Textually Yours

Call me Madhavikutty

Posted in Hampshire College, India, poetry, women by arpitaincuba on May 31, 2009



My division III at Hampshire College centered around her poetry. I wrote 70 pages of critical analysis focussed on Das’s three poems and made an 11 minute avant-garde film out of “An Introduction.” My father suggested, on several occasions, that I mail my thesis and film to Das but I was too unsure of my educational and creative endeavors to share it with the muse. I had meant to…when I had the confidence to discuss her work with her but I guess three years is too long  a time to garner confidence. She is gone and I’m still working on making a film good enough to show her.


Yo! Your shampoo is toxic!

Posted in enviroment, gender, toxins, women by arpitaincuba on May 28, 2009


Here is a disturbing fact: everyday products such as plastic water bottles, personal care items and household cleaners contain toxic chemicals that can cause early puberty in young girls, and negatively impact adult fertility and reproductive health. Even our environment contains contaminants such as lead, mercury and pesticide residue that can have far-reaching impact on healthy fetal development.

Below are some chemical contributors you should be aware of:

Phthalates are a group of chemical compounds that are mainly used to make plastics more flexible and in perfumes.

Phthalates may cause: hormonal imbalance, developmental/reproductive toxicity, allergy and organ system toxicity.

They are found in:





nail polish

pill coatings

hospital equipment

plastic shower curtains

vinyl flooring

IV bags


BPA is a key building block for polycarbonate plastic. Polycarbonate is a lightweight, shatter and heat-resistant plastic.

BPA cause hormonal disruption and may trigger early puberty in young girls, cancers, hampers fertility and could contribute to childhood behavioral problems such as hyperactivity.

BPA is found in:

Sport water bottles

Baby bottles

Food and milk cartoning

Dental sealants

Canned food lining

And finally for all my wonderful, beautiful women friends out there–Please determine the toxicity of your lipsticks(lead), nailpolish(formaldehyde) and other beauty aids on this database!

My next post will be about alternative affordable substitutes for these toxic cosmetics. Keep reading!

Film Screening

Posted in Film, Independent Filmmaking, phillum, san francisco, women by arpitaincuba on May 15, 2009

womanbellyLast night my film screened at the Bay Area Women in Film and Media Film Festival in San Francisco.

Lunafest also contacted to and inquired if they can screen .holding it together. in their film festival.

The ball has started rolling!

Hip Hijab

Posted in gender, India, women by arpitaincuba on March 16, 2009

hijab style

hijab style

In old Lucknow, the burqa clad woman is a common sight. If this figure does not induce poignant nostalgia for Lucknow’s old world charm, it incites the tsk-tsking of the tongue and unfounded pity in those who can only view Islam as fanaticism. However, here in the United States, the hijab donning fashion divas have not only caught my attention but also my  imagination. In the pale sea of hipster apathy, the élan and elegance of these young second generation Muslim women is groundbreaking. The dressing style is creatively distinct, understated and enthuses their religious identity with confidence. Furthermore, the style sends out a clear message- it is important for them to be fashionable and yet maintain the modest dress code of Islam. Unfortunately, in the United States, there is no clothing line that caters to the needs of these young women. To overcome this lack they have come up with the most creative styles. High end scarves have become hijabs, shapely long sleeved dresses provide the modesty yet the classiness, layered cardigans make up the elegance, accessories such as berkin bags, color cordinated flats, and funky jewellery all enhance the panache. The modern Muslim woman has arrived. Booyah!

In my research for hijab fashion, I came across this website called hijab style. What a fabulous treasure trove of the latest in hijab fashion and culture. Additionally, I discovered that fashion designers around the world (just not in the U.S.) are picking up on these Hijab divas’ creativity and coming up with new and opulents ways for celebrating and furthering their trendiness. Me gusta mucho!

The Pink Chaddis going strong

Posted in admiration, gender, India, Uncategorized, women by arpitaincuba on February 14, 2009

Rachel Maddow and The Consortium of Pub-going, Loose, and Forward women

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Tickled pink – Ultrabrown“, posted with vodpod

Happy Valentines Day Sri Ram Sena

Posted in gender, India, women by arpitaincuba on February 10, 2009


My Beautiful Palden Lhamo

Posted in appropriation, Hampshire College, Tibet, traveling, women by arpitaincuba on February 4, 2009

an image of Palden Lhamo

an image of Palden Lhamo

There is a Tibetan market next to Charbagh railway station in Lucknow, and every weekend scores of people flock there to find cheap Chinese electronics and counterfeit sports brands. At that age I had no concept of Tibet. I would often pass it thinking that these street peddlers were Chinese businessmen and women importing goods from our fearless neighbor. They spoke Hindi that was grammatically incorrect but there was no foreign accent in their voices. They seemed to be in tune with Indian aesthetics and culture, but they always maintained a distance. A similar market existed in my grandmother’s hometown of Nainital. However, it was grander and there was an entire neighborhood enclosing this market space; the residents here were distinct in their appearance, language, and culinary choices.

I confused this Tibetan neighborhood with the indigenous Pahari population of the Kumaon region.

I was a product of the ignorance that comes from being the Hindi speaking majority of the Gangetic plains. I was shamelessly unaware that the students with East Asian features in my all girls Irish catholic school were not Nepalese, or Chinese, or Korean but Tibetan. I paid little attention to the news about Tibetan protest in Dharamshala, or the world condemnation of the killing of the Tibetan monks in Lhasa.

Then I visited Dharamshala.

As a tourist.

“Bhaiya, yeh India hain?” I asked the North Indian looking shopkeeper in Mcleodganj.

