Dubai-based writer releases book on Indian culture and customs

Anamika Ashar with her book Astha – My belief
For a newly married young woman, struggling to steer her family through the complex customs dear to her community, it was a daunting task to sift the real from the hearsay. Anamika Ashar decided to note down the details of the Indian customs and rituals in a resource book with the aim to enable other Indian nuclear families – particularly those of the Thattai Bhatia community living in the UAE and abroad – to understand the traditions.

The book titled Aastha – My Belief, was released last month and is available with the Thattai Community Centre in Bur Dubai.

"I was born and raised in the UAE and my parents performed all the traditional rituals. Four years ago I got married and had a time (six months) when my parents and mother-in-law were away. I had to fend for myself to help my family follow the customs. It was a difficult process since there was no record of the correct way to conduct the ceremonies. So, out of necessity was born Aastha - My Belief," says Anamika.

In her book, Anamika describes the mythological origins and rituals for more than 20 Indian festivals including Raksha Bandhan and Diwali. In a separate section in the book, she highlights the ceremonies involving a child's birth and its growing up years, besides the complicated marriage rituals and gift-giving customs.

The book also describes the role of relatives and how they come together in joyous celebration.

In addition, the book traces the history of the Thattai sect to a small town 100km from Karachi in Pakistan. The town which dates back to 2,000 years was not only the capital of Sind till the 1730s for the rulers of four Muslim dynasties, but also a great centre of learning.

Anamika, who is certified by the London Writer's Bureau, has written various articles before this major effort. It took her two years to collate the material before it was written and published.

"It involved a lot of interviews with elders of our community, many trips to India to gather information and many sittings with philosophy experts," she adds. Anamika credits her husband, Deepak, for supporting her through this venture and Dubai-based philosophy expert S. Sundaram for being her guiding force.

Thattai Bhatia women who have read the book are pleased with Anamika's efforts. "Aastha is a handy tool for me since I live here with my husband and child. It saves me the hassle of dealing with different people telling me different things. The book also covers meditation techniques and is useful for the new generation," says Priyanka, a homemaker based in Dubai.

Anamika says that the book creates an awareness about the community and brings to light their thoughts and beliefs. "It was an effort to help my community and I have learnt a lot in the process," she adds.