Why I Left My White Therapist

VICE / January 18, 2017

She perpetuated the trauma that I had sought out therapy for in the first place.

Finding Help and Healing Through Santeria

BuzzFeed / September 26, 2016

Cuban santero Rudy Guardiola has hundreds of “godchildren” in New York and around the US. Like the religion itself, many of its followers, including young people who were drawn to Santeria over trendier forms of spirituality, are in a constant struggle to survive. At Rudy’s botanica, they find safety, healing, and hope.

There Can Be No Sex in Bollywood

BuzzFeed / April 27, 2016

Hindi cinema’s obsession with chastity has long helped fuel sexual violence and victim-blaming in India. Independent film is finally changing that.

Running Through India’s Rape Culture

BuzzFeed / March 10, 2016

Training for a marathon changed my body, and changed my relationship with it, too. Just not in the way I expected.

A Stranger in Our Midst

Open City / October 1, 2015

One writers group was robbed at gunpoint in Ditmas Park. The police and the community’s reactions were swift, but both seemed to miss the bigger picture.

The Genesis of the Alabama Mistrial

India Abroad / September 25, 2015

After the jury could not reach a verdict in the Sureshbhai Patel case, Chaya Babu speaks to the prosecution and the defense about what this means and what next.

Hate, Again: The Attack on Inderjit Singh Mukker

India Abroad / September 18, 2015

Chaya Babu reports on the endless spiral of hatred and a daily question of survival that it raises.

Good Girls Don’t Say Such Things

The Margins / September 10, 2015

On Sunday, August 30, we invited five writers to the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Park to respond to works in the Museum’s exhibition of Indian modernist and contemporary art, After Midnight, which closes this Sunday, September 13. This piece was written in response to Subodh Gupta’s multi-media sculpture “What does the room encompass that is not in the city?”

Can the police #HearUs?: Chaumtoli Huq Settles Racial Profiling Lawsuit with NYPD

India Abroad / September 4, 2015

After NYPD settles racial profiling lawsuit with Chaumtoli Huq but refuses basic reforms she asked for, the human rights attorney speaks to Chaya Babu about what next.

Shattering Silence in Banglatown

Open City / September 2, 2015

In Kensington, young Bangladeshi activists fight against apathy and inaction in the local community by organizing around the murder of a 13-year-old boy in Bangladesh earlier this summer.

‘We’re Just Going to Create Our Own Table’: SAIPAF 2015

India Abroad / August 28, 2015

Subcontinental artistes were delighted to find their own identifiable performing space with the entry of a new fest.

An Ode to the (Vanishing) Bodega

The Brooklyn Quarterly / August 13, 2015

When it comes to the shops that dot Church Avenue and some of its cross streets, the bodega essence is palpable. Some are called “delis,” others “groceries” and “markets.” A neon ATM sign inevitably flashes in the window.

Shedding the Security of Her Hair

Duke Magazine / July 28, 2015

On being beautiful without a marker of beauty.

What if Roy Lichtenstein Watched Desi Soaps?

India Abroad / July 24, 2015

Maria Qamar, the illustrator behind Hatecopy, speaks about her pop art-inspired desi comics and how art keeps her sane.

‘We’re Living Life Somewhat Afraid’: A New Jersey Community Responds to Hate Violence

India Abroad / July 24, 2015

After a hate attack on an Indian-American man in New Jersey, Chaya Babu visits the neighborhood where he lives and was assaulted, and finds a family and a community that is shocked, outraged and scared.

#OurPride: South Asian LGBT Voices on the SCOTUS Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

India Abroad / July 10, 2015

With the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage nationally, Chaya Babu reports on the victories gained and the battles that remain.

Ganesh & Kali: Seeing Myself in a Feminist Artist’s Goddess of Destruction

The Feminist Wire / May 14, 2015

The other day, I furiously penned a blog post after two simultaneous attacks that I am not the right kind of woman.

The Great Brooklyn Mojari Hunt

Open City / May 12, 2015

“Nobody wears those, so it’s kind of funny that you do,” she said, blowing swirls of smoke out of the corner of her mouth…

The Trials of Purvi Patel

The Brooklyn Quarterly / May 1, 2015

This week, lawyers representing Purvi Patel, the Indiana woman sentenced to twenty years in prison for what she maintains was a miscarriage (a jury convicted her of feticide in February), filed an appeal. If they succeed, it will be the first step in exonerating Patel of wrongdoing. It will also be a sorely needed victory for reproductive rights in America.

Beyond Black & White: Racism in Greek Life

India Abroad / May 8, 2015

After University of Oklahoma's Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter sparked national outrage with a racist chant caught on tape, Chaya Babu tracks how race shapes Greek life on American campuses.

