Friday, December 3, 2010

Flame Wars: The Troll

Punjabis are generally understood to be a hot-headed people; they are as quick to laugh as they are to anger. Perhaps it is something genetic, more likely it is something cultural. What ever it may be, it is usually trouble.

I am no particular exception from this rule of thumb and having grown up in an online gaming environment--more often frequented by horny teenage boys than any other demographic--I have sharpened my verbal abuse with angry retorts directed at my offender's mother and his inability to function well in game or society. These digital insults harken back to the principles in Sun Szu's The Art of War. Today they are in common practice and used to incite anger in the other player, usually to the effect of disrupting his activity and ability to focus. "Your mom [insert sexually offensive action and object]," coming from a member of the softer sex usually throws any male off balance, as does any slight against his sexual ability or comprehension of a relevant issue. All respond at first with surprise, then some with humor and others with anger.  After all, gaming is a male-dominated field and the testosterone levels lend heavily to a 'Macho Man' mentality and a need to defend it by immediate confrontation.

So, the knob whose dignity has been mortally wounded (or maybe just for the hell of it) usually starts something called a 'flame war.' A series of angry, irrational textual defecations that serve no other purpose than to piss everyone off. Flame wars are by no means limited to the gaming world. They are found on any website with an unmonitored comments section, anywhere from video hosts to reputable news sources. The irate poster is also known as a troll.

The internet's sumptuous veil of anonymity has allowed many to freely insult the denizens of the interwebs for years and has usually provided a handy shield against personal attacks. Features such as "BLOCK" and "PRIVATE" are very effective in cutting off user tantrums mid-insult to comical effect. But when the same arguments move to more personal social media networks like Facebook and Twitter we begin to have a more serious problem. The user who was a combination of random words and numbers suddenly has a name and a picture; the user has become a distinct, easily recognizable individual. The safety of anonymity is gone and the troll has an unnerving way to focus on you as a person, curse you by name and association. The emotionally satisfying outbursts suddenly have social and personal ramifications that can be truly frightening. Especially when there is a threat of a physical encounter, this is when a troll has become a stalker.

I am all for hurling abuse online, it's how we get to say whatever we want, but do so with caution. Your name is a valuable asset... Anonymous' not so much! ;)

As a fellow twitterer said... Be Warned: Do Not Feed The Trolls!

For real: As always, be wary about giving away personal information online, like full name, phone numbers and addresses. If you do happen to have an online stalker who is threatening you with bodily harm please notify the police! Stay aware and be proactive!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bollywood Zeroes

Bollywood is a film industry based in Bombay, India, catering to the South Asian community. It cranks out hundreds of melodramatic comedies, known as masala films, every year. They generally contain a romance, some tears, a few laughs and lots of dance scenes.

For some reason, a select few actually believe this somehow translates into actual reality. No one breaks out into song at the drop of a hat, no matter how musically inclined they are. Dancing around trees and through fields of flowers is typically considered the beginnings of delirium and will earn you a lot of funny stares--trust me on that one.

The only place reenacting Bollywood moments has been really troublesome is the club. A select group of losers think they're about to star in their own flick. Perhaps they are simply victims of delusions brought on by the deafening music, and brightly clad female dancers. Their hubris and lack of humor compounded by a few glasses of whiskey helps absolutely no one. These guys assume courting a girl means having the acuity to grab her wrist as she's walking past. I'm not sure if that's ever worked for anyone, but my immediate reaction is always: 'WTF?' They're trying to play the suave, debonair hero but end up coming across as the creeper about to assault you. They are a particular menace one should be aware of at any Indian function and on occasion clubs in the LA area.

I'm going to toss the aforementioned creeps under Jus Reign's 3rd category: Horny Immigrant.
If you haven't seen this clip already, it's called "5 Most Annoying Brown Guys."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Techie Moments: Windows

I spent the last several days reformatting and updating two PCs. One was a Compaq desktop from 2001 and the other a Toshiba laptop from 2005. Both were outdated and took a long time to update and protect, but I managed and I learned a few things along the way.

I've been using PCs since I was 10. I know a few things, but I'm no pro. I can use the Windows programs, keep things organized and secure, more importantly I have learned to fear the Windows Blue Screen of Death. I've managed to once annihilate a Windows 95 computer by a simple delete and reboot. That requires skills. Besides attacks from precocious children, a Windows computer needs to be aware of attacks from the outside, usually by way of the internet and those dastardly pop ups. There are a few barriers that you can utilize to stop these attacks which steal your information, slows down your computers speed and pretty much annoys you.

1) Keep your Windows updated. Go on Internet Explorer, click Tools, scroll to Windows Update and it will open up a new page. Check for updates and install all. It's really simple and all you need to do is reboot your computer after it asks. You can also set up Auto Update which will automatically install any updates at a specific time and day. You just acknowledge the pop up on your task bar and reboot if necessary. Also, don't forget to check out the manufacturer's site for further updates. There's usually a support or downloads link on the front page that will have specific updates for your computer model.

