The Aloha Spirit

This morning I was in a cage in the pacific ocean off the coast of Oahu swimming with Galapagos Sharks and Baracudas and tonight I am writing poetry sipping a tequila sunrise in a sports bar.
Life is weird. And amazing.
9 days ago I arrived on the island of Oahu, Hawaii for my first ever solo travel experience. (minus my little brother who tagged along, but I’m responsible for him so really, still solo.) I expected to see amazing sunsets, snorkel with exotic fish, go on 4 hour hikes in the rainforest, swim with sharks amidst 10 foot waves and do yoga on the beach and in the jungle. All of which I did. But I never expected the ultimate surprise of this trip.
I never expected the warmth. The hospitality. The aloha spirit of the Hawaiian people who will go out of their way to help you whether you ask for it or not.
I didn’t expect to find the nicest people in the world.
In a touristy beach town called Waikiki I was looking for an authentic rural Hawaiian experience. So after seeing incredible reviews with a company based out of waikiki called Sunset Yoga I booked a “Yoga Jungle Hike”. I expected it to be a commercial rather fake paradise yoga type of scene but I got the authenticity I was searching for and more. We started by doing some yoga at 9am on the lawn facing the beautiful Palm tree laden Waikiki beach. An hour and a half later, we regrouped to take off for our hike through the “secret hike path” as the website boasted. To my suprise, this was a very humble laid back experience, as our Yoga hike instructor Haylee would be taking us in her own vehicle which was a 15 year old beaten up beach car. No coach buses here. I loved it. There were only 5 of us including Haylee. Me, a pharmacist, her friend who said she was “chillin” when asked what she does for a living, and a mother of a 2 year old who toured with bands doing their finances for a living. And then there was Haylee, a Utah native who was brought to Hawaii because of her husband’s education. We were a varied group to say the least. We stepped foot into the bamboo forest, which was admittedly, off the beaten path for sure. (We were warned to watch for bamboo stumps which were apparently capapble impailing our feet). A few steps in we were asked to stop and circle around a stump Haylee stood on, as she revealed a little spray bottle of water with a refreshing eucalyptus scent which she sprayed into our cupped hands. She asked us to rub the water into our hands, smell it and close our eyes in a prayer posture while we set an intention for the rest of the hike: to stay present in the moment throughout and be curious and attentive to our wild surroundings. We moved on. We came upon some buds of closed up flowers that Haylee asked us to gently open. When I smelled the petals, I didn’t notice anything. Haylee explained that the flower produces a scent when you “give it air” or blow on it. All of a sudden I noticed the strong familiar scent of jasmine! As we moved through the hike, Haylee asked us to stop multiple times and take in the surroundings, and be grateful for the fresh air we were breathing, the blueberries we found and ate (and raspberries!) and it reminded me that hiking is very similar to meditation. You can’t really think about anything other than the task at hand which is watching each step you take making sure you don’t trip on anything. There is no paved manicured path in the jungle so as soon as you are not being in the present moment, giving full attention to what is currently happening, you trip on a wayward vine or a rock. It is close to clearing your mind entirely and there is even an emphasis on deep breathing as hiking is light excercise as well. Finally we reached a clearing where a vast valley awaited us. We decided to stop for yoga. We did a 20-30 minute standing practice involving warrior 1/2, suryanamaskars and tree poses. Not only was it the ultimate experience for a yogi to practice in the most beautiful natural place in the world but for the first time I felt a deep connection to nature that I just didn’t completely feel doing yoga in my room on my hardwood floor facing the window. I felt as though with every inhale and exhale, the trees swayed accordingly. And during warrior 2 where the support of the earth is very important to maintaining your balance, I felt truly supported by the hard dirt below me. After the yoga we moved through the thick jungle uphill towards the waterfall: our destination. When we got there we did a little meditation to the sound of the rushing water. After that it was time to climb. Again there was no path to climbing to the top, you just had some slippery boulders and trust in yourself. Surprisingly there was no debate in my head about backing out. I had some nerves about the height but otherwise I was surprised at how much trust I really did have in myself. So one foothold at a time I reached the top and took a victory picture before crab walking down and highfiving everyone. Me and one of the girls shared our awe in what we had just done. “I can’t believe i did that, I’m so afraid of heights” “yeah” she said. “but you did it.”
When I arrived in Kapolei, waiting for a bus transfer to our hotel I was waiting next to a cheery mammoth of a lady with gnarly arm tattoos and the bubbliest disposition sitting on the bus stop bench. She looked concerned and asked us “You guys okay? Do you wanna sit down?” getting ready to stand up from the bench she offered us. We politely refused, we’d been sitting down on a bus for two hours, we were fine thank you. A few minutes later a disheveled man with sunburnt skin and wild hair maybe in his 60s, stumbled around the stop looking confused. He was holding a bottle in a brown paper bag and carrying nothing else. The lady asked him where he was going and guided him to a different stop down the road. “That guy was getting a little too close to you guys”. We chuckled, admittedly a little relieved. “Dont worry though, aunty’s here, I woulda slapped the shit outta him if he tried anything”. We all laughed, instantly feeling safer. She then proceeded to strike up conversation about where we were from, business or pleasure, and then re-assured us we were taking the right bus and wished us good luck.

