Entries Tagged 'daily kyla' ↓

How Brown is My Navel – Part 1

Off and on, I’ve been asked about how I want The West to react to some such thing I’m doing. I was asked here and in a forthcoming interview (that I shall link to later in my shameless self-promotion habit, when it’s up).

And then, I’ve been reading some things about race, tokenism, colonialism, feminism and the internet. And I have been having thoughts.

The thoughts I’m having are not so much about this current blogsplosion (which I don’t usually refer to at all but follow kind of avidly really), but about race and the relevance of the term for the kind of work I think I do.

So here are some thoughts-in-progress.

1. Expat

I’ve realized recently in a way that I didn’t before that there’s a vast difference between the US South Asian and the subcontinental South Asian. Maybe this is obvious, but maybe it’s not. But I realized it when I wrote a scathing and angry critique of Yoni Ki Baat for GlobalComment at one point and, in the responses of the creators of that project, realized that we were operating from very different premises.

My experience of South Asian identity in the US has been one of unification. Where the sub-continent is deliberately divided into is constituent countries and those national identities are virtuously adhered to, in the US, boundaries are erased and everyone’s a Desi or a South Asian.

Desi is a racial category. It signifies people from the sub-continent. It calls up brown skin and black hair. It is dominated by Indian identity, but it consists of Pakistanis and Indians primarily.

I don’t know if Desi includes Bangladeshis or Nepalis or Sri Lankans in the same way, or if in the US those points of origin fall under the category of  South Asian. I don’t know the nuanced difference between American South Asian and American Desi. Is South Asian also racial? Probably, but it’s also more. It’s an umbrella of some sort, but I’m not sure what sort.

The reason I can’t go further than this is that I’m decidedly not a South Asian American. Which is to say that, while I am South Asian, while I am Pakistani, while I am also American, and while I am mixed-“race” and mixed-nationalities, I am definitely not a South Asian American because in order to be a South Asian American or a Pakistani American, it seems imperative that one be in the United States. The identity [Ethnic]-American requires residence in and a primary dealing with the US context.

I am asserting this because, in contrast, in Pakistan, I’m half-gori. Or my mother’s American. My identity here is racialized to whiteness, but it’s not the same whiteness that I have when I’m in the States. There I am a light-skinned brown person of ethnic and Muslim origin, and therefore a kind of peripheral subject. Here I am a light-skinned Pakistani of Amreekan ancestry, but not peripheral as a result. Having an American mother does not trump having a Pakistani father or a regular Pakistani accent or fluent Urdu.

In the US, my ethnicity and religious identity marginalize me, and racialize me. Here, I have always been racialized, but that racialization doesn’t consistently marginalize me. Often it privileges me. Sometimes it does marginalize me, or at least put me on the back foot. Occasionally it combines with gender, and then it certainly marginalize me. Mostly it doesn’t matter. I’m gori, but I’m not not-Pakistani.

Gori is a racial characteristic. But race doesn’t mean here what it means in the US.

So, what’s the point? I guess to extricate one kind of Desi from another, one kind of South Asian from another. South Asians in South Asia identify by their national origin. Using the umbrella of South Asian usually comes difficult and it comes with conditions attached, and a time limit. “We will be South Asian for this conference or this SAARC summit or this project we have going together, but when it’s over, I’m Pakistani, you’re Bangladeshi, you’re Indian and we’re all going home now, thank you very much.”

In the US, it seems to be an ethnic and/or racial identity in the face of a larger hegemonic identity of whiteness.

Is that because the whiteness is up close? It’s not like the subcontinent doesn’t deal with the hegemony of the US. But perhaps it is about which hegemony is closer because if you’re using your national identity, that means you’re asserting yourself in the face of someone else’s national identity and so their race doesn’t matter. Whereas if you’re using your race, it means you can cross or have already left behind (to some extent) national borders and the relevance lies with the racial identity that is the South Asian (brown) (desi) person.

It occurs to me, however, that this definitional exercise is in itself bound up with the White-and-American-centred push to define non-white non-American subjects. By the very nature of this definitional process, I am and we are thrown into a world in which the ultimate centre resides in the US.

