Monday, August 30, 2010

in the nature of the beast

Writers/filmmakers/people who publicise their work* through their blogs/twitter accounts/facebook pages appear to use the medium less as an aggregator and more as a selective filter that lets in only the praise and keeps out the criticism.

This is only natural I suppose.

But I'm more fascinated by the phenomenon of linking to reviews at all. It assumes on the part of the consumer 1) laziness; 2) an inability to make up one's mind without help; 3) a willingness to be directed.

Also fascinated by what this says about the author**.


* Specifically, reviews. Information about availability/ readings/performances/exhibitions are different beasts.

**Here I'm distinguishing between the person who created said material -film, book, music album, painting - and the person in charge of disseminating information about it. It's when they're the same person and that things become really interesting.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Does anyone know how calendars are made? I don't mean the basic, workaday one where you know what day is a Saturday or a Sunday and where the important holidays are. I mean the Kalnirnays and the Panchangams and the Murugan calendar that lots of South Indian homes have, where you tear off one page a day and can't go back to last week to check something, because the paper's thin and has been crushed and discarded the moment the new day's revealed.

Today's calendar page on one of those Murugans says There Will Be Rain*.

I want to know how they knew. Presumably they made this calendar last year some time in November or thereabouts. Sure, they can figure out the status of the moon, eclipses and Rahu Kalams. But how do they know it will rain one these particular days several months in advance?

*There is.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Word of the Day: Vāsanā


The sense impressions left by events, objects, experiences, on the mind. But also smell (Tamil. Vasanai). So Proustian. A mnemonic.


According to the doctrine of vāsanās - memory traces or smells - perception itself is half memory. One remembers because one sees a partial similarity between the object present and an object one has seen before. So one needs remembrancers so that one may remember, recognise - literally re-member or reconstitute the object in front of us - by reconnecting present impressions with past memories of that object.

from 'The Ring of Memory' by A.K.Ramanujan, Uncollected Poems and Prose, Delhi: OUP, 2001. Quoted by Niranjan Mohanty in 'Memory in the Poetry of A.K.Ramanujan: A Study', Kavya Bharti, Madurai: No. 17, 2005.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Never quite getting there

A Disappearing Number. Directed by Simon McBurney. Complicite. Global Peace Auditorium, Hyderabad. 22 August 2010.

Remember Amadeus? There is one line from the film adaptation of the play that I will never forget. Mozart says to the king, "Forgive me, Majesty. I am a vulgar man, but I assure you my music is not." He may never have said such a thing; we will never know, but we do know that it doesn't matter. But with these few words, we approach something like an understanding of a man whose genius we know only through his music.

No such understanding is given to us of another genius, Srinivasa Ramanujan by watching Complicite's play, A Disappearing Number. In this very slick, techincally and choreographically admirable production, nothing of the man behind the numbers is revealed. Like his formulae, we only approach but never arrive at anything approximating the person Ramanujan was. When you consider that Ramanujan died only 80 years ago, that it shouldn't be hard to find out more about him, it's truly puzzling to see such an opaque representation of the man, even in his brief relationship with G.H.Hardy.

This is not a review. It is an expression of my dissatisfaction of the structure of the play that gives more importance to the modern love story of Ruth Minnen and Al Cooper (the character an Indian American), and an annoying sub-plot involving an Indian call centre employee who calls herself Barbara Jones.

There are curious, unexplored asides involving another character of Indian origin - a Ugandan who insists that she is a British national - in one scene, she comes to make Al Cooper's bed in a hotel and side-steps the question of 'where she's originally from'. Something is being said about identities - Cooper identifies himself as American, the son of Indian parents who left for the States even before he was born, and who has never, ever visited India - but it isn't clear what or what it has to do with Ramanujan. In another scene, Ruth, who is visiting India,  is in a train with a Ugandan of Indian origin - it isn't clear that it's the same character, though it could well be, since it would seems to bolster the play's central and only premise that the pattern is the thing - and asks her what the meaning of the sacred thread is. The Ugandan, in an astonishing display of mystical knowledge, says it represents the mind, body and the soul, all intertwined.

This is an example of the mystical bullshit that the play - perhaps unconsciously; let's be generous - is full of. At various times, characters, some of them supposedly mathematicians who should know better, are appallingly sentimental about numbers. Ruth's telephone number is significant because it contains a  number that Ramanujan once explicated (this telephone number is responsible for a large chunk of the play); in another scene, when Ruth finds out that she is pregnant, she calls Al and tells him that one plus one is not two but three. Oh please.

