New James Bond

While I procrastinate over my next post. (On cultural festivals organised by Auckland City-no it is not a repeat of my Diwali/Lantern Festival rants but an analysis and some questions as always), here is a fun post from one of my favourite blogs. I really enjoyed Skyfall but Idris Alba as James Bond should be cool. Like revisiting Shaft but with post-colonial discourse on the decline of empire instead of blaxploitation in the face of white elite, never mind Barack in the White House. 🙂

Meanwhile here is Isaac Hayes’s theme track for Shaft. Enjoy!

Africa is a Country (Old Site)

If you believe the rumours, sex appeal’s Idris Elba — half Sierra Leonean, half Ghanaian, fully a Londonerwill be the next James Bond, although Daniel Craig may clench and mumble his way through a couple more before that happens. If it does, Elba would be taking over at a very interesting moment for the Bond franchise, apparently now entering full-on postcolonial melancholia mode.

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Good Hair, More About It.

I see from my stats that I get a lot of hits on an old blog Good Hair; Fair Skin; Feminism Or What so here is a an article on hair extensions that might interest readers. The hair extension industry grew in Europe in spite of the recession. Not that much colouring, cutting and blow drying but lots of hair extensions.

The Hair Trade’s Dirty Secret is interesting because it talks not only about the range of hair extensions offered  (or that it is normalised now and no longer confined to the celebrity domain) but most importantly how customers don’t care which human head their extension comes from. Or that ‘fakeness’ has come to define female beauty.

If in his documentary Chris Rock bemoans about how the hair-products-for-African-Americans-industry is dominated by Asians he does not really touch upon the deep rooted poverty or economic difficulties of those women whose hair it is. Except for a quick trip to India and Tirupati, to see how devotees offer their hair to god, there is nothing about their exploitation. Would hair from a poor Indian woman’s head make an African-American female feel uncomfortable or does she just want to have hair like Kim Kardashian? No sisterhood of suffering here? Of course a feature length documentary is not enough to cover such complex issues.

I have thick, long, wavy hair, as I mentioned in the old post.  Some years ago I cut it all off and donated it to a wig maker who made wigs for cancer stricken women.


My hair, as much as I could fit in the photo.

I could never offer it ‘god’ even though my hair is a source of joy and vanity and hence worthy of sacrifice (what would god do with it anyway?). So really it is the same old story of tax free temple authorities, in cahoots with middle-men and exporters who make the profits even as the end user does not care about the source of this thing of beauty. Capitalism as we know.

This will go on of course because humans are vulnerable and tools in the hands of priests with their direct links to god so the devout will offer their hair for the very rich and the wannabes in the Western world to look and feel beautiful. Unless it becomes a fashionable and lucrative industry to protest against it. Like cruelty against animals.

That would make an interesting story. Can’t wait for some Western do-gooder-feminists to take on the Hindu priest brigade at Tirupati. 🙂

This is one of my favourite blogs. Always taking me into territories and discourses I sort of know but never really care to dissect. Just because…I’m lazy. And this film here seems to tell an interesting story of colonisation, neoliberalism and further exploitation within Africa by a country/power everyone is afraid of. I know from listening to stories told to me by a very bright young Ethiopian man who recently visited Ethiopia for the first time in his 23 years (his family came to New Zealand as ‘refugees’, a term I don’t like to use) of how the Indians and Chinese are appropriating land in and around Addis Ababa and exploiting the locals. A new kind of non-white racism and capitalism. Read on. Hopefully I shall get to watch the documentary too.

Africa is a Country (Old Site)

Bleeding, splintering, RGB pixels paint repeated images of handshakes and embraces — filmed off a television screen, or from existing filmed material — until they expand to a short panorama of the China-Africa Summit held in Beijing in 2006. Rapturously applauding, celebratory faces of powerful men, presidents and heads of state are seen, to a bellowing accompaniment: “…We, the leaders of China and Africa have gathered in Beijing to renew our friendship. Both China and Africa are cradles of human civilisation and lands of great promise. Common destiny and common goals have brought us together. China will remain a close friend, reliable partner and good brother to Africa.”

