There emerged a question in the comments below as to what was “brown” or “desi”?
Ah, the old demarcation problem! Since there is no “Pope of Brownness” we can all offer our opinions. I take a “liberal” and “broad” view.
There are children adopted from India in the United States who are as physically South Asian as anyone. But often they were raised as English-speaking American Christians. Though many attempt to reconnect with “their culture”, the reality is that their family is the family who adopted them. Their culture is the culture in which they grew into adulthood. But, because of the way they look people make assumptions about them. Perhaps people are racist against them as South Asians.
Despite their involuntary cultural alienation from all things South Asian, I have a difficult time thinking that these kids are not brown. Especially if they so want to identify as such.
In contrast, you have the case of people of various races who convert to religions with a South Asian provenance or were raised in those religions. Imagine someone whose parents convert to Hinduism, and raise them in India, but they are half Japanese and English American. They don’t “look” Indian. Brown. Or desi. But if they are raised in India, and practice a form of Hinduism, and speak Indian languages, I have a hard time saying that they don’t have a right to “claim” being desi or brown.
There are obviously many other cases. But I wanted to present these two as opposing and inverted instances, as I think they are the boundary conditions of what desi or brown identity is. People can say what they want about themselves. They could be an Iyer raised in Chennai who claims that they’re really not Indian or desi. Or, someone could be a Russian Karelian who is devoutly Orthodox who claims they Indian. I suspect most of us would think that this is nonsense. To be brown or desi does have boundaries.
But we can make the boundaries crisp and tight. Or broad and loose. For example, to assert that to be desi one has to be a believing and practicing Hindu who is racially South Asian would be a narrow definition.
Or, we can make them broad.
As an American, a broad definition works best for me. My children may not speak a South Asian language, worship Hindu gods, or look particularly “Indian.” But of their eight great-grandparents, four of them were born in British India. They have some claim I think to that heritage and identity, if not as strongly as those genuinely encultured.
Few questions came my way. I also keep in touch with our Jewish cousins in Israel and some interesting input came from that side
“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when
they do it from religious conviction.” Blaise Pascal
Thanks to Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, we are more educated and enlightened. Recent conference in Warsaw was an open conference and not a secret meeting. Everyone was euphoric but at the same time somehow uncomfortable and wanted to qualify his statement or simply walk back what they said. Bibi said that ‘in a room of some 60 foreign ministers, representatives of dozens of governments, an Israeli Prime Minister and the foreign ministers of leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime”. His official twitter account noted ‘the Arab states were sitting together with Israel to advance the common interest of war with Iran”. This was later deleted and used the phrase ‘combating Iran’. Bibi used the Hebrew word ‘milchama’ that means war. Same video clip in which Bibi is speaking in Hebrew was also later edited.
Bibi’s office also shared a video with Israeli journalists of a panel that was closed to the media. Foreign Minister of State of Saudi Arabia and Foreign Ministers of United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain were on the panel and moderator was former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross. The three Arab diplomats poured their hearts to the audience. Here are examples of some of the exact quotes. When asked by Dennis Ross about his view of Israeli strikes on Iranian targets inside Syria, UAE foreign minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zaid al’Nahayan justified Israeli actions by stating that ‘every nation has the right to defend itself, when it is challenged by another nation’. Bahrain’s foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmad al-Khalifa said, “we grew up talking about the Israel-Palestine issue as the most important issue” but then ‘at a later stage, we saw a bigger challenge, we saw a more toxic one – in fact more toxic one in our history – that came from the Islamic Republic’. Saudi Foreign Minister of State Adel al Jubair blamed Iran for Israel-Palestinian issue stating that ‘Iran’s evil behavior destabilized the region, making Israeli-Palestinian peace impossible to achieve”.
In the opening session, Yemen’s foreign minister Khalid Al Yemeni was sitting next to Bibi. When he came under criticism from Arab public opinion, he said that it was not his fault but fault of those organizing the conference. He then dug a deeper hole by saying that ‘participation in Warsaw was not to discuss Palestine but to rally international community to confront the Iranian expansionism in Yemen”.
