Center for South Asian Studies | University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa


Jan 21, 2016
Congrats to CSAS Faculty Dr. Anna Stirr, who will receive the Ali Miya Prize from the Ali Miya Lok Wangmaya Pratisthan (Ali Miya Folk Literature Academy) in Nepal

imageAnna Stirr will receive the Ali Miya Prize from the Ali Miya Lok Wangmaya Pratisthan (Ali Miya Folk Literature Academy) in Nepal, in honor of her research about and performance of Nepali folk music and poetry. The award ceremony will take place on February 27, 2016 in Pokhara, Nepal. Ali Miya, in whose honor the prize is given, was one of Nepal’s foremost folk poets of the twentieth century, and his poems and songs continue to inspire. The prize is given yearly to individuals whose work is notable in the area of folklore, including poets, musicians, and others. Among the previous recipients include folk singers Prem Raja Mahat and Hari Devi Koirala.”

Dec 16, 2015
Bollywood Film Festival / The Apu Trilogy – Jan 2-Feb 6, 2016

Bollywood Film Festival

The Apu Trilogy

Jan 2–Feb 5, 2016

As our Bollywood Film Festival enters its ninth year, the museum expands programming beyond the popular musical extravaganzas with a whole month of Indian cinema—from Bollywood and Kollywood (Tamil-language) megahits to master filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s meticulously reconstructed new restoration of his cinematic landmark The Apu Trilogy.

Sponsored by Indru and Gulab Watumull & the J. Watumull Fund.

Special thanks to the Bollywood Film Festival Committee—Sai Bhatawadekar, Maya Cowell, Alan Eyerly and Lachmin Singh.

Opening-night reception Jan 2, 6-7:30pm: Start 2016 in style with a spicy Bollywood soundtrack from DJ Mr. Nick, performance by dance troupe Aaja Nachle, henna tattoos by HennaLove Hawaii and food from India Café! Wine, beer, and soda available for purchase. Bajrangi Bhaijaan screens at 7:30pm.

Opening-night reception + film: $35 | $30 museum members
Opening-night film only: $15 | $12 museum members

    • Featurebox_bollywood_bajrangi

      Bajrangi Bhaijaan
       Jan 2


      Ok Kanmani

      Jan 3, 8, 13 + 27

    • Featurebox_bollywood_margaritastraw

      Margarita, with a Straw

      Jan 3, 10, 22 + Feb 4

    • Featurebox_bollywood_dhanak

      Dhanak • Rainbow

      Jan 3, 16 + 28

    • Featurebox_bollywood_court


      Jan 5, 14, 21, 29 + Feb 4

    • Featurebox_bollywood_waiting


      Jan 5, 9, 26 + Feb 5Featurebox_bollywood_meetthepatels

      Meet the Patels

      Jan 6, 12, 15, 19 + 28


      Nachom-ia Kumpasar • Let’s Dance to the Rhythm

      Jan 6, 16 + Feb 2


      Elizabeth Ekadashi

      Jan 7, 13, 17 + 21

    • Featurebox_bollywood_enithran

      Enthiran • Robot

      Jan 7 + 26

    • Featurebox_bollywood_premratan

      Prem Ratan Dhan Payo

      Jan 8, 31 + Feb 5


      Bajirao Mastani

      Jan 9 + 22


      Dil Dhadakne Do

      Jan 15

    • Featurebox_bollywood_missindiaamerica

      Miss India America

      Jan 16


      The Apu Trilogy: Pather Panchali • Song of the Little Road

      Jan 17 + 24

    • Featurebox_apua_aparajito

      The Apu Trilogy: Aparajito • The Unvanquished

      Jan 17 + 24

    • Featurebox_apu_apuransar

      The Apu Trilogy: Apur Sansar • The World of Apu

      Jan 19 + 24

Nov 12, 2015
South Asia Related Films at the 2015 HIFF (Honolulu International Film Festival)

35th Hawai’i International Film Festival

Baahubali — The Beginning

baahubali_the_beginningTwo brothers clash for the control of a kingdom. The story has been told many times before — a child is born destined for greatness and, as a man, vanquishes the forces of evil — but in the confident hands of accomplished South Indian director S.S. Rajamouli, the tale gets potent new life in BAAHUBALI: THE BEGINNING.

Raised in a remote tribal village, Shivudu grows up a carefree young man who relentlessly pursues his heart’s desire. This leads him on an adventure to a completely unfamiliar territory. On this journey, he falls in love with Avantika, a Nishada soldier. To win her over, Shivudu takes on the dangerous mission of rescuing Devasena from the tyrant King Bhallaladeva. Shivudu manages to free Devasena, and during their escape, uncovers the truth behind his mysterious past.

With epic battles, swords, sandals, horses and elephants, the film is reminiscent of the big epics, both old and new (think SPARTACUS meets THE LORD OF THE RINGS). No penny is spared in the production design, incredible in its sheer grand scale. And yes, the subtitle, “THE BEGINNING” does mean that this is indeed a part 1 of a planned trilogy.

