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Punjabi Sikh Women And The City

3_girl_movies.jpgAbout a week ago, Sex And The City (SATC) hit theaters. Many may resist an association with the dating scene that the movie and show explored with the lives of Punjabi Sikh women, and wonder whether this is appropriate for The Langar Hall. But the stories and characters of SATC reflect broad ideas that apply to all women and since every woman I know has seen or is planning to see the movie, I’m curious about how these themes apply to Punjabi Sikh women in particular and how our experiences compare with other groups. This post does not promote anything portrayed in SATC, but instead explores the stereotypes in the characters and questions how our Punjabi-Sikh-ness affects how much of those stereotypes we embrace. First, what is SATC really about?

the three-girls-in-the-city movie… a cinematic staple since the 1920s, has been an unusually enduring and lucrative one, exploiting each succeeding era’s anxieties surrounding women’s changing roles and helping define those eras’ new ideas of modern life. In them, audiences can watch women negotiate and sometimes subvert the forces that limn and limit their choices. [link]


Baba Blacksheep

In certain cultures, memorization has always been a means of oral transference of knowledge through the generations. My father can quote so much random poetry. I see others that can quote entire passages from Waris Shah’s Heer. Although some of us still take the time to memorize Sikh prayers and gurbani, I wonder how much oral knowledge is about to be lost in our generation?

Here is a look at one government school in Punjab. Interesting how nursery rhymes there are sung in a manner different than elementary schools here. Does anyone else notice the subtle differences in promoting a ‘rote’ model? Well, even if you don’t and I am just seeing something that isn’t there, enjoy the video and enjoy your weekend!

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British Bhangra: Beyond Signature’s Suleman and Madhu

So we have seen two (here and here) performances by Signature. Although most Langar-ites did not seem to enjoy the second performance as much, it impressed enough people to propel the duo into the finals of Britains Got Talent. In fact they were the first team to be voted in by the public.

Now, in their first interview, Suleman (often incorrectly spelled Suleiman ) Mirza and Madhu Singh shed some light and perspective on their performance:

Our routine is about togetherness and overcoming conflict,” said the rather handsome Mirza, who has been a Jackson fan since he was six years old. “I start the act with a Western dance, and then Madhu comes on stage. I look down on him because I don’t understand his culture. But he surprises me, and he works really hard, symbolising immigration, and then we work together, and show that everyone can get on.[link]

Heavy stuff, but Ill buy it.


Signature is Brilliant (Again!)

I may be stealing Anandica‘s UK thunder, but I couldn’t resist.

A month ago, we were introduced to Signature, a phenomenal dance act by a Muslim, Suleman (too often misspelled as Suleiman) Mirza and his Sikh partner, Madhu Singh on Britain’s Got Talent.

However a big question remained. After their brilliant previous performance, Simon Cowell (better known to us Yankees as Simon of American Idol fame) asked, “Now that we know what the surprise is, what do you do in the next round?” Suleman answered, “We keep on surprising you.”

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Anyone want to put money for their finals presentation: Beat It, Bad (although I always liked Weird Als Fat better), or Smooth Criminal. Any other possibilities?

My vote is for Beat It. I just think it would fit their format much better, plus Madhu would look great in that white gangsta bomber jacket. Suleman would HAVE to wear that red zipper leather (or pleather) jacket. I cant lie, I had one back in the day. It might not fit, but that might make it even work better. I am sure I could dig through the old stuff and let Suleman borrow mine. The knife scene between the two would be classic. Hopefully they can get in touch with Tigerstyle to do a mix for them. So Madhu and Suleman, here is your first vote! What about the rest of you?

American Idol and presidential candidates

Juan Cole drew an interesting parallel between the candidates vying for the Presidency and those competing in American idol’s finale:

I find it a little eerie how closely the finale of the television program American Idol resembles the presidential race. Here you have an older male from the school of hard knocks; a younger, soulful man who inspires his peers; and a woman candidate who shows amazing resilience.

