Saturday, January 31, 2009

'a desperate optimist'

At least one part of continuous and determined blogging is to bury the crap as rapidly as possible and hope nobody will notice what all the effort is in aid of - it's one reason I am linking to this interview, old now by nearly a year, with Geoffrey Hill.

I have nothing to say about it, at least not yet, not aloud and not here.

Here it is.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Portmanteau Post

Taking inspiration from Ludwig-san, here's a bunch of things I've been reading that y'all might enjoy (or not).

1. First up, sing a Praise Song for the Remix. All 51 of them.

2. And then there's Jyotirmaya Sharma (hey there!) on Modi. It's on Siddharth Varadarajan's blog, btw. The comments, as always...what can I say? Mostly i want to laugh but way too many people think like these folks and it's scary. Somebody should do a wingnut comments remix. [the JS article link via Rohit.]

3. While we're on the subject of things that leave you speechless (ha ha, in the context): Post 26/11 (how easily we slip into these codes, no?) there were a lot of bloggers posting about the TV coverage. NDTV has decided to pick on Chyetanya Kunte. He apologises. And withdraws his post. Blogbharti links to Vimoh who writes an open letter to NDTV. I'm sure the lady in question will now be confirmed in every prejudice she ever harboured about evil bloggers. They just refuse to shut up, no? Wonder who'll be invited to speak on We the People now. I'm guessing it won't be Mr. Kunte.

4. Now for something completely different. Last year, Amruta Patil's protagonist concluded that blood was unreliable. [It appears that the comic's gone!]. This year, in 24 hours there's Kari in the museum. On the one hand, Kari knows all about museums. On the other, she's finding it hard to get used to the mute button. Go read. Um, see.

5. Coming up: more birthday party stories. Stay tuned. I'm off to read some of the things I've linked to.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Inner Out

I especially liked 11. But read 'em all.

Now who's got rules of their own?


*in solidarity with Ms. Baroque's keyboard.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The thing about Cellular Silence

S. Anand in Tehelka

Let’s look at the material reasons for Ratan Tata’s love for Narendra Modi. Tata Motors gets a soft loan of Rs 9,570 crore at a negligible interest of 0.1 per cent to shift the Nano project to Gujarat. Repayment is deferred for 20 years. In all, the Modi Government has offered over Rs 30,000 crore in sops to Tata Motors. So Ratan Tata says, “You are stupid if you are not in Gujarat.” Martin Macwan, a human rights campaigner in Gujarat, compares this with the compensation offered to Dalits who have been forced to do manual scavenging. To quit the profession and seek an alternative livelihood, the state offers them a rehabilitation package — a bank loan of Rs 80,000 at 11 percent interest. Stigmatised Dalits, forced into a subhuman occupation for generations, are asked to pay hundred times more interest for a pittance of a loan. With which they sometimes open a tea stall. From which no one would drink tea. India officially has 7,70,338 manual scavengers and the state is the biggest employer.

Of course, all of this is assuming that those who have signed the petition will actually turn their phones off on the 30th of January. What are the odds? I think everyone's going to be happy they did their bit by signing an online petition. They might even send a few SMSes to mark the occasion.

Oh - the Cellular Silence petition here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Revolution was Televised (Yes We Can!)

Obama's Inauguration (described by, I think, the BBC as something approaching a coronation) had over two million people attending, right?

I'm trying to imagine what The Moment would have looked like if everyone had preferred to watch from the comfort of their homes, all toasty and with a mug of coffee in their hands. Empty streets, big screens, a collection of pols on the stage, all the pomp without the circumstance, a speech made to the cold air.

It couldn't have been the weather that brought them out. It's unlikely that they were paid in alcohol, clothes, or herded in vans and open trucks like cattle. Far as I could make out, there weren't even enough loos and some of them were there for a full eight hours.

And yet they were all there. That's what was awe-inspiring.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Trivial thoughts on the Inauguration

Things I didn't stick around to see:

Ted Kennedy's seizure.
Bush's take off.
GeoEye - 1's take.