Indian American Woman Sentenced to Prison for Feticide

India Abroad / April 10, 2015

Puvi Patel is the first woman in the US to be sentenced to prison for feticide. Chaya Babu reports on the verdict and the ripples of shock and fear.

They Do Not Do Silence: Transgender Poetry Duo DarkMatter

India Abroad / February 13, 2015

There is heart, vulnerability, rawness and often melancholy in DarkMatter's poetry, but Janani Balasubramanian and Alok Vaid-Menon are no less adept at sarcasm and satire. Chaya Babu spotlights the desi spoken word duo that is fast growing in visibility.

Little Pakistan’s Mission Man

Open City / December 12, 2014

Community organizing can be lonely work when you’re battling ghosts from a violent past.

Being Heems: Rapper Himanshu Suri on his Rebirth

India Abroad / October 31, 2014

Rapper Himanshu Suri chats with Chaya Babu about rediscovering himself.

Narendra Modi in New York: The Protests

India Abroad / October 10, 2014

On the other side of 7th Avenue, Chaya Babu finds a counter-narrative to the Indian American's love story with Narendra Modi.

Racism’s Past & Present in Ferguson

The Brooklyn Quarterly / August 22, 2014

As protests against the handling of Michael Brown’s death rage on in Ferguson, M.O., the scene, as well as its cause and its location, has scholars and the broader public pointing to the various ways the brutal death of a young black male is a direct legacy of America’s racially-divided past, with poignant resonance with specific moments in history.

Breaking the Silence Around Caste in the US

India Abroad / August 22, 2014

Thenmozhi Soundararajan works to break the shackles of caste for Dalits.

Rooted in Jazz, Embracing the Globe

India Abroad / May 2, 2014

Chaya Babu discovers the musical influences that shape the unique vision of singer Kavita Shah.

Coolie Woman: Behind the ‘C’ Word

CIMA Magazine / January 2, 2014

“Was she a victim – or had she taken charge of her own destiny?” Gaiutra Bahadur asks of her great-grandmother in Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture. Her new book paints a picture of life as an indentured woman in the West Indies, the oppression, harsh physical labor, violence, misogyny; the muddled contradiction of a reality that offered more choice than previously imaginable while harboring a vortex of endless sexual exploitation.

For Indian Girls, Radical Black Feminism or the American Dream?

Racialicious / November 19, 2013

When two famous black feminists take the stage to discuss social justice and feminism, or more specifically, how race and class impact african american women’s experiences in the US, why is it that i, an indian american woman from pretty, affluent briarcliff manor, new york, feel at home? how is this where i feel whole, recognized, and validated?

Tattoos & Traditions: Anil Gupta on his Craft

India Abroad / November 15, 2013

Chaya Babu gets a peek into the inside world of Anil Gupta, one of the world's top inkers

That First Day in America

India Abroad / October 25, 2013

Kathari's short story of her first day on American soil as an Indian immigrant is among the stories collected by the South Asian American Digital Archive, a non-profit organization based in Philadelphia, as a part of the First Days Project.

The Anatomy of Muslim Masculinity

India Abroad / August 9, 2013

Brut-Nama, on display at a New York gallery, is not meant to portray a widely accepted meaning of the Muslim man; it brings into focus a more nuanced, multi-faceted understanding.

‘It Makes You Feel Like You Are More Equal’: Diverse Voices on the DOMA Ruling

India Abroad / July 12, 2013

There is pride and relief, but peppered with voices that point out why the DOMA ruling is a problematic solution.

Walking the Tightrope: Good Indian Girls, Race, and Bad Sexuality

The Feminist Wire / May 25, 2013

I was a few weeks into my freshman year at Duke when my sister, a senior at the time, said to me, “Indian girls who date black guys are sluts.” Just like that.

Anti-Islam Posters To Be Next Battle in Advertising War

The Daily Voice / March 28, 2013

More billboards dealing with Israel and Islam could be going up this week at Metro-North train stations in Westchester.

Anti-Israel Ads at Westchester Train Stations Spark Debate

The Daily Voice / March 26, 2013

Advertisements with a controversial message against U.S. foreign policy toward Israel went up Monday at Metro-North train stations across Westchester County.

Activists Hold Rally For Police Accountability in Mamaroneck

The Daily Voice / March 14, 2013

A group gathered in front of the Village of Mamaroneck Courthouse Thursday morning to protest what they called racial profiling and aggressive treatment by police, and to show support for Luis Quiros, a Mamaroneck man who was arrested in front of his home on Feb. 14.