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Queering The Superficial Multiculturalism Of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Last week the New Zealand Parliament passed a landmark bill paving way for a law enabling marriage between homosexuals. Yay! For all the problematic issues within NZ society this bill is forward looking and seeking to create equality for all. Irrespective of colour, religion and ethnicity. The bill was passed 80-40. It could have been a larger majority if all the Asian MPs had voted for it. Yes, it was a conscience vote and without directive from the parties so ideally it should not matter how the Asia MPs voted. They did what they thought was right. Or was it?

The New Zealand Parliament has five Asian members. Raymond Huo and Rajen Prasad from Labour and Melissa Lee, Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi and Jian Yang from National. All list MPs that the Mixed Member Proportional system allows.

All list MPsWithout mandate from any constituency except as imagined by party bosses and projected by the above faithful.

And the imagined constituents are us ethnics.

Now I don’t know the exact process of how Asians get on that coveted list but anecdote is that they are thus placed depending upon their ability to bring together high numbers of ethnics to meet and greet with their party honchos. All very democratic.

So, how did they vote? Melissa, Kanwaljit and Jian all voted against the bill, Rajen Prasad voted for it and Raymond Huo abstained. I emailed all to ask why they did what they did. Melissa and Jian have not bothered to respond. Kanwaljit replied ” I made my position clear publically before the vote in Parliament through social media, noting that I did not support the bill and will be voting against it.” I asked him to share with me his supposedly very public views and whether they were on Twitter or his Facebook page, he did not respond. For all my own research I could not find any opinion by this honourable in the public domain. HEARSAY: Apparently this discussion was had on a private forum for the Sikh community where Kanwaljit insisted that the Guru Granth Sahib forbids same sex relations/marriage but could not produce the exact reference when asked by other members.   

Raymond emailed back “Both sides (those who are for or against) had lobbied me, with each presenting what appeared to be a convincing case. However, I was told that the majority of Kiwi Asians would have been opposed to the Bill. The vote on the Bill’s first reading took place before the consultation could be completed. So abstention (not to vote) was the most appropriate option.” So if there is going to be consultation process may I suggest a very publicly reported discourse that is conducted in English to let ‘all Asians’ participate and not just the Chinese who air their views on Skykiwi and Mandarin talkback radio? Otherwise that goes against the idea of multiculturalism right? To expect mainstream discourse to be translated into ethnic languages but not take ethnic issues into the mainstream domain? It is a two way street after all. Everyone has a right to know why Raymond’s constituents are for or against gay marriage. If there are death threats and violence then that is a problem in itself and we need to know why. This cannot be kept  only in the confines of the Chinese community.
Rajen Prasad replied ” (a). I see it as a question of human rights that, as a former Hunan Rights Commissioner for New Zealand, I am required to uphold. (b). This Bill takes no rights away from any individual and does not change the status of any marriage or relationship that already exists. (c). This Bill is not an opportunity to re-litigate the status of gay relationships. New Zealand made that law change in 1986,” Thanks for that.

I also asked them what they thought their role was in Parliament irrespective of ideology. Raymond said “Given the representative nature of MMP – although list MPs – I believe we are, to some extent, still held answerable to the constituency.” Kanwaljit’s reply, “… to ensure that the growing ethnic population in New Zealand enjoys the same rights and privileges offered to all New Zealanders. We support these communities to settle well, and we work with them to ensure that their best interests are represented in Parliament. I believe that as an elected Member of Parliament it is my duty to represent the view of my greater constituency in conscience votes.” COMMENT: First of all he is not an elected member of Parliament, secondly don’t gay Asians have the same right as all New Zealanders and thirdly how do you quantify the view of the greater constituency? Is this based on numbers or opinion? Rajen Prasad replied, “First, the role of an Asian MP is the same as any MP in Parliament, i.e. to make laws for all New Zealanders that are fair, just, and workable. Secondly, it is to advocate for individual citizens and groups of citizens on issues that they have not been able to resolve through the usual channels. You ask me to state my views on my role “irrespective of ideology”. I wonder if that is ever possible. We are members of our political Parties and have signed up to uphold the values and principles of our Parties. All the votes we cast in Parliament and the public positions we take are our Parties’ positions. We shape them off course but we do that over time and through the policy processes of the Party.”