2) Install a firewall. A firewall is a barrier between your computer and the internet. It creates a set of rules--which you can edit--for what can go through the access point, it blocks most malware programs. Make sure to only install one because two firewalls always conflict with one another. Usually you pay $40-$60 for a firewall and anti-virus program, but you can get several good ones online. I use Comodo Pro which is absolutely free and does the job. It also has an anti-virus program which brings me to point three.

3) Install an anti-virus scanning program. Sometimes malware is stealthy enough to slip past your firewall restrictions and installs itself on your computer. An anti-virus program scans your computer to determine if viruses are present and allows you to quarantine and delete them. The Comodo Pro program has one built in, but I also use Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, it's completely free, but you can buy the full version for the auto update, customer support and other features. I check for updates to their database and run these programs once a week.

4) Get a pop-up blocker! Viruses and malware sometimes use pop ups to get you to install programs by clicking on them. If you're on the trashy side of the internet you'll get plenty of pop ups which are annoying anyway. If you use the Firefox browser, you can get the Adblock Plus add-on which provides compilations of blacklisted pop ups and you can always expand upon them.

There are other things you can do to keep your computer happy, but like I said, I'm no pro! I hope this helps someone. If you have any other tips, please feel free to share!

Links: -- A great site to get downloads from because they're all tested for viruses beforehand and often have reviews! Feel free to browse the site.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rakhi or Raksha Bandhan

Rakhi (pronounced like rakhrdi in Punjabi) is an ancient Indian tradition known as Raksha Bandhan in Hindi. It is a gesture of sisterly affection between a girl to a guy she considers a brother, whether blood-related or not. It is performed on the day of the full moon in the tenth month of the Hindu calendar, usually toward the end of August.

A girl ties a thread or ribbon, called a rakhri (rakhi in Hindi), around her brother's wrist. The modern ribbon comes with decorations and sometimes in different colors, but is traditionally red and unadorned. She usually sweetens the event by feeding him confectioneries and the brother usually returns the gesture by forcing some money into her hand.

The red string represents a bond between brother and sister, for her love the brother promises always to protect her. This tradition is exemplified in several Indian stories from ancient times. One of the classic examples, and maybe the origin story, is from the epic Mahabarat. When Krishna cuts his hand, Draupadi lovingly binds it with a strip she rips from her sari. Krishna then finds himself bound by her affection and swears to repay her kindness. He does so when her husbands (yes, husbands!) lose her in a bet to rival kings who proceed to strip her. Draupadi prays for Krishna to rescue her, he makes his presence known by extending her sari infinitely until her attacker gives up for fear of the god's vengeance.

This year, the occasion fell on Tuesday the 24th. I took my nani (maternal grandmother) to visit her brother in Folsom. They're both over 70 and still try to keep the tradition up! When distances are greater a call suffices, but when they were younger my granny would snail mail the thread. I was absolutely smitten watching them hug and get straight to tying the band, sweets included. Babaji, her brother, told a news story he heard that day, a brother and sister who were fighting because the woman had decided her brother hadn't given her enough money. Then he laughingly handed my nani a couple bills.

My cousin came down a little while later and as he was rushing out the door I tied a rakhi around his wrist. He was surprised to see me there. I fed him a sweet with my own hand, we took pictures and argued over the amount of money he was giving me. What struck me afterward was how affectionate my usually gruff cousin was. He doesn't have any sisters and I suppose he missed out on all the constant teasing, barbie doll obsessions, pink and frilly things in general, nagging about toilet seats and other sanitary issues that come up from living with girls in the house. My little brother has never had a lack of it, so I guess we all take it for granted. This is a sweet tradition and I think it means more for those that don't have a sister's constant presence around. I hope everyone had a great one!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Last Thursday, I finally took the MCAT! Yippee!

The MCAT is a four part test, physical sciences on physics and chemistry, biological sciences on o chem and biology, reading comprehension and a writing portion with two essays. The first three parts are all multiple choice and you have an hour and 5 minutes each to complete them, the two essays are each 30 minutes and woefully too short! The exam itself wasn't very hard, but it just covered so many different subjects that you need to be on top of your game to get them. You also need to remember all the random formulas, especially for physics. It ended up taking about 5 hours and for sure need a snack time in between. :)

I don't know why I was so scared. The Kaplan course and the study books definitely helped a lot, but I wish I had taken this after sophomore year, when I was in practice. Genetics and physiology classes definitely helped in preparation for this.

Studying the day of the test didn't help at all, it just passed through my head like water. Especially since all I could focus on was the hot ass Indian guy with the broad shoulders and hazel eyes sitting next to me. Hai mirchi.