I personally believe that a genuine effort of Arab-Israeli entente is essential. More open interaction, discussion at public level to prepare the ground and then a meaningful diplomatic effort to reach normalization. However, they must remember that they are the defeated party and hence will get what a loser gets. Reminds me Henry Kissinger’s words. In the aftermath of 1973 war, when Anwar Sadat started his long list of demands, Kissinger replied. “Mr. President; you have lost the war, but you are asking for the spoils of the victor”. On part of Israel, they are making the same mistake of aligning with tyrants of Muslim countries rather than building bridges with populations. Same euphoria over four decades ago with Shah of Iran and his repressive regime. Ordinary Iranian saw Israel as partner of the oppressor and when the tables were turned, Israel found a new non-Arab foe. The same fretting of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman not realizing that Saudi throne is on the shakiest sand dunes of its history. One can only guess what kinds of demons will be unleashed when Arabia turns the page of Saudi prefix. Internally, demographically and ideologically, Israel has taken a sharp right turn. In this environment, annexation movement is gaining more strength making a two-state solution almost impossible. On part of Palestinians, they must fight their own battles and before that put their own house in order. It is delusional to think that Arab regimes or Iran who have not given freedom to their own people will somehow take them on the freedom train.
One does not need to be a rocket scientist to figure out the future battlegrounds. Some one sent me a clip of Adel al Jubair’s statement of a long list of charge sheet against Iran during a press conference in Islamabad. I don’t envy Pakistani decision makers. They are stuck in a bind. Now, widening intelligence net of Iran working on Shia and Barelvi adherents and Saudi Arabia doling money to their ownsalafi brands will work on new recruits for coming sectarian wars. Everyone needs to work overtime, reach out to his neighbor to make sure that their next generation is not lost in another fratricidal war.
To be sure, Iranian regime is no boy scout. Clerics usurping power and now dissent is a crime as well as a sin. Revolution’s own ideologue Dr. Ali Shariati had warned against this and in his view ‘of all dictatorships, the dictatorship of clerics was the worse’ and he called it ‘istibdad-e-rouhani’(religiously sanctioned oppression).
In fact, regimes in Saudi Arabia and Iran are mirror image of each other. They are poster child of what exactly is wrong with the political map of Muslim world in general. Ruling under the guise of religion both are deeply sectarian, representing themselves as savior of their respective sects and severely repressing their own people. Mutual hatred is to a level where they are sowing the seeds of disasters all over the globe. They are in competition of who can wreck more havoc in their respective grounds of blood sport in Yemen and Syria. The only hope is the youth of these societies where they stand up and challenge their own fathers refusing to continue the sectarian wars that their forefathers started fourteen hundred years ago.
“I will say this much for the nobility: that tyrannical, murderous, rapacious, and morally rotten as they were, they were deeply and enthusiastically religious”.
Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
This is not the LOC of the 80s or 90s. India with Israeli know-how has put in place high tech equipment monitoring equipment. Its practically impossible to smuggle men and goods across the LOC without the BSF finding out.
I have Kashmiri friends (Pandits & Muslims) who wouldn’t identify themselves as being Pakistani or Indian.
A friend of mine writes the above. He’s a credible source as he’s a East Asian pilot (half Pak). I was trying to find out more information on whether the top paragraph is true about the flow of men and goods across the LOC.
This doesn’t preclude the possibility of funding crossing the border.
As for the second paragraph I would hazard a pro-Independence Pandit is a bit like a “Palestinian Jew.” Both are naive as the possibilities of Muslim majority countries.
I want to give a personal disclaimer that I find the whole situation absurd. Pakistan needs to just stand down and we need an economically integrated Punjab. But then I see two very intransigent mindsets (oil & water) and without sounding grandiose; I feel I’m am an ambassador to two very alien nations.
The elephant in the room is Islam. People forget that Imran Khan is an extremely liberal Pakistani but even spouts the line of “Madinat Islam.” Mind you I was just the same before my epiphany on Hazrat Asia. Unless Islam is broken in the same way Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism has been; we won’t see resolution in the Muslim world.
You can love a second country just like you love a second child. Wholly and completely. You just wrap your arms around it and embrace it. New love opens up for the second without there being any less love for the first. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain. I will find a red dress. And we will swear allegiance. Hand on heart.
This explains my idea of national identity very completely. I don’t see it as either/or but rather more of an “and” proposition.