The Festival will be screening the newly released “international version.” which provides more backstory and more action. Sit back and be thrilled by India’s biggest film ever, and be transported to a world of titanic battles and sweeping romance among the world of kings.
— Anderson Le

Click here for more info…


Sunday, November 15, 5:45 PM — Regal Dole Cannery

Bajrangi Bhaijaan

abcw-bajrangi1A little mute girl from a Pakistan village gets lost on her return back from a trip to India. In Kurukshetra, she meets Pawan (superstar Salman Khan, monstrously buff as ever) – a devout Hanuman Bakth – who is in the midst of a challenge posed by his lover’s father. In trying to discover her parents, he develops an unshakable bond with the young girl. He tries to get into Pakistan through a path righteous to his conscience and later, with a smart Pakistani news reporter (the luminous Kareena Kapoor) who takes a liking to this “story”, captures the imagination of the public in both countries.

BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN is a fun and heartwarming road film that has enchanted Indian audiences since its release this summer. Salman Khan flexes his charisma, developing a sweet bond with the precocious Harshaali Malhotra (as the young Pakistani girl). Coupled with strong performances from Bollywood vets Kareena Kapoor and Om Puri, it is no wonder this film has become the biggest Bollywood hit of the year.

Click here for more info…


Saturday, November 21, 5:15 PM  — Regal Dole Cannery

Miss India America

MissIndia_4_1000x316Lily Prasad (Tiya Sircar) wants to win at all costs. She’s a high school valedictorian who arrogantly rubs her triumphs in the face of, well, everyone. But she soon loses her boyfriend, Karim (Kunal Sharma), to the reigning Miss India National Reshma (Sameera Eligeti), pulling a key block out of her Jenga-like tower of ambition. She vows victory and schemes to retake Karim by winning the Indian American beauty pageant with the help of her friend Seema (Kosha Patel). How will she get past the gorgeous and talented Sonia Nielson (NEW GIRL’s Hannah Simone)? Lily is ugly in ego, like Frank Underwood in a dress — she’ll find a way. As women crack glass ceilings around the world, this film shows us girl-power gone hilariously bad. Hope comes the form of friendship and family. Lily rises and falls, and comes out a better person on the other side.

Ravi Kapoor’s debut feature showcases great acting by an almost entirely female cast. Strong writing and direction complete this film as a fun, campy romp of megalomania and redemption.
— Ravi Chandra

Click here for more info…


Saturday, November 21, 2:30 PM — Regal Dole Cannery
Sunday, November 22, 12:45 PM — Regal Dole Cannery



Winner of top prizes at the Venice and Mumbai film festivals, Chaitanya Tamhane’s COURT is a quietly devastating, absurdist portrait of injustice, caste prejudice, and venal politics in contemporary India. An elderly folk singer and grassroots organizer, dubbed the “people’s poet,” is arrested on a trumped-up charge of inciting a sewage worker to commit suicide. His trial is a ridiculous and harrowing display of institutional incompetence, with endless procedural delays, coached witnesses for the prosecution, and obsessive privileging of arcane colonial law over reason and mercy. What truly distinguishes COURT, however, is Tamhane’s brilliant ensemble cast of professional and nonprofessional actors; his affecting mixture of comedy and tragedy; and his naturalist approach to his characters and to Indian society as a whole, rich with complexity and contradiction. —New Directors/New Films

Click here for more info…


Sunday, November 15, 12:00 PM — Regal Dole Cannery
Sunday, November 22, 6:00 PM — Regal Dole Cannery

Margarita With A Straw

Margarita,_with_a_Straw_-_posterLaila (Bollywood actress Kalki Koechlin) is like all overachieving students — constantly busy with extracurricular activities and passion projects. Aside from being an aspiring writer, she is also crafting lyrics and electronic beats for an indie band at her Delhi university. Her cerebral palsy doesn’t much get in the way of her life – although it sometimes does for others, especially when her feelings for a boy goes unreciprocated. Although she has a loving family and a strong support group of friends, Laila feels the itch to leave the nest and see the world. She applies for a scholarship and is accepted into a university in New York City. Laila loves her new life; on the first day of her creative writing course, she is paired with a cute guy who catches her eye. But the real game changer in Laila’s life is when she meets a fiery activist, Khanum (Sayani Gupta), who challenges her beliefs, sparks her creativity, and, eventually, seduces her. For these two women, their meeting marks the beginning of a remarkable love story that will be tested when they must return to India because of a family emergency.

Click here for more info…


Monday, November 16, 8:15 PM — Regal Dole Cannery
Wednesday, November 18, 7:45 PM — Regal Dole Cannery


25388_Dheepan-PosterIn Sri Lanka, the Civil War is reaching its end, and defeat is near. Dheepan decides to flee, taking with him two strangers – a woman named Yalini and Illayaal, a little girl – hoping that they will make it easier for him to claim asylum in Europe if they pose as a family. Arriving in Paris, the ‘family’ moves from one temporary home to another until Dheepan finds work as the caretaker of a tenement block in the suburbs.

