Tag Archives: Heritage

Steampunk India Interview in DESIblitz Magazine

The Steampunk Universe anthology, edited by Sarah Hans, is gaining momentum; more news to follow very soon!

Meanwhile, I spoke to Fatima Farah of Indian magazine DESIblitz about my background and what inspires me when writing inclusive Victoriana fiction: Suna Dasi Talks Short Stories and Steampunk India 

 

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Filed under Articles, Articles by Others, Books, Culture, Diaspora, Diversity, Hidden Exclusion, History, India, MultiCulturalism in Steampunk, MultiCuturalism, Music, Steampunk, Uncategorized, Victorian, Victorian PoC, Victoriana, Women, Writing

Truancy Issue 2 Release 

It was a true pleasure to be part of the Roundtable: Intersections between South Asian Folklore, Myth and Lived Experience feature in Truancy Issue 2.
  
The questions and answers begetting more questions and answers provided challenging, wonderful food for thought. It was fascinating, moving and inspiring to read my fellow participants’ replies. Some of the resultant ponderings and conclusions didn’t make it into the (already blissfully long) article. These were the more personal ideas regarding diaspora, identity and place, coupled with the perceived legacy of folklore, myth and legends from various cultures that, for me, ended in the following.

Though I am nostalgic for something unexperienced when I yearn for being part of Indian culture in a way that was denied to me when I came into the world, I am simultaneously very aware that this is a type of… romantic affectation. 

There is no conflict of identity. I am very happily myself. Or rather; it has been my privilege to have had the space to become so, by trial and error, through joys and woes. That is solely the result of growing up with the cultural freedoms I enjoyed. Had I been born and raised within my own culture, bound by what I know to be the stifling constraints of my heritage, I would most certainly not have been able to become a touring singer, nor an all out, woman-loving equality activist, embodying nothing resembling religion, though you could argue I have an abiding, possibly worshipful wonder for science and nature. As a friend affectionately said once: You are a Sagan pagan. I’ll take that.

I adore being a fusion of cultures, a true citizen of the world – much overused as the term is. While I may not speak much Hindi at all, I speak three languages comfortably and a further two adequately. This roundtable, while actually being about folklore and inherited myths, has been excellent for crystallising some thoughts that have been swimming in the bottom of my mind like little blind fishes. I have long wondered whether all this superimposed angst of cultural belonging, or the judgment from people both Western and of countries you are ‘really from’ (recognise that question anyone? Folk always seem dissatisfied when I say The Netherlands!) may partly be a strange type of jealousy. Why not have it all? Why not have cake and eat it? 

Why not?

Nothing has been taken from me in that respect, rather a melding of cultures that has given my life that many more dimensions. Including the rich veins of mythology, fairy tales and folklore from more worlds than just one. I hope the roundtable gives insight and enjoyment of the different minds and backgrounds coming at those questions.

Plus, this issue contains wonderful fiction and artwork. Enjoy!   

 

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Filed under Articles, Articles by Others, Culture, Diaspora, Diversity, India, MultiCuturalism, Writing

For Steampunk Hands 2015: The Raj Revised: Steampunking History

Pyjamas. Shampoo. Candy. Doolally. Loot. Bungalow. Cushy. Junk.
These words are all part of daily English speech. (Doolally being a personal favourite.)
They wouldn’t have been part of the English language had they not been assimilated during the British presence in India during the 1900s.

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It’s a perfect way to detect how interwoven the two cultures are. The impact of the Raj is a ripple in the global historical pond that hasn’t stilled to this day.
India, the Jewel in the British Crown, the spice in the English economy, the Empire its Empress never set foot in. This is where Steampunk India comes in.
Steampunk is partly based on an avid love of history. Many Steampunks pride themselves on incorporating historically accurate aspects of the Victorian Era in their costuming, events or building projects.The genre has come quite a way from being mostly Western-centric, with costumes that only reflect the fashions of London society during a certain period, with personas and narratives that are predominantly culturally relevant to Caucasian participants.

More than most creative genres, Steampunk is placed to be truly multicultural, truly inclusive.
I have a fascination for the Victorian Era, a love for maritime history, and direct hereditary ties to the exploits of the British East India Trading Company. As a result I have an avid wish to see more India in Steampunk.
In particular more Indian India, as it were.
In general I want more of Africa, of China, Malaysia, Borneo, Argentina and other non-Western countries, specifically expressions of and representations by the people of each nation. Women, people of all colours, LGBT folk; it is deeply important to further a more egalitarian expression of race and gender, both within the context of events and performance and by authors of diverse heritage and persuasions.

