Friday, March 30, 2007

Never Type Direct

I never, usually, type my posts in direct. Yesterday, fresh from watching the mildly annoying Kieslowski film, Blind Chance (which, for some reason, I was confusing with No End), I did a long-ish post on the music, and lost it all just as I was about to publish.

Summer. No-electricity blues.


(I'm doing it again, actually. There's no end to smugness and the feeling that all life is eternal and we are all invincible and everything will work out if only we can bring ourselves to be sufficiently bloody-minded and WTF, STOP!)

Ok, so, here's what that post was about, minus all the links.

A few minutes into Blind Chance, I found a phrase of music that nagged me through the film. "I know you," I said to it, but it went on its sublime way, ignoring me. I ignored the film in retaliation, because it was where all the Run, Lola, Runs and Sliding Doors and Let's Talks of the world came from. I've no interest anymore in a serial exposition of a moment of simultaneity. At least Kieslowski has the intelligence to avoid a mere series of external event-making: there are some nice moments that take it beyond the banal, but this post is not about that.

It was Kieslowski, so midway through the film, I began to wonder if the music was by Zbignew Priesner. Witek ran after the train for the second time (rather horrifyingly like Lola) and I had dates in my head, wondering when their first collaboration was.

Does this ever happen to you? That when you're in the middle of something - a book, or a film - you find a reference to something else that grabs you by the scruff of your neck and shakes you until you can't really concentrate on anything else until you've been let go of?

This music was it. I was so convinced I'd met it before, rising in operatic, tragic notes. It didn't make sense here, tinkling away in the background, over a guy drinking black tea in a cold, bleak apartment. This music demanded saturated colour and rhythm, insisted on people in the grip of strong emotion.


I don't know what it was slipped that into my head; maybe an expression of desolation on Witek's face as he reads the note from Vera that says she waited for him four hours and then left. Something familiar in the sense of a person in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person.

So I waited for the titles to roll up. It wasn't Priesner. It was Wojciech Kilar. Yes, I know.

Came and back home and googled 2046, and checked the music credits, especially because I knew Priesner had done some of the music for the film. But nowhere in the music credits was there a mention of Kilar's name. I mean, most of the music in 2046 is a quotation, almost. But this was a little weird. Still is.

It's going to bother me until I watch both films again.

Isn't it wondeful, the way a little, tiny portion of music from early eighties Poland finds its way to early 21st century Hong Kong and keeps some things intact while changing a lot of other things?

And no links. Seriously. This had better not be another waste of my time!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Here we go feminism gives you cancer

(So clearly, more men are feminists than we suspected. Yes?)

Zoe Williams, reacting to some newspaper stories about a report from Sweden.

Of course, feminism has been blamed for all manner of social ills over the decades. For ages now, for instance, the argument has been bandied around that feminism gives you cancer. Sounds unlikely? Well, let me walk you through the theory. Having children later - which is what happens if you are a feminist and you work - makes you more likely to get breast cancer. Not having children at all - which is what happens if you are a feminist and it's all about you rather than nurturing - makes you more likely to get breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Drinking and smoking - which is what happens if you are a feminist and you are financially independent, and you don't do what you're told - gives you throat and mouth cancer; smoking, of course, also gives you lung cancer. Just about the only cancer feminism doesn't give you is prostate cancer, and I wouldn't put it past us feminists to start stealing prostates the way we've already stolen managerial positions and bar stools, would you?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hyderabad International Film Festival

Yes, you heard it right first time: the first Hyderabad International Film Festival is on. Since the 22nd, actually, but I started watching only from yesterday, so irregular blogging for a few days.

Just come back from the Polish film (which one of the volunteers insisted on calling police film) Solidarity, Solidarity, which was patchy in parts, but quite good on the whole. The best part of it, for me, was the section directed by Wajda. In it, he has the actors who played the lead roles in Man Of Iron, Lech Walesa, and Wajda himself, discussing a film Wajda ought ot have made called Man of Hope. Intercut with the discussion that the four of them have in a large film ahll, are clips of the film, Man of Iron and the actor who played Tomczyk says, it is really that film that ought to be called Man of Hope.

