Friday, April 28, 2006

Subject: Psuedo-political/Humanitarian

Marie Claire. P. 128-9. May 2006 Vol. 13. Issue 5.

This Woman Was Forced Into Slavery in the US
By: Sarah Garland

'"Trafficking victim Vishranthamma, 43, gives another often-heard reason for leaving home: "Where I am from, in Bangalore, India, there is no work. I didn’t have a job. I took care of my five kids and husband, who was very sick,” she says. “I found a job in Kuwait through an agency that said I could earn a lot of money. I had to go. I had to take care of my children.”

After several months in Kuwait, she happily accepted a babysitting job offered by a Kuwaiti diplomat in New York City. He promised to pay her $2000 a month, enough for food and school for her children and medical care for her husband.

Upon arriving in the U.S., Vishranthamma moved into her Kuwaiti employer’s luxurious Manhattan apartment to care for his two children. Barely a month passed before she was also responsible for cleaning, cooking, shopping, and washing the family’s clothes. “The job description was only to car for a new baby,” she says. “Whenever I was sick, they never let me rest. They made me work like a donkey.” Vishranthamma started working at 6 a.m., and many days she didn’t finish until 1 a.m. Instead of the promised $2000 a month, her employers only paid $200 to $250 a month, which they sent back to her family in India so the children wouldn’t wonder how their mother was faring. To Vishranthamma herself they gave nothing.

The Kuwaiti diplomat’s wife watched Vishranthamma vigilantly. When she began having trouble keeping up with the workload, the violence began. “Every day, she pushed me and beat me. Every day, she made me cry,” says Vishranthamma, who said nothing because she feared retaliation against her family. A devout Christian, Vishranthamma would hide in her room after a beating and read her bible. “What could I do? I could only pray,” she says. Rapidly, Vishranthamma’s role deteriorated from domestic worker to slave. The family took precautions to make sure she couldn’t escape, locking her in the house whenever she was left alone and never allowing her outside on her own. They also confiscated her passport, her only form of identification.

Four years passed in this manner. Vishranthamma grew more despondent, but her attachment to the family’s children made the thought of escape difficult. (Psychologists say this is common: Separated from their own children and alone in a strange country, enslaved domestic workers often become strongly attached to the children in their care.) “Whenever I cried, both the children cried, too. I could tell that they liked me,” says Vishranthamma. “Even if I decided to leave the house and run away, I had nobody. Where would I go?”

The breaking point came in June 2000, when Vishranthamma barely escaped severe injury. The diplomat, furious at her for taking too long to pack the family’s suitcases for a vacation, picked up the luggage and hit her with it, then threatened to throw an iron at her head. She fled to her room. “I thought, I can’t stay here anymore. This is worse than prison. Even if I don’t make it, I would rather die outside than remain trapped.” Later that day, Vishranthamma sneaked into her employees’ bedroom and found her passport. She fled, running to the street and hailing a cab as she had seen other New Yorkers do.
“I was shaking. I thought they were going to catch me. I’d never gone outside by myself before,” she says. When the Indian cab driver spoke to her in Hindi, she breathed a sigh of relief. “He asked where I wanted to go. I saw the map of the boroughs posted on the back of the taxi seat and picked one: Queens. He told me, ‘Queens is a very big place.’ That’s where I started to cry.”

But the cab driver did take Vishranthamma to Queens and left her at a Hindu temple. Eventually, through members at a sister temple, she got in touch with Andolan, a South Asian women’s organization. Andolan advocates, aware women like Vishranthamma are out there, hand out business cards in playgrounds where foreign nannies congregate with their toddlers and tricycles. But because the women are often employed by foreign diplomats, prosecution is nearly impossible. Vishranthamma’s trafficker transferred out of the country, and he was never charged with a crime because he was protected by diplomatic immunity. Because she agreed to cooperate with law enforcement, however, Vishranthamma got a trafficking visa (sometimes called a “T” visa), which means she can stay in the U.S., get her green card, and eventually become a U.S. citizen.
…Vishranthamma says there’s nothing left for her in Banglore, since her husband has died and her children have grown up without her. (Her youngest three will soon join her in the U.S., anyway).”'

