Thursday, December 31, 2009

Two Minutes Older

Starting the first Saturday of 2010 (which is the 2nd), I have a new column in the Indian Express, in Zeitgeist.

It will be called Two Minutes Older and until I write it, it's hard to say what it will be about. I guess I will put it up every time it happens - which will be every fortnight.

The name? I didn't want to stress over it; I wanted it to be a quotation, like so much of this blog is. Therefore, since it calls up all these illustrious people, the name. I have since discovered that there's some Russian post-punk band by the same name and I'm not yet sure how I feel about it.

So that's the way I tip over from this year into the next one. I have to say, it's been better than the last one, which was murderously bad. So there's hope for the next one, no?

Yes, yes, happy new year to all of you as well. Be good*.

*and if you can't be good, name her after me.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tehelka's Fiction Special: Injury

Last year was Excess. This year, Injury. Something to look forward to in the last few days of the year, no?

Go read.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

to the noughtie listers

The decade ends next year, ok?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

World Saving Spaniard

As the talks at Copenhagen collapse (what did you expect?), the world waits to be saved. No batfax is going to do it. The round tables have all been chopped up for firewood a long time ago. 'Negotiations' is a word best left for superhero comics.

Enter Spaniard. The other one.



Yes, well. I know this is not the kind of Spaniard post you were probably expecting but I feel very godly and capricious these days, as if I'm dispensing cheating boons.

Besides, with all the bad news everywhere, we need a man with rueful countenance, no?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Crime Non-Fiction

my piece, Crime Non-fiction, is now up at Ultra Violet.

I said I wouldn't post, but I have. I promised frivolity and fluff, but this is what you get.

Yes, the mood has to lighten somehow. The Spaniard promises to work on it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

allowing for the contrary

This blog might remain silent for the rest of the year. There are promises to keep, and time is running out.

On the other hand, it might be that I'm saying this aloud so that I will be compelled to contradict myself and post, post, post, even though there's nothing to say.

You decide which it is.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

RIP Dilip Chitre

Just heard via the PEN All-India Centre that Dilip Chitre has died. He had been ailing for some time, but it is still a shock.

To Arrange Words [from Poitre]

To arrange words
In some order
Is not the same thing
As the inner poise
That’s poetry

The truth of poetry
Is the truth
Of being.
It’s an experience
Of truth.

No ornaments
A crucible.
Fire reveals
Only molten

Says Tuka
We are here
To reveal.
We do not waste

From Says Tuka, translated from the Marathi by Dilip Chitre.

Dilip also translated Namdeo Dhasal and a couple of those poems can be found here.

More about Chitre here. His recent paintings here.

Update: More translations of Dhasal at Almost Island. Possibly his last contribution to any journal, Mascara's November '09 issue.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Saturday, December 05, 2009

From the Song

Mani Rao's translations (we need to find another word here) of the Bhagavad Gita are here. Of course, these are only tiny portions of two chapters, but I can't wait to read more.

On fidelity (in translations?), Mani says:

Your partner is faithful to you, it is conventional, she is obedient, you can’t complain. Does she love you? What if she had the freedom to betray and nothing to lose? Your partner is unfaithful. Does she pity you, or think you so stupid you don’t know it? Her attention is elsewhere when you speak. Can you be with someone who is not with you?
Love is problematic when faithless.
Fidelity is a drag when loveless.
Love as translation.
After all these years my love, you dare tell me that you merely did what I said?

But the whole thing here. Also her essay, 'Repetitiveness in Gita Translation'.


And while I'm linking to her recent work, more Mani Rao, from the latest issue of Almost Island [you should check the whole issue out].

What's love got to do with it?

Last night's performance of Love| Death| The Devil at the Goethe Zentrum had the audience either leaving fifteen minutes into the performance, or stunned into silence by the end. It consisted of six dancers, a few animal masks and the most puzzling presence of a table and a few chairs.

Now I have a high threshold for performances that require patience, but this one was just weird: every once in a while some person would grab a megaphone and ask us if we were afraid to die and announce that s/he was not afraid to die.

Every once in a while they'd put on animal masks and writhe on the floor, gurgle and make animal sounds, change costumes and do a bit of Kraftwerk-y prancing, and John Woo-ish gunslinging, and then holler at us through the aforementioned megaphone. It was all headache inducing, not least because of all the dry ice they seemed to need. The final straw was one dancer who gagged himself on one microphone and left long strings of bodily fluid on it which dangled like a broken spider web until he flicked it off some fifteen minutes later. I tell you, the entire audience watched that string of spit with horrified fascination for the entire fifteen minutes while other no doubt more interesting things were happening elsewhere on the stage.

I mean, I think of death for a large part of my waking day, okay, and having a few people asking me in between dance moves if I am afraid of death does not convince me that this was supposed to be some deep, meaningful take on eros and thanatos. Love was conspicuous by its absence, and what the devil the devil had to do with any of it is something I'm still trying to figure out.

The one good thing about the performance was, of course, that at least a few people in the audience would have welcomed death in preference to watching more of the dance.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

all Bhopalis

If Bhopal had happened five years after it did, I could have been one of those on the AP Express on the night of 2nd/3rd December. It's not likely, because it was not vacation time and chances are that I would have been in Delhi.

In fact, I was in school. One way of dealing with one horror following another (the massacre of Sikhs just a little over a month earlier) was to talk about it with charts and drawings, the way Time magazine and India Today learnt to do. It keeps events at a distance: you can talk about Methyl Isocyanate with drawings of cells and arrows and forget for the moment what it does when it enters the body.

I was not in Bhopal, but I could have been in that town whose station I passed six times every year for ten years. One of the uses of this kind of thinking is to make the thought it could have been me real, if only for a short time.

I'm not linking because everything can be googled: among them, Vidya Subramaniam's article in today's Hindu about Anderson and how he's escaped extradition.