He works to build a new life and a real home for his ‘wife’ and his ‘daughter’, and for a time, they are thriving and growing as a family – Illayaal is quickly assimilating to school and Yalini takes a job as a caretaker to a terminally ill man and his nephew, who live in the same complex. Dheepan works his daily routine and keeps his head down, when he notices that the tenement block is ground central for gang and drug activity for young hooligans who are also residents. Soon, the daily violence he confronts quickly reopens his war wounds, and Dheepan is forced to reconnect with his warrior’s instincts to protect the people he hopes will become his true family.

Winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, DHEEPAN led the march of similarly themed European films that explore immigration themes in a European context. Director Jacques Audiard (THE BEAT THAT MY HEART SKIPPED – HIFF 2005, A PROPHET, RUST AND BONE – HIFF 2012) explores immigration through the lens of a refugee from a war-torn nation who continues to be haunted by war. From Tamil Tigers, to Arab prisoners and thuggish hoodlums, director Audiard has a knack of exploring characters who attempt to escape from their own personal hells. DHEEPAN is an extension of this theme, and one that is telling of the current climate of immigration strife in Europe.
— Anderson Le

Click here for more info…


Friday, November 13, 6:30 PM — Regal Dole Cannery
Saturday, November 14, 2:00 PM — Regal Dole Cannery


120582Taxi passengers express their views and opinions as award winning filmmaker Jafar Panahi (currently under house arrest, since 2010, and charged for conspiring to create anti-Islamic propaganda) drives through the streets of Tehran, Iran, picking up passengers along the way who serve as conduits for a provocative discussion of Iranian social mores and the art of cinematic storytelling.

Panahi establishes the ground rules early on, when three disparate passengers enter his taxi in rapid succession: a loud-mouthed know-it-all who takes quick note of the small camera mounted on Panahi’s dashboard; a mild-mannered female schoolteacher who gets into a feisty row with the first man over the morality of capital punishment and Sharia law; and a flop-sweating DVD bootlegger (a nod to the only way “Taxi” will ever be seen in its home country), who recognizes Panahi and, after the other two passengers alight, asks the director if they were in fact actors playing out a scripted scene.

Thus the stage is set for a series of deft seriocomic episodes that bring Panahi (who exudes a warm, almost Chaplin-esque presence) into contact with a diverse cross-section of Tehran society, all captured from the fixed p.o.v. of the taxi’s dash-cam. Time and again, the car becomes a kind of impromptu film studio. Reminiscent of HBO’s TAXICAB CONFESSIONS, Jim Jarmusch’s NIGHT ON EARTH and Panahi’s own mentor, Abbas Kiarostami’s TEN. Although Panahi and his passengers are confined in a car for a brisk 82 minutes, TAXI makes many more stops around the world, before returning to the garage.

TAXI premiered in competition at the Berlin Film Festival, where it won the Golden Bear, the grand prize for best film. Click here for more info…


Saturday, November 14, 4:30 PM — Regal Dole Cannery

Sunday, November 15, 11:00 AM — Regal Dole Cannery

Nov 3, 2015
Prof. S. Shankar’s reflections on the current state of freedom and expression in India in Words Without Borders

Poetry and the Curse: On Censorship in India

(Originally Published in Words Without Borders)

By S. Shankar

If the free exchange of ideas is the oxygen of democracy, India’s vaunted open society is in grave danger of asphyxiation. On the morning of August 30, 2015, renowned Kannada rationalist scholar M. M. Kalburgi was shot dead, allegedly by right-wing assailants on a motorcycle. This brazen act, just the latest in a series that includes the murders of writers and activists Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar, has led literary figures of the stature of novelist Sashi Deshpande and poet K. Satchidanandan to resign from posts in the Sahitya Akademi, India’s preeminent national literary institution, in protest of its lack of support for writers and scholars in the face of ever-increasing attacks. To put the matter bluntly—the situation in India with regard to freedom of expression is dire.

The Modern Language Association, the largest professional organization in the world representing scholars of languages and literature, too has weighed in on the worsening situation in India, albeit obliquely. At the urging of me and other members, earlier this year the association released a statement, available on its website. The statement notes:  “The Modern Language Association condemns both the censorship of work treating controversial religious subjects and physical threats directed at the authors of such work. Recent instances include the harassment of the University of Chicago Indologist Wendy Doniger and the Tamil novelist Perumal Murugan.”  The proximate reason for the letter exhorting a public stance I sent to the Executive Council on behalf of several signatories was indeed the recent attack within India on Perumal Murugan, mentioned in the statement. Murugan has been forced to flee his hometown and even renounce writing because of the perceived offense caused by his novel Mathorubagan. Of course, the larger censorship story of which the Murugan episode is a part was also very much in my mind. It is gratifying that the MLA has spoken out at its members’ urging, but frankly, given the gravity of the situation, it is hard to deny that the statement, which mentions incidents pertaining to India but does not name the country, is unnecessarily timid.

