Politicising Desiness

By Shiran Illanperuma

The term Desi is a social, cultural and political identity that applies to the peoples of Southasia and their diasporas. Derived from the Sanskrit word for country, it evokes a primordial relationship between diverse peoples and their vast motherland. Gaining unique currency in the diaspora, the term has come to be a rallying point for socialisation and politicisation of Southasians abroad.

Modern nation states being social - and often colonial - constructs, immediately problematise an identity as broad as Desi. Where does Southasia begin and end? A geographer, a politician and a linguist would each answer this question differently. In a region that was artificially consolidated by imperial Europe and then torn asunder by successive independence, secessionist and separatist movements, what place does a universalising identity like Desi have? Particularly in spaces of displacement like the diaspora, is it possible to truly claim allyship on the base of ancestry in a land that is historically and contemporarily scarred by division and competing nationalisms?

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Untitled, from the series Faded History of the Lost, by Rahul Talukder, Bangladesh

On 24 April 2013, the world witnessed the biggest garment factory accident to date. Rana Plaza, an eight-storey commercial building, collapsed during morning rush hour in Savar, Bangladesh, and resulted in a death toll of more than 1,100. A wall was filled with pictures of the missing. The posters were a last cry for help, but the ghosts of the victims wouldn’t even recognise themselves in these posters, weathered by the rain and the sun

As a Bangladeshi male, I demand the bindi back on behalf of my Desi brothers and sisters.

Last year, I wore traditional Bangladeshi clothing to school one day as an experiment. ‘Ha, is that a dress?’ 'Aren’t those jewels a bit feminine?’ 'Do your people actually wear shit like that?’ In spite of these comments, I wore my payjama-panjabi with pride. I wore my culture because I have seen how my Desi people have suffered, forced to abandon their culture to assimilate. I wore it because some of my Bangladeshi friends forsook the Bangla language in order to blend in. I wore it because my cousins would apply Fair and Lovely day after day to hide their melanin-enriched skin. I wore it because my mother was ridiculed by complete strangers for wearing a bindi with her salwar kameez on Eid.

My culture is not some summer trend; it’s not fashion; it’s not hip and trendy. My culture ties me to my homeland even while I’m halfway across the world. White people may not understand that my culture is more than some hippie fashion, but I will keep fighting to keep my culture alive for myself and my Desi brothers and sisters. I will no longer tolerate the appropriation of my culture. #reclaimthebindi



For my entire life, I’ve been insulted by people for my culture. I had “weird food” at lunch and “smelled like curry” and had “thick eyebrows”. Now white people are appropriating my culture and making a trend out of it? That’s not cool. Not cool at all.

Pursuing Crazy Dreams with Bangladeshi Documentary Photographer @ismailferdous

For more Ismail’s documentary reportage, follow @ismailferdous on Instagram.

Ismail Ferdous (@ismailferdous) is a 26-year-old photojournalist from Dhaka, Bangladesh. His work has taken him around the world, capturing vignettes of life from South East Asia to Latin America to the conflicted border of Turkey and Syria. At home in Bangladesh, he continues to work on a long-term project called “The Cost of Fashion” that began on April 24th, 2013, when a clothing factory collapsed in Dhaka, killing over 1,000 garment workers inside.

“I believe when people really pursue their passions and pursue what they believe in and what they love, and then genuine results will come out of that,” says Ismail. “For me, being a photographer is not just a job but it’s a passion. When I started photography my parents and other people used to tell me I should focus on my business career or that photography is not worthwhile. They said being a photographer is some crazy dream I would never attain. People can be discouraging, and some people listen to them, and they end up not pursuing their passion. But I knew inside that I was going to pursue photography.”

Ismail describes the first steps of his long journey, saying, “when I decided to become a photographer, I knew I wanted to be a documentary photographer. But it took a while to feel confident inside myself that I could do this job. Before I could convince other people I had to convince myself. Eventually I made the decision of what I wanted to do with my life. I started witnessing people’s stories not in an educational point of view, not from afar, but really what happens to people in the course of history. To me, that’s the utmost meaningful experience one can have—and so that’s exactly why I became a photographer.”

February 10th, 1987, my parents during their wedding day.

I don’t have that many pictures of me in a bindi or desi garments - because I pretty much stopped wearing them as a preteen - since people would tease me and think that my clothes and culture was something gross and ugly. Which made me believe that it was true. But something I still secretly loved was my parents wedding album. The colours. The culture. The people. The happiness - in every picture. Why couldn’t I have that with out being teased?