Then there is the character Ramanujan. You see him in his home, writing on a slate, erasing what he has written with his elbow. His wife remains nameless and is more often than not seen in supposedly respectful half-crouch. In England, to establish his awkwardness in wearing shoes, Ramanujan is shown waddling along Cambridge. Everything about him in England is overdone - his gestures, his facial expressions, even his accent. Is this supposed to be funny? Poignant? What, if we accept that one's demeanour says something about who we are, does this say about Ramanujan? That's he's infantile and incompetent? Comic and inscrutable in every way including in his mathematics that doesn't follow western methods? What do we make of the way he speaks?

Let's talk about accents. We're Indians speaking in English. To ourselves, we don't have an accent. To other ears, our speech might sound strange but no stranger than other accents sound to us. How is this to be represented on stage or on screen? I remember the first film appreciation class I'd ever been to in school. We were 15 then. Someone asked a teacher, who had just shown is Dr. Zhivago, why the people didn't have a Russian accent. "The film's in English. Why should they have Russian accents unless they're Russians speaking to each other in English?" we were asked in return. It was something to think about, and we did. But apparently Complicite didn't think to ask themselves this question, or how they wanted to deal with it.

What this demonstrates is that orientalism is alive and well. India is, to all intents and purposes, still a mystical place where even mathematicians, geniuses though they be, worry about crossing the kalapani, wear their sacred threads and cast their horoscopes and live out the outcomes exactly as predicted, and none of this is problematic in any way at all because this is a story about the early 20th century and such things happened then, this was so, Ramanujan did worry about all these things and probably spoke English with exactly that South Indian wobble we all know and love so well.

Except, this is emphatically not a story about the early 20th century. It's a story about the present, and a supposed discovery of the man and his math by a mathematician and her reluctant but besotted husband. The narrator, a Bengali-Telugu by his name, is also in the present, guiding us through the past to the present time (which we're told in another nugget of mysticism, is All Connected). And he can't seem to bring himself to interrogate anything. If anything, he also gives us his version of the three words that make the sacred thread a symbol of higher-minded abstraction instead of the socially oppressive one is also and really is. At the very least, he ought to have been shamed into silence but of course he won't because the director and the writer have no clue whatsoever of anything other than the prism of the mystic orient through they've decided to view the subject.

It's also an odd and not always unpleasing contrast between the abstract and stripped down mathematics that is at the heart of the play and the highly-overlaid and layered production. At worst, it seems to make math palatable for a viewing audience with spectacle; at best, it is another, spatial expression of concepts that are only half-comprehended but inuited to be beautiful.


There's more to say, but this should suffice. Other not laudatory reviews include this and this one. It should tell us something that most reviews that have appeared in the Indian press are all gushy bedazzlement. There are dissenting views but I haven't seen them written about anywhere. If anyone has, do point them out.


Update: Just for fun, here's Veena's take on the play form three years ago.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Two Minutes Older: Let Them Roam

'Free-Range Kids'. I don't know about anybody else, but to me the term sounds slightly sinister. I can't help thinking of chickens, piglets and lambs skipping their heedless lives out in sunlit pastures while waiting for their hideous -if humane -end on someone's table. Of course, if you've read Jonathan Safran Foer's book, Eating Animals, you'll take my romantic notion about what `free-range' means with a sack of salt. But this is not about food.

I first heard the term `free-range kids' a month or so ago, when I was resentfully wiping off cycle chain grease from my hands. I had driven my son and his cycle to his friend's place. (I have been resigned for some time now to driving him around if I wanted him to have any friends at all.) Though these friends stay reasonably close by, I didn't consider it safe for him to cycle there by himself. Hence my annoyance at having to chauffeur the kid and his mode of transport around.

I was also being contrary. ``When I was young,'' I began, aware that I was sounding like every detestable adult I knew when I was a kid, ``we didn't have our parents hovering over us all the time and telling us to be careful.'' My friend nodded sympathetically, and handed me a rag on which to wipe my greasy hands. Then he threw out the phrases ``helicopter parent'' and ``free-range kids.'' And he told me about the concept.

It's the title of a book by American writer Lenore Skenazy. The term describes her approach to a specific kind of hands-off parenting. Working on the premise that the world is no more dangerous than it was when we were growing up, Skenazy suggests that what has changed is our perception of it as being less safe for children than it actually is. This is how she let her son be a free-range kid: she left him -then a nine-year-old -at Bloomingdales, gave him money and told him to take the subway back home. Alone. America was horrified. Other parents thought she was being irresponsible.

It is true that we allow our children less space than we ourselves had. In 2008, in an article in the Daily Mail titled `How children lost the right to roam in four generations', David Derbyshire wrote about the members of one family in Sheffield in the UK. He discovered that in 1926, while the oldest member of the family, then age eight, was allowed to walk six miles to go fishing, the youngest member, in 2007, also eight, was only allowed out 300 yards without supervision.

In my time, I would have cycled the distance I had driven my son, but I wouldn't and still won't -let him do the same. He goes for music lessons to a place nearby and I drive him there and back.