What I’m trying to do here is say that US South Asians and subcontinental South Asians are not the same thing at all times. A project like Yoni ki Baat (which is how this whole thought process got started for me) needs to acknowledge that, when it’s talking about South Asian, it’s not talking about every kind of South Asian. That a “South Asian” project initiated in the US has to be aware of its own circumstance.

There is a corresponding blind spot, I think, in subcontinental notions of South Asian projects that don’t acknowledge diasporic concerns. That imagine that if there is peace on the land here, there will be peace between people there and that if there is war here, there will be war there, as if the diaspora is a mirror of the “real” South Asia. There is no greater reality to either South Asianness.

Up next:

2. Islamophobia and Racism

3. White Skin Privilege

4. Talking to “The West”

Recent Writing Spree

All this is very shameless self-promotion. Recently I’ve assaulted Global Comment with my verbiage and so now I’m going to direct you to it, in the hopes that you will read, agree, adore and become a slave for my writing. Alternatively, you could leave a comment there, on the site.

First, read this about Islamabad from Art Kee Aulad.

Three years later, I guess we’re in 2008 at this point in the story, I can’t so much as drive that close to even the round about in front of the presidency. Now one just turns right or left a signal before the stretch of road where the parade “used to” happen, where there are wide steps on both sides of the road, where earlier people would come and sit in the evenings, where there is a round about that says GIVE WAY in the foreground and the presidency and the parliament house rest all white and somber and serious looking in the background. So we just turn right or left at the signal before all this and look at the barriers and the barbed wire sitting there, saying stay away, looking as ugly as they are meant to be. And I have forgotten what it was like to be able to drive to just wherever. I suppose just like the generation before us have forgotten what it felt like to have low boundary walls in their houses and gates that were open all day long.

And yesterday the Marriott was blown up. And today we’re looking at television footage and cctv footage and images of what seems like hellish scenes from some film. It’s unbelievable. Maham reminded me of when we went there last, it was to pick up sandwiches and use the loo before going for a play at the National Gallery right behind. The oldest hotel in the city, we’ve all attended numerous weddings, exhibitions, dinners, iftaris and other things there and it hit me today, the scale of what has happened there.

Here’s my take on it at GC:

Not that it mattered in the flames of that inferno, anymore, except that the guards were already dead by the time the guests started running. They were trying to put out the fire in the suicide truck. The cab exploded with a grenade; then the back of the truck caught fire and the guards rushed away, only to rush back with fire extinguishers.

And then I wrote a piece on Zardari, one on the Balochi women being buried alive and one about the American incursions into the northwest of Pakistan –  all at Global Comment.

And a poem: Two Eyes Show.

There. Now that I’ve whored all my writing, I can relax in the knowledge that you will read every word with great love and affection, and write glowing comments. Or just, you know, click the link and give me something to be happy about.


Why does Delhi smell like an inversion layer while it’s raining in the monsoon? I can’t figure it. But right now, I’m sitting in the guest room of a lovely house, it’s been raining all night and the smell coming in from the window isn’t that nice rain-on-dirt smell, but the smell of smog and deisel and yech.

I like Lahore better, though it smells like cow poo in the rain. What I really love is Islamabad. Rain on dirt. Yum.

I’m Not On Orkut

Some dumb fuck has decided to create a profile on orkut under my name. It has some details in it that are real because they were stolen from my old orkut profile. But mostly it’s a bunch of bullshit. I don’t know who created it and for what reason, but I don’t really give a fuck. This is just so everyone knows: I’m not on orkut. So don’t call me or write to me expecting something exciting and dirty.

As a friend of mine pointed out, there’s an element of funny. Apparently, my communities are “Body building” and “body building in pakistan.” Genius, that is.

Anyway. Yeah.


I have just been named Contributing Editor on GlobalComment and I am absolutely chuffed! Thanks to Natalia and the rest of the GC folks!