Then as I grew up, I saw more people being more appreciative of my culture, or so I thought. They weren’t really appreciating our culture, obviously. They were just picking our culture apart - taking, no, stealing, the things they liked and ignoring the meaning behind it all. Along the way the things they appropriate loses their original meaning. Stripped entirely of the culture it belongs to. Just another massproduced accessory. History repeating itself since the British.

It has taken a great deal of time for me to unlearn all the internalized self hatred towards my background. So yeah, it really gets to me whenever I see someone who isn’t desi - using our culture as a fashion statement.

If someone desi can’t wear their culture with pride without being harassed for it, why should anyone else be allowed to wear it w/o having to face the shitty side that comes with it?


Powerful Images Showing The Devastating Effects Of Overpopulation

It’s no secret that we are exploiting our planet and running out of resources at the speed of light, but many people refuse to take notice. These unbelievable photos of environmental damage, collected into a book by environmental awareness platform Global Population Speak Out, show the harsh realities of the ecological and social tragedies that Earth is suffering. Its title: “Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot.”

This book has plenty of powerful images illustrating the problems generated by overpopulation and consumption, together with quotes from famous writers, scientists and ecologists to help understand and raise awareness about the destruction of natural environments.

Global Population Speak Out provides a link for everyone to have a look at the book online for free, but if you want it in your bookshelf, you can also find it on Amazon.

More info: populationspeakout.org | Amazon (h/t: boredpanda.es)

Photo Captions:

1. Surfing on a wave full of trash in Java (Indonesia), the world’s most populated island.

2. National Willamette forest, Oregon (USA), 99% deforested.

3. The Yellow river in Mongolia is so polluted that it’s almost impossible to breathe near it.

4. Fire at oil platform in Gulf of Mexico, April 2010.

5. Landscape full of trash in Bangladesh.

6. Albatross killed by excessive plastic ingestion in Midway Islands (North Pacific).

7. Enormous iceberg melting near Svalbard island in Norway.

8. Tar-rich zone in Alberta, Canada destroyed by mining and toxic wastes.

9. Landfill in Accra (Ghana). Our electronic rubbish usually ends up in Third-World countries.

10. The Maldives are flooding because of global warming and human action. They will sink in 50 years.


Sinhalese New Year, generally known as Aluth Avurudda (Sinhala: අලුත් අවුරුද්ද) in Sri Lanka, is the new year of the Sinhalese people in Sri Lanka. It is a major anniversary celebrated by not only the Sinhalese people but by most Sri Lankans. The timing of the Sinhala New Year coincides with the new year celebrations of many traditional calendars of South and Southeast Asia. The festival has close semblance to the Tamil New year, Thai New year, Bengali New Year, Cambodian New Year, Lao New Year, Thingyan in Myanmar and Oriya New Year festival in India.[1] It is a public holiday in Sri Lanka. It is generally celebrated on 13 April or 14 April.

Puthandu (Tamil: புத்தாண்டு), or better known as Tamil New Year, is the celebration of the first day of the Tamil new year in mid-April by Tamils in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in India, in Sri Lanka and by the Tamil population in Malaysia, Singapore, Réunion and Mauritius. On this day, Tamil people greet each other by saying “Puthandu Vazthukal” ( புத்தாண்டு வாழ்த்துக்கள் ) or “Iniya Tamizh Puthandu Nalvaazhthukkal” (இனிய தமிழ் புத்தாண்டு நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள்). The festive occasion is in keeping with the Hindu solar calendar.

Poila Boishakh (Bengali: পহেলা বৈশাখ, or Bengali New Year Bengali: বাংলা নববর্ষ, Bangla Nôbobôrsho), occurring on 15 April[1] , is the first day of the Bengali calendar, celebrated in the Bangladesh and in the Indian state of West Bengal, by the Bengali people and also by minor Bengali communities in other Indian states, including Assam, Tripura, Jharkhand and Orrisa. It coincides with the New Year’s days of numerous Southern Asian calendars like Tamil new year Puthandu. The traditional greeting for Bengali New Year is শুভ নববর্ষ “Shubhô Nôbobôrsho” which is literally “Happy New Year”.

Happy New Year to Sri Lankans, Indians, Bangladeshis, Nepalese and everyone else who celebrates!!!