Out of the 15 or so kids that showed up, five were Indian and a few had their parents hanging around outside. So, of course Daddy excitedly ran up to them and introduced himself. I was too nervous to care, but it was amusing to watch. The first Indian he came upon wasn't a Punjabi and looked cornered between the door and my dad, averted his gaze and spoke so quietly I couldn't hear. Dad switched from Punjabi to some generic Hindi, "Bhai, aap kaisa ho?" Within the minute, a Punjabi uncle ran up to Dad from across the plaza and introduced himself in proper, boisterous Punjabi. At the end of the day I asked if Dad had made any new friends, and he said, "That wasn't making friends, that was just saying hello!" Haha.

I don't find out my scores until the end of August, let's hope they're as fantastic as my parents pray they are.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I've been reading Harry Potter since I was 11. I eagerly went to midnight book releases at Borders and stayed up all night for midnight showings of the movies. So you can bet I'm excited knowing that the last installment of the Harry Potter series' first trailer has been released. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 !!

If you've been keeping up with the franchise, you'll recognize all the characters and perhaps some of the scenes that were present in the dramatic montage. While I wait until November, I shall be anticipating how soon I can feasibly visit the wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida. Or contemplating how to indoctrinate my future spawn into Potter-heads like myself.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

My Mother Said: Love is Like Iron

I have a round-about way of expressing emotions. I either state them so bluntly no one takes them seriously or I act out by repeatedly wheedling at the object of my affection or agitation. I did the latter with my mother yesterday. I was lamenting the lack of time she spent during the day with me and the rest of the family. I jokingly commented she didn't love me enough, and didn't think about me enough. I guess it really hurt her. She popped up today with an adorable earring rack--she knows me too well--and a story.

It sounds sweeter in Punjabi to me, but I can't write in the language so I'll paraphrase in English.

Iron is heated in a forge and shaped by fire. When the iron hammer hits it, the iron clangs loudly. Gold is heated and shaped in the same way with an iron hammer, but with a softer sound. The shaped gold asks the iron, 'Why do you cry so loudly?' Because the gold keeps his pain to himself. The iron tells him, 'When others strike you it does not hurt so much, but when your own attack you the pain is unbearable.'

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Social Networking: From the Pind to Facebook

People who live in the pind, Punjabi for 'village,' usually reside on ancestral properties which have been in the family for hundreds of years. People do move out of the village, but the connection to centuries of patriarchal history has a strong influence on both an Indian's heart and social life.

The pind connection binds its descendants by culture and geography, often providing the surname to its resident families. You will notice that one of the first things a Desi will ask a new acquaintance is, "Which pind are you from?" Promptly followed by a slew of personal questions in the search of a common ground and creating a verbal profile to pass onto other relations. This interview is usually performed with an unabashedness the average Westerner would find rude.

Amusingly enough, this same inter connectivity is the goal of modern social networking, today epitomized by Facebook. Every profile first asks a series of personal questions about family, education, work, hobbies and then to add all the people they might possibly know. Although Facebook takes it a bit further by allowing all conversations, activities and photos to be showcased in a somewhat public forum. Of course, the technologically inclined, Desis and non-Desis alike, have colonized the website and made it an almost necessary part of their daily routines.

Promoters in particular have managed to abuse the ease of social networking for profit. Their goal and methods are transparent enough to discern--getting paid for selling tickets--but what interests me is the curious effect it has on their personalities. I find the egotism associated with a verifiable, wide social circle of acquaintances (not friends) and the safe barrier afforded by the internet cultivates some of the most despicable personalities I have ever encountered. Don't believe me? Meet a promoter in person. The majority of conversation centers around the promoter's own life and his notable actions, as he wantonly hopes of impressing the easily swayed with images of grandeur and creating profitable future connections.

Leh, can you tell I've had a bad experience? Anyways, don't make the mistake of trying to engage on any level with the douche bag-in-disguise. Promoters are like small, ill-tempered children with no handle on reality. And they usually don't apologize until their only commodity of value, i.e. their reputation, is on the line.

Yeah, that last bit was a rant... but here I hope Jus Reign's own Facebook rant will cheer you up. :)

And just 'cause we were talking about the pind, I had to mention the lovable Miss Pooja, who represents the lively, innocent pind girl.


That oil painting is by Harvinder Singh, I ripped it from his site. Pretty good don't you think?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Punjabi Culture: The Pervy Uncle and the Kala Mu Wala

A social circle would be incomplete without a token pervy uncle. You know the ugly man old enough to be your father and should be drinking whiskey with the other 40 somethings but instead he spends half the time at a party walking past your table and leering at you. Or (in)conveniently busts a move behind you when you're on the dance floor. Pervy Uncle may even be bold enough to cop a feel when you go in for a polite hug. It is usually the moment you realize how nasty old men are and maybe hugs should only be reserved for the kids.

