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.