Tag Archives: Love

“Divorcer a l’anglaise comme un musulman”

I got a kick out of reading this French blog posting about a letter I wrote to the “Financial Times” in response to Dr. Suhaib Hasan’s first-person article “I’m a sharia judge” (a friend translated the entry for me). I think this woman carrying the sharia law text book is supposed to be me!

http://www.bollywood-weddings.com/Home.html

Dr. Suhaib Hasan’s “I’m a sharia judge” (Sep. 19, 2009)

Kavita Ramdya’s “Muslim women’s right to happiness under threat” (Sep. 26, 2009)

Blogger’s “Divorcer a l’anglaise comme un musulman” (Sep. 26, 2009)

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“Muslim women’s right to happiness under threat” by Kavita Ramdya

 Click here to read Kavita Ramdya’s letter in the “Financial Times” in response to Dr. Suhaib Hasan’s request that divorce decisions made by sharia councils be recognized by British law.

“Muslim women’s right to happiness under threat” – Letter by Kavita Ramdya (in response to Dr. Suhaib Hasan’s first-person column “I’m a Sharia Judge”. Dr. Hasan is a judge with the Islamic Sharia Council and, in his column, asks that divorce decisions made by sharia councils be recognised by British law)

Published: September 26, 2009

Publication: “Financial Times”

From Kavita Ramdya

Sir, I shudder to think of the repercussions for Muslim women if British law recognises decisions made by Sharia councils (“I’m a Sharia judge”, FT.Com, September 19). Sharia law dictates that when a woman requests a divorce and the husband disagrees, the judge will “emphasise reconciliation” and “she has to return the dower to him”, whereas a man can divorce his wife by simply repeating “I divorce you” in front of two witnesses.

Muslim women who seek divorce are subjected to an interview process, pressured to remain married and risk losing quite possibly their only financial wealth by being forced to return their dower.

In the past, it was critical that individuals marry and remain married in order to preserve the safety and stability of a clan, tribe, family fortune, or even an alliance between countries.

Since then, marriage has evolved. It is now the primary method with which to pursue happiness and fulfilment. Muslim women in Britain are cognisant of the fact that they have the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness.

For Sharia judges to question a woman’s motivates for divorce and pressure her socially and financially to remain in an unfulfilling and possibly dangerous marriage is antiquated at best and deadly at worst. Decisions made by Sharia councils have no room in British law.

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“Wedding-Planning Tips” (for Indian Brides) by Kavita Ramdya

Tips

Click here to read “Wedding Tips”, an article containing the top five tips I gathered from interviewing twenty couples in researching my book “Bollywood Weddings: Dating, Engagement and Marriage in Hindu America”.

Needless to say, I’ve inadvertently built an expertise in Indian-Hindu wedding planning. With the vast majority of my friends and family now married, rather than let my niche knowledge whittle away with age, I thought I’d write down what I consider the five most important wedding tips for the Indian-Hindu bride. “The Indian American” magazine published the piece in their July-August ’09 issue, but feel free to contact me if you’d like a copy or have any questions about Indian-Hindu wedding planning!

http://www.bollywood-weddings.com/Home.html

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“The Indian American” magazine July-August 2009

“Wedding-Planning Tips” by Kavita Ramdya

Discussing beforehand the details of important ceremonies key to a perfect wedding, especially for Indian-American brides who would like to blend the traditions of the East and West.

THIS YEAR’S wedding season for Indian-American Hindu brides is drawing to a close. The days are gradually growing shorter and, before we know it, Diwali will be just around the corner. What can we learn from this bridal season’s many Hindu nuptials so brides to celebrate their marital unions with style and ease? Here’s a list of top 5 tips for Indian-American Hindu brides to keep in mind while planning their nuptials.

1. Discuss the rice ceremony. Let’s face it, your parents have hired at least two to three professional photographers and a videographer to record every moment of your wedding day. You’ve even hired a MAC-trained hair and makeup artist to ensure you look appropriately bridal on your wedding day. For those of you having a Telugu wedding ceremony, be sure to discuss with your bridegroom in the rice on your beautifully-coiffed hair.

2. Decide who buys your wedding sari and reception outfit. Indian and American customs bride should wear on her wedding day differ. Whereas American culture assumes the bride will choose her wedding dress, Hindu tradition dictates that the future mother-in-law should pick what the bride should wear on her special day. Don’t forget married life is about compromise; many of your predecessors have given into wearing their future mother-in-law’s handpicked sari before wearing a self-chosen, westernized lehnga for the reception.