In my dad's tales from the pind, there was a sort of vigilante justice performed when a man was caught bothering a young lady. Nowadays we hear it as the cuss, "Kala mu wala." The accused would be hog tied and roughed up. They would blacken his face with the ashes from the dung fires, string a garland of rotting shoes around his neck, saddle him on a donkey and send him on a ride of shame through the village. Unfortunately, stoning wasn't involved. Somewhere safely on the outskirts of the village he would squirm off his ass and a merciful friend or stranger would cut him loose. Publicly humiliated, and with his tail between his legs, the dog would hide out for a while before showing his face around town.

As much as I wish this tradition was still in effect, it's not. I'm sure I'm not the only one that has to deal with Pervy Uncle, other girls have and have been through worse. Some might be too scared to say anything in case they get in trouble, or perhaps they are too ashamed. I empathize with them. But that does not mean they are helpless. Always try to avoid situations in which you can get hurt, and be constantly aware of your environment.

1) This is the most important rule: get angry. It'll empower you, and make you feel like you can do something about the situation. Feeling angry is a thousand times better than feeling helpless.

2) Don't go somewhere or do something you're not comfortable with. Follow your gut feeling, it's there for a reason. You're allowed to say NO.

3) If you are somewhere and you've got that uneasy feeling stay with someone! A sister, a cousin, someone's biji. Start up a conversation, or just politely tag along. They'll look out for you.  This has always worked for me in any situation I have ever been in, regardless of culture!

4) If all else fails get a shank/tazer/pepper spray. And then use it 'on accident.'

Lastly, invest in some sort of defense training, whether it's a one day course or martial arts or boxing. Your body is a tool and you should know how to use it, especially to defend yourself! 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mother's Day

This past Sunday was the greeting card companies' mid-year event: Mother's Day.

Of course you love your mom every day, but on this special Sunday in May you show it! With expensive jewelery, fancy appliances, bouquets of roses, or something not so rough on your wallet like breakfast in bed and even home made gift cards.

Indian moms are different, and my mommy definitely fits the mold. She doesn't expect ANYTHING on Mother's Day, and we've got a long history of living up to that expectation. I'd be surprised if she actually remembered that such a day existed. And the only way that would happen is if Hallmark had infiltrated the Indian channels on the dish (which would be a tragedy).

Mom hasn't worn the D&B purse we got her for last mother's day, and she had no idea what to do with the jewelery set Dad got her one year. She insisted that she would rather have a set of dishes, or a brand spanking new kitchen appliance. This strikes at the heart of two Indian traits, practicality and frugality. Or maybe you could roll all that into one trait, namely being cheap.

Indians can find a use for any object that comes their way. Second-hand, ragged sofa? That's OK, sew some new seat covers and it's perfect for the make-shift living room in the garage. Desis are masters of re-purposing and conservation. It makes sense to not waste all that hard-earned money on something you could get for next to nothing or make for yourself. On the other hand, old jam jars and Tupperware last for years, piling up in shelves and in the back of dusty cabinets in the all-purpose abyss known as the garage. Said jars will sit there for years on end, unused until some tragic accident occurs. Likely lost in a hasty escape upon the arrival of INS/IRS officers.

It's OK to laugh at that last part. My parents are tax-paying Americans.

So, what did I get such a wonderful woman for Mother's day? A flower ornament I made out of sticky notes. When all else fails, origami is the way to go. Damn Asians have the answer to everything.

I leave you with a clip of one of my favorite Indians. No introduction necessary.

The Basics:

1) Tell Mom you love her.

2) Clear junk out in the middle of the night. Then throw it away in the neighbor's trash can. The neighbor TWO houses down.

3) Learn how to wipe your own ass. Best gift anyone can ever give.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Desi Dinner

Indian culture thrives on a spectrum of segregation, particularly when it comes to gender. It happens at temples, parties, household get-togethers and even run-ins at the store. It's always an awkward, rushed moment when a man and woman who aren't related have to interact socially.

Aunties are famous for their relentless kitchen gossip, but even a room full of aunties will quiet to a hush when an uncle walks in looking for an extra fork. So, shocked by the sudden scrutiny of the room, uncle is guaranteed to complete his mission and quickly return to the safe haven afforded by the barbeque. Preferably in a manly place such as the garage or patio. However, the opposite situation also holds true. No auntie likes going into the 'uncle circle.' So, auntie will always send son or child-who-doesn't-have-to-conform-to-social-standards-yet to send messages and food.

Anytime a bunch of punjabi men get together there is a guarantee of three things:
1) Alcohol (Ek peg, paaji!)
2) Nuts (cashews, walnuts or anything to munch on)
3) A barbeque (lamb, goat, fish, chicken, duck)
And they all do this while sitting in one huge circle. Whether it's three guys or 20, they will find a way to make the circle work.

