Each week, we’re asking different writers, artists and others to share some of their current favorites. This week we’re featuring poet and activist Purvi Shah.
The seasons are changing. And perhaps, your fortunes are too.
As an artist, I love fortunes — less as a measure of fate than as a form of divine creativity that beckons our own. What is fortune? What is choice? Such questions motivate my art, anti-violence advocacy, and these kismet picks for the week.
1. Dandiya Mix
Let me first start with a divine dictate: Navaratri should be all year. There’s no good time not to be rocking the divine feminine as far as I can see. This garba/dandiya music app has been charming my daily movements — lifting mundane walks to the subway & fall runs in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park to the level of the glorious. And it’s free. Can you get more Guju than that? Heeheehee!
2. Random [Fortune] Generator
Want to be in charge of your own fortune? Then check out Random [Fortune] Generator by Anjali Deshmukh. I played the game at the SAWCC exhibit at the Dumbo Arts Festival a few weekends ago. I chose the event, “I am lucky” and the number on the penny I picked linked to the emotion, “paranoia.” Just my luck. So here’s my micro-fiction fortune: I am lucky and I feel paranoia because even Pandora wanted to know what was inside that box. Go on, write your own story.
Looking to create a life story with more magic & perhaps a splash of providence? Try out the Collective Tarot if so and re-vamp your narratives as you go. For years, my sister in the anti-violence movement, Soniya Munshi, has been doing readings for me from this deck. What a blessing to have a friend willing to decode the spirit for you when you need! There’s nothing like the gift of friendship — or artists getting together for a common mission. In time, my own curiosity in the images and the way the cards re-define archetypes got the better of me. I now have my own set — and yet my own readings are infused with friendship and the collective journey. Hooray for the magic of art and community!
4. Rahul Mehta’s Quarantine
Sometimes we’re working to write the script. Sometimes to re-write it. I recently encountered Rahul Mehta’s Quarantine and loved it for his graceful re-casting of the South Asian immigrant story. Rahul’s stories embody a queer lens — not only with gay male characters at the heart of the tales but especially through his brilliant unsettling of common desi dilemmas — immigrant mobility & relationship to wealth/poverty; consuming native artifacts (such as miniature paintings & yoga); and, family/extended family dynamics (need I say more?!?). I love how these stories move between the gritty and tender — a captivating emotion-scape. And yes, it doesn’t hurt that there’s a little dandiya in there too.
We need to remember our fortunes and dreams as a kind of music. I’ve been rapt with ghazals lately, in part due to Anthems of Resistance: A Celebration of Progressive Urdu Poetry by Ali Husain Mir and Raza Mir. This marvelous rumination on poetic history and presence begs the question of whether poetry can create a social impact — and how. As I write, I always wonder how people can be moved: this collection helps me mark lineages and departures. And, yes, this ghazal — sung by Shujaat Khan — on knowing the difference between water & tears moves me every time.
6.Basement Bhangra’s Trivia Night
OK, now are YOU ready to show off what you know? At least, about South Asian culture, that is. If so, and you’re in the NYC area, test your knowledge and fortunes at Trivia during Basement Bhangra on Nov. 7. Yes, bhangra’s the new black (and has been!) but props to DJ Rekha for making her signature dance party even more expansive: what more is there to life than getting your desi nerd-on before getting your groove on? This month, I’m hosting Trivia as nothing warms my heart more than nerds, divas, and queens showing off what they know and then getting down together on the dance floor!
And so I’ll end where I began — which is to say, if you can’t take your fortune, there ain’t nothing stopping you from dancing it away!
Purvi Shah is known for her sparkly eyeshadow & raucous laughter. She won the inaugural SONY South Asian Excellence Award for Social Service for her work fighting violence against women. Recently, she directed a community-based poetry project, Together We Are New York: Asian Americans Remember and Re-Vision 9/11. And she has an award-winning poetry book, Terrain Tracks. Make her day by getting it & sharing your responses! You can find her through the Huffington Post, at an event, and @PurviPoets.