Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Sideways Door: October Prompt, September Response

I'm at all certain why I arrange these posts this way, with this month's prompt and last month's response all in one column, but whatever.

Here's October's prompt column, in which I am fascinated by pebbles and by what Syrian sculptor, Nizar Ali Badr has made of them.

September had a thin crop of submissions - one, to be absolutely truthful. I thought people would want to give life advice in pithy sentences but apparently not. You'd think, in an age where were celebrate the 140 characters allotted to us, we'd be pros at the aphorism.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this month.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Leaves of grass

As we were leaving from a place yesterday, we noticed this deep maroon flower. "Cotton family," my mother said, authoritatively, and I took her word for it.

I got into the car. My mother gestured for me to return. She was bent over that 'cotton' plant but for some reason now, she kept saying "grass". 

I looked at her blankly. 

"Marijuana!" she said, as to someone particularly slow.

Oh! I looked. And sure enough, those leaves. 

 I have to say, at this point, that I have never actually seen a marijuana plant. I don't know what it looks like in situ, or what kind of flowers it has. I just know the shape of the leaves.

We stood indecisively over it (I really couldn't tell you why. In addition to our general ignorance about the plant in its raw state, we were also pretty unlearned in processes. And we'd finished admiring the flower early on in our acquaintance). 

A couple of people gathered around us.

"What is this plant?" we ventured to ask.

"Gongura," the lady replied. Apparently it can be cooked and eaten.

Well, of course, I thought. (Also irrelevantly, I thought of brownies).

I took a couple of photos and plucked a flower with a leaf attached. It withered on the dashboard before we got home.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Book Release: Karthika Nair's Until the Lions in Hyderabad | Monday 28 September

Karthika Naïr's Until the Lions, a re-imagining of the Mahabharata in the voices of its marginal characters, will have its Hyderabad release tomorrow. Details below.

It is a fantastic book and if you're in Hyderabad, and free in the afternoon, do try and make it.

Monday, 28 September, 4.30 pm.
School of Humanities Auditorium, University of Hyderabad.

This reading is a part of The Park's New Festival's events in Hyderabad, in association with the Prakriti Foundation.

I will be in conversation with Karthika.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Reading list

Possibly the most fun thing I've read recently is Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown. It has one of the best character names of this decade (Georgiana Without Ruth) and the most magnificent last chapter this side of Georgette Heyer.

In fact, if you've ever wished for one last, undiscovered Heyer, this is the book you need to read. There's adventure, magic (which, all right, Heyer didn't have; but then there's magic and there's sorcery) and some truly laugh out loud moments that are pure comedy and timing.

All in all, it was a joy to read.


Having done with the Cho, I flitted and sipped and left many things unread. I enjoyed Jo Walton's The Just CityI am wondering if I should jump on the Elena Ferrante bandwagon. 

There's a book in every space I occupy. Michael Pollan in one place, Anne Carson in another, Nabaneeta Dev Sen in a third. And yet, I think the book I will begin today and carry everywhere with me, is George Eliot's Romola. [see pic]

I found this copy in Jan this year, at the Hyd Lit Fest's second hand book stall, along with a right loot of good stuff, all of which I failed to catalogue. And, I guess, I'm in the mood for some proper historical fiction. 


Oh - the other thing I'm carrying around with me everywhere is Karthika Nair's soon-to-be-released Until the Lions, her re-telling of the Mahabharata from several perpectives not limited to women. 

It is magnificent and I am looking forward to being in conversation with her on the 28th at the UoH. Details of all Park Festival events here. Do come if you're in town.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

The Sideways Door: August Response & September Prompt

Thought I'd wait until August blew over. 

Here's my response to August's villanelle submissions.

And this month, I rewrote my entire column at the last minute, changing the prompt entirely. Yup. I thought short and sweet was the answer to the tribulations of the last two interminable months.

Here's September's prompt.

Get working!


A thing I've noticed (since they've begun tracking this stuff at The Daily O) is that more people share the prompts on Facebook than they do on Twitter. I wonder why. I mean, of course I wonder, because I'm not on FB and twitter is where I tend to hang out. And all kinds of stuff gets shared on twitter, so I wonder why the prompts don't.

Not important.


I've been reading a bunch of stuff and staying offline and it feels good. Yesterday I called precisely two friends after ages and it struck me as odd later that I apologised to my virtual world for not being around, but it took real effort to do the same thing when I tried it on my present-right-here friends. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015


My life this last week has been: 

Travel trauma due to bus sickness.

Epic laptop crash resulting in loss of many things including Office, rendering all necessary documents unopenable.

Network connectivity issues.

I am not a fan of sitting in front of two laptops (this one and the old one my son is supposed to use) trying to figure out how to write and send off stuff that needs to get to people in good enough time.

