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Yoga? Heavyset and Black Women Need Not Apply

Yoga and the Western world. Yoga in the Western world. Yoga for the Western world. Yoga comes from the Western world. Know what I mean? These last two weeks there are has been an online storm about yoga and appropriation, especially by skinny white women. This post ‘It Happened To Me’ brings to the fore how removed yoga is from its Indian roots except for the use of Sanskrit words and concepts of mindfulness that suit the ideas of existence within these parameters only. Attend a yoga session with someone who cannot pronounce the Sanskrit words, who talks of being in the moment and does it all slowly and deliberately, and then you will know. It cracked me up. I really don’t need white people telling me about my culture and practices the same way I don’t need bearded patriarchal self-styled gurus turning yoga into a mystical art. To me, yoga is about self awareness and practicing it as a way of life. But when someone from a privileged existence turns it into a race issue and body issue, and hence political, that becomes a matter for discourse.

Neelika Jayawardane analyses it well in her post linked at the top of the page.

Now for an academic analysis.

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#NelsonMandela

From one of my favourite blogs Africa Is A Country.

Songs for, about and dedicated to Nelson Mandela. RIP. I am lucky that he was a living inspiration in my life and not a figure from the history books. 

Foucault and social media: life in a virtual panopticon


The Kardashians are an example of living in the Panopitcon. Years ago, when I did my Reality TV paper as part of my Masters in film, tv and media studies, it was the beginning of reality tv. Ozzy and Sharon living their life on the MTV cameras. Now we all regulate our behaviour under the virtual gaze of known and unknown spectators. Even as I write this I regulate my words if not my thoughts. For posterity, cached in the virtual world, to be dug up by an internet anthropologist. This analysis is of course of the Western world by the Western world. When I browse through online posts and expressions of my fellow Indians it makes me want to dissect the behaviours of a people that only until a few years ago lived in a Luddite desert and have been suddenly thrown into a connected world without any priming whatsoever. I am a digital migrant but, may I say of myself, a very well integrated one. And it was through following a path of self awareness and regulation because I know the Panopticon exists. There are many Indians who wouldn’t have a clue hence a study of life online in a post globalised, free market, mofussil and metropolis India would be a fascinating read.

Philosophy for change

This is the first instalment in a three-part series.

Part 2. I tweet, therefore I become
Part 3. The call of the crowd

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You start the day bleary-eyed and anxious. You stayed up late last night working on a post for your blog, gathering facts and memes from about the web and weaving them into an incisive whole. Has it produced a spike in the stats? You sign in on your iPhone as you brew the coffee. But it’s too early to slip into the professional headspace – you decide that you don’t want to know. Someone has messaged you on Facebook, so you check that instead. Japanese manga mashup! Killer breaks off the cost of Lombok. Lady Gaga is a man and we have photoshopped evidence to prove it! A friend will appreciate that one, so you share it with her directly. Perhaps not something that you’d want…

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The Other Wellington Report.


In response to The Wellington Report by The Dominion Post. Because the voice of the ‘other’ is missing so how can it be a balanced report? See for yourself. All Pakeha faces and voices. No tangata whenua (Maori), no Pacific, no Chinese/Indian/Middle Eastern/other ethnic migrants or refugees. Not even international students. When Wellington and the surrounding region has three universities whose business is dependent on all those foreigners paying high fees.

So what does one make of this exclusion? That The Dom Post is racist? Or that the editor has no imagination?

Now I can be labelled Just Another F$%^%ng Auckland, JAFA come lately on the hills of this little capital. Fair enough. I lived in Auckland for eleven years so I am attached to that place but I am also a wanderer. Life brought me to Wellington and ten years from now I might be Berlin or Hong Kong, my favourite cities. I cannot predict. The only thing I’ve learnt is that wherever I live I must take ownership of that place, to immerse myself in it, to participate, to give rather than take. So I am.

The Dummy’s analysis of The (One-Sided/Racist/Unimaginative) Wellington Report.

The no-brainers:

  • That Wellington airport needs a longer runway to bring in international flights
  • That the region needs to be unified to make better economic sense
  • That we need to be attractive to businesses and the creative sector.

(Note: Pakeha businesses from the Western world and creatives only from Hollywood or from Asia too? Guess who has the money? ;-))

  • That Wellington and region should not be dependent only on government.
  • That we need better infrastructure in terms of motorways and digital connectivity.
  • That all the above will attract jobs to the city and rejuvenate it.
  • The above will also attract tourists and make it the coolest little capital again.

