Kiran Ahluwalia

The Indo-Canadian’s latest album, Aam Zameen: Common Ground, reaches out to the Islamic qawwali music of Pakistan with the help of a couple of North African desert blues groups and complements her gorgeous ghazals beautifully. Tonight’s band includes Nitin Mitta (tabla), Will Holshouser (accordion), Mamadou Ba (bass), and Rez Abassi, a restless guitarist who adds a sci-fi dimension to his wife’s singing.

Sat., June 8, 7:30 p.m., 2013


Kiran Ahluwalia

Beside her reliably gorgeous ghazals, the Indo-Canadian’s fifth album, Aam Zameen: Common Ground, reaches out to the Islamic qawwali music of Pakistan with the help of a couple of North African desert blues groups. Tonight’s band includes Nitin Mitta (tabla), Nikku Nayar (bass), and Rez Abassi, a restless guitarist who adds a sci-fi dimension to whatever he plays.

Wed., Nov. 9, 7:15 p.m., 2011


In Bhutto, Telling Pakistan’s Story Through Its One-Time Leader’s

Despite the biodoc implication of its title, Bhutto is not just a portrait of the late Benazir Bhutto, but also a chronological recap of Pakistan’s anarchic history. Duane Baughman’s nonfiction film pays reverential tribute to Bhutto, who, after the 1979 execution of her prime minster father, became the first woman elected to rule a Muslim state and assumed her paterfamilias’ mantle as the country’s leading proponent of democratic government, an agenda stymied by a military apparatus increasingly bent on hard-line Islamic law. Baughman somewhat sketchily addresses the charges of corruption and strategic miscalculations leveled against Bhutto, in part by occasionally leaning too hard on the fond talking-head commentaries of friends and family. Nevertheless, the director’s lionization of the prime minister—who was assassinated in 2007 after eight years in exile—is bolstered by Bhutto’s stirring archival-footage calls for a more just society, as well as by an extensive itemization of Pakistan’s ceaseless tumult. Contextualizing the prime minister’s rise to power within a larger portrait of a nation under constant internal and external siege, Bhutto conveys a forceful sense of tectonic social and geopolitical shifts, as well as the courageous, heartbreaking personal sacrifices its subject made in service to both her homeland and ideals.


Double Happiness at Merit Kabob and Dumpling Palace

There’s only one place I know where you can get Bangladeshi trotter stew and Tibetan spiced tripe in the same room, and that’s Merit Kabob and Dumpling Palace, an accurately named compound restaurant in Jackson Heights. Skip down the stairs from the 7 train, and the brightly lit spot sits smack in front of you, with a take-out window looking onto the street.

Don’t be put off by the giant piles of weirdly uniform fried shrimp, unnaturally blond onion rings, and goopy buffalo wings displayed in the window. Each time I go, they seem totally unchanged, perhaps waiting for a troop of drunk kids that never arrives. You’d be a fool to fill your belly with that stuff when the two restaurants that occupy the space offer such tasty food otherwise. The first counter — on your left as you walk in — is a Bangladeshi kitchen called Merit Kabob Palace, a South Asian diner of sorts with a long steam table, two microwaves, and a small tandoori oven glowing in one corner. The second, smaller booth in the back is called, variously, Dumpling Palace, Tashi Delek Momo, or Namaste, owned by a Nepali family that offers Nepalese, Tibetan, and Bhutanese specialties. Neither spot could be called the very best restaurant of its kind in the city, but the food is satisfying in the homemade manner: flavorful, cheap, and generous in every way.

The lively, bare-bones room is mainly populated with tables of young men, almost all chowing down on biryani. Toward the back, families share Nepali thalis and big bowls of noodle soup. A television on one wall plays Bollywood movies with English subtitles. One night, I set up a group of hungry friends at one table and went over to order our first round of dishes at Merit Kabob. The fellows who man the tandoor and counter are exceedingly friendly, and also patriotic: A picture of the pyramidal monument to those who died in the Bangladeshi war for independence from Pakistan adorns almost every surface.

I asked for keema naan, the flatbread stuffed with heavily seasoned ground meat, flaky lachaparatha, and onion kulcha. The tallest man grabbed rounds of dough and shaped them between his palms — smack, smack, smack — before slapping them onto the inside wall of the tandoor for a brief, hot grilling. Warm and pliant, those breads are highlights of an evening at Merit. The keema naan is particularly fine, almost a meal in itself, the puffy bread harboring a thin layer of turmeric-stained, garlicky chicken.