Given these recent events of unbridled violence and even murder, should we conclude that those with power in India—politicians, state officials, influential non-state actors—are growing increasingly intolerant? No one can be blamed for answering “Yes, of course.” Evidence of intolerance grows month by month. On the occasion of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Silicon Valley a few weeks ago, for example, I signed an open letter expressing grave misgivings regarding the Indian government’s safeguarding of privacy, academic freedom, and freedom of expression. Soon, hate mail began arriving in my inbox (and in the inboxes of other signatories), some of it containing thinly veiled threats of physical violence.

Censorship has ebbed and flowed in India since independence in 1947. But by any measure, the current situation would have to be considered desperate. There is blame enough to go around for this state of affairs, though evidence suggests that the lion’s share belongs to the Hindu right, which has its links to the Bharatiya Janata Party, now in power in New Delhi.

I can only surmise that things have come to this sorry pass because those currently in power in India have not really understood one of their own treasured narratives—which is at the same time, I want to insist, “mine” as much as “theirs.” The story of the origin of the ancient Sanskrit epic the Ramayana is admittedly ambiguous but still instructive regarding the social role of discourse and imagination. In the story, two birds on a tree are engaging in amorous play watched by the sage Valmiki when one is shot dead by a hunter with an arrow. Witnessing the inconsolable grieving of the remaining bird, words expressing sorrow (soka) burst from Valmiki’s lips in the form of a metrical poetic unit (sloka). In that sloka of soka, Valmiki curses the hunter to suffer forever for his cruelty to an unsuspecting bird. Simultaneously Valmiki, now provided with the literary form he needs, is converted into the author of what is arguably one of the greatest tales ever told. Cursing sage becomes inspired poet.

It is easy to read this story as only positing implacable opposition between Valmiki, who represents poets, and the hunter, who represents heartless violence. In the world of the Ramayana, the sage is powerful in social status as well as in his personal ability to impose a curse through his words; and through this dual power, he confronts and condemns the alternative power of physical violence represented by the socially inferior hunter. The partial parallel with current events in India—the social inferiority of the hunter in the epic does not map easily on to the contemporary scene—is illuminating. Isn’t it fear of condemnation—dread, that is, of the power of the word to speak truth and to render justice—that led to the attacks on Perumal Murugan and the brutal murder of M. M. Kalburgi? On the other hand, the powerful in India are not like the hunter—indeed they have little respect for the “tribal” forms of life represented by the hunter. Unlike the hunter, who does not attack the sage despite being condemned, the powerful in India have trained their arrows on the poets of our times with deadly force.

There is a second, perhaps more subtle, way in which the story of the Ramayana’s origin can be understood as commenting on the place of the word in the world. Looked at from another angle, sloka is poetry rather than curse—that is, it is a grief-stricken but also redemptive art rather than a discourse of potent vengeance. In this alternative reading, the story teaches us that the addition of one small sound—soka becoming sloka—turns the sorrow of life into the compensation of literature. It instructs us that literature is close to life but not the same as life. Literature engages life, without completely disappearing into it. There remains always a distinction between sokaand slokasloka is almost soka but not quite.

The Hindu fundamentalists of today claim to love the Ramayana but secretly fear the power of imagination that gave it life. Refusing to read well, they treat the discourse of literature—indeed, discourse in general—as if it were the same as the experience of life. They forget that the statement of an opinion or the writing of a literary work is not the same as the shooting of an arrow or the firing of a gun, and that if the hunter in the story had turned on Valmiki before a curse could escape the sage’s venerable lips there might very well have been no Ramayana—no timeless narrative of the god Rama, his love for his wife Sita, and the sorrows of separation.

The survival of a free society depends on a general understanding that discourse is indeed powerful but is not the same as life. This distinction is necessary because it grants a vital freedom to the exercise of the imagination. If not in ideas and stories, how else is a thriving society to explore, to test its own limits, and thus grow? India is routinely heralded as a great experiment in democracy; but that experiment will surely be choked out and die if the powerful insist on cutting off the oxygen on which it survives.

Oct 16, 2015
EWC Exhibition – “Parsi: Silk & Muslin from Iran, India, & China”


Click here for more information on the EWC Website:

Sep 16, 2015
New UH Publication: “Story is a Vagabond: Fiction, Drama, and Essays by Intizar Husain”

Series editor is Prof. Fran Stewart (UH English Dept.) with co-editors Alok Bhalla, Asif Farrukhi, and Nishat ZaidiIntizar hussain announcementIntizar hussain announcement 2

Aug 31, 2015
Nepal Earthquake: CSAS Donations Used for Educational Sponsorship of Children Survivors
​The CSAS thanks all those at UHM who generously donated funds toward relief and reconstruction efforts in Nepal in the wake of the April earthquake. The $570 raised by the Center for South Asian Studies in May have gone toward an educational sponsorship fund
​ set up​ for the three young children identified by ​two UHM graduate students, ​Gita Neupane ​(Sociology) and Bal Sharma (Second Language Studies), who were in Nepal at the time of earthquake. Sadie Green, who graduated with a Masters degree in Asian Studies in the spring of 2015 and has worked for many years with non-profit ​organizations in Nepal, identified the Himalayan Children’s Charities (HCC). The charity has agreed to coordinate with the family and the ​school to support the education of the three children, ​Manju Tamang (11 years old), Anish Tamang (5 years old) and Sharmilla Tamang (2.5 years old).  We thank Gita, Bal, Sadie and community member, Sanjeev Ranabhat, for their tireless efforts.