The problem is that it isn’t necessarily a disservice to focus so much on the personalities of entertainers, though it’s much more so for presidential candidates:

when you cover an election as though it is a talent contest and you zero in on personalities candidates.jpgrather than issues, then this is pretty much the sort of melodrama you can construct. It becomes about determined women, less experienced young men, and more hardened older men who know how to mix a stiff drink. You would find these personalities in any tubby novel for sale at an airport bookstore. Mercado, Archuleta and Cook are far more complex and interesting persons than the stock characters that the media has imposed on them. But at least the wrong done them by simplification is minor; they are after all entertainers, and if they attain their potential they will have plenty of opportunity to tell their real stories.

With regard to our political leaders, the infotainment approach obscures the most weighty matters ever to face our Republic, and does a grave disservice to voters whose fate hangs in the balance.

Of course the candidates’ personalitiesmatter to an extent-but it seems that 8 out of 10 articles/stories are more interested in personalities rather than candidates’ plans for office.Is anyone else tired of the excessive coverage and analysis of personalities?

A policy of Islamophobia or old fashioned xenophobia?

The violence breaking out in South Africa reminded me of the Islamophobia that Jodha posted on.

The man certainly looked dead, lying motionless in the dust of the squatter camp. His body seemed almost like a bottle that had been turned on its side, spilling blood. His pants were red with the moisture… Then, as people stepped closer, there was the faintest of breath pushing against his chest. “This guy may be alive,” someone surmised. As if to confirm it, the man moved the fingers of his right hand. The jaded crowd neither rejoiced nor lamented. After all, the horrific attacks against immigrants around Johannesburg had already been going on for a week, and in their eyes the victim was just some Malawian or Zimbabwean, another casualty in the continuing purge.

The xenophobia that is partially (though heavily exacerbated by economic reasons) behind the current attacks on foreigners in Johannesburg seems to me to be a better explanation for the attack on the Sikh student in New Jersey and the soldier’s horrific act of using the Quran for target practice. Though I’m not usually one to defend the current administration, I do think it is a stretch to say that there is a domestic policy promoting Islamophobia, that is greater than the normal xenophobia created in most wars of the past. I am in NO way apologizing for excusing this xenophobia, but just wanting to put it into historical perspective. The soldier’s act, using the Quran for target practice is horrific and despicable. But it was the act of a single individual. Similarly, Green‘s act, and also his teacher’s reaction were acts of individuals.


Another Reason Why I Like Waris

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled, “Metrosexual Murdabad!” Although I gained the ire of some commenters, I think amongst the Langar-ites, the ‘metrosexual’ trend is not the preference.

Waris Ahluwalia, of Inside Man fame and a sort of favorite in The Langar Hall — see here and here — made the following comments:waris.jpg

Waris Ahluwalia has been wearing makeup for about ten years, he told us last night at Chanel’s Tribeca Film Festival Party at the Greenwich Hotel. “I’m only telling you this because it’s New York Magazine, but I’m actually 68,” he quipped (he’s not, he’s in his thirties). We asked if his friends would be into man makeup, like Jean Paul Gaultier‘s new male cosmetics line, Monsieur. “No, no. I stopped hanging out with the theater group a long time ago,” he said. Oh, har! Ahluwalia also shuns the men-in-tight-pants trend. “I love trends,” he said. “Doesn’t mean I have to follow it.” Other trends Ahluwalia dislikes include the overusage of words like “bespoke” and “luxury.” “Everyone just calls things that. Bespoke olive oil?” he said. “I saw an ad in Wired for the new Acura. That ad was four lines, and they said ‘luxury’ fives times.” [link]

While bespeaking for Waris’ and our readers’ patience may be a luxury I can ill-afford as I write this sentence, still I am pleased that our turbaned Sikh Mr. Waris Ahluwalia seconds my thoughts on the ‘metrosexual’ trend. (Ok there really wasn’t a purpose for that last sentence other than I was looking to use ‘bespoke’ (or ‘bespeak’ in the present) and ‘luxury’ in the same line. Happy Monday!

UPDATE: Parental Advisory

I have been receiving emails from a number of people announcing that Tech’s NEW ALBUM, titled 3rd World his first in five years – will be dropping on June 24th. I know I (and Joolz/Suzy/Bobby) will be the first ones purchasing it!