It’s a kabob palace after all, so you won’t want to neglect the grilled meats. The slightly charred cylinders fashioned from ground chicken and flecked with onion are wonderfully juicy, as are the heavily spiced chapli kabobs — so called for their flat appearance similar to a shoe, or chapal. Both are flavor-bombs, still hinting at the smoky taste of the grill although they’re briefly microwaved before serving.

Everyone’s eating biryani for good reason. Although the rice is less fluffy than the ideal, these pilafs are shot through with whole black cardamom pods, green chilies, bay leaves, and bits of cinnamon bark, to aromatic effect. So popular are the biryanis that large platters of them sit within easy reach of the counterman, and empty quickly. They come in chicken, goat, shrimp, beef, or vegetable versions, although the goat triumphs, replete with bone-in hunks of the tender, musky meat. Don’t forget to suck out the marrow.

While breads, kabobs, and biryanis are the specialties, you’ll see scads more food on the prolific steam table. (Steam tables get a bad rap — sometimes deservedly so — but they also make sense. No one in their right mind braises goat feet to order.) There’s even a section devoted to Desi-Chinese food, or the foods that Chinese immigrants adapted for Indian tastes, a cuisine that’s wildly popular across the subcontinent. Once you’ve had Desi-Chinese — tart, spicy, sugary — you’ll crave it forever. I sucked down Merit’s vinegary chicken chili in no time, a sweet and hot dish of fried chicken and peppers in a fluorescent red sauce. Sure, it’s junky, but, oh, it is delicious. There’s also a credible goat paya, the trotter stew popular in both Pakistan and Bangladesh. Here, it’s more about the spiced, thickly cartilaginous gravy than the feet themselves, which are nearly bare of meat.

I could go on about Merit Kabob Palace’s comforting Bangladeshi cooking, but we have to move on up to the Himalayas, and a few feet over to Dumpling Palace. Momos — the dumplings of Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan — get star billing for good reason. These are juicy specimens, spurting broth on the first bite almost the way a soup dumpling does. The beef rests loose and bovine beneath the chewy skin, but the chicken is better still, shot through with zingy ginger. Dip them into the homemade chile sauce. Beware the vegetarian momos, though, which are soggy and lack seasoning.

Dumpling Palace also has a steam table, shorter than its neighbor’s, and filled with a half-dozen or so dishes, including spiced honeycomb tripe stewed to tenderness, and shapta beef, composed of chewy beef slices in a dry masala with chilies and coriander. There’s also a nice selection of thupka, noodle soups with vegetables, beef, chicken, and mutton. The soups are agreeably simple, with mild, fresh-tasting stock and springy wheat noodles.

For a side dish, don’t miss the achar, or pickle, including one composed of daikon radish and cucumber. It’s pungent with mustard oil and turmeric, with a bitter-tart intensity balanced by the vegetables’ sweet, refreshing quality.

Like Merit Kabob, Dumpling Palace is proud — adorned with the Tibetan, Nepalese, and Bhutanese flags. And, like its compatriot, it’s friendly and neighborly, prominently displaying its Halal Certification, as well as a sticker that reads: “I heart Buddhism.” Only in Queens.


Dinner With the President: A Nation’s Journey

A few minutes into Dinner With the President, co-director Sabiha Sumar shows her friends gathering for a dinner party, which, she explains in voiceover, is something they regularly do to hash out the issues of the day. Specifically, the gathering is for “we, the liberals of Pakistan,” she ominously intones. Does the world really need more progressive sermons from the dinner table? To her credit, Sumar goes out and gets enough footage for a decent portrait of Pakistan under (now-ex) President Pervez Musharraf. If her titular interview is less than revelatory, she fortunately uses Musharraf’s sound bites only as talking points to structure her footage (though there’s enough banal reaction shots of a pensive Sumar to qualify as a 60 Minutes parody). The film’s gutsiest segment has Sumar traveling to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, with no scarf on her head, to interview (and eventually just hector) conservative mullahs over the Taliban’s treatment of women. Funnier still is footage of a yuppie beach party, complete with an Ibiza-ready DJ. Still, for all of Sumar’s hard work and interesting footage, Dinner With the President is a mess, alternating interviews and Sumar’s token progressive sentiments before carelessly using the assassination of Benazir Bhutto for a queasy, drawn-out climax.


