Tag: India

India’s First Community-Owned Feminist Library

In the small neighborhood of Bandra in Mumbai, Aqui Thami has founded the first community-owned feminist library, Sister Library. It houses all the greats from Virginia Woolf to Arundhati Roy. Dazed Digital held an exclusive interview with Thami talking about the importance of such a community staple.

In her interview, Thami explains why Sister Library was necessary in starting conversations in India:

“Since our society is caste segregated, knowledge production and sharing has always been historically restricted, so even if there are amazing works by women they are in universities and private libraries with no or limited access.”


Aqui Thami founder of Sister Library

image via dazed digital

Thami herself is an artist and activist, saying that her art is her form of activism. She has been using it to spark conversations for all areas of feminism including sexual abuse and periods. To fund the library, she raised over 700,000 rupees through crowdfunding sources to allow her to rent out the space for a year. She isn’t closing these sources, however, hoping that she can eventually raise enough to keep their doors open permanently.

Even on its first day, the library had inspired the neighborhood of sisters to come together. On its opening day, there were around sixty visitors. Women and young girls from around the neighborhood helped with unloading boxes, killing cockroaches, and setting up for business, making its name even more fitting. After all, Thami is looking for this to be more than just a building with books. She wants it to be fun for the whole community, where anyone can come to learn or just have a safe space to hang out.

Aqui Thami’s story is absolutely inspiring, and you can help her cause by making a donation.

featured image via dazed digital
An image of a statue tableau of the goddess Durga.

5 Amazing Books to Read to Celebrate Navratri!

Today marks the first day of Navratri! Navratri is a Hindu festival that runs its course over nine nights and ten days, and is a celebration of the divine feminine. The festival centers around the goddess Durga, a fierce figure who rides atop a tiger and is known for defeating Mahishasura, a buffalo demon, in battle. The legend that corresponds to the holiday is that of Durga defeating Mahishasura and restoring order to the world.


As with all holidays, Navratri is rooted in a deep literary tradition, and so in honor of this day, here are a few works of literature that correspond to the festival’s celebration of Durga and feminine power:


Goddess Durga and Sacred Female Power by Laura Amazzone


Cover of 'Goddess Durga and Sacred Female Power'

Image via Amazon


Goddess Durga and Sacred Female Power is an exploration of the many faces of the Goddess Durga in ancient and contemporary culture. This book takes us on a pilgrimage to goddess temples and natural shrines, to visit shamans and living goddesses in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal, and to India for the annual ten-day Durga Festival. The mythology, rituals, philosophy, and spiritual practices of this distinctly female-centered and millennia-old tradition of Durga offer an alternative model of female potential and empowerment, focusing on peace, healing, spiritual liberation, and realization of inherent divinity.


Amma Tell Me About Durga Puja! by Bhakti Mathur


Cover of 'Amma Tell me About Durga Puja!'

Image via Amazon


The city is abuzz with fanfare and fervour, 
Giant idols under wraps, ready to be unfurled, 
Colourful pandaals receive finishing touches 
To host the biggest outdoor festival in the world! 


“The real motivation for writing the ‘Amma Tell Me’ series was to share with my sons the fascinating stories from Indian mythology that I had grown up with,” says Bhakti. “But, I found that there were no resources that were simple to understand and that captured the rich imagery of mythological India that is such an integral part of these stories for me. So I went ahead and started writing the stories in a style that I think kids find fun and non-preachy and collaborated on the illustrations to bring out the imagery that I want my stories to convey.”


Shakti Rising: Embracing Shadow and Light on the Goddess Path to Wholeness by Kavitha M. Chinnaiyan, MD


Cover of 'Shakti Rising'



The wisdom of the Mahavidyas, the ten wisdom goddesses who represent the interconnected darkness and light within all of us, has been steeped in esoteric and mystical descriptions that made them seem irrelevant to ordinary life. But with this book, written by a respected cardiologist who found herself on a spiritual search for the highest truth, you’re invited to explore this ancient knowledge and learn how it can be applied to daily struggles and triumphs—and how it can help you find unreserved self-love and acceptance.


The pursuit of contentment is an innate part of the human experience, arising from a fundamental sense of lack or inadequacy—all the things we believe to be wrong with us when we compare or judge ourselves. In our search for peace and happiness, we may find ourselves fighting the shadows within us, trying to repress or disown certain qualities, especially our anger, violence, discomfort, craving, and disappointment. But in order to stop this fight, we must expand our understanding beyond the dualities of good versus bad, right versus wrong, and beautiful versus ugly, and accept the parts of ourselves we’ve tried to deny.


Too Much and Not the Mood: Essays by Durga Chew-Bose


Cover of 'Too Much and Not the Mood: Essays'



Too Much and Not the Mood is a beautiful and surprising exploration of what it means to be a first-generation, creative young woman working today. On April 11, 1931, Virginia Woolf ended her entry in A Writer’s Diary with the words “too much and not the mood” to describe her frustration with placating her readers, what she described as the “cramming in and the cutting out.” She wondered if she had anything at all that was truly worth saying.


The attitude of that sentiment inspired Durga Chew-Bose to gather own writing in this lyrical collection of poetic essays that examine personhood and artistic growth. Drawing inspiration from a diverse group of incisive and inquiring female authors, Chew-Bose captures the inner restlessness that keeps her always on the brink of creative expression.


The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy


Cover of 'The Ministry of Utmost Happiness'

Image via Amazon


The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes us on an intimate journey of many years across the Indian subcontinent—from the cramped neighborhoods of Old Delhi and the roads of the new city to the mountains and valleys of Kashmir and beyond, where war is peace and peace is war.