Pretty blah eh? Is that why we haven’t seen a single Asian MP make any articulate, coherent statement in the house? The one time Melissa Lee spoke she made a complete boo-boo and I have mentioned Rajen Prasad’s wanna-be-Obama turn before the 2008 elections. Still waiting for that open dialogue about ‘Indian culture’ rather than celebrations or promoting Hindutva. Just voting for gay marriage is not enough.

I can give three reasons why there are Asian MPs. 1) Asian members add colour and exoticism to the New Zealand parliament. 2) Political parties use them to make ignorant ethnic masses feel good about representation. Asian migrants don’t actively engage with civil society or with the politics of the country but to see people like them in parliament makes them happy. 3) They showcase the successful diasporic peoples of India, China, South Korea and Fiji (?!), so the pathway to Free Trade Deals become smoother. Pardon the cynicism.

When there is a minority representative in the house, who does this person represent? The dominant, patriarchal elite within the minorities OR the ‘fringe dwellers’ as well? When you are a coloured migrant and you have to fight your way, every single day, then you know what discrimination is but you don’t try to wipe out that bigotry within your community because for the outside world (Pakeha and Maori) it does not matter. The Asian community by and large denies the existence of ‘queers’ (as one Indian-pillar-of-the-community called them) because they muddy the waters of our model minority. But they do exist. You don’t know them because they have have not told you, because they don’t trust you enough.

Do any of the Asian MPs think of this unfairness within? The religious, patriarchal Asian elements are happy to talk about the racism by mainstream New Zealand, they lobby the Asian MPs for the same and for individual issues yet will not acknowledge that they too have the fear and hatred of the ‘other’, those that are ‘different’.

Homosexuals within the Asian communities are the minority within the minorities. Have a conversation with any Asian gay man and he will tell you of the discrimination. By gay white men and by the Asian communities. Ask an Asian lesbian and she will repeat the stories of discrimination. By white lesbians and by the Asian communities; of agendas driven by white feminists that crush ideas of culture and religion and any ‘other’. Now the Asian gay and lesbian community can tell one more story. Of discrimination by their own representatives in Parliament. (This is their blog.)

How can the ‘mainstream’ in the Asian communities talk about injustice, intolerance and prejudice by Pakeha New Zealand on one hand, demand representation and visibility (for a certain kind of Asian) while at the same time deny legitimacy to the various strata within? Multiculturalism but of a homogeneous sort for the consumption of non-ethnic New Zealand. The zealots practice their hatred in safe spaces, in their language. Inside the communities, away from the eye of the world. So are any Asian MPs leading to explore and represent that complexity to mainstream New Zealand? Wouldn’t that be fair, equal and just? Human rights for all? How the Asian MPs voted for this bill speaks more about their ability to engage with the wider Asian community and their processes rather than just conscience voting. Why not bring the democratic process to the communities and encourage them to engage cross-culturally? Why hobnob only with community elite who lobby to maintain old hierarchies and power structures? Last year I interviewed Phil Goff and asked him whether he thought multiculturalism was ‘so twentieth century’ and his reply, where he says that ethnic people have a right to keep their language and their culture, shows to me, the archaic, superficial concept of multiculturalism that is practised in New Zealand today. There is a difference between cultural maintenance and multiculturalism. I have written about it here, continued here and also here.