I'm sure this tradition has been passed down through hundreds of Punjabi generations, and it has recently started to change. Only since the 80s, with the advent of modern bhangra, have men and women concieved of dancing in the same room. 20 some odd years later, we still dance in gender or family-segregated circles but that does not take away from the grand achievement of dancing within view of the opposite sex.

With all this cultural history hanging over our heads, sitting together at the family table with father and mother had become an issue. Mom and Mom's mom (Nani, affectionately called Biji) would never eat at the same table as Dad. Mom would dutifully ensure Dad had eaten first, and Nani would awkwardly munch on food in his presence. Dad always felt more than a little uncomfortable. The whole thing never mattered much to me as long as I got fed, until I came back home from university.

All of a sudden the concept of quality family time became important to me. Helped along by commercials stressing the importance of eating together at the same table I decided it was time for a change.

I was entirely unsuccessful. Unsuccessful until Nani went to India for a month. I took advantage of the regime upset.

Mom got swamped with household chores and willingly accepted my offer to help out. It started with washing dishes and reorganizing my bathroom and it built up to an offer to make dinner, a rare event in and of itself. I planned the meal the day before, and reasonably demanded that everyone arrive promptly at 7:30 or prepare to have dinner forcibly shoved up their nostrils, silverware included. The threats worked, everyone showed up, and dinner was late as per IST. However, success was only won when Mom realized how cute the table looked piled high with food and conversation, and the opportunity to offer salad and veggies as part of the meal. She also took the opportunity to instate a rotation for washing dishes after dinner.

Surprisingly, it was a pleasant experience and worth reliving. I eagerly repeated the request, "Same time, same place? <3" Since then, we've regularly had a dinner table including three or more people. Dad is usually absent because of work obligations, but he makes it when he can. Uni-Sister absolutely loves the idea (+1 fan for me!). The Teenager Duo (Baby Sister and Baby Brother) sometimes have issues keeping up with it, but I appreciate when they bring their moody selves down for the most part.

While this is still a shaky, newborn tradition, one obstacle remains: winning Biji over. She arrives on Monday, and then we shall see. Just keep in mind that I'm a very sore loser. :)

How To: Play Bhabhi

Bhabhi means 'brother's wife' in Punjabi.

It's also the name of a card game popular with groups of old Punjabi babey hanging out in local parks and their grandkids. Most kids learn the game on an uneventful afternoon and use it to get a kick out of teasing the loser.

You need at least two people to play, but three to six is perfect.

The game itself is a lot like Hearts, the computer game that came with your Windows PC. :)

The deck is shuffled and divided between the group. Everyone looks at their cards, the person with the ace of spades puts it down and everyone in the circle adds a spade to the pile. The pile is then moved to the side and out of the game.

If one of the players doesn't have a spade, he gives his highest card of another suite, letting the first round finish before moving the pile out for the next turn.

From the second turn onward the person who played the highest card (A, K, Q, J, 10-1) from the last round, starts the current turn and the player to the left continues with cards from that suite. After every turn the pile is moved out of the game.

If one of the subsequent players doesn't have a card in the suite played, he throws down a card from a different suite and forces the player with the highest card to pick up the whole pile and add it to his hand, ending the turn in a 'Dhola.' This usually ends up skipping some people.

After the first round, if anyone breaks the clockwise order of adding to the pile he has to pick up the pile and add it to his hand.

The trick of the game relies in remembering who ran out of which suite and trying to use it to screw over another player with a Dhola.

The player to empty his hand first wins.

The player stuck with cards at the end loses and gets called Bhabhi.

When there are only two players left in the last round, and a player empties his hand but had thrown the highest suite, the game must enter a sudden death round. The player with the empty hand has to pick a random card out of the pile of discarded cards and use it for another round. If the player with no cards is given a Dhola, that player automatically loses. If the card is again the highest suite then another sudden death round must be played, if neither of the above happens then congratulations the player with an empty hand is not the loser.

Best part is, the loser usually has to serve snacks and drinks demure-bride style. A favorite is making the loser dress for the part, especially if a boy. :D

Friday, February 12, 2010

Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010

I'm watching the Winter Olympics.

Coverage is about to start at 7:30

Wow... an athlete died during luge practice.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dhol Di Awaz--Afterparty

My friend and I went to the DDA afterparty last weekend. Aman Hayer headlined. We skipped the competition entirely, our only goal was to dance bhangra with one another. We're silly like that. And willing to pay $25 to do it.

I drove, I got lost on the way. There are two Mission Blvd exits that lead you to the Bay Area. TAKE THE SECOND ONE!

We reached Avalon at 11 something. Stood in line for a good 20 minutes, got frisked by security and manhandled at the bar. Apparently seeing a girl with a drink in her hand makes an Indian guy think she's hump-worthy. Oh how wrong they are. A heavy-handed 'back the fuck off,' kept them in check. I have zero tolerance for drunk people's BS when I'm sober. LOL.

