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15th April, 2006

The world is a funny place

by Sunny at 6:47 pm    

To generalise about people and races is a bad idea most of the time, even in tightly described circumstances. Here are four such examples:

The normally docile South Indians, specially in the ’silicon valley of India’ city of Bangalore, have been rioting so much on Thursday that eight people have died including one policeman. Why? Err, because the film start/ local demi-god Rajkumar died. Of natural causes. Software companies and UK based call centres estimate damages of $40 million. File under: wtf??.

In Iran, from where all we hear nuclear technology, mystic Sufism is on the rise. Given traditional hostility to this branch of Islam, the country seems to be more religious tolerant than China.

Eerie, from Aqoul, recently wrote an enlightening article on Brazilian waxing and Feminism. I quote:

The reason I chose to discuss bikini waxing is that it turns the traditional “conservative Muslim vs. liberal Westerner” paradigm on its head. Muslim women have no hangups about full pubic waxing, but the practice was positively scandalous for North American women up until a few years ago…

And finally to Canada where racial stereotypes of crime were completely flipped in a recent poll [via SM].

Of those in the poll who held ethnic groups most responsible, 56 per cent specifically identified “Indian/East Indian” and 45 per cent listed “Asian/Oriental,” the newspaper reported March 16.

By comparison, five per cent of the same group singled out “Caucasian/white” and only one per cent were worried about “Afro-American/Black,” “Middle Eastern/Arabs/Muslims” and “Italians.” [IndoLink]

Filed under: South Asia, Culture, Religion
13th April, 2006

The Afghanis are coming

by Sunny at 2:47 pm    

nagar kirtanOn April 9th Southall hosted the annual Sikh nagar kirtan (street procession) to celebrate Vaisakhi. I was talking to a cousin afterwards who said it had one of the largest turnouts ever. Why do you think that is, I asked. “I don’t know, but if you looked on one side it was full of freshies, and on the other side it was full of Kabulis (Afghani Sikhs) with their push chairs. There was no place to move!”

She didn’t say it maliciously, so I laughed. But it’s true - Southall has changed. Afghani Sikhs and new immigrants from Panjab are everywhere. This doesn’t bother me as I’ve always been pro-immigration but it will have interesting consequences for the Sikh community I believe.

1) A faster decline of the Khalistan movement.

2) Even more Gurudwaras since the Jatts who control the big ones now will not want to give them up.

3) Sikh ‘community leaders’ will have an even smaller mandate because the new arrivals are nowhere as politicised as the older generation.

4) Southall will decline further. Why? Because older Sikh families will move out as the area becomes over-crowded. But the new arrivals mostly work (hard) in the black market, meaning they won’t be paying taxes. Hence less investment into local services.

Any thoughts? Kesara has the pictures. My brother is in the last one.

Filed under: Culture, Religion
12th April, 2006

Still failing the Tebbit Test

by Sunny at 4:14 pm    

On Thursday last week, when India beat England to win the one-day international series 4-0, I could not help but let out a small cheer. What would Norman Tebbit think now, I asked myself immediately after, as I do almost every year.

On a regular basis, this turns up as a light-hearted debate on the BBC Asian Network, onto which I was recently invited as a panelist, along with Nasser Hussain’s dad….

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Culture, Humour, Sports

Outsourcing the oldies back home

by Sunny at 1:25 am    

It’s a rare occasion, I know, but Eastern Eye has an interesting editorial this week. A company is building a special ‘township’ in India catering for British Asians who would want to send their oldies there to live there until, erm, the end. Housekeeping and six different types of meals will be included, apparently.

“It is a very realistic idea because we already have a lot of young people based in Britain who have explored the possibility of finding a home for their parents here. “It is quite feasible as care services in India are very well developed now.”

The work is actually being done by an NGO, but I think there is serious money to be made here (and if you make millions from this, I want a percentage dammit.)

Dignity Lifestyle, as the new township is known, is a first-of-its-kind concept in India. The foundation is emphatic about the fact that it is not an old-age home. It is about “productive ageing”, where the elderly are able to enjoy facilities like libraries, film shows and talks.

Interesting…. but here it the money quote:

“Our healthcare is sourced from the developing countries – how about turning the tables and outsourcing the elderly?”