Things I didn't know until this morning:

Ted Kennedy's seizure
Why Obama fumbled his oath
That the father of the Nation reference was to Tom Paine's speech [via].

Things I remember about the speech:

All that natural world at the beginning - 'still waters of peace'.
How much the entire raison d'etre of America is tied up with the quest for perfection, as if it is an achievable thing, like a horizon you keep in your sights as you pick yourself up and dust off your failures.
The harking back to the past as if it was a simple place whose values we must now find once again in the present.
Those people whose hands America would be happy to clasp if only they would unclench their fists.
I can't say this enough: the idea that the American Dream is a perfectable one, that if only one kept the words of the forefathers fresh and alive and was unafraid of hard work, one's place at the very top was guaranteed (and, by inference, that all those other people in the world who also work hard and aim for perfection would be happy to let America take its 'natural' place at the top).
(Why am I being so sour? It was a good speech, well-delivered).
Non-believers included in the march forward!
Science is to have its place in the sun once again!
He did a variation on winter of our discontent. Anyone remember (offhand) what it was?

Things I'm not talking about (just now):
Elizabeth Alexander's poem
Michelle Obama's clothes
Arrival's departures, the weather, the music and the coverage (there must be forests and acres of persiflage about it somewhere, no?)

It was fun, though, wasn't it?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Why we are all Americans*

Part Two.

Because, cliche though it may be, we want have one person who can be a lightning rod for our hopes.

Because this man is not that man (more about this later).

Because it's one heck of a show-must-go-on moment (talking of which, read this.).

Because everybody loves a hero.

Oh, just because I intend to watch as much of it as I can so I can feel all connected to history and all that. So that, when people ask me what I was doing when Obama became President, I can say all misty-eyed, that I was watching teevee. And it's more exciting than the 9pm movie anyway.

*Like that moment in that alien attack film, no? What was it called? Independence Day?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tsering Wangmo Dhompa: 'On 21st Street'

On 21st street

He waits by the window to witness
a disaster. Counts time by the glitter
of a ring, broken glass or hair. The street
emerges—cleaner, glamorous—a rhythm of images
in metallic revolutions. The street, a bridegroom
pinning weight on one single woman thinking alas,
thinking escape. The center of a journey,
a bouleversement when all he wants to do
is sit all day and deliquesce, drop by drop.
He wonders at the octopus who can get
her own drink; at the monkey who entertains
the crowd; the boy or girl called Teddi who
reads backwards from a moving car.
Just for a moment he wants to be a hog
or hot air balloon, deft and droll. He stretches
palms out, traces the lines with a pen. Writes into.

(From In The Absent Everyday. More poems here.)

Tsering was a year ahead of me at college. She wrote so well back then that it ought not to be a surprise to read her work now. But surprise and delight are key to all poetry, aren't they? Have to thank Ron Silliman for (re)discovering Tsering's poetry.

An excerpt from a longer prose piece here.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Gospel According to Donkey Hottie




Talking about Donkey Hottie, the Navoi Bolshoi from Tashkent promised us Cervantes' hero and gave us instead dribbles from many ballets that were notable for the sameness of couples about to be parted forever and then bits from the Nutcracker.

It was all, not to put too fine a point on it, nonsense.
The Hindu got it all wrong. clearly, the reporter wasn't even there.

Eheu Fugaces

In other words, I'm amazed at how much I had to say last year and the year before.

And in the meanwhile, here's a question for you: is it memory or your subconscious acting up when you remember something (very vividly) that you didn't know you knew but now that it's resurfaced, it's as fresh as on the day it happened? Do you remember only that which you're aware of committing to memory? And if not, then what's the subconscious doing bubbling up to the surface in this very sewage-y way?

(Yes, I've been re-reading last January's posts. And Ludwig. I can't but think of sewage.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Windchime with frog

For Amruta:

The frog in the next two is not the windchime one, I should clarify.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Go Banno!

For the most kickass (kickest-ass? kick-assest?) account of watching Ghajini, please go read Banno:

A long note on short term memory after the opening credits totally went past Chris who was still shuffling around in his seat, excited at being in an Indian cinema house.