As Copenhagen is a word that's going to be heard more often in the next few days, it would be good to remember that amongst all the talk of carbon and footprints and offsets and emissions, there are other things - relevant to Copenhagen - that no one will bring up. Dow and Union Carbide before them were polluters who never paid: the people of Bhopal did. Not just with their health, but with the years they might have had to live a different life.

I was going to say something about migration caused by environmental disasters and human rights issues but I can just let off a unsupported screed. It is germane to the issue of Bhopal: maybe I will just point you to an old post instead where I talk about it a little bit toward the end.

I'm not sure what the point of this post is - I hope to just remember that there has been no justice even after 25 years; that for all the talk about emission cuts and environmental responsibility, we're nowhere close to drawing a line under that chapter; that it could happen again; that we need to think about what we intend to do, individually and collectively.

Update: Indra Sinha in the Guardian; Hari Batti for the entire week (do check out the Yes Men links)..

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Manasellaam maargazhi thaan, kanavellaam kaarthigai thaan

On the cusp of the two months - Karthikai (for a lovely lovely description of which, read Raja Rao's Kanthapura) and Margazhi - I thought of these lines from the song 'Nenjam Ellam' (Mani Ratnam's Ayutha Ezhuthu).

Lyrics by Vairamuthu. Someone competent please translate: Veena? BM? Rahul? Vivek?

Kaadhal ennai varudum poadhum
Un kaamam ennai thirudum poadhum
En manasellaam maargazhi thaan
En kanavellaam kaarthigaithaan
En vaanam en vaasal thirandhu
En bhoomi en vasathil illai
Un kuraikal naan ariyavillai
Naan arindhaal sooriyanil suththamillai

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Catch [insert new number]

Last night at a party, I met a newly-wed couple. They did the sensible thing and had a registered wedding, and this is apparently what happened:

Before they got their certificate, they had to put up photographs of the wedding up on a board in the Registrar's office.

"Why the photgraphs?" I asked.

"For proof."

"So you guys got married in some other way and also got a registered wedding?"

"No no - it was only a registered wedding."

"But the registrar presided, right?"


"Wait. So you had to prove to the registrar that he married you off?"

"Um... yes."


Of course, it would have been much better if the building in which they'd got married was one in which photography wasn't allowed but I'm guessing they haven't thought of that one yet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

old hollywood

Watched The Petrified Forest last night on TCM. What a lovely film it is. So matter-of-fact yet shining with innocence. Leslie Howard, already prefiguring Ashley Wilkes' nostalgia for a more beautiful past but with less weariness and more charm; Bogey not yet Bogey, exchanging gratefulness with Howard (if Howard is grateful to be shot in the film, Bogey was eternally grateful to Howard for getting him the career-making role in the first place); and Bette Davis luminous (in those days they had faces).

Someone should show Johar et al the film. On second thoughts, better not. They'd make a Kurbaan out of it, one way or another.

I think I should now go watch Revolutionary Road once again.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


The new issue of Phalanx is out and I only just found out via Aditi (for some reason I seem to have dropped off their mailing list).

Lots to read: M K Raghavendra's editorial on why the Anglophone Indian wants to be a novelist; his essay on Bresson; Hans V Mathews on Jancsó's The Red and the White [pdf].

Oh, and a review of Inglorious Basterds as well, but since I'm on the film I may as well point you to this fantastic essay about it.

That should pretty much take care of the weekend, yes?

Monday, November 23, 2009

another AIR recording

has come and gone and I wasn't there to listen mostly because I forgot and was doing other things. Just as well, I suppose, though I'm sorry to have missed listening to Aditi Machado read.

Not sure about repeats, but what I learnt from this round was, I need to write more! Some of those poems were ancient.


The rest is music

This post was supposed to be about the Beatles. It was also supposed to be about Andreas Otto and the way he plays his cello, about his antic face, performance, all the things I know nothing about was going to hold forth upon anyway.

It was also going to quote from Alex Ross' book.

Instead I give you Klaus Voormann:

Monday, November 16, 2009



And some image of text(tho taken out of context they make no sense whatsoever, I realise. This may disappear tomorrow):

A talisman for the week

Everybody needs a way in to where they're going. Mine was John le Carré's A Most Wanted Man. I'd read it before, but I re-read small bits of it again to remind myself that all cities have a shadow self that nobody official will show you. I may not have found it, or might have only caught glimpses of it, but at least I knew it was there.


Conferences are things beyond my experience - never attended them, never needed to. It was fascinating, as a consequence, to observe the conference birds in their habitat: they move at an eager angle, with a pack of cards in their hands. These cards are exchanged as if one hand must not know what the other one does. Quiet murmurs accompany this exchange.

Needless to say, I do not have a card and don't intend to get one. What will people want to know - how to get in touch? I can always scribble my email on the back of some else's card, no?


I was, strangely enough, not bored at all during these conferences. Since I was not a journalist, I didn't really need to take notes or network or anything, but I took (some) notes anyway, because I figured that in the normal course of my life no one would invite me to observe a seminar on how ports work, or take me to high-security container terminals (no photography allowed), or give me a close-up tour of the harbour and even offer to slow the boat if I needed take specific photographs.

More importantly for me, these official interactions really did help me understand some things about the way government works, and the pride people working for it take in their work. It also gave me the license to be nosy and ask any question I wanted and there were people who would answer. One young gentleman knew everything about this city he had made his own.


That's another thing: the number of people who live in Hamburg who are from elsewhere. Not that it's a huge city or anything, but given the nature of my trip you'd think I'd meet at least a few people who were born there. I met two: one was a second generation Chinese woman, whose eyes flickered slightly in annoyance when I asked (as I routinely asked everyone) where she was from; and the other was one of the people in Hamburg Marketing. Like the average Bombayite, the average person from Hamburg is fiercely loyal to their city.


I just couldn't get why everyone kept asking if we found the place too cold. It wasn't. It was just fine. Two sunny days out of six is pretty damn good.