How about we outsource our ‘community leaders’ so they can hatch controversies in their local village?

Joking aside, I think there is a potential timebomb that British Asians are sitting on. Most have totally different lifestyles and aspirations to their parents. Now imagine living with your parents for the rest of their lives. A lot of them don’t, which has led to an increasing number of Asian parents being ‘abandoned’, whiling their time away at the local gurudwara/mandir/mosque.

Filed under: South Asia, Culture, Humour
10th April, 2006

Tourism in Londonstan

by Kismet hardy at 12:48 am    

Today the Evening Standard carries a piece on Gautam Malkani’s much-hyped British Asian novel Londonstani, reviewed by Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal, author of the, um, much-hyped British Asian novel Tourism.

A few questions arise. Why does the intensely irritating Nirpal Singh Dhariwal hate it?

And should it matter to other Asian writers or just anyone in general?

I think it does…

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2nd April, 2006

Is democracy only a western concept?

by Shariq at 4:55 am    

The belief that democracy and democratic principles are an exclusively western concept is a mis-conception that hinders debate for westerners and easterners alike, says the intellectual heavyweight Amartya Sen.

With a book just out, here are some excerpts from two excellent articles examining western democracy and religious identity.

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1st April, 2006

Why Indians bloggers need to get angry

by Sunny at 9:40 pm    

A bit of teasing… a cold blooded murder. Will justice be served. Maybe it will do. But will Indians wake up to the bigger problem?

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25th March, 2006

Confronting difficult issues

by Sunny at 5:05 pm    

The problem with wanting to let racists speak their mind is you end up on the same side of invertebrates as those berating Brownie on this article.

But justifying gagging someone because that group feels under attack is not good enough. It’s an excuse rather like saying: “I don’t feel British because the BNP don’t welcome me with open arms”. If you need citizenship advice from the BNP then you need your head checked.

In such debates people use statistics selectively that reinforce their point because it helps them understand the world. The stats above alone throw racial differences out of the window, and beg questions such as: why do girls do better than boys; why Indians do better than whites and Pakistanis; why do black boys do so badly? Apart from the fact that girls develop faster than boys, everything points at cultural and sociological issues than racial ones. Race campaigners run from this debate at their own peril because the inequalities then don’t get ironed out.

Globalisation and sacred cows

by El Cid at 5:24 am    

Just the other day I was chatting to a Bengali colleague. He was telling me about New Delhi and how it was changing fast: “You can still see cows on the streets. I kind of like that though.” I knew exactly what he meant.

Globalisation brings modernity, economic development, lifts standards of living, brings us into greater contact with each other. But it also makes the world a less diverse, and by extension, less interesting place.

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Filed under: Culture, The World
24th March, 2006

Sikhs as bad as Irish

by Sunny at 6:07 pm    

In drinking excessive amounts of alcohol that is. The British Medical Journal reports:

34% of Irish men drink above the weekly recommended limit of 21 units of alcohol, compared with 29% of the general Irish population and 27% of the general British population. A similar problem exists in south Asian (Sikh) male migrants to the UK, where problem drinking is higher than in the Sikh population in South Asia and similar to that of the UK general population.

If anyone has access to the full article, please post it or email it to me.

Filed under: Culture, Humour
21st March, 2006

Scientist Speaks to Scientologists Stateside

by Rohin at 10:33 pm    

In my last post I promised an account of what happened when I was rude to some Scientologists, in light of Isaac Hayes leaving South Park as it had made fun of the religion. To give my posts some sort of coherence, I’ve decided to make a new one in order to avoid making any too long.

Following in the footsteps of two heroes, Johnny Depp and Hunter S. Thompson, I set out to find some ‘only in America’ weirdness last month. I found plenty to gawk at whilst travelling through America’s heartland along Route 66 and across California. But hicksville, USA nor the insane world of Vegas have anything on Scientology when it comes to the weirdness stakes. First up was the Big Apple.

We were rather polite to the New York Scientologists (branch pictured above), probably as none of us had knowingly met one before. Oh you’re wondering about that time me and Katie Holmes- well, she hadn’t converted back then. I had heard much of Scientology was based on Hinduism and Buddhism and I went with an open mind. NYC was more of a recce. So when I got to the spiritual home of Scientology, Hollywood, I was prepared.

