The Mergrrrl Pledge of S/he-We-llegiance

The Mergrrrl Pledge of S/he-We-llegiance


Once upon a time

In the Deep Blue She

Little mergrrrl sighed

Dreamed a woke dream



Time upon us now

Good tidings we must bring

Ever after our

Happily we swim



You blue? #MeToo !

Coxswain through crew

We rise, renew

Say ‘I do’ to


All mergrrrls we have

Lived since yore

Who nevertheless

& allthemore


Persist. Resist.

Raise fin. Wing. Fist.

S/he/They insist:


Pursuit of happiness!


Life Liberty!

Love! Dignity!



For You & Me


Turn the tide

From Dream to Be






Deep Blue She to Shining We.



Tanuja Desai Hidier

Deep Blue She

(#Mutiny2Unity #MeToo WeMix)



World overboard!

Better love your daughters more!

Raise your sons to lay down swords!

Steer this city back on course!

The winds are changing…

Dear Fellow Tribes of The Other.

Please find a link here to DEEP BLUE SHE, from my album Bombay Spleen (songs based on my novel Bombay Blues). Scroll down for the lyrics.

This song–a female-POV modern-day take on “A Sailor Went to Sea”–was written for these daughters and sons, and all who gloriously inhabit the infinite in-between. Us.

DEEP BLUE SHE was selected for the #VogueEmpower playlist for Vogue Fest, Vogue India’s social awareness initiative for women. My intention with it was to write a modern-day female/human empowerment-themed dance track, a kind of call to rise up: to love our daughters more. Raise our sons to lay down swords. Stand up for ourselves and each other. Love who we want to love. Be who we want to be. Make room for and celebrate each other.

And create safe spaces for that embrace. East, West: All the world round. All things—necessities–that feel increasingly urgent to counterbalance (and hopefully dissolve, transform) the opposing forces that seem to have flexed in many parts of the world.

The winds are changing. And now is not the time to give up, fellow tribespeople/dreamers/doers—but rather, gather our forces for the good fight ahead. Turn that heartbreak to heartmake. We Are Here. And You are You– and that’s muscle, mind, heart, soul…and a very strong, steady light in the darkness indeed, one not to be underestimated.

Our hurricane lamps are bright, will not be blown out.

In memory of Nirbhaya:“Six thousand Darjeeling guitars strum ‘Imagine’ for a much-missed girl gone too brutally, too young, so many miles from home. A dreamer’s dying declaration (echoing from the New York Dakota pavement): Would we someday live as one?” –from Bombay Blues, page 524



Words by Tanuja Desai Hidier. Music by Tanuja Desai Hidier & Marie Tueje. Produced by Dave Sharma.


Blackout across the bay

Except where the pretty party people stay

Paying for their ship to come in

Bottom’s up to sunup at Lands End


Eye to the telescope

Marauders all around me grope

Yet my lover ain’t allowed to dive in

Antiparty posse turn you in:


You blew me.

Blue me.


All quiet on the eastern cun(try)

Bolo how the West was won if 3-

-77 say we won’t escape

‘Less you wedded, then by all means rape!*


Got no permit for a long stiff drink

How a girl supposed to think?

Bar bala bleach and barter her skin

Motherland, turn to friend!


And they don’t want our hurricane lamp on


Mumbadevi can you tell me

Why they how who can be?

This city still divided now

That Reclamation be?

Devadasi, make me crazy

Dowry, sati, serve tea

If you the goddess, why the girl

Not safe upon your streets?


And they don’t want our hurricane lamp on

Walk the plank; won’t keep the blindfold on!



Staring out to sea

Y-U-N-I M-T?

Crumbles beneath our feet


A sailor went to sea!

To see what he could she!

And all that she could see see see

Was the bottom, the bottom!

(Her bottom, her bottom!)

He bought her, he pawed her!

(We caught him, we caught him!)


Hands on deck,

From this wreck,

Fortress we seizing!

We will rise

Still entwined

With who the frock we please!



Lookout for the enemy

Y-U-N-I M-T?

He’s sitting on top of me

Dressed in a suit and tie!

Morality police

21st century?



M- (uh-oh)-N-E-Y

Driving their SUVs

Down a village street…


World overboard!

Better love your daughters more!

Raise your sons to lay down swords!

Steer this city back on course!


The winds are changing!

The winds are changing!

