Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Statutory Spring Post

I mean, I'm being all cheerless and weary in the title, but this has to be my favourite season of the year. 

We were near Tank Bund a couple of days ago, and the Golden Tabibuia were blazing in full bloom. In other places, the Tabibuia Rosea. I spotted lost trees that have made space for things entirely urban. 

Some trees are still shedding dusty leaves, diagonally when there's a blessed breeze otherwise in a dry rattle downwards. Like a classroom full of children working at their own pace, each tree is bare or in full leaf, moving to its own clock. 

I'd like to say that the ones that are no longer bare have fresh, new leaves. Sadly, they are dusty and look older than their days. No brown-green of mango, neem and peepal, no pale green, translucent leaves of the pungamaram.

It's also unseasonably hot. This city has been 38C and slightly higher for the last four days. Night temperatures are in the region of 22C. It's spring only in name. No breeze, no mild turning, the beginning of a season that now lasts for most of the year.

But look up and there are still bees, and flowers that should last until the next full moon.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

RIP: Lee-Eco

It's a grim two months of reaping and, given that a particular generation must grow old and die, more in store this year.

Harper Lee, Umberto Eco, RIP.

These two bookended my teen years, with To Kill A Mockingbird at the beginning of it and The Name of the Rose at the end. In between, all the space their individual books provided to seek out and delight in the extraordinary: a particular voice or way of being in the world, a dimly grasped idea that a murder mystery was just an excuse for a lot of complicated things. And somewhere, the feeling that though reading these authors and others like them set me irrevocably apart from the rest of my peers, I didn't mind it much at all.

And whatever retrospective adjustments I may have made to how I think about these two writers, with their passing they take away one part of my teenage self. 

(I also find myself anxiously watching for news of Godard and Herzog.) 

Friday, February 12, 2016


Checked my blog stats by chance on a day when there was an inexplicable spike in the number of visitors. Like, over a 1,000, which never happens. It's not like I've posted much, let alone anything controversial or even topical.

The evergreens are those poems and choruses that everyone comes for: Edwin Morgan, Anouilh's Antigone, Marachera, a couple more things. More recently, it becomes evident that board exams are round the corner and people are looking for things on schools. So Shantamma, that post about conversations about schools and Rishi Valley keep getting read.

But otherwise? *shrug* Who knows why anyone still reads this blog? (This is not ingratitude. I'm glad the three or four of you who still check in are around).


'Spike' also reminds me of reading at the University of Hyderabad with Kazim Ali. I read my ghazal, in the last line of which is the word 'spike'. Kazim, following a train of thought set off my poem, suddenly decided to read a new one he'd written, and which he had to read off his laptop. It had something to do with the word 'spike' but the only thing I remember about it is that was preceded by a story about a sect of mystical men who swear to wear trousers with drop-crotches, to catch any babies they might have.

Yes. I am not dreaming this up. I was not on anything.


That ghazal I wrote, it was one of the poems I sent in for a couple of German poets to translate. This is the Poets Translating Poets project that the Max Mueller Bhavan has been doing all of 2015. Hyderabad was the penultimate stop, and in January, Jeet Thayil, Jameela Nishat, A. Jayaprabha and I translated poems by German poets Sylvia Geist and Tom Schulz. We each had to translate a minimum of four poems and submit four for the Germans to translate.

I thought it would be fun to give them a ghazal. Sylvia took it on. She said she avoids rhymes and form in her own poetry because it comes too easily *envy* but was thrilled to work on it in translation.

I don't have enough - or indeed, any - German to judge the results. They'll be up on a website eventually, and you lot can do the needful. Instead of talking rhyme words and form, I remember googling images for that office object newspapers and restaurants use, to spike bills and memos and things. 

For some reason, it was particularly important to have the right image in one's head before attempting a translation.

The whole exercise was fun, exhausting, but I'm still wondering if it was useful. As a first pass at something, sure. But as a final translation? I feel process ought to be privileged over product, but what do I know?


The other thing that's spiked is the temperature. Early Feb and we were already at 36C. Night temperatures are at 22C. Our year is one unending summer punctuated by a few days of deluge and a week or so of mild chill and mist.

My wrists already have mild burns from any encounter with the laptop. This summer - now - I intend to go offline as much as possible, return to pen and ink (okay, not ink; but some reasonable substitute), and try to get accustomed to having nearly no electricity.

We have to be the only people in this city to not have an inverter or a generator. Plan to keep it that way.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

The Sideways Door has closed

I've decided to close The Sideways Door.

Even up to the time I wrote the column at the end of January, I had no idea I meant to, so soon. I had said in an earlier column that the month in which I get no responses is the month in which the Sideways Door will close.

As it happened, I didn't wait for that disaster. 

I don't have one reason why; just a state of mind that makes it difficult to produce words and a general fatigue will thinking up prompts. It seemed like the right time - to leave when people will miss something.

So this door's closed, but you know what they say about doors and windows. Thanks to all those who wrote, shared, read and enjoyed (I hope) the columns and the poetry.