Sibi is a small rural town in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province and like many such places it has little to recommend it. It is occasionally the scene of terrorist attacks by Balochi separatists, it has no forts, palaces or ancient ruins that might attract tourists from outside, and it often records the highest temperatures in Pakistan. But as unlikely as it may seems this woebegone, dusty town was once the setting for one of Buddhism’s most enduring and beautiful legends.
In ancient times it was the capital of the small city state of Aritthapura and at one time was ruled by a king named Sivi or sometimes Sibi or Shibi. This king gets a mention in the Mahabharata and the Cholas of south India claimed to be descendants of him, a claim that had no basis in fact.
The earliest mention of King Sivi however is from the Jataka, in the Sivi Jataka, number 499 of the collection. According to this story the Bodhisattva was once reborn as King Sivi and he had made a vow to give anything if anyone asked it of him. Aware of this vow, Sakra decided to test the king to see how genuine his vow was. He manifest himself as a blind man and approached the king pleading; “Give me sight. Will no one give me sight?” Hearing this, filled with compassion, and determined to fulfil his vow, the king led the blind man to a surgeon and asked that his own eyes be taken out and transplanted into the sunken sockets of the blind man. At this point the Jataka increases the tension of the story by having the surgeon ask the king; “Are you sure this is what you want to do?” But the king is adamant and requests that the operation proceeds. What follows is a fairly explicit description of how the eyeballs were squeezed from their sockets, how the optic nerve (or is it the extraocular muscles?) is severed, and the pain this caused. Before the surgeon severs the optic nerve for good he again asks; “Are you sure you want me to do this? Once I cut it there is no turning back.” The king, now in terrible pain, begs the surgeon to hurry up and do the needful. The scene is so vivid that one is tempted to think that the ancient Indians may have actually tried to perform such an operation. As happens in most such Jatakas, the drama ends well with the king’s sight being restored.
In later Buddhist Sanskrit text there is another version of this story. Here King Sibi makes a vow that he will do whatever he can to save a life should the need ever arise. Saka manifests himself as a hawk who catches a dove within view of the king. Seeing this the king pleads with the hawk to release its prey but the bird retorts: “Then how am I to feed myself and my young?” The king thinks for a moment and then says; “I will cut some flesh from my thigh and give it to you if you let the dove go.” Driving a hard bargain the hawk agrees but says it wants the same amount of flesh as would have been provided by the dove. The king agrees, a pair of scales are produced and the process of slicing off a dove’s-worth of flesh is about to begin when Sakka reveals himself and expresses his satisfaction that King Sibi has had the courage to go through with his vow.
Although the imagery of cutting eyes balls out of their sockets or slicing flesh off a living person are disconcerting, even shocking, the purpose of both versions of this Jataka story is clear. A true hero will be prepared to sacrifice much of himself or herself for others. Jesus said pretty much the same thing in the Gospel of John: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
The Sivi version of the story is depicted in a relief from Sarnath and Nagajunakonda in Andhra Pradesh, in a mural on the walls of the Mulkirigala temple in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.
This version has had an unexpected consequence. Sri Lanka has the highest number of people willing to donate their corneas after death to be used to help restore sight to the blind. This is due to campaigning starting in 1964 by the Sri Lanka Eye Donation Society and also because Buddhists in the country are familiar with the story of King Sivi’s gift. The society has 450 branches in the country and every year is able to provide thousands of corneas to be used in eye surgery around the world.
The alternative Sibi version of the story is depicted in the art of numerous Buddhist countries. Perhaps the most well-known of these is the depiction on one of the panels of the great Buddhist temple of Borobudur in Java. In the middle of the panel a pair of large and impressive scales can be seen and in the right hand dish of the scales the dove is waiting to be weighed against the king’s flesh. This version of the story has had an influence too, although in literature rather than medicine.
In around 1597 William Shakespeare wrote his famous play The Merchant of Venice. In the play a young merchant promises to guarantee a loan his friend plans to take out in order to woo his sweetheart. The agreement is that if the loan, which is given without interest, cannot be repaid by a set date the moneylender will be repaid not in cash but with a pound (about 450 grams) of the guarantor’s flesh. The moneylender has made this stipulation because he secretly hates the guarantor and hopes that he will not be able to repay the money. The date passes without the loan being repaid and the moneylender demands his pound of flesh. The lender is soon able to repay the loan and even offers to double the amount rather have his flesh cut off, but the moneylender demands that the original agreement be kept. He does not want the money, he wants the pound of flesh. They go to court and the judges uphold the original agreement but they also decide that moneylender can have his pound of flesh but without shedding a drop of blood, which would be a criminal offence under the law.
