Ramadan Brings Couples Closer Together —That’s What I’ve Always Thought

by Naila Sheikh

I’ve always thought the month of Ramadan—the time to worship and not indulge in worldly matters—would strengthen one’s bond with their significant other, make hearts flutter with a commitment to God and at the end of a long day, conclude these amplified feelings, driven in animalistic hormones from hunger and abstinence.

The soft gazes, the pursed lips, the fatigued expressions in slow speech, would only be reenergized at night where rewards lie; the melting in arms of bodies slimmed by fasting –the immense love in silence for keeping in-tune spiritually and the mending of two souls whose hunger for each other would not dissipate. In fact, the anticipation of touch, taste, and bodily desires would create excitement within the confines of such a sacred bond; the one given to a man and woman.

[Read Related: Drowning in the Narrative of Ramadan Reflections]

I always thought despite the difficulties of maintaining focus on religious obligations, the compensation for the entire day, for waking up in the wee hours of the night, for standing in prayers and returning late nights to one’s abode, would only blossom upon return, having full knowledge of the few hours left to give in to desires.
How delightful each other’s sight must be, the subtleness of our existence, the acknowledgment of our blessings would translate into recharging our bodies, slowly but surely, to quench his thirst and hunger and for him, his realization of the beauty in my being; be it the slightly dried lips or the clean “Noor” (heavenly light) on my face or the soft curly locks shaping my elongated face – that scent of tiredness lingering my body, would create elements of outward attraction; of a deeper resistance, nothing of such sort ever experienced in Westernized living… it would only happen in that very blessed month of the year, leaving them more closely, more satiated, more desired, and more spiritually uplifted than ever before.

[Read Related: Religion is Not the Only Way: This Ramadan, Let’s Consider Those with Mental Illnesses]

To me, that would be my soulmate. The sexiest of all who would prostate in sajdah, and at last find solace in my lap, in soft kisses and tender gazes, unable to resist and yet, committed to the betterment of finding ourselves, within ourselves in the light of God.

NailaNaila Sheikh resides with her husband and two kids in Houston, TX. Born and raised in Holland, she has a keen interest to keep up with the current affairs around the world. Her everyday life, apart from playing mommy, also consists of Food Blogging on her website: NailasKitchen.com.

By Brown Girl Magazine

Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South Asian womxn who believe in the power of storytelling as a … Read more ›

Reconciling Cultural Dilution With the Inevitable Evolution of my Diasporic Identity

Both of my parents were born and raised in Bihar, India. They dated for a few years before getting married and moving to the United States, where they had me and my two older brothers. To our house in the States, they brought some remnants of home with them: old filmy Hindi music that always echoed in the background, my mom’s masala chai recipe that still entrances anyone who catches even a whiff of it, and a love for dance in any and every form.

[Read Related: Home: A Complicated Issue for Children of Diaspora]

They tried their best to fill our lives with as much cultural celebration and ritual as they could, but despite their genuine attempts to keep us rooted, being a product of the South Asian diaspora was complicated.

 

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Growing up, my relationship with my culture looked very different throughout distinct stages of my life. Despite being a diaspora kid, I had a unique experience in that when I was four years old, my family packed up our lives in California and moved to my parent’s hometown in Bihar. We lived there for almost three years, and for each of those three years, I absorbed every ounce of India like a sponge. I learned how to speak Hindi fluently (along with some cuss words). I tried the classic Bihari street food — litti chokha — and watched how it was masterfully made over hot charcoal. I observed Chhath pooja, a Hindu festival dedicated to the solar deity, unique to the northeastern region of India. I developed an unhealthy addiction to chocolate Horlicks and Parle-G biscuits. I even tried, but ultimately failed, to master cricket. But sadly, all of that cultural immersion was short-lived and eventually came to an end. When I was seven, my family moved back to California. 

Working with the cards we were dealt, my family still tried to stay connected to our heritage in whichever way we could. Our weekends were filled with trips to the mandir and Nina’s Indian Groceries. Festivals like Diwali and Holi were always embraced with parties and poojas. During Navratri season especially, my best friend Camy and I would dress up in matching lehengas and dance with dandiya sticks so forcefully that they would literally break in half.

Within our microcosm of a world, I never once paused to think about how I would carry these traditions forward.

It wasn’t until college, when I was trying to navigate who I was outside of my family unit for the first time, that I began to ruminate on my independent relationship with my culture. I didn’t have the structure of my family and childhood home to reiterate and reverberate Bihari traditions, Hindu customs, the Hindi language, or my family history. How would I embody them henceforth? Would I be able to make my ancestors proud?