When we got off that bus, we were still a 12 minute walk away from our hotel on roads with no pavement all while our gps navigation kept telling us we were already at our hotel. Two suitcases in tow in 80 degree weather and no idea where to go, we were flustered and it must have showed. Because almost immediately, a burly man dark from life under the sun, leathery skin and a brilliant smile came riding up to us in a weathered golf cart asking “You folks alright?” We told him about the wonky GPS and asked if there was a Hampton Inn anywhere nearby. He scratched his head for a few moments and then turned around calling out to a younger man in his late 20s wearing a blue camoflauge navy unform who said he did know of a hotel by the new mall. And with that we took off, grating our suitcase wheels against the jagged rocks beside the railroad that was supposed to lead us to our hotel. A few moments later, the tanned man, the soldier and a little girl in dusty flip flops rode up to us in their golf cart that I was sure was 1 pound away from falling apart and insisted we let them take us to the hotel because it was quite a walk. They were right. The ride in the vehicle alone was ten minutes and with our suitcases and flipflops would have lost the bumpy battle against the sharp gravel. On the way, we chatted about New Jersey and the mild winter and climate change and were then invited to a historic Kapolei train ride that they ran on Saturdays. We thanked them excessively while they insisted it was no problem at all.

After Kapolei, we headed up to Haleiwa, a historic quaint town in the North Shore for my shark encounter. For someone with a deathly phobia of the ocean, going on a day with the roughest seas of the season was quite a cruel coincidence. In fact, the water was so choppy that the groups after mine were cancelled due to such gargantuan waves, and as soon as we came onboard, a crew member with long scraggily blonde hair and reflective sunglasses strapped around his head like a bandana warned us that 3 people on the last tour became seasick. I was confident I wouldnt hurl, that wasn’t the problem. Neither were the sharks. They were beautiful misunderstood animals that Hollywood liked to make a ruthless man killing machine out of. In truth, they were just like any other fish in the sea, looking for a bite to eat and humans were not on the menu. Unless they resembled their favorite food by paddling on a surfboard (from under the surface of the ocean, this can look like a seal, which sharks love to eat) which usually results in a bite followed by immediate regret and fleeing of the scene. Anyway, what I really feared was not the sharks or the motion sickness, but the ocean. The sheer volume of it combined with the cage being thrown around like a rag doll in the mouth of a rotweiler (or in this case, 10 foot waves), scared the crap out of me. I wasn’t a great swimmer and I had come alone, unlike everyone else in my tour. Everyone asked each other if they were okay, holding on to each other in the cage while they delighted in the amazing underwater pictures their gopro was getting. I had none of the support, and I was already terrified of the ocean. However, Chris, the blonde crew member from before took notice of my hesitation and nerves and repeatedly asked if I was alright. Later as everyone entered the cage one by one, I was the last to go. As I watched everyone descend into the miniscule box seemingly made of toothpicks that the vast ocean could easily snap in half, the captain also made conversation with me reminding me about all the stories I would take to medical school with me from experiences like this. I decided he was right, this is why I came. After the last person went in, I strapped on my scuba gear and stepped one foot at a time into water that would go miles before it hit the floor. The force of the waves was already shaking the cage violently around me and I looked for a bar to grab on to. I gave the captain a thumbs up but as soon as my feet were off of the ladder attached to the boat, I went into a full blown panic. I was breathing very fast and I knew I had to stop before I inhaled water, but I couldnt. Suddenly I realized how alone I was, that if I started drowning no one would notice, and I was a bad swimmer why did I agree to this, I couldnt breathe, the waves were so choppy and powerful they thrashed over me, into my snorkel I almost choked. I wanted out. But I realized I would never forgive myself for not giving this a chance. I came to see the sharks, and that’s what I would do. I secured the snorkel again and let go of my death grip on the cage’s bars to lower my head under the water and lo and behold the water was perfectly calm. It was war on the surface but a few feet underneath, it was serene and there I saw them. Galapagos Sharks swimming under the cage, a yard from my face, completely unbothered by our human presence. A baracuda appeared. Completely umovable despite the tons of force applied by the ocean waves, sitting still in front of me before whizzing away. It was unforgettable. I was the first one out and as I stumbled out to get hosed down, Chris told me to take a seat and look at land.