Ethnic minorities are not about food, festivals and exotic dress to be showcased annually. Neither are they just about contributing to the economy. Legislation and laws affect them too. So does Te Tiriti O Waitangi, so do asset sales, mining, fracking, failed breast cancer screening programmes, subsidised medicines, university fees…gay marriage…they don’t live in silos and should not be encouraged to either. And practising their culture does not mean they can self-govern their communities without acknowledging, addressing and resolving conflicts within. Otherwise the Indian caste system could be perpetuated here couldn’t it? (BTW it is-because the current form of multiculturalism allows it to.)

So Asian MPs can no longer get away with talking to ethnic media or in the inner circles of their communities. It is time for an Asian MP Watch. It is time for intelligent, articulate leaders who care about the whole community and can make coherent discourse to the entire country. Not just look pretty or be arrogant.

*I have copy-pasted the replies without changing any typos or other spelling/grammatical errors.

Telling Our Stories.

What a way to come back to my blog. After an absence of two months and some drafts saved for future publication, I write to seek funds for my short film. I have never spoken about my work directly on this blog because I thought it not a good mix, my personal opinion on things and producing a radio show that necessarily has to be balanced and fair (HAHAHAHA *wink*). Also I am not quite sure how many people read my blog. To me it is a self-indulgent exercise to improve my writing. Perhaps others see it differently. So here goes.

I have just written and produced the short film Kimbap. This is a story about a migrant Korean family, a goose family that lives in Auckland, New Zealand and how their fragile existence is shattered by a neighbour. Kimbap is a story of isolation, loneliness, food, culture and inclusion.

I am often asked why, as an Indian, I felt the need to write a Korean story. First of all human emotions do not have a culture, colour or religion. It is how we react to situations that differs from place to place. Loneliness and isolation, the need to give your children a better education are not feelings and notions that belong to any single type of person or culture. Migrant experiences overlap including the need for cultural maintenance, to cook your native foods at home and to make the best of any situation. (To put it simplistically.)

Secondly, I see myself as a transculturalist; a polycultural person who lives in a global world. So wherever I am, the struggles, stories and histories of those people become my own. I live with the uneasiness of my multiple identities and participate actively in that civil society. It is not a separate, ‘Indian’ existence dissociated from others and only having an equation with the dominant host society.

Thirdly, purely from a business point-of-view, it is foolish to tell only ‘Indian’ stories. How limiting! I will do what gives me a cross-cultural audience that broadens discourse. Hence this ”Korean’ story.

I could go on but would rather my readers gave me money and shared the campaign page with their networks. I have also created a Facebook fan page that has photos, a synopsis, a crew list etc. For me this is a grassroots project that should show the power of the community instead of constantly seeking funds from the government as we tend to do in New Zealand. Besides this is a global story. So whoever is reading out there, donate and share. 🙂 ❤

Charity as hypocrisy. Best of all the little Youtube video visualising the wisdoms of Slavoj Zizek. Read and watch. Very connected to the latest Indian fad of ‘activism as fashion’.

Africa is a Country (Old Site)

By Melissa Levin

What is it with the conviction, held primarily in the West, that you can save yourself and the world (well, usually Africans) by shopping? Last week the tony Canadian chain, Holt Renfrew, began selling “the bag that can change the world.” For just $50, consumers can purchase a Tory Burch designed sack, some of the proceeds of which will go to feeding hungry African children. Feeding hungry children, wherever they may be, is a noble cause. But the persistence in undergirding a system that starves them in the first place detracts from the gesture.

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This is a new blog I am following and find the posts incredibly interesting. I would have thought that a blog about Africa would be mostly about African identity and discourse, something of which I have very little knowledge. My bad. However, this post by, I am assuming, a Sri Lankan via Zambia is great comment and indicates the need for an inclusive dialogue about all the things we share and not just about coloured people v/s white people. Read on.

Africa is a Country (Old Site)

Ashton Kutcher, known for his unusual savvy when it comes to investing in tech companies, and for actually being a presence in those spaces (attending conferences and personally meeting startup founders), must know that many of those technical companies have key employees or founders of South Asian descent. So imagine the surprise of many when Kutcher appeared in ‘brownface’, and offended legions. The Indian diaspora in the US were left asking: “Why is it totally unacceptable to do blackface, but ok to do brown/yellow face in the US?” Even Gawker, known for being on top of the game, posted a somewhat inane take on the issue, taking no particular stance.