Could I bring myself to let my son walk to his music lesson, allowing him to take the time out to explore his surroundings -which, for what it's worth, consists of overflowing drains, potholes, traffic and a few shops along a very busy main road -and become a confident and self-reliant child in the process?

I suspect not. I certainly want him to become a self-reliant young person, but sending him out alone to walk or cycle on Hyderabad roads is more likely to turn him into a gibbering wreck of a human being.

I could be wrong. I suspect I am. What if I taught him to take buses, to ask for and remember directions, to use a public phone? What better way to teach him to live in a city than to allow him to navigate it on his own instead of protecting him from it as if it were a temporary residence we'd leave behind us some day?

Suspicion and fear take root easily enough. The ways in which cities have changed are evidence of it -gated communities, extra security and the ghettoisation of once-mixed localities. Anyone who makes a case for resisting this tendency to fear everything in order to be safe is worth listening to. Besides, I don't want to be a helicopter parent.

(An edited version of this in Zeitgeist, the Saturday edition of The New Indian Express.)

Cabinet of Curiosities

I thought some of you might have fun submitting to this:

Cabinets of curiosities (also known as Wunderkammer, Cabinets of Wonder, or Wonder-rooms) were encyclopedic collections of types of objects whose categorical boundaries were various. Modern terminology would categorize the objects included as belonging to natural history (sometimes faked), geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art (including cabinet paintings) and antiquities. — From Wikipedia

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, edited by Ann and me, will be published by HarperCollins in 2011. Plans are for an oversized laminated-boards format.

A loose sequel to The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases—among other honors, a Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award finalist—this new anthology ramps up both the art and the storytelling, with full-page art, the delights of eccentric front and end matter, “exhibit” descriptions, and a core formed of full-on short stories. (The book will be dedicated to Kage Baker, who contributed to the first volume.)

Contributors will include Mike Mignola, Greg Broadmore, China Mieville, Holly Black, Naomi Novik, Minister Faust, Alan Moore, Cherie Priest, Michael Moorcock, Tad Williams, Jake Von Slatt, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Jeffrey Ford, Gio Clairval, Garth Nix, Stepan Chapman, Michael Cisco, Will Hindmarch, Ekaterina Sedia, Reza Negarestani, Lev Grossman, Ted Chiang, Carrie Vaughn, Kelly Barnhill, Helen Oyemi, and several more. John Coulthart will be doing a lot of art for, with additional work by Jake von Slatt, Eric Orchard, Yishan Lee, Eric Schaller, and others.

Unfortunately, the specific nature of the fiction being commissioned doesn’t allow us to have a standard open reading period.

HOWEVER, we are having an open reading period, starting today, for a micro-fiction section in the back of the anthology, which will consist of a list, with descriptions, of items from Dr. Lambshead cabinet that are not described in the stories. Here are the rules.

(1) Entries should take this form:

ITEM NAME. Description. – Your Name

For example:
TESLA’S SHINBONE. Preserved in amber, this electricity-producing relic from the famous eccentric scientist was first acquired by Dr. Lambshead in 1945 while on a trip to London. Etc. Etc. Etc. – Jeff VanderMeer

(2) Entries must be no longer than 100 to 150 words, and posted in the comments section of this post. They do not have to mention Dr. Lambshead specifically. They should be PG13, tops.

(3) You must include your email address in the appropriate comment field when you post so we can contact you if we would like to publish your entry.

Deadline 7 September 2010. Other caveats on Jeff Vandermeer's blog.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

RIP Edwin Morgan

This makes me very sad, though 90 is pretty damn good.

'The Video Box: No. 25' is a favourite. Though I could dig up some more elegiacal poems, I'd like to remember him as the person who wrote, along with deeply serious poems, such poems as 'The First Men on Mercury' and 'The Loch Ness Monster's Song'. I've always thought he was hugely underrated.

And previously, here, Morgan opens the cage.



In sorrow and celebration,

The First Men on Mercury

We come in peace from the third planet.
Would you take us to your leader?

– Bawr stretter! Bawr. Bawr. Stretterhawl?

– This is a little plastic model
of the solar system, with working parts.
You are here and we are there and we
are now here with you, is this clear?

– Gawl horrop. Bawr Abawrhannahanna!

– Where we come from is blue and white
with brown, you see we call the brown
here 'land', the blue is 'sea', and the white
is 'clouds' over land and sea, we live
on the surface of the brown land,
all round is sea and clouds. We are 'men'.
Men come –

– Glawp men! Gawrbenner menko. Menhawl?

– Men come in peace from the third planet
which we call 'earth'. We are earthmen.
Take us earthmen to your leader.

– Thmen? Thmen? Bawr. Bawrhossop.
Yuleeda tan hanna. Harrabost yuleeda.

– I am the yuleeda. You see my hands,
we carry no benner, we come in peace.
The spaceways are all stretterhawn.