D-uh. A Somali from Newtown could’ve told you that (but the editor didn’t think of asking perhaps).

Waste of space 1:

  • Jo Coughlan talks about her daughter not finding a seat in any restaurant on the Queen’s Birthday holiday. That is how buzzing Wellington is.

Question: Did the daughter just go to Courtenay Place/Cuba Mall (because that is her idea of Wellington)? If there were more restaurants in buzzing suburbs then she might have found a seat? And she did not think of going to Jackson St, Petone? Too downmarket and working class? Oh but that is not Wellington. My bad.

One more question: Why does Kelburn, the centre of Victoria University, not have more student based commerce such as cheap eating places, bubble tea and karaoke bars?

The  Top Cuisine Food Bar in Marsden Village, Karori, makes a mean black bean chicken. Why does he not open a yum cha place, I asked him. Too dead he says. Maybe instead of always having to go into town to eat at a restaurant, people could detour to a suburb if they had a choice? East Asian students from Kelburn could pop over too?

Waste of space 2:

In her column about Wellington, Rosemary McLeod spoke only about botoxed Auckland women and the ugly houses on Paritai Drive.

D-U-D-E, even Aucklanders don’t care about botoxed women and the houses on Paritai Drive. There is so much else going on.

Big, big chip on the shoulder and existing in a really, really small world. She does eh?

Besides, comparing Oriental Bay with ‘any Auckland beach’ is an even bigger waste of precious space. It is like arguing with geography. Each place has its own charm.

Conclusion: Some Wellingtonians need to get a life and many have a fixation with Auckland. All the other important types The Dom Post featured are afraid of the coloured people coming in their precious city even though they know that the empire is gone.

‘Other’ ideas:

A city is made up of people; is because of the people. If a large part of the local population is excluded from any discourse about its identity and future, then how would people have a sense of belonging? How will they contribute, why should they contribute? Wellingtonians, as constructed by The Dom Post, are rich, white, hip, caffeine consuming politicians, creatives or businesspeople who live in their own little world; whose concept of existence comes from the West. As if detached from global realities and from the local requirements of the hoi polloi. They only talk to themselves about themselves.

New Zealand as a whole needs migrants and skilled labour. Wellington does too if dependence on government employment has to be minimised. With this new population will come commerce, diversity, new ideas and a new buzz because this new population will not be from England. Those days are gone and the days when migrant labour was imported, only to set them up in ghettos before Dawn Raids.  This new population will be global, of those travelling where there is work; of transnational people who might choose to stay if they like the life, if they have the diversity and variety. That is the discourse to be had. But if The Dom Post does not see this new citizen of the city, only whiteness, then those in there are merely meditating on their umbilicals. In a fear-of-change fashion.

Wellington is sister city to Beijing. Not a single word about how that relationship can be enhanced. (Gawd, more Asians! What does one talk about to these Orientals? Not cricket eh old chap?)

If we were sister city to L.A. might the report be orgasmic about it then?

Wellington can learn a lot from my two favourite cities-Berlin and Hong Kong. One with a small land mass and fear of damage from cyclones and tornadoes. Yet HK is defiantly democratic with the speediest internest in the world, a strong economy, big film industry and vibrant expatriate community that only adds to the madness and buzz. It is also a tourist destination. A walk through Kowloon at any time will prove that. Berlin, flat and wide, with a history of devastation through war and political division yet rebuilt again and again. Bergmanstrasse, Kreuzberg, Freidrichshain…how many buzzing suburbs, a strong heritage and culture, amazing architecture, migrants ranging from North Africa to Turkey, Vietnam and Korea that add to the vibe. Plus lots of introspection about Germany’s history.

Why? Because both cities welcome people from all over the world.

Wellington does not have to look at Auckland but at the people who live here, the coloured other, the tangata whenua. They are not going to go away by ignoring them as The Racist Wellington Report does. Because they are the people of this city, the present and the future. They will stand up and be visible. One day. Soon. That is The Other Wellington Report.

White Women in the Indian Imagination: Alexandra Delaney


An interesting post. Many things the writer says are true including the Indian male gaze but she completely bypasses that such behaviour is more than a local cultural, social or religious product, that globalisation and the free market have actually underscored even more, the idea of Indianness and ‘the other’; that the notion of feminism is deeply entrenched in the Indian imagination, male or female, as a white, Western concept of disregard, disrespect and disruption (because the original movement never considered non-Western, coloured women and their environments, still does not). The sustained portrayal of Caucasian women as loose and easy is a result of all the above, unfortunately.
….maybe this calls for a post of my own because it is beyond the simplistic discourse that Ms Delaney presents. It is a brave post anyway.