Too self-conscious to bhangra with the rest of the party-goers, we sat in a booth to finish our first drinks. We were the only ones sitting down and were easily spotted by an intoxicated Desi. We found out that he, Sunny, had lost his group and let him tag along after he bought us drinks. ;)

We spent a good couple of hours on the dance floor. As I was trying to snap pics of Hayer a guy with a bow-tie popped into frame! He looked like such a character I had to take a picture. I found out he was from Turlock, it's such a small world.

After the party shut down, the Desi fobs got a little rowdy. One lifted up my friend's skirt and another actually opened the door to my car in front of the cops and slammed his fist against my trunk. I cussed him out in Punjabi. When I started translating into English the cops sped off after him. Mwahaha.

I drove around until we found an IHOP for food, which Sunny surprisingly covered. So we did him a favor and dropped Sunny off in Hayward. However, we did end up getting lost in Palo Alto (home to Stanford) for a bit. Made it home by 6 am.

Lessons Learned:

1) Turn off your parking brake when you're driving.

2) Wear shoes that you can slip off and abuse others with. Don't be afraid to use them!

3) Be nice to lonely guys. They come in handy.

4) Singing Kelis' Milkshake song will guarantee a milkshake craving.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Misadventure: San Francisco

Earlier in January my best friend took me to San Francisco for a belated birthday trip. Consider it very belated, my birthday was in October (see: IST). :D

We planned to get dinner at a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurant with belly dancers. But we were late (IST :D) and got there just in time for it to turn into a hookah bar. The inside was dark and smoky, and a DJ was playing Iranian music to the side. We were seated a table away from a girl and a few guys who invited us over before we got our hookah. One of the guys, a hulking Tunisian, ended up starting the hookah for our uninitiated selves. Apparently you have to suck on the mouth piece a while before you can get the flavored tobacco to smoke.

Anyways, we watched a bunch of Arabic girls belly dance before heading out with our new acquaintances. A hobo serenaded our walk over to the Ambassador. The line was long and we ended up leaving half the group and backtracking uphill to the Cellar. That's when the neighborhood got dark and creepy. We were glad that we had gotten some of the guys to accompany us. The Cellar (my Yelp review) was a good idea, dark, dingy and full of drunken young people dancing.

When we had said, 'We want to go dancing,' I imagine our escorts expected something entirely different from what typical Indian girls do: the Desi circle. There is no grinding on the back of a girl, and the only contact consists of eyes meeting while you wildly flail your arms and legs around. Most guys would be disappointed, and so our gentlemanly friends disappeared into the crowd after realizing they weren't going to get any action. Which was fine with us, we rocked out, complimented a Michael Jackson impersonator, were scandalized by the behavior of some party goers and of course, we gravitated towards the other Punjabis in the club. We introduced ourselves and spent the rest of the night with the fellows.

There were four guys that walked us back downhill and treated us at Naan & Curry. The food wasn't as good as expected from a SF Indian restaurant but considering it was open at 3 am, I'll let it pass. Instead of hitting the hay at the hotel across the street, one of the guys invited us back to their place to hang out (Retrospection: This is a stupid idea! NEVER go home with guys you don't know!). I'm sure they were expecting more drinking and scandalous fun, but that's not what they got or they didn't push for it. We ended up watching Paheli for a few hours and just chatting about life. It was around 6 am when we decided it was time to go home. The taxis weren't returning calls so they offered to walk us out and drive us back to our car. By then our feet were hurting so they actually let us wait while they brought their car around. It was freezing but we watched the sunrise in San Francisco and got a car tour of the city while it was still quiet on Sunday morning.

Lessons learned:

1) Don't wear close-toed heels if you plan on hiking for 8 hours around San Francisco (or any big city for that matter)

2) Charge your cell phone!

3) Store taxi numbers.

4) Don't be a skank, otherwise guys will treat you like one.

5) Be nice to hobos. They're cool, if they're not crazy.

6) Avoid the Tenderloin District

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Wednesday my grandma congratulated me on my older cousin's 'Rishta.'

All I could think was 'Whaaaat?!?!'

I took a minute to think about it... does Rishta mean an offer or an actual engagement?

Rishta literally means 'relationship.' When it comes time to find a spouse, the other family is offering a ristha, a link into the family. The 'proper' way of getting engaged is letting everyone know that you're looking for eligible members in the community for your or someone else's son or daughter. Today's parents usually look toward India as a source of pure, traditional breeding stock. They pack their kids and head to the homeland in search of the 'right' one. This process utilizes the extensive Indian networking and interview system (post to come). All the juicy details about the possible match's socioeconomic status, family history, etc are laid out. They are quite often accompanied by pictures passing hands for judgment.

The old school way is to have the boy's family come over to the girl's house, no matter who approached whom first. The kids talk a bit in front of the parents over cha and decide if they want to meet a few more times or not.