Migraines and Panic make Kyla Much Blog

I was sitting with my prof this afternoon, hesitantly reading Arabic hadith at him and working out what they meant, when a small poinpoint of evil hit me behind the eye. I lost focus on what I was reading or saying, as I usually do in migraine land. Luckily, we had been through the larger part of our work so we both kind of teetered and fell off the precipice of attentive with a sweet little thunk. And that was good. Continue reading →

Grad School Sucks All Badness

Because I just enjoy everything way too much and I’m too damn smart, man!

Continue reading →


My mom was delighted by this and commanded me to have redheaded babies at my earliest convenience. (She’s a redhead, you see.)

Is Read Hair Dead?

As activists lobby to include the mighty white polar bear on the endangered species list, a critter of a different colour is nervously contemplating its own uncertain future.

The red-headed homo sapiens, predicted by some to be extinct within 100 years, is fighting back with an exclusive dating site, established to keep the rare and fiery breed alive and kicking forever.

There are a jillion redheads on mom’s side of the family. Mom, possibly my granmma, definitely her mom and then a couple on my grandfather’s side, which is Irish. German and Irish redheads.

So does that mean some recessive gene could come to the fore in my kids?

Now This Blog is Protesting

It was before as well, but it’s louder now, and has red in it.

So I sent Joel  to this page, who’s one of my best friends and basically my main censor board for web-designy things. And the following conversation ensued about the header (edited a bit):

Joel: !!!

Joel: Who are these sad, sad faces?

Me: Pakistanis. Oppressed.

Joel: !!

Me: By, you know, all those folks who are oppressing us.

Me: I’m oppressed.

Me: Can you feel the oppression?

Joel: So that’s what oppression looks like!

Me: Darn tootin’!

Joel: That one in the middle must be you, because you don’t keep your mouth shut, and you aren’t dead, but you do often feel like nails are being driven into your head. Am I right?

Me: Absolutely.

Joel: Oh yay! I love it when I win at these games!

This has been your comic relief in emergency times.

Eid and Everything After – Miskeen

Miskeen is back! For those of you who know me well and long, this will be good news because it means a return to good lasagne and a varied menu at dinners. For those not in the know: Miskeen is a cook. He was our cook. For some 12-odd years. In this time, his relationship with my father and step-mother went up and down. He started his career by beating his wife and hurting her kidney; this made him persona non grata with Kathy, who thought he was and would always be evil. But we treated the wife and kept them around. He continued with nearly not educating his children; but with the paternalism that is inherent to the servant-householder relationshp, my father said, “Don’t you dare or I’ll fire you!” or something, and so all three boys have been or are being educated until at least Matric (10th grade). He nearly got himself into deep trouble by doing magic on my father and the house in general; he put little prayers, taveez and other thingies under carpets and in various nooks and crannies so that, I guess, Abu would become easier to live with. But since he continued to pick fights with the cleaning woman, the man who works in the office upstairs and the neighbour cooks, my father’s temper was not affected. (Freaked the heck out of him though. Oh, those were the times.) Continue reading →

Progress Report

I promised Ponni in Delhi that I’d have a manuscript ready for publication by 31 December 2007. In aid of that, I’ve finally put together the list of poems. These are poems I consider publishable. I haven’t put them all together to see what the page count is. I’ll probably have to cut some out. Those that know or recognize these poems will be able to help me with that cutting. If you don’t know where it is check out my DeviantART page, where you should be able to see most of them. If you can’t, it’s because they’re mature content. Meaning I cussed or said “cunt” or something. Continue reading →

Website Designy Blues

I’ve been thinking recently about redoing my website. Yes, again. The thing about it is that it’s not entirely user-friendly. It doesn’t take a genius to get around it, but it’s a big opaque in its design.

So I can use Joomla if I like. It’s a web-design assistance kind of software – a content management system and it looks pretty good, except that I’d have to learn it all over again and … argh. Don’t wanna.

Any suggestions? On what software to use or what to do for a new design? What would make it  easier to use, what would you like to see… ? Anything.

These Poems Associate Freely

and they do so at GlobalComment.com. Part 2 in a series of my poems on the site, thank you very much.

– Curtsy to Natalia.