You will find the details in this report by Sadie Green sent to us by the Himalayan Children’s Charities: Education Support for Children Affected by the Earthquake in Nepal 

The Himalayan Children’s Charities (HCC) has also agreed to coordinate an educational scholarship program for more than a hundred children, who lost their parents in the earthquake, in the remote Dhading district. These children were identified through the initiative of Arjun Aryal, a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at UHM. The Dhading Children’s Initiative is a collaborative effort between the Society of Nepalese in Hawaii (SNEHA), Fun Kids Nepal, Himalayan Children’s Charities (HCC), and the Keenan Foundation.

Jul 14, 2015
Call for Papers: Special Issue of Biography on Caste and Life Narratives

Caste and Life Narratives
Special Issue of Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly

Guest Editors: Dr. S. Shankar, Department of English, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, USA, and Dr. Charu Gupta, Department of History, University of Delhi, India.

Submit: 400-word abstracts to S. Shankar ( and Charu Gupta ( by September 15, 2015

Life Narratives (biographies, autobiographies, Facebook posts, legal testimonials, personal essays, memoirs, blogs, confessional poetry—the possibilities are many) are an important site for the construction as well as dismantling of identities. This special issue of the journal Biography explores the linkages between caste identities and representations of a life in diverse modes and languages.

Caste—a social category based on hierarchy, heredity and ideologies of contamination and exclusion—is often associated with South Asia and more particularly India. The recent political as well as intellectual mobilization of Dalits in India provides an important impetus for this special issue. The critiques of caste offered by Ambedkar, Periyar and other anti-caste crusaders are at the heart of this special issue. However, the special issue does not restrict itself to Dalit or similar life narratives but rather is concerned with caste in general. Just as contending with racism should not fall only to those groups oppressed by race but is illuminated in crucial ways by their perspectives, so too caste is not the burden of Dalits alone even as Dalit critiques offer crucial perspectives on caste.

Accordingly, the special issue sets out to offer theoretical and critical examinations of a variety of narrations of lives lived under structures of caste but is motivated throughout by Dalit and other insights critical of caste. Some sample questions (meant only to suggest the breadth of possible topics and approaches): 

  • How have autobiographical forms such as testimonio been important in testifying to the breadth and ferocity of caste oppression?
  • Why have autobiographies played such an important role in the recent boom in Dalit writing in Marathi, Hindi, and Tamil?
  • What is the role of caste in biographies of Indian nationalist leaders such as Gandhi and Nehru?
  • Can the visual representations of B. R. Ambedkar, ubiquitous in certain urban spaces of India, be read as forms of life narrative, and if so, what do they narrate?
  • In what ways are the lives of “low caste” people narrated in folk forms (for example, the songs of Gadar)?
  • How is caste (mis)represented in biopics (Periyar, The Dirty Picture, Bandit Queen)?
  • How have social media, websites and blogs enabled or otherwise distorted the representation of lives marked by caste?
  • What is the role of caste in literary autobiographies by writers in English such as Nirad C. Chaudhuri and R. K. Narayan?
  • How do life narratives reveal or veil the intersections of caste and other social categories such as gender and sexuality?
  • How do diasporic life narratives represent or ignore caste?
  • Given the strong association of caste with Hinduism, how is caste represented in a Christian or Muslim life narrative (for example in the work of Tamil writer Bama)?
  • Are life narratives of women different from men, and what happens when they intersect with narrativizations of caste?
  • Are life narratives by Dalits as much about the individual as the community?
  • When do narratives of pain and suffering come to constitute the cultural capital of Dalit life testimonies? How does quotidian and routine caste violence, through which stigma is perpetuated in, on and through Dalit bodies, undergird life narratives of Dalits?
  • Can one discern shifts or divergent strands in life narratives about caste, whereby stigmatization has given way to a “positive” ethical assertion of life?

Although caste has come to be associated almost exclusively with India or South Asia, it is not unique to that part of the world. This special issue is open to work that explores representations of caste in life narratives from other parts of the world; and also to comparative studies that might, for example, juxtapose representations of caste and race in life narratives.

Please note that Biography will arrange for contributors to present drafts of their papers at the University of Hawai‘i in Honolulu at the end of August 2016.



Jun 1, 2015
UH CSAS Grad Student Rajiv Mohabir receives the 2015 Kundiman Poetry Prize for 2nd book and a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant

2015 Kundiman Poetry Prize Announcement


Tupelo Press is delighted to announce that Tupelo Press Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Levine and Associate Poetry Editor Cassandra Cleghorn have selected Rajiv Mohabir of Honolulu, Hawai’i as winner of the 2015 Kundiman Poetry Prize for his manuscript, The Cowherd’s Son.


