Red Lines on BP

I prefer the motto “Nothing is Sacred.”

I do think personal insults & abuse are below the line.

However there is a difference between Islamophobia (abusing people because they are Muslim) and criticising Islam.

To apply this to the Bahá’í faith; I obviously would be sensitive about my Prophet but at the same time criticising my faith doesn’t necessarily mean that I am being criticised.

as a good rule of thumb we should try and avoid gratuitous abuse in any scenario but intellectual questions are necessary.


Cake & Rape

I shared this on Facebook (& Instagram) an some Pakistanis started accusing me of selective posting. Why hadn’t I mentioned the rapes in India, they asked?

I had shared a post of the perpetrators of the rapes in Katua and Unnao. We need to move to a Western model of immediate shaming of the accused (if proven guilty) and a Saudi method of instant dispatch. India’s system of justice is shambolic. So is Pakistan but then there is that steel of vigilante violence in Pakistan.

The problem with any discussion on South Asia is that it immediately descends into a Indo-Pak comparison slanging match. I lay this at the door of colonialism but even so both Indians & Pakistanis should not be stupid enough to fall prey to it. We have some serious regional issues and most prevalent is violence against women.

On a personal note many Pakistanis and many Bahai’s sort of see my marriage to be crossing over to the other side. For the Pakistanis it’s the insult that I have adopted more of my wife’s Indian heritage than she has mine (by an order of magnitude). For the Bahais it’s the fact that my wife is an avowed atheist and questions basically everything.

Of course in BP it’s hard to communicate that but it’s only because we have the virtual veil over this blog.

However my problem with Indian commentators is that in their haste to deal with the Pakistani psychosis (which is a thing) they’ll latch onto everything. Write what you know and if one can’t do that then know what you write.

As an example we went to watch the excellent Pakistani film, Cake, late last night in the neighbouring shire. A lot of people are now saying that this is a turning point in Pakistani cinema and it’s a coming of age for the genre. I made the observation (which I borrowed from my best friend) that Pakistani dramas follow the hyper-realist Persian tradition since they don’t have the budgets and have to skirt censorship. There’s probably some historical angle to it but my point being is just because I’m making an observation doesn’t mean that I’m negating the underlying fact that Pakistani cinema ultimately split from Bollywood in 1947.

Finally India and Pakistan are on different spectrums of the politics of hate. With movies like Cake featuring a Urglish speaking Sindhi family going back to their roots, Pakistan has been trying to project soft power post 9-11. Pakistan is trying to emerge from a century of the politics of hate ever since Allama Iqbal recanted Saare Jahan se Accha after his Cambridge years.

On other hand with the brutal rape of an 8yr old Muslim girl, whose religion & ethnicity was central to the attack, India is now understanding the cost of the politics of hate. Let’s see the extent to which liberal India can push back and reverse the tide but it’s the logical outcome of “othering” the Muslim minority over the past 2/3 decades.

This isn’t about point-scoring; the tragic and lasting legacy of colonialism has been that it’s divided us in these mutually exclusive camps. Maybe more marriages, friendships and associations over caste, national & religious lines will help heal the divide.


Return to BP

I’ve been following this blog for many many years. It went dormant for a time, not officially, but the activity was far less than what I’ve noticed recently. Among the founders, Zach and Razib play different roles as hosts (i’ve always thought of Omar as a host as well!), and many of us access Razib’s content directly on his personal site or GNXP. Zach has been amiable and generous in his effort to engage participants in the comments over all these years. If he makes a controversial statement or feels he made an uncharitable judgement, he has the self awareness and good nature to correct course. Unlike some of us who are anonymous, he shares a bit of his personal life here, which makes it higher stakes in terms of personal reputation. Its one thing if someone calls girmit a moron,its another if someone calls my actual known self a moron. So decorum in addressing the “real” people is important. I’m not talking about the specific controversy that precipitated Zach’s departure, but just a general policy. Its not easy to sustain a platform like this, and it would really be a shame for this platform to lose his stewardship.

At times I suggest we acknowledge the host-guest relationship here. There will always be random hit and run commenters, but for those of us who participate more frequently, lets consider the fact that we didn’t create this forum. If we can reach an understanding on that, I think it could make a compelling case for his return.

I took a few days out and did some reflection. The Pakistani in me thrives on drama,the Persian in me repulsed by it. I guess that dichotomy is what Walt Whitman meant about contradicting oneself & having multitudes. I also realise I may come across as a flip flopper but then so be it, in these past few days I have crossed several years..

I hadn’t read the blog in the meantime not because I was upset but because I wanted to introspect.

