How Ambi became Paisley: "It began as a teardrop in Babylon. Where the sunlight came from Astarte, shameless goddess of the fecund feminine. The boteh. Stylized rendition of the date palm shoot, tree of life, fertility symbol. It danced through Celtic art, until the heavy feet of Roman legionaries tramped over the Alps. Then it fled the wrath of Mars and Jupiter, dove underground as Empire rose ." From Shailja Patel's Migritude. Here's a short film about the Migritude project (book on Amazon).
A dakhma, or "tower of silence" is an ancient structure created by Zoroastrians for the disposal of the dead. Within an elevated courtyard, surrounded by high walls the bodies of the deceased are laid out in a circle. Vultures descend into the structure and consume the bodies. Like the Tibetan sky burial the gift of one's flesh to the birds is seen as a final act of charity by the deceased. After the bones bleach in the sun they are put into a ossuary or placed into a central pit to crumble to dust. While Iranian Zoroastrians ended their use 40 years ago the tradition continues in India. A pesticide related decline in vulture population is endangering the practice.
The Mumbai Parsi community is hoping to return vultures to their traditional and religious role of eating the dead by building aviaries near the Towers of Silence where the Zoroastrian dead are laid out to be stripped clean by vultures. For the past fifteen years, there have been barely a dozen vultures in Mumbai, and members of the community have increasingly turned to cremation (especially during the rainy season), which the religion considers unclean. The community hopes to have vultures return to eating the dead by February 2014. [more inside]
"Take everything you know and imagine about Freddie Mercury: the iconic British rock star, the philandering partier, the serial maker of testosteroned-anthems, and flip it around to something less familiar: Farrokh Bulsara, a demure, bucktoothed Indian boy in a Bombay boarding school, listening to Lata Mangeshkar, playing cricket." -- Janaki Challa writes about the contradiction in the openly gay image of Freddie Mercury the performer and his much more private cultural identity off it.