Yes, yes, okay. You want to know what I packed and what I couldn't. That's a whole other post, right?

Coming up tomorrow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Opening the Light

Update: Images here.

Okay, that's over now!

And I don't even know how to begin.

This has to be the fastest I've ever worked: I left Hyderabad on the 24 Oct with nothing except a camera, and had an exhibition of 50 photographs and some text ready to view on 12 Nov. That's six shooting days in Hamburg, three days in Bombay to make prints and 4-5 days in Hyderabad to have framed 50 photographs and think about and create text.

As I've said elsewhere, I should always work like this. I loved the pressure most especially because there was no pressure to do anything specific except create what I wanted to. Nobody was standing over me asking to see what I'd done so far, no one was wringing their hands about directions, or wanted to know in advance what they could expect.

This post is, of course, a rather off-the-cuff series of remarks about my experiences.

What really had me anxious before I left was the question of how to photograph a city in six days. What is a city anyway? Most often it is its public spaces - buildings of note, cliches about what makes it 'special'. What about people? How would I tell, looking at anybody, what made them belong to a city, and what their relationship with it was?

I used the text to explicate or think about some of these things. Being able to search for anything on the net and read up about it in advance is both a curse and a blessing: sometimes I felt I knew too much and knew nothing of any worth.

The other anxiety-inducing thing about the trip was that I had no second chances. Our days were packed, sometimes in a very press-junket-y way. There were conferences that chewed up half the day; we were taken from one place to the next and I knew I could never photograph the harbour again, or the marine training centre.

I was also worried about shooting in the rain - the results were iffy at best, and unuseable at worse. What if it rained the morning we were on the harbour? (As it happened, it did, but not in some disastrous way, as the image on the poster will show).

The most interesting thing about the project was how I was constantly having to re-shape the intent of the project on an intellectual level, with what was happening every day around me. Let me explain:

I was working with only the barest sketch of what I wanted to do with the photographs, but the barest minimum included working with text, with the immigrant quarter, and the idea of taking images back to absent people. This last meant I already knew there were some arrangements of frame and composition I wanted in advance, though I didn't know how or where the opprtunity would offer itself to me. This meant I had to be intuitive and alert all the time. In practice, this meant that at the end of every day, as I uploaded the 100-150 odd photographs I had shot that day, that I had to view and select, shortlist and discard in the space of two or three hours, so that later I would not have to re-view 600 and more images and be overhwelmed. What I was, in effect, doing was making decisions that I was going to stand by, whether they were the right ones or not. I was going to choose even before I had time to abosrb and trust that what I had experienced suring the day was enough to guide my perceptions at night.

The other interesting thing was the inclusion of text in the images. I had decided in advance that I would do this twice: for one text, I would need empty roads; for the other, I would need a wall. The text would be used on the image, but made to look as it if had always been there, already beena part of the 'real' place. I did this because I wanted to think about what we mean when we say 'documentary' images - which is what one would commonly assume a project like this one would involve.

I wanted to think about this because even the most 'documentary' image, even before the age of Photoshop, used darkroom techniques to change the image: whether in the choice of paper used in printing, or exposure, or several other combinations of techniques. What if I made it obvious that I was intervening in the image, but made it hard for the viewer to see how? What if a road in the early morning outside the main bus station, had the most unlikely text painted on to the road? How long would the viewer stand in front of this image trying to puzzle it out and what would they make of it?

So there was that.

The other thing was how to combine the images, and what order and how much to control of where a viewer would stand first?

(One image from my very short trip to Bergen-Belsen, gives no indication of where it was taken. It was meant to be the last image viewed but that's not how the arrangement worked in the gallery. That should have been interesting also.)

Phew. Okay, I've gone on long enough. I knwo everyone wants to see the images. Some are supposed to be on the gallery website, but they're not up yet. Will link when they are.

It goes without saying that many of you who read this blog have images that had you in mind when I shot them or when I viewed them and realised they reminded me of you.

More about that soon.

Oh: on the day of the opening, the most dramatic moment was when my son's bus didn't turn up until an hour later than it usually does and my mother was frantic but I was in a press conference (to which nobody came because of the GHMC election rallies that were more newsworthy) so I didn't know she was calling and she was sobbing over the phone when I did return her call. The bus turned up, no harm done, but it was a nice few moments of total panic.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

mostly irrelevant thoughts-for-the-day

When you add (and save) enough blogs and posts on your feedreader, the numbers eventually begin to look like dates from history*.

Additions in the last two days include Tao Lin's blog (nice url, yes?) and zunguzungu.


In other news, I had a duplicate print of a photo I really liked, which I had made in Bombay and couriered to someone who hasn't got it yet. This depresses me immensely because it means either someone in the studio or the courier is responsible for its loss, but I'm now too far away to do anything (much) about it.


I'm using test prints like a pack of cards to decide how I want to arrange the images. I've more or less decided, but holding the uneven-sized prints makes me feel like I'm playing Patience - which, if you think about it, I am.

*Bloglines tells me it's 1925 today.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Posting the Light: Dispatches from Hamburg

So this is where I've been and what I've been doing.

If you're in Hyderabad, please come.

That's on the 12th of November, from 5pm to 6pm at Kalakriti Art Gallery, Road No. 10, Banjara Hills.

The exhibition will be on until the 18th. So if you're in town and can't make it to the opening, drop by on any other day.

(There will be more posts but only after the exhibition has opened.)

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Did ya'll miss me?

Updates from tomorrow. Now I need to sleep.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Aditi Machado wins the Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize

Via email from Aparna Rayaprol:

The Srinivas Rayaprol Literary Trust


Department of English, University of Hyderabad

Invite you to the presentation of the inaugural

Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize

Presentation by: Padmabhushan

Prof. Shiv K. Kumar

Chief Guest:

Sudeep Sen, poet and editor, Atlas

Poetry Reading:

Aditi Machado




Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 5.00 pm

Saptaparni, Road No. 8, Banjara Hills

Congrats Aditi!