For those easily offended by foul language, please disregard this entire post. I am sure I will post more later; you can read those. FORGET THIS ONE. Youve been warned.

I am a HUGE FAN of Immortal Technique. At a concert a few years ago, I was the only Sikh there, but he even acknowledged me in that small crowd. For those that dont know about him, here is a bit of his wikipedia biography.

Felipe Coronel (born February 19, 1978), better known as Immortal Technique, is a Hip hop MC and political activist. He is of Afro-Peruvian and indigenous descent and was raised in Harlem, New York. Most of his lyrics focus on quasi-political issues. The views expressed in his lyrics are largely a mixture of commentary on issues such as poverty, religion, and racism. He also focuses on the harsh resulting realities of crime in the housing projects of New York City’s slums. [link]

In the summer of 2001, the bakwas sounds of Missy Eliots Get Your Freak On or Jay-Zs Izzo (H.O.V.A.) filled the airwaves. In between that nonsense, I remember sitting in my friends car when the spoken word of Immortal Technique came pounding out of those Alpine Speakers. That first track was called The Poverty of Philosophy.


Rise of the Great Khali

Other bloggers have discussed their convictions regarding manly men, but Dalip Singh Rana from Himachal Pradesh may have taken this concept to a whole new level.


At a mere 7 feet, 3 inches and 420 pounds, Dalip Singh is blazing a new trail into World Wrestling Entertainment.

He is the first Indian to be signed up by WWE, and enjoys top billing in the famous American showbiz circus alongside fighters such as Hulk Hogan and The Rock.

The WWE website says of Rana:

This enormous monster has walked the jungles of India unafraid of pythons and wrestled White Bengal tigers. Legend states that the Punjabi Warrior has “stared into the abyss and the earth trembled at his gaze.


Pimp My Punjabi Phone

Our phones have become an extension of our bodies. Walk around outside and youll see the dawn of the blue-tooth era with the masses walking and having conversations with everybody, but the people that are actually physically near them. Seeking to capitalize on the trend, phone companies seem to sell us everything but themuslim_phone.jpg actual plan. You can buy wallpapers, ringtones, and other superfluous things to pimp your phone.

In the ongoing process of religious commoditization, many faith-based entrepreneurs are peddling faith-based phones. Mike Elgan, a writer for Computerworld, has recently asked, What religion has the best mobile phone?

Which of the world’s greatest religions, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Judaism (listed in order of size), has the world’s greatest mobile phone?

While researching this article, I was unable to find a single Christian, Hindu or Sikh mobile phone. I’m not saying they’re not out there somewhere, just that I’m “agnostic” on the point. I just don’t know.


This Is The Life Of A Little Girl Who Will Soon Enough Be A Woman One Day Or Another

We know the Britney Spears and Miley Rays of Hollywood tremendously influence the lives of our pre-teen and adolescent girls. The voices we keep hearing on television are those of white, multi-generational American, and suburban teens.


Their experiences are being boxed and represented as THE experience of adolescent girls in America. Rarely on television does the media interview pre-teen and teen girls of color from immigrant backgrounds living in urban/rural areas about their perceptions of life and the future unless the story is on teen pathology from pregnancy to drugs and violence.

Therefore, I was pleased to see the trailer of a documentary, Going on 13, that is about pre-teen girls from minority, immigrant, and urban backgrounds discussing how they negotiate the whirlwind of changes and choices, from body image to relationships, just as girls in the suburbs.


The only distinction is how their social, economic, and cultural contexts add a different layer to the experience that is not a form of “mal-adaptation”, but another way of living. The film-makers’ goal was to show the reality of preteen girls and urban minorities, which isn’t often portrayed in the mainstream media and wasn’t just focused on the pathology of urban youth.


Apnian Votan Pao!

I came across this video, linked from PP about the elections for the mayor of London. For more election coverage, visit Pickled Politics. Check out this video on ‘how to campaign’ in Southall. The desi van is just classic. It is almost exactly as they campaign in Punjab. I wonder if they distribute free alcohol and drugs like Badal’s Akali Dal and the Congress.