(Sir, Is this India?)

“ Haan haan. Yeh sab log Tibet se hain. Bahout saal se idhar hain.

Inka leader Dalai Lama rehta hain idhar.” He responded

(Of course. All these people are from Tibet. They have been here for several years. Their leader, HH Dalai Lama lives here.)

“Acha par yeh gore log kyon hain idhar?” I inquired

(Okay, what are these white people doing here?)

“Arre, yeh sab hippy log hain. Idhar ganja dhoondte hain aur phir kabhi kabhi Tibetan logon ke saath naare lagate hain aur phir yoga karte hain. Inke wajah se yahan paisa aata hain. To bhai bhala hain.” He said.

(Oh, they are the hippy people. They look for pot, and then sometimes with the Tibetans they will protest, and then do some Yoga. Because of them, I have money so it is all good)

It was all good.

I took several pictures of the scenic mountains surrounding Dharamshala, I bought Tibetan jewellery, and feasted on momos and thupkas.

During my visits to the monasteries, I became enamored with the myth of Palden Lhamo—another incarnation of Kaali. The prayer wheels, and the prayer flags, the gompas and the stupas all fueled my exotic fascination.

I recall a cringe-inducing conversation with a ochre robed Buddhist monk where I told him that I sensed the peace and mysticism of Buddhism in Mcleodganj.

Mcleodganj! What a tourist trap!

Yes, I played out my role as a tourist well. I exotified this world that had always existed as a parallel universe to my North Indian existence. I appropriated its aesthetics to make a fashion statement, and I researched its religious symbolism to enhance my pretentious persona.

And that was not enough.

When I visited Delhi, I othered it.

I solidified the boundaries between “us,” and “them.” I perpetuated the prevalent stereotypes of a degraded youth culture to maintain this boundary.

Every time I would travel through Majnu ka Tila in the northern part of the capital, my heart would race and I would fear my safety. I clung to my belief that Tibetan youth were promiscuous, and degraded, and extended this to the entire north eastern Indian population. People from Sikkim, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland were all clumped under the derogatory umbrella term of “chinks.”

This is not a confession of my racism. This is a commentary of the power I had as a result of my majority status in India.

However, it all changed when I moved to the United States for college. There, the Tibetans, the North Indians, the South Indians, the African Americans, and the Latin Americans were all clumped under the umbrella term of “people of color.”

Positioned at the powerless end of the politics of othering, I quickly began to identify with Tibetan culture in the sea of whiteness at Hampshire College. I was dedicated to break those boundaries of “us” and “them,” to be able build solidarity against appropriation of our cultures, and our identities.

Palden Lhamo is an incarnation of our Kaali. You, Kunsang, know who Kaali is.

You, Kunsang, know what Mcleodganj is really about.

You, Kunsang, have lived like me at the foothills of the Himalayas.

You, Kunsang, know what is re-colonization.

You, Kunsang, know inji, and goras.

You, Kunsang, know. And understand.

You, Kunsang, are my beautiful Palden Lhamo.

Te echo de menos

Posted in barcelona, musique, traveling, women by arpitaincuba on January 26, 2009

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “BARCELONA_Giulia y los tellarini on V…“, posted with vodpod

Barcelona es cara de mi corazón

Even in El Barri Gòtic it would not end. It gnawed at me–the anxiety of travelling alone as a single woman. I would easily forget about it till Urdu would be whispered in my ear or a hand would reach my waist. And then, immediately all my senses would be heightened and I would switch to the cautious mode. The fear of being a target often ruined traveling alone for me.

However, I enjoyed the anonymity of traveling.  Being a brown girl in Barcelona did not necessarily connote that I was an Indian girl from India who spoke Hindi and understood Urdu. It did not imply that I was one of the several Pakistani illegal immigrants frequently Riberia. Nor did it signify that I was of Indian descent from United States studying in Spain.

Traveling puts you out of context and I used this to my advantage. Some days I would pretend that I did not understand a word of Spanish. I would smile coyly at the Catalan shop-keepers and walk away while they deperately tried to sell  Spanish bizarreness to me.

But  when curiosity had the better of me I would ask questions about Catalunya, in Spanish verbs that were conjugated completely in the past. Cheer svelte gay men on bicycles. Protest independence for the Basque with the estudiantes.

And when I had enough of pretending I would walk into a Döner Kebab joint and order Chicken tikka masala in Hindi and read Salman Rushdie. All for 5 euros.

Yes!  Barcelona was my schizophrenic dream come alive.

The gulabi gang and this hullaballoo

Posted in admiration, frustration, India, san francisco, women by arpitaincuba on January 22, 2009

a still from a film about the Gulabi Gang

a still from a film about the Gulabi Gang

hot PINK

Celebrated as the “bad-ass sari vigilantes of bumble-fuck India,” the Gulabi Gang is a fierce women’s group belonging to the lowest socio-economic strata of rural Uttar Pradesh who have taken up lathis(a cane that is traditionally a symbol of self-defence) to fight against female exploitation, unemployment, government corruption, male alcoholism, and crime. No doubt this is a group that deserves all the admiration for their efforts in community created solutions and resistance in action. However, I’m more concerned about how they might get exploited as “commodities of cool” here. When I observe the youth culture in the urban landscape of San Francisco, I notice that resistance is consumed more often as a fashion commdity.Images of Che Guevara and Chair Mao on Urban Outfitters shirts, and the keffiyeh around every pale necked hipster is an evidence of the appropriation of social justice figures

As my friend, Rosie right fully said–appropriation is the king to the wannabe intellectuals in United States. Appropriation is their intellectual capitalism.

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