I am just catching up (I had however checked out Kabir’s excellent review of a Suitable Boy). Girmit’s excellent comment above, on my goodbye post, summed up my feeling & situation though in this iteration Razib & Omar (or Omar & Razib) are primus inter pares, which is fine by me since they were able to reboot BP and I couldn’t.

Furthermore Razib & Omar are much more substantial writers than I am (so is Slapstick, after all he is the only true Pandit among us) whereas I veer towards the polemical, observational and sometimes outlandish.

However I cannot accept my comments being arbitrarily deleted; that is a red line if there ever was one (my opinions are not garbage, my time has some value). The other is abuse or disrespect (which we hadn’t got to but would probably have gotten there).

I’m not paid to write at BP, I do it because it’s fun (and a good stress buster) but also because I’m sentimentally invested in this blog. I do think (hope) that BP has the ability to influence desi discourse in the “Devil Wears Prada” model where our rather niche topics eventually percolates into more popular mediums but then again that may just be an idle fancy of mine.

As Girmit alludes above I’m quite transparent (overly so) about who I am and my life and my choices. The fact that I’m friendly with most of the authors (& friends with Kabir) goes at the heart of what I’m about so a little allowance has to be made that my online persona pretty much maps onto my real life person. This incessant need of mine to be liked (when I first joined social media for several years I would like everything in my newsfeed to avoid hurting people’s feelings until I realised what an idjot I was being) also means I’m not very good at handling dislike (I shirk from confrontation unless I absolutely have to; my best offence is usually defence).

Zachary Latif isn’t a handle, he’s a real little boy with feelings and ideas and dreams; who above all loves his wife and puppy. sometimes he gets it right, at other times he’s simply trying to figure stuff out.. so forgive him when he does get it wrong because he does actually mean well…

Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble and there is always time.



Final word

I just checked brown pundits after a nice night out to see that a comment I had deleted been excerpted. Regardless of any spat we may have or have not had that is a shocking violation of my own words and my right to expression especially after I had removed the comment.

I initially deleted the post but instead decided to let it stand (I tried reading it but frankly the only interesting thing in it was my excerpt).

This will be my last post/comment on Brown Pundits (I’ve deleted my account) since a irreparable line has been crossed.

End of an era for me at least. Persian pride and Pakistani passion have always been my vices.


Moneylenders & Indian farmers

I’ve edited a fairly interesting passage about Indian agriculture on sorghum written by my Father in Law, Ramesh Lalchand, in the course of some import-export correspondence (we work together on Raef LLC):

I must inform you that Indian agriculture is extremely fragmented. Unlike the US or Europe, farming in India is carried out by small and medium scale farmers.

Except of course for rice and wheat, which is an entirely different ball game altogether. Rice and Wheat is consumed by the entire Indian population, hence realising the importance of this we had a Green Revolution organised by the then Indian Prime Minister in 1974, Indira Gandhi. From 1974 and for the next 5 years; the focus was on rice and wheat. This Green Revolution was so successful that from a net importer of Rice and Wheat, we are today one of the exporting forces in the world.

Due to the Green Revolution in rice and wheat other agri-products were neglected. Though we are now self sufficent in most agri-commodities; our other cereals and pulses never received the importance they deserved. As a result of this most other commodities, including sugar cane, is produced by small and medium farmers who not only sell to wholesalers but also to the government.

Sorghum in particular is grown in Maharastra state , Karnataka state and Andhara state, which amounts to 70%  of the sorghum. The balance 30% is grown in various different parts of the country but not in very large quantities

The grains market are normally organised once a week. All farmers literally bring their produce to a huge playground where brokers, wholesalers and other interested parties attend. They bring it in Bullock carts!!! And some have tractors with a trailer attached but mostly it is Bullock carts.

But in the case of rice and wheat is not traded like this. The growers are given govenment warehouses where the grains are given floor space and then it is sold to the government. The biggest buyer of Rice and Wheat is the FOOD CORPORATION OF INDIA, which is a govenment undertaking. What goes on there is another story. That will be discussed some time later. Let us for now focus on sorghum.

These small farmers bring in as little as one ton to max 10 to 15 tons . And payments are on the spot cash payments only.

The suppliers are the farmers, their forefathers were farmers and so are they in farming too. They only have their past performance of growing sorghum and nothing else.

You must also know that the Indian farmers is born in debt, lives in debt and dies in debt. So even he would have to get concurrence from his money lender. Let us say hypothetically even if we are ready to pay the money lender off, he will refuse to let go. Because of this thousands of farmers commit suicide every year due to the abuse they have to tolerate from money lenders. The government knows that and is desperately trying to rectify this problem . That is why over USD 2 Billion dollars in Indian currency loaned to the farmers by the Indian government is written off year after year as bad loans.