Marvin Gaye - Inner City Blues
BB King - Chains & Things
Herbie Hancock - Death Wish [Main Theme]
Kerrier District - New York
Ian Brown - F.E.A.R.

at 11:48 PM 8 comments

Thursday, April 27, 2006


I remember when I was in elementary school in Kuwait, I used to look at the high school kids and the alumni that pop in for random visits as my idols of wisdom. Hell, I used to think grown-ups were the shit. They were older, so they must be filled in on everything I dream of knowing.

Last Christmas, I checked up on my old school and took a long walk through the familiar hallways. I passed by a little girl still in her single digits. She looked up at me in such awe and admiration. I smiled at her and went about in my way. However, if I had it any differently, I would’ve knelt down and said, “I’m just as clueless as you are.”

Frank Sinatra - When I Was 17
Billie Holiday - God Bless the Child
Seal Boy - Treehopper
Led Zeppelin - Down by the Seaside

David Copperfield Robbed at Gunpoint

at 4:14 AM 18 comments

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Erzulie Police

My family recently arrived from an exotic vacation. After adventures were recounted, my mother filled me in on the fabulous gifts she bought for me. I anxiously waited for the DHL package my brother shipped to arrive. I waited and waited, but nothing popped up. I tracked my package on DHL’s website and found out that my brother sent it to my previous ghetto address and that it had arrived there two days ago!

I was infuriated. I wanted my present! I called the shipper, my dear brother, and restrained myself from scolding him in an obvious manner, “You could have just called me and asked for my new address,” I fumed, “And I’m guessing the new resident is a tattered student. Even if you wrap up some crap they’ll still be happy to take it in.”

I called DHL and told them about the mishap. Their solution? “We don’t provide this service. We ship items to the address alone without checking identification. You should probably go there and retrieve it yourself.”
“Well, thanks a lot. I just want you to know that this is the last time I’ll be using DHL again.” Seriously, what kind of company sends it customers to do their dirty work? Plus, my old place is in a pretty shady area. What if the current resident of my old apartment is a serial killer? It’s a pretty sticky situation to be in. Also, it is illegal to simply show up at my old place and demand my package, since it is officially entitled to the person who lives there right now.

Does this stop the hot-headed Erzulian to quit?
Hell no. I want my damn gifts.
As soon as I finished class, I grabbed my friend (my designated bodyguard) and drove to the ghetto. He buzzed my old apartment, “Hello, this is DHL. There was a package delivered here two days ago by mistake.” The woman replied, “Ohh shit. Umm, okay hold on.” We took the elevator upstairs and I remained unseen behind the corner while my friend talked to one of the occupants of the apartment, a student in our university, “Uhh, no nothing arrived here. Sorry.”

I knew they were lying.
Fortunately, I knew the apartment manager. I called him up and explained my problem. “Well, they probably have it but maybe they were afraid to give it to you since they most likely opened it. This happened before so I’ll just put flyers up in the building and ask whoever took it to place it at my door, no questions asked. I’ll call you when something arrives”

I was not entirely convinced, but I went along with his flimsy scheme.
It has been two days. I considered calling the apartment manager, but thought against it. Just then, the phone rang. It was him! “Erzulie, you’re in luck. It was at my door by this morning.”
So, I’m heading over there in a bit to indulge myself in my colorful gifts. Moral of the story: Ditch DHL.

MF Doom & MF Grimm - Stress Box
Ozomatli - Nadie Te Tira
Daft Punk - Something About Us
Aphex Twin - Girl/Boy
Faithless - Miss You Less, See You More
Spokane - By the Bend

at 9:47 PM 19 comments

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Weld El Latheena

Last Christmas, I met my mother, younger brother, and his friend at Soug Sharq. They had just gotten out of a children’s movie before the two boys hit the arcade section. The mass of people who exited the theater soon left the field, but there was one man, a Kuwaiti version of Willie Garson with glasses, who lingered around a little bit longer along with his scrawny friend. My mother and I were sitting on the wooden benches in the center and the man, who was probably in his early-thirties, was looming behind my mother at a safe distance, in an attempt to establish eye contact. Over time, I dismissed his presence and concentrated on my mother’s words. However, I was still bewildered at his odd presence.
After my brother and his amigo used up all their tokens, we went downstairs to Haagen-Dazs. Soon enough, the irritating schmuck positioned himself behind my mother but now, he was simulating holding a phone with his puny hand.