My college roommates and I used to joke that despite us all being Indian Americans, we all spoke different mother tongues: Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Bengali, and Telugu. This obviously made it tough to engage with our languages, even though we still made our best attempts. I learned how to read and write in Hindi during my senior year of college, but my skills are still rusty and elementary at best. Without continuous exposure and practice, I’m scared that one day I’ll lose the ability entirely. 

As a child of immigrants, out of the context of my motherland, I find myself grappling with guilt or fear of losing touch with my roots. It can feel that with every passing generation, pieces of my culture may slowly diminish or get lost in translation. Bits of wisdom that are so niche and particular that, once I forget them, who will be there to remind me? 

As I’m scouring the web for hair rejuvenation remedies and get overwhelmed by the surplus of opinions, I get frustrated that I can’t remember which ayurvedic oil is better for hair regeneration: Amla or coconut? If I catch a cold and need to make my nani’s cure-all tulsi chai recipe, I cross my fingers and hope that I’ve gotten all of the ingredients and measurements right. When I seem to be trapped in a continuous cycle of ebbs and want to consult my Vedic astrological chart for some insight, I find myself lost trying to navigate the implications of Shani and the meaning behind my houses. 

It took a lot of time and reflection to let go of feelings of guilt attached to this notion of preservation. This isn’t to say that this process isn’t continuously ongoing. But, what I’ve ultimately reconciled, is that as a diaspora kid, I’m creating something that is true and unique to my nuanced experience as an Indian American.

 

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Usha Jey, a South Asian-born and raised in Paris, recently fused urban and Bharatnatyam dance forms to create “Hybrid Bharatnatyam.” This dance form so perfectly encapsulates the blending of culture. As a dancer who grew up performing urban choreo with a mix of Bollywood, this fusion of East and West was such a validating thing to see. Dance has always been a medium through which I’ve been able to connect with my American and Indian identities. A lot of my childhood was spent performing Bollywood routines at temple events or Neema Sari showcases. In high school, I was introduced to competitive urban dance and fell in love. Excited to give my teammates a peek into my culture, I choreographed and taught an urban-Bollywood piece to the classic “Sheila ki Jawani” that we ended up performing at our annual showcase. Similarly, artists like MEMBA and Abhi the Nomad subtly weave nostalgic Indian sounds into their electronic and hip-hop music to create something entirely unique. As someone navigating both of these worlds, their music tugs at my duality. When I lived in San Francisco, during the festival of Diwali, I would cook up a feast and host all of my friends from diverse cultures and backgrounds to eat, do rangoli on the roof, and light sparklers. While that may not have been a traditional celebration, it was my cliff notes version of Diwali that I was giddy to share with my community.

[Read Related: Reverse Indian Diaspora: Indian Americans Going Back to the Motherland]

Historically speaking, in any culture, there are traditions and customs that will be safeguarded until the end of time, but on that same note, there will be so much of culture that will evolve and soon look different. And maybe embracing that is something beautiful in and of itself.

While I’m still navigating my connection to my motherland, heritage, and roots, I’m allowing myself the grace to see that elements of them may manifest themselves differently in my life and the community of culture surrounding me. And while I may be creating something unique to my own identity, I still hope to honor the traditions and customs of those who came before me. 

Feature Image via Shutterstock

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By Shriya Verma

Shriya Verma is a Culture Contributor at Brown Girl Mag. She has a B.A. in Political Science and is currently … Read more ›

Philanthropist Nirmala Ramprasad Champions Sustainable Development Through Green Dupatta

Nirmala Ramprasad
Nirmala Ramprasad

To overcome global challenges, collective investments and groundwork are fundamental in advancing an equitable future across diverse communities. Sustainable development — a development that promotes growth through social, economic and environmental progress without compromising natural resources — is essential for human survival. At the young age of 21, Nirmala Ramprasad founded Green Dupatta, a sustainable development charity organization, and advocated for its importance through multiple pageant ambassadorships. As a philanthropic representative for the Indo Caribbean diaspora, her work showcases how individuals of any age have the ability to be changemakers for social advancement in areas such as environmental and agricultural protection and education. 

[Read Related: Melissa Ramnauth’s Fight to Support Caribbean Businesses and Preserve Ancestry]

Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Ramprasad acknowledges her passion for service was inherent since elementary school.

“My exposure to the nonprofit sector during my formative years really helped to shape my understanding of how complex, complicated and time-consuming philanthropy work can be,” Ramprasad said.

