Somewhere there is a vagabond gene in the DNA, and my brother and I both seem to have gotten it. In case you want to follow his travels through India, Thailand Cambodia, and — soon — Laos, check out the Salsamanian blog. I alas, am settled back in NYC.
Just in case you’re cruising around Brooklyn looking for the perfect wedding present or something, you should know about fork & pencil. All profits go to cool charities like the Open Space Institute. Wouldn’t it be nice if all businesses ran on such a model? The more you make, the more you give to the community. Imagine that.
For those of you anywhere near the New York area, mark your calendars for the book launch party for Believer, Beware: First-person Dispatches from the Margins of Faith. This anthology from Beacon Press features the best of the first eight years of Killing the Buddha, inlcuding something by me. Join us for drinks, readings, revelry and more. Be there!
Monday, June 29, 2009
6 -9 pm
Le Poisson Rouge
158 Bleecker St, New York City
Some good news arrived from the EPA yesterday, when they announced a ban on carbofuran residues on food in the US, including imports. The highly toxic insecticide does such a great job at killing little critters that eat plants that some herdsmen in east Africa have been baiting carcasses with it to eliminate larger competitors as well, such as the leopards and lions that predate domesticated livestock. Whether a carcass has been deliberately baited or an animal is weakened or killed by consuming treated crops, the result is the same. Lions and other large predators are dying along with scavenging vultures. See a BBC video of a staggering lion and vulture here. It has long been known to kill seed-eating birds as well.
Sold under the trade name Furadan by US-based FMC Corporation, carbofuran in food can, of course, have the same detrimental effects on humans as well, especially children who are more susceptible to low dosages. It acts systemically, absorbed by the plant so that aphids, for example, munching on the leaves of a soybean plant die. Those residues don’t magically disappear when those same soybeans reach a human market. One of the most toxic insecticides on the market, it acts as a neurotoxin.
Kudos to the EPA for recognizing that there are certain things we can and should live without. Continued pressure on FMC Corp. will help eliminate its sale globally, so that African and other babies and living creatures–human, avian or leonine–can also be spared the lethal effects of growing up in an increasingly toxic world.
The two raptor biologists I’d been trailing behind had waited out the weekend to enter Ranthambhore National Park in order to avoid the crowds. They had made a minor miscalculation. What the scientists didn’t realize was that that particular Monday was Bhadrapad Sudi Chaturthi, the fourth day of the bright half of the month of Bhadra according to the Hindu calendar. Chat for short. It was the day the pilgrims came.
My uncle Anna has lived through a thousand moons! To celebrate, Anna—literally big brother in Tamil—and his wife Manni will reenact their marriage from 1951. But today is not about him. Today is about the women. It is mangili pondu, the Brahmin ceremony to remember, honor and seek the blessings of the women who have come before, in anticipation of my aunt and uncle’s remarriage. Three of my father’s four sisters have gathered at their house, and all of his three brother’s wives. A couple cousins. A close friend. The few men in attendance sit outside, reading the newspaper and sipping coffee, ignored.
Inside, the sisters are swathed in nine-yard saris, gold and colored silk wrapped a dozen times around their bodies, which move more slowly than they used to. They set up an altar with two banana leaves, a mirror, fresh flowers and a gold necklace. An oil lamp burns in the corner. They draw designs in rice flour to mark place settings on the floor. They bend down and wipe turmeric paste on their feet as I watch, unsure of when I can participate and when I can’t. This motion is for the married; that one for the eldest; a hundred unspoken rules I don’t know. With each return to India, the years creeping up on me at the same relentless rate as it for my aging aunts, my ignorance of what to do during the Hindu ceremonies seems more glaring. I once could play at the Hindu rituals as a child, and even a young woman, in a way I never could at my friend’s Catholic churches, at their Jewish synagogues. In the temple, it all seemed exotic and removed. But now I am a grown woman and the same motions feel fraudulent in any culture, in all the religions I don’t believe in.
Read the rest at Killing the Buddha
On January 24th, a group of self-proclaimed morality police stormed Amnesia, a swank and dimly lit bar in the city of Mangalore, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka. As television cameras rolled for the staged event (apparently the media had been informed), the jean-clad vigilantes of the Sri Ram Sene physically attacked the jean-clad women and men who were sipping drinks, groping and pulling the hair of some and chasing others out into the streets where they tripped them as they ran away, and then kicked them while they were sprawled on the sidewalk, scrambling to get up.
Read the rest at Killing the Buddha.com
Upcoming showdown in the Thar Desert shows India staying true to its (momentarily) nonviolent roots. Not. Read more at Killing the Buddha.
Ok, it’s been a couple weeks now, but the Jaipur Literature Festival was an excellent way to begin my travels in India. I was expecting something smaller, not the several thousand in attendance, moving between the three simultaneous events taking place at Diggi Palace. Some highlights included Pico Iyer in conversation with Patrick French about the V.S. Naipaul biography, The World Is What It Is; a screening of documentary, The Strange Luck of V.S. Naipaul; a discussion about Defining Diaspora; and Basharat Peer in multiple presentations, including interviewing Mohammed Hanif, discussing the Fundamentals of Fundamentalism and a talk about Kashmir, past, present and future.
See more photos on Flickr