The Virtue of Visibility

Helter Skelter / January 9, 2013

It was late summer. One of those warm, balmy New York nights where you stand outside of the bar chatting for an hour instead of going home. Or you walk idly, perhaps taking the long way. Sometimes, when I was younger, on evenings like this, my girl friends and I would plop ourselves down on the sidewalk wherever we pleased, weary from our high heels, to scarf down a late-night snack from a street vendor.

brown girl + white savior industrial complex

Digital Natives with a Cause: Changing the Face of Citizen Action (page 11) / December 1, 2012

Can you attribute activism and charity to a ‘savior’ complex, or is there something more behind taking up a cause and showering generosity on those less fortunate than us? Chaya Babu explores the Kony 2012 campaign in its aftermath.

Viral Fever: Kony & Slacktivism

The Sunday Guardian / April 8, 2012

Kony 2012—the most “viral” video ever—was applauded & criticized in equal measure. This week they released a sequel. Chaya Babu looks at how the Net is shaping activism.

The Shapeshifting of Social Enterprise: Is Our Moral Compass Due North?

The Alternative / March 30, 2012

Social organizations – non-profits, social enterprises and the ilk, are constantly morphing to seek structures that best fit their complex dual missions to achieve social impact and profit. Is this constant structure flux leading to mission drift?

Are Kurtas Too Casual For Work?

The Wall Street Journal / March 26, 2012

Before I moved to Mumbai from New York a little over a year ago, an email popped into my inbox with the subject “kurti.” In it was a link that clicked through to a page of Internet search results with hundreds of small photos of short, kameez-style tops in an array of colors, some simple, some beaded or printed. The email, from a friend who had recently returned from a trip to India, was intended to help me adjust to my new life there.

An Oscar to Bring Notice to Wounds That Scar as They Heal?

The Alternative / March 9, 2012

‘Saving Face’ at the Oscar awards  may have brought home, at least momentarily, the gruesome reality of acid attacks in South Asia. But what can it really do for this brutal form of violence that is becoming very widespread even as it is remains rarely spoken about?

Gram Vikas: Toilets for Inclusion

The Alternative / March 1, 2012

While looking to provide sustainable livelihoods and lives of dignity to marginalised tribal populations in Orissa, Gram Vikas found an unlikely community empowerment solution: toilets.

Voices from Koodankulam

The Alternative / February 12, 2012

Perspectives from the Koodankulam nuclear reactor struggle.

Koodankulam: How We Got Here

The Alternative / Februrary 12, 2012

Over 2 decades of protest, 14,000 crores and many Governments later, the Koodankulam nuclear reactor project seems to be speeding towards project completion now. A look at the 25-year old eventful history of the plant that claims that it can light up Tamil Nadu.

The New Flash Mob Trend: Stale, Silly or Still Shocking?

The Alternative / January 30, 2012

I recently witnessed my first non-flash mob. Let me explain.

Requiem for a Dream

The Sunday Guardian / January 15, 2012

Naresh Fernandes’ 'Taj Mahal Foxtrot' is a testimonial to a Bombay that once cherished cosmopolitanism and freedom. He tells Chaya Babu about the city’s romance with jazz, and points to its increasing intellectual and cultural parochialism.

When Silence Becomes Audible

The Alternative / November 19, 2011

Initiatives like Awaaz-e-Niswaan are helping women slowly break out of a social order that has stifled them from expressing themselves for generations.

City of Echoes

OPEN Magazine / November 5, 2011

Forget anything subversive, or even original. Almost everything they call ‘high street fashion’ in Mumbai is borrowed.

Back of the House: The Struggle to Move Up in Chicago’s Segregated Kitchens

Gaper Block / October 25, 2011

Luis Deleón's black "Baked is Better" Costello's t-shirt and camo shorts are covered with a creased, tomato-red apron. He bends down near the back wall of the sandwich shop to tear open a cardboard FritoLay box. Two short, dark crescents of eyebrows cap his close-set eyes, which seem small on his oblong face that rounds at the jaw, meeting his thick neck at a stubbly curve. The apron-tie stretches around his waist, cutting him slightly in the soft sides of his barrel-like body.

Girls Fight Gender Discrimination, Shed ‘Unwanted’ Name

Associated Press / October 22, 2011

More than 200 Indian girls whose names mean "unwanted" in Hindi have chosen new names for a fresh start in life. A central Indian district held a renaming ceremony Saturday that it hopes will give the girls new dignity and help fight widespread gender discrimination that gives India a skewed gender ratio, with far more boys than girls. [Published widely, including on Huffington Post, MSNBC, Salon, and more]

PHOTOS BY CHAYA BABU / WEBSITE DESIGN BY TIANI KENNEDY