Watching a Dariush Meherjui film later tonight. More tomorrow.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The 2nd Chorus from Jean Anouilh's Antigone

One of the most stirring moments in theatre occurs in Jean Anouilh's Antigone. The play itself is was an important one, especially when it was first staged in 1944, because Antigone was seen as representing the French Resistance. But the most interesting thing about the play is that it constantly digresses, in key moments, into the kind of philisophical discussions that playwrights today ought to study: no one can say these make the play boring or unwatchable, or that they dissipate the drama.

The second Chorus, in both the Sophocles and the Anouilh versions, is said after Creon gives the order to uncover the body of Polynices that Antigone has attempted to bury. In the Sophocles version, the Second Chorus is a celebration of Man. "Nothing is beyond his power" the Chorus declares, but ends on a cautionary note, warning against pride, as any self-respecting Greek tragedy ought to do.

Jean Anouilh's Second Chorus, however, meditates on the nature of tragedy. Anybody who has read Sophocles' Antigone cannot help noticing that whereas Sophocles makes man responsible for his own condition, for the tragedies that befall him as a result of his own hubris, Anouilh says that tragedy comes when Man refuses to surrender to his destiny or when he imagines that he can take charge of his fate and change it.

The whole Second Chorus from Anouilh's Antigone below. It never fails to bring on the goose pimples.

The spring is wound up tight. It will uncoil of itself. That is what is so convenient in tragedy. The least little turn of the wrist will do the job. Anything will set it going: a glance at a girl who happens to be lifting her arms to her hair as you go by; a feeling when you wake up on a fine morning that you'd like a little respect paid to you today, as if it were as easy to order as a second cup of coffee; one question too many, idly thrown out over a friendly drink--and the tragedy is on.

The rest is automatic. You don't need to lift a finger. The machine is in perfect order; it has been oiled since time began, and it runs without friction. Death, treason, and sorrow are on the march; and they move in the wake of storm, of tears, of stillness. Every kind of stillness. The hush when the executioner's axe goes up at the end of the last act. The unbreathable silence when, at the beginning of the play, the two lovers, their hearts bared, their bodies naked, stand for the first time face to face in the darkened room, afraid to stir. The silence inside you when the roaring crowd acclaims the winner--so that you think of a film without a soundtrack, mouths agape and no sound coming out of them, a clamor that is no more than a picture; and you, the victor, already vanquished, alone in your desert of silence. That is tragedy.

Tragedy is clean, it is restful, it is flawless. It has nothing to do with melodrama--with wicked villains, persecuted maidens, avengers, sudden revelations and eleventh-hour repentances. Death, in a melodrama, is really horrible because it is never inevitable. The dear old father might so easily have been saved; the honest young man might so easily have brought in the police five minutes earlier.

In a tragedy, nothing is in doubt and everyone's destiny is known. That makes for tranquility. There is a sort of fellow-feeling among characters in a tragedy: he who kills is as innocent as he who gets killed: it's all a matter of what part you are playing. Tragedy is restful; and the reason is that hope, that foul deceitful thing, has no part in it. There isn't any hope. You're trapped. The whole sky has fallen on you, and all you can do about it is shout. Don't mistake me: I said 'shout': I did not say groan, whimper, complain. That, you cannot do. But you can shout aloud; you can get at all those things said that you never dared say--or never even knew till then. And you don't say these things because it will do any good to say them: you know better than that. You say them for their own sake; you say them because you learn a lot from

In melodrama, you argue and struggle in the hope of escape. That is vulgar; it's practical. but in tragedy, where there is no temptation to try to escape, argument is gratuitous; it's kingly.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Pond of Slough of Despond

Don't ask.