Additionally, she credits the values and ideals seen in Indo Caribbean culture as critical to her personal identity and crucial to her work in sustainable development.

 

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In conversation with Ramprasad, the following answers have been edited for clarity and concision. 

Growing up, did you resonate with your Indo Caribbean heritage? What ideals do you most connect with and want to pass on in creating positive change?

As a mixed-race person who grew up primarily within the Indo Caribbean community, I have always felt deeply connected to my culture and heritage. As a child I was fully immersed in all things Guyanese (I refused to wear anything but a lehenga to every school picture day). From a young age I was exposed to, and learned about, our music, food, political climate, history of indentureship and the importance of our cultural connection to India. 

In regards to my nonprofit work, one of the most important lessons I take from my Indo Caribbean culture is the significance of ancestral knowledge and practices. One of the main tenets of my nonprofit work is sustainability and I have found that the most effective and practical sustainability practices can be found when we look back at the way our ancestors treated the land they lived on. 

Although we are all changemakers in some way, I always advocate for community involvement in not only development, but also sustainability practices.

Can you describe what Green Dupatta is?

Green Dupatta is a sustainable development non-profit that I started when I was 21 and have since completed projects in Canada, Guyana, India and Trinidad. I work directly with project participants to co-create community-based spaces and programs that increase environmental awareness, food, water security and access to quality education through sustainable development models.

While most of Green Dupatta’s fundraising efforts take place in Canada, community projects are mainly done in Guyana and India. 

In 2020, Ramprasad traveled to Guyana to work with locals in the town of LeonoraTogether they replaced leaking zinc roofs, restored plumbing to old drains, re-poured concrete exteriors and repaved and repainted buildings to be used for yoga and meditation classes, affordable daycare and community gardens. To ensure donations are maximized, local contractors are always utilized. Green Dupatta aims to repair and reuse as many materials as possible. It does not dictate what the spaces should be used for, instead assists the community in having the agency select programming that benefits residents.

 

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Across India, Ramprasad detailed Green Dupatta’s completion of seven projects in seven weeks in an eight-part YouTube docuseries. With partnership from JDS Public School in Varanasi, Green Dupatta constructed two sports facilities for student health, engaged in community outreach awareness campaigns on women’s empowerment and environmental conservation, aided in scholarship opportunities for students, helped create a community garden and provided the school with a system to harvest and irrigate water. 

After this, they traveled to Devdaspur, a village with no clean water, to install a well with a shower enclosure, a water purification system and reservation tank, and a fenced enclosure food plantation. With their new ability to easily access clean water, people in Devdaspur showed an increase in social, economic and health outcomes. The community now had the resources to lower the percentage of water and hygiene-related illnesses, increase food and water independence, increase school attendance for children and increase productivity for adults, seeking work, without having to take time to filter or find clean water for their families. 

Through successful sustainable development projects, resources are conserved and enhanced to empower communities to meet their needs, irrespective of their size or location. Like many sustainable development nonprofits, Green Dupatta’s international service delivery was significantly impacted by COVID-19 due to limitations with travel and in-person fundraising. 

As a result, Ramprasad turned to her career as a special education teacher and utilized her knowledge to focus on a project that would directly help Toronto’s families and their schoolchildren.

Created as an emergency response to COVID-19 school shutdowns, Green Dupatta’s ‘Furnishing Minds’ project, is based on a circular economy model in which slightly-used educational resources are redistributed to families in need.”

Since the program began in 2020, more than 1400 pounds of educational resources and curriculum-based materials have been redistributed within the Greater Toronto Area. Its success led to the project being formalized annually. Green Dupatta currently showcases free online guides to the Ontario curriculum, by grade level, for families looking for strategies to help their children’s academic growth and achievement.

Is Green Dupatta currently looking for more educators? How can people get involved?

I am always looking to expand my team! We are really lucky to have dedicated volunteers from a variety of different sectors and backgrounds. Nonprofit organizations can always use all the help they can get — we have general volunteers, event volunteers and sub-committee program volunteers. Anyone looking to get involved can directly message us on Instagram or our website.

 

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What is your vision for Green Dupatta in the next five years?

In addition to co-creating new community projects and programs, I hope to continuously expand current Green Dupatta projects. With a larger team and additional funding, I would like to strengthen and scale our Furnishing Minds program, as well as increase our international presence, to fill needs and advocate for these communities. In order to build organizational capacity we are always looking to partner with like-minded individuals, businesses and other nonprofit organizations. In the past we were lucky to work with supportive organizations that provided valuable services, resources and expertise.

