Tag Archives: south asian

South Asian Literary Fiction

It has been a terrific year. I graduated law school, got married (!), inched closer to finding my way home, and I’m looking at several long-term career options, including one in my adopted hometown of Suva, Fiji!

However, I haven’t read as much as I would like to because law school and studying for the bar exam kills any sort of creative thought. I bought my partner a Nook HD+, the Barnes and Nobles reader, but I think I may now start using it more than her. If anyone reading this blog is a Nook user, feel free to add me as a friend, email: plal@law.gwu.edu

My list of things to read includes mostly all the recently-released, award-winning or award-nominated South Asian fiction that I can find on the web:

Jamil Ahmad: The Wandering Falcon*
Alice Albinia: Leela’s Book
Tahmima Anam: The Good Muslim
U.R. Ananthamurthy: Bharathipura
Nadeem Aslam: The Blind Man’s Garden
Benyamin: Goat Days
Rahul Bhattacharya: The Sly Company of People Who Care
Chandrakanta: A Street in Srinagar
Renita D’ Silva: Monsoon Memories
Roopa Farooki: The Flying Man
Musharraf Ali Farooqi: Between Clay and Dust
Amitav Ghosh: River of Smoke, The Glass Palace*
Niven Govinden: Black Bread White Beer
Sunetra Gupta: So Good in Black
Mohsin Hamid: How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia*
Mohammed Hanif: Our Lady of Alice Bhatti
Sonora Jha: Foreign
Shehan Karunatilaka: Chinaman
Usha K.R: Monkey-man
Tabish Khair: The Thing About Thugs
Sachin Kundalkar: Cobalt Blue
Uzma Aslam Khan: Thinner Than Skin
Amit Majmudar: Partition, The Abundance
Kavery Nambisan: The Story that Must Not Be Told
Nayomi Munaweera: Island of a Thousand Mirrors
Uday Prakash: The Walls of Delhi
Anuradha Roy: The Atlas of Impossible Longing, The Folded Earth*
Nilanjana Roy: The Wildings
Saswati Sengupta: The Song Seekers
Shyam Selvadurai: The Hungry Ghosts
Geetanjali Shree: The Empty Space
Jeet Thayil: Narcopolis*
Thrity Umrigar: The Space Between Us, The Weight of Heaven, The World We Found*
Manu Joseph: The Illicit Happiness of Other People*
Cyrus Mistry: Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer
Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya: The Watch

I am going to stop there because the list grows longer by the second. I also want to write more so hopefully, 2014 will be the year that I release my first book. Maybe with the time not spent in law school, I can finally do something productive.

What are you reading?

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Filed under Desi, Ebooks

Beats for Bangladesh


On April 24th a nine-story garment factory in the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed. It is estimated that over 6,000 people worked in the building and as of today, the death toll is at 1,129. Approximately 2,500 injured people were rescued from the building. Brands and companies producing their clothing in the building included Benetton, Wal-Mart, Gap, JCPenney, and H&M, among others. It is considered to be the deadliest garment-factory accident in history, as well as the deadliest accidental structural failure in modern human history

Friend of this blog, Taz Ahmed, in collaboration with South Asian artists from across the country, put this wonderful album together, as a benefit for the orphans of the garment factory workers. Notable names include Red Baraat, Vijay Iyer, Mandeep Sethi, and another friend, Shahid Buttar, who is incidentally a great musician while also being the Executive Director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

Taz writes on her blog:

For the past month I have been working day and night on my latest project – because ever since I saw images of Rana Plaza collapsed and all those people and
garment piled in rubble, I couldn’t help but think about how my garment industry owning Bangladeshi family may have been connected. And by default, how I as a Bangladeshi-American was connected. Sure, the family there was not directly connected, but they were part of the Bangladeshi garment industry complex that was feeding into the consumerism complex in the US that I as an activist was often fighting against. I knew I couldn’t save the people in Bangladesh directly, but I could do what I could from here. So I produced an album, with the help of one of my favorite musicians who executive produced & co-curated: Brooklyn Shanti

Way to go Taz.

The album is only $15, which is probably less than the t-shirt you own from Bangladesh.

Check it out here.



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Filed under Desi, Human Rights, Neo-Liberalism

Where to Go and Where to Get Gifts for Diwali

I don’t usually do this, but I’ve several shameless plugs to make in the next few days, so please bear with me.

First, for everyone who is away from home this Diwali and does not have access to a local neighborhood Indian store, you can now check out eBay India’s new Diwalimicrosite. You can get a great selection of necessities for your Diwali celebration, and gifts for your loved ones, including Bollywood movies! They even have a special handcrafted section for goods that are made by artists in India. And for every purchase made from www.ebay.com/handcraftedinindia from Oct 18 – Nov 10., eBay will donate $1 to the National Rural and Development Association (NARAD), a non-governmental social service organization in India that provides self-help training, motivation and skills to farmers, women and youth, who work to support their families and keep these traditional Indian art forms alive.

Second, if you live in the DMV area, I’d suggest attending the Diwali Banquet on Nov 9, held by the GW South Asian Law Students Association. You are sure to enjoy an evening with an unlimited Indian Buffet, DJ, and Indian drum player in a great location. Tickets are on sale here.

Third, please donate to the Prerna Needs a New Bike fund. I am going to have a hard time doing my daily trips from home to the office, going to school, back to the office and back home again for a while, and any little bit would help.


Filed under Desi

The Dharun Ravi Verdict

30 days in jail. No deportation.

I’m thankful that a tragedy was not confounded by yet another tragedy.

