“Those were just drops of honey, they were so incredibly sweet,” says German artist Uli Westphal. “Those were really magnificent. And they were tiny, like the red currant berry.”
I’m currently working as a Gastro Obscura fellow at Atlas Obscura, cataloguing and reporting on the world’s most wondrous (and delicious) foods.
You can find my additions to Gastro Obscura’s database of wondrous foods here. From frog eye salad to muttamala, you’re sure to find something that will intrigue you, feed your curiosity, and make your stomach grumble.
Featured image: Ian Muttoo, Wikimedia Commons.
YOU! Yes, I mean you. You, who are seeing holiday engagement photos and getting teary thinking about what might have been. Watching kids ice-skating and remembering the names you had already picked out for your future children. Hearing jingle bells and thinking of her phone jingling with your text. Your fingers twitch toward the phone. Should I text my ex? you wonder. Just one message, you think. Just one casual, ‘hey, how-are-you… I miss you… please can we try one more time… how about my place tonight’ text. How bad could it be?
Babe, bad. You know it. I know it. Dua Lipa knows it.
The anxiety starts in my chest and then blooms, smothering my lungs and filling my belly: a guy has just asked me out. Oh no, I think, panicked. Am I interested? How do I turn him down?
I’m not a character in a preteen novel, with butterflies in her stomach because she’s never been asked on a date. It’s definitely not my first rodeo. I have, however, had bad experiences of being asked out by men who couldn’t take no for an answer — including one guy who harassed me online for two years after I declined a date with him. With 81 percent of women having experienced some kind of sexual harassment, I’m definitely not alone in this anxiety.
Recently, a man I know was outed as a serial sexual harasser. I say “know” in a rather unfortunate sense: I’d been approached online by, went on a date with, and even kissed the guy a couple years ago. His too-forward sexual advances had always left a bad taste in my mouth.
When the revelations went live, with dozens of women telling stories of his disrespectful and aggressive behavior, I felt happy he was exposed, yet ashamed I hadn’t listened to my gut instincts. I blamed myself for overlooking his boorish behavior and letting my hope that he could end up being a decent guy take precedence over the warning bells clanging in my head.
Giving that man the benefit of the doubt was not my fault. And if you’ve stayed with an abusive partner, or even given a guy a second chance after he harassed you, it’s not your fault, either. The pressure to be kind, generous, and forgiving — especially as women — is drummed into our heads from birth.
The day after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified before congress about her experience of sexual violence in relation to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) received the highest number of calls in its 24-year history. More than 3,000 people connected with the network on September 28, part of a record-breaking increase in the number of survivors of sexual violence requesting services since the #MeToo movement began last year.
On Friday, September 7th, six activists from Chicago South Asians for Justice stood up in the middle of the plenary panel of the World Hindu Congress in Chicago to voice their resistance to the Hindu nationalist political movement currently ascendant in India.
Chanting “RSS turn around, we don’t want you in our town!,” the activists—mostly young South Asian women— interrupted speaker Mohan Bhagwat, head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS is a hardline right-wing organization advocating Hindu nationalism or Hindutva, the political and cultural ideology that India is a fundamentally Hindu country. The RSS and other Hindu nationalist organizations have a long history of violence against religious minorities and people oppressed by India’s hierarchical caste system. The RSS is the ideological heart of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), currently in power in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The current right-wing government has failed to take action against attacks on Indian religious minorities, with senior BJP officials even justifying rising anti-Muslim mob lynchings.
The Chicago South Asians for Justice action was one of a number of protests of the Congress over several days. The Alliance for Justice and Accountability, a coalition of progressive groups, coordinated a campaign against the Congress. Sikh, Muslim, Dalit, and Kashmiri communities led organizing efforts as well.
The crowd’s reaction to the Chicago South Asians for Justice protesters was violent. According to a group statement, a video from the Alliance for Justice and Accountability, and personal testimony of protesters, the activists were immediately attacked by the crowd. Attendees rose a chant of “Bharat Mata ki jai,” or “Victory to Mother India,” a nationalist slogan feminists have critiqued for its depiction of the nation as a woman. Activists reported being kicked, punched, choked, spat at, and verbally abused. One activist was called a “dirty Muslim” and given death threats. Two activists were arrested, and one Congress attendee was arrested and charged with battery for spitting in an activist’s face. Protesters have been subject to online harassment from Hindutva supporters since.
I spoke to two activists from Chicago South Asians for Justice, organizers Mansi Kathuria and Tara Raghuveer, about the action. (I know Raghuveer from previous organizing.) Chicago South Asians for Justice describes themselves as “a coalition resisting the rise of global fascism in the United States, India, and worldwide.” I asked them why their group decided to take such a visible action against Hindu nationalism, and how they view Hindutva in relation to growing white nationalism in the United States.
“Hindutva doesn’t exist on its own,” said Raghuveer. “It’s actually part of this now-ascendent global trend of nationalism and fascism that has been legitimized in recent years by Trump’s election, by Modi’s election, and by similar formal elections across the world.”