Thursday, October 08, 2009


In the last year I have carried The Book of Disquiet with me everywhere. If it means I must carry a bag large enough to accommodate it, I find one that fits the purpose. Only in the last few weeks, Pessoa stands in the bookshelf with the glass front that once belonged to my grandfather (who kept in it a flat, small round of Vicks that he would take out and sniff. To me, the smell was magical and meant possibilities). The cover - with one man shot, his back arched and his hands flung up in the air, and another caught mid-stride, his day's purpose re-shaped - looks out at me every time I pass.

It would be a crude formulation to say that I have learnt immense amounts from Pessoa but it is a crudity that is given shape by my inability to put any of that 'learning' into practice in the last year. I dip into the book when I want to know what the day holds for me; to find the words for things long known; to confirm my objective self-pity. I consult it as I would an oracle.

So here's Pessoa in Poetry this month, translated by Richard Zenith:

In me every thought, however much I’d like to preserve it intact, turns sooner or later into reverie. If I wish to set forth reasons or launch a train of argument, what comes out of me are sentences initially expressive of the thought itself, then phrases subsidiary to those initial sentences, and finally shadows and derivatives of those subsidiary phrases. I begin to meditate on the existence of God and soon find myself speaking of faraway parks, feudal processions, rivers that pass almost soundlessly beneath the windows of my contemplation . . . And I find myself speaking about them because I find myself seeing them, feeling them, and there’s a brief moment when my face is grazed by a real breeze rising from the surface of the dreamed river through metaphors, through the stylistic feudalism of my central self-abandon.


See also [via Mitali Saran].

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Facebook-style Update

Space Bar is ready to throw a tantrum. Who wants to join her?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

potpourri post

I'm tempted to put a picture of a spinning top or something here and leave (it at that). But I won't, because a) it doesn't do to repeat oneself and b) it's not that I don't have things to blog about; just not enough time to lay them all out post by post.

So I'm going to do what Ludwig usually does.

1. Last things first: Some people are calling this a Lit Spat. I think that's a bit of a misnomer. If Bal had a larger point to make it is so large as to be invisible.

2. This is much better. Seriously.

These days, the debate over how to write about reading is a cold affair: a de-militarized zone. I avoid the terms literature and criticism here, and perhaps even debate is too hifalutin a word to describe what has amounted to a decades-long pissing match between creative writers and critics. The current steely silence is evidence only of empty bladders; the combatants have become preoccupied with internal skirmishes.

( the editors of the Quarterly Conversation respond to the essay). [via 3qd]

3. My recent hang-outs include: The Green Light Dhaba, The Plastic Graduate, The Last Resort (what is it with the kids? Why was I not like that?). Also a German blog that I just like to read, even if I can't understand a damn thing. And Sarah Jane.

4. By now everyone knows about Steve McCurry's blog, right? I think I landed up at Tom Pietrasik's blog from there. (while we're on the subject of photographs, go see Sydney chez BM).

5. There's something I'm forgetting, but not sure what. Will return to update, maybe, but mostly this should keep everyone occupied until I return (which is likely to be mid-November or thereabouts).

6. Oh, ya - I remembered. Don't forget to check out Mint's new Free Verse page every Saturday. Can't remember the last time a newspaper published poetry. So far there's Anjum Hasan (better read the poem here, since it's terribly formatted on livemint and not fixed yet), Chandrahas Choudhury, Aseem Kaul and Vivek Narayanan. Yay for Mint and a special thanks to Chandrahas, who has pushed hard for this.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

RIP Meenakshi Mukherjee

It's still hard to believe. Meenakshi Mukherjee died this afternoon, on her way to the release of her new book in Delhi.

More later, when I can string my thoughts together.

The first obit here. [that was, apparently a beta page. Here's the link now]

9.15 pm: I'm still trying to say something useful but it all seems like a gross breach of privacy or is just too incoherent. I think I'm going to leave it at an announcement.

Launch of Arzee the Dwarf in Hyderabad

Chandrahas Choudhury's first novel, Arzee the Dwarf is being launched in Hyderabad on Saturday, 19th September.

I will be in conversation with Chandrahas and he will read from the book.


Saturday September 19, 5.30 pm
Crossword Bookstore,
City Center, 1st Floor, Shop No. 101-108,
Junction of Road No. 1 & 10,
Banjara Hills, Hyderabad - 500 034.

Those who got mails from me about Chandrahas' talk at the University of Hyderabad, please remember it has now been cancelled.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Revolution 09.09.09

Forget everything else about this day - you know what makes it memorable?

The release of The Beatles' Mono Box Set. It makes me apple green with envy, to think of all the people who can (and will) order it off Amazon (let's not talk 'afford' here, okay? I can give up plenty to be able to 'afford' this. I'm fanatical like that).

So now you know what's #3 on my wishlist.

'a purveyor of picong'

That's Michael Hofmann, comparing Frederick Siegel with Naipaul:

From the beginning, Seidel was always a bogeyman, a Bürgerschreck, an épateur—a carnivore if not a cannibal in the blandly vegan compound of contemporary poetry. He is a purveyor of picong, a Trinidadian term, “from the French piquant, meaning sharp or cutting, where the boundary between good and bad taste is deliberately blurred, and the listener is sent reeling.” (This, as good a description of Seidel as inadvertence or serendipity can come up with, is from The World Is What It Is, Patrick French’s outstanding new biography of V.S. Naipaul, and what a lot the authors of Ooga-Booga and A Bend in the River have in common: both of them Insider Outsiders, traveling compulsively on all five continents; sharing an unspeakably deep attraction to a sort of eighteenth-century squirearchy that may or may not be England; a fascination with Africa, with Joseph Conrad, with Islam; both are students of the remorseless spread of global capital and culture, the Gulf Stream of development and the countervailing El Niño of terror; both are equally at ease in fiction and non-fiction, and in a blurring of both; and last and far from least, both exhibit, and are proud of, an insouciant erotomania. Surely Seidel, never a professional poet, never a reviewer, reciter, promoter, or teacher of poetry, could put his name to Naipaul’s boast: “I have never had to work for hire; I made a vow at an early age never to work, never to become involved with people in that way. That has given me a freedom from people, from entanglements, from rivalries, from competition. I have no enemies, no rivals, no masters; I fear no one.” Both are barbed, solitary, aloof, alarming figures, becoming, if anything, less mellow with age, and more like their intrinsic fossil selves, jagged and serviceable, “sharp / And meek,” Seidel says somewhere—he does love his noses—“like the eyesight of the deaf.” Thomas Mann’s term Greisen-Avantgardismus—meaning something like “the experimental progressivism occasionally found in the very old”—suggests itself. We as readers are uneasily privileged to witness their bold, inflammatory, defamatory gestures—gestures we know there will never be time or second thought or pusillanimousness to take back.)