KAFILA - 12 YEARS OF A COMMON JOURNEY

This is a guest post by ALEXANDRA DELANEY: 

“Yeah, Indian guys think white girls are easy”, a British-born Indian remarked nonchalantly to me this week. Normally I’d be shocked by such gross racial stereotyping (of Indians) but in this case I’m inclined to agree. Not because Caucasian women by their very skin colour or cultural preferences are any more promiscuous than their South Asian sisters, but because of their sustained portrayal as loose and morally deficient. The image of the sexually liberated and ‘easy’ white woman runs deep in the Indian imagination, a perception which is drip-fed by the country’s all-pervading mainstream media.

The brutal rape and murder of an Indian student in New Delhi last December followed by numerous sexual attacks on foreign women has sparked international outrage. This year alone, a Chinese woman was date-raped in New Delhi, a Korean woman was raped after being drugged in Bhopal…

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Three Months And A Wellingtonian Yet?


The jury is still out. It is too early to tell. But I am trying. Last month I visited Auckland for a weekend. As the Airbus rumbled along Dominion Rd I noticed the new shops that had sprung up. An entire road the size of Lambton Quay, Courtenay Place, Cuba Mall, other bits of central Wellington put together. Buzzing and vibrant. DIVERSE. Then I told myself I should not complain, I should try.

Wellington is picturesque. Every day I drive to and from Porirua to Karori along the water and last week when it hailed on us, the snow streaked hills lining the harbour made for a stunning sight. I almost crashed my car stealing glances at the lovely view. Umm. That’s about it. Nah. 🙂

I got my first parking ticket in the last week of April. Signs of settling in, I think. Still to find the mythical free car park but I have an infringement notice.

Meanwhile I continue to battle the low water pressure. You see, the shower rose goes through the cold water first before it can deliver any water that is warm.  See this contraption?

That is the two tap pipe that brings water from the cold tap and hot tap through a single pipe into my bucket so I can have a decent bucket bath. Selling like hot cakes in the low pressure plumbing world of Wellington. My landlady’s plumber told her there is no hot water problem when I complained. He, I assume, who can live without his clothes in Alpine conditions, shrivelled body parts and potentially damaged lungs. So I have third world problems in a first world country. Bucket baths in a bathtub not built for that purpose. This contraption cannot be used as a shower because guess what happens when the pipe is lifted above the level of the taps? Physics, my dear Watson. The shower is now part of my imagination.

Aren’t we migrants lucky to be hardy? And then we stand up to make noise and complain. 😀 She ain’t gonna be right ‘coz she need fixing.

A friend once said to me that the pioneers who came from ye olde England/Scotland/remnants of the British Raj always wanted to go ‘back home’ so they built cold, damp houses here which constantly reminded them that it was temporary.

Think. Any new settlers would learn from the natives about habitation that suits the local climate. Warm and dry in the winter, relatively airy in the summer. Instead it was all about civilising the barbarians and imitating buildings from ‘home’. Then all got asthma and/or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, suffering from their ill abodes. Which bright spark would build a low pressure water system across the hills of Wellington? Hence I wash my thick, long hair from a bucket.

But like I said at the top, no more complaining. It is important to try and my philosophy in life has been to take charge of things so I can make the change. If I believe Wellington needs to be more than four streets and the five hipsters who work at start ups or in the creative industry, if this city needs more diversity, more migrants, more commerce, a united region, an international airport out beyond Whitby or those parts and outspoken leaders; new blood, not the fuddy-duddy, marbles-in-the-mouth Pakeha minority with a blinkered world view then I am going to work on it. So next week I am meeting Jack Yan‘s team to see how I can help him for the Wellington mayoral elections.

Considering that I might be living here for the next few years and might become a Wellingtonian yet.

By the way, Wellington does have a wonderful public transport system. Except that the last bus leaves the airport at 8.30pm.

Arise Goddess Kali


I was going to write an end-of-the-year rant about my pet peeves within my smug little existence, trying to detach myself from the rape-protest drama in Delhi. Horrible, brutal crime, I told myself but I now live in New Zealand so should not be worried with what happens back home. I am safe here, I can wear what I like, do what I want, go out at any time of the night. I live alone, am independent, no one judges me. Sweet as. I was wrong. So, so wrong. This innocent young girl’s death has made me angry. Mad, stomping angry.