– Glawn peacemen all horrabhanna tantko!
Tan come at'mstrossop. Glawp yuleeda!

– Atoms are peacegawl in our harraban.
Menbat worrabost from tan hannahanna.

– You men we know bawrhossoptant. Bawr.
We know yuleeda. Go strawg backspetter quick.

– We cantantabawr, tantingko backspetter now!

– Banghapper now! Yes, third planet back.
Yuleeda will go back blue, white, brown
nowhanna! There is no more talk.

– Gawl han fasthapper?

– No. You must go back to your planet.
Go back in peace, take what you have gained
but quickly.

– Stretterworra gawl, gawl…

– Of course, but nothing is ever the same,
now is it? You'll remember Mercury.

Edwin Morgan
From From Glasgow to Saturn (Carcanet, 1973). Also published in Collected Poems (Carcanet, 1990)

Story in Wasafiri

My short story, 'Wordsmith' in the latest issue of Wasafiri.

Again, I have no idea how one can read it except by subscribing/looking for it in your library.

The issue has articles, interviews, poems and stories. Contributors to this issue include Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Nabaneeta, Dev Sen, Keki Daruwalla. And Elleke Boehmer interviews David Attwell, who in turn conducted several interviews with J.M. Coetzee.

Riches! Go read (or borrow/subscribe)!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


The new issue of Biblio is out. Table of Contents here and the abstract of my essay of Meena Alexander's Poetics of Dislocation here.

Some - many - of the articles are free to read. Mine is not one of them. I may decide to put it up here at some point, perhaps when the next issue is live. In the meantime, if you want to read it regardless, you could consider buying it online or offline, whichever you prefer. It's one way of helping Biblio survive.

Monday, August 16, 2010

After (ɔ)

 McKenzie Wark, Author of A Hacker Manifesto, on.Copygift.
On the one side, a vast social movement has arisen that intuits the significance of digital information as a social fact. In its more public and self-conscious forms, this social movement includes Creative Commons, the Open Source and Free Software Movement. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Submerged out of sight is a vast culture of file sharing, whether using torrents or plain old CDs passed from hand to hand. This private, pervasive new economy—a gift economy in which the artefact is nothing and its digital information everything—might be an even more significant part of this social movement than its more publicly declared aspects.

On the other side are the entrenched interests of the corporate world, which, particularly in the ‘overdeveloped’ countries of Europe, Japan and North America, rely more and more on their portfolios of trademarks, patents, copyrights and on trade-secret law to stay in business. In A Hacker Manifesto I argue that these corporations are the legal expression of a new kind of class interest. No longer a capitalist class, but a vectoralist class. The key to their power is not physical capital such as factories and warehouses, but rather vectors through which they control information such as the logistics of the supply chain, and the brands, patents and copyrights under which a company’s wealth of information is protected. The vectoralist class only incidentally sells things. It sells images, ideas, data, strapped willy-nilly onto things you can buy, from T-shirts to DVDs, from pills to iPods.

Caught between the social movement of free culture and the corporate interests of this vectoralist class are what I called the hacker class. Not just computer hackers, but anyone who makes new information, whether as a scientist or artist or writer or musician. It doesn’t matter what medium. As far as the corporations are concerned it’s all much the same anyway. This hacker class, this creative cohort, has interests that are really closer to the social movement for free culture and the new gift economies it is spontaneously creating. Intellectual property presents itself as being about the interests of the ‘creator’, but it is really about the interests of the ‘owner’. In practice, making a work of music or art or a new drug is not something you can do on your own. You need help from the owners of the vectors along which it might be distributed. So you sell your rights as a creator to those who own the means of realising its value—the vectoralist class.

Via Supriya Nair.

The Copyleft symbol in the title courtesy a friend on Facebook

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Thrice Born Daniil Kharms

And your birth?
Now I will describe how I was born and how the first signs of genius were discovered in me. I was born thrice. This is how it happened. My father got married to my mother, but my parents brought me into the world only three years later, because my father was adamant that his child should be born at New Year. Dad calculated that conception had to take place on the first of April and only on that day did he get round my mum with the proposition of conceiving a child. My dad got round my mum on the first of april two years after their wedding. Mum had been long awaiting this moment and was terribly thrilled. But dad, as it seems, was in a very playful mood and could not restrain himself, saying to mum 'April fool!'
Mum was absolute furious and didn't allow dad anywhere near her that day. There was nothing for it but to wait until the year. On the first of april the next year dad again started getting round mum with the same proposition. But mum, remembering what had happened the year before, said that she had no further desire to be left in that stupid position and again would not allow dad near her. It didn't matter how much dad begged, it got him nowhere. Only a year later did my dad manage to get his way with my mum and beget me. However, all dad's calculations broke down because I turned out to be premature and was born four months before my time. Dad created such a fuss