Monday, September 07, 2009

My Pratham books and Mindfields!

Five years after writing them, (and taking any mention of them off the back of the second edition of my book), my three books for children are finally out! These Pratham books have been so long in the making because they've been simultaneously translated into several languages, and I'm not sure how easily they'll be available in bookstores, but here's their website.

One book, The Flyaway Cradle, is for children between the ages of three and six. The other two - Cheenu's Gift and Phani's Funny Chappals - for early learners (7-10 year olds; these books are for first time learners and for children who are not used to reading books for fun because they don't have the resources for that kind of reading).


In other news, I've got my copy of the latest issue of Mindfields as well, to which I've contributed an article on K.

Quite apart from the fact that I've contributed to it, if you have kids or are generally interested in alternative education, consider this a plug for the magazine.


So it has been that sort of a day. As you can see.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

and i'm saying it.


just pushing posts down, marking time, taking space.

wondering what it would be like to grow up thinking the beatles' music was a big puzzle which can only be made sense of by watching taymor.

and waiting. (for nothing in particular. not even with anticipation.)


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

YA Loot

[because Aishwarya asked]

The Puffins first:

1. The 22 Letters. Clive King.
2. Fell Farm Campers. Marjorie Lloyd.
3. The Old Powder Line. Richard Parker.
4. Up the Pier. Helen Cresswell.
5. Pageants of Despair. Dennis Hamley.
6. Heartsease. Peter Dickinson.
7. The Extraordinary Adventures of The Mouse and his Child. Russel Hoban.
8. Flambards in Summer. K.M.Peyton (I used to love the Flambards books when I was in school).

Other YA books:

1. The Bridge to Terabithia. Katherine Paterson. (probably the only recent book in the loot).
2. A Northern Childhood: The Balaclava Story and other stories. George Layton.
3. The Nine Lives of Island MacKenzie. Ursula Moray Williams.
4. Legends of the Round Table. Adapted by Barbara Ker Wilson. (under 'W').
5. Grimm's Fairy Tales. Illustrated by Jiri Trnka.

Still more books:

1. Adam and Eve. Willie Rushton.
2. The Shaw Alphabet Edition of Androcles and the Lion. GBS. [it's a pain to read. What was the man thinking?!]

Monday, August 31, 2009

Wishlist: Item #2

I can't decide whether I am an extremely content person or an extremely discontent one. It's been two years since my first and only Wishlist post. This must mean that I have wanted nothing urgently enough since (Tony Leung doesn't count) or that most things are so terrible y shouldn't actually exist at all.

Wishlist item 2, of course, is a necessity and an urgent one at that. I need bookshelves.

Recent acquisitions include:

1. Large number of Puffins dating from 1968-72. Lovely books they are, too. One Farjeon from way back when. More YA books from decades ago. These are cast offs I was happy to house.

2. More castoffs, this time books I'd once given away coming home to roost (I'd offered to donate them to some library but now they're sitting on my floor).

3. Loot from Amit's reading. Hachette gifted me reprints of Buchan, Haggard, Sapper, Wallace, Grey - all very exciting. Also Alex Rutherford.

This is not counting the books I take out and am too intimidated to put back. Every time I take out a book, the shelves seem to sigh with relief and wiggle around in the extra space. So the taken-out ones stay on the floor, or by my table, or on the bed.

I need more bookshelves! Basic, one-book-deep, many shelves high ones.

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Friend Sancho in Hyderabad

Amit Varma's book, My Friend Sancho releases tomorrow in the city, at the Vikrampuri branch of OdysseyBookstores, Karkhana Secunderabad, at 6pm.

I will be chatting with him, very likely until the cows come home. At which point, Amit will be irresistibly drawn away from book events, talking lizards and high tea.

In the interests of keeping km from breaking out into hives, I am not posting the cover (with lizard) here.


Saturday, 29th August, 2009


Odyssey Bookstores, Vikrampuri, Karkhana, Secunderabad.

RSVP: +91-40-2789 0561.

Hosts: Hachette India and Odyssey.

See you there!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Independent documentary vs. Video art: Girish Shahane on Amar Kanwar

A strange thing happened to Amar Kanwar around the year 2001. He had already established himself in alternative film circles, when a gentleman named Okwui Enwezor came to Delhi looking for artists. Enwezor, a thirty-something Nigerian who had made the United States his home, had been appointed the artistic director of the most important art exhibition in the world, Kassel's Documenta. He brought a distinctly political, postcolonial perspective to bear on his curatorial choices, and cast his net beyond artists who showed in galleries. He picked Amar Kanwar along with the Raqs Media Collective, leaving people in the art world befuddled. Documenta 11 part-financed Kanwar’s A Night of Prophecy, a film about poets in conflict zones, which was screened through the exhibition’s run in Kassel in 2002.

