Monday, January 14, 2008

Homosexuality in Indian Society by SUTRA Magazine

Being Indian; be it in India, South Africa, or anywhere else in the world; our roots are grounded in conservative layers of impermeable teachings. We are in the 21st century and even so, our traditionalist principals and values remain. This is a strong point in our culture, but also a weakness. It is important to note that principals should remain steadfast only if they are commendable and impartial.

Homosexuality in Indian Society

SUTRA looks back at the life of (and recognizes) the first and, to date most prominent gay activist in India.

Ashok Row Kavi was born on 1 June 1947, in Mumbai. He was educated in Mumbai’s “Bombay Scottish High School”, and then moved on to Bombay University where he achieved his Honors in Chemistry.

He later achieved a diploma in Theology from the Ramakrishna Math, at which stage he trained to be a monk. During this period he realized his homosexuality and had come to accept it. Ashok came out in 1868, when he did an interview in Savvy magazine.

SUTRA looks at an extract from an interview with Ashok Row Kavi, and Perry Brass, author of How to Survive Your Own Gay Life:

Can you tell us something about yourself? How did you end up being virtually the only openly gay man in India to speak out on the HIV issue there?

Ashok Row Kavi: “I was born in Bombay on June 1st, 1947, a premature baby not expected to live. Amma and Anna (Mom and Dad) were Brahmin refugees fleeing poverty in South India. Anna finally became a leading light in Bollywood (India's Hollywood) and a founding member of the Indian Motion Pictures' Producers' Association.

I was educated in Mumbai's elite Bombay Scottish High School from whose Secondary School I graduated. I got an Honours in Chemistry from Bombay University after two years doing textile engineering at the prestigious Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute (VJTI) in Bombay.

I did my diploma in religion and comparative theology from the Ramakrishna Math where I trained to be a monk. I also discovered my gay nature there and was given sensible counseling for it by the monks. "Accept it as natural. Whatever occurs in nature is natural though it may not be common," advised my counselor, Swami Harshananda.

I returned from the monastery to do a post graduate in Journalism while working as a trainee in the Free Press Journal, and finally joined the "Indian Express" chain of newspapers in Bombay. I started India's first Playboy clone, Debonair, with my English friend Anthony Van Braband in 1971.

I left the Express to start India's first morning tabloid, The Daily in 1981, left that to become city editor of my home ground newspaper, Free Press Journal. I then became bureau chief of India's newsweekly, The Week. There I came out, creating a ruckus in the conservative Christian management.

I quit journalism in 1990, after attending the Fifth International AIDS Conference in 1989 at Montreal, where I was aghast to see American gay men fighting for their very lives to get funding to fight AIDS.

I had come out openly as a gay man in 1986 (while at The Week), when I did an interview in Savvy, one of India's most controversial feminist magazines, explaining what "gay" really meant. It was not only a first but started a furor because of the plain speaking I did about the numbers [of Indian men] involved...

Before that I used to review books on homosexuality, and thus gave a good inkling that I was queer from the insights I had into the homosexual world in India. Coming out was a natural defense mechanism, but I now wonder. So many people have forgotten my long innings in journalism, human rights and my reportage in such famous cases like the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, where I was one of the first journalists to get in while thousands were dying.
I've become just a "gay activist," which is a very uni-dimensional look at my life. I have interests in religion, social biology, sexuality, science and even astronomy. I have reported developments in India's atomic energy establishment, the speeches of Indira Gandhi and her downfall, done court reporting, reported death and disaster on a huge scale. I am not just a gay activist: I am India spanning 50 years of her 5,000 year old civilization. A sliver of it, but a good representative one, no doubt.” - Ashok Row Kavi

Kommal Publishing (pty) Ltd.
SUTRA Magazine
021 674 4555

Friday, January 11, 2008


What does some of South Africa's Industry leaders have say about SUTRA™?

“The publication is very informative and covers a wide range of topics. The appearance is classy and professional, just like the people that work for the company. The magazine appeals to different age groups and individuals with different backgrounds, although targeting the Indian community, the features in the magazine goes across various ethnic groups. I believe it that SUTRA is an exceptional read!”

“I think SUTRA is a great opportunity for the Indian community to be able to profile the culture, the interests, as well as many other things that are happening in the country as well as abroad which are so pertinent to the Indian community. I think it is a great project to support. I am personally excited by the fact that there is going to be a niche market magazine that is going to be available for the Indian community, which is a very rare thing in South Africa, considering that we account for just about 3 percent of the population. I think it is about time that we do such a thing!”

“I absolutely loved the magazine - A beautiful gloss with well researched articles.”

“Congratulations for having come out with an excellent publication entitled Sutra which was really long due especially for the South Africans of Indian origin. The magazine will certainly unfold rich variety of traditions and culture that India is known for ages through its contents on entertainment and lifestyle.
I wish all success to SUTRA Magazine team.”

“The magazine Sutra is set for a healthy run in the Western Cape and the World!!!......The mag has everything a sophisticated person would want to read about and also to learn about the magic of living life to the fullest. I like that the articles are kept short as I have a hectic lifestyle. I could pick it up read and then leave it, and then later on return to it and start reading a new article. I think that is a great feature. Your layouts are lovely and the glossy paper really adds to your magazine's glamorous look. I wish you all the luck and success for your magazine and my friends and I had a great time at the launch.”

“We enjoyed going through the launch issue of ‘Sutra’. It is an impressive and colourful publication. We are confident that the magazine will serve a very useful purpose for South Africans of Indian origin. It will certainly help in making them more aware of their cultural links with India. We wish it success in future!”

Kommal Publishing (Pty) Ltd.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

SUTRA ™ on Anxiety and Stress

The 21st century has brought with it the spread of advancement in every facet of our lives. With progression, basic needs have become secondary and this neurotic desire for improvement over shadows the ‘would be’ mediocre aspects of our lives -in particular, our mental wellbeing with regard to stress and anxiety has gained a greater importance. So how do we identify and cope with anxiety in a way that does not affect the way ahead? SUTRA™ takes a look…

We all experience anxiety in one way or another, almost everyday; and it rears its head during stressful or potentially stressful situations. The symptoms include but are not limited to muscular tension, heart rate elevation and fidgeting.

So, if anxiety is - to say the least – undesirable, why is it that we experience anxiety so regularly, and during significant situations?

Well, studies have shown that anxiety in reasonable quantity is good for us! The fact is, corporal and logical performance is motivated by anxiety, it fine tunes our reaction, allows us to think more clearly. This type of stress is known as “eu-stress”.

Contrarily, anxiety in excess creates the feeling of severe harm and stress, known as “dis-stress”. Anxiety may lead to panic attacks which surfaces with symptoms such as sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, the sensation of choking, abdominal stress, hot flushes, chest pain, and/or derealisation. Although one may feel as though he/she is about to die, panic attacks pose no real danger.

Social aspects contribute drastically to the frequency of anxiety. The fast paced and hectic lifestyles we lead leave little room for harmonization and balance, and so the likelihood of suffering a panic attack is heightened. Marriage, children, work and illness all readily add the occurrence of anxiety and panic attacks.

According to SUTRA™, “In order to cope with and minimize anxiety it is essential to create an effective work / life balance.” Yes, in this day and age, we all are working toward a common goal – the improvement of our lives and that of those who are closest to us. In order to do this efficiently, we need to ensure that all aspects of our being, - mental, physical and spiritual - are nourished; says SUTRA™.

SUTRA™ Magazine
Kommal Publishing (Pty) Ltd.