The War of the Anthems

There was a recent twitter thread that I followed on the best anthem in the world (created by Brian Skinner, a physicist at MIT I follow). According to the unofficial poll the Indian National Anthem, or as innumerable bored school kids know it as – Jan Gan Man – a bhadrolok bong monstrosity that many of us have learnt to live with, won the competition. Probably more of a sign of the number of Indians on twitter than anything else (though he tried to normalise for it like a good physicist!).

As I replied to Skinner, own test of a good anthem is its soporific value. Basically something like the number of adults of a random lot size of say, 100, it can put to sleep if repeated say, 10, times (like a lullaby) divided by the total character length of that anthem. The denominator is to correct for the true sleep-inducing potential of the melody as opposed to sheer brute length. After all, *any* sufficiently long national anthem on repeat will put people to sleep out of sheer boredom. In that respect, I think Jana Gana Mana is pretty sleep-inducing too but I wonder how much of that has got to do with its length?

What do people here think? Which one is the best, i.e. the most sleep-inducing, anthem in S Asia or indeed the World? My own vote goes to Japan’s Kimi Ga Yo which is basically just one sentence. Good on you, Japs!

Also, please feel fee to comment on the worst, (a)rousing anthems too. Of those, La Marseillaise pretty much makes the bottom of the pile in my opinion. Literally asking for a revolutionary blood bath, that one…



A commenter below mentioned offhand how they didn’t like beef. Myself, I love beef. And growing up beef curry was something we ate a lot. Since we were Bengali we ate more fish and shrimp of course. I had assumed that among Muslims in the Indian subcontinent this would be common, least outside of Hindu-majority areas. But when I hit Google it seems “Bangladeshi beef curry” is one of the top hits.

Our of curiosity, is beef curry not eaten much among Muslims in Pakistan?

This brings me some confusion, and makes me wonder what else I don’t know. What’s the most curious or interesting aspect of regional Indian cuisine? For example, Lisa M. claims that a lot of classic Bengali food is actually from Odisha (chefs from that state went to work in Bengal).

Probably the strangest thing about Bengali food, aside from the copious usage of mustard oil, is many of us really love dried fish (shutki).


When you have a hammer everything is a nail

A Racist Attack Shows How Whiteness Evolves
An assault at a New Jersey high school football game had an unexpected cast of characters

Two 17-year-old boys accused of harassing four African-American middle schoolgirls — using racial slurs and urinating on one of the victims — are facing charges including bias intimidation and lewdness.

The incident, which took place during an Oct. 18 high school football game in the New Jersey suburb of Lawrence Township and was partly captured on a video that circulated on social media, involves a cast of characters that has given some observers pause: Police say the boys are of Indian descent.

While it’s tempting to see the reported ethnicity of the boys suspected in the assault as complicating the story and raising questions about whether the assault should be thought of as racist, I look at it through a different lens. Instead of asking what the boys’ reported racial identity tells us about the nature of the attack, we should see the boys as enacting American whiteness through anti-black assault in a very traditional way. In doing so, the assailants are demonstrating how race is a social construct that people make through their actions. They show race in the making, and show how race is something we perform, not just something we are in our blood or in the color of our skin.

I want to emphasize the “complicating” aspect. Many American intellectuals don’t want to complicate an already tragic story, in black and white. Those of us of “Asian American” origin complicate that story (as do people of Latino background), so we are co-opted into the preexistent story that already exists. We are subalterns in a black and white story.

So these boys are brown kids in “whiteface”, to serve a particular narrative.

But, I believe literally every one of the South Asian readers of The New York Times that read this knows very well that anti-black racism is not something learned in the United States of America by Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, etc.


Why do nonmuslims treat muslims so badly (g)?

There are few examples of nonmuslim sectarian mistreatment of muslims more glaring than the way nonmuslims have abysmally betrayed LBGTQ muslims. Nonmuslim LBTGTQ are celebrated by Xi Jinping, Trump, Modi, Lebron James and many others. Any mistreatment of LBGTQ nonmuslims correctly dominates news coverage around the world and leads to massive global pressure. But when it comes to muslim LBGTQ, nonmuslims become suddenly silent.


The above video details the severe persecution of Palestinian LGBTQ. Palestinian LGBTQ have long been attacked by Palestinians, the muslim world and nonmuslim world.


Where are PM Modi, President Xi Jinping, President Trump, Lebron James, PM Bibi Netanyahu, PM designate Gantz? Do Englishman and Englishwoman feel guilt for the enormous suffering they have inflicted upon Palestinian LBGTQ during English empire and ever since the end of English empire? This blood debt could be repaid by giving English permanent residence status to every Palestinian LBGTQ who passes a background check to weed out violent criminals and members of organized crime.


Not that muslims are doing any better when it comes to Palestinian LBGTQ rights. Global muslim leaders Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, have you no tears and compassion for Palestinian LBGTQ? How will you be able to look up upon Allah after having betrayed Palestinian LBGTQ?