Wherefore, I remembered this silly song from college days, but the version I know goes

Nobody loves me
Everybody HATES me
I'm going to eat some wo-er-erms.

Long thin wriggly worms
iggly squiggly wiggly worms
I'm going to eat some wo-er-erms.

First you bite their heads off
Then you suck the juice in
Then you throw their skins away.

(in small, mournful voice, as with someone who might be sitting on the floor, feet stretched out and rocking back and forth in deep sorrow)

NObody loves me
everybody hates me
I'm going to eat some wo-er-erms.

And then, since there's a post on Robert Graves coming up, I found this no, I didn't dammit! Today is clearly a day for strikethroughs and despond, despair and gnashing of teeth.


(Note to myself: save URLs such as the one that got away).

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Adventures in Semantics: Part 2

I'd once started a story this way:

What’s the difference between flashback and memory? I’d always thought the two were different. Memory is confused, subjective, changeable. A flashback, surely, is definitive and exact, a useful device to explain the past to the present. But today, I’m not so sure.

Today, again I'm not so sure. Check this headline out, and the story that follows. I'd say the headline itself is pretty misleading: 'Flashback of a Rape Accused'?

Is this Anand Jon's flashback? Is Manu Joseph, the person who has written this article, in mysterious sympathy with Jon so much so that he can call himself the rape accused? Can anyone have a flashback about anyone else, or would the reconstruction of events depend on who is doing the talking?

Even setting aside the TOI's inability to construct accurate headlines, the article itself throws up some interesting issues. Joseph recalls a time when Anand John (as he was known then) walked the corridors of Loyola College, Madras, in torn jeans and chains around his wrists. "His jeans were almost always torn around the knees (the Jesuit priests would later angrily offer to darn them)," Joseph says, and you're inclined to believe him; it is just the sort of thing Jesuits might do: deliver a scold wrapped up in a shaming device.

But the most interesting thing about the article is the clear and subjective placement of the camera, as it were. You watch Anand Jon from the sidelines as he makes his way down dark and cool corridors; you watch him while you lean out from the upper floors and you see a 'comet's tail' of 'hormonal' girls following him everywhere he goes but you can't hear what Jon said that makes them giggle; you get a bird's eye view of Jon sprawled all over the bonnet of a car, and you have a clear idea of the layout, so you know by just how much proximity to the Principal's office increases the shock of the transgression.

In other words, a flashback does not belong to an objective narrator. It is as subjective, confused and changeable as memory and what you see depends entirely on whose flashback it is.


I'm tempted to talk about Rashomon. The reason is that, as in that film, Joseph's article is a tale, and a conscious reconstruction of events. It is one person's version of some rather confusing jumble of events a long time ago. It is memory.

I think of flashback as something that cannot help but be exact. As with film itself, the details and sequence of events, once recorded, cannot be changed. Interpretations can change, people can change, but they cannot help but reproduce the same flashback in the same way, every time.

So a young lad walks down a corridor with torn jeans and long hair. As he walks, people fall silent. If he is wearing blue jeans, they will always have to be blue. If there were six girls, there will always be six girls. In this there can be no room for error. Every one of the people looking out from open classrooms and walking down the corridor in the opposite direction, perhaps meeting the young lad's eye as they pass, will see the same thing, in the same order, in spite of themselves.

Is that even possible? Or can flashback only ever be a device? Have we suspended our disbelief to such an extent that we are persuaded by the exactness of an image?

What do you think?

TOI story via Sonia

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

if we needed manifestos...

this would be mine.

August 20, Nisennen

...Hell, let's unveil the Sinfest manifesto. To wit: We are radically pro-this, moderately anti-that, and definitely, emphatically pro-those. We believe music can change the world and art can heal your soul. We believe in the Tao of Pooh and the Word of Allah, as we follow the Noble Eight-Fold Path to Vatican City where we'll have a Kosher meal at a Japanese Tea Ceremony, then go joyriding in the Popemobile with a bunch of gypsies who believe in the Force. We'll catch a matinee of the Holy Trilogy and rest after the seventh hour. And when it is done we will say, "It is good."