I have come across many little shits in Kuwait that attempt to penetrate my private space, but this was the most bizarre incident ever. First of all, I was with my mother and the two boys. If I was alone, it would have been a bit more normal. Second, I simply cannot understand how a grown man has the lack of dignity and respect to stand in the middle of a mall and behave in such a depraved and immature manner.

Thomas Bangalter - Club Soda
The Groove Robber ft. DJ Shadow - Hardcore [Instrumental] Hip Hop
Dirty Vegas - Candles
Force of Nature Nujabes & Fat Jon - Tsurugi no Mai

On another note, happy 4/20...
Don Redman & his Orchestra - Reefer Man

at 8:00 PM 20 comments

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


You hear many sounds and echoes that evoke sundry feelings. Here are a few of mine.

There is just something about their roar that makes me tingle with excitement. Whenever I hear a faint murmur of an approaching engine, I instinctively direct my gaze at the daring rider as his/her motor lets out a low growl or a penetrating screech. After the dust settles, I smile, pleasured by the brief encounter with the mysterious rider.

Heels: I live in trainers, sneakers, kicks, and other sporty footwear that squish and clomp rather than click and tease. However, I spruce things up when I have a class presentation. I look forward to strutting down on the bare, cold ground. I hear the pebbles spark and snap under the pressure of my heels. I enjoy my temporary, ladylike bounce before I head back home and slip into my cotton sweats and call it a day well spent in my clickety-clack heels.

Her Voice: Apart from incessant telemarketers, she is the only one who calls my landline. When I ask her why she calls my apartment instead of my cell phone, she replies, “You know how I feel about mobiles. They’re bad for the ears, and you kids always have that thing glued to your head.” I do not think I smile as broadly as I do when I hear her voice, my mother, on the other end of the line.

Mint Royale - Shake Me
King Biscuit Time - I Walk the Earth
Mr. Scruff - Blackpool Roll

at 12:53 PM 14 comments

Monday, April 10, 2006

Love in an Elevator

I have come across many characters in my building’s elevator. While there are a few I do not care for like the odorous stinkers and bothersome gawkers, there are some I look forward to seeing, because they’re generally nice while others are just nice to look at.

- The Waiters: Clara, a retired 70-something year old, always holds the elevator door even if you are 20 meters away. I appreciate her patience because it takes forever for the elevator to inch down to the frigid basement. However other times, I am just too darn tired to meet up with the wrinkled Clara who tries her best to push the stubborn door open while I’m scurrying towards her, fumbling with my keys, backpack, water bottle, and loose papers.

- The Deserters i.e. Il Nithala: Oh Mrs. Lonsford, I saw you punch the close button a million times, trying to escape sharing the lovely ascension even though I was inches away from squeezing in. If it was not for my 20 pound laundry basket, I would have leaped in there and eyeballed you all the way to the top.

-The Could-Have-Beens: Between the Waiters and Deserters is a gray, technical handful. Basically, the good-hearted bunch attempted to let you into the already closing door and actually pressed the open button, yet failed miserably. You catch a glimpse at their frank, sorrowful expression before the metal gate separates the risers from your disappointed, slightly impatient state of temporary stasis.

-The Studs: I come across these mouthwatering yuppies once in a blue moon. Whenever I am dressed up and ready to hit the town, I come across the Clara’s and their warm smiles. Whenever I look like I just rolled out of bed, I always (trust me on this one, always) encounter the sizzling men in my building. Why you ask? Because that’s just my luck. One day, for example, I was so hungry that I started eating my chicken fajita (courtesy of Chipotle) right there in the elevator. I entered the elevator alone on the basement level. The darn thing almost always does not stop at the ground floor, especially at 9:45 pm on a slow weekday. However this time, it did. And enter Mr. Universe and Mr. World. And what was I doing? I had my face stuffed with chicken and guacamole of course.

Aerosmith - Pink
Baby Huey & the Babysitters - Mighty Mighty Pt.2
Bob Dylan - 1913 Massacre
Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash - One Too Many Mornings
Queen - We are the Champions
Billie Holiday - Lover Man, Oh Where Can You Be

at 8:27 AM 15 comments

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Ever since I came here, I noticed that some Kuwaiti males have explored metro-sexuality more often than not. The long, thick, possibly streaked hair bunched up into a tight bun or a neat ponytail, hot pink attire, lotions and potions, and many more delicacies that were once solely owned and exercised by women.

