speaker who can't help but push; and her mom, Sheryl, who has to bring her Proust scholar/brother, Frank, home after his failed suicide attempt. Frank has to stay with Sheryl's Nietzsche-worshiping son, Dwayne, who has taken a vow of silence until he is old enough to be a fighter pilot. Then there's Grandpa, recently kicked out of his nursing home for snorting heroin. When they are all forced to hop into the old VW bus to take Olive to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant, this is either a portrait of the most dysfunctional family you've ever seen or the absolutely hilarious tragicomic journey of a family whose lives are in for a change. That this is a first feature by the directorial team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris is stunning, given the film's level of execution. With an exceptional cast, whose "effortless" performances are pure pleasure, this madcap comedy literally transports a Capraesque lunacy to the present. And like the films of that master of farce, this delicious, abundant, comic storytelling sends up American values even as it draws out the humanity hidden in the most misfit of families.— Geoffrey Gilmore

I went with my large family, and we all had a great time.., with a lot of laughter and some tears, and we all found the story quite close to home.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Middle School chronicles

Middle School is a dress rehersal for life