Mohammed Hanif Sorts Through a Complicated Pakistan

“You want freedom and they give you chicken korma,” says Ali Shigri, an officer in the Pakistani Air Force and the protagonist of A Case of Exploding Mangoes. Mohammed Hanif’s debut novel examines the circumstances surrounding the death of Pakistan’s former president, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, in a plane crash in 1988. Even at the time, many believed the crash to have been a well-orchestrated assassination—a “criminal act of sabotage,” an investigation said.

As a journalist, playwright, and former member of the Pakistani Air Force himself, Hanif is well-positioned to speculate on who did Zia in, and the book’s opening promises a conspiracy thriller. If the plot isn’t quite taut enough to deliver on that, it does give us something richer: Narrated in alternating chapters by Shigri and an omniscient narrator, Mangoes is a fascinating look into the Cold War concerns and rising Islamism that drove Pakistan’s politics in the late 1980s. Even more, it sardonically examines the workings of the Pakistani state, which comes off like a Third World Brazil imagined by Raymond Chandler.

What really drives Mangoes, however, is Hanif’s sharp writing and considerable wit. His characters are ultimately pragmatists, trying to reconcile their own desires with the strict rules of both Islam and the government, while also wondering if it isn’t too much to ask that there be something decent on the state-controlled television. Even as it dooms many of its characters to untimely deaths, the book is profoundly humanist; as one of Zia’s brigadier generals says: “Life is in Allah’s hands, but I pack my own parachute.”


Our Very Own Axis of Evil in Guantánamo

If the deciders at the White House, the Justice Department, and the CIA who are responsible for war crimes ever face the equivalent of the Nuremberg trials—or at least an unsparing Congressional investigation—an essential witness against them will be Murat Kurnaz. His book, Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantánamo (Palgrave MacMillan), has just been published.

CBS’s 60 Minutes, keeping Edward R. Murrow’s legacy alive, provided an introduction to Kurnaz on March 30, with Scott Pelley detailing how, three months after 9/11, this German citizen “found himself in a [U.S.] prison system that required no evidence and answered to no one”—even though a secret government file eventually revealed “information from the FBI, German intelligence and even the U.S. military pointing to his innocence.” Even then, he was kept in his cage.

The tortures inflicted on Murat Kurnaz—first in a CIA “black site” in Afghanistan, later at Guantánamo Bay—included “holding his head under water, administering electric shocks to the soles of his feet, and hanging him suspended from the ceiling of an aircraft hangar and kept alive by doctors.” Kurnaz recalls that every five or six hours, he was pulled down, “and the doctor came. He looked into my eyes. He checked my heart and when he said, ‘OK,’ then they pulled me back up.”

As I’ve pointed out here before, there has been no Congressional investigation, with subpoenas, of the war crimes committed by American doctors and psychologists in the prisons of Guantánamo, Iraq, and the CIA’s “black sites” all over the world as they advised our torturers on how they could most effectively continue to practice their craft.

How did Murat Kurnaz become one of the thousands of victims—which include captured American citizens—of the unleashed “dark side” (to quote Dick Cheney) of our “war on terror”?

At 19, Kurnaz traveled to Pakistan to learn more about his Muslim faith by studying the Koran at various mosques. Three months after 9/11, on a bus to a Pakistani airport to return home, he was pulled over by a cop at a checkpoint. During that period, America was offering bounties in Pakistan and Afghanistan for alleged terrorism suspects, who were grabbed by the local police or militias and turned over to us. Kurnaz says he later found out from an American interrogator that U.S. taxpayers paid Pakistan $3,000 for him.

On a CIA plane, shackled and chained—”The only thing I could move was my head”—Kurnaz began his five-year journey into the hell of American justice. American torturers attended to him, first at a U.S. base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, as “number 53,” and then at the internationally notorious legal black hole at Guantánamo.

Kurnaz was one of the first of the “enemy combatants” at Guantánamo that Bush figured could be made to disappear without going to a judge. Kurnaz got the standard treatment: beatings, sleep deprivation, and special month-long spells of solitary confinement in a sealed cell without ventilation.

“It’s dark inside, no lights,” says the Gitmo alumnus. “And they can punish you in isolation with very strong air conditioners. They can turn it very, very cold or very hot.”