 Winner of 2015 AWP Intro Journal Award and the 2014 Intro Prize in Poetry by Four Way Books for his first full-length collection The Taxidermist’s Cut (Spring 2016), and recipient of a PEN/ Heim Translation Fund Grant, Rajiv Mohabir received fellowships from Voices of Our Nation’s Artist foundation, Kundiman, and the American Institute of Indian Studies language program. His poetry and translations are internationally published or forthcoming from journals such as Best American Poetry 2015, Quarterly West, Guernica, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, Drunken Boat, Anti-, Great River Review, PANK, and Aufgabe. He received his MFA in Poetry and Translation from at Queens College, CUNY where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Ozone Park Literary Journal. Currently he is pursuing a PhD in English from the University of Hawai`i, where he teaches poetry and composition.


The winner receives a $1,000 cash prize, publication by Tupelo Press, and national distribution.


This is the first year of the new partnership between Tupelo Press and Kundiman, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation and cultivation of Asian American writing. Starting this year, Tupelo will be the new book publisher of The Kundiman Poetry Prize. Now in its 6th year, The Kundiman Poetry Prize  ensures the annual publication of a book by an Asian American poet. The award is open to self-identified Asian American poets at any stage in their careers. Tupelo Press could not be prouder of this new association.


Announcing 2015 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Winners

The Translation Fund, now celebrating its twelfth year, is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s competition. The Fund received a record number of applications this year—226 total—spanning a wide array of languages of origin, genres, and eras. From this vast field of applicants, the Fund’s Advisory Board—Esther Allen, Mitzi Angel, Peter Blackstock, Howard Goldblatt, Sara Khalili, Michael F. Moore*, Declan Spring, and Alex Zucker—has selected sixteen projects which will each receive a grant of $3,100 to assist in their completion (*Voting Chair of the PEN/Heim Advisory Board).

“Translation is the lifeblood of literature. The PEN/Heim Translation Fund is at the very center of our lives as readers, making clear each year the richness and variety of what is being done in other languages, thus adding to the freedom of the word to move us and change us.”

Colm Tóibín, Chair, PEN World Voices Festival

Rajiv Mohabir is a recipient for one of these awards for his translation of Lalbihari Sharma’s Holi Songs of Demerara. Published in 1916, Sharma’s collection of folksongs is the only known literary work to be written by an indentured Indo-Caribbean writer. One of hundreds of Indians indentured to work the sugarcane fields in Guyana, Sharma’s mesmerizing songs, in Mohabir’s deft and elegant translation, tell of life on the plantations, of labor, love, loss, and longing. (Available for publication)


From abroad Piya sends no word.
I’m listless; it’s the month of Phagun
without my love. The papiha bird cries,

I’m overcome—
He stole away to another country
without telling me. The rain falls
like arrows or serpents

stirring worry in my heart.
All of the men search for him.
How can I be patient when my youth
itself is a poisoned arrow? Night and day

I sit watching for any sign.

Apr 29, 2015
Nepal Earthquake Relief Information

For earthquake relief:

Please note that the CSAS does not endorse any of these organizations.


We are sharing links to articles about the earthquake written by authors who are in Honolulu, at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, or have links to UHM.

Hawaii Can Help After Devastating Earthquake in Nepal: “When I see the pictures, I cry. The pain and agony of my people is unbearable.”

·By SANJEEV RANABHAT (Click here for link to the article in Civil Beat) 
  • Sanjeev lives in Honolulu and contributes to the Civil Beat.
The Nepali community is devastated. On Saturday, a 7.8 or 7.9 magnitude earthquake shook much of the country, with continuing aftershocks, landslides, flooding and avalanches. Millions of people are affected and thousands are dead, injured and missing.

Thankfully, I have been able to contact my immediate family members, who are safe for the time being. Some of my relatives’ houses are completely demolished and I still haven’t heard from many of my relatives and friends.

As the epicenter moves from the west to the east of the Kathmandu Valley, there have been many powerful aftershocks, as strong as 6.7, and people are too scared to go inside. My father says there are about 30 families camping out in our yard in Bhaktapur District, braving the wind and rain.

Nepal earthquake April 2015

People search the rubble in the Kathmandu Valley for survivors of a catastrophic earthquake in Nepal.

It is snowing at higher elevations, and although media has yet to penetrate much of the rural affected areas, it seems that many villages have been devastated. 

There is no power, Internet, or clean drinking water, and scarce medical supplies and food. People are extremely scared. My sister and sister-in-law were on a sixth floor when the earthquake struck. They tried to run outside with my month-old niece and it was so intense that they thought they were going to die.

Luckily, they are all safe. My brother sent me a message that reads, “Kathmandu is completely destroyed.”

I can’t believe what is happening in my country. Dust and gloom covers the Kathmandu Valley and people are confused, hopeless and in grief with hundreds of dead bodies lying on the streets, thousands of people trapped and homes collapsed. 

As a poor nation, our infrastructure is already lacking and we do not have the necessary basic emergencies supplies. Overwhelmed hospitals are operating in makeshift camps outside.

When I see the pictures, I cry. The pain and agony of my people is unbearable. We have lost thousands of years of our cultural heritage, as temples, monuments and stupas lay in ruin. Bhaktapur city, once known as  “a city of more temples than houses,” literally collapsed in seconds.