Girls, on the other hand, sprawled out in relaxation amidst their indifferent environment. Sweatpants & sweaters i.e. God’s gift to women, are a daily wear. Plucking and other abusive acts of forcibly pulling out hair become a semi-annual event as opposed to the weekly routine that occurred back home. Artificially colored hair nears the middle of one’s strands as women’s dark, virgin locks reappear after years of concealment. Manicures are set at a temporary halt as one childishly nitpicks at hangnails and cuticles in class. The hot, destructive blast of hairdryers is set aside as frizz and curls take over.
Ah, how sweet it is.

Verb T - Sound So Cool
Willie Bobo - Spanish Grease
The Beta Band - Dragon
Broadcast - America's Boy
Jackson & his Computer Band - Radio Caca

at 9:55 AM 18 comments

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Dell. M7amad Dell.

The last time I was really mad - my kind of mad - was about a year ago. I was having trouble with my computer for about a month. At first, I dismissed the accumulating signs of my device’s demise. However one day, the darn thing stopped working.

I could not access my files. All my essays, projects, and other creations were in an unreachable stasis. I called the Dell Help Center a few times before this climactic day came along. After spending about two hours listening to bothersome machine operators and about three hours talking to so-called specialists, I felt a little, angry knot in my throat as I tried to blink away my warm, oh-so-unnecessary tears. I had been flung around and transferred to help centers from Texas & India to my final destination in Ontario, Canada.

Help Line: Hello, this is the Dell Help Cen-…
Me: Yes. I know who this is.

I furiously gave the man my address and computer registration information. Naturally, I had to give him a run down of my tragic happenings which ended with a disgruntled huff on my part.

Help Line: Hmm. Okay. Well, I will try to help you.
Me: (Sensing his familiar accent) Int min wein?
Help Line: (Silence)
Me: (Continuing my legafa) Aloo? Shismik?
Help Line: Aloo na3am. Ana ismee M7amad, min il Kwait.

Opahhhh! Well, to make the story short and sweet, M7amad is originally from Iraq and lived his entire life in Kuwait before the Gulf War. Afterwards, he moved to Canada with his parents and family and continued his studies there. He currently works for Dell and out of the probably thirty people I talked with, he was the only person who managed to straighten my problem out. And he sent me a complementary setup package (because I impulsively threw mine out) although my account expired a year ago.

Michael Dell, your customer service made me cry, punch the air, raise my voice, and throw my landline phone at the wall, creating a little grayish mark on the off-white surface which I had to cover up with blots of acrylic paint. If it was not for my savior M7amad, I would have converted a long time ago.

Maurice Galactica - Soiree
Bonobo - Terrapin [Mr.Scruff Remix]
Badly Drawn Boy - Osscilate Wildly
Mobius Band - The Lights Are Always On

at 3:58 AM 12 comments

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Crap Rap

My apartment looks best when I have a friend staying over. I spend most of the day dusting, washing, scrubbing, and perfuming my place with incense after stocking my bare fridge with nightly snacks and to-go fruits and veggies. I give my friend the utmost freedom to move and rearrange anything she likes. However, the only place I never cease to control is my car, specifically my music.

Friend: Can I play this song?
Me: No.
Friend: Why not? I like it.
Me: It’s ridiculous. Play something else instead.
Friend: But it’s nice.
Me: How can that be nice? It’s anything but that!
Friend: But I’m your guest!
Me: Hiffttt…
Friend: Can I put it on now?
Me: Okay, but just play it once. I can’t believe you listen to that crap.
Friend: No, listen to it! You’ll see…

My friend smiles, claps her hands, and lightly bounces in her seat as the song plays. Meanwhile, I’m driving with an instinctive frown, cringing in disgust at the vulgar lyrics. But oh well, I love my old friend, shitty songs and all.

Crap Rap: Khia - My neck, my back

No Doubt - Don't Speak
DJ Shadow - What Does Your Soul Look Like
Bob Dylan - Everybody Must Get Stoned
Lyrics Born - Always Fine Tuning

at 1:19 AM 18 comments