The Rise of the Quarter-breeds in Bollywood

We saw Kabir Singh over the weekend and while I had issues with the film; I enjoyed it.

I had known of Kiara Advani (the lead actress playing a demure Punjabi girl) but I had just assumed she was another Sindhi (Brahmin) girl.

I was surprised to look at her profile and see that she’s half Muslim but that the Muslim half is mixed in with some European.

So essentially like the Kapoor sisters; Alia Bhatt (Vidhi was telling me that she’s Muslim because her nana is Razdan loll) and now Kiara, there is a trend of starlets having a hidden European maternal grandmother (lets not even start with Katrina Kaif).

They have the Indian surname, upbringing and Hindi but also get that “look enhancement” from the European infusion. I’m using that controversial term because that is the Indian beauty standards; sharp features with a fair skin and dark hair/eyes.

Pakistan girls will usually push the envelope and lighten their hair, if they can pull it off. Though I find the Pakistani aesthetic standard to be sometimes a bit too fake for my own tastes.

Intriguingly enough this aesthetic appeal was probably fixed during the Mughal-Muslim period since its not a European ideal. It also doesn’t feel that pre-Muslim India’s aesthetic ideal was similar but then in the Indian Numismatics podcast I was told India’s only imports were wine & (fair) women..

The irony is that the Western perception of Desi beauty is more along the lines of Freida Pinto; softer features with duskier skin.

Happy birthday to Hollywood’s most fabulous Brown Star; Mindy Kaling. She’s an amazing role model on so many levels and as I tell all my +35 single Desi female friends, just go to the sperm bank and get a tall Dane to be your baby-daddy.

Of course my own hypocrisy knows no bounds since my social media coup; I’ve erased all the previous Brown symbols (Kal Penn / Mergagh Man) and replaced it with Kiara Advani, Mughal Princesses & the Hum Safar cast(e).

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When White Men rule the roost; there are no need for Rules.

I was rifling through the obit of an Oxbridge Historian. What jumped out at me:

With a good degree in the subject, he embarked on a PhD on the Austro-Hungarian army before 1914, though never completed it, and gained a reputation for brilliance sufficient, along with his linguistic abilities, to obtain a research fellowship at Caius in 1965, and two years later an assistant lectureship in Russian history, moving to Jesus College in 1971 as director of studies in history.

I was shocked at reading this because a PhD is a pre-requisite to any academic research path. I mentioned this to Vidhi and she glibly replied back that when it was all white men, there wasn’t really a need for rule enforcement.

It articulated something that I had felt but not been able to voice heretofore. The role of white people constantly acting as gatekeepers and rule-enforcers in my interactions in Britain.

The sanctimoniousness with which I’ve been lectured, always subtle never overt, is something that I’ve internalised over the years.

The identity crisis in the West is marked by the fact that the older generation is one race while the younger generation is mixed with another (and the generation after that is even more tilted). The reflexive reaction of the Establishment is now to make sure that those who take on the mantle must know the law if they will not imbibe in the customs in their Oriental homes.

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humblebragging History-

I’m really glad to know that the Greeks (read white people) were responsible for the Ramayan. That’s a huge weight off my mind.

The author apologised in the following tweets but I’m posting it that we may remember. There is a very subtle historical bias that constantly pumps up the Greco-Romans at the expense of other civilisations. It’s a way to justify not only colonialism and a linkage that there has always been something exceptional (and outward looking) about Western Civ.

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The limits of semantics; Hindus before Hinduism

When I was a 20-year old atheist I would read books on the philosophy of religion and explore arguments for and against the existence of god(s). Though I was never naive enough to think that just if people could be exposed to arguments against the argument for design people would be atheists, I wouldn’t have rejected it out of hand.

This is not a view I hold on to in any way because I believe religion as a social-cultural phenomenon is too complex and multi-faceted to reduce to a set of philosophical propositions. The “god of philosophers” ultimately misses the point of the reason so many people believe in god, and what sustain’s religion. But because the philosophers write the histories and dominate the priestly class, they have rewritten religion in their image.

A more complex view has to be brought to bear when we talk about ideas such as the “invention of Hinduism” by the British. If one limits the term “Hindu” to its utilization to point to a self-conscious and concise confessional community unitary across South Asia and disjoint from that of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, etc., then one can assent to the proposition that the “Hindu identity” was “invented” relatively late in history.

But this is a piss-poor resolution to understanding the dynamics of human cultural evolution in South Asia.