Tatsuya Ishida's Resistance column.

Also see.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Vivek Narayanan and Performance Poetry

I've never seen Vivek perform his poetry, but since he posted this on a list, and since I found it lucid, I asked him very nicely to put it up on his blog (which seems to have become rather dark since I saw it last, and Vivek, what's with the third millenium post?!)

I especially liked the Caveat:


First lesson: do away with the term “performance poetry”. Poetry can
travel back and forth between the page and oral performance; that’s one of the
things that almost all poems do, that is the transaction that poems are very
often born out of. When you read a poem on the page, it carries the ghost of a
sound, a voice, a music; and in that longing lies its mystery. It is a longing
that is opened up, but never quite fulfilled by performance.

I also liked the distinction he makes between a theatrical, or 'dramatic' performance that draws from the theatre, and recitation, which belongs uniquely to poetry in all its manifestations, whether epic or balladic, Western or Eastern.

Read the rest of it here.

Also, since the 22nd is not very far away, those of you who are in Bombay, do try and make it to Vivek's reading at the Theosophy Hall, Marine Lines.

invites you, with your friends, to
A Poetry Reading by VIVEK NARAYANAN

Date: Thursday, 22 March 2007
Time: 6.15 pm
Place: Theosophy Hall (3rd floor),
40 New Marine Lines,
Bombay 400 020


Vivek Narayanan will read from his new collection of poems, Universal Beach (2006), his reading conducted in the mode of performance withwhich he has come to be associated in literary circles. His presentation will weave together three elements: his own reading/performance; a reflection on the practice of performance in the context of poetry; and recordings from other poets, which Narayanan will annotate.

Vivek Narayanan was born in Ranchi in 1972, grew up in Zambia, studied in the USA, and is currently based in New Delhi, where he works with SARAI, a new-media initiative of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). His poems have appeared in Indian and international journals and anthologies since 1994. Universal Beach is his first collection.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Stumbled upon Fritz Lang's M!

Via Gracchi, I discovered Fritz Lang's 1931 film, M.

I can't decide if I'm excited. It's great that this film is available online (I also discovered Un Chien Andalou at the same place) but the purist in me dislikes watching such films on a screen that's about the same size as an iPod. On the other hand, I haven't watched these films for decades.

And given that I'm a member of two film clubs but the last screening I went to was some time in November last year; and given that I'm a member of a pretty good DVD library but the last film I borrowed was in the misty time befor six-months-ago; and given that I still have some DVDs I bought in Chennai from over a year ago that I still haven't watched (among them Hou Hsiao Hsien's wonderful Good Men, Good Women), my only hope is that I will chain myself to my computer and watch these films.

Oh, and on Google Videos, I discovered the 1968 Peter Davis documentary Hearts and Minds.

But what am I thinking: here is M.

Monday, March 12, 2007


Todays' Guardian has a list of 'great' books that people have never read (or finished). Among them is Ulysses, which ought to surprise no one. But Rowling? I mean, I can understand if it was the sixth book, but turns out it was the 4th.

So I quickly went to my bookshelves, to induce some guilt to see me through the week. Here's my list of books (in addition to Ulysses) I've never manage to finish:

  1. Orlando (Virginia Woolf). For some reason, after he turns into a woman, I just couldn't go on. Oops! Was that a spoiler?
  2. PowerBook (Jeanette Winterson)
  3. Trotternama (I.Allan Sealy). I've tried this one several times.
  4. Ragazzi (Piers Paolo Pasolini). Its' not for decoration. I promise you. I only want to see a Pasolini first before I read a book by him.
  5. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Robert Pirsig)
  6. Small Is Beautiful (E. F. Schumacher)

Kitabkhana, a few years ago, had a similar list. Go see.

Oh, and yes: for those who never do intend to read Vernon God Little or Cloud Atlas, Crace's digests further down ought to do very well.