Kanwar had become a name to be reckoned with in two different worlds with two very different systems of financing. A typical independent documentary is funded by an NGO. The director, who doubles as producer, makes a certain amount up front, with further money coming through DVD sales and telecast rights. To make 5 lakh rupees, a director would have to sell 500 DVDs priced at 1000 rupees each, quite a tall order. The art world, on the other hand, depends on scarcity rather than volume. A video artist will make an edition of, say, ten prints of a video, to be sold for maybe 5 lakh rupees a pop. After the gallery commission, just two sales will provide the video artist the same amount of money that 500 DVDs got the documentary film maker.
It is no wonder that, during the art boom, many experimental film makers reinvented themselves as video artists. The boundaries between the two are blurry enough for the transition to be made without too many eyebrows being raised.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tony Lopez

I've just begun Tony Lopez's Data Shadow which I got a couple of years ago. Somehow, it slipped into some mysterious invisible zone on my bookshelf and I found it last night while looking for something else (a valuable stone*, if you want to know. I used the stone as a bookmark but have forgotten which book and now I can't find it. No doubt it will turn up).

I usually have no trouble skipping to elsewhere in a book of poetry; I come back to intended structures later. With this book, though, I intend to begin at the beginning - a Preface that is dense and requires time - and go on until I reach an end.**

But for the moment, here's a part of his poem, 'About Cambridge':

Tony Lopez

About Cambridge

About Cambridge they were never wrong
the old masters: for where they mostly lived
and wore their blazers out, happened to be
just beyond the cakeshop
where someone is always eating
opening a window or just cruising dully along
the great body of salty water
which is what one calls the protégé
one of those heavenly bodies that everyday
go by steering the fellowship through rapids
committees and quality audit
to a party taped on U-matic for ARDENT productions
a royal mirror of royalty
beyond the neatly-fenced perimeter
the folding tables and ice-buckets of summer
that is always happening elsewhere
as we poor shadows light up again
and move on


The rest of it here.


*What stone? This one:

**Data Shadow is the end, in a sense; it's the second half of an earlier collection - False Memory.

Monday, August 24, 2009


The July-August issue of Biblio is a Poetry and Plays special.

Go read. [Registration required].

Saturday, August 22, 2009

When the rain comes

Sequence 1: Samurai Warrior

Sequence 2: Backpacker

Friday, August 21, 2009

five out of seven: The 2nd Shakti Bhatt Award shortlist

Anuradha Roy: An Atlas of Impossible Longing

Chandrahas Choudhury: Arzee the Dwarf
Mimlu Sen: Baulsphere
Mridula Koshy: If It Is Sweet
Palash Krishna Mehrotra: Eunuch Park
Parismita Singh: Hotel at the End of the World
Preeta Samarasan: Evening is the Whole Day.

One graphic novel and one non-fiction (memoir? I don't know) makes this a year for fiction. I suppose this was inevitable; the selector's job is not to be representational. On the other hand, it depresses me a little: either not enough people are writing in different genres, or if they are those books are not their first ones or just not good enough.

At any rate, if the other books are anything like Chandrahas Choudhury's, Mridula Koshy's or Preeta Samarasan's, I'm happy.

Via a Facebook mail and Nilanjana.


A wonderful post from (p) (b):

The woman shook her head and moved one of the cans to one side. The attendant laboriously voided that purchase, and punched in new numbers. The recalculated total was $15.23. The woman shook her head again. It was clear she had only $15, not a penny more, and she thought for a moment, and then took one of the small loaves out of her pile. My thoughts were slow in catching up with me; perhaps I should have offered her the quarter.

Her new total was $14.56. I could see, as I have seen so many times before at this supermarket, but especially so this year, that there was a budget that had to be stretched, a modest one. The task was to come as close to that exact amount with as many items as possible. I imagined she was buying for a household.

So, we learn patience with each other. We let as much time as is needed go into counting money, estimating added tax, smoothing out rumpled food stamps, watching intently as the eyes decide between spaghetti and air-freshener, between canned peas and frozen spinach, the anxiety of an enforced triage. In the same torpor of hardship are the customers and the shop attendants. In the absence of money, time itself slows down.


I could use some of that patience just now.

After yesterday's rain, our water pipe appears to have broken. I'm hoping it's the water pipe and not the sewage. If it is the sewage, I think I will count my blessings, because we had closed the water inlet and the chances of all the water getting contaminated is minimal.

But since I suppose we can't take chances, we will have a dramatic and eventful weekend ahead.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Breaking Boundaries

The Goethe Zentrum is conducting a series of workshops all this week in schools, on the general theme of Breaking Boundaries. In the evenings, however, there will be films that are open to all (and free as well).

For four evenings, from Tuesday to Friday, I will be screening films at the Goethe Zentrum. The films will - broadly speaking - be about music, culture, identity and crossings.

- August 18th: Buena Vista Social Club (105 min, 1999); Dir. Wim Wenders.

- August 19th: Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul (90 min, 2005); Dir. Fatih Akin.

- August 20th: Jahaji Music (112min, 2007); Dir. Surabhi Sharma.

- August 21st: Had Anhad (Bound and Unbound) (100min, 2008) Dir. Shabnam Virmani.

Time: 5.30 pm

Place: Goethe Zentrum, 1st floor, Heritage Complex, Hill Fort Road, Hyderabad.

If you're in Hyderabad, do come.

(Much drama has happened in the acquiring of these films but that is another story and shall be told another time.)

Friday, August 14, 2009


Anybody who knows me irl knows I sign off with footprints (on the page).

Today being Janmashtami, we couldn't resist the op to festoon our floors with footprints.

Here's how:

Spaniard Takes A Vow

Because I promised a tadpole this post

I watched half a million people on Facebook do this 50 questions quiz - which includes prize gems such as When Did You Wake Up and What Time Did You Complete This Quiz (as if everyone just wakes up and starts doing FB quizzes; and as if this is supposed to say something about you*).

Though I tried to keep my lip curled, it began to hurt and then I decided to just get it over with. Somewhere in some ledger, you will find it under the head of Oh, What The Heck!