As I have noted before, 1,000 years ago al-Biruni presented and anthropological understanding of the religion of Hindus that is totally recognizable and comprehensible to us. I say here “religion of Hindus” because he was referring here to the people of India, Hindus, rather than a religion called Hinduism. This is a shading which refines the descriptions with more precision, but if you actually read al-Beruni you notice that the term “Hinduism” is pure semantic sugar. It doesn’t add much substance, though it tightens up the style. He clearly outlines a religious system and communal identities which we would recognize today as Hindu.

For the philosophers and intellectuals, religion can be reduced down to particular parameters. My own view is that when people say a “Western view” of religion, they are actually alluding to the conception that arose out of the Calvinist framework, which strongly informed the American conception in relation to church-state interaction (and, in some ways, modern atheism is the child of the demystified Calvinist cosmology). Even within the West, this highly rational, confessional, and individualistic, understanding of religion is an artifact of the past few centuries, and not normative across all Christian traditions and societies.

When it comes to this weblog the usage of terms always needs to be framed in the context of their times. If you speak of the “Sunni-Shia” conflict of the 7th-century, you need to realize this is highly anachronistic. Sunni Islam, as we understand it, only developed organically over the centuries in reaction to the claims of the party of Ali and his scions, those who became Shia. Similarly, if one talks about “Hindus” in the context of Maurya India, one realizes that one is bracketing a host of philosophical schools and religious sensibilities which are at variance with Buddhism and Jainism. One can argue whether the term “Hindu” is more or less informative, but one should also understand that one can extract significance from the term even before its 19-century maturation.*

* I would be personally cautious about using the word “Hindu” before the Gupta period, but think that it makes sense after that, even if there was no a self-conscious Hindu religion for many centuries after. Your mileage may vary.

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BP Episode 50: South Asian Subnationalism with Prof. Majeed

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunes, Spotify,  and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

Professor Majeed and Xerxes discuss linguistic sub-nationalism and the all important Grierson survey in establishing it.

As many viewers will probably notice that many of my interest veer towards language politics (episode 49). Professor Majeed was very forthcoming and gave the background to how linguistic regionalism began to soon complement the intense communalism in pre-independence India.

Many Punditeers usually suggest that x & x language will die out (Telugu, Kannada, Tamil etc), which is hyperbolic.

Languages in India are very healthy

As Daniyal Shoaib said in Episode 49 even Bhojpuri, Mathili and Braj are very healthy. The point of linguistic states is that language survival is pretty much guaranteed but in a Hinglish milieu will there be sufficient language sophistication.

It remains to be seen how much of North India will reconfigure linguistically but the great victory of the Sikhs has been to ensure that Punjabi is a very vigorous and influential language in India, in a way that it is not in Pakistan (though having nearly 3x the speakers there if one includes Saraki & Hindko).

Saraki is probably going to be the biggest transformation of the Pakistani polity- I can’t imagine a separate Saraikistan agreeing to keep Urdu as the provincial language in the same way Punjab, KPK and Baluchistan (all of which are diverse states) have done.

The languages that are threatened are Sindhi in India (Sindhi in Pakistan is the most vigorous linguistic sub-nationalism in South Asia, on par with Tamil), Kashmiri (Urdu has supplanted it for generations) and other minority tongues that are stateless (maybe Tulu and so on). The Adivasis languages are under threat by other state languages as their populations being to mainstream to regional (as opposed to national culture).

Continue reading “BP Episode 50: South Asian Subnationalism with Prof. Majeed”

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weight loss 101

LV was saying instead of always writing at BP on random topics; I should be offering my services (pro bono) on weight loss and weight lifting.

This morning I weighed at 79.9kg; the first time I’ve been in the 70’s since my wedding in Dec’2016. When I started my…

Posted by Zachary Zavidé on Sunday, June 23, 2019

My Six Pack Journey — How I went from Fat to Ripped in 6 months

The author went from 87kg to 65kg. Roughly my height and weight but I started with much more muscle (at 89kg I was still a waist size 34).

I plan for 68.5kg to be my “death weight” so the idea is come what may I’ll stick to that.

I am relying on red meat however as I love it so much (it’s my crutch). A George Foreman grill cooks meat in 5 minutes flat and pair it off with a salad. I don’t put any oil on the meat but I probably should.

Apparently Protein is the most satiating nutrient so I tend to front-load my nutrition first thing in the morning.

I will rebalance my diet once I hit my weight metrics for more sustainability but I have the advantage that I have a somewhat “iron constitution” and I am not “taste-sensitive.”

I also use the mental trick of filling up my fridge and freezer with groceries. Since I have a pathological aversion to wasting any food, it stops me from going out to eat.

My problem is that I am a fast eater; I don’t chew as much as I want to so mindfulness is important in that area.