If the couple agrees, the engagement and ring ceremony follow. Typically the ring ceremony preludes the wedding by six months to a year. The engagement cements the beginning of the rishta.

FB statuses and pictures confirmed the facts. My cousin was there a week before she was engaged. In retrospect the engagement was inevitable, an Indian girl hitting 25, single, not on a career path... of course there would be a wedding dhols on the horizon!

I'm excited for new Punjabi suits! And matching jewelery of course. :D

Monday, February 1, 2010

Misadventure: Sister's 21st in Santa Barbara

My younger sister turned 21 the other day.

I tried to initiate her the proper way, get her shit-faced wasted, but the Indian in her and the ones around her resisted.

She goes to school at my alma mater, so I took her downtown for free drinks.

I was glad that she dressed well, but everyone else followed in jeans and sweaters despite the relatively nice weather. The minors tried to attend with fake IDs, I let them know it was a bad idea and wouldn't work in Santa Barbara. They got through at a couple places, but we hit a snag and had to cut the night short. Sometimes there are things worth waiting for, like your twenty-first birthday, girls!

The clubbing scene was awkward to say the least. The girls came up shivering and quiet, standing to one side with hooded eyes and the clothes to match, no drinks no dancing. No big smiles.

The distance between the group could have been a chasm as wide as the club itself. I wish they had cut loose more and celebrated the moment like they were meant to. Boo. I suppose they didn't like the crowds, or didn't expect so many white people. I don't know.

In retrospect, I'd avoid partying with typical brown girls. There is a sourness in their air, an awkwardness in their hip, and a complete aversion to getting smashed. It makes them unapproachable. I'll stick with my white-washed bitches anytime, thank you.

Lessons Learned:

1) Dress sexy.

2) Dress sexy, because you didn't get it the first time.

3) Get drunk.

4) Have fun.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Republic Day

Republic Day is one of three national Indian holidays. It is the anniversary of the day India enacted it's own constitution in 1950, kicking out Britain's Government of India Act (1935). This is no small feat considering the Constitution of India came into effect 3 years after independence in 1947.

Why do I care?

Because there's a PARADE!

The guest of honor is usually a foreign dignitary hosted by the President of India (yes, India has a president AND a prime minister!). To show off India's military might, the parade walks several regiments of the Indian armed forces, tanks, planes and missiles through New Delhi. It starts at the presidential palace, passes by the Delhi Gate and ends at Red Fort. It also showcases regional cultures with floats and performers that follow the military procession.

The anthem of the day is, "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara," a patriotic song that debuted on Republic Day in 1988. The song is composed of the single line repeated in several different Indian languages. "Mile sur mera tumhara," roughly meaning 'mine and your tunes meet.'

This year the song was rewritten and expanded to triple the time of the original. The song went from something simple and catchy into a trendy Bollywood musical interlude. I can't say I'm not proud of the Punjabi-Sikh section at 4:50... but you can probably skip the rest. :)


Awesome blog post on the epic MSMT2 fail

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Biji Rating: Book of Eli

Let's do something new. I'm going to rate this movie by how appropriate it would be to watch it with Biji, my grandma.

"Determined to salvage a sacred text in order to protect humanity, Eli (Denzel Washington) goes on a quest across the country in this action-packed sci-fi adventure. Meanwhile, a blind woman named Claudia (Jennifer Beals) tries to protect her daughter, Solara (Mila Kunis). It seems that tyrannical town bully Carnegie (Gary Oldman) has taken a shine to the girl. Directed by the Hughes brothers, the film co-stars Ray Stevenson."

--Netflix via Short Reviews

I give the Book of Eli a 4/5 Biji rating. You could probably watch this with your grandma in the room and not have to fast forward any scenes or get tsked at for watching 'gandh.' But she'd eventually wander off bored. She would in no way understand the twist at the end. I'm sure she would appreciate the women as property motif. The almost-rape scenes are really reminiscent of Bollywood until the late 90s. What makes this movie great is the hero who comes save the day.

Pros: Clear protagonist, straightforward story line, great action scenes, no nudity or kissing.

Cons: Lacking color, no music scenes and lots of bloody violence.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Lohri: Bonfire night!

Lohri, pronounced almost as Lohrdi, is a Punjabi festival meant to be celebrated on the longest night of the year. It falls on January 13 (Mom's birthday :D).

Lohri originated in the villages of Punjab as a winter harvest festival. It signals the beginning of spring and the return of longer days. It's importance lies not only in celebration but in identifying when to harvest certain crops.

Celebrations involve a huge bonfire with singing and dancing. Moongphali (Peanuts) and popcorn are tossed into the fire as offerings. The origins of the festival boil down to a primitive fire worship, where fire signifies life, health and growth. Both Hindus and Sikhs celebrate the occasion. Although Hindus have few extra rituals--including building a replica lohri goddess out of cow dung--most other customs are the same.

