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Good Indian Girl, Sort Of: Rupa Marya

I currently reside in: Oakland, CA

What’s your favorite hangout: My garden! If not there, my friend Adrian Arias’ garden. Basically wherever artists gather and spend time.

I currently work as a: Mother/Physician/Musician/Activist

I do this because: I love humanity and believe that we must shut down systems of domination in order for all living beings to thrive.

What are some Indian traditions you still follow? Chai, adapted ecofeminist puja, cooking and eating with friends and family, dancing bhangra. We celebrate Diwali with a blended ceremony involving indigenous people, farmers and people with Desi ancestry. It’s pretty amazing. We do a seed ceremony where we speak our prayers to the seeds, then sow that winter’s cover crop, then feast. Every winter, I watch the wishes sprout and become the compost for the summer garden. We eat our wishes in the form of berries, lettuces, herbs and more–what a prasad that is! My Ohlone friend Corrina asked to create something that would welcome both of our ancestors to find a way to be on this land where I am a settler in a new and beautiful way. I believe we are finding that way. I have a deep respect for the indigenous people and beings here in the Bay Area. Their culture reminds me of how I feel in the presence of others from the subcontinent.

Bollywood or Hollywood, and why? Neither. If I have free time, I’d rather talk with my friends, make some new music, hang out with my baby or work in the garden. I don’t own a TV. I stopped watching it when I was 13! I think it’s why my mind is so active and engaged.

Favorite movie? Favorite book–God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. Still. I love it. Also Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie. I love the language play in both of those and the sense of being taken on a ride by a master storyteller.

What’s your favorite thing about Indian culture? I love how rooted it is and how it is possible to imagine a culture in the subcontinent all the way back to a time before patriarchy, a time where people were in balance between the divine feminine and divine masculine, where our yoga was to walk with the earth and all her divine manifestations together. I love how the sounds of the music and dance and language and food speak to my DNA in a way that awakens something primordial in me. And I love the sisterhood that my South Asian friends create. I love the dynamic rambunctious fun of my brothers and cousins. It’s the best. I feel whole and awake and at peace in their company.

What’s one piece of advice your parents have given you that should probably be or are abiding by? Smash Patriarchy!

Good Indian Girl? I think the judgments placed on South Asian women are forms of control that we must put aside in order to experience our own personal liberation and our liberation as a collective, across all social strata. I am neither good nor bad. I just am and will continue to be. I believe in the unabashed living out loud of our spirit, our identity is known. Without that freedom, we are confined to be only shadows of ourselves.

Check out Rupa’s latest release ‘Growing Upward‘ and be sure to follow her band, Rupa and The April Fishes, on their website or on Facebook.


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