Apps I use:

Noom (Fitness Pal with Psychology)

Fitbod (for weight lifting)

Peak (for brain training)

Things I Do:

OMAD (one meal a day): I try to limit myself to 1.5kg a week of weight loss (so technically on Tuesday the 25th of June I should be 75.9kg instead of 79.9kg according to my timeline) so I use OMAD to nudge myself downward when I need.

IF (intermittent fasting): I used to do this 8/9yrs ago but I’m sort of building this up. I do find not eating does give a rest to the body.

The fear that if one *starves* the body goes into metabolic shutdown/slowdown seems a bit overrated. A Cambridge Prof, who runs some of the nation’s largest diabetes studies, was telling me that there were two Lancet published studies on the utility of a low calorie diet.

The key in an weight loss is long term sustainability.

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It’s not always Racism

A few trends emerged over this week’s. This is separate to MJ’s powerful post, which is about a different framework altogether.

(1.) people are quick to blame racism for everything. In an age of no discrimination; people are going to select on intelligence, beauty and other such features.

(2.) BAME is rapidly being tagged with LGBT.

(3.) BAME runs the risk of being physically unattractive since anything goes.

(4.) White people are even prominent in BAME space so in a lot ways these new identities are more about attention for newer types of elite.

(5.) Elitism may not be about race but class and other selecting factors.

(6.) Utopian conversations is about a world “without an elite” are bs. We should rather have honest conversations about what the elite should be and to what extent should they be in control.

(7.) ego-trips are a thing in idealistic politics and being self-aware is important (thankfully I have V to keep me in check constantly).

(8.) Much like the Jews in the era of civil rights; Dharmic (model) minorities in the West are rapidly gaining control of the anti-establishment narrative in order to colorise the elite. It’s questionable once this batch of Indians, Chinese and other Asians are fully WASPified whether they will retain their sympathies for the next wave of coloured aspirants.

(9.) the contentions that White people and the West are hide-bound racists elides the narratives that we all have a “home back home.” The question as to why none of us want to resettle East is complex (colonialism ruined our countries, material and social opportunity in the West) but it’s a painful contradiction.

(10.) unlike the Aframs, Aboriginals and Native Americans; the West has very few “involuntary minorities.” So any criticism of the West have to tread a fine line and negotiation (hence why I’m suspect of immigrants who join anti-establishment parties).

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I am Brown, so what?

It has been six months since I assumed office as the key student-facing sabbatical officer of the University of Cambridge Graduate Union, in my fourth stint as a student leader in the Cambridge University student unions. The role has involved campaigning on multiple fronts, including on rent, divestment, anti-racism and international student concerns, and I have enjoyed it thoroughly. In this period, I have proposed policy motions on three areas of focus: housing and living expenses, fair pay and support for teaching (and research) opportunities for students, and departmental welfare. I have also reformed the GU executive committee with the introduction of working groups for each part-time officer and the establishment of an intersectionality forum. The other major part of my period here has been representing postgraduate students in University committees. Be it the Graduate Tutors’ Committee, Environmental Sustainability Strategy Committee, Academic Standards and Enhancement Committee, University Research Ethics Committee, Societies Syndicate or even the Consultative Committee for Safety in the University of Cambridge, committees are where most of the administrative work of the University gets done with major stakeholders involved. They have had interesting topics discussed from apprenticeships for students to student finances and mental health in the various committees.

Important and interesting!

However, there are times when a certain other side comes through. A side so subtle that it may be missed in all the politeness and propriety that characterize certain formal and semi-formal interactions in the University. Notwithstanding that some of these meetings can be very technical, the committees address key points that require a student voice. That relate to the student experience. That need the perspective of those that consult and engage with students across the Collegiate University. In most meetings I have been quite active and vocal about concerns and points. People have been respectful and nice. Polite. Inclusive. Except when they have not. On paper and on the face of it, things have always been inclusive. The chairs have always given me a chance to speak. The members have listened. Yet, there have been times when in a room full of white people and myself being the only BAME person has struggled to feel included in the discussion, even if I had done as much work, if not more, and known as much about a certain topic. There have been times when I have felt the need to prove myself in the room when I needn’t have. There have been times when I have led a campaign for months and have a lot to share and build on, and a University official would look at my (white) colleagues and address them instead. Speaking on the points relevant to either what I was just saying or something related to a campaign I was helping build!

