Sunday, December 14, 2008

Keki Daruwalla's reading at Akshara

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.


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


It's the season for them. Manoel de Oliveira. Elliot Carter. Claude Levi-Strauss.

[via, mostly]

A Most Unusual Reading

Two things you probably know about me: 1) That I turn up early to any place I need to go and 2) that I -- no. I can't even bring myself to say it.

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 cabbie begins to call for directions at 4.15am. Good job I've been up since 4. Even leaving at 5 the airport is an hour away. Turns out I'm the only one who's taken the three-hours-before-take-off notice seriously.

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


Delhi was great. Lots to blog about. But in the meanwhile, I have tons to do offline so more from me in a day or two.

And how have all of you been?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Reading at the Sahitya Akademi, Delhi on the 8th

The Sahitya Akademi has its annual exhibition at this time of the year. Also, my book's going into reprint. There's a reading (though not just from my work) at The Sahitya Akademi on Monday, 8th at 5.30pm.

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

Pratilipi in December

The second part of the Pratilipi Cinema Series is up.

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

The Shakti Bhatt First Book Award goes to

Mohammad Hanif for A Case of Exploding Mangoes. I've yet to read it and I should, I really should.

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).

On Blogbharti

There's information and opinion overload just now, so I will continue to not say anything until I know what it is I want to say that others aren't already saying.

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.