3. Talk about the wedding kiss. Before the big day, it is best to talk to your bridegroom about whether you should kiss on your wedding day. If he and you feel comfortable with that level of PDA (public display of affection), discuss how your immediate and extended family will feel. Also, where in the ceremony or reception can you most tastefully integrate your first kiss as a married couple? Friends and family will enjoy witnessing your love confirmed with a kiss.

4. Make sure you carefully vet who will speak at your reception. After the wedding ceremony, your guests will look forward to a delicious Indian meal. The only thing standing in the way is the speeches and toasts. Make sure you and your bridegroom carefully vet who you should invite to speak at your wedding reception. And, remember, your reception shouldn’t be remembered as a C-SPAN conference. Ask family members and friends who are not only close to you and your bridegroom but who will respect your proposed time limit (five minutes) and won’t embarrass you with sordid stories from your bachelorette party. Feel free to sit with these your expectations for a brief yet classy toast.

5. Practice your first dance as bride and groom. The modern Indian-American Hindu bride degree but often times a graduate education, manages a career and maintains a tight diary of social events with friends and family. Despite the SAT prep, promotions at top institutions, nowhere do Indian-American Hindu women have the opportunity to practice walking, much silk sari. Wedding guests yearn to see a couple express their love gracefully in their first dance. Why not prep for the first dance the way you would for your driver’s test or New York Bar exam? Be sure to practice walking and dancing in a sari during the days leading up to your wedding and be as prepared for your debut a married woman as you were for your first spelling bee.

Remember that for your wedding day, every detail deserves your attention. Although weddings can sometimes spur awkward conversations with friends and family, it’s best to have had these tough conversations so you can focus your time and energy on having a great time on your wedding day.

Kavita Ramdya is author of “Bollywood Weddings: Dating, Engagement and Marriage in Hindu America” http://www.bollywood-weddings.com/Home.html

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Review of Nina Paley’s “Sita Sings the Blues” by Kavita Ramdya

Sita

Click here to read Kavita Ramdya’s review of Nina Paley’s animated film “Sita Sings the Blues”.

A few days ago I interviewed cartoonist Nina Paley for a review I wrote of her animated film “Sita Sings the Blues”. The movie is fantastic – it’s funny and smart. “Sita Sings the Blues” is a modern take on the ancient Hindu text “The Ramayana”; the movie picks up when Rama is banished to the forest for fourteen years with Sita accompanying him. However, the story is told from Sita’s point of view; she emerges as an intelligent yet gullible ingénue head-over-heals in love with an effeminate Rama who is overly concerned with what other people think of him. He’s clearly not good enough for her.

I was surprised by how much interest my review in “News India Times” generated; readers e-mailed to tell me that they were eager to watch the movie which is available for free on YouTube. Even readers of my parents’ generation, a generation that didn’t grow up with home computers and are considerably less computer literate for it, were inspired to take advantage of the free, on-line creative content.

Apart from the colourful animation, diverse soundtrack and the East-meets-West look and feel, what does the success of Nina Paley’s film indicate? I propose that there is clearly a market for modern, updated versions of classical and religious stories, myths and beliefs we’ve all grown up whatever our faith. People have an innate desire to listen to stories which explain their origin and their past. In a world where media has exploded to include graphic novels, the internet, HD-screen TVs and mobile phones, we’re seeking stories from non-traditional outlets that also recognize that the world is a much more complicated place now than it was when many of these myths, stories and beliefs were formulated.

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“News India Times”  September 11, 2009

“Rama, Sita and the agony of separation: An animated film presents the epic story of the Ramayana in a format accessible to a generation that has grown up in the Digital Age” by Kavita Ramdya

I recently discovered Nina Paley’s animated film “Sita Sings the Blues” and am compelled to share it with anyone and everyone interested in what happens when East meets West, ancient mythology intersects with popular culture, and artists create “interdisciplinary art.”

Paley’s 72-minute movie tells the story of Sita and Rama from Valmiki’s Ramayana in a way that can only be described as accessible, fun and modern. Her project – to provide an animated reinterpretation of Hindu mythology from a modern and a female point of view – is a risky one but has proved fortuitous for her career: the film has received global media recognition and an enthusiastic response on You Tube, where you can watch the film for free.

Like many great works of art, albeit typically poetry and fiction, Paley’s inspiration for creating the film stemmed from challenges in her love life. After she moved to Trivandrum, India, for her hus-band’s career, he dumped her, leaving her alone to navigate India. However, the hardship she endured as a single, heartbroken woman in India gave her the insight to understand the nature of Sita’s devotion for Rama.

Rather than serve as a “sexist parable,” she writes in her blog, the Ramayana describes “the essence of painful relationships” and provides a “blueprint of human suffering.” Paley likens her husband and his cowardly abandonment to Rama and her own blind love as analogous to Sita’s.