There are times when I have raised certain points, only for them to be side-lined and that too on flimsy reasons. There have been other times when the only time I was even addressed was when a very specific point was raised by me, after which the reference was taken for the same, and the discussion went right back to disregarding my presence. I could as well have worn an invisibility cloak, to come out for that point, and go right back into it, without anything or anyone being affected. There was a time when this reached a level where I left a semi-formal meeting simply because I could not bear it anymore. Not wanting to pin down any individual here, I felt like this is something that is important to share, important to talk about, important to stand up against. I would not go so far as to say that it is an entrenched racist bias in the system as much as there is still a need to have training on unconscious biases and cultural differences across the University. Last year when I saw and heard how racism even plays a role in student politics elections, on the campaign trail, and how it affected a certain election (a big part of that upset was blatant racism, that was not even subtle), I was disillusioned and yet hopeful. It seems the problem is deeper.

Racism on the surface is eradicated. Yet, there is unconscious bias at various places. Still at the very highest levels of the university, most positions are occupied by white men. I am sorry but I cannot mince any words here for political correctness. Recruitment of BAME academics, representation of BAME students and staff, and funding of BAME activities (slightly better with the University Diversity Fund) are still some of the places where a lot can be done. There are still instances when the cultural differences of BAME students are not appreciated to the level it could and should be, possibly because of lack of awareness of those differences. There is also a tendency to homogenize the needs, interests and views of the BAME community, both by those outside the community and even those who claim to represent the community. If one does not conform to some ideas and political ideologies to a certain extent (sorry but that has to be the hard Left in this case; I believe in socialism but not to the extent where anyone not conforming to my views is not allowed a chance to speak), one cannot be a `good BAME representative’. Apparently. The other-ing of people, even within the BAME community, is also a highly nuanced topic, best kept for another article. Even within campaigns such as the LGBTQ+ campaigns, the lack of BAME voices is troubling, as is the selective targeting of BAME members of campaigns (such as in the protests in the anti-Noah Carl campaign in St. Edmund’s College, when three BAME students were suspended even though they were a few of the many white and non-white participants), and that again is best left for another article. Prevent is a big issue still and a tool sometimes unfairly used.

Even among certain peers and colleagues, without disparaging or targeting anyone in particular, there are times when I have to work towards trying to be a part of the group or feel appreciated. Why should I? Why should I try to conform to archaic ideas of white-ness? Why should I stand on standards set by others? I am Indian and very proudly Indian. I am patriotic (and certain fairly white BAME individuals would have a problem with that too, tagging me as ‘ultranationalistic’) and proud of my heritage, culturally and socially. I have my set of ideas, ethics, values and views, and I would not on seven lives want to compromise on them to fit in. I do not want to fit in and do not need to fit in. And yet I am supposed to or there are those who would be all ears for my ‘concerns’ in the cold, impersonal way you would listen to a distant anecdote of Timbuktu. Why? I am not just a smiling face working away hours to please a person or to prove a point. Why should the abilities of a brown individual be questioned at every turn (even recently a member of the Cambridge University Hungarian Society asked me whether I was elected to my position!). I am as deserving as any other, if not more in some ways, to do what I currently do. And yet I am more than just my curriculum vitae, my credentials and my work. I am a human being with ideas, emotions, perspectives, and, most importantly, just my humanity. In today’s increasingly impersonal and capitalistic world, everyone is after something: proving a point, getting somewhere, achieving something. For what? We will all die and yet may not find either the theory of everything or become the richest person ever (for there can always be a beyond). And it is even worse when those standards of reaching somewhere are oriented around guidelines set by a certain community or people. I do not agree with that. I actively deny that and reject that. Period.

Even in the larger Cambridge town, there have been such disturbing cases. Only today, I was taking a knife for cutting bread to a garden party that the student unions were hosting and this van is passing by, and there is a man on the passenger seat who spits right in front of me (which I would like to believe he did, regardless of me) but his look and the way he kept looking back at me showed a certain paranoia, a certain suspicion that was baseless. I was reminded of the famous ‘I am Khan and I am not a terrorist’ line! Elsewhere, once while playing pool, I joined in with some guys at the WTS Sports club, and the club has a system of putting in coins for the light. Since I was just joining in and rather waiting for my real friend group to turn up, I did not contribute any cash. This white man who was also playing comes up to me and sarcastically asks whether I want to piggy-back on their money. As if! The gall! Such disrespect! It was not India that had piggy-backed on England for centuries but the other way around! Just putting that historical context in place. I moved away after saying that I have better things to do than that and later he seem to have mellowed down (and I could not care any less, for that).

We live in an age where colonialism is a distant memory and where the Enlightenment has hopefully made the rights and liberties of the individual a priority along with respecting the disparate identities and associated interests and concerns in society. If Cambridge must truly be inclusive and BAME friendly, we need to focus on these aspects. Not just have things on paper or in the front but back it up with training of students and staff, on cultural differences and sensitivity, and make the BAME members of the university feel more included, valued and respected.

Let us truly build an inclusive Cambridge (if we can)!

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