And if anyone feels like giving me a digest of my list of books, or giving the ending away, please fee free!

Friday, March 09, 2007

That Bowling Alley On The Tiber

There’s a certain kind of book I like to read from time to time that is cinema-related but is not film criticism or biography. This is when a director writes a book that is not semi-autobiographical (such as Kieslowski on Kieslowski, or My Last Breath); is not a conversation (Cinema: the archaeology of film and the memory of a century); and is not a screenplay that has never been made into a film ( La Petite Voleuse, for instance, was a film that Truffaut died before he could film. Later, however, Claude Miller did direct a film based on Truffaut’s screenplay).

Michelangelo Antonioni’s That Bowling Alley On The Tiber is another, altogether different kind of writing. These are what he called the ‘nuclei’ of films. Re-reading this book after almost 15 years, I was struck by how unique this book is. Some of these 33 sketches are barely two sentences long, while others are three or four pages outlines or reflections. All are written in the present tense, like screenplays or story sketches usually are. What is unusual is the way in which Antonioni’s voice as director is constantly ‘seeing’ the possibilities of converting this writing into cinema.

All screenplays are provisional. The screenplay writer knows that what s/he is writing is a palimpsest upon which other things will be ‘written’. The words in a screenplay are mere pointers that lead to other things that are not verbalised: the mise-en-scène, the lighting, the use of space, the framing, and, of course, the ways in which faces convey emotions without saying a word. With no other director of his generation is the non-verbal more important than with Antonioni.

Which is why That Bowling Alley On The Tiber makes for very interesting reading. Here is a director who is a master of making the spaces he puts his characters in, say almost as much as they do; a director whose uses of silence are very, very potent.

In the sketch that the book takes its title from, Antonioni says in the first paragraph:

“When I don’t know what to do, I start looking at things. There is a technique for this too, or rather many techniques. I have my own. Which consists in working backwards from a series of images to a state of affairs.”

All the sketches in this book have this in common: they work backwards from images. They also have the author in the curious position of narrator and writer – a position not uncommon in fiction, but more unusual in what is, in effect, the notes of a director that might some day be turned into a film. But the most interesting thing about these stories is the way in which Antonioni asks himself questions that abruptly terminate the narrative, or turn it into channels that make the reader constantly aware of the unfinished nature of the writing. These are not random notes jotted down in a notebook; but they are not complete narratives in themselves. Always at the back of them is the film they might become.

One story, ‘The Silence’, is three paragraphs long and begins like this: “At the beginning a dialogue, a brief one, which will clarify a breakdown in relations concealed for years by both husband and wife. The usual habits, the usual hurt.” In another one, ‘The Dangerous Thread Of Things’, Antonioni talks about the way an image grows and changes with time. The image of a woman on a beach acquires a wealth of detail and character as Antonioni reflects on it in different places (in Rome, in Paris, in Uzbeksitan) over a period of time. The story is part reflection on the nature of writing, the intention of converting this into a film, and part narration of the image itself as it grows and transforms. Notice how this is written to approximate a screenplay, but is emphatically not one:

Paris. Same day, 9:00 A.M.

It’s morning and I’m thinking of this glimmer of a story while outside it’s snowing. I say I’m thinking because this time it wasn’t spontaneous images that took me back to the plot. I willed it myself. I suddenly noticed that the unconsciousness with which the film was coming into being would never amount to anything unless I impose limits. In other words, the moment’s come to organise the ideas and only the ideas. To transform all this instinctive material into reflective substance. To think of the subject in terms of articulating the scenes, of beginning, development, and end, in short, of structure. It’s necessary for the image-making to becomes intelligible (I was about to say “edible”); you have to help it provide itself with a meaning. Roland Barthes says that a work’s meaning can’t be created on its own, that the author can produce only conjectures of meaning, of forms if you like, and it’s the world that fills

But how can Barthes rely on so uncertain an entity as the world?