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I thought I had seen something similar in a movie before. Here it is….forward to 3:10
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Punjabi Maboli Zindabad!

Early last month, UNESCO ‘supposedly’ released a report that said Punjabi will become extinct in the next 50 years. Soon our one-man PR campaigners (we have many in our community) came to the forefront. In the lead was Kuldip Nayar, who said:

I have gone through a report prepared by Unesco which says the Punjabi language will disappear from the world in 50 years. It shocked me. I am out to save Punjabi language and culture Our roots, Punjabi language and culture, are decaying and none in Punjab is worried about it, he said, adding, I have been to Pakistan and people there also feel their new generation feels hesitant to converse in Punjabi. [link]

Ranked in the top 20 most spoken languages in the world, it created quite a sensation to believe that within 50 years the Punjabi language would go extinct. However, some ACTUAL journalists that took the time to delve into the subject without jumping on the hysteria-bandwagon found that no UNESCO report ever existed. So I guess it begs the question, what was Kuldip Nayar reading when he said he ‘[went] through the report’? What was he reading that ‘shocked’ him?

So while Punjabi does not seem to be endangered for the time being, it is under severe threat due to Punjabi Sikhs own lackadaisical treatment of it, as well as it not being a language of commerce. The World Sikh News report has some fine suggestions for its preservations. One of our own langa(w)riters had their own take as well.

So as we get ready for the weekend, I celebrate my maboli as a universal language. Punjabi Maboli Zindabad! Chak De!

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Making music

What moves you (both physically and emotionally)? Hip hop, the dhol, or Surinder Kaur? Artists, musicians and dancers often use their skill and art as a medium to promote their ideas.

staples.jpgThe music of the Staple Singers soundtracked the civil rights movement: it was their songs that were sung on protest marches; Martin Luther King was a close friend of Pops Staples. “Pop, he always told the songwriters: if you wanna write for the Staples, read the headlines,” she says. “‘Cause we wanna sing about what’s happening in the world.

You’ve probably heard the classics “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself” by the Staple Singers…

The jazz writer Stanley Crouch once described the sound of the Staple Singers as “joy and thunder”. From the 50s, the family group, led by Roebuck “Pops” Staples, married a rumbling gospel with soul and blues and politics, creating hits such as I’ll Take You There and Respect Yourself.

Music has played a significant role in mobilizing social and political movements- from the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa by its power to move people emotionally and also to convey information .

We talk a lot about issues our community faces- what music motivates you to face those issues?

Do artists have a responsibility to engage with the issues of their day? Or do activists have a responsibility to make music about their ideas to connect with their audience?

Unaccustomed Earth

For anyone in the D.C. area interested in Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing- she is on a book tour and will be speaking at Sixth & I on Wednesday, April 23 at 7 pm.

Tickets are available at Politics & Prose for $6 or you can buy the book for $25 and get 2 free tickets with it. Contact P & P at 202. 364. 1919.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s stories about the Indian-American diaspora vividly evoke both the ambivalence of the older generation appreciating their adopted nation, but feeling dislocated and the freedom of the younger generation, unfettered by their South Asian origins, except for parental expectations. Lahiri won the Pulitzer Prize for The Interpreter of Maladies, and her second novel, The Namesake, was adapted to a film in 2007.

A little more info: Lahiri’s new collection of stories (as well as her older works) elegantly capture the way we navigate dual cultures.

Assimilation, in Lahiri’s fiction, is about coming to terms with disorientation. It is about not fitting in or settling down, not starting over from scratch and freely forging a new identity or destiny. Her characters balance precariously between two worldsnot just Asian and Western, but inner and outer…


Beyond Bhangra

Once upon a time there circulated a stupid joke that the only culture of Sikhs was agriculture. Despite the stereotyping of yesteryears, for tooa6_1.jpg many the only associated culture to be promoted is bhangra (and sometimes giddha).

There is a growing legion that are seeking to promote Sikh arts, such as the classical kirtan tradition in Guru Granth Sahib’s ragas, visual expression (some examples were discussed on an earlier post), the art of gatka, and many more. However, still despite these and other efforts, when promoting to large audiences, we do bhangra.