India got its independence in the year 1947 . At that time our food grain imports was the biggest bill on our heads in spite of the fact our population was much much smaller then. Today with 1.2 Billion people to feed we export food and food related products including seafood to the tune of 60 billion dollars !!!!!!

China on the other hand with a population of 1.5 billion has a much smaller export of food grains but a very large import bill on its head.


If the House of Islam were a family

The Arabs would be the venerable, schizophrenic and impotent patriarch.

Iran would be the ageless, beautiful but bitter bride, constantly scheming and harlotting where she can.

The Turks would be the valiant general with whom Iran has carrying on with for the past millennia shortly after her Arabian rape.

Pakistan would be the 20-something sub-altern to the general desperately trying to win the respect of the Patriarch and love of the Bride; to the amusement of all 3.

The Afghans would be the angry teenage chowkidar (gatekeeper) pushed around by the sub-altern after he’s been slapped around.

The Kurds and Berbers would be the angry adopted kids constantly plotting to break up the House but never really getting anywhere except for minor victories. They win a bedroom here and there but they aren’t able to make their own house; no funds, no love, no real friends.

The Indians & Bangladeshis would be the next neighbours over wondering why the sub-altern prefers to be a servant in that house rather than a friend in theirs.

The rest (Malays, Africans) are distant cousins who come over once a year for an Eid reunion and visit the ailing Patriarch.

Someone should make a comic strip about the Ummah; I’m sure it’ll be a blast, no pun intended..


Tarek Fatah is a fu*king moron

Pardon my French!

The shooter’s name was Nasim Eghdam, who anyone would know was Persian.

In fact she turned out to be a Bahai (like me)! Also there are some Persian surnames that are predominantly or disproportionately Bahá’í in origin because Iran adopted surnames in the 20’s/30’s. Eghdam did sound like a Bahá’í surname..

Of course it seems she had some sort of mental illness and I apologise on behalf of our faith (any violence is forbidden). There could have been no justifications for her action and her father did warn the police. Thankfully no one was killed (3 were unfortunately wounded) and it really does seem like mental illness.

I’m really shocked that a Bahá’í could do something like this but I’m sure there are many learning lessons for the community in this (what do we do with isolated believers etc).

Finally Tarek Fatah is a fool and a half. Anyone with common sense would know that this was a Persian name and that Persians won’t do Terrorism in the name of Islam. I’m beside myself with fury at his blatant Islamophobia; not that I’m an apologist for Muslims in any way.

As one can contrast my approach and apology about a Bahá’í shooter (the genuine shame that she brings on the Faith & the sadness that the Faith was not there for her) in contract to the constant defensiveness of Muslims about terrorism done in the name of Islam.


How did I handle casual racism in Los Angeles? Awkwardly

I am trying to avoid the “P-word” in BP but my wife assures me that after the Shahid Afridi controversy that if BP were to simply be about that “topic” we’d get a million viewers a day (I was telling her the readership views). I’ll probably crack from the moratorium but in the meantime let’s read on the sublime Romesh Ranganathan (his sense of humour is just wicked).

Before I first arrived in the US, I had been bombarded with advice from my friends about the nightmarish experiences that anyone brown faces at immigration, and warned that I should steel myself for a thorough interrogation and a cavity search. This turned out not to be the case, as I was welcomed by the officer at immigration and wished well on my new journey. He then started discussing astrology with me, which I couldn’t give a shiny shit about, but obviously had to feign interest to avoid immediate deportation.

It was only a couple of weeks later that my attitudes towards racism were once again brought under scrutiny. My family and I were at a restaurant having dinner with an all-white family (I mention this because it’s relevant to the story, not just because I want to show off that I have white friends) when an older woman approached our table.

“I have been watching you all evening, and I have to say how wonderful I think you are.” Nobody at the table had any idea what she was talking about, but, I have to admit, a small part of me hoped I might have been recognised so that I could demonstrate to my wife that I did in fact have some profile over here and this move to the US wasn’t a complete waste of time. My dreams were immediately shattered, however, when she announced to most of the restaurant: “This is what America is all about. Families eating together regardless of colour! This makes me so happy. And I’m saying this as a Republican!”

I sat in astonishment as my wife and friend discussed how nice that was and what a positive experience we had just had. I firmly disagreed. I made the point that we were just sitting having dinner and that we should be able to do that without it being commented on or misinterpreted as some sort of social statement. My wife and friend, however, felt that this woman might have felt like she had made some progress in her attitudes and that her approaching us to share that was something to be celebrated.

On both of these occasions, I felt that my response to what was happening was insufficient and that perhaps I have a responsibility to tackle these beliefs to help combat discrimination. But, mostly, I just want to have a quiet Mexican meal with my token white mate.