BANGLADESH, Dhaka : A Bangladeshi relative of a victim of the Rana Plaza building collapse weeps as she marks the second anniversary of the disaster at the site where the building once stood in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka on April 24, 2015.   Demonstrators, including hundreds of survivors cried for compensation and demanded safety and labour rights in thousands of garment factories as they held demonstrations just outside Dhaka to mark the second anniversary of one of the world’ worst industrial disasters, which left at least 1,138 people dead and more than 1,500 people injured.  AFP PHOTO / Munir uz ZAMAN                        


As I read and see these beautiful posts of brown women reclaiming our badass and gorgeous culture…I couldn’t help but feel inspired.
I don’t wear bindis but here I go.
I wish I took more photos of my self.
This for the times I was embarrassed of liking desi songs.
This is for the times when I felt so gross when they couldn’t say my name. They said Anom….when it’s actually pronounced Ahnaam
Or how I spell it Anam.
This is for times where I felt so damn beautiful that I felt like a girl in a Bollywood film. 
This for the times for when I felt like crap because the girls of my 4 grade would say I would stink like “curry”….now I have this stupid habit downing my whole body with perfume because I’m so self conscious.
To think that these assholes love bindis and “Indian curry”, henna, and bangles now.
This is for me… To remember to NEVER be ashamed of what and who I am.
I am a Pakistani, Indian, Bengali, American, Brown, Girl, Woman.
And I am reclaiming my bindi.
Smell my curry, now.

Cultural Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated but is deemed as high-fashion, cool or funny when the privileged take it for themselves,
—  Amandla Stenberg

When my people wear a bindi its part of a culture, it’s not all that common to wear bindis when we’re in regular clothes. We usually wear it when we’re in our traditional clothing. The thing is, you can still wear a bindi but suddenly people want to pick it apart and wear the parts they like because it’s ‘trendy’, what we’re trying to say is that tons of desi young girls were constantly embarrassed by the way you white kids looked at us and spoke about us and apparently you can just brush it off by saying ‘hey don’t worry, we like you now but only these parts.’

Nepal Earthquake

Already relief agencies are scrambling to get needed supplies, including food, water, shelter, and medical aid, into the country.

Here are several organizations active in the area you can support:

  • Save the Children: “Save the Children is in need of donations to support our disaster response efforts. Your support will help us protect vulnerable children and provide desperately needed relief to families. Donations will go to the Nepal Earthquake Children’s Relief Fund will support our disaster response to this emergency.” Donate Now
  • Global Giving: “All donations to this fund will support disaster recovery and relief efforts in response to the region of Nepal impacted by this earthquake. Initially, the fund will help first responders meet survivors’ immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products, and shelter. Once initial relief work is complete, this fund will transition to support longer-term recovery efforts run by local, vetted local organizations.” Donate Now

America Nepal Medical Foundation:

“The American Nepal Medical Foundation is a 501©(3) non-profit membership organization incorporated in the state of New York.”

Their mission

states, in part, “It is the firm belief of the foundation that as with the problems in any other field, the primary responsibility of resolving Nepal’s health problems lies with the Nepali people including medical professionals. There can be no substitute for their own commitment and action in Nepal. However, as a U.S. based nonprofit organization, the foundation is committed to supporting the Nepali people’s ongoing efforts to enhance their health status. ANMF will focus on improving the quality of medical care, medical education and medical research in Nepal.”

Donate Now

CARE Emergency:

“CARE’s humanitarian workers on the ground in Nepal are currently assessing the situation and determining immediate needs. CARE has worked in Nepal since 1978, with programs focused on areas including food Security, HIV/AIDS, health, education, water and sanitation, and the empowerment of women and girls. CARE’s past responses to emergencies in Nepal have included response to massive landslides in Nepal’s Sindhupalchowk district in August 2014… CARE, which works in 90 countries around the world, places a special focus on women, children and other vulnerable populations, who are often disproportionately affected by disasters. ”

Donate Now

Lastly, if you have friends or loved ones in the area, you can check in on them through a page set up on Facebook that allows people mark themselves or others as safe:


You can also donate to the American Red Cross by texting “redcross” to 90999. That text will result in a $10 donation to the disaster relief fund.

Read more:


(or for those in the US, you can Text GIVE NEPAL to 80088 to donate $10 to the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund. Message and data rates may apply.)

image source:www.voanews.com/content/death-toll-rises-in-aftermath-of-himalayan-quake-130104003/145421.html

Please help if you can guys…this quake effected many people in 4 countries