Sunday, December 14, 2008
This is probably my last post for the year, though of course it's too early to predict what I might do.
Take care, be good, and see you next year. Before that, if you're in Hyderabad, see you at the reading.
Akshara invites you to a reading from the works of poet, playwright and novelist, Keki Daruwalla.
Place: Akshara, West Marredpally
Date: Wednesday, 17th December 2008
Time: 6:30 pm.
Dr. Meenakshi Mukherjee will introduce Keki Daruwalla and The Little Theatre will read excepts from his work with him.
Keki Daruwalla is a leading figure in Indian poetry in English today. He is the recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award (1984) and the Commonwealth Poetry Prize (1987) for Asia. He published his first collection of poetry, Under Orion in 1970 and now has nine collections of poetry to his name. Keki Daruwalla's collected poems were published by Penguin in 2006, as well as a travelogue, Riding the Himalayas. Keki Daruwalla has published three collections of short stories, the most recent being A House in Ranikhet.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
So what happened was, my mother said I should probably carry copies of my book to Delhi. I laughed and said, come on! they'll have copies. They're the publishers. But just to be on the safe side (and keeping in mind that it was going into reprint) I called up the sales office. Turns out my mother was right and they didn't have any copies left, so if I had any would I bring some.
With a look of long suffering I unpacked the bag that had sat packed on my floor for the last three days to examine what I could leave out so I could accommodate 20 copies of my book. I had already decided that I was not going to read any poems from there (expect maybe one, seeing as it was a reading at the SA, and they might expect it), So I packed the Bloodaxe Anthology and a couple of printouts of poems that haven't as yet appeared anywhere (at least, they have but I haven't yet got my copy of it). Oh, and a drawing of a buffalo that my son had made for A. All important things. God knows what I left out. Another pair of shoes I suppose,
The SA wanted me to come early (4pm for a 5.30 reading). Why am I so punctual? Just once, I want to be the last person, the one who makes an entrance. Instead, I find myself in a small room with a large table and a few half-empty mugs of tea perched precariously behind me. Pay close attention to these mugs; they will have a role to play in a few minutes.
Poet number 2 (I'm talking about reading order here; naturally I anticipate. At this point I didn't know she was poet number 2 but don't let me confuse you. Go with the flow. I'm yammering. Ignore me.) was already there. As it happened, I'd recently been in touch with her so I was able to be less awkward than I normally would have with someone completely new. There was some anthology in which her poems were. i read them and we chatted.
We were reimbursed; someone got us a charger for our phones. Everything useful that needed to be done was now done. 4.30.
In a little while, Poet 2 went down to meet friends and Poet 1 came in. I'd never met her or heard of her. That doesn't mean anything, of course because clearly she had never heard of me either. She gave me a curt nod and squeezed behind my chair to get to the other empty one, knocking down in the process those half-empty mugs of tea I told you about. Tea flew and I flew out of my chair, fearing for my sari (a purple and red shot-colour, if you want to know. Don't blench like that.) Poet 1 turned around to apologise and her bag caught another mug it had missed on its previous pass. Tea now soaked an encyclopedia on the shelf. One glass of water fell to the ground and smashed. Poet 1 turned around again in consternation but luckily there was nothing left for her bag to catch. I had occupied another chair altogether, away from the line of fire as it were.
We were finally introduced and we said hello. Conversation languished. I played with a paperweight. In a moment Poet 2 came in and we were all herded out to meet the Secretary. Calls were coming in from friends. I felt reassured.
Oh, and the filmmaker who came to Hyd? I told him about the reading and he asked if he could bring his camera to shoot. Yes.
Turned out that the reading was happening not in the conference hall, but where the annual book exhibition was on. One portion of the shamiana was cordoned off for events, leaving other people free to browse.
I went and handed copies of my book to the exhibition chaps. And was very, very glad to see many friends had turned up. Old Sophia friends, RV friends (they're everywhere. What can I say?) and bloggers (Aruni, River). Also a very old friend who did theatre, whom I knew back then. Lots of wonderful surprises there.
Keki came and we climbed a rickety dais made up, I'm sure, of rough wooden benches hidden under red tent house carpeting. After brief introductions, Poet 1 started to read. I'm terribly sorry to say this, but it was very bad. Somewhere in the middle of her reading, a siren started up just to the right of the tent on the road, and kept up its wail for a full five minutes.
Poet 2's turn. I liked her stuff. Which is why I was irritated to find that apparently the Lalit Kala Akademi (which shares the premises with the SA) had apparently scheduled a performance of tribal music and the Sahitya Akademi appeared to be unaware of it. So from somewhere behind the tent, the music started up then lots of people singing heartily together. Poet 2 is a soft-spoken girl. I can only hope that the audience heard enough of her work.
My turn. For the first time, I didn't have a list of what I was going to read or in what order. I thought I'd do what I felt like once I was up there. What I felt like doing was reading three or four poems. Which I did. I was competing with the music, remember. But Keki said read more, so I read another couple of poems and it was over, yay!
What can I say? I had fun despite everything. I tried out a very experimental (for me) poem on an unsuspecting audience, and I think it worked. At least, it worked better read out aloud than it did on the page. So I had fun.
When I returned to Hyderabad, I called home to say I'm on my way. Apparently there was an urgent request for me to turn up at The Poetry Society of Hyderabad. Some Mauritian poet was reading and he wanted to listen to poets from Hyderabad.
The PSH is supposed to be the oldest active poetry society in the country. It has, apparently, met every month since 1922. And it seems to have taught them nothing about organisation. If I wasn't so annoyed with them, I'd find it hilarious.
So I practically go straight from the airport to the reading, dragging family with me. Things start late. I meet the poet. I am under the impression that I am the only poet from Hyderabad there. We get called up, we go sit. No one sets out the programme. The mike is already not working well.