I don't know when I began to get snarky, but no doubt all the people I tagged will be able to tell you ( I still retained some sense and tagged only those who had already tagged me).

But this qs. #40 is what I'm talking about. It asked:

Do anything spontaneous lately?

I admit I had to think hard and this made me even more bad-tempered because it soon became clear that a) I hadn't done anything spontaneous, not really and b) the only example I could dredge up sucked so badly that it was time I took a vow.

It turned out that the last 'spontaneous' thing I'd done was to think I'd surprise my son by picking him up from school, but since he didn't know I was coming, he sat in the bus as usual (while I was chatting with someone) and left without me.

So much for kids making you want to be young again.

And before anyone says anything, of course it's the kid's fault. The alternative would be to admit that there's no point in doing anything spontaneous. And that wouldn't do at all, would it?


This pointless (and not entirely spontaneous) post is also to say that this blog will largely specialise in announcements for a while now.

Coming up: announcements about more workshops. Why they're called that I don't know, but whatever.

*Come to think of it, if they did it would say a lot about them.

Monday, August 10, 2009

If It Is Sweet in Chennai and Bangalore

Even if I hadn't read of word of what Mridula Koshy had written, the title of her first book of short stories would have intrigued me enough to want to read it. I won't say much about the book itself because there'll be more about it coming up here soon, but this is to let you folks know that Mridula Koshy will be reading in Chennai and Bangalore (but not, alas, in Hyderabad), details below:


Hosts: Tranquebar Press/Westland Ltd. in association with Prakriti Foundation.

Tuesday, 11th August 2009 at 6.30 p.m.

at Connemara Hotel, Chennai.

K. Srilata, Associate Professor, IIT, Madras will be in discussion with the author.



Hosts: Toto Funds the Arts in association with Tranquebar Press.

Thursday, 13 August 2009, 6.30 pm

Crossword Bookstore, ACR Towers, 32, Residency Road (G.F), Bangalore.

Novelist Usha K.R. will be in conversation with the author.


Chandrahas's review here; and the author in conversation with Aditi Machado here. Also Mridula Koshy's blog (which links to some of her stories available online).

Do go if you can. I wish I could.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Wilderness Tips: 2

When the potholes upstream grow large enough to contain water from the sewage that flows a good 100 yards away downstream but which sewage has been brought back on the wheels of the million trucks that pass; when the millionth-and-one truck arrives at half past three in the morning and takes an hour and a half to offload granite blocks; when said truck gets stuck and roars like a trapped and wounded animal... when you buy yourself earmuffs, noseplugs and cocoon for nights and wellies (even in a failed monsoon) for the days.

It has often occurred to me in the last couple of weeks, that someone should invite Herzog to come and make a film on our neighbour building the mountain. The project has the right mix of lunacy, obsession and futility that would appeal to the man.

Wilderness Tips Part 1.

Friday, July 31, 2009

what it means is...

...only JP was partly right: I may not have urn'd my rest, but I'm taking it anyway. So, because you came, saw and should not find the field barren of daisies:

1. I really should stop but I can't seem to help myself: Frozen has to be the one film I've blogged about most without actually having seen. But hey - anything that reminds me of Tony Leung Chiu-wai is good, right? But I was talking about Frozen. No, actually; Shanker Raman is talking about Frozen.

2. A photograph from Kiarostami's Rain Series in the Guardian. [via BM and Politics, Theory, Photography]. More photographs from this and other series available here.

3. And Ludwig, who returns only when the fields are white, is going to be in the dumps. Reason: the VP is visiting and all roads leading to his Greenco quiz are out of bounds. But if you live nearly and can afford to curl your lip at VPs, please go.

Is it really already the weekend? How?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


(I guess you know what this means.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lost and Found: The Translation wiki

A quick note to point readers to the new Translation Wiki for Indian Poetry. It is very new, still finding its feet, but it's a start. The wiki came out of this discussion on Falstaff's blog.

Those of you reading this who do translations, please consider contributing and participating. Binu Karunakaran, who set it up, is the person to write to. [His email in the comments of Falsie's post linked to above.]

I realise that some of you may be working on translations very seriously indeed and might have issues with putting your work out in the public domain, but you could consider contributing work that is in progress.

I'm looking forward to this!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Fata Morgana: 'Even one of these thoughts would have done'

Tuesday, Herzog's Fata Morgana. The plane descends seven, eight times and I know I am going to like this film. It comes down like a cloud and the air shifts beneath it. In some takes the birds are indifferent. In one, they fly across the sky as if they were released at the right time. This is Herzog: I wouldn't be surprised if they had been.


A few minutes into the film, in one of those times between the narration (Lotte Eisner's voice in Part 1) I listen to the music and watch the dunes and my mind starts to wander. This is where it goes.


What if the music slipped a few frames? Or if the editor had deliberately moved it by a second or two? Would Herzog know? Would he have come in to watch the edit one day and realised that the editor had shifted the music, perhaps a shot or two to create a slightly different film? How much could one get away with? How many changes, too small in themselves, would one have to make before a film like this becomes a film not like this?


There's an abandoned WWII plane in the sand, crashed and broken. I know, because I've read about it somewhere. It could be any military plane from any-time but what are the odds? There are shelters - what else to call something that bubbles out of the sand, only slightly less temporary and yet much more impermanent than the sand?

There are people who have been rehearsed, people who laugh, who have one gesture, as if they were rudimentary toys.


Why is this a documentary? (Why does it matter what we call it?) With its soundtrack, its imposed narrative of Mayan creation myths spoken in German over visuals of the Sahara, the film resists not only categorisation, but easy interpretation: I am back in the editing room, wondering how the director and the editor communicate what the purpose of the film is and how that shape is to be achieved. The possibilities are endless and every film that did not emerge was once valid.


What is Leonard Cohen doing here?