The winds are changing!

The winds are changing!


U-N-I: U-N-I-T-E!


*This song was catalyzed by Nirbhaya/the 2012 Delhi gang rape. Please note, to state what is hopefully the obvious, that this line is an unequivocally anti-rape/rape culture reference to and criticism of sections of India’s penal code which do not recognize marital rape as a crime. DEEP BLUE SHE is also Bombay Spleen’s most direct anti-377 track (Section 377, which criminalizes homosexuality in India, was declared unconstitutional in 2009…but reinstated in 2013) and stands by LGBTQ rights. Which are, of course, HUMAN rights.





Ever had the dream where you are falling, falling down

Waking with a sweat in your own dawn, dawn; done, done

But dreaming in my dread, by day I’m running, run run run

Til you stop me in the street, say, Take me home?


Home is not a place that we can hold on to

Still I thought I saw it

Nearly caught it

Floaters in your eyes

Could you light the way cause I keep trying to

But seems I’m only at home under unfamiliar skies


Don’t know much about the destination

All I know is love is a direction

Time is distance travelled

The further I’m away the longer gone

Is this absence fonder?

Were we written in the stars?

Now watch them fall




Every road leads back to you

Every heart beats back to you

Though we try our best to encompass it

We’re lost

In the dark

Depths of a nomadic heart

I’ll follow it to wherever you be now


Don’t know much about the destination

All I know is love is a direction

Time is distance travelled

The further I’m away the longer gone

Is this absence fonder?

Were we written in the stars?

Now watch us fall




Lightning struck us to the ground

And now I’m waiting for the sound

To catch up and come around

So many years of hanging on

How could we know they were long gone

All the stars we wished upon


Ever had a dream where you were flying

Now waking in a sweat to find you gone

Tumbling to the earth I seek your traces

In all these city streets, in all these strangers’ faces




Lightning struck us to the ground

And now I’m waiting for the sound

To catch up and come around

So many years of hanging on

How could we know they were long gone

All the stars we wished upon.


(Words by Tanuja Desai Hidier. Music by Tanuja, ATOM FELLOWS, Marie Tueje, Thomas Denman.)

Catherine & Me



At last, after five years (many of which were spent with her in mind and on page as I wrote Bombay Blues), finally ‘met’ Catherine de Braganza at London’s National Portrait Gallery: the Infanta of Portugal and Tea-Drinking Queen whose dowry to Charles II was the islands that became Bombay–and for whom NYC borough of Queens is named. My three cities converging wonderfully in this moment!Wrote an ode to her with Atom Fellows, produced by Dave Sharma. Listen here!

Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi woh Purple barsaat ki raat


Or: Prince, my mother, brother, father (and ur sister 2), & me

by Tanuja Desai Hidier

**2016 BPM**

Dearly Beloved,

My mama she loved U
Wrote me when they found U
New England—North London
En route 2 our girls’ school


Trans-Atlantic we mourned U
WhatsApp; Gram-on-phone too…
What’s funny and so true
My memories of U


Take me back 2 that shared roof
Mom, Dad, Raj
(Ur sister too)
And a lifetime of U…

**70s RPM**

Once upon a time
In a red-blanc-blue country
A very white neighborhood
Flanked by evergreen trees…

Stood a timid brown house
Turned 1st-generation home
4 a 4-person family
Of similar tones.

Downstairs: kitchen temple
Krishna: Ivory
Sandalwood Ganesha…

**80s RPM**

Up: U watch over me.

Ur poster on pink-
Sugar Walls; shirt undone
Bare chest; like the rest of me:
Pure cinnamon.
(U tender me flowers: Let’s play—c’mon!)

Shag rug: violaceous.
My ear, canals: voracious.
Barbies can’t take it
(U look so dang salacious!)
No way not to say Yes…

Yes! Tap-tip it from sleeve,
(Di)Vinyl betwixt palms
(Life-love-lines protect
‘Gainst smudging print-thumbs).

Needle touchdown
That delish-hiss-pectation…
…silence 2 sound:
Dearly Beloved: Elation!

A young girl’s whirling dervish
Roundbrush microphone
A suburban skirm-wish
2 choose her own tones
Hear a way home…

And before her ears’ eyes
World’s hues magnetize
Swell, gel, synchronize:
A stirring Purple reprise…

* * *

1999: mine
Thanks 2 Raj (my big brother).
Purple Rain (music, movie)
Got (and saw!) with my mother:

U vamp-rev the motor
She back-lit behind
Beckon: Step through the portal
Dare come along 4 the ride?