With full transparency, I must admit I am not much of a fan of Bharatnatyam, but I completely agree with Bharatnatyam dancer Navtej Singh Johar‘s assertion that:

Punjabi culture is very rich and we are just not about giddha and bhangra. Our folk tales, Sufi music and poetry traverse boundaries.

Although I don’t agree with his elitist hierarchies of South Asian dance forms, I am intrigued by his production: Fanna: Ranjha Revisited.

So here is my question. What is life beyond bhangra? Whenever Sikh organizations have an opportunity to exhibit whether to Sikh crowds or non-Sikh crowds, what are other alternatives outside of bhangra (and gatka when certain measures don’t allow for it)? Any other thoughts or ideas?

On a Lighter Note

While this week, in The Langar Hall we heard about ‘Boogeymen,’ Darsh Singh, and Going Green, I thought this old video might throw in some humor. Although old and produced by our siblings to the West, few other videos better depict Chachu and his headlights. Have a great weekend.

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The Power of Nightmares

Recently, I watched a brilliant documentary called The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of Politics of Fear. Produced by the BBC, this documentary is 3 one-hour films comparing the rise of the American Neo-Con movement with the radical Islamists. It discusses certain parallel ideologies and the symbiotic relationship of the two that serves only to create fear and terror.

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So before you head out to watch Will Ferrell’s Semi-Pro, this movie deserves your time. Maybe less laughs, but I found it absolutely fascinating.

Although I saw it in a theatre, Youtube has the beginning clip and the entire movie can be streamed here.

Your thoughts?

Update: Hook a Sikh Punjabi Brother Up


Who knows if the “Langar-ite Leap” helped Rohanpreet gain the maximum number of votes last weekend, but it surely did help. If you voted last week, make sure you vote again. If you didn’t vote last week, make sure this week you do.

It is down to the final 3. After an acrimonious elimination last week, Rohanpreet has advanced out of the Final 4. The quest to number 1 continues. His talent brought him this far, it’s our job to bring it home. If you forgot how to vote, scroll down and remember. VOTE OR DIE! (Thanks, Puffy)

Rohanpreet needs your help. We have featured Rohanpreet, the Prince of Patiala on this blog before and now he desperately needs your help. rohanpreet.jpgHe needs your vote. Atleast for this weekend, forget Hillary, Obama, and even McCain, think Rohanpreet. (Yes, we are usually against group identity blocks, but sometimes we make exceptions)What you need to do VOTE FOR ROHANPREET.

  1. Go to this website
  2. Click on the ‘Sign Up’ blue tab under the password entry area
  3. Fill out the registration. (Yes, it’s lame, but this one is easy, JUST DO IT!)
  4. Vote as many times as possible (There is no limit! Stop being lazy, you have nothing better to do, c’mon just a few more times)
  5. If you do it, leave a comment here. Let’s see how many we can get to vote Rohanpreet!

Voting ends Monday morning 10:30am IST, thats Sunday night 9:00pm PST.

Do it for love. Do it for music. Do it for Punjab. Do it for Rohanpreet. Just DO IT. Ok enough of this bakwas, back to your regularly scheduled broadcasting….

Will the Revolution be Televised? Sikhs and the Media

So, Im a fan of Waris Singh Ahluwalia. It should be no surprise hes an actor who makes incredible jewelry and Im all about diverse talents. Last year, with the release ofwaris2.jpg The Darjeeling Limited, he did an interview and responded to being honored for his positive portrayal of Sikhs in the media. I thought it was significant,

I don’t want to be honored that much. I really don’t. I’m humbled and utterly confused to be put in this position. All these galas and fundraisers, they’re really important–especially after 9/11, when we’re seen as one of the major religions, and nobody knows who we are. In terms of the Sikh community, we’ll raise our families, go to work, pay our taxes, be American citizens, and that [should be] enough. Guess what? That’s not enough.

Why is it not enough? Regardless of how citizen-like we act, will wecontinue to fight the typecasts and stereotypes the media has imposed on an unfamiliar community?


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