The last time I went to India, in 2010, men stared at my breasts as I walked the streets. Fully clothed in my khadi salwar-kurtas, not making eye contact with any unknown males, I used to go about  my work with men still coming up right in front of me, their eyes on my breasts. Then there was the time when a male bus passenger rubbed his penis against my shoulder as I sat in a crowded bus. He went on even as I slouched further into my seat contemplating whether to yell at him and make some noise or just let it go. That was my default setting. Like so many Indian women who grow up in India. Make yourself as inconspicuous as possible and even if you have to protest, think about it first because everyone, even other women, will turn around and tell you it is your fault. I mustered all my courage to yell at him and while he backed off slightly he yelled at me to ask what he had done. The implication being that I was just a mad woman to shout at him to stand straight and not lean against me; it is a crowded bus. How could I have asked him to keep his penis to himself and not on my shoulder? Is there a Hindi or Marathi word that a decent woman can use in public to describe the organ? If I’d spoken in English then I would have immediately been ‘modern’, further implying deterioration of my morality. Now I am in New Zealand. No catcalls from Indian men gathered at the end of each street, no one rubbing against me, groping me or staring at my breasts. In reset mode. Procrastinating any reaction to a young, innocent girl brutally raped, keeping it out my mindspace. Then she died. A life full of hope snuffed out. So I got mad, stomping angry. Mostly at myself. Somewhere in the comfort of reset mode compassion and empathy for my sisters was deleted. Besides, my intellectual snobbery stopped me from engaging in any discourse against the death sentence and stoning that the many Indians were calling out for. But now I want to plunge into it.

So I’ll start by arguing against the death sentence and stoning that so many Indians are demanding for the rapists. Stop; think. Did these six men just drop from the sky or are they a part of the Indian society? Where did they get their attitude towards women and violence? Or the idea that they could get away with such a brutal crime; that the police might not do anything? Indian governments of all ideologies have sanctioned rape in the name of suppressing rebellion and uprisings. When did middle class India last check the human rights record of the Indian Army against Kashmiri and North-Eastern women? Or the police raping tribal women in the Red Corridor? Or was it okay to use rape as a weapon for the safety of the rest of the Indians? The Culture Of Impunity and disrespect for women is not an aberration but ‘normal’ behaviour. So who deserves the death sentence? Indian soldiers? Indian police? Fathers that rape their daughters? Husbands that rape their wives? Brothers that rape their sisters? Politicians? Or we the people? For turning a blind eye?

Now let’s look at the prominent women who reacted to the rape.

Stoic Sonia-ji remained silent as per usual. Only to come make an appearance on television reading from the teleprompter.  Fake much?

Then there was Sushma-ji. The keeper of the virtue of us Hindu women said if the girl survives then she will be like the living dead. Not, (read subtext if you can through her boring lecture) because she had lost her intestines but because she was raped and would have no honour left.  Sushma-ji may I remind you that once upon a time you wanted all advertisements for sanitary napkins removed from television because they were a bad influence on us innocent Indian women. Perhaps we should have stayed at home five days a month and continued using old sarees to soak up our menstrual discharge? This way we would have been safer ya?

And finally Jaya-ji. The distress is genuine but to believe that because we worship so many goddesses Indian men actually respect women in real life?  Oh Jaya-ji, you are so naive. Only in our Bollywood films and only after we’ve had an item number in skimpy clothes and the man has tamed her and ‘saved her’ will the heroine find redemption in treating him like god. Only then will he respect her in return.

Overall the larger issue of the treatment of women remained unaddressed. What is it that makes Indian society treat Indian women shabbily? Here is one explanation. This is the story not just of one child who died after rape but many more who die before they are born, many who suffer because of insufficient dowry, domestic abuse, sexual abuse and abuse from institutions that are meant to protect them. Women like us and those not like us. This is the story of everyone’s attitude towards women as victims of sexual assault. Lawyer Flavia Agnes tells among other tales how the doctors examining a rape victim in Bangalore were more interested in the elasticity of her vagina than finding forensic evidence.

As India moves towards more economic liberalisation, with good or bad effect, society is bound to change and with that the Indian democracy. Which means we have to let go of the old absolutes of culture, tradition and religion that kept us rigid and inflexible; not reject them but adapt them.

For that to happen there has to be a revolution with a new leader. Not Narendra Modi, not Rahul Gandhi, not Anna Hazare, not Arvind Kejriwal and not Kiran Bedi. Not any of the right or left wing politicians but the people. The people will throw up their new leader. Before that will arise Kali, once again from the people, the power of the people, especially of the women. Because it is the women who will destroy the men who worship her then rape her before giving birth to him and nurturing him again.

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.

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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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