Saturday, November 29, 2008

what's a good title for this?

I'm trying not to jump in and say things I might want to unsay because they've been insufficiently thought out. I have deadlines but I spend my day trying to order my thoughts into a post that makes sense to at least a few other people than myself.

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

Meanwhile on the other coast...

Cyclone Nisha over Tamil Nadu has taken 70 lives so far. I know some of my family has had their house flooded - they live on the ground floor in a housing colony in Velachery. Everyone in the colony has been evacuated. There's been no electricity all day; regular phone lines are down. It's only a matter of time, I suppose, before peoples' cell phone batteries die on them, and food and water become serious issues. News on Jaya TV doesn't look good.

Hope all you people in Chennai are okay.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

the city we give our children

Sonia has a very moving post about last night:

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!'

Mumbai again

Just heard. Wasn't on the net or watching the news last night. As I write this, the Taj is still burning; three ATS officers have been killed, more than 70 civilians, five terrorists; 15 foreign nationals taken hostage.

I don't know what to say just now. I hope everyone's safe.

More soon.


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.

2. Twitter.

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

I hate everybody

and I hate to think of what I will be missing.

Waaaah! I want to be in Trivandrum every December.

Robert Heinlein's resonse form

In which Heinlein merely ticks the appropriate box. (it's a bit old, but it who cares?)


Friday, November 21, 2008

Themes & Results & Nyela Saeed

Gmail now has themes. After Voice/video/whatever. Sucker that I am, I checked it out and chose Tree. Turns out it's one of those themes where you have to give exact location, so the theme changes with the day. This I like. My tree started out as one of those lone but bright green landmarks against a pale blue sky but is now half-hidden in the mist. (I wonder how often they check to change? Because right this second the sun has risen over other trees outside my window and I've had to get up and draw the curtains so I don't get it in the eye. The white portions of my curtain are now pale gold.)

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

A Facebook style update on my life

Just watched Quantum of Solace. This means that I will have to do that Bond-Smiley post after all, no? (Or maybe I need to read more Ian Fleming first.)

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.


Best news of the week

Monty Python on YouTube.

Thanks, BM.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

'mountain' by night

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

Inappropriate Laughter: Dasvidaniya

This is not a review. Be warned. Well, it may be. Kind of. Then again, it may not.

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?

Ok, then.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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?
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
* I admit it wasn't especially witty dialogue remotely funny; it's a measure of the audience's perception of the film that they found this exchange more rivetting than what was happening on screen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The recording

This was recorded before it was properly edited for levels and such-like. I should have edited out the dead spaces but I haven't, mainly because there's too much else to do urgently and I can't be bothered. Also, I suppose one ought to hear what the broadcast was (mostly) like.

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

Pet Peeves Part Two

'At the end of the day' tops the Oxford University's list. An indication of how moved people are, please check comments (2,273 so far). [Via]


Sunday, November 09, 2008

On All India Radio

Update: The programme goes on air at 9.30pm tonight. AIR Hyderabad 'A', 738 KHz.

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

QoS, Bond, Smiley, kingfisher

Waiting to see Quantum of Solace before I leave next Wednesday, but it seems unlikely. Been mulling over a post about cold war anti-heroes, most especially Bond and Smiley.

But all that's for later.

In the meanwhile, here's a bird for you to look at.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

POTUS-Elect Obama!

And he's won!

Pax Americana

Or why we watch this US Election as if it were our own.

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

A little bit of this and a little bit of that

There have been an astonishing number of people landing up here on google searches for Eunoia. I'm wondering why. Apparently the BBC have suddenly decided to review it (or something. Please read comments however). But why, having read samples from there, must people have to search for it and land up here? I'm mystified.


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

The Open Space-Harper Collins Poetry Contest 2008

Via Peter, this announcement. I'm not sure why it's called an 'online' poetry contest when it's got to be sent via post to OS. Or, as the Caferati editors have pointed out on the blog, what gender and occupation have to do with anything I don't know. And what does it means when they say '[c]opyright for the shortlisted and winning poems will be shared by the poets, Open Space and Harper Collins.'

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 2008

With 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
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.
Kanchan Lane,
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: 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.


(On the theme of ‘Borders’)

Age Group: 18-25 ( ) 25-35 ( ) 35 & above ( )
Gender (optional):
Occupation (optional):
Postal Address:
Mobile no.:
Landline no.:
Bank D.D No.:
Drawn from Bank/City:

Title of your poem:

The Poem:

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Cinder Ella

Since people are posting photos of heels, I thought I'd join the jamboree.