The poor man starts to read and the mike crackles and pops. One organiser stands at the sound system behind us, twirling dials. Nothing works. He takes the two cordless mikes, moves two feet away from where the man is reading, and tests it. "Hello! Hello!" It doesn't work. He stands in front of the poet and adjusts the mike. That doesn't work either. He goes and sits down. That doesn't appear to work either. He comes back and recommends, in a loud whisper, that the poet should just not use the mike.
The poet complies. In the meanwhile, the organiser has once again moved to his spot three feet away to fiddle with the cordless mikes. Suddenly, mid-poem, his - the organiser's - voice booms out, drowning the poet's. Apparently the mike has started to work. He hands the mike to poet. Poet begins again. (He's reading in French anyway, and nobody except the Alliance Francaise people can understand him). He reads. He reads the translations. People clap politely.
My turn. I point out that since nobody has introduced me, I should say that I am there by (urgent) invitation and will read, maybe two or three poems. The President of the PSH, who happened to be passing by the table at the time, said read one. There are other people also reading.
This was news to me. I am now very annoyed, because of other people were reading, there was enough time before the reading began to introduce everyone, tell everyone what the programme was, ask for a few lines of introduction and so on. And, if more people were reading, they should also have been at the table, or nobody should have been except the visiting poet. Actually, I was livid.
I read out my poem. The others read out theirs. It all ended very quickly. Someone else suggested I read out the other poems I had mentioned. I had half a mind to be ungracious and say, No I won't, so there! But I did and it was over and I left as soon as I could.
On a happier note, loot from Delhi included: Priya Sarukkai Chabria's Not Springtime Yet which Jai gave me and Middlesex which A gave me.
Friday, December 12, 2008
The good news is that this time I've taken along only one very small bag. For everyone who knows what my packing agonies are all about, this is an achievement.
The bad news is that because I'm carrying toothpaste (and cream and perfume and kajal and homeopathy) I have to check the bag in. The inhaler I'm allowed to keep out because I am carrying a prescription.
Staying with A and L. I bring them a choice of two films. A chooses Happy Together. I'm happy to have Persepolis. On my second day there, we watch the film in the afternoon and L falls asleep. A prods him awake and he claims he was awake all the while. He proves this by asking intelligent questions about what's happening on screen.
These two days remind me that I haven't been out of Hyderabad since Kala Ghoda. That was an anxious time and frankly, so was the leaving this time. It brings back memories about that other time I had to get away and oddly enough, I find our circles converge* plentily.
I come back home having had the kind of break holidays are meant to be: free from anxiety and a place from where you can return to pick up all the baggage you left left behind and find that it's grown lighter in your absence.
Oh, and I had vast quantities of gajar juice.
Reading will be a separate post.
*JAP will no doubt say that I'm doing cryptic again over here.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Those of you who are in Delhi, do come.
5.30 pm, Monday, 8th December 2008.
At Ravindra Bhavan, 35 Ferozeshah Road.
Tea at 5pm.
I've told some of you by email/FB that the reading's at 6.30. I was wrong. It's at 5.30, so do keep that in mind.
And here's a review of The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets (ed. Jeet Thayil).
Friday, December 05, 2008
This time there's Sanjay Kak and Kavita Joshi talking about their films on Kashmir and Manipur respectively. By a happy coincidence, I find that Kak's editor, Tarun Bhartiya, has poems online this month.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Veena thinks it's like Oscar Wao (actually, she says it reminds her of Diaz and then spends the rest of the paragraph saying it doesn't, not really).
In the meanwhile, there are plenty of links to some excellent posts about Mumbai. Read especially Rohit Chopra, Badri Raina and Yoginder Sikand. And if you haven't already been forwarded Biju Mathew's piece in Samar, here it is.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
I watch stupid films to fill in the time so I don't watch the news addictively. I check my feed reader. Any post that is not about Bombay goes unread. I find myself being amazed at the number of people who remain unaffected. I don't want to know about peoples' turkey dinners or poetry that is not about disasters. Instead I search for Zbigniew Herbert's poetry, especially this one.
I understand the undirected rage and grief that is causing so many people to say so many stupid things. More than ever it makes we want to shut up for a good long while.
But I won't (you already knew that, didn't you?) Just as soon as I can, I'll try to say what I think about what just happened this week. And I have to link again to this old post since I'm reminding myself of things time and again.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Hope all you people in Chennai are okay.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
And in Bombay, a city which is dying, I said to Rahul: where will my child study? which libraries will he or she go to? I said to him, I wanted to buy your wife a pram. But what roads will you push that pram on, which garden? There are no sidewalks in Bombay anymore. There is no clean air. People stone the dogs I feed outside my house. My neighbours say 'No Muslims.' When I landed in the city last week I thought to myself: This looks like Kabul before curfew.And then we attended the exhibition and to celebrate our friend Nyela's wonderful success we went to Indigo Deli in Colaba, a restaurant which is behind the Gateway of India, behind the iconic Taj Hotel. An hour later a man stepped out of the deli and terrorists shot him dead. Terrorists stormed the Taj, they took hostages, they killed people, they set the dome on fire, blood poured down the stairs.The Deli was full so we walked down the street and turned left to the Gordon House, a boutique hotel where the guests speak in iPhone's and teenagers wear suits. We ate stir fry and drank campari and then we said, where now?We stepped out of the hotel and bullets rang in the air, people screamed, a tidal wave raced down the street and the security guard said 'Inside! Madam, Inside NOW!'
I don't know what to say just now. I hope everyone's safe.
1. The numbers keep changing. It's pointless to keep track of them just now.
I wish NDTV would stop showing what the armed forces are doing. Do the people inside not have TV they can watch?
Schools, colleges and the stock market closed today. I'm glad nobody's going on about the spirit of Bombay.
3. Just a pointer to an old post, since I have nothing new to say this time around. I needed reminding.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
I can see myself logging on now to not only check mail but also to check the state of my tree. Not good. Not good.