The first thing I think of when I see the shivering sky from which the plane lands is: this is what the world looked like the year I was born. I have never thought this before while watching a film. That sky, that sand, that plane, those birds, would be exactly as old as I am now.

No, that's not right, is it?

Even the film that I am watching is as old and not as old. If I was looking at the world as it was that year, this is not how it looked. In all this time, the blue in the film is less blue, the red more red, and the occasional vertical dances across the frame tell me that the film has aged along with me and nothing has been preserved exactly as it was. Every record is less than whole.


Somewhere towards the end, before the turtle is released into the water, there are holes in the ground and adults and children are trying to scramble out of them. This is, the section title says, The Golden Age. The voice over, as a child tries to squirm out of his father's hands: "That's enough, even one of these thoughts would have done."

Maybe so. But since we can never know what any one thought could have or would have done, and because we are used to guarding against a drought, we put in more than we need. We put in everything we have, every time. Sometimes, there's something left to be taken, even decades afterwards, something left after every time.


PS: The Herzog documentary weekend begins this evening at the Goethe Zentrum.

Today's screening begins at 6pm. Sat & Sun screenings begin at 3pm, two films a day.

No charge, anyone can attend.

The Goethe Zentrum is on Hill Fort Road, opposite Kalanjali, near the Public Gardens in Hyderabad. See you there!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Vivek Narayanan in Open Magazine

Turn to each case of a thriving, vigorous poetry community and a common thread seems to emerge, not a prefabricated mass audience, not international acclaim, but rather a culture of frank talk and close engagement, vivid with ferocious, voracious arguments, unending discussions, even intellectual fist fights or several rival aesthetic camps. Most of all, there is a deep awareness—even if an antagonistic awareness—of one’s own poetic history. And that is where we fall short.

Poetry, then, does need readers, a community to survive; but it is the intensity and not the size of that community that matters. In an insipid poetry/literature scene, including one saturated with publicity, an inability to muster enough historical awareness, informed critique, ruthless honesty and close, complete reading means that we turn our hopes outward, in a wish for love and affirmation from an imaginary audience that never shows up.

The whole thing here.

And the rest of the action here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Inaugural Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize

Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize


Call for Entries

Entries are invited from young poets in India writing in English for the inaugural

Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize.

The Prize was instituted by the Srinivas Rayaprol Literary Trust to recognize excellence in poetry written in English and is being administered jointly by the Department of English, University of Hyderabad. The prize consisting of a cash award of Rs.10, 000 and a citation will be presented annually at a literary event in Hyderabad in the month of October. The entries will be judged by a distinguished jury of poets and literary personalities.

Entries are invited from all Indian citizens between 20-40 years old and writing poetry in English.

Entries must include:

1. Five (5) different poems written by the applicant;
2. Evidence of age
3. Complete contact information (including phone numbers and email addresses)

Note: Please do not put your name on the poems to be submitted to the jury members.

Entries must reach:

Dr. Aparna Rayaprol

Convener, Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize

c/o Study in India Program

University of Hyderabad

Hyderabad 500046

Deadline: September 1, 2009

The winner will be announced latest by the first week of October and arrangements for the travel and accommodation for the person chosen for the award will be made by the Trust and the Department of English, University of Hyderabad.

The Srinivas Rayaprol Literary Trust was started in the year 2000 to perpetuate the memory of the poet and also promote Indian writing in English. Srinivas Rayaprol (1925-1998), the son of the famous Telugu poet Rayaprolu Subba Rao, is considered one of the significant personalities of the early Indian English Poetry in India. His three major volumes of poetry are Bones and Distances, Married Love and Other Poems, and Selected Poems, all published by Writers’ Workshop in Calcutta.

Srinivas Rayaprol Literary Trust Department of English, University of Hyderabad

The Shakti Bhatt First Book Award: Call for entries

The Shakti Bhatt Foundation invites nominations for the 2009 Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize.

Last year's winner was Pakistani novelist Mohammed Hanif’s A Case of Exploding Mangoes. Entries may be in any genre: poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction (travel writing, autobiography, biography, and narrative journalism), and drama. All authors from the subcontinent are eligible but their books must be published in India. The books must be in English or translated into English from an Indian language. Books that have been published elsewhere and have already won prizes are eligible, though less likely to win. Vanity press publications are ineligible.

A 3-member advisory board will shortlist 6 books published between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009. This year, the board includes writers Anjum Hasan, Zac O'Yeah and poet Jeet Thayil. The shortlisted books will be sent to the 2009 panel of judges: novelist Rana Dasgupta, editor Mukund Padmanabhan and Professor Meenakshi Mukherjee.

The winner will be announced in the second half of November and the prize presentation will take place in December 2009. The winner will receive a cash award of Rs One lakh and a trophy.

The Shakti Bhatt Foundation is a non-profit trust set up by the late writer/editor's family to keep her memory alive. It wishes to reward first-time authors of all ages.

For further information, contact

[Via Jeet Thayil]

Friday, July 17, 2009

Events in Hyderabad over this weekend

Two events, do come for either/both.

1. Book reading from Pinki Virani's Deaf Heaven. (It's also billed as India's first cell novel but whatever. For the purposes of this event and announcement, it's a regular book.)

Saturday, 18th July, 6pm
Crossword Bookstores, City Center Mall,
Road Nos. 1 & 10, Banjara Hills.

The Little Theatre will read with the author.

2. Urban Changes. A photography exhibition showcasing India through the lenses of young South Asian photographer.
Opening Sunday, July 19th, 6 pm.
At: Kalakriti Art Gallery
Road Nr. 10, Banjara Hills – Hyderabad
with artist Baptist Coelho
followed by a panel discussion
Vijay Marur - Theatre
Sridala Swami – Literature/Film
Shankar Narayan - Architecture
Vinod Pavarala – Art
S. P. Shorey – Urban Planning
Sujata Patel – Sociology
(Gah. Formatting. I give up).

Also, a couple more announcements coming up but will post them tomorrow so that they can have your undivided attention.