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Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Wear “identity” loosely and enjoyably, like clothing. Many options may hang in your closet; none is you, or even “yours.” Just passing designs, trends, styles, forms, traditions (and yes, even stories, histories and legacies) that allow you to experience and express your infinite essence, without becoming confused, confounded or conflated with it.

P.S. Skintight is rarely comfortable or attractive. Launder regularly, and make sure to check fit every now and again. Even skin is sloughed off in nature.

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220px-Namak_Halaal_1982_film_posterAlthough I am no expert on the history of Indian or Bengali cinema, like many of us, it has touched my life in innumerable, and many a times, in profound ways – whether as a creative person, as an active member of society, or simply as a human.

Film has a uniquely subliminal storytelling power; it can immerse and transport us in time and space in ways little other art can do.  And while on one end it can be sublime art, on the other end it can be crass, vapid entertainment. So when we consider the incredibly complex nature of Indian cinema – born in the wake of a ravaged political history, broken socio-economic structure, an incredibly complex cultural / religious palimpsest – it is a contradictory mix of deeply humane, relevant themes and incredibly misguided constructs projected on big screen to help millions in poverty or otherwise floundering despair escape for 2-3 hours into a world far from their own; and so, it is at best a questionable influence. But powerful it is. (more…)

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As an ardent lover of Krishna and a fan of the sophisticated epic Mahabharata and its seminal core, The Bhagvad Gita, I’d spent most of my life dismissing the Ramayana as a decidedly lesser thing. Not only did it appear primitive in comparison, but it was also disturbing that its vacillating male God falls prey to his people’s questioning and ends up unfairly discarding his pure and faithful wife. It all seemed to smack of something gone terribly wrong, but rather than analyze it very much, I was content to conclude that even God Himself as Vishnu must have been evolving through his various human avatars, and that Rama was therefore, simply a lesser form than Krishna. (more…)

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Personally having transcended constructs of identity, whether professional, vocational, social, cultural, or personal, and living in ‘creative being-ness,’ it is poignant that an opportunity presented itself, to reflect on the astitva of two extraordinary queens of history from the Indian subcontinent  – poetess and saint Meerabai, and warrior queen Laxmibai – and their relevance to modern day existence. In its most rudimentary form, astitva is often taken to mean ‘identity.’ But, in truth the word has complex meanings from its Sanskrit lineage, also connoting ‘existence,’ ‘is-ness,’ ‘being-ness,’ and so on.

Meerabai, the queen-turned- poet saint who (more…)

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my title Ten Avatars and the unexpected commotion it stirred in a particular audience. This time I’m writing about a different commotion, coming from the other end of the political spectrum. What the two stirrings have in common, though, is that they’re about a name, and all the staggering propriety that can often go with it. This time it’s about the name of what’s turning out to be quite a movement –  Yoni ki Baat (the South Asian adaptation of Vagina Monologues).

I have the honor of directing Seattle’s YKB, 2011. This means that I get to have a small hand in a big movement – be a catalyst for shaping dialogue, championing transformation, building community, creating  art.  (more…)

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In August, I was grateful to be invited to be a part of “India Day” in Bellevue, WA, to speak at the well-attended function, as well as hold a signing-and-sale event for my book Ten Avatars. Being part of this milieu gave me a new window into the wild diversity of what being “Indian” means, and more still, what being Indian in America means.

Throngs of Indians attended the cultural program and strolled through the various stalls that offered everything from crafts and jewelry to donation options and informational brochures for non-profit organizations. (more…)

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Intellectual discussions on diversity, multiculturalism, and blurring of identities are one thing, but to live these things actively is quite another. Such an undertaking is challenging, pushing one to unfamiliar territories and uncomfortable places, and if the lines are also blurred by time, it is tremendously revealing … of the truth of unity and the myth of duality.

On this note, and by any measure, the last 24 hours have been surreal. On Thursday night, my boyfriend took me to a Native American casino in Snoqualmie, east of Seattle, for a live concert of John Anderson. The concert ended at 11pm, and the next morning I caught the earliest flight to New York JFK to see my Indian classical Guru, and train with her again after nearly 6 years! (more…)

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