With those thoughts in my head I look at the snow coming down on the roofs and I’m tempted (more than a temptation, it’s a curiosity to verify what happens visually) to make it fall on the beach and the horses also, and to put the two female characters together at the window to look at the sight, in an atmosphere of easy surrender, or uneasiness, or anguish.

Anotonioni not only questions himself as he is writing a ‘story’, he is questioning the nature of interpretation, while also leaving open the ‘meaning’ of a visual: does a shot of two women looking out the window at snow signify ‘easy surrender, or uneasiness or anguish’? Or are they all possibilities until they’ve been made into a film?

The translator of this book, William Arrowsmith, calls these sketches a ‘kinetic potential’ in his Introduction. That apparent contradiction sums up the challenges of reading this text that is both story and a first step. Four stories from That Bowling Alley On The Tiber were included in the 1995 film Beyond the Clouds, directed by Antonioni with the help of Wim Wenders.

I missed the film at a festival long ago, though I've heard it is very uneven. It makes little difference to me, because I find the stories in the book so fascinating that I'm happy for them to be forever potential films.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Ones Who Love Us

Written for the Blank Noise Project's Action Heroes Online

The flight was delayed by not one but three-and-a-half hours. That took the arrival from a safe 8.30pm to the dangerous witching hour of midnight. We ought to laugh at these things, oughtn’t we? And we do. It’s absurd to suppose that we should be safe only indoors once the sun goes down.

I didn’t even think about it. My mother was returning from Chennai and needed to be picked up. I would do it. That’s all. As it happened, my father didn’t agree. He wanted to come to the airport with my son (who had school the next day).

“It’s not advisable to go alone this late at night,” he said. He was furious at the thought of
having to lose sleep, having to wait endlessly at the airport, and having a cranky six year old to deal with. He was angry with my mother for choosing this flight.

“So now you and your mother know not to take these cheap flights,” he said. “You should choose a flight that arrives before 4 pm. Anything later than that, and if it’s delayed, it is not safe. It’s not advisable to arrive early in the morning either. How will you get home, who will go to pick you up?”

I was getting dinner and fuming inwardly. If the plates clattered a little more than they usually did, or if I put down the dishes with a loud bang, it might not have been entirely unintended. I am in my thirties, and I don’t need to be told I need an escort at 11 at night. How did he know what I did in other cities and why the bleep did he want to cosset me like this?

It was then that I realised that at every stage, we allow ourselves to be restricted by the people who are concerned for us. We allow our movements, our clothes, our lives to be dictated to us by people who clearly have our interests at heart.

Nobody asks why the roads are not safe, why parking lots are ill lit or why men can’t seem to restrain themselves. Everybody is very ready, on the other hand, to tell women why they should not do a long list of things for their own good.

I’d come home late from parties several times, later even than the time of the flight’s arrival. I couldn’t remember the last time someone came to pick me up or drop me home because I was a woman. Was I going to keep my son awake and drag my father to the airport just so that he could feel I would be safe?

I could feel my ears getting hot. This was not funny. If I allowed this to happen once, I would allow it to happen every time, all in the name of keeping the peace, not rocking the boat of domestic happiness.

“I’ve come back home later than that many times,” I said. I thought that was quite a mild opening, though I wanted to yell and be immoderate in my speech. You are in your thirties, I said to myself. Nobody will take you seriously if you throw a tantrum. Be calm. Be reasonable.

As it happened, I didn’t have to say anything more. My father said, “Do what you want” in an I-give-up-on-you voice. I suspect he was secretly relieved.

It was clearly not harassment. But it was an unconscious attempt to curb my freedom. No one who met my father would say he was an unreasonable man, or that he was not progressive about women and their rights. Yet he wanted me to stay home because nights were unsafe. If I had submitted, what would I have done next? Seen the point of someone who said I ought to wear ‘decent’ clothes when I went out? Allowed someone else concern for my well-being to dictate my movements, my speech, my clothing?