LP: my bedroom copy
(Wherein lay the decks).
Not 2 be confused
With my ground-floor cassette

Nor my tape of the tape
(4 emergencies).
Or the tape of the record.
4 violet (ins)urgencies:

In my fantaversies
I’d lay U down 2 traverse me
Need not even Kiss
2 Get Offf, Delirious…

My 1st brown-on-brown wet dream:
U, I (and she)’d lie
Listening 2 “When Doves Cry”.

But—ah! (MMMM!) I digress
(Now I’m such a Pretty Mess!)


Purple Rain on repeat…
Era at a stretch.
Our brown house filled up its lungs
Stuck out a brave chest

In our little white town
(Western) Massachusetts
Purple reigned, flipped its frown
A surrender Soft & Wet

This harmony hard-won
In many a senses:
As the 1st Indians around
Cowboys built up fences:

MK claimed me a witch
(Kevin: the color of dogshit!)
4 strange brew in our kitchen.
(Resistible Bitch khichdi be dissing!)

A Sign O’ the Times:
We were just too damn different.
But time tocked and taught
And borders kept shifting…


**70s-80s-99 RPM**

And in 19-7-8-99…
U redeFINEd (be)witch(ing)!
Nope, they’d no clue what 2 do with us.
U had an inkling:

Hot Thing, U melted
A world that’s so cold…
Proclaimed: D.M.S.R.!
Everybody, get on the floor!
(What the hell’d you come here 4?)

See, if you clap on the 4,
Mix up red/white/black/blue:
Ain’t no surprise:
Purple’s the hue!

**50s RPM**

10,000 lakes got U born
“Funk Machine” Ur dawnsong
Whilst: mauve sari draped on
(Future Baby) Mama on Bombay radio sung


A dream she folded away
Boarding that Air India plane
Around the World in a Day
4 amber fields of grain
(=Pittsburghian lanes)…


There Bapuji made ends meet
My mother: Beginnings
(Lotto ticket in temple
Where Sai Baba prayed: winning)

Polyester and Paisley
Baby-blue(s) airmail stationary…
Big brother grew older
She cut hair hip to shoulder

I was born in blue jeans
In English I screamed
Can-canned Alphabet Soup
On Mango Pulp Street.

**80s RPM**

Sometimes in the kitchen
Over homework, I’d listen
She bubble-bathing the dishes
Wistfully singing:

Zindagi bhar nahin …
Her lychee-sweet refrain
…bhoolegi woh barsaat….
And…Purple Rain.

I will never ever forget 
This night of Purple Rain…
Something stirred deep inside us:
Velvet sweat hope. And grace.

Mama and me leaning in,
Showcase Cinema seats squeaking,
Surround-sound, spell-unbound by U
(Stale popcorn uneaten; screen jammin’ with we-skin!)
And— voilà-aaray-waah!:
A glim, a releasing

Some kind of understanding
Between me and her…
(More kindred spirits; less mother-daughter)
What she’d left behind
We could both reach forward for…

* * *

My parents surprised
Me and my bhai:
2 tickets 2 see The Purple One—live!
(Lucy cried? I almost died!)

Magenta Mall sweater
(I’d painstakingly dressed)
Faux-fur gold collar
(Wiped the Lipstick Off it).

Heavenbent to earn it:
Ur half-smile—I’d learned it.
In the mirror, confirmed it.
My hair: Flashdance! permed it.

Batted eyes lined in violet;
Nails dunked in twilight
(Nearly hurled with excitement
and didn’t even drink wine yet!)

Sheila E, Vanity, Apolloni-
Ah! What a team!
Wendy, Lisa, U blasting
A New Powerfemale ‘mainstream’!

wasn’t short, brown, big-butted!
Or rather: I was!
Maybe I had The (3rdeye) Look!
(My whole motherland does!)

In Raj’s Little Red Corvette
(=Datsun 280-ZX)
Popped in my cassette
Broke the sound and speed limit

I-91 South:
Goosebumps all the way!
And as we got closer
T’was like a Parade:

Xploding out windows
Fast, middle, slow lanes
Punch a higher floor!
The highway refrain!

