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