It is an aching love story and a decisive remonstration, a story told in a whisper, in a shout, through unsentimental tears and sometimes with a bitter laugh. Each of its characters is indelibly, tenderly rendered. Its heroes are people who have been broken by the world they live in and then rescued, patched together by acts of love—and by hope.


The tale begins with Anjum—who used to be Aftab—unrolling a threadbare Persian carpet in a city graveyard she calls home. We encounter the odd, unforgettable Tilo and the men who loved her—including Musa, sweetheart and ex-sweetheart, lover and ex-lover; their fates are as entwined as their arms used to be and always will be. We meet Tilo’s landlord, a former suitor, now an intelligence officer posted to Kabul. And then we meet the two Miss Jebeens: the first a child born in Srinagar and buried in its overcrowded Martyrs’ Graveyard; the second found at midnight, abandoned on a concrete sidewalk in the heart of New Delhi.



Featured Image Via Adage India. Synopses via Amazon


Book Listing Hitler as ‘Great Leader’ Removed from Publisher’s Website

When you think of great leaders in recent history, numerous names might come to mind.  Obama, Mandela, Gandhi, and…Hitler? One Indian publisher thought so and is now facing the inevitable backlash, even after removing the book from its online store.


The children’s book, entitled Leaders (or Great Leaders according to the publisher’s website), was published in 2016 by Pegasus, an imprint of India’s B. Jain Publishing Group. According to The Guardian, it features biographies of eleven “amazing leaders” who “devoted their lives [to] the betterment of their country and people.”  Hitler is one of six of these leaders to also be pictured on the cover.



Image Via The Quint


In an interview with the New York Times prior to the book’s removal, Annshu Juneja, Pegasus’s publishing director, explained, “We are not talking about his conduct or his views or whether he was a good leader or a bad leader but simply portraying how powerful he was as a leader.” 




The book was finally removed after the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights organization dedicated to “researching the Holocaust and hate in a historic and contemporary context,” protested the book, calling it an abomination.  In a statement on the center’s website, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said, “The children of India deserve to learn the truth ultimate evil that Hitler and his genocidal Nazi ideology represented.”


Feature Image Via SEI Blog


There Is a ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ Bollywood Remake On the Way

The Fault in Our Stars is officially heading to Bollywood, folks! John Green took to Twitter on Tuesday to announce that the female lead has been cast, which officially kickstarts the much anticipated adaptation of Green’s 2014 hit.


Twenty-one-year-old Indian actress Sanjana Sanghi will be the new face of Hazel Grace Lancaster. Sanghi will star alongside Sushant Singh Rajput, who has been cast as her love-interest Augustus Waters.



Image Via Behance/Bollywoodhungama


Sanghi previously worked with Mukesh Chhabra, who will be making his directorial debut in the upcoming adaptation, when he worked as a casting director on Rockstar


Now the pair will worked together once more when the adaptation behind filming in November 2019. The adaptation will reportedly be filmed in Europe and the Himalayas, promising audiences a new take on Green’s beloved story.


John Green celebrated the casting news on Twitter Tuesday, tweeting, “I can’t believe this is happening. Amazing!” 



Green’s beloved YA novel already saw one successful adaptation when Fox released their Hollywood rendition in 2014. The romance-drama, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, quickly became a hit, winning over critics and fans alike.


While fans may hesitate to accept a new adaptation, especially an adaptation that will likely differ dramatically, hopefully Green’s enthusiasm will encourage audiences to give it a chance.



Featured Image Via Beattrainproductions


Want to Improve Your Memory? Recite Sanskrit Mantras!

James Hartzell wrote a piece for Scientific American earlier this week delving into the “Sanskrit Effect”—the name for what MRI scans show as the increase of the size of brain regions associated with cognitive function due to memorizing ancient mantras. 


Hartzell, who spent many years studying and translating the language, noticed that the more he worked with the language, the better his verbal memory became. Other researchers and translators spoke of their own cognitive improvements, and there developed the question:


Was there actually a language-specific “Sanskrit effect” as claimed by the tradition?


Pandits, the traditional scholars of the language, master a variety of Sanskrit poetry and prose text. One of India’s most ancient Sanskrit texts, the Shukla Yajurveda, takes six hours to completely recite. The tradition says that exactly memorizing and reciting the texts, or mantras, enhances memory and thinking. 


Hartzell then entered the cognitive neuroscience doctoral program at the University of Trento in Italy, and took the opportunity to start investigating his question. He wanted to discover how intense verbal memory training can affect the physical structure of the brain, and through the India-Trento Partnership for Advanced Research, the scientist recruited pandits from schools in the Delhi region. Once they arrived in Italy, they received MRIs, and so did a control group matched for age, gender, right-or-left-handedness, eye-dominance, and multilingualism. 


What we discovered from the structural MRI scanning was remarkable. Numerous regions in the brains of the pandits were dramatically larger than those of controls, with over 10 percent more grey matter across both cerebral hemispheres, and substantial increases in cortical thickness. Although the exact cellular underpinnings of gray matter and cortical thickness measures are still under investigation, increases in these metrics consistently correlate with enhanced cognitive function.


Hartzell’s study resulted in some incredible results, which you can delve farther into in the original article. One of the most interesting questions that’s come of his study is whether or not the pandits’ increase of gray matter in areas of the brain important to memory means they are less likely to develop subsequent memory diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. They can’t answer that yet, but anecdotal reports from Ayurvedic doctors in India suggest the possibility. This then asks the question, will “exercising” the brain help those at risk for cognitive impairment, or even prevent its onset?


Can’t wait to find out!


Featured image via the Association for Yoga and Meditation.