The prisoner, who for years heard nothing at all from or about the world outside, was often chained in his cell to a bolt in the floor as he wondered whether his family—or anyone—knew he was there.

I doubt if John McCain will have time to read Five Years of My Life before November, but since he’s called for the closing of Guantánamo because of the blight it casts throughout the globe on the reputation of this Land of the Free, I suggest that an aide show him a passage from page 157 to give him some ammunition the next time he urges his supporter in the Oval Office—the creator-in-chief of this Kafka-like penal colony—to close it down: “Nothing in the camp is . . . the way the U.S. Army says it is and as it has been reported, filmed and photographed by journalists.There are cages and interrogation rooms specifically constructed for the media. In media reports, you often see things on the bunks that I never once had in Guantánamo: a backgammon board, for example, or books or a bar of chocolate.” (Emphasis added.)

But we’ve been told about—and I have reported on—the hunger strikes by prisoners. Kurnaz stayed on one for 20 days, the last two or three without water. When a uniformed guard with the word “Doctor” on a badge on his chest asked him if he finally would eat, Kurnaz declined. Then, as he later reported: “They gagged me and shoved a tube up my nose, stopping several times because the tube filled with blood.” After being fed, as it were, Kurnaz was put on a stretcher and was beaten while being interrogated. For days after, weak and then feverish, he couldn’t get up, lost consciousness, and wound up in a medical ward, his hands and feet in chains.

The feeding tubes were removed: “I could sit up. I could eat. I had survived. I could even hear music. The guards were listening to rock music.”

One might say that Hitler’s guards were somewhat more refined in their tastes: After a hard day at the concentration camp, they would relax by listening to Mozart and Beethoven.

Next week: How Murat Kurnaz was finally able to leave Guantánamo after getting a civilian lawyer, Baher Azmy, a professor of constitutional law at the Seton Hall Law School in New Jersey, who proved from the Defense Department’s own records that most of the “worst of the worst” (as Donald Rumsfeld once described the Guantánamo inmates) had no connection with Al Qaeda or any of the world’s other terrorist organizations.

While working on Kurnaz’s defense, Azmy discovered that his client—who, he says, looked as though he’d been “shipwrecked” when he first saw him—had been the subject of a secret report that U.S. military intelligence had written six months after Kurnaz had been caged in Guantánamo: “Criminal Investigation Task Force has no definite link or evidence of detainee having an association with al-Qaeda or making any specific threat toward the U.S.” And German intelligence reported to their superiors that “USA considers Murat Kurnaz’s innocence to be proven. He is to be released in approximately six to eight weeks.”

That was in 2002. Kurnaz wasn’t let go for another three and a half years. Aren’t you proud to be an American?


A Muslim Daughter Became a Christian Son

Issa Fazli says the double whammy of his transformation from a Muslim daughter into a Christian son blew his dad over the top: “He said he would make my life a living hell, and he did a good job of it.”

Days before a hearing to determine his status in the U.S., Fazli sat in his New York apartment with a Bible on his knees and read verses from Matthew about the persecution of the faithful. (The hearing was postponed.)

Flashback to 1999: Issa was Fareeha, a thirtysomething Muslim woman and longtime U.S. resident just working her way through school. After a sex-change operation, he grandly renamed himself Issa—the Arabic name for Jesus.

In 2000, living in New York at the time and his sex change complete, Fazli quietly married Saadia Asghar, also Pakistani and also a student at Columbia Teachers’ College. Soon after, Fazli says, his parents lured him back to his hometown of Lahore with the promise of a traditional wedding celebration. Instead, the newlyweds were greeted by explosive anger from their powerful and prominent fathers.

Sex changes are more common and more accepted in some Muslim countries than one might think, says Fazli, but his parents were “not gung-ho.” At least as big a problem was the couple’s conversion to Christianity. Fazli’s father, a retired judge and strict Muslim, believed, according to his son, that he “had dishonored the family, spoiled his reputation—in the Eastern sense, been disobedient.” What began as a month-long visit to Pakistan turned into four long years of family feuding in the worst way, with some official repression mixed in.