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Filed under: Culture, Religion, Humour

Cartoons! Religion! Again! Oh and scientology.

by Rohin at 7:31 pm    

Now now, don’t worry - nothing more about those cartoons. I’m sure some of you have realised I’m a bit of a cartoon and comic fan. I have been planning on a light-hearted post about the religious affiliations of superheroes for a while, so imagine my surprise when Isaac Hayes quit South Park a few days ago and today TIME ran a story about comics in Asia. Excellent.

Therefore, instead of a succinct and pithy post about superheroes and supervillains, I present to you a rambling and tenuously-linked confusion of a post. Yes that’s right, I’m back.

After the jump is pretty pic-heavy, owing to the subject of the post.

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Critical Thinking - Iqbal’s Shikwa

by Shariq at 12:39 am    

I’ve just finished reading the first part of Muhammad ‘Allama’ Iqbal’s classic ‘dialogue’ with Allah. Shikwa, or ‘Complaint’, first published in 1909 is a breathtaking piece of poetry. Seeing the plight of Muslims across the World, Iqbal passionately questions Allah on why he allowed such a situation to develop.

Not suprisingly the idea that God could wrong his people and was not carrying out his plans justly caused quite a stir. Despite the inevitable response of many traditionalists, Iqbal’s ideas have lived on and he is revered in Pakistan as her national poet.

I am not advocating that people read Shikwa and hold its text as sacred, or something which can not be questioned. There are some elements to do with conversion and Muslim superiority to which my reaction is somewhere, deeply uncomfortable and profound disagreement.

However to use this a stick with which to attack Iqbal completely misses the point. He was at once both a man of his times and ahead of his times. Above all it was his ability to think freely and outside of the traditional mold while contributing to the discourse of his times which made him great. The fact that his ideas were expressed in aesthetic and powerful poetry simply add to his greatness.

I’ll post on God’s response to Iqbal soon.

Filed under: Culture, Religion, Pakistan
16th March, 2006

Thin line between arranged and forced

by Sunny at 6:01 am    

posterA national drive to raise awareness of forced marriages launches today. A publicity campaign is to follow. We all agree (I hope!) that it’s a stupid practice that will die a quick death.

Note that the FMU held a consultation last year on whether to ban forced marriages. In chapter two it discusses points for and against banning. Through lack of publicity and because the useless community ‘leaders’ it was sent to didn’t really bother doing anything substantial with it, the response was poor. One email I received said something like “We know forced marriages hardly take place in our community but here is the document anyway, do what you will.” Head. In. Sand.

These silly community groups against banning this practice annoy me off to be honest. Yes, it’s intrusive. Some parents might get arrested. Isn’t that the whole point? “Will drive the practice underground,” they say! Are these social workers intentionall stupid or infected by some PC bug?
You may also want to read this.

Filed under: South Asia, Culture
13th March, 2006

Uneasy relationships with people ‘back home’

by Sunny at 1:52 am    

To be sure, British Asians have a wierd relationship with people “back home”. Anyone who has been on a holiday there can attest to that. There is a plethora of issues to cover, but a few persistent ones keep cropping up in the media. Immigration; religious education (aka enrolling into a madrasaa); sending back money; providing aid during natural disasters; going back for abortions (more recent); and the perennial - getting married to someone from south Asia.

Hundreds of British Asian men have been accused of abandoning new brides in India after securing lucrative dowry payments,” the Times declared this weekend following an investigation by its reporters. I hope no one is naive enough to believe this is something new.

Marriage scams have been going on for years, and the problems associated with this practice are easily sweeped under the carpet. Abandoned women, abandoned men, runaway brides, dowry deaths, extortion rackets, immigration problems, winding up in Guantanamo Bay (see Tipton Three) etc. The list is not only endless, it’s bloody growing. And it’s giving us British Asians a bad name you scamming bastards (you’re out there somewhere!).

In such a climate I’m surprised more Indian women there don’t balk at the sight of some Asian “businessman” (ie chipshop owner) coming over to get married. How long before they all realise it’s a bad idea?