Dammit. Do these guys even know where Hyderabad is? It's raining in my mailbox and there are dark grey puffs of cloud where the chat list is. Outside my window the birds are chirping and the sun is shining. Wtf?!
Caferati's Livejournal Conest results are out. Check them - and the stories - out.
For those of you who will be in Bombay next week, do check out Nyela Saeed's exhibition, Naissance. I have seen a few of her paintings and I really liked them. There's something both discomforting and exciting in the way forms jostle and squeeze and replicate themselves in her paintings.
Of course, it's easy to say now. When someone asks you what they think and they're waiting for your answer, as Nyela was when I was standing in her studio a year or so ago, you become - or at least I do - tongue-tied. I looked at a painting for inspiration. How do you, after all, express in verbal terms what is both visual and spatial? The painting in front of me, dark green and black, appeared almost foetal to me, something waiting to be born but temporarily held in a tension that was part confinement and part potential. I told her some of this, somewhat differently.
What she said startled me; and I'm not going to say what she said, because it might just stand in the way of the paintings themselves, which you should totally see if you're in Bombay between the 26th and the 29th of November. They're on at Kitab Mahal (192, DN Road, 4th Floor, Fort, Mumbai-400001).
Thursday, November 20, 2008
But Daniel Craig is so hot! I mean, I didn't see Casino Royale on the large screen (DVD); before that I saw him in Enduring Love (don't bother); today I saw him on a soul-satisfying Imax screen. And when I think it almost didn't happen it makes me shudder.
Oh, and the kid saw his first Bond film. I thought I'd bring him up to speed with the franchise and whispered rather hurriedly to him that the car in the tunnel (the one I happened to be pointing to at the time I started to speak) was an Aston Martin and Bond always drove one. 'It's an Alfa Romeo,' he said and I thought to myself, ha! At last the kid's got a car wrong.
Turned out he was right: the next second the Italian cops barked car identifications into their phones or whatever, and I distinctly heard them say Alfa Romeo.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
And bird by dusk.
Turns out that one of the uses of this construction is a rough-hewn dance stage. Or something. Because...
Last night there was a shoot, and apparently it was some major outdoor nightclub scene. Because...
somewhere on this structure, someone was playing loud music all night long while someone else yelled into a megaphone. Update: Turns out this is what was happening.
Isn't life beautiful?
Monday, November 17, 2008
I'm assuming by now that everyone knows what Dasvidaniya is about: Amar Kaul (Vinay Pathak) finds out he's going to die, and champion list-maker that he is, is persuaded by himself ('I am You', as Amar-with-hair, looking like Shakti Kapoor, says) to make a different kind of list: a wish list instead of the quotidian ones he's spent his life making.
Topping the list of Things To Do Before I Die is (1) Car, followed by (2) Foreign Travel and only at (3) Neha. For this I am grateful. Because there's plenty to be annoyed about with the film. Shall I just list 'em out, since I'm not in the mood for reasoned exposition?
- Exposition. Let's start there. How does a filmmaker start the film with bad news without having spent any time making the audience care for the character? Unless, that is, you feel an instant bond with Amar because - like you - he also lists out the things that need doing around the house, or turns out to be the guy everyone bumps into on the train, or over whose head co-workers talk. I mean, sure - he's a regular guy. That's been established. Why should I care because he's going to die in three months' time? I don't. Not really, not unless I've just been reading Donne.
- Lists. This is my biggest problem with the film. Because, like Amar, the filmmaker has been unable to resist ticking off things he's accomplished in the course of the film, which, with a litle luck, ought to have everyone weeping and laughing (I'll come to the latter in a bit). So you have Special Effects Moments, Foreign Locations, The Big Breakdown Scene, Lip-Synch Song, Pop Culture References, etc etc etc. As Amar goes through his remaining three months ticking off things on his list, we spend two hours watching the director putting neat ticks against some list of his own he undoubtedly had stashed away.
- Pop culture references are all very well when there's some way to recast them or claim them for your own in some new way. Otherwise they advertise nothing except the scriptwriters' gaucherie. And if all dialogue writers are going to be quoting Deewar all the time what will future generations quote? (Not Dasvidaniya. That's for certain.)
- Those special effects? The first time we see Amar the Second, the original number has this towel on his shoulder. Now, I know dialogues are frequently cut with the non-speaking character slightly in frame and in this case - both characters being the same actor - that poses some problems for the special effects folks, but does the object in the frame have to be a blur of towel?
- End title gimmickry. This bit actually annoyed me the most and made me pretty angry. The actors were all asked, as the titles rolled by on the right, what they would do if they found out that they only had three months to live. One of the more fatuous answers was Suchitra Pillai's (with her thumb unaccountably held up in a gesture of enthusiasm) saying that she would spend it with her friends, those she has known since childhood or some such thing. Others said they would do things for their parents; do exactly as Amar had in the film; travel to a place they'd never been before. Stuff like that.
- Which brings me what makes me livid: the characters and the director clearly had no conception of how somebody with a death sentence hanging over their head will behave. A real, imminent end - not a theoretical one which all of us live under. They have no deeply felt, empathetic position from which to operate or act or speak. This is the problem with the film. Everyone breezes through it as if to say, look what a wonderfully different idea we have, as if to have the idea is sufficient cause for congratulation. Bah. And what does Amar do? SPOILER ALERT! Naturally, the grand gesture: he leaves everyone a gift before he dies: his new car for his guitar teacher; the flat for rent to the girl who sold him the car, because she and her boyfirend are looking for a place to rent (where will his beloved mother for whom he sang that lip synch song go? Oh - naturally to live with the long-lost brother whom we didn't see until well after the interval, but about who's history we learn in the space of two minutes with some very comprehensive dialogues); and other such sentimental bequests. It makes me want to puke.