At first, Asghar says sardonically, it was simply “good old gossip” spread among family members. But there was something more sinister going on. After they missed their original flight back to the States, the government-controlled airline wouldn’t let them buy new tickets to New York. “They would say they needed our fathers’ permission,” says Asghar, “and we were in our early thirties!” In the meantime, Fazli’s passport expired and the government refused to renew it.

The unhappy families were using their plentiful government connections to keep them in the country, because, says Asghar, “they wanted to teach us a lesson.”

As the months wore on, the couple says, the harassment increased. They had left their families’ homes and were living in rented apartments while they tried to get new travel documents. But some landlords shut off their electricity or pushed them out with no explanation. Carcasses of chickens, cats, and dogs were left on their doorstep. They say they were followed and even spied on, and that their home was burglarized. When they went to the police, they were met with polite inaction. “They would pretend to help, but they would never file a report,” says Asghar, because “they knew who I was.” That’s not a sign of paranoia: Her father, a former inspector general in the country’s biggest province, “used to be their boss,” she says.

As they waited for their families’ anger to subside, Fazli started what he laughingly describes as a “pathetic, near-zero-circulation” Christian-inspired magazine. And in a testament to their faith—and perhaps as a fuck-you to their families—they officially registered their conversion to Christianity with the Pakistani government. Bad idea. It is, after all, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In retrospect, they say, their vocal Christianity probably earned them additional enemies inside the government.

Eventually, Asghar complained to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the National Commission on the Status of Women—agencies that investigate the honor killings and forced marriages that still infest Pakistan.

Nighat Saeed Khan, a Lahore human-rights activist who is familiar with the case, says that Fazli and Asghar were probably never in immediate danger—”maybe some of it was a bit of paranoia”—but confirms that there was “definite harassment” by the couple’s families. “There was a pressure from the family for them not to come out, for them not to be themselves,” says Khan.

Fazli insists that the brakes on his car were tampered with, that “goons on motorcycles” chased him down, and that his own bodyguard—hired with the couple’s savings—was bribed by the families and hired to kill him.

Letters from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan to various government agencies, obtained by the Voice, suggested that government agents, paid off by family members, could be responsible for the harassment, and the human-rights group called for an investigation. Soon after, the Pakistani media picked up on the saga, and several English and Urdu newspapers detailed their complaints. One article quoted an unnamed government intelligence agent who admitted to trailing the couple.

With public pressure on his side, Fazli was finally allowed to renew his passport and return to New York in 2005. Several months later, his wife, after applying for a student visa, also returned to New York, where she is now pursuing a psychology doctorate. But their problems have followed them across the ocean.

Fazli’s immigration status came under scrutiny as soon as he returned. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials contended that he surrendered his permanent-resident status by leaving for four years and sought to deport him. Fazli argued that his stay in Pakistan was involuntary. To hedge his bets, he has applied to U.S. authorities for religious asylum.


Bay of Infamy

One of torture’s most striking aspects is the simplicity of its methods. Former detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay have said they were “waterboarded”—strapped to a board, their faces covered with cellophane, while water was poured on them—which simulates the sensation of drowning. Other times they were “short shackled,” chained to a hook in the floor, which forced them to curl up in the fetal position. Or they were made to stand for long stretches of time, a sleep-deprivation technique. Dorothea Dieckmann describes torture in Guantanamo—a novel that follows a young detainee named Rashid—in cold, precise detail. Reading it can cause a sort of bone-chill to set in, and an even more discomforting sense of awe.

Dieckmann, a German essayist and literary critic, owes much of the novel’s verisimilitude to reports published by the media, human rights groups, and the military. Journalists are now able to tour Guantánamo, and they, in turn, have relayed the physical characteristics of the place, from the presence of a McDonald’s at the military base—the only one in Cuba—to the arrows pointing toward Mecca that are painted on a wall in every prison cell. Dieckmann has collected those descriptions and assembled them into a factual framework, a world for her fictional prisoner Rashid to inhabit. But, she writes in her author’s note, “As regards the inner details, only imagination can provide those.”

This is Dieckmann’s first impressive feat as a novelist: that she even goes there—to Guantánamo, and into the mind of her protagonist. (Think how often acts of terrorism and torture are described as “unimaginable horrors.”) Guantanamo begins with 20-year-old Rashid’s arrival at the base,disoriented, delirious, and weak. Dieckmann offers only bare-bones information about him up front: He’s a German citizen, half-German and half-Indian. His father was born Muslim, though neither father nor son are devout. Rashid traveled to Delhi to meet his grandmother. At some point, he befriended a young Afghan who took him to Pakistan, where he attended an anti-American demonstration, which led to his arrest.