Inside: You could squeeze
The thrill in both fists
Glowverripe plum;
Glit-dripping in it.

Sheila E, glampurr-pure
Kicked it off—3, 4!— killed it!
Onlooker onstage she lured,
Genu-pseudo-seduced him.
(Note 2 self 4 the future: this valuable lesson.)

And Prince. Rogers. Nelson.
I Feel 4 U: still feel it!
That rapture of orbiting
Someone who really means it
(What luck we Xist on this earth the same minute!)

Birthing Something from Nothing.
The Everlasting Now.
Electric word: Life…
Mighty 4Ever Wow.

Pulsing purple Om.
Love symbol. Id.
Strumming us home:
A compass. The Kid.

Encore after encore
The Purple One played
(Don’t recall the setlist.
Check my DNA…)

**90s RPM**

And whether 4 1000s, or 100s
Or 1—2 the 9’s
U played Ur heart in and out
When U Were ours, theirs (still MINE!)

Human heliotrope
Spun-swung 2 the sun
A splits-splaying anthem
2 how far we had come…

**00s RPM**

My Reflection on U
2day in the Blue Light:
Around the one like no other…
There Ain’t No “Other” in sight!

We’d all harmonized
Blood brothersisters
Rainbow Child tribe

No either-or….
(1 + 1 = 3)
Not woman, not man
Only some kind of
Friend be
(I.D.= infinity)

A prince both king and queen
The sacred in-between
Boler-oh!, kohl, heels on
Home is a direction…
A musical movement

We don’t have to make sense
A pure state of trans-
-cendance, incandense
No shoulds; all will, can

Lover U never drew
Those soul-sucking divisions
Amalgamate, celebrate—
Copulate past revision
(Kiss where it counts: Ballet into connection!)

Embosom any color
Wholeheartedly listens:
Border-crossers. Rule-droppers.
Nomads. The pilgrims:

My mother, father. Brother.
(Perhaps by now…even Kevin?)

(And ur sister, too).



1 part red + 1 blue
U declared Joy Rave Un2!
Embraced our little brown roof…
Then bop-launched us on through!


**0 BPM**

O, snow this April:
My mother gave me the news.
The Mourning Papers.
Mama, say it ain’t true?

Prince? You mean Prince Prince?
No. Does Not Compute.
Zindagi bhar nahin…
The world felt so much better with U.

Through the tears: to the ears
Eve post Ur #transformation
Tap-tip circle from sleeve
A surreal sensation:

Clasping the intangible…
Age strange-tripping mythical…
(Hadn’t felt U so physical
Since world gone all digital.)

A spiritual circuit…
Full-circle ritual.

Dearly Beloved—

Gathering myself here today
Halo gently down I lay
Such a Long (wide, dense) Play…
Soundwaves inundate my face

Once-upon-a-time hug-tugs
Young girl cuts the shag rug
A wish to hear home…
2 choose her own tones…

Ur songs in our spines style-us
Revolution: We wise up
(Tune in and turn up)
Over time rising proud:
Living Out Loud.

From 7-year-U’s funk psalm
Our hole-2-whole lives long
U bare The Beautiful Ones
We been all along…

A needle lifts up
Secret space between rounds…
I like to imagine
That’s where U are now
(U just can’t be lost! U helped us get found!)

All up 2 me and U
We won’t let U down
I miss Adore thank U
(4 Taking Us With U
[Nothing Compares 2 U])
2 where we belong:

You live through our love.
We love through your songs.



1000 X’s and O’s,

Tanuja D (H)

London, USA, Bombay

7 hours and 13—17 days

The Dare-2-Drape Challenge: Seven Weeks, Seven Saris


When I was asked to take part in Triveni’s Dare-2-Drape Challenge, American-born-and-raised half-Marathi-half-Gujarati me had never before draped a sari…and hardly ever worn one either! The challenge proved to be a lot of fun: seven weeks, seven saris (though I was a little on IST –Indian Standard Time!– in terms of the seven weeks). In a sense, the process was similar to the one my protagonist inBorn Confused and Bombay Blues goes through: redefining the C in the moniker American Born Confused Desi to stand for Creative. So, though these started out as American Born Confused Drapes…over time they evolved somewhat into Creative ones (with a lot of help from my family!).

Week 1: “The Writer’s Drape”

Week 2: “The Vendée Mataram Drape”