- But why grumble all the time? Let's end this with a Fun Moment which even in the midst of death we can find if only we look hard enough. So during this scene where Amar and his brother are on his balcony discussing the view, someone in the audience gets a call which she takes. And because she is talking loudly, aunty-lady in the row in front of her asks her to shut up. "Please go outside. Why did you come here if you have to talk about work during a film?" (Or some such). "Bunking work and coming to mutter mutter mutter." "I'm not bunking work!" "Then why..." At which point the audience, which has, as one person, turned to watch this exchange, bursts into laughter*. We turn back and see that Amar has died in the meanwhile and there is his picture all garlanded and everyone in white (does everyone here possess an all white ensemble ready for such emergencies? Or all black, as the case may be? Films always have people who do. Saris without the tiniest trace of coloured embroidery; salwar kurtas Nirma-bright and as plain as somebody's nose.) Unfortunately, our badly behaved audience didn't fall into a shocked silence. They continued to giggle and make ribald comments through the scene and the film which, mercifully, ended soon after.
- Which brings me to the question: if some, at least, of this film was supposed to be funny - and I'm not convinced that it was meant to be funny; I think it achieved funniness inadvertently - why can we not do black humour? This was a perfect - now lost - opportunity for it.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
So please forgive the long pauses between poems, the drivel with which I sometimes preface them or segments and the weird way in which I seem to have elongated every vowel like a kid stringing out chewing gum.
(You mean you can tell I don't like hearing my own voice? And now, before I have second thoughts....)
Huge thanks to Rahul, Falstaff and BM for helping me sort h\out how to get audio on my blog..
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Should be able to upload audio in a couple of days.
(but I HATE the way I sound. Gah. Unlikely to upload. May. May not. This is a tantrum. Kindly ignore.)
Hear ye Hear ye!
I've been invited to read my poems for fifteen minutes on All India Radio. I go to the studio tomorrow and the programme will be aired (ha ha! how old jokes are lovely!) later that evening.
Details, frequencies etc later. Watch this space.
(that radiogram is almost exactly like the one we used to have when I was growing up. Except ours used to havean extra space for LPs.*siiigh*
Friday, November 07, 2008
But all that's for later.
In the meanwhile, here's a bird for you to look at.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
All the news you can use. (Thanks TR)
I, of course, am not nearly as sanguine as everybody seems to be about Obama. Cautious optimism is the phrase. Hoping for the best while expecting the worst and all that.
Fun Moment: When John Bolton sputtered with indignation and recommended that the BBC sack their reporter in Colorado, Rajesh Mirchandani. Mirchandani had a happy two minutes marvelling at the happy face that the Colorado Republican State Chairman was putting on things.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
This is a strange week in my life. Nearly two years ago, I was in Delhi visiting a friend. I used to go to college with the wife and edit things for the husband (in later years. I wasn't born knowing how to edit). Back then, friend said he was making a film on such-and-such subject and would I mind being in the film. I said, sure!
Now those chickens are coming home to roost.
So this friend is going to be here for the rest of the week filming me (my life as a film, Falsie) and it's an interesting experience. I'll tell you why.
For one thing, when you're behind the camera or viewing someone's life as just one portion of the film, you treat them as (however hard you try not to) a commodity or an experience that you mediate as soon as it happens. For a change, since I am the subject, I get to see things from the other side. I feel the pressure.
For another thing, my daily life's pretty boring and I find myself trying to think up things that might be interesting for my friend to shoot that will look good visually on his film. In effect, I am trying to reshape my life temporarily so that it looks acceptable on screen. This is not to say that it's not true to my life; it's just that I'm considering scrunching up a lot of excitement into my day for a purpose. I'm editing my life in camera, as it were.
What books can I leave lying around? Ought I to finally start on that photography project I've been meaning to do but been to damn bone lazy to begin? Where can I go where the camera will be allowed? How many people's consent can I take for granted just because I casually gave mine two years ago on a terrace in Delhi on a winter morning when there were oranges and coffee to seduce me?
And finally, what should I wear?
Since I'm scraping the barrel I may as well do it in style.
My son says the other day, "Amma, what do you call it when you say 'write' but when it happened before you call it 'wrote'?"
"It's called past tense."
"Oh, ya. Past tense.
"Amma, you know what the past tense of self-confidence is? Self-confidental."
Since that day, I've been looking for my grandfather's copy of Wren and Martin. I mean, my grammar's pretty shaky - I can't tell a preposition for a gerund - but I know how it works if I don't have to explain. Now it appears I will have to learn how to.
Monday, November 03, 2008
Update [via Caferati again]: Update (3rd November 2008): Open Space's Rakesh Ganguli tells us that there are a few changes in the entry form, which we have updated below. "Gender" and "Occupation" are now optional fields, but the lower age limit remains 18 years.
But hey - for what it's worth, here is:
The Open Space – Harper Collins Poetry Contest 2008With poetry blogs and literary forums of an assorted variety proliferating online, poetry has finally found a public space. The aim of this Online Poetry Contest is to encourage the reading and writing of poetry as a literary activity and to promote the art of poetry, especially among the young.
1st prize – Rs 20,000
2nd prize – Rs 10,000
3rd prize – Rs 5,000
Keki Daruwala is a poet and a leading figure in Indian poetry in English. A recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award and Commonwealth Poetry Award, Keki N. Daruwalla has so far published about 12 books, consisting of mostly poems and a couple of fictional works. Some of his important works are Under Orion, The keeper of the dead, Landscapes, A summer of tigers and The minister for permanent unrest & other stories. He also edited Two decades of Indian poetry.
V.K.Karthika is the Chief Editor, HarperCollins Publishers India Ltd.
Priya Sarukkai Chabria is a poet and novelist, and Editor of the website Talking Poetry. Her second collection of poems Not Springtime Yet (HarperCollins) was recently released. She is at www.priyawriting.com
C.P.Surendran is a poet, journalist and columnist. He has written four volumes of poetry: Gemini II, Posthumous Poems, Canaries on the Moon and Portraits of the Space We Occupy. His debut novel is titled An Iron Harvest.