Not everyone is making these connections. While the action was widely reported in India, where similar political violence involving right-wing groups is commonplace, the protest received minimal attention in U.S. media beyond progressive outlets.
According to Kathuria, this information gap was embodied in the reaction of a white police officer who spoke to the protesters after they were taken to the station. The officer asked protesters to help him understand what, exactly, was happening. “To me that was a coded way of saying, ‘Why the hell are these brown people protesting other brown people?’” said Kathuria. “The cops were so confused.”
Raghuveer felt his confusion represented white Americans’ tendency to flatten the diverse experiences and political opinions of Asian Americans. “As a diasporic community we’re treated as a monolith,” she said.
Kathuria explained the situation to the officer using an analogy to political issues any contemporary American would be well aware of. “You know how some people think America should only be for white people?” she asked. “There’s people in India who think India should only be a nation for Hindu people, and it’s very similar. They oppress minorities and we stand against that.”
While Kathuria cautions that Hindu nationalism is specific to the history of South Asia, including the reality of caste oppression and anti-Muslim violence in India, the analogy between white nationalism and Hindu nationalism is certainly relevant.
Both white nationalism and Hindu nationalism express pride in a mythic “Aryan” racial identity, claimed alternately by white Europeans and dominant-caste Hindus. Both ideologies share a virulent Islamophobia, and have a history of anti-Muslim hate speech and violence in the name of a “battle of civilizations” against Islam. And both ideologies have gained prominence in the past few years under the watch of right-wing populist leaders Narendra Modi and Donald Trump.
The connections between these movements go beyond the symbolic. As The Caravan recently reported, many white nationalists have a fascination with Hinduism and India, establishing parts of their organizations in India and meeting with Hindu nationalist leaders. Some Hindu nationalists in India have articulated support for Trump, specifically for his anti-Muslim policies—and a group even celebrated his birthday. These ties are longstanding: it’s not uncommon to find copies of Mein Kampf hawked on the streets of Delhi or to hear RSS leaders celebrate the Third Reich for its “nationalist pride.” Meanwhile, the 2016 Trump fundraiser by the Republican Hindu Coalition had distinct Hindu nationalist overtones, including virulent rhetoric against Pakistan and “Islamic terrorism.”
According to Raghuveer and Kathuria, these beliefs were visible at the World Hindu Congress itself, in materials depicting interfaith marriage as a “silent Holocaust of Hindus.” Considering the frequency of brutal violence against interfaith and intercaste couples in India, this messaging is anything but benign.
In the Indian context, upper-caste Hindus vote disproportionately for the BJP. While the majority of Indian Americans lean Democrat, this doesn’t necessarily correspond with opposition to Hindu nationalism.
“A lot of our families in this country are benefitting from caste privilege,” said Raghuveer about dominant-caste Hindus in the United States. “Back in India they would be the beneficiaries of the current political order, but here they are ethnic and racial minorities who are on the other end of the ascendent Trumpist ideology in this country.”
Kathuria agrees. “Unfortunately, there are whole Indian-American communities that are against Trump, that understand why white supremacy is dangerous for them, but when you change the context and frame them in a country where they’re the majority, they’re not able to see the same dynamics.”
A statement from the Alliance for Justice and Accountability points to these inequalities and calls on Indian Americans who benefit from caste privilege to take a stand against Hindu nationalism.
Protestors called on Indian-American politicians, many of whom are Democrats, to demonstrate their commitment to minority rights by rejecting Hindu nationalism. The Alliance for Justice and Accountability called for a boycott of the World Hindu Congress. Democratic State Senatorial candidate Ram Villivalam, Chicago City Alderman Ameya Pawar, California State Assemblyman Ash Kalra, North Carolina State Senator Jay Chaudhuri, and U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard eventually pulled out of their scheduled appearances. Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi did speak at the Congress, for which he’s received criticism and continued demands from organizers to denounce the event and the violence against protestors. Finally, Chicago South Asians for Justice demanded that Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar oppose Chicago’s proposed $95 million police and fire training center. Chicagoans have protested the center, arguing that money would be better spent on people-oriented programs.
For Kathuria, protesting the police academy and protesting the World Hindu Congress are both part of a global struggle against state and state-sanctioned violence. That’s what came through most clearly in my conversation with the Chicago South Asians for Justice activists: while violent nationalisms may be global, so is resistance. “Standing against state violence means standing against it everywhere,” Kathuria said.
Read the original piece at Feministing.
Cover photo: Vice President of India M. Venkaiah Naidu addressing the World Hindu Congress on September 9th. Press Information Bureau of India, Wikimedia Commons.
I’m a pretty confident gal. Actually, that’s an understatement. I am a seriously confident woman. I think I’m gorgeous, exceptionally talented, super interesting, and not least of all, very humble.