The film, although an animated feature, is by no means a children’s movie. Instead, Paley has interwoven four disparate plots into her film. The viewer is first introduced to Paley’s autobiographical rendering of her failed marriage. The second is the comical back-and-forth between three shadow puppets who debate the mythology’s details and characters’ motivations in the Ramayana. Third, the viewer benefits from a retelling of Sita and Rama’s love story. In this story line, Sita is portrayed as a sickening goody-two-shoes, Rama as a spoiled and effeminate prince and Ravana as the prototypical Bollywood villain.

Finally, Sita sings the blues. Paley appropriates the music of Annette Hanshaw, a jazz singer from the 1920s and ‘30s, for Sita to croon in episodic bursts of song throughout the film.

In order to distinctly divide the four story lines, Paley not only provides a different sound track for each story but also a different “look and feel” in order to visually distinguish the plots from one another. The autobiographical scenes of her disintegrating marriage take place with the background of lonely yet cramped cities. The three hand puppets discuss the facts of the Ramayana while textbook-like images pop up to accompany the debating. The story of Sita’s love for Rama is told from her feminine point of view; the scenes are drawn in the style of traditional Mughal art. Finally, Sita’s musical numbers where she fawns over Rama and sings the blues have a comical and cinematically dramatic feel appropriate for the sound of early 20th-century blues music and film.

“Sita Sings the Blues” is by no means the first attempt at dramatizing the ancient love story of Rama and Sita in a modern way. Like many of my peers, I grew up listening to my mother reading Amar Chitra Katha comic books that depict the religious Hindu myths for Indian-American children to learn the ancient stories. It was through these comic books that we learned who the various gods and goddesses were, their relationships with one another and their religious significance.

And who can forget the horn that blows in the beginning of every one of Ramanand Sagar’s television episodes based on the Ramayana? The series, although revolutionary in the way it depicted a significant Hindu text and made it accessible via free mass media so that Indians from all classes, occupations and regions across the subcontinent could enjoy the shared religious story, was somewhat painful to watch as a young child. Even to a young child, Sagar’s special effects were clumsy and the acting overly dramatic compared to Nickelodeon and MTV programming.

In 2003, my husband and I were lucky to see a dance performance of the Ramayana performed by the Lotus Fine Arts Productions. The choreography was stunningly sensual, the costumes vibrant and the tabla sound hip. Significantly, the production was among my first experiences watching dance accompanied with a story line.

Alas, Lotus Fine Arts Production no longer exists, but today’s youth can benefit from Paley’s animated depiction of the Ramayana for the same effect: conveying ancient Hindu mythology with innovative technology and a modern sensibility. You, too, will find “Sita Sings the Blues” worth crooning about.

Kavita Ramdya is the author of “Bollywood Weddings: Dating, Engagement and Marriage in Hindu America.”

http://www.bollywood-weddings.com/Home.html

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Welcome to Bollywood Weddings

“Bollywood Weddings: Dating, Engagement and Marriage in Hindu America” answers the age-old question “Why do we marry the people we choose to marry?” What attracts people to one another based on their ethnicity, religion, linguistic, cultural, vocational, educational, and financial qualities? My book is a compilation of true stories about why and how people marry; ultimately, I propose that who we choose to marry and why is meaningful in how we express our national identity.

In doing research for my book, I observed that mainstream popular culture – in this case, Bollywood – plays a significant role in how we approach falling in love and getting married. Of course, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. MTV, the Internet, our iPhones, e-mail, social-networking sites, highway billboards, magazines and newspapers are omnipresent… and influential. Mass media targets us as consumers, promoting the latest fad, technology, product, etc. in a way that is both flagrantly conspicuous yet stealthfully pervasive.

Just like wearing your favourite clothing brand, adding specific groups to your Facebook page, getting body piercings and tattoos, and choosing your hair style are forms of self-expression, I suggest that why and how we fall in love and marry are also ways of navigating and establishing one’s identity. Gertrude Stein chose painting, Amadeus Mozart music, Virginia Woolf writing, and Steve Meisel photography. Although art is one way to express oneself, so is who and how you love and marry.

My blog is an informal exploration of questions around love, marriage, religion, ethnicity, Hinduism, the Indian-American community, South-Asian Diaspora, and Indian-American culture. Here you can read my thoughts on mainstream popular culture (eg. Anna Wintour’s “Fashion Night Out”), current events (eg. Shah Rukh Khan’s detainment at Newark Airport), profiles of artists and writers (eg. Sakti Burman and Ha Jin), and art reviews (eg. “Anish Kapoor” at the Royal Academy of Art).

Welcome to “Bollywood Weddings”!

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