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International Women’s Day.


I wrote this on 8/03/2000, when I lived in India. It was my response to the front page of The Times Of India on that day. Never published it, never showed it to anyone until today. Maybe it is a bit silly and in-your-face but some of those emotions still trouble me. The idea of freedom, a woman’s role in society, her biological and physiological functions and her struggles and acceptance of destiny continue to influence my life and the many decisions I make. Sometimes I feel very empowered and sometimes utterly helpless and weak…

Seven women achievers on the front-page today.

Health, law, education, animal and other rights.

Seven women.

Daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, friends.

So many others like them.

Some educated. Most not.

In high rises, on rail tracks,

In land reserves and brothels.

Servants, slaves, bosses.

Achievers all. Yet, stifled all.

Me, smug in my middle-class existence,

High on education, earnings and ethics, look down

Upon the veiled on.

There she is. Procrastinating, prematurely greying

And so pusillanimous.

Why can’t she stand up for herself?

I have failed the sisterhood.

Shouldn’t even consider the question.

Instead, I should ask, can she help it?

I am her too. Can I help it?

Centuries of suppression and neglect,

Of being an insignificant member of her family.

Malnourished, ill-treated, sold for prostitution,

Scraped at in the womb. Snuffing out her very existence.

Many times meted out by her own mother, grandmother,

Aunt, elder sister.

So why do I deride myself?

This is one of her own. They fail the sisterhood too.

May be.

It is vicarious power.

Can’t rule over men? Hanker after a son.

Keep him tied. Encourage him to beat or burn.

Never teach him to respect other women.

And when they have the capacity, remain selfishly indifferent.

They fail the sisterhood too.

May be not.

A daughter will have to lead the same agonising life.

Enslaved, tortured, suppressed.

Let her go before she actually exists. Before she questions

The system and is raped for doing do.

I often ask God about gender equations, hoping He will answer.

He. God is a man.

But He did / does have a mother right?

It is the men who fail their mothers.

They make the rules, set the limitations.

Whose social function is what.

Who is to wear what, who is to say what.

According to the poll, figure hugging

Jeans are more provocative than sarees.

Must’ve been loads of men who logged on. Smirking.

Deciding the dress code for women.

All who have failed their mothers.

The other day a man teased me on the road.

Same as happens to so many women.

I was disgusted, then guilty.

May be it was the trousers and jacket?

Should I stop wearing long skirts with slits?

Sleeveless blouses?

Should I cover my arms and legs?

Hijaab. Barely enough to be able to see?

Oil my hair? No make-up, not even lip balm?

Look my little toe can be seen!

Eve tempted Adam!

Swathes won’t tempt him now, neither will a blunted mind.


I am asphyxiating, I am blinded, my feet swaddled.

For whom are you celebrating Women’s Day?

Who is celebrating Women’s Day?

A few shopping malls and dotcoms.

Buy gifts for the woman in your life …

As if they don’t matter the rest of the time.


I may be breaking the glass ceiling but another of

My sisters is being denied existence. One is being

Teased and raped, one is being burnt.

One more sold in the market.


A lone day to be put on a pedestal and trampled on

On the others.

No. No tokens.

Give me the whole year. Give me my whole life.

Give me choice.

The right to education, to health,

Food, clothes, shelter, clean toilets.

Give me my right to decide.

Love, marriage, children, work.

To move freely-anytime, anywhere.

Breathe uncloistered air. Sweet, unsuppressed, uplifting air.

Let me have all that.

Let me live the way I want to-and I can give back more.

This world exists because of me.

Nature is me.

That koel on the mango tree is me.

The cool, white glow on starry nights is me.

I am warmth and compassion.

The musty fragrance of wet earth now captured and bonded

Give me back my freedom

Let me live the way I want. Let me show you how to live.