Naturally, this means a bout of extreme bad temper. Kindly excuse while I get over it. 

(Wait. In nine years I have never needed a tag that said disasters? How?)

Thursday, August 06, 2015

The Sideways Door: August prompt, July response

Oh hello, blog.

The Sideways Door for August is now up. I kind of drag Dr. Seuss in there and I am not sorry at all.

Last month's response column went up ages ago and I don't know where my head was at, I seem to have forgotten to post links here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

the vampiric old south

I am fifty pages from the end of Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman and - not being in the best of moods this month - I cannot bring myself to finish it. I read five pages or a section, want to fling the book across the room and then I just stop reading instead of whipping myself into a frenzy.

Yes, it's that bad.

Alternatively, I want to do a Vanessa Place-lite* and cherrypick the egregious bits and blog or tweet them, one hot mess at a time. I mean, there's an art project in there, right? One that will get me attention and a place on some important jury?

I may write about it but I doubt it. There's nothing others haven't said before and I don't really have anything to add except maybe notice in public that it's the money the book was always going to make that made this a "good" idea, in a year such as 2015 has been.

You should go listen to Prince's Baltimore instead as antidote.

Oh, also - I happened to turn the TV on and watched to the grim and bitter end the ridiculousness that is Joel Schumacher's A Time to Kill. I mean, it has a star cast but what are you going to do about the cliches, the white saviourness and the background score? Just how clueless are these guys?

I'm done ranting. I have a column to write and friends to meet and cats to feed. Oh yes, I must do a post about them. 


* I'm making the Gone with the Wind comparison deliberately, seeing as how much the grown-up Scout, or Jean Louise as she is now known, shares with the honourable Ashley Wilkes, going all Götterdämmerung on Maycomb county.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

two things

Two things I read this morning seemed just right for the moment, day, time.

1. From July's issue of Asymptote, Jose Eugenio Sanchez's poem 'czeslaw milosz gets off the train at fuengirola', these lines:

there was nothing on earth that I wanted
as if I existed only for the perishing of land and men

there is no witchcraft in my words
I speak silent as a cloud
or tree

2. Next, from Sheridan Hay's The Secret of Lost Things, very early on in the book (page 15-16 to be precise):

The orange, red and yellow heads worked against melancholy; their unopened leaves, like little green tongues, reproached me. I picked a few red ones, Mother's favourite colour, and put them on top of the box.

I knelt down to inspect a large, open leaf, almost a perfect circle. A silver drop of water balanced on its surface, shiny as a ball of mercury. Carefully, I picked the leaf and spun the bead of water inside its green world - a tiny ball of order, isolated and contained. Focusing on the drop relieved an increment of anguish, about the same size, near my heart.

"Help me," I prayed to the water drop. "I want Mother. I want it all back. I want my life." 
there was nothing on earth that I wanted
as if I existed only for the perishing of land and men

there is no witchcraft in my words
I speak silent as a cloud
or tree
- See more at: http://www.asymptotejournal.com/article.php?cat=Poetry&id=225&curr_index=15&curPage=current#sthash.oGrKiJjD.dpuf

José Eugenio Sánchez

José Eugenio Sánchez

czeslaw milosz gets off the train at fuengirola
- See more at: http://www.asymptotejournal.com/article.php?cat=Poetry&id=225&curr_index=15&curPage=current#sthash.oGrKiJjD.dpuf

José Eugenio Sánchez

czeslaw milosz gets off the train at fuengirola
- See more at: http://www.asymptotejournal.com/article.php?cat=Poetry&id=225&curr_index=15&curPage=current#sthash.oGrKiJjD.dpuf

José Eugenio Sánchez

czeslaw milosz gets off the train at fuengirola
- See more at: http://www.asymptotejournal.com/article.php?cat=Poetry&id=225&curr_index=15&curPage=current#sthash.oGrKiJjD.dpuf

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Second Half

Now that the first two weeks of this month are done, I feel I can say this. July is so difficult. Every single day of the first half of it is somebody’s birthday or death or something significant. I remember everyone’s anniversary, sometimes two people sharing the same day. I have known these people almost all my life, or for a large enough portion of it to call them significant.

But I don’t call or talk to any of them. Well, if they’re dead, I can’t. It should make me want to talk to those who are left, to – oh, I don’t know – make some gesture that says we’re sharing the same world. I don’t. I remember all of them on their day and then I stay silent. My phone stays silent. It always does.

And it’s lonely. Because I remember them and their special days but I have nothing to say to them and the thought that is might be reciprocal is also a little frightening though I may not always/even now be able to admit it to myself.

And every day the evidence of how little time is left piles up. It paralyses me. That is a different thing than silence though I suspect I am only now learning to tell the difference.