The opening scene with a computer graphic map of the brain, and a medical college lecture that went "The brain is the king of all organs. The brain controls all the other organs" invited a small snort from him.

Medical student Sunita finds a file on Sanjay Singhania. She pretends interest in his condition of short term memory but actually she thinks he's cute. Her professor rightly judges that and asks her to stay away as SS is a police case. 'But, but ... ', she says. He glares at her, she looks down meekly. She wonders what SS is doing right now.

SS was on a killing spree.
He took out his Polaroid, Chris gasped.
SS made notes, Chris stopped breathing.
SS went home, Chris made a small gurgling sound when he saw the maps on the wall.
SS went to the bathroom, and a note asked him to remove his T-shirt. His 6 pack body was revealed with tattoos all over it.

SS's eyes popped out, and he made growling animal sounds. Chris's eyes popped out, and he made growling animal sounds.

He flung himself out of the chair and stomped out. Teja's tub of popcorn was scattered all over the floor.

I hissed: "Does he know that cost 65 rupees?"

Teja remonstrated: "It's not a huge amount for him. And he's angry right now, Banno."

I said: "I don't care. Go get me more popcorn. And get him to pay for it, if you can."

Teja found Chris stalking before the uniformed boys lined up before him, in their uniform 'Ghajini' haircuts.

"What's with this haircut?", he was saying. "Do you know my film is about memory and how it plays tricks on the best of us, and how it's the basis of the identity we create for ourselves, and who we are, and all that? What's this hair got to do with it?"

Teja calmed him down and said: "Haircuts are an important part of actors' performances here, Chris. They are crucial to the actor's interpretation of the character."

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Monday, January 05, 2009

A second winter in Chennai

Highlights include:

- The buses. They were so much fun! I would arrive at the bus stop only to find the bus I wanted already there or just arriving, as if someone had sent out an urgent signal. No waiting, no looking at the passing autos wistfully (in Chennai?! Hah.) wondering if they were an option.

- The empty bits of land in Velachery, off the bypass road. These would not be as much fun if I actually had live there, but just walking past them every day is a learning experience: such as, the things people consider irredeemable waste. Helmets, plastic-net laundry bags, old clothes, and masses and masses of plastic bags.

- Meeting (and attending) one evening's readings at the Poetry with Prakriti festival, where Michael Creighton and Monica Mody read. Michael's kid and mine turned out to be the same age with similar reading tastes (this means they sat downstairs and the Oxford Bookstore and read Asterix and Tintin and laughed and chuckled, very audibly in a nearly silent bookstore).

-Hanging out with Rahul and Cat and Vivek.

-Gifts of books: The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The latest issue of The Journal of the Krishnamurti Schools.

-Walking lots. I don't seem to walk anymore in Hyderabad.

- Watching the waves at the Besant Nagar beach on 26th December with a mixture of dread and relief. And wondering why a dripping tap does not have the same hypnotic effect that waves have. Can it really only be a matter of scale?

-Not having to cook or wake up early or do things, you know? And not having to visit family if you didn't want to. Made a refreshing change from what trips to Chennai are usually about.

-Oh, and enjoying family go on about how cold Chennai is right now. So much pani, you know.

-Vasanta Vihar. Nothing I've listed above compares. That makes it a separate post, if I ever get around to it.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


All in the head, of course, but for once, it really feels fantastic to say Happy New Year to everyone.

This means, of course, that I'm back.

And will not be blogging as much as I was last year (last year. Yay!) Because being offline was exactly what I needed to do, and you know what? That's nearly as addictive as blogging was.

But Chennai was fun (yes, I said it. You heard me). Met friends - both bloggers and not - didn't after all meet everyone I meant to. Made unexpected plans on the train that I carried out with great determination (to spend the 31st and 1st entirely on my own in what amounted to total silence [except for the crackers and the two parties close by and all the tuneless signing])

In effect, a good vacation.

And how have y'all been?