Outside of Green Dupatta and teaching, Ramprasad has a history of competing in pageants that reflect both her Indo Caribbean heritage and passion for service. She won the Miss West Indian Canadian pageant in 2015 and subsequently became the first Canadian representative at the Divali Nagar Queen Pageant in Trinidad and Tobago where she was awarded second runner-up. In 2020, she was invited to compete as Guyana’s representative in the Miss Face of Humanity Ambassador Search, an international event that showcases female changemakers from around the world. Ramprasad believes that competing in pageants offered, “a platform to educate others about my organization, and the importance of sustainable development as well as an opportunity to showcase myself as an individual capable and dedicated to carrying this torch.”

 

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How was it representing Guyana on a global stage at the 2020 Miss Face of Humanity? What platform did you run on, and what message do you have for the next generation of Indo Caribbeans?

The Miss Face of Humanity competition was a unique experience for me as I was given the opportunity to represent both Guyana and the Green Dupatta Charitable Organization. I explored their intersection and looked at how my homeland and culture has impacted both my core values and philanthropic work. 

Being part of a diasporic community is a uniquely beautiful, but also quite complex, place to be. All of our experiences are vastly different — some people feel deeply connected to their communities and some feel very far removed. Although there are many struggles that come from being once, or twice-removed, people are facing much different struggles in the places our ancestors called home. 

My advice to the next generation of Indo Caribbeans is to remember that a diasporic community is very different from a local one. Although some of us may feel very connected to our communities and cultures as they are practiced abroad, we should make space to amplify the voices of our motherlands and remember to give back to places that have given us so much.

Ramprasad says juggling work and leading a nonprofit can be deeply taxing; often fielding criticism and making personal sacrifices. Nonetheless, she loves what she does and is eager to implement sustainable development practices around the world.  Through these projects, communities are equipped with the techniques, tools and knowledge to uplift themselves. Ramprasad is forever grateful that she was drawn to a life of service and believes that it is of utmost importance to actively collaborate with communities in order to preserve the environment and improve the access to quality education.

To learn more about Green Dupatta,  visit their website. You can follow Nirmala’s journey on Instagram @nrampsy.

Featured Image photo courtesy of Bert Pierre.

By Priya Deonarine

Priya D. Deonarine, M.S, NCSP, is the quintessential Pisces who has been dramatically shaped by her experiences and emotions. She … Read more ›

‘About the Author’ – A Short Story

In celebration of Kirthana Ramisetthi’s second novel “Advika and the Hollywood Wives,” BGM literary editor Nimarta Narang is publishing this short story by the acclaimed author. This piece chronicles the evolution of a writer’s life through their ever-changing author’s bio. In the details, from the change in last name to the new address, we observe how Gigi grows into Genevieve and the life events that make her into the writer she becomes. 

“My Picnic,” published in the Oakwood Elementary Storytime Scrapbook

Gigi Maguire loves strawberries, “Smurfs,” and being a first grader. Her favorite word is ‘hooray.’ This is her first short story. 

“Sunshine Day,” published in Oakwood Elementary KidTale

Gigi Maguire is a fifth grader in Ms. Troll’s class. She loves writing stories more than anything in the whole world, except for peanut butter. 

“What Rhymes with Witch?,” published in BeezKneez.com

Gigi Maguire is a high school junior living in the Bay Area. Her favorite writers are Sylvia Plath and J.K. Rowling. If she can’t attend Hogwarts, she’ll settle for Sarah Lawrence or NYU.

“On Her 21st Birthday,” published in LitEnds

Gigi Laurene Maguire is a writer and recent graduate from Sarah Lawrence College. Her favorite writers are Sylvia Plath, Alice Munro, and Mahatma Gandhi. She is making her big move to New York City in the fall.

“Valentine’s Day in a Can,” published in Writerly

Gigi Laurene Maguire is a freelance writer who loves the written word, Ireland in springtime, and “La Vie En Rose.” She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

“Unspoken Ballads of Literal Heartbreak,” published in Weau Dunque Review

Gigi Laurene Maguire is an assistant editor at ScienceLife.com. Her work has appeared in Writerly and is forthcoming in Pancake House and Schooner’s Weekly. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey. 

“The Mistress of Self-Loathing,” published in Story Day 

Gigi L. Maguire is the editor-in-chief of Small Business Weekly. Her work has appeared Writerly, Story Day, Pancake House, and Schooner’s Weekly. She’s currently working on a novel about witches. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with her tabby cat Sabrina. 