The media seems to be hell-bent on portraying this as a lenient decision where the perpetrator has expressed no remorse. It’s nothing short of racism. There’s really nothing else I have to say about it.

I’m sensitive to bad room-mate situations, having been subjected to abusive, homophobic and transphobic remarks in my own home. No one deserves to be subjected to that. But no one should be subjected to 10 years in jail and deportation as a punishment for behavior that would have otherwise gone unpunished if the victim wasn’t a white cisgender boy.

I’d also ask the people sending me abusive comments to reflect on their own hateful behavior.

Good day.


Filed under Racism

Calling South Asian Youth: Apply for DC Desi Summer

I will be part of the team this summer in Washington D.C. Last year, I spoke at the Bay Area Solidarity Summer, the sister program on the West Coast. Please spread the word to your friends and family members, and if you are too old or too busy to participate, do consider donating!

Friday, July 13th to Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Washington, DC

For more information and to apply: http://dcdesisummer.weebly.com/apply.html

First priority deadline:  May 15th

**For young South Asian Americans age 15-20**

(with origins in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and the South Asian diaspora)

Free (We cover meals, but participants arrange for transportation and housing). Limited number of scholarships available.

DC Desi Summer (DCDS) is a weekend-long youth leadership and empowerment program. Spearheaded by the volunteer DCDS Collective, DC Desi Summer provides a radical and inclusive space for youth of South Asian heritage to examine key social justice issues and take action! Community activists, advocates, and academics will facilitate workshops and activities that focus on topics, such as sexism, racism, capitalism, and the nuts and bolts of organizing for justice.

More information about organizers here.


Filed under Desi

Bay Area Solidarity Summer

I am terrified and hyper-ventilating about doing an opening keynote in front of 14-21 year old desi-American youth at the Bay Area Solidarity Summer. I haven’t tried my charm and sense of humor on that age-group yet.

While you await this amazing weekend, read TazzyStar’s interview with me, which is up at SepiaMutiny:

This weekend, Desi youth will be convening in Oakland, CA and Washington DC for the primary purpose of getting activated and politicized. DCDesi Summer will be holding it down for the East Coast, and I personally have been involved in getting Bay Area Solidarity Summer (BASS) off the ground here on the West Coast. Not only am I excited about the FUNraiser we have scheduled, I am particularly excited about the opening keynote speakers for the weekend – author of Desis in the House Sunaina Maira and dream activist Prerna Lal.

I met Prerna Lal last summer at Netroots Nation in Las Vegas. I quickly learned that she was a quite the firecracker. Desi via Fiji, Prerna is a founder of DreamActivist, a current law student, a writer, a SAALT Changemaker, queer, an activist and… is undocumented. Her journey as a struggling youth trying to navigate the broken immigration system is one she is very vocal about sharing, whether on blogs or on twitter. Her tenacity is one to be admired and bravery is one to be inspired by.

Just a few months ago, Prerna was served deportation papers – but being who she is, she’s not leaving without a fight. Here’s what she had to say

I’m not apologetic in it so it will rub a lot of people the wrong way. That’s fine with me. I don’t need to justify why I think it is unfair that my own mother is not considered my immediate relative. The people who usually leave hateful and judgmental comments are Americans so wrapped up in their privilege that they forget American laws grant everyone due process. In this country, you are innocent until you are proven guilty. They are also most likely to deride my criticism of America while ignoring that it is America that has made me unapologetic, unashamed and unafraid.

I’m fighting for my legal right to not be separated from my entire family. I was brought here forcefully and compelled to live here against my wishes. I built a new home here and became a contributing member of society. I was atrociously (and illegally) aged-out of two family petitions and told that I was a “line-jumper” only because I was over 21 by the time USCIS could issue my parents green-cards. Unlike my older sister, I couldn’t adjust my status through “marriage” since that isn’t a legal right for me as a queer person in America. I couldn’t get a “student visa” because my entire family is American. Then, I was placed in removal proceedings, which may result in a ban from the United States, my home and family for the next 10 years. Regardless, I only need to convince an Immigration Judge in San Francisco of the merits of my case. The peanut gallery really doesn’t matter.

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Speaking Out: Invisible South Asian Americans

I guest-blogged this relatively nice piece for South Asian Americans Leading Together last week:

Six undocumented immigrant youth — Dulce (18), Jessica (17), Felipe (24), Richie (16), Nataly (16) and Leeidy (16) — sat down in the middle of an intersection in Georgia this past week, in a protest against the latest wave of anti-immigrant terror unleashed by the Southern state.

It is not the first act of civil disobedience led by undocumented youth and it is certainly not the last as more of us come out of the shadows and demand our right to live in the United States.

And yet, where are the undocumented South Asian youth in this movement? As part of the sixth largest population of undocumented immigrants in the United States, it often pains me to be one of the only vocal ones.

“Rehne do. Chodho. Jaane do.”

These are infamous South Asian attitudes passed on to us by our wonderful mothers and fathers — to suffer in silence and not say anything, to not protest or create a fuss when things are not right, to not step into the public arena to fight for justice. It’s a conditioned survival skill that may even come handy at times. But it is troubling when that survival skill propagates and perpetuates a fear that makes it hard to live our lives fully.

That’s how a lot of the South Asian 1.5 generation grows up in America. Afraid about what people would say. Afraid to shatter expectations. Afraid to live. Afraid to breathe. Afraid, afraid and more afraid till the die we finally die. Yeh bhi koi jeena hai kya?

I lived like that for many years. It wasn’t living; it was surviving. Then I decided that I’m not interested in surviving. I’m interested in thriving.

Read more at The Invisible South Asians in the Undocumented Immigrant Youth Movement

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