This is the situation of the capital of Nepal, home to more than a million people.

We have not heard from many rural areas of the country, but a report from a village in the Gorkha District stated only four of 1,200 homes remain standing! Massive landslides and flooding are sweeping away entire villages and surviving communities have related their needs for immediate assistance and their fear of what is to come. 

CNN and BBC are also broadcasting the videos of avalanches at Mount Everest triggered by the earthquake and aftershocks. More than 19 people have died, and hundreds are missing.

Brutal images are circulating of large numbers of corpses in on streets, dead bodies of little children being taken out from rubbles, people crying and praying for help. 

We Nepalese are helpless, shocked and crushed. Our nation is falling apart. Please donate wisely and generously to Nepal’s relief and recovery!

For those seeking reputable organizations to support, the Society of Nepalese in Hawaii 501c3 is raising funds for relief efforts.

There are also a number of organizations providing immediate disaster relief, such as those listed on the Association for Nepali and Himalayan Studies (ANHS) website

The ANHS site also provides information including agency platforms, ratings and detailed campaign details in order to help you access how you can make the biggest impact with your donation. 

Nepal Earthquake: We had been Warned

by SAMRAT UPADHAY. April 27, 2015 (Click here for link to article)

  • Samarat Upadhay is a UHM alum who is the Martha C. Kraft Professor of the Humanities in the English Department at Indiana University-Bloomington, where he teaches in the Creative Writing Program. He is the author of several books published by Houghton Mifflin including Arresting God in Kathmandu, a collection of short stories (2001)and The City Son (2014).

Images coming out of Nepal’s devastating earthquake on Saturday reminded me of another earthquake of similar magnitude that occurred 81 years ago. That earthquake of 1934, or nabbey salko bhuichalo, as it was referred to throughout my childhood in Katmandu, had acquired an air of a legend, delivered in black-and-white photos of men and women in traditional garb standing amid the rubble.

But the 1934 earthquake, which killed more than 10,000 people, was a thing of the past, recalled by old folks, resurrected only in history books and works of fiction. History came alive on Saturday at 5 a.m. when I opened my laptop to write, in Bloomington, Ind., and saw the news.

I awoke my wife, who through bleary eyes looked at me in disbelief as I told her, “This is a big one.” The next few hours were spent in frantic attempts to contact our loved ones in Katmandu; first and foremost my parents, whose old age makes them vulnerable, and my wife’s mother, a widow, who lives in a tall building.

For many Nepali expatriates, attachment to the homeland is fierce. I love America, but Nepal is my home —it’s a landscape I have returned to in all of my novels and short stories. And every year I return in person, with my MFA students. Last year we went up to the Himalayan region of Mustang, where my students bathed in the icy cold water from the 108 springs around Muktinath Temple, situated at 12,000 feet. Throughout the trip I was moved by Nepal’s beauty and moved even more by the kindness of the Nepalis we encountered, from the old grandma who served us food at Hotel Bob Marley in Muktinath, to the hotel owner in the resort town of Pokhara who went out of his way to arrange transport for us.

That such calamity would befall such generous people is heart-rending. The initial quake on Saturday has been followed by countless aftershocks that have everyone panicked. Reports are coming in of entire villages laid waste in the mountains. My parents, with whom communication has been difficult because of erratic phone connections and lack of electricity, are camped out in rain on a small field near their home on the outskirts of Katmandu. My mother-in-law is staying with one of her daughters.

We had been warned. In the early ’90s, when I returned to live in Nepal for two years, the country experienced mild earthquakes. Articles appeared in newspapers claiming that a major earthquake was imminent. The reason: movement of tectonic plates in the Himalayas, the very process that created those mountain peaks of stunning beauty in the first place. Concerns were raised about lack of preparedness, especially with the alarming growth of shoddily constructed buildings. But these prophesies of a major trembler didn’t come true. I was among those who thought the experts were exaggerating.

Now this. Thousands have lost their lives, many more have lost their homes, and centuries-old temples, prized for their exquisite carvings in Katmandu Valley’s old palace squares, have been destroyed. Katmandu Durbar Square is in ruins. Patan Durbar Square has been devastated. These were World Heritage sites so, in a very literal sense, the whole world has lost physical access to its cultural history.

Last year my students took photos of erotic carvings in the Jagan Narayan Temple in Patan Durbar Square for Indiana University’s Alfred Kinsey Institute. That temple is now gone. In 2010 we climbed the Dharahara tower in central Katmandu for a panoramic view of this chaotic yet vibrant city. The tower, whose original structure dates to 1832, had collapsed in 1934 and was rebuilt. At the top I remember — now with horror — telling my students that the monument was vulnerable to another collapse because Nepal was so earthquake prone. On Saturday, Dharahara was reduced to a stump.

Nepalis, most of whom are Hindus and Buddhists, are well attuned to the idea that nothing is permanent. The champion of impermanence, Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, was born in Nepal. He also taught that life, by its very nature, is filled with suffering.