Dieckmann seems to innately understand how to flesh out the news stories. She manages details perfectly, providing just enough of them to shade in the world of the camp, and no more. That spare description conveys the ambiguity that pervades it—we experience Rashid’s confusion and never know what occurs beyond his field of vision. Her sentences tend to be short; adjectives are rationed with care. The scene-setting threads that run through her paragraphs—the sound of Muslim prayer calls that come on the loudspeakers five times a day, the Kit Kat bar Rashid receives from a guard—are vivid, while descriptions of his physical state are dense with visceral detail. After an interrogation, for instance, Rashid is doused with water and thrust into a closet-sized freezer. “Walls all around,” Dieckmann writes. “Gray metal walls, covered with a grayish-white crust. His back burns, his wet skin sticks to the stuff on the walls, rips as he rights himself.” The scene proceeds like this for two excruciating pages.

Yet, for all the precision of Dieckmann’s prose, her portrait of Rashid deliberately remains blurry—the story is about imprisonment, not a specific prisoner. What we get instead of biography are descriptions of what he’s seeing and his memories; we’re in his nerve endings, feeling those cracks of pain and the noose around his neck as he attempts suicide. We believe that he’s innocent of violent terrorist activity, but never quite learn the facts about what he has done, not even through a long, harrowing interrogation scene that evokes the bottomless exhaustion that comes with restating the same information over and over again. Dieckmann omits the questions—another instance of her paring away—and leaves only his answers, which take on an almost hypnotic rhythm.

The interrogations and beatings Rashid suffers do work, in a sense, in that they wear him down. But the practical pitfalls of those methods quickly become obvious. Rashid’s desperation swells as he changes his story several times, trying to anticipate what might absolve him, or what his interrogators might want to hear. We know he’s capable of lying because he does so at one point, telling them they have the wrong man—his name is Leo; he’s a tourist who got on the wrong bus in Pakistan. He says that he didn’t kill Americans, but later, after he’s been shut in the freezer, he answers “yes” when he’s asked if he’s a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. That’s torture’s awful power—it can obscure the truth just as easily as illuminate it. Dieckmann knows that, and she reveals it here using the same sure hand she uses to take us into Rashid’s mind.


Text Book

A writer for the Financial Times, Gautam Malkani has set his debut novel not in the titular city but in Hounslow, the largely South Asian area around Heathrow. Londonstani‘s second- and third-generation immigrants revel in their distance from old London even as world travelers zoom through their airspace: They’re just as alienated from Great Britain as their ancestors were. The rudeboys—the young men who fancy themselves the South Asian, or desi, mash-up of black gangsters and the Mafia—want nothing to do with New Labour, David Beckham, and Royal Pronunciation. It’s a choice of necessity, reacting against the goras (whites) and the coconuts (assimilated desis, who are brown-skinned but act “white”).

Jas, 18, narrates in a complex patois that’s half text message, half South Asian transliteration. He obsesses over his identity—a former gora-imitator himself, he falls in love with a young Muslim girl even as his friends laugh at him for crossing the religion line. The rudeboys and their traditionalist parents remain fixated with racial, class, and religious stratification in a world where, to everyone else, they all look the same.

Early in the novel, the rudeboys, led by the physically terrifying Hardjit, beat up a gora for supposedly calling them “Pakis.” Hardjit teaches his victim that “A Paki is someone who comes from Pakistan. Us bredrens who don’t come from Pakistan can still b call’d Paki by other bredrens if it means we can call dem Paki in return. But U people ain’t allow’d 2 join in.” Of course, Jas admits, this isn’t exactly true: “[M]any Hindus an Sikhs’d spit blood if they ever got linked to anything to do with Pakistan.” No term, in the end, unites these non-immigrants.

Thus they turn to capitalism for guidance. Londonstani
constantly references Beemers, Hugo Boss, and Diesel to emphasize this culture’s love of conspicuous consumption, and finds its climax in a convoluted cell phone scam that leaves Jas struggling with his rudeboy persona. But Jas’s fruitless and ultimately deceptive musings on race make him more of a desperate liar than a marginalized hero—he ends up just as hollow as the coconuts he despises.