Filed under: South Asia, Culture
2nd March, 2006

India - the doubled edged sword

by Sunny at 7:43 pm    

George Bush today announced a deal giving India access to US nuclear fuel and technology without it first having to sign the non-proliferation treaty - which I’m not happy about. Firstly it means we waste more money on nuclear technology for energy and weapons instead of investing in renewable energy or education programmes.

Countries like Iran will also look at it as another example of US hypocrisy - America allows its friend’s to build weapons but those in the bad books get referred to the Security Council.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: South Asia, Culture, India
28th February, 2006

Shroving on a greasy Tuesday: Pancake Day

by SajiniW at 2:53 pm    

Renowned for its lack of culinary finesse, this particular London hospital canteen continues to disappoint. Even the simplest of recipes, much-loved on a day like today, was ruined with great candour. Alas, with little else to live for aside from the promise of MUCH TASTIER pancakes when I get home, curiosity got the better of me. It is here where I examine the significance of Shrove Tuesday and those all important pancakes!

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24th February, 2006

Who wants a war of civilisation?

by Al-Hack at 4:36 am    

Stumbling and Mumbling: Hits. Nail. On. Head.

I’ve one reaction to the culture clash between the west and Islam - include me out. This is big think. And big thinking is bad thinking. The first problem is that glib generalization leads us to think that there are clearly defined and demarcated cultures.

Another bias in the clash of cultures is the group attribution error. Among “us”, bad people are exceptions. Among “them”, wrong ‘uns are representative of the general group.

So, to westerners, the soldiers who beat up Iraqis are exceptions. To Muslims, they are typical. To “us”, suicide bombers are representative, whereas to Muslims, they are exceptions*. Few bother to ask: is the percentage of UK and US soldiers who beat up Iraqis statistically significantly different from the proportion of Muslims who are suicide bombers?

This bias is reinforced by another - the salience heuristic. We over-react to salient, available, information, and under-react to obscure information. To westerners, the everyday civilities of friends and neighbours are salient , whilst the brutalities of far-away soldiers are less so. And suicide bombings are salient, whilst the civilities of ordinary Muslims are less so. To Muslims, it’s the other way round.

Read the whole thing. Does that remind of you of… a few hundred people?

Filed under: Culture, The World
23rd February, 2006

Good Night and Good Luck

by Rohin at 4:05 am    

Farewell my Pickled friends, as the Interweb faithful say, brb. This is what I’m doing. I will try to drop in when I can and I shall certainly keep my eyes open for anything interesting to write about. I thought I’d sign out with something a bit lighter, but first the headlines:

Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka and the England team have got Delhi belly.
Al Qaeda’s next target identified.
Google Maps puts up new high(er) res images of the infamous Area 51, but Google Earth now less cool as 3D timetravel now possible in London.
Vegas casinos outsourcing to India (warning - shocking grammar in this piece).
Brokeback Mountain entitled ‘Faggot Cowboys‘ in Turkey.
Christians and Muslims kill each other in Nigeria, no one surprised.
Bullock racing, jumping cows, teeth pulling tractors - India’s rural Olympics.
New beer launched in Palestine, called Hamas. Explosive taste.
Christians feel left out, protest about cartoons.


And now our feature presentation:

TIME ran a piece this week entitled The Land of the Wedding Planners, charting the rise and rise of the mega wedding in India and amongst Indians around the world. Weddings, it seems, have become a field in which Indians lead the way. The country’s burgeoning middle class have embraced weddings as an opportunity to show off their often obscene wealth.

Continue Reading...
22nd February, 2006

Debates on free speech and Muslim bodies

by Sunny at 10:25 pm    

Just a quick announcement really, for your amusement. I’ll be on Asian Network tomorrow morning from 9:30am to talk about recent controversies over free speech, and people’s OTT reactions to them. Don’t know who I’ll be up against but can listen to the archive after.

I shall also be on PTV Prime (Sky 815) tomorrow at 4pm against someone from the newly created Muslim Action Committee (MAC) and possibly the MCB (though they’re usually too scared), and ask why we need so many Muslim orgs and what exactly are they achieving. Though usually these discussions never go to plan.

On a totally different note, I read today that the mother of Navjeet Sidhu, woman who committed suicide at Southall station with her two kids 6 months ago, also killed herself at the same spot yesterday. RIP.

Filed under: Culture
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