Continue reading “Why do nonmuslims treat muslims so badly (g)?”


Browncast episode 71: Stand Up Comic Rajiv Satyal

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunesSpotify,  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! It’s been a really really long time that we’ve been on 30 iTunes positive reviews. I notice that Alton Brown’s Browncast has 30 reviews on Stitcher alone! Help make us the biggest browncast there is!

In this episode I talk to Rajiv Satyal, an Indian-American comic who is becoming increasingly visible on the standup circuit. We discuss his background and his thoughts about comedy, politics, identity, cancel culture and whatever else comes up.


The shadow of the crescent

Obviously I have not had much time to write on my blogs recently. But I thought I would pass on a casual judgement I have come to in regards to Indians, and particularly Hindus. Their mentality is powerfully shaped by the Other.

This is true of modern Muslims as well obviously. As Bernard Lewis would famously assert, the victory of the West over Islam in geopolitics in the 19th-century induced a psychic trauma which Muslims are still reacting to. Postcolonialism suggests that this is the condition of all non-Western societies. They can be only understood in their reaction to the West.

In general, I think postcolonialism is not helpful. Obviously, there is some truth in the framework, but most people don’t have a “thick” understanding of history, so they simply use Theory to invent “facts.”

But, it is clearly the case that modern Indian, and Hindu, Weltanschauung, whether “secularist” or “Hindutva” or something altogether different, is hard to understand without colonialism. But it is not simply Western colonialism. It is also Islamic colonialism and conquest.

The peculiar and curious aspect of modern Indian/Hindu mentality then is the double-colonial layer. That is, the long-term sublimation of the Indian civilization under the temporal rule of Other civilizations. One could assert that China was ruled by Manchus for 250 years before its quasi-colonization. But this analogy is clearly weak because the later Manchus became so thoroughly Sinicized that Manchus as an independent ethnicity have disappeared in modern China (Manchus today are those who have descent from Manchus, not those who practice a non-Han culture).

Basically, it’s always modern complicated in India…


Review: The Intellectuals who Remade Asia (Pankaj Mishra)

This was a long rolling rant I wrote several years ago while reading Pankaj Mishra’s book “From The Ruins of Empire; The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia”. The format is that I comment as I read the book. So early parts are comments on early chapters and so on. Quotes from Pankaj are in bolded italics. I am reposting today after someone complained that it still needs some editing. Hopefully this version will be easier to read.

First things first, this books is NOT about the intellectuals who remade Asia. That book would have to start with people like Aizawa in Japan, the first Asian nation to be “remade”, but that is one nation and one set of thinkers you will not find in this book. Why? because this book is not about Asia, its history or its renaissance, it (like most of Mr MIshra’s recent work) is about post-liberal virtue signaling. For details, read on..

Introduction: After being told that everyone from Orhan Pamuk to Pakistani Ambassador (and liberal feminist Jinnahist icon) Sherry Rahman is in love with Pankaj Mishra’s new book I started reading it. The first 50 pages set a certain tone. And its not a very encouraging one.

On  page 18 he says: the word Islam, describing the range of Muslim beliefs and  practices, was not used before the 19th century. 

WTF? This is then negated on the very next page by Mishra himself. The only explanation for this little nugget is that Pankaj knows his audience and will miss no opportunity to slide in some politically correct red meat for his them. He knows that sections of the liberal academia believe that Islam is unfairly maligned as monolithic (and monolithically bad) and Pankaj wants to let people know that he has no such incorrect beliefs. It is a noble impulse and it recurs. A lot. I do not need to add that this sentence is complete nonsense. Continue reading “Review: The Intellectuals who Remade Asia (Pankaj Mishra)”


Review: Arabs. A Three Thousand Year History of Peoples, Tribes and Empires

Mackintosh-Smith, Tim. Arabs . Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

Tim Mackintosh Smith is one of those romantic Englishmen who used to go and settle in far off lands and “go native”. He lives in Yemen (apparently still there, even during the civil war) and has been writing about the region and the Arab people for several decades. This book is the culmination of a lifetime of study, a comprehensive history of a people and civilization to which he has become attached and about whom he knows more than most. It is well worth reading.

He begins by making it clear that this is a history of the Arabs, not a history of Islam. The first mention of the word Arab actually occurs in “in 853 BC (and) concerns the employment by the Assyrian state of a transport contractor, a certain Gindibu (‘Locust’), an Arab chieftain who owned vast herds of camels”. This is about 3000 years ago, and the coming of Islam lies about halfway through this history. While we know relatively little of the early (pre-Islamic) history of these people, Mackintosh-Smith wants us to be aware that the Arabs existed long before Islam did. Continue reading “Review: Arabs. A Three Thousand Year History of Peoples, Tribes and Empires”