I don’t like to think of it in terms of battles fought and won. It was a small thing I did that night, but it was important for me, because we submit most easily to those we love and respect.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

In Memoriam: Revathy Gopal

Revathy Gopal died this morning. Revathy was a fine poet and a very close friend, though she was nearly my mother's age. It is the hardest thing to talk about her in the past tense as I'm going to have to do from now on.

It's hard to believe that I met her only four years ago; I feel like I've I had known her forever. A common friend told her about me, and we got talking over email. A year later, in 2004, in December, one of the best things that ever happened to me happened because of Revathy and my friend, SC: we were going to work together on a collaborative piece of writing.

In the months that followed, our conversations flowed and our writing flowered. If for nothing else, I would have to thank Revathy for that.

She would have been sixty in less than three months. This was the year in which her first book of poetry would have been (perhaps already has been) published. The last time I spoke to her, in January, she had sent off her final proofs: The Last Possibilities of Light (pub. Writers Workshop, Calcutta). I hope at least, that she lived to see it, because elsewhere, she never got the recognition she deserved for her poetry. You won't find her in any of the major collections of the last decade; not because she hadn't been writing, but because - actually, who knows why? I don't. I only know that she should have been there, as a major and strong voice in Indian poetry today.

I saw Revathy for the last time in September, when I had gone to Bombay. She had breast cancer, and at the time it had just spread to her uterus. They recommended a hysterectomy, but that had to be postponed because she was severely ill with some medication, unable to keep down any food. When SC and I went to meet her at her home, we were very nervous, as only the young and very healthy can be, while visiting someone very ill. But Revathy put us at our ease in no time at all. Soon, we were giggling, sharing our poems with her and behaving very badly. In a little while, her husband came in and gently reminded us that Revathy was really not strong enough to talk for so long. We left, feeling slightly guilty but also cheered by the thought that anyone who could laugh as Revathy had, could really not be so unwell. Surely she will get better, we thought. A hysterectomy will contain the spread of the cancer; things will, they will get better.

But she didn't get better. I spoke to her in January, with no idea that the cancer was spreading. For the last week, I had been meaning to call her, but like all good intentions, this one came to nothing. This morning, SC mailed to say Revathy had been in hospital for the last week, and had died this morning.

There is no end to the regrets one can have: not enough conversations, didn't see her, didn't talk to her; didn't see her book, didn't didn't didn't. But for her, who struggled with pain without letting anyone know how much, it must be a release.

Poems by Revathy here. Rama's tribute to her here (Revathy was Rama's aunt).

And finally, a poem by Revathy.

Carved In Stone

I shall not be inconsolable. There will be other rooms, other faces, open spaces, long stretches of time when I shall not even be conscious that you are not there.

I count the cost in concrete terms. You will not know my children’s names, nor I yours. That I may look at a photograph and remember my eyes looking at you looking at me. That some green girl in love with herself will hold your life in her hands.

I shall not say your name again, not even by chance.

One day, perhaps, love may die of disuse, left to rust in wind and weather.

Rest in peace, Revathy.

Update: Nthposition has a note at the head of its main page in memoriam. Todd Swift, Nthposition's poetry editor and Poet in Residence, Oxfam Great Britain, will have a post about her tomorrow, on his blog.

Update 2: Dilip D'Souza has a tribute to Revathy on his blog. Kees Klok, who has translated Revathy's work into Dutch, has a tribute here.

Update 3: Uma's tribute here and Revathy's son, Kartik's post about her last days, here.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

funny bloody observation

And all you queasy men who faint at the sight of blood, move along.

Here's the thing. Paper repels menstrual blood. If science is about observation and inference, this is a scientific fact: brandish a flimsy piece of tissue paper and the blood will turn around and become endometrium again, leaving you to suffer migraines for a few days more.

Bloody revenge it's called.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Great Firewall Of China

Spaniard is not incendiary enough to be blocked by the Great Firewall of China.