I’m lucky to have a fantastic mom, who always modelled body confidence, never talked about weight, and told me I was the most beautiful woman in the world (well, except for my equally beautiful sisters). My partners have never made me feel bad about my body. I go for a “queer, curvier Sophia Loren in 1964” vibe, and I’m pretty pleased with the results.
HAPPY 377 READ DOWN DAY, EVERYONE! In a rare piece of absolutely fabulous news, on Thursday, September 6, the Indian Supreme Court officially decriminalized homosexuality.
Technically, the Court “read down” Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code to exclude consensual sex. Implemented in 1860 under British official Thomas Macauley, Section 377 outlawed “carnal acts against the order of nature”—meaning any sexual activity that isn’t heterosexual, penetrative vaginal sex. For 158 years, the law has been used in India to harass, persecute, and imprison queer people, especially transgender and third gender people, and sex workers.
That is, until now! In a landmark decision, the Indian Supreme Court, in the form of a five-judge Constitution Bench, declared that it was unconstitutional for Section 377 to criminalize consensual sex between adults. The ruling does preserve the part of Section 377 criminalizing bestiality and sex with children. The Judges’ opinions touched upon the constitutional right to equality before the law, the fundamental right to autonomy and privacy, and the right of minorities to equal citizenship regardless of popular morality. Opening up the possibility of future rights guarantees for the LGBT community, Justice DY Chandrachud wrote in his opinion:
Members of the LGBT community are entitled, as all other citizens, to the full range of constitutional rights including the liberties protected by the Constitution. Members of the LGBT community are entitled to the benefit of an equal citizenship, without discrimination, and to the equal protection of law.
This decision comes as a result of over a decade of struggle by the queer community, feminists, and rights activists, reflecting the much longer legacy of feminist and queer struggle in India. It’s been a windy road. Section 377 was initially “read down,” or decriminalized, by the Delhi High Court in 2009. That decision prompted severe backlash from conservatives, notably from many members of the Hindu nationalist political establishment, including one politician who labeled homosexuality “illegal, immoral and against the ethos of Indian culture.”
In a major blow, a 2013 Supreme Court judgement reversed the 2009 Delhi High Court judgement, drawing on popular prejudice to once again render queer sex a crime. “While reading down Section 377, the division bench of the HC overlooked that a minuscule fraction of the country’s population constitute lesbians, gays, bi-sexuals or transgenders [sic],” the decision read. That “minuscule minority” responded with protests and a curative petition, or a petition seeking to return the case to the Supreme Court for review by a five-judge Constitution Bench.
The Supreme Court’s reading down of Section 377 is a beautiful, historic, vastly important moment for LGBT Indians. It also, hopefully, will set a precedent for future affirmations of the rights of minorities. One sentiment from the judgement in particular has come to the attention of rights activists: The judges cited a line from the ruling in the Supreme Court’s 2017 Right to Privacy case that reads, “The guarantee of constitutional rights does not depend upon their exercise being favourably regarded by majoritarian opinion.”
In the contemporary global political climate, it’s a desperately-needed reminder. Under the current Hindu nationalist government in India, mob lynching of minorities has increased, as members of the dominant population target mostly Muslim and Dalit (members of the most oppressed caste) people. Majoritarian morality or “tradition” have also been cited to limit women’s dignity and autonomy and persecute couples who marry across religion or caste, as in the 2017 Hadiya case, in which the right of an adult woman to choose her spouse was eventually affirmed by the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the “collective conscience,” or majoritarian morality, has long been cited by the Supreme Court itself to substantiate capital punishment, including in cases, like the 2013 hanging of Afzal Guru, that some rights activists still believe to be wrongly decided. As human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover wrote in response to the 2017 hanging of the men convicted of the 2012 Delhi Gang rape, which was condemned on principle by activists opposed to the death penalty, “If ‘collective conscience’ is invoked as a reasonable ground, how will communal attacks, fake encounters, public lynching of Dalits and now Muslims, all enjoying social endorsement, be held unlawful?”
For me—and many of the friends and activists I’m talking to—this point resonates most. Queer people, all queer people, are entitled to the right to life, dignity, and equality regardless of what the majoritarian morality thinks of us. That’s not because we’re special: that’s because all people—all people—are entitled to the right to life, dignity, and equality. Regardless of who we are, what we’ve done, where we come from. Regardless of how the majority feels. The point of rights—and the thing that makes both the Indian and the American Constitutions tools in the struggle for social and economic justice despite their many flaws—is that rights are not based on majority rule. They are inalienable. And they are for everyone.
Of course, there is always more to do. Hierarchies of class, caste, religion, and gender identity haunt the Indian LGBT community as they do communities worldwide. And the framework of privacy falls short when it comes to issues of economic justice and public space—what does the right to have sex in private do for the many queer Indians who live, and have sex, on the streets?
But right now, as joy and color fill the streets across India, it’s time to celebrate.
Read the original post on Feministing. Cover photo: Delhi Pride 2017, courtesy yours truly.