We Nepalis know suffering. We survived a century-long Rana oligarchy that had most of the country in rags, and the decades-long repressive Panchayat system that kept power in the hands of the king and the caste elites. The 1990 pro-democracy movement ushered in a constitutional monarchy — and then a civil war left thousands dead. Petty politicians have stymied efforts to make a new constitution.

But my people are also resilient. Already Nepalis are uniting to deal with this most recent tragedy. They are digging through the rubble for survivors.

“Feeling helpless,” my wife wrote on her Facebook page. When we have managed to connect, it’s our loved ones in Nepal who have reassured us, rather than the other way around: “Don’t worry, we’re fine. It’ll be OK.”

Samrat Upadhyay’s novel “The City Son,” set in Katmandu, is a finalist for the PEN Open Book Award. For donations to Nepal, please visit

In Nepal: Lift spirits through music

by Anna Stirr (Click here for link to article)

  • Anna Stirr is assistant professor in the Asian Studies Program at UHM.  She specializes in Himalayan cultures.

(CNN)—Living on the fault line that has produced the world’s highest mountain ranges, the people of Nepal knew there would be a major earthquake someday.

Yet last Saturday’s heartbreaking losses still come as a devastating blow, from which Nepal will take years to recover. As the world pitches in to help with immediate relief, thoughts are also beginning to turn to long-term recovery. In the aftermath of the quake, Nepal’s musical traditions can help buoy the resilience and spirit necessary to rebuild the country.

When they could finally reach each other by phone, flutist Nirmal Singh related his experience of the earthquake to his uncle in Hawaii, who relayed his story to me. Nirmal was performing at a Hindu flutes and fled the stage, seeking shelter in the open with other musicians and audience members alike. They watched helplessly as Kathmandu crumbled around them. In that moment, they felt their hearts crumble, too.

One day, he will perform music again

Several days later, Nirmal remains in a makeshift camp near the performance site, reeling from the earthquake’s devastation. He is trying to get up the courage to walk the five or so miles to his apartment, thinking of the devastation he will pass along the way, and fearful of what he might find when he gets home. Heavy-hearted, he doesn’t feel like playing music yet. But he takes comfort in listening.

Nirmal comes from a family of flutists and flute makers. His uncle, fellow flutist and flute maker Ram Kumar Singh, told me he believes music and art will be necessary for the healing process. “When we see and hear Nepali cultural sounds and images, it creates a mood for the victims to be more positive and to unite. Folk music and arts are the medium that creates a feeling of humanity. It totally ignores differences like ethnicity and political parties.”

For the last several years, Nepal’s government has been trying to restructure the state after a 10-year civil war (1996-2006). Amid well-meaning efforts to right decades of wrongs against marginalized peoples, ethnic identity politics have become a sticking point, and the major political parties have created a stalemate by refusing to compromise.

While marginalized groups fight for long-denied rights and representation, others use the threat of national disintegration to uphold their power and the status quo.

A way to further unity among people of Nepal

Regardless of their own ethnicity or political affiliation, musicians often embrace politics of a different sort. Their claims that music transcends differences are only partly true. Just as often, music and other performing arts celebrate difference, asserting proud identities associated with the country’s 126 registered ethnic groups, 123 spoken languages, and many regional and religious affiliations. Yet they do this in the spirit of social inclusion, appealing to notions of common humanity. The politics of music becomes a politics of humanistic unity, rather than antagonistic power plays.

This may sound a bit utopian. But in artists’ and ordinary folks’ musical responses to the quake, this prevailing discourse about music and unity may help avoid some of the problems that have occurred after other natural disasters. The power struggles over access to aid following the earthquake in Haiti and the tsunami in Sri Lanka threatened neighbors’ peaceful co-existence.

Nepal will face similar challenges in the coming weeks, as relief efforts strive to distribute resources equitably under difficult conditions. The extent of damages in hard-hit rural areas still remains to be determined.

So far, reports paint a picture of a country rallying together to survive. In another Kathmandu camp, writer Sanjeev Pokharel tweeted his delight at hearing his neighbors in the next tent singing. Music’s symbolic social harmony lives on. Laments provide shared catharsis, the continuation of local traditions sounding elements of hope.

In 2006, the Nepali folk band Kutumba played for programs about disaster relief. I was a guest performer, as was Barta Gandharva, a young singer and sarangi fiddle player. “Let’s be safe from earthquakes!” Barta sang to a crowd in the ancient town of Sanothimi, a few miles east of Kathmandu. This town was all but destroyed in the last major earthquake of 1934, and on Saturday was once again reduced to rubble.

That day in 2006, we called elders up to the stage, and they told us their memories of the 1934 earthquake. “Everything was broken,” said one old man. “Our hearts still cry, remembering.” For a few moments he appeared lost in his sadness, years of hardships etched in the lines on his face. Then he, too, began to dance to the music.

Other Organizations

Also, organizations such as the Red Cross, the World Food Program, Oxfam and Global Giving all have good reputations for this sort of crisis intervention and have set up donation sites especially for the crisis.

World Food Program –

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