The curves of Spanish get me every time

like white chiffon lured off of a woman’s body by the wind

eloping, making cartweels in the air leaving blue

and orange chemtrails in its wake.

The edges of German do it to me too.

Its sheer history sits in my esophagus

asking me to remember. Stifled patriotism

is the flavor of the millenium.

Urdu lounges quietly sipping sherbet

reciting the poetry of the ancestors

wondering about the downfall

of the Mughal empire.

10 Incredible Facts About The Mughal Empire

In the age of Game of Thrones, House of Cards and The Crown, our society’s obsession with the politics of royalty and high level officials is apparent. However there are some true stories of culturally rich and drama-filled dynasties which have been forgotten over time. In this article we will be exploring one such dynasty that existed from the year 1453 to less than 200 years ago. After reading this, you may even be convinced that this empire is interesting enough to have its own show! I know I was.

1) its Crazy Ruthless leaders
The existance of a 500 year old empire that began by an invading a country is not without its drama. However, it is still surprising how many of its rulers were ruthless in pursuit of securing their thrones and have even resorted to murdering their own family members to do so. For instance, one of the most prolific emperors, Akbar the Great was poisoned by his son Jahanghir. for reasons still debated by historians today. It is speculated that Jahanghir was troubled by his brother Daniyal receiving more attention and privilege from Akbar and so he killed his father out of jealousy. Another theory is that when Akbar was suffering from a stomach illness, his second in command, Abdul Fazl suggested that Jahanghir may have poisoned him to gain access to the throne. Akbar then publically accused Jahanghir of doing so even though he was innocent and it was later determined that Akbar fell ill after consuming stale meat. However, the humiliation and pain stayed with Jahanghir and it is hypothesized that he had Akbar killed as revenge.
While it may seem that Akbar is the innocent one here, it is important to note that Akbar fought his own son for the throne despite Akbar’s will citing Jahanghir as the rightful heir to the throne. The family drama continues with Jahanghir eventually inheriting the throne and going on to blind his son Khusrau Mirza for retaliating against him.

2) War Elephants
The mughal empire was built on the successive victories of its military which was composed of five units: Infantry, Cavalry, Firearms, Elephants and Navy. Obviously one intriquing unit sets this dynasty apart from every other military, which is its use of elephants in battle. It is said that the Elephants were the chief component in the Mughal military’s success since they were the only army to use the animal to strengthen their cavalry.  Elephants were more than a show of force and transportation for their soldiers; they were fully armored and sometimes swords were attached to their trunks in order to weaponize them. While the elephants had a whole unit of their own, the Mughal military also employed camels and horses in their cavalry. Like the soldiers, the animals were armored and some would have weaponry mounted directly on their bodies. For instance, “the zamburak” refers to mounting a swivel gun on a camel’s back.

3) Mughal Cuisine Still Thrives in South Asia
Although the mughal dynasty began almost 500 years ago and has since dissolved into history, its delectable persian inspired cuisine lives on as an integral part of the modern indian, pakistani and bangladeshi cuisines today. Almost all of South Asia’s most famous food comes from this era. As an Indian I can attest to the fact that Mughali dishes such as Biryani, Kababs and Paneer are still very popular (and delicious!) menu items all over India. Near the end of Mughal rule, nations like Punjab, Portugal and Great Britain were starting to occupy Mughal cities leading to a fusion of cuisines in certain areas of India. For instance, the city of Goa still has a Portugese presence as many of its people are ethnically part portugese. Goan cuisine still incorporates coconut, seafood, rice and chili pepper which are all essential to Portugese cuisine as well. In fact the chili pepper was introduced to India through Portugese colonization and is obviously very prominent in all Indian, Pakistani and Bengali cuisines!