“The Distance in Your Eyes,” published in The Canton Review

Gigi L. Maguire is a freelance writer and digital marketing specialist. Her work has appeared in Writerly, Story Day, and is forthcoming in Idaho Centennial. She’s working on a novel and a short story collection. She lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.

“Auspicious,” published in BookWorks 

Genevieve L. Maguire’s work appears or will appear in The Canton Review, Mark’s End, Bishop Quarterly, and Idaho Centennial. A second runner-up for the Imelda Granteaux Award for Fiction, she is writing a novel and a memoir. Genevieve lives in Brooklyn. 

“Meditate, Mediate,” published in Ripcord

Genevieve L. Maguire’s fiction appears or will appear in BookWorks, The Canton Review, Berkeley Standard, and elsewhere. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, she is an MFA candidate at New York University. She lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend and their two cats.

“Chaat & Chew,” published in The Carnegie Review

Genevieve L. Maguire’s fiction appears in Ploughshares, Ripcord, The Cambridge Review, and elsewhere. She received her master’s in creative writing from New York University. Her short story “Meditate, Mediate” has been optioned by Academy Award nominee Janet De La Mer’s production company, Femme! Productions. She lives in Brooklyn with her fiancé, their three cats, and a non-singing canary.

“Urdhva Hastasana Under a Banyan Tree” published in The Paris Review

Genevieve Maguire-Mehta’s fiction has been hailed as “breathtakingly lyrical” by Margaret Atwood. She is the recipient of the Whiting Prize for Short Fiction and an Ivy Fellow. Her fiction has appeared in The Carnegie Review, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband Manoj in Park Slope, Brooklyn. 

“Reaching New (Jackson) Heights,” performed by Lana Del Rey on NPR’s “Shorts” series

Genevieve Maguire-Mehta’s fiction has been hailed as “effervescent” by Alice Munro and “breathtakingly lyrical” by Margaret Atwood. She is the recipient of the Whiting Prize for Short Fiction and an Ivy Fellow. Her work appears or has appeared in The Paris Review, Elle, The Carnegie Review, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband in Park Slope, Brooklyn with their feisty menagerie of animals.

“The Bhagavad Gina,” published in The New Yorker

Genevieve Maguire-Mehta is the recipient of the Whiting Prize of Short Fiction and is a McClennen Arts Colony scholar. Her work appears or has appeared in The Paris Review, Elle, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a novel. She lives with her husband and daughter in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

“When Two Becomes None,” published in American Quarterly 

Genevieve Maguire’s writing has received dozens of accolades, most recently the Luciana Vowel Prize for Female Fiction. Praised by Alice Munro as “effervescent,” her work has appeared in more than twenty publications, including The New Yorker, and The Paris Review. She lives with her daughter Priyanka in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

“The Day We Learned Desire is a Winding Path,” published by Capricorn Rising Press

Genevieve Maguire is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in more than thirty publications, including The New Yorker and The Paris Review. She lives with her daughter in a 100-year-old farmhouse in Woodstock, New York. “The Day We Learned Desire is a Winding Path” is her first novel. Visit her website at genevievemagauthor.com.

“Hairy Arms and Coconut Oil,” published in MotherReader

Genevieve Maguire Dunblatt is a novelist, homeopath, and part-time yoga instructor. She has seen her critically-acclaimed short stories published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband Benji and daughter Priyanka in Jacksonville, Florida.  

“Priya Pinker’s Mother Gets a Life,” published by Capricorn Rising Press

Genevieve M. Dunblatt is the author of two novels, including “The Day We Learned Desire is a Winding Path.” An aura reader, faith healer, and yoga instructor, she has seen her critically-acclaimed short stories published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. She lives with her husband in Jacksonville, Florida. Visit genevieveauthormag.com to learn more about her writing, and genevieveauthormag.com/hearthappy for her wellness services. 

“Comma, Coma,” published in Read-A-Day Journal

Genevieve Maguire is the author of “The Day We Learned Desire is a Winding Path” and “Priya Pinker’s Mother Gets a Life.” She has seen her critically-acclaimed short stories published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. Alice Munro has called her writing “effervescent.” She lives in Jacksonville, Florida.  

“Next Stop New York,” published in The Lunar Reader

Genevieve Maguire is the author of “The Day We Learned Desire is a Winding Path” and “Priya Pinker’s Mother Gets a Life.” She lives in New Jersey.  

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By Kirthana Ramisetti

Kirthana Ramisetti is the author of Dava Shastri’s Last Day, a Good Morning America Book Club selection which is in … Read more ›