This is one of Shakespeare’s most dramatic plays and the origin of the ideas in it have been explored in great detail. Its chief source was Giovanni Fiorentino’s llPecorone written in 1378. But where did Fiorentino get the idea of cutting off flesh of a certain weight to repay a loan? The simple answer is that no one knows. But the idea is so gripping, so iconic, so unusual, that one cannot help thinking that at some time before the 14th century, probably many centuries earlier, it may have travelled from India, through the Middle East and eventually filtered into Europe. If this is correct, it may be a small contribution Buddhist literature made to the works of Shakespeare.
The story of King Sibi endured for centuries despite the disappearance of Buddhism in India. In 1907 M. Longworth Dames published his Popular Poetry of the Baloches, containing English translations of verses, songs and poetry he had transcribed in the Balochi tongue during the previous decades. One of the poems he recorded in 1884 is immediately recognizable as the Jataka story, only the king is a Muslim named Ali.
But to return to the town of Sibi. In a semi-desert area to the south of the town is a collection of ruins. One of these looks suspiciously like it was once a stupa. We know that there was such a monument somewhere in or near the town because the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang mentioned one in his travelogue, erected “where King Sivika sliced his body to ransom a dove from a hawk, in order to acquire Buddhahood.” No archaeological examination has ever been done to determine the date and purpose of this monument, and probably never will be. But it is quite likely that it is what remains of the stupa erected to commemorate King Sivi’s noble deed.
Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on Libsyn, iTunes 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. You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else…). Would appreciate more positive reviews.
This week we’re doing something different…but also something you are going to have to expect. The “BrownCast” and “Brown Pundits” are labeled “brown” because the founders of this weblog are brown. We are obviously interested in Indian/South Asian/Desi topics…but that’s not all we are. In fact, the three original founders, myself, Zach, and Omar, are confirmed dilettantes.
One of the “privileges” of being white is that you are interested in whatever you want to be interested in. You don’t just opine on “white” topics, you opine on the world because the world is your canvas. In the year 2019, my own opinion is that more nonwhites need to decolonize their minds, get over white people and their fraught relationship with a race which dictated the terms of the 19th and 20th centuries and grasp the chaotic, polycentric, and globalized 21st century with two hands.
Cross the threshold. Step into the future. It’s interesting…if sometimes a bit too interesting.
The conversation in this podcast starts out with specific concerns and questions about how Native Americans in the USA are reacting to the candidacy of Elizabeth Warren. Brett Chapman lays out the concerns of his own people rather well. He is a lawyer, so that is to be expected! But, the conversation moves to issues relating to Catalan and Scottish independence, and reconsiderations of the sacrosanct nature of the Eurocentric Westphalian system.
Native American experiences are not just particular, they’re universal, and global.
This is 2019 and the 21st century. Two Americans, one a brown 1.5 generation semi-immigrant, one a Native American, and a brown Briton, get together and have a discussion about continental European politics. It’s our business. The world is our business. And our business is the world.
The guy is simply obnoxious; he epitomises the Coloniser complex that I write against.
She is obviously far above his league and he tries to defuse his insecurity by talking over her at every instance.
It’s strange that Netflix finds nothing wrong with this video when the level of aggression towards this lady is off the charts. You never walk out on a lady EVER but it’s only because she outright rejected him (she can do much better) that his ego couldn’t handle it.
As an aside I had no idea that she was Indian until he mentioned it and then only got more riled up.
In response to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s request for Saudi Arabia to treat Pakistani Labourers as their own people, Saudi crown prince says “Consider me ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia”.#CrownPrinceinPakistanpic.twitter.com/410FxwdfVI
Pakistanis are great at winging it; I was just talking to a friend of mine who claimed that Pakistan couldn’t have been behind the attack in Kashmir since it has so many other issues to deal with. Furthermore when I bemoaned the lack of a large market such as India he simply held up that Pakistan had access to China.
This ability to constantly Jugaad it is admirable if foolhardy. For a nation allegedly so obsessed with Izzat, the Pak PM (who is notoriously arrogant) is essentially deferring the Saudi Crown Prince, who is less than half Imran’s age, as the new Caliph.