#FACON23!

The Fulbright Association Conference schedule is live! I’m honored to be jetting to Denver later this month to rep my alma mater NYU Tisch School of the Arts where I also teach part-time, and grateful to have received a Tisch Adjunct Professional Development Grant to attend. I’ll be giving a 60-minute talk entitled “Happy Accidents: How a Mistakenly Published Play Forced Reforms in British India”.

My abstract: In 1860s India, Bengali playwright Dinabandhu Mitra wrote the play Nil Darpan (Indigo Mirror), an exposé of violent abuses committed against malnourished Indian farm workers by powerful British indigo dealers. With help from a Christian missionary the play was translated into English and shared with the office of Bengal’s Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Peter Grant. Grant approved a few copies to be printed to share with colleagues; instead, hundreds were mistakenly printed and distributed to Parliament members in England, outraging and embarrassing the British Raj. But would the amusing debacle help bring positive change and food security to Indian laborers? These events are well-known but have often been mythologized and misrepresented. Stanley will provide his own findings from Indian, UK and US newspapers of the day.

My Dinner With Tina

Why is this man making a hand-rabbit? Scroll down to find out.

If you missed my interview last night with the masterful Tina Brock of the IRC and would like to hear more about my mis/adventures in India, my work as a Fulbright Scholar and the nonfiction book I’m currently finishing, along with Tesla, ghosts, paan, religion, David Ives, and a few other surprises, you can catch it here on the IRC’s youtube channel:

 

 

My Way or the Yahweh

wapo


On Faith

A Jewish-Hindu connection

Talk about a crazy commute. After a spiritual encounter, a stranger and I spent the next 90 minutes discussing the nature of the universe.

Jeffrey Stanley, 7/23/13

Not so long ago after nearly 25 years as a hidebound New Yorker I moved to Philadelphia for my wife Pia’s career needs, inadvertently becoming part of a popular regional migration known to urban statisticians as the 6th borough phenomenon. She’s Indian-American and we’re raising our child in a bilingual home. I’m a writer and professor. She’s a scientist by day and an Indian classical dance professional by night. Religiously we are at best agnostic but culturally we are Hindus, and will identify ourselves as such when pressed, like on the hospital intake form the first time we took our baby in for a routine doctor’s visit.

This identification sits well with me. Despite growing up Nazarene in the Bible Belt I had long ago developed an affinity for Hindu philosophy—ever since I’d come across a used copy of the Bhagavad Gita at a flea market in high school and realized how similar it was to the New Testament. I still remember the perplexed look on my Sunday school teacher’s face the morning I brought the Gita to church. I had marked the sections that reminded me of Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount with an orange highlighter and asked him why Hindus were all going to Hell and we Christians weren’t. Suffice it say I quit going to church not long after that. Christianity just wasn’t speaking to me. When I met my wife-to-be years later while canoeing in Brooklyn’s fetid Gowanus Canal I fell in easily with her cultural worldview. We were a match made in moksha.

Imagine my surprise when, on a recent Friday afternoon while returning to Philly on a crowded New Jersey Transit train out of Manhattan’s Penn Station I came face to face with the power of YHWH.  I have regular writing and teaching obligations in New York City so I typically commute between the two cities once or twice a week. The pre-rush hour train was unusually packed and it was running local but that was fine with me. In fact I had chosen the local on purpose, adding an hour to my travel time to get as much work done on the typically placid ride as possible before reaching home and hurlyburly.

Still awaiting departure from Penn I sat alone next to the window of my three-seater bench, opened my netbook, and sank into writing comments on my university students’ movie scenes. This was my Screenwriting II class and the scripts weren’t half bad. I had barely made a dent in my work when a rocker in a long-sleeved T-shirt, jeans and two black triangular ear studs plopped down next to me. I felt mildly annoyed by the disruption as he took off his coat and tossed it on the overhead rack along with his bag, and I was relieved when he settled into his seat, took out a paperback and began to read. Hallelujah, he’d be quiet like me instead of yammering away or playing videogames on a so-called smartphone. I continued my work in peace but couldn’t help noticing that he was reading a book on Hinduism. Another time I might have struck up a conversation but I had a lot of work ahead so I kept my nose to the netbook.

Continue reading “My Way or the Yahweh”