Whether that makes Spaniard ecstatic or offended is something that is still up in the air. We are waiting for the fog to clear.

In the meanwhile, please check out the list of sites that are blocked.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Un-Holi Mess

I hate Holi.

What's fun about having people shove colour into your nose and eyes and hair, and you sneezing out the colour back at them (well, ok, that might be fun to watch if someone else was doing the sneezing)?

Or about wanting to wipe your streaming eyes and finding that your hands, like Lady Macbeth's are forever stained and all the perfumes of Arabia can do to help matters is precisely diddly-squat?

What's fun about getting desperately hungry and having to pick up gujjias and samosas with blue (or green, or pink, or some indeterminate, ugly grey) fingers, all the while imagining the food staining your oesophagus as it goes down? I mean, if I must have dyes injected into my bloodstream, I'd rather go to hospital and do it with proper gloom and despair.

I hate getting into cars all wet, or onto newpapers that might protect the seats of cars, but make a further mess of your clothes. I hate clothes drying out stiff in the sun, I hate shivering in the cold, I hate the smell of gulal though I loathe the metallic ones with greater intensity.

And guys who think it's hysterically funny to wipe your mouth with a handful of purple colour. (Anyone who yearns for the romance of the beloved's rang hasn't played Holi anywhere recently.)

In college, my roommate - who thankfully hated Holi as much as I did - and I used to lock ourselves up in our room and grimly try to get on with our reading, while everyone else shrieked and squealed downstairs. When we came down for lunch, right at the last minute, we used to be the only ones with clean, unstained ears. We each of us felt pleasantly superior: S and I for having the good sense to avoid such unruly behaviour, and everyone else for looking cool and pink.

The only Holi I liked was at the Institute, and that's because of the bhang. It was fun to watch other people make idiots of themselves, with even less self-consciousness than usual. Some of it was a real treat: one guy went into mime mode and for half and hour kept everyone spellbound while he did a Charlie Chaplin meets Buster Keaton kind of dead-pan series of pratfalls. Another one went on a death trip and though it cannot have been fun for him, it was interesting to watch.

But why one earth did we need all those gross colours for this? We could have had the bhang and skipped the colour. Good, clean fun it could have been.

Holi. Bah!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Improvisations, Jazz, Plug 'n' Play

Was watching an old favourite, Plug 'n' Play, and was thrilled to find, right at the very beginning, another old favourite: Bill Evans' liner notes for Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue. In it, he says:

"There is a Japanese visual art in which the artist is forced to be spontaneous. He must paint on a thin stretched parchment with a special brush and black water paint in such a way that an unnatural or interrupted stroke will destroy the line or break through the parchment. Erasures or changes are impossible. These artists must practice a particular discipline, that of allowing the idea to express itself in communication with their hands in such a direct way that deliberation cannot interfere.

The resulting pictures lack the complex composition and textures of ordinary painting, but it is said that those who see well find something captured that escapes explanation.

This conviction that direct deed is the most meaningful reflections, I believe, has prompted the evolution of the extremely severe and unique disciplines of the jazz or improvising musician. "

It's an interesting thought, one that is compelling in its directness.

But I wonder how an opposite perspective - that, for instance, expressed in Pamuk's My Name Is Red , that all art is already an act of memory; that constant practice produces the remembered form, an almost Platonic ideal - would work with jazz improvisations. Perhaps they're not very different; Evans talks about the artist who is 'forced to be spontaneous'.
Don't you love the sound of 'direct deed is the most meaningful reflection'? The rest of the liner notes here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Blogger glitch?

Every time I post a comment on any blog (including mine) that has word verification on, I get a little message (actually, rather a long one) saying that there's been a problem and I should try again later. My comment never does get through.

Has anyone else who has word verification on had the same problem?

So comments moderation on temporarily, and word verification off. Anyone trying to sell me things or point me into the dangerous and exciting byways of the Internet will be studiously ignored. Vade retro, Satanas!