4) Unclear Origins
Although most historians agree that the Mughal people were invaders, no one is certain where they originated from. The confusion stems from the fact that although the people were of Turkish and Mongol ethnicities, their culture (cuisine, language) was actually Persian. It is known that Babur founded the Mughal empire after being exiled from Uzbekistan and so his native tongue was Turkish. He was from the empire of Timur; a turkish-mongol regime. Other historians argue that the Mughals have Mongol heritage, specifically that they are descendants of the Chagatai Mongols. In fact the word “Mughal” is Farsi for “Mongol”. This is supported by the fact that Babur was a descendant of Genghis Khan’s second son on his mother’s side. There is even indication that many of the Mughal people were descendants of Genghis Khan; a Chatagai Mongol himself who was the most prolific ruler in history. It would make sense if much of the Mughal population was ethnically Mongol, because even today, thousands of years later, it is a fact that 1 in 200 men are direct descendants of Genghis Khan.

5) Art and Architecture
The Mughal empire is remembered for its development of South Asian culture, but perhaps its most tangible legacy is its architecture and artwork. Present day Delhi is known for its ornate mosques that were built during the Mughal regime. But the dynasty has left its architectural mark in the form of palaces, tombs and mosques across not only India, but Pakistan, Afganistan and Bangladesh. Of course the most recognizable remnant of the empire is none other than the Taj Mahal, an Indian icon and tomb for a Mughal emperor’s beloved.
Although Mughal architechture is associated with Islam, it has left such a lasting legacy that it has even found its way into the architechture of palaces ruled by largely Hindu emperors, most notably Rajputs and Sikhs. As mentioned before, the Mughal cuisine influenced and united the state of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi cuisines today despite other marked differences in all of those cultures. Moreover, the dynasty’s culture was steeped in rich poetry, literature and fine art that decorates museums across the South Asian subcontinent today. In fact, Mughals are credited with a specific and unique form of artwork that is immediately recognizable. It involves paintings with pastel colors made from plant based dyes and the subjects vary from portraits of royalty to common folk doing everyday chores like farmwork. Most of this artwork was commissioned by Akbar who was the first great patron of the arts, despite being illiterate.

