I’ve noticed that many of my favorite writers have been compiling year in review blog posts over the past couple of days, so I thought that I’d join in on the fun. Reading many of these posts, I was immediately struck by how many writers and journalists said that 2014 was the year that things just clicked for them and that they achieved all sorts of things that they hadn’t thought were possible on this day in 2013.
That was certainly the case for me. I had spent a good chunk of 2013 temping for one of Long Island’s largest temp agencies while also freelancing, blogging for free and wondering if I should look at other career options. And while the first quarter of 2014 was fairly miserable, things just seemed to click sometime in May. In no particular order, here are my favorite articles of 2014.
Anti-Rape Clothes Fail to Address Culture Behind India’s Crisis (NBC Asian America): Amna Nawaz and I looked at the recent trend among young Indian entrepreneurs of creating clothing and other accessories that, they say, will help women ward off rapists. “I applaud the ingenuity [of these inventors]. People should do what they need to do to feel safe,” Indian journalist Sonia Faleiro told me. “But a pair of jeans does not reflect the experience of 70 percent of the population.”
Growing up as a child in southern India, B.K.S. Iyengar suffered from bouts of tuberculosis, typhoid and malaria – three major killers of that era. Throughout his life Iyengar, who died on Tuesday at the age of 95, credited the fact that he practiced yoga as the main reason he survived his illnesses.
Iyengar would grow up to become one of the most prominent yogis of this century and is widely credited with helping to bring the practice to a Western audience. A pivotal moment came when Iyengar first met the classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin in 1952. Menuhin was one of the first celebrities to fully embrace yoga and arranged for Iyengar – who he would call “my best violin teacher” – to teach yoga in London, Paris and Switzerland.
Iyengar went on to develop his own form of yoga that focused on breath, concentration and posture. His most prominent supporters included writers like Aldous Huxley, dancers, actors and musicians and he once famously taught Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, then 85-years-old, to stand on her head.
“Yoga has a lot to offer to people, whatever [their faith]. It has no geographical boundary, gender, caste, or religion,” he said. “As each of us is susceptible to physical problems as well as mental, emotional, and intellectual problems, yoga can help us recover from these wants. It is an art to practice, a science to ponder over, and a philosophy that shows us the ways of right living.”
Is an invitation in the mail? Representative Ed Royce, the the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wants to invite India’s newly elected Prime Minster Narendra Modi to address a joint session of Congress. The congressman sent Speaker John Boehner a letter stating that that ““The United States has no more important partner in South Asia… “It is not an overstatement to say that the U.S.-India relationship will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.” Of course, just under a decade ago, Modi was denied a visa to enter the United States. [Wall Street Journal]
World War II’s forgotten Indian battle: It’s been 70 years since The Battle of Kohima and Imphal, which reporter Gardiner Harris describes as “bloodiest of World War II in India.” Despite playing a key role in the war, India’s participation in World War II has largely been forgotten by the population at large due to the legacy of colonialism and the complicated histories of Nagaland and Manipur, the two states the battle was fought in. [New York Times]
It was a coincidence that while director Aparna Sen was making her latest film Goynar Baksho her native India was having a national conversation about the role of women in society.
Sen had first become interested in adapting Bengali writer Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s story of the same name shortly after reading it in the early 1990s, but budgetary and creative concerns held up the creation of the film for nearly two decades.
Goynar Baksho follows three generations of women in a wealthy Bengali family whose fates reflect the evolving history of the country around them.
According to the official brochure for the New York Indian Film Festival, Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly is “a terrible tale of corruption, indifference and systemic violence [which] starts when the 10-year-old daughter of an aspiring actor disappears.”
Given that description, I didn’t expect to laugh several times during the NYIFF’s opening night screening of the film earlier this month. But as the viewer watches the aftermath of the child’s sudden abduction, there are severely deeply cynical, darkly hilarious scenes that show Anurag Kashyap’s talents in full form.
The film’s central event is the kidnapping of 10-year-old Kali, which occurs on a Saturday when she is in her divorced, shiftless father Rahul’s care. While it appears on the surface that Rahul loves his daughter and wants her to be happy, it’s also clear that he is completely unable to put Kali’s needs before his own, a circumstance that unintentionally contributed to the tragedy. (Kali disappears when Rahul leaves her waiting inside his car while he discusses business with his best friend and casting director Chaitanya, in the hopes of finally getting his big break.)
There are two stars of the first scene of Mrs. Scooter, the sublime and emotionally turbulent new film by Shiladitya Moulik that screened at the New York Indian Film Festival last Friday. The first is the shiny new scooter that’s been recently acquired by Bhushan, a hard-working young clerk. The second is Aashima, Bhushan’s dazzlingly young wife, who happened to come into his life the same day his treasured scooter did.
With his marriage, it seems like things are finally looking up for Bhushan, a man with no family to speak of except for his doting, gossipy landlady Sheila. Viewing these early scenes, a viewer with no knowledge of the film’s plot would be forgiven for thinking that Mrs. Scooter would be about the struggles (yet ultimate triumphs) of India’s growing middle class.
In her new short film Small Delights director Hena Ashraf tells the story of Aziza, a teenage hijabi from New York City who is trying to figure out her place in the world. Music is the one constant in Aziza’s life, as you can see in the trailer below, she spends most of her time either listening to records, shopping for CDs or scandalously sneaking off to concerts.
Readers in the New York City area can catch a screening of Small Delights tonight at 7 p.m. as part of the Queens World Film Festival in Long Island City. It will be followed by a screening of the documentary Migrations of Islam, which is directed by Swarnavel Eswaran Pillai. For tickets please visit this site.