The decision of the judges will be final.
Copyright for the shortlisted and winning poems will be shared by the poets, Open Space and Harper Collins. The top ten poems will be published online on Talking Poetry and the HCP site. All winners will be notified by email. The contest ends November 30th 2008 and all winners will be announced in January 2009.
How to enter:
1. Write a poem on the theme of ‘borders’ (interpret the subject broadly, as borders between people, countries and cultures). The poem may be up to 50 lines long, written in any style.
2. The competition is open to anyone above the age of 18 residing in India and writing in English.
3. The poem must be original and unpublished in any print or online forum.
4. A contribution of Rs.100 (one hundred only) is to be paid to participate in the contest. This contribution is payable by bank demand draft only.
5. Only one entry per individual will be accepted.
6. Each poem must be printed on one side of an A4 sheet.
7. Each page must be numbered and must include the title of the poem.
8. Please send two copies of your poem.
9. The competition will be judged ‘blind’. Please make sure your name appears only on the entry form printed below.
Send your poem, entry form and contribution to:
Open Space Poetry Contest
Centre for Communication and Development Studies
301, Kanchanjunga bldg.
Near Krishna Dining Hall,
Off Law College Road
Pune - 411004
Bank Demand Drafts to be drawn in favour of: Centre for Communication and Development Studies
* No copies of poems will be returned and no correspondence with judges can be entered into.
* Entries without the entry form and contribution will not be eligible for the contest.
* Email any queries about the contest to: email@example.com However, NO entries will be entertained online. They must be sent in hard copy.
* Prizes are nontransferable.
* Poems submitted must not have been published previously in books or magazines and must be original to the person submitting them.
* The closing date to enter the contest is November 30, 2008.
* Winners will be announced in January 2009.
FOR THE OPEN SPACE – HARPER COLLINS POETRY CONTEST 2008
(On the theme of ‘Borders’)
Age Group: 18-25 ( ) 25-35 ( ) 35 & above ( )
Bank D.D No.:
Drawn from Bank/City:
Title of your poem:
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
Not posting a whole poem here but urge you to read 'Sillyhow Stride' or visit his site.
In the meanwhile, I can't help wondering if Ranjit Hoskote's poem, 'The Randomiser's Survival Guide'* has met Muldoon's 'Symposium' and said hello.
In other news, I'm in mental hibernation, doing the minimum necessary for survival. If you ask me, even that's too much. I'm trying not to allude to things I've promised to do but haven't got around to. This includes posts, off-blog mails etc. Soon. That's all I can say.
*Can't find the poem online. Look out for it when the book's out - whenever that is.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Apie thipink fopor apa mipinapit apand, lapike Apern Gupoon, lupoosepen mapie tapungue. Apand Apie fapind thapat Apie capan spapeak flupuepent papee lapangwapedge. Lapike sapo.
Ipeevepen theper mopost capunfapuesaping, mupultapisapyllabic wapords dopo nopot dipiscopourapage mepee.
Apie fepeel Apie opought tpoo bepee copongrgapatupoolapataped.
Thapat's apall, Fopolks!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
My great moment of joy came when a friend said he's pick us up for the reading, since he was also going to be there. This meant I didn't have to drive. What's more, the car was an Ambassador (and old-fashioned one, which I'm reliably told, is better than the new ones that are very crumple-able) and my son's cup overflowed.
The University's School of Humanities was where the reading was happening. We were told by a very busy looking HoD that we had to go to the Ashes Building. I was, frankly, perplexed. In the course of the evening, the venue would be variously referred to as the Ashes, Ashish and (just a couple of times in the privacy of my own thoughts) Asses. It's a complicated acronym that I can't spell now after an interval of two days. Sorry.
So basically, we sat around and waited for a quorum. Then we tripped outside (at least, I did. I was wearing Cinderella heels that my sari hid) and had tea under a still-under-construction tent and came back in to wait for some Univ person. Speeches. More speeches. Screeching mikes.
I read and was thankful that I didn't cough.
Jeet was to have half an hour; what with all the speechifying, he managed to do five or six poems. Not that he didn't have time but he very wisely stopped while everyone was still wishing he'd done a few more. Oh - the fuse tripped twice while he read and afterwards (this is a non sequitur) he was mobbed for autographs. Poets are rock stars, I tell you.
The Rayaprol Trust announced a Poetry Prize. Announcements of details later. Jeet suggested that they republish Rayaprol's work so that it's actually available (right now there are a sum total of two copies left of his books with his family). More importantly, he suggested that all the issues of East West that Rayaprol edited - issues of which have contributions by William Carlos Williams (who corresponded with Rayaprol for many years, as did Lowell) and Henry Miller - be republished.
Then we all left for dinner but got stuck in various traffic jams.
The next day I promised Jeet I'd show him Charminar but instead dragged him from one bangle shop to another in Laad Bazaar. I feel remorse (but the bling I picked up!) now.
Monday, October 27, 2008
This year, I woke up late and did pretty much nothing all day long.
Some hour some time, I might feel like logging on again to relive Saturday and Sunday (as if once isn't enough, even if it was a good couple of days).
*What a useful word I've learnt from Equivocal. It's practically the word-of-the-what's-left-of-the-year for me.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Anyone who's in town and interested, please do come.
The Department of English, UoH
An Evening of Poetry
Eminent Indian English poet
in memory of Srinivas Rayaprol
Sridala Swami, poet, will read selections
from Srinivas Rayaprol's poetry
Saturday, October 25, 2008, at 4.30 pm
Venue: Department of English, University of Hyderabad Campus, Gachibowli
Please join us for tea at 4.00 pm
I call 174.