A family who has had a birth (usually of a boy) or marriage within the last year typically hosts a lohri celebration at their home, or in a hall if in America. The bonfire lasts late into the night, revelers dance to bhangra and the women to giddha. The peanuts and popcorn crackle and explode in the fire, which is always fun to watch. The traditional meal served on Lohri is saag (spinach) and makki roti (maize chapatis), which is yummy any time of the year. :D

Singing songs related to Lohri is a custom not often practiced in America. In India, boys go door to door singing a rhyming, nonsensical song about the vagabond hero, Dulla Bhatti, in exchange for sweets. Refusing them is usually a bad omen for the coming year.

The hero, Dulla Bhatti, was a Muslim Robin Hood. He lived in the Punjabi countryside during Emperor Akbar's reign stealing from the rich and rescuing kidnapped damsels in distress. Upon their safe return the girls' families would not want to deal with their stained honor, so beloved Bhatti would arrange their marriages AND provide the dowry. So the rebel became a living legend.

The End


Lohri Festival

Lohri Songs
Dulla Bhatti
More Dulla Bhatti

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Raag: Indian Classical Music

Indian classical music developed as a way to preserve the Vedas. The Vedas are ancient Sanskrit texts which form the basis of Hinduism. Although Hinduism developed what we now know as Indian classical music it is widely used across the Indian subcontinent regardless of religion. There are two schools of Indian classical music: Karnatic (also spelled Carnatic) and Hindustani. Karnatic is practiced in south India, and Hindustani is practiced all along the north of the subcontinent. A big difference between the two traditions is that Hindustani is very strict on compositions of raag and Karnatic is more flexible.

A raag is a composition of swara ('notes') said to have risen from Shiva's voice as he orated to a congregation of Gods in the name of mankind. Swara each correspond to animal sounds in nature and include the infamous Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa and the oft forgotten Dha, Ni. A raag also contains rules on how and which notes can be changed or bent in the recital of the raag. The notes can be both played and sung. Raags are identified as male Raga and female Ragini which can be combined to form son and daughter raags. This familial imagery shows which raags are related and perhaps how they were derived.

The personification of the ragas also confers a demi-god association. It gives each raag a personality and a power, while also emphasizing the high regard Indian classical music earns amongst its people. For example, the raag Deepak if sung properly has the power to start a fire, or Megh has the power to start monsoons. Despite the many stories of the mythological prowess of raags, they do have the ability to illicit specific emotions and moods in the audience, such as anger, joy, disgust, etc. For this reason raags have in the past been restricted to being sung at specific times of the day.

So how does this all relate to Sikhism?

The individual hymns, or shabads, of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) were composed to and organized by raag. At the end of the SGGS is an index, the Raagmala ('String of Melodies') of all the raags that can be used in the recital of the Gurbani (literally 'Word of the Guru'). Each raag is associated with a specific time of day and sets a tone appropriate for that hour.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji used music to reach out to the people he preached to. Now kirtan, shabads in raag, is an important part of Sikh temple services. If you go for prayers make sure to enjoy the kirtan that is recited before the hukamnama. And enjoy it. :)

Further reading:

Raag @ Sikhwiki
SGGS @ Gurbani Files
Raga in SGGS @ Sikhwiki
Gurbani Raag
Dolls of India

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year, 2010!

Happy New Year! It is officially 2010. Congratulations, we have lived through the first decade of the new millennium.

The full moon fell on New Year's Eve. It was the second full moon of the month, which is called a blue moon. It does not mean it was tinged blue, just a coincidence. Sadly, nothing romantic happened. < / 3

Some people celebrated New Year's Eve by going out and partying, some by staying at home and watching the ball drop in New York City, and others went to prayer services.

Dad's tradition is to attend temple services at midnight every year. The only year he skipped it was when we found out my mamaji, my mom's brother, had died. He asks us to be relaxed and contemplative on the first and last day of the year. That's usually a hard task for four children.

We left for the Ceres gurdwara (temple) around 10:30. We arrived to a packed parking lot, people were parked sideways blocking entrances and wandering around outside. I have never seen the gurdwara so packed. This specific temple serves the congregations from Ripon, Modesto, Ceres and the overflow from Turlock, so it was understandably overflowing. I found a place to sit, but the body heat generated by the masses was unbearable.

The bhaijis (brothers) performing kirtan (singing hymns with musical instruments) sounded better than some we've had. They led us in a chant of Waheguru, which means 'God is great,' with a harmonium. Last year the head priest did so without any tune for five minutes, most people were bored. The actual service was short, but when it came time to mention the excruciatingly long list of people who had prayers done on that day during ardaas... well, I was ready to head back to 2009. We were out by 12:30, the sky was a little cloudy, but the moon was out and it was gorgeous.

I wish everyone the best in the coming year! Happy 2010.