6) Contributions to Science and Technology
The Mughals were a highly educated and curious people since they were a part of the elite of India. Although they were not as well-versed in the mathematical theory and physics of the subject, their scientists were particularly interested in observational astronomy(Link 15)They studied astronomy by building telescopes and globes to observe the night skies. The instruments and observational techniques used in Mughal observatories, were derived from Islamic tradition and combined with Hindu compuational methods to build such precise technology. In fact, the Mughals are credited with inventing the first seamless celestial globe. Humayun, a ruler in the 1550s even had a personal observatory built in Delhi that stands today on the banks of Yamuna river in Agra.
Another major Mughal scientific endeavor was their development of alchemy. This involved the study and application of medicinal plants some of which are still used in traditional medicine. Two commanding officers in the Barkazai period of the Mughal empire have even written an intensive list of medicinal herbs, flowers and potions that was highly regarded in pharmacological circles during that time.
7) Formation of Bengali Culture and Society
The Bengal Subah was a subdivision of the Mughal empire that was responsible for developing much of modern day Bengali society and culture. It was also the economic powerhouse of the empire and produced 50% of its GDP. The dynasty introduced the Bengali calendar which streamlined agrarian reform in the Bengal Subah by oganizing harvest times, tax collection and even Bengali holidays and festivals. The prominence of Islam in Bangladesh today can also be traced back to the Mughal empire. The Bengal Subah was, for a period of time under the leadership of Sufis which are a sect of Sunni Islam, and thus Bengali muslims became the norm in this part of the empire. Today, we can see the remnants of this Mughal subsection in Bangladesh’s culture and majority muslim population.
8) Akbar’s Rule and Impact on Modern Indian Society
Akbar, the third emperor and son of Humayun, is regarded as one of the most distinguished rulers of the Mughal empire. He was responsible for the expansion of Mughal rule into almost all of the Indian subcontinent whereas up until his father’s rule, the state had only acquired Delhi and some of North India. Since the majority of the Mughal population was Turkish and therefore Muslim, the inclusion of parts of India which were mainly Hindu had the potential to create religious conflict. He maintained peace in this newly religiously diverse society by adopting a sort of all-inclusive creed derived from Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism called “Din-i-Illahi” and succeeded in being inclusive and respectful of people from all religions. In fact as a result of this religion, Akbar created a legacy known for unifying his people. He has a prominent popular culture presence today, with the Indian film industry portraying him in movies and television over twenty times.
9) Foundation of the Islamic Law of Fatawa
Perhaps the longest standing impact of the Mughal society on modern government is the concept of the Fatawa. In the 1650s, the emperor Aurangzeb instituted a new sect of Islamic Law called the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri. In essence, it is a set of rules that dictates criminal and personal law including punishments that differ based on gender, religion, socio-economic class and occupation. The Fatawa-e-Alamgiri spans over thirty volumes of legal code and became the principle legal system of the empire throughout Aurangzeb’s rule. In order to compile such a substantial code of law for all of the land under Mughal rule (modern-day India, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Bangladesh), Aurangzeb recruited 500 experts in Islamic Jurisprudence; 300 from south asia, 100 from Iraq and 100 from Saudi Arabia. This doctrine has since been absorbed into the general Islamic tradition of Sharia Law and is still enforced today wherever Sharia Law is the law of the land, such as Saudi Arabia.
10) Decline of the Dynasty
After Aurangzeb’s death in 1707, the empire fell into decline. Beginning with Bahadur Shah I, the Mughal Emperors progressively declined in power and became nominal rulers, initially being controlled by various courtiers and later by rising military leaders. In the 18th century, the Empire suffered loss after loss in battle with invaders like Nadir Shah of Persia and Ahmed Shah Abdali of Afghanistan, who repeatedly defeated Delhi, the Mughal capital. Eventually after countless losses in war and invaders steadily colonizing their land, the once supreme rule of the Mughal Empire was reduced to one city, Delhi before succumbing to the British. (Interestingly, modern day Delhi still retains the most remnants of Mughal architechture and cuisine out of anywhere else in South Asia). Other culprits of the empire’s decline include the Sikh Empire and Hyderabad Nizams.
In 1804, the last Mughal emperor Shah Alam II who was blind and unable to properly lead, formally accepted the protection of the British East India Company. The British had already begun to refer to the weakened Emperor as “King of Delhi,” rather than “Emperor of India”.



The New Jungle Book Is Activated Sewage and I Will Prove It

I have gotten tired of my 13 year old brother repeatedly asking me “Wait, why didn’t you like Jungle Book again?”

Here. Here is why I didn’t like Jungle Book again.

It all starts with Rudyard Kipling who is an imperialist racist piece of trash! For those who dont know, Kipling was a British white man raised in India at the height of the British Raj. He then wrote several books and poetry that were supposed to reflect his “love” for India but came out drenched in white supremacy and a serious case of white savior-ism. In a poem entitled “The White Man’s Burden” (already off to a brilliant start, no?!) Kipling broods for seven stanzas about the grief British colonizers face having to wrangle all those savages and civilize them into human beings.”Take up the white man’s burden…To wait in heavy harness…Your new-caught, sullen peoples/Half-devil and half child.”. This was used as a guideline for how the British should manage the newly conquered and enslaved Phillipino people.

When he wrote jungle book in 1894, the same problematic tropes carried over and made their way into the 1968 movie as well. But a lot of this racist garbage can be chalked up to the time period and the general worldwide epidemic of stupidity and ignorance. Therefore my qualms are about the modern adaptation of the Jungle Book, which has no excuse to be as backward as it is. And yet:

For starters, the fact that this is a movie that meant to celebrate India and yet boasts a cast of white actors who don’t speak any Indian languages in the movie is unbelievable already. In response to this, one might argue: “This is Hollywood! Why would they make a movie in an Indian language or place an emphasis on a culture that isn’t American?”. I think this can be resolved with the opposite notion that reflects common sense: why would a movie about India be in English and not cast any indians? It is a primitive and nonsensical argument to think that one country cannot represent another without displacing the former’s culture and native traits. In the same vein, America (or rather white people) seems to be the only members of film industries that repeatedly use white actors and the english language to represent other cultures. The phenomenon of whitewashing cultures, using blackface, brownface and yellowface runs rampant in Hollywood with racist character portrayals going all the way back to the beginnings of the film industry such as the asian man in Breakfast at Tiffany’s played by Mickey Rooney and continues to this day with Emma stone, a white actress portraying Allison Ng who is of Hawaiian and Asian decent, in the movie Aloha.
To boot, no other film industry in the world uses its own nationality to represent another. For example, India would not make a movie about an American baseball team using an all Indian cast speaking Hindi. It just wouldnt make sense. So why do we accept this ridiculous treatment of other cultures in Hollywood? The new Jungle Book movie does just this and goes a step further by removing all cultural identity from the story, as director Jon Favreau proudly admits: “I think that whatever cultural or social metaphors there was in there, were a bit lost on me. As with Alice in Wonderland … there’s a lot more cultural significance to them. Only the enduring, mythic, simpler aspects that are more obvious to the younger audience are what seems to endure.” Of course, the white heterosexual American man can’t relate to a movie grounded in its Indian setting that is vital to the storyline so just rip it out! And while you’re at it throw in some Indian terminology but make sure you completely butcher the pronunciation which would have taken a 5 second google search to verify. The word for “monkey people”, which is “Bander Log” is pronounced phonetically instead of (bun-ther-lohg) and Ammi, the word for mother is said with an accent on the a instead of the m. Minor issues, as it is only the main language of the country the movie is set in and only about two-sevenths of the world population speaks it, no big deal right?
While the concept of an Indian story that was only popular when it was written by a white British man during the time India was being enslaved by Britain is heinous enough, the new Jon Favreau adaptation is ostensibly worse with respect to Indian identity. That is, it has none at all. Neel Sethi, the 12 year old indian american boy who plays Mowgli is exactly  like his character; a 12 year old american kid. There is no emphasis on his heritage and any indication that this is set in India was ripped away, making it actually more similar in storyline to Tarzan than the original Jungle Book. The ending scene in the 1968 version where Mowgli returns to his village after being allured by a pretty village girl dressed in traditional indian attire (indicates some cultural identity), is replaced with a dramatic fight scene ending in Sher Khan’s death while Mowgli stays put in the jungle. In defense of this change, the director explains that he didnt want Mowgli to “reject the jungle” just because of a “siren’s call” from the young girl singing at the end. This felt like a huge oversimplification of the original ending where Mowgli is not manipulated by the little girl’s song rather, the girl is a metaphor for Mowgli reconnecting with mankind. But I guess that one flew over Favreau’s tiny head.

Even ignoring the glaring cultural insensitivity of this movie, it is technically a failure as well. I realize this was a different take on the original but I cannot help compare it to the 1968 version that was easy going, aesthetically gorgeous in a way only manual animation can be and most importantly it had characters that were nuanced in personality. Although the CGI of the 2016 film was beautifully done in its own right, it had no business in a children’s story about a little boy who talks to animals. Simply put, a live action rendition of a movie that is supposed to be funny and light hearted came out to be overly dramatic and violent. The CGI became its own character and overshadowed the real cast by turning them into one-sided caricatures of their original selves. Sher Khan in the 1968 film was a nuanced villain who was highly narcissictic while maintaining the charisma and charm of a con artist. He was even funny! Remember “Go ahead. I’ll give you a head start” before chasing after Mowgli, his mortal enemy standing right in front of him. It would have been so easy to take him out, but true to his hunter’s nature Sher Khan insists on playing cat and mouse and cracking jokes. It is these little details that were totally missing from Sher Khan’s 2016 character. There, he is simply an evil villain without a shred of personality and the plot is honestly a snoozefest because of him.

Moving onto Kaa who is unrecognizable in the newer movie, literally and figuratively; for some reason, Kaa is enormous as is King Louie, and even Baloo to a degree. This made no sense and only served to make all of these characters menacing villains which brings me back to my point about the one-sidedness.Kaa is portrayed as a woman in this version, and a harrowing seductress complete with a raspy bedroom voice at that. It is a strange tone for a children’s movie and seeing as Kaa’s screentime was all of 3 minutes long , maybe the director didn’t love it either? Coming back to King Louie, who in the original is a jealous, uncooth and overall hilarious King of the monkeys (albeit a horribly obvious caricature of black people stemming from its similarity to blackface) is reduced to a cheap imitation of The Godfather played by none other than Christopher Walken and his thick Brooklyn/mafia accent. You just can’t make this stuff up.

All in all, Jungle book in any form sucks. The 1968 one sucked but the new Jungle Book sucked too and it was stripped of all of its cultural identity which should be unacceptable at any time but especially in 2016. Basically 1968 Jungle Book is like your racist old grandma that hates “the blacks” and you can’t talk her out of it but you, as a millenial living in the age of #BlackLivesMatter should know better.