Samay hai. Aaru gantala. Forty-nine minutes. Bees second.
I'm thinking of those three women sitting in some studio recording the day in ten second packets, covering twenty four hours. How long did it take them? How many takes? Are they even alive?
My computer says I still have 15 hours of the day left before I can decently pack it away.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
Having skipped the Inauguration (we had someone else's passes; were instructed NOT to say how we came by them; it was in the morning on a school day; I had to be at the University just a couple of hours later; there were politicians going to make speeches) I had to promise to buy tickets and take my son to the last day of the Aviation Show.
Bought tickets. Armed with sunscreen, bottles of water and caps, we left early. Not sure of entrances and Gate numbers, we asked a cop standing undera brightly decorated arch. After some fluttering of hands and some typical 'but you don't have this pass, you need to go so many kilometres away to buy it and return here', they let us into the parking lot. It was empty. Not people dispensing tickets, no people at all, actually. So we parked under a tree and having decided to ignore written instructions, walked into Gate 5 (meant for VIPs) with a Gate 1,3 and 4 ticket.
They let us in. No, really. After just a couple of minutes of hand waving etc., they let us in through this gate and I can tell you now that we got to walk over one dusty red carpet, up a few steps and to the pavilion where the business end of the aviation show was being conducted.
Not knowing any better, we walked into this first. It was standard-issue trade fair stuff. In two minutes, we were out. My son was, at this point, still skipping along next to me in excitement. Turning the corner, we found the planes.
Now, we knew that the Airbus A 380 was there only for one day and this day was not that one day. Still and all, it was with extreme disappointment that we viewed the six or seven planes assembled for our viewing pleasure (no photographs. I stook the instructions on the ticket seriously and went without camera, handbag etc. I should ahve known better. Everyone there was brandishing something that could take photographs. Bah.).
One little plane was something that folks assembled like a model plane. I'm not sure it could fly, and they weren't going to prove it to us. It just sat there looking frail. Just as well it was hot and still. Just as well there were no Big Bad Wolves around.
So: small plane. Boeing 777, three choppers in different colours, one mid-sized plane.
"Amma, I must say I'm a little disappointed, arent you?"
"Really? How unahppy are you? Aren't you the one who wanted to stay from 10am to 5pm?"
"Ya, but there's nothing to see. I think we should leave. This is boring."
To distract him, we walked around the enclosure to where some more standard issue planes were resting. We asked if any of these planes were expected to actually fly or if they were just going to sit there. Apparently one just had and others would. We waited.
In the next 45 minutes, this si what we saw:
1. One plane taking off never to return.
2. One propeller plane that flew low, made another pass over the runway and settled down to soem seirous looping-the-loop before ti landed.
3. One flight simulator video played for a group of 20 people at a time, while the real flight simulator stood next to us looking strong and silent.
4. A History of Civil Aviation in India museum where there were uninspiring photos of JRD and various planes; a wall of the Maharaja's ads; some models of planes. Someone came and gave the kid a booklet about planes in India.
5. Two guys in rainbow coloured parathutes doing a jump.
6. One helicopter taking off.
11 am and already it felt as if we'd been there too long. We decided to leave. This is where the nightmare began.
Someone directed us to a wrong exit. Once we were out, we realised that (1) getting to our parking meant walking and walking and walking (2) given the crowds thronging and pleading and offering bribes to the cops, getting back in was not an option. So we walked. And walked and tripped and walked. The entrance was jammed with people and vehicles. The main road was worse, with two wheelers on every inch of what passed for the pavement.
It took us half an hour to walk tot he parking and another hour to get out from there to just pas the airport (a distance of 200 metres at most). We were the lucky ones. The traffic jam that was just beginning wouldn;t unsnarl until late in the evening. Apparently they were expecting 30,000 visitors, but 50,000 or more turned up, Finally the cops ahd ot request the organisers to stop selling tickets. There was a mild lathi charge to disperse annoyed people who'd already waited in line for hours.
It was a mess. We got back at 4, having spent a sum total of one hour at the show and three in the traffic.
Never again. Really.
In other news, we had lunch at Paradise and since the kid could not finish an entire biryani on his own, I helped him. This makes it the first time in nine years that I was having meat of any description. Is that a 'yay!' I hear? I was suprised to not feel any ickiness - I kind of thought I'd feel this great revulsion and all, but nothing happened. Huh.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
[This is a piece I wrote for India Today but the version that has appeared in the magazine is an edit that I did not agree to. It's not clear to me how that happened since I edited the longer article down to this final version and sent it in to them. But the magazine is out and I am both angry and saddened at their careless editing of ideas that are particularly under siege at this point of time.
So, here is my edit and I would be glad if it was circulated widely on the net - more widely than the magazine!
Being Muslim means many things to many people
by Samina Mishra
Not far from L18, in the posh part of Jamia Nagar, is a house on a tree-lined avenue that will always be home to me. But my life, with all its easy privileges, could not be more different from Atif and Sajid's, the two young men shot as alleged terrorists at L18. I contain multitudes, Whitman so eloquently said. But we live in a time when even multitudes are forced to lay claim to a singular label. And so by writing this, perhaps, I will forever be labelled the voice of the liberal secular Muslim. A voice that is accused of not speaking up. Ironically, it is this very tyranny of labels that grants me this space in a mainstream national magazine.
As someone with a Muslim first name and a Hindu surname, I suppose I have always swung between labels - a poster girl for communal harmony or a confused, rootless individual, depending on who was doing the labelling. I went to a public school and have never worn a burkha. I might escape being thrown in the big cauldron with "Islamic Terrorists" but I will certainly be added to the one for "misguided intellectuals" . While there is no mistaking
that it is zealous nationalists who seek to light the fire under the first cauldron, the other is a bone of contention between those who seek to define for me how to be Indian and those who seek to define for me how to be Muslim. My condemnation of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Imrana's rape or the media circus around Gudiya will always be seen in the context of my
privileged background, my gender, my religious identity. Perhaps, it can be no other way.
In this rhetoric of binaries of "us and them", it is difficult to find the space to create a new paradigm of discussion. And so, in conversations that throw up Islamic terrorists, rigid religious beliefs, Pakistan and madrasas, the response is inevitably another set of questions - why is the Bajrang Dal not labelled a terrorist outfit, why is the growing public display of Hindu festivals like Navratras and Karva Chauth not considered rigid religious beliefs, why should Muslims in India be answerable for what goes on in Pakistan, what spaces other than madrasas are available for thousands of believing Muslims who choose to get educated and still retain their Muslim-ness. As a Muslim in India today, not only are you fighting to shrug off the label of fundamentalist- if not terrorist - but you are also succumbing to a paradigm of dialogue which has been set for homogenous communities with clear markers of identities.
But how does one fight that when shared cultural spaces, other than those created by the market, shrink? How does one speak of the diversity of being Indian when Diwali is celebrated in schools and Eid just in Muslim homes? How does one avoid a singular label for experiences that are diverse and yet have a common thread running through them - the experience of a tailor in
Ahmedabad whose Hindu patrons have stopped giving work to, the butcher in Batla House who couldn't get a bank loan, the software professional who will now have to watch every single byte that leaves his computer.
Being Muslim in India today means many things to many people. But how easy it is to forget that one fundamental reality. How easy it is to say, as someone said to me after the Delhi blasts - "These are all educated Muslims. Don't they know that their bombs can also kill their own?" As if everyone with a Muslim name is a terrorist's very "own".
In the India Today
About Samina Mishra
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
One of the great joys of attending theatre festivals such as the recently concluded one is the drama it provides off stage. Opening night (by which I mean the night after the invited-audience-only inauguration which had Evam's Hamlet - A Spoof) had great crowds of people waiting outside but according to some Hindu representatives, no one was buying tickets. Which probably means that complimentary tickets were cast as bread upon the waters, because in good Hyderabad time (7.45pm for a show that was to start at 7.30pm) people were actually beginning to take their seats instead of doing some frantic socialising.
The first instalment of drama began shortly before that, however. Row three in the front had, I noticed, three cops complete with batons and topis. I was thinking incredulous and uncharitable thoughts when they spotted some event organiser and jumped up to surround him. There was much hand-waving; another couple of event organiser tuchchas joined them but they appeared to only be watching the fun. Hindu official turned up. Hectic negotiations for an entire row were apparently on. The event organisers seemed to be refusing to turf out the occupants of an entire row to accommodate person or persons not yet arrived. I held my breath to see what would happen next.
What happened next was the tamest capitulation I ever saw. No drama at all; only masses of irony. People were moved out of their row. One cop stood guard over one aisle and another at the other end. As the lights began to dim, they faded. In a minute, one lady and a couple of gentlemen stood at the door and looked in surprise and delight at this wonderful empty row in which no one wanted to sit but which had a very good view of the stage. They sat and greeted friends and acquaintances. The play began.
What could compare with all this gossip off-stage? The play (The President Is Coming) was sort of fun, flagged a bit, had a thin script that rested heavily on stereotypes. If you've seen Loins of Punjab, you can skip this if it ever comes your way - it's just more (and more and more and more) of the same.
But wait. Hindu has this thing called The Citizen's Review. Basically, they give their Metro Plus staff a break and ask people who've watched the play to bung in a 150 word review by the afternoon of the following day. The 'best' review is all highlighted in the next day's paper and the winner gets a dinner. Guess who won the first play's Citizen Reviewer Award?
Come on. It was the lady in the guarded row, of course. It wasn't the greatest review. You want to know what deserves the Greatest Review Award? (In fact, I propose that from next year The Hindu institute another level of awards: for the best review out of the four best reviews.)
Here it is:
I am no patriarch of the theatre aficionado, yet when the opportunity arrived at the MetroPlus Theatre Fest, I grabbed it, albeit as Noah, for the Scorcese’s and the Spielbergs had warned me, not to try to catch the deluge in a paper cup, for it was a crowded house inside Ravindra Bharthi, and there I was on the corner seat waiting to sail on. The Suit says it all, infidelity by a wife and the male egoism among us, the natives. One fine morning Bunty Walia, the male protagonist wakes up and makes toast to the beautiful night he left behind, with a hot cup of tea and the usual morning newspaper, as if Mina, his wife and the female protagonist, didn’t really fake it. That is because, the moment he left for his office, there she was with the Complete Man, the male infidel, wearing a suit.
On his way to the office with Papaji, Bunty was made aware of the suspicion, which he confirmed upon his chance arrival. The piousness of the bed romping session was ravaged by the Suit resting on the back of the dining chair, and so was the loving and caring Bunty. As a mark of penance, Bunty makes the Suit, a guest of his house, who divides the line between relationship and forgiveness – does not one complement the other. Instead, he substitutes that with continued repentance for Mina, who loved him, but was a victim of boredom. The suit was everywhere for her, the dinner, the after supper walk, and even the house party for instant gratification.
There's more. Please go read. In fact, I insist.
It's actually a pity that the best play of the festival (thanks Swar and Anindita) should have got the most moronic reviews. I skipped the play from Hyderabad (which was bound to have been so terrible that if people actually remembered their lines you'd have felt relieved for them and clapped with enthusiasm) but I'm wondering now if I should have gone to it after all, just so I can compare it with last night's play.
Last night's play, ladies and gentlemen, was by Evam and the most unutterably boring play I've had the misfortune to see in a long time. Actually, it wasn't a play so much as a variety entertainment programme, with skits that were genre-rip-offs (one Kill Bill meets John Woo type scenario and just in case you didn't get how clever their quotation was, because actually it's a quote within a quote, within a quote, they had this on the soundtrack) or just mind-numbing pieces of sentimentality.
The skits was puntuated by each of the six actors talking to the audience. This was actually the most interesting part of the whole evening, because while it was clearly rehearsed, some of them managed to pull off an impression of spotaneity while retaining the sense that this too was 'acting'. But whatever. It wasn't interesting enough to sit through the play and I wanted to leave at the interval (the production was two hours. Can you imagine two fucking hours of this?!) but my friend didn't. So I sat and sat and actually considered sending in a review.
I have time - a few hours left - but I doubt that I will. Who could top the gem I've quoted above?
(The Suit deserves a proper stand alone review. Maybe I will, if I drown in work first.)
Saturday, October 11, 2008
In any case, this is something I've been meaning to post about for a while. The following letter has been sent out by PEN India. Given how things are, I'm not sure how many publications will carry it in full. For what it's worth, I'm posting it here. If anyone has any ideas about who one could send this to, please let me know.
We write to express our anguish and outrage at the continuing brutalities visited upon Christian communities and places of worship in Orissa and Karnataka, and elsewhere, as well as at the pusillanimous attitude of our political leaders towards the perpetrators of these atrocities.
While the police have stood by and watched churches being desecrated and acts of assault and rape carried out, the Central Government has reacted vigorously only after representatives of the European Union expressed their concern. The perceived damage to India's international image should not be a greater concern than the actual damage that such violence causes to the inclusive, multi-religious and multi-ethnic character of Indian society.
This violence is a failure of our political institutions and of civil society. It is a consequence of our failure to uphold the principles of the rule of law, mutual understanding, and civil dialogue. Eventually, such violence does not remain confined to a few clearly targeted victims. Rather, it spreads to engulf and destroy the entire society that spawns it, as is evident in neighbouring Pakistan and Sri Lanka, for instance.
The worst contributors to this scenario are politicians who dream of electoral victory at the cost of social catastrophe. The powerful ideal of 'unity in diversity', which has held this country together for six decades, has been seriously imperilled by the use of religious and ethnic prejudice as a political weapon. Intolerance of those different from ourselves, and the abandoning of reasoned discussion to deal with differences, spells the end of the India for which the freedom struggle was waged.
More and more of us must come out and say clearly that we do not share the dreams of these cynical opportunists. Their India is not the India we dream of. The India we dream of is a just society, not an aggressive power.
We call upon the Indian Government to ensure that hate speech is outlawed from the domain of public discourse. We also call upon the Indian Government to outlaw those political parties which, directly or through their cohorts, promote communal discord and encourage violence. The rule of law implies that every citizen's life is sacred. Let the law act decisively to punish those who perpetrate the appalling crimes of pogrom and murder.
THE PEN ALL-INDIA CENTRE
The PEN All-India Centre
40 New Marine Lines
Bombay 400 020
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
So, from Sahir's Ramblings, here's a sample:
[...]To be honest, I don't think about my future too much. Not that I should, being thirteen, but everyone puts some thought into it at some point, be it a sophomore thinking about applying to college next year, or even a four year old girl playing doctor in the backyard.
The future is a funny thing to think about. I sometimes think, what if all of a sudden, we just cease to exist. We won't burn up, or disintegrate, or anything painful at all. We simply wouldn't exist. We would never have existed, and would never exist. Just as if there was no universe, no time, no space, nothing. Hell, there wouldn't even be nothing! Simply nothing would exist. And we wouldn't necessarily know when things stopped existing. For example, we could just keep on living in our imaginations. Though nothing would exist, we would believe it does, and live on forever, not knowing if anything is real. Even this blog you feel you are reading could all be in your head. I'm pretty sure some philosopher touched on this topic before, but I can't seem to recall his name.
Anyway, I hope you're sufficiently freaked out.
The report says:
The response to the inaugural edition of the MetroPlus Theatre Fest last year went beyond our expectations. It was heart-warming to discover such an enthusiastic, appreciative, and generous audience, which gave the performances a string of standing ovations.Many of those who attended those plays urged us to ensure that the Hyderabad Fest was not a one-off affair. Well, we are pleased to announce we are back.
Now, I don't know. Hyderabad, having so little theatre, will applaud anything. But I must admit that Hyderabadis are generous - it would account for why they sit through some terrible performances (with highly priced tickets) without one boo or hiss.
I intend to watch at least QTP's production of The President Is Coming (Anuvab Pal's play) and Evam's closing play but let's see. Things have a way of ganging agley the minute I talk about them.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
- I don’t believe forbodings, nor do omens
Frighten me. I do not run from slander
Nor from poison. On earth there is no death.
All are immortal. All is immortal. No need
To be afraid of death at seventeen
Nor yet at seventy. Reality and light
Exist, but neither death nor darkness.
All of us are on the sea-shore now,
And I am one of those who haul the nets
When a shoal of immortality comes in.
- Live in the house – and the house will stand.
I will call up any century,
Go into it and build myself a house.
That is why your children are beside me
And your wives, all seated at one table,
One table for great-grandfather and grandson.
The future is accomplished here and now,
And if I slightly raise my hand before you,
You will be left with all five beams of light.
With shoulder blades like timber props
I held up every day that made the past,
With a surveyor’s chain I measured time
And traveled through as if across the Urals.
- I picked an age whose stature measured mine.
We headed south, mad dust swirl on the steppe.
Tall weeds were rank; a grasshopper was playing,
Brushed horseshoes with his whiskers, prophesied,
And told me like a monk that I would perish.
I took my fate and strapped it to my saddle;
And I’ve reached the future till I stand
Upright in my stirrups like a boy.
I only need my immortality
For my blood to go on flowing from age to age.
I would readily pay with my life
For a safe place with constant warmth
Were it not that life’s flying needle
Leads me on through the world like a thread.
Arseniy Tarkovsky, Translated by Kitty Hunter-Blair
I have no idea why the first lines of each section are the way they are.