The photo collage below forms an example of where Steampunk inspiration could be found. All these images are from the late 1800s – early 1900s. Clockwise starting top Right: An Indonesian Sarong Weaver. A Malaysian woman in Nonya attire. A young Berber from Tunisia. Araucanian Indians and gauchos, Chile. A young girl, Borneo, possibly from the Kayan tribe.

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Collaborating with others for multiculturalism is vital.
One such collaboration took place last year. I was involved in two events for The Clockwork Watch Transmedia Project created by Yomi Ayeni. Through comics, interactive events and a website featuring a fictional Gazette of the world, Yomi has created a Steampunk milieu where Indian culture plays a more prominent role.*

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(From Clockwork Watch: The Arrival by Yomi Ayeni & Corey Brotherson. Artwork: Jennie Gyllblad.)

As part of the year-long celebration of the 300th anniversary of Longitude in 2014, the Royal Museums in Greenwich organised two interactive events, featuring some of the characters from the Clockwork Watch comics: I played the role of Tinku Ranbir, wife of eminent Indian scientist Chan.
The second event, titled ‘Clocking Off Late’, featured a piece called ‘The Tinku Diaries‘. Tinku’s character occupied the floor of the Maritime Museum that houses the permanent exhibition ‘Traders: The East India Company and Asia’. Visitors to the gallery were introduced to Tinku and instantly submerged into the Clockwork Watch story which merged with the actual history of our world. Artist and musician Ziazan played a mischievous spirit, flitting in and out of the narrative, introducing the public to elements of the created world.
A selection of diary entries scattered around the displays for visitors to find were protectively snatched from them by Tinku’s companion,Thomas, (played by Philip Whiteman) coiling tight the spring of mystery and intrigue that winds the Clockwork Watch.

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(Left: Ziazan carrying a special edition of the Clockwork Watch book. Right to Bottom: Tinku at her desk. A diary extract featured in the fictional London Gazette on the Clockwork Watch Site. Tinku speaks to a museum visitor whilst Thomas looks on, ready to usher the lady away should things get too personal.)

Yomi’s request to create the diaries as an original composition of my own allowed free reign to show an intimate glimpse of Tinku’s mind and experiences. Tinku’s predicament became very immediate to me during this creative process; an Indian woman in a Western environment, trying to carve out a meaningful place for herself while preserving her own values and integrity.
Her diary was also the perfect vehicle to include titbits from the East India Company history and acquaint visitors with a deeper look under the surface. I further incorporated some of the artifacts and paintings that are permanent features of the exhibit, in order to mix fiction with history, as is the Steampunk wont.
In her diary, Tinku mentions a Wadia Sahib. She is referring to Jamsetjee Bomanjee Wadia, (c 1754-1821), Master Shipbuilder at the Bombay Docks. His portrait by J. Dorman is part of the Trader’s Gallery collection:

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The diary ‘extract’ is an original piece of fiction, written especially for Yomi Ayeni. There is a possibility it will eventually be included in the greater Clockwork Watch narrative. It was a true pleasure to write. Both the diary and the event it was part of form a great example of Steampunk used as a Classroom.
As part of Steampunk Hands 2015, The Tinku Diaries will be exclusively published to the Steampunk India website at the end of February. Date to be announced.

* http://www.clockworkwatch.com

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Filed under Acting, Comics, Diversity, Events, MultiCulturalism in Steampunk, Steampunk Hands, Steampunk Hands Around The World, Writing

This scribbling lark…

Steampunk India  was a fancy, then an idea, then a burning desire which intensified over the course of several years. I am impelled into building alternate Indian worlds by my own background and heritage, of which more. Much more.

The experiences, unexpected epiphanies and observations that get caught in the slipstream of that world-building I will record here. At the moment I have no idea how frequent this will be.
I am in the process of writing the stories. They are filled with characters, situations and environments I want to read about.  The first story is up and is called ‘Wheeling and Dealing’. It can be found on the official SteampunkIndia.com website.

Meanwhile, I will be here, pondering roots and the awareness of having never set foot in my country of origin nor speaking the language, but continually reaping the results of my genetic mish-mash of ingredients through the response of my surroundings.

Coherence to follow.

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