Interview I reference in this essay:

The Waltzing Dead

Boxed into three brick walls of dead end, I come to terms with impending death.
How did this happen?
Yesterday, I was a weatherman. Today, a chef
who prepared a zombie putanesca using only a hand grenade,
a stretch of atlanta highway and a squeeze of lemon.
Maybe Bobby Flay would have been proud.

Yesterday I might have said
“It’s a high of 27 and a meaty red blizzard headed to the northeast, folks”
a nervous chuckle escapes.
I clap a hand on my mouth. Stupid! I could be discovered. In response:
a group of drunkards dancing an out-of-tempo waltz approaches

Their tattered clothing rustles crusted with the blood
of the townspeople and with wedding rings, with intestines and lace
They shuffle and teeter and totter like babies walking to mama.
monstrous groaning babies crowding my one way out!
angrily I fire the rifle
but the clamour of the shots draws more of them near.
A Hundred drunken hungry babies waltzing towards me
Soon they will teach me to waltz too.

Physician Notes

10:01 am: 67 y/o white male, unreasonably ugly, presents to the ED via EMS found       unresponsive following Multiple Vehicle Accident reportedly trying to
“see if he could start a dominoes kind of thing but with cars”
Pt is an organ donor.
Pt has a unicorn bracelet. Nurse cannot stop laughing; security has been called.

10 :47 am: The attending physician strolls in eating a hamburger.
“He’s practically a DOA. Prep for organ removal”
Pt is given 3 of epi and is thrashing melodramatically.
“How about that game last night?”
Shocked to 150.
“Pretty crazy”
Continuing CPR.
The neuro consult is running late. Her Temple Run score remains undefeated.
Shocked again to 200. Intubate.
“Hang up an O Negative, nurse”

10:49am: Hysterical nurse is dragged out of ER kicking and still laughing.
Shocked to 300.
“We only have B positive and yoo-hoo”
“Save the yoo-hoo for me, hang up a bag of Sunny D”
Flatline pierces through the Emergency Department
“Patient’s been down 20 minutes, Doc” Nurse chirps through smacks of gum.

10:53 am: Pt pronounced dead.
“Call me when the family’s here. Who’s up for sushi?”’

A Foreigner At Home

Car horns blast perpetually like an amateur band rehearsal, the monsoon rains coax fog off the roads and the sunset over watches over it all, its pink and orange sensibilities reminding me this should have been my home.

I came back to India to find out who I might have been.

Vibrant posters of Bollywood’s A-list featuring the whole rainbow, are plastered on taxis that plead “horn ok please” on their bumpers. While sitting in a taxi, a Hijra (transsexual woman) waltzes up to my window, adorned in an immaculate sari, vermillion in her hairline and genuine gold jewelery despite her homelessness. She politely asks for spare change and upon receiving it, struts away head held high, demolishing my preconceived notions of India’s poverty.

Day has a habit of turning into night with a single thunderclap in Hyderabad. The rain flooded the streets in seconds, forcing me to pay the driver and find another way home. I run inside a sweets shop to wait out the weather but life continues under the torrential downpour, uncaring. I watch children still in blue-black uniforms with pigtails intact, encourage a tire downhill with a stick and I think their giggling must power the city, it is so persistent. Their laughter does not heed the flooded streets or muddy clothes or Angry Birds waiting on their phones.

I step out when the clouds clear but I am carried along throngs of shoppers in the Charminar bazaar. I hear Urdu, Telugu, Hindi all at once. I hear the languages small-talking, bargaining, tempers rising until settling on a final offer and then ending the transaction with a jovial “thank you sister, have a lovely day”.

I observe more of these delightful surprises all around me.

A pack of street dogs, lean and yellow, lounge with a homeless toddler under the watchful eye of his mother: her skin bronzed and her hair bleached from life under the sun. Across from their makeshift teepee are the Oxen who direct traffic by refusing to move from the middle of the road, munching on grass. An Ox’s droopy neck flaps in the wind making the toddler giggle and at this exact moment I take the first full breath of my life. The smells of chicken kababs and cardamom chai insist their way into not only my nostrils but my hair and clothes in a way no other city begs to stay with you.

And I succumb to it all. The people, the horns, the ginger-garlic in the air. My doubt falls away and I bask in the atmosphere of my birthplace feeling right at home.