Friday, October 31, 2008

Paul Muldoon

Recently got Paul Muldoon Poems 1968-1998 as a gift. Can't read anything else (except trash that doesn't occupy one's mind) with any degree of concentration. I've read his book length Madoc: A Mystery three times and now feel like a kite that's caught on a branch but is impatient for the sky.

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

Ta Pyme A Pout

Sopo apa fapew dapays bapack mapie sapun apasks mapee ipif Apie capan spapeak ipin papee lapangwapedge.

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


Apologies about the indifferent photos. The light was directly overhead but that's no excuse. I just wasn't in the mood for taking photographs.

The Rayaprol/Thayil Reading

I may as well warn you that this is going to be a frivolous and mostly irrelevant post about the reading.

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.

Photos later.

Monday, October 27, 2008


That was last year.

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

The Srinivas Rayaprol Memorial Reading

Have been trying to remove all the highlighting but can't get rid of the wretched thing. And since I'm not about to rewrite the whole thing, here it is, stet.

Anyone who's in town and interested, please do come.

The Srinivas Rayaprol Literary Trust
The Department of English, UoH

Invite you

An Evening of Poetry


Jeet Thayil,
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


All the clocks say something different. The TV gives me a different time and the cellphone and the generator at the institute next door that's usually turned off at half past five in the morning was still running at what my wrist watch says is a quarter past six.

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.

Oh god.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


is off!

None of the live feeds people are linking to actually work. DD News it was. The launch went off well, though seconds later nothing was visible because of cloudy skies. All appears to be well but let's see.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Lot of Hot Air

Or, How Not To Spend A Saturday.

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

Many things to many people

Reproduced here with the permission of the author.

[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

'No patriarch of the theatre aficionado'

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:

Intense performances

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

open letter

I've sprained my wrist and had been considered posting to say so but that seemed like a colossal waste of wrist-ammo, which I need for driving and signing and such.

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.


Dear Colleagues,

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.

Girish Karnad

Salman Rushdie

Amitav Ghosh

Vikram Seth

Ramachandra Guha

Kiran Nagarkar

Amit Chaudhuri

Mukul Kesavan

Suketu Mehta

Ranjit Hoskote

Arundhathi Subramaniam

Sampurna Chattarji

Nancy Adajania

Shobhana Bhattacharji

Romesh Bhattacharji


The PEN All-India Centre

Theosophy Hall

40 New Marine Lines


Bombay 400 020

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The blog of a 13-year-old

I think I'm about to faint or something. Seriously. This is from a friend's son's blog. I met the kid just a month ago and if I knew he blogged (and blogged like this) I would have skipped the very boring reading I had to go to and sat and talked with him some more. Instead I watched him indulging my son as they ran around the lawn like a couple of bright bats.

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.
You are?

The Hindu Metro Plus Theatre Festival 2008

Starts tomorrow with 'a supper theatre performance for an invited audience at the Taj Deccan followed by four plays by groups from various parts of the country'.

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

'Life, Life': Arseniy Tarkovsky

Life, Life.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Monday, October 06, 2008

long hand

Moleskines in the mail today*. It was unexpected and overjoying. I'm thinking of letters I've written. I'm thinking how, like some people remember clothes, I remember empty journals I've been given.

The History of the Moleskine inserted in the ones I've just received says it is 'a reservoir of ideas and feelings, a battery that stores discoveries and perceptions, and whose energy can be tapped over time.'

It's a good sales pitch, an audacious one too, considering that all paper is potential.

But today they were entirely right. I am elated, pulled back and forward, restless with energy.

From the time I opened that package, the day's been good.

*Did I forget to mention they were a gift? I forgot to mention they were a gift. They were.

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Pratilipi Cinema Series

The October issue of Pratilipi is live. Starting with this issue, they will run two essays on cinema with each issue.

This month, Paromita Vohra and Surabhi Sharma have contributed essays. And my Introduction.

And, of course, many familiar names there: Chandrahas, Anindita, Meena et al.

Go read.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A familiar naming

My father’s proper Gikuyu name is Muigai, but people know him as Job Wainaina. Wainaina is not my father’s name. It is my grandfather’s. But the confusion of the British naming system inserted itself into the way we register our names, and left many strange parallel ways of announcing yourself. You had to have a surname. So, my grandfather’s name became our family surname. In a culturally decentralized society such as that of the Gikuyu, names are used to plot you, quite exactly, on a map. You can ask a stranger three questions, and know where he or she comes from, which clan they belong to.

You had to have a surname. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

(There's a lot more to be said about naming, but it's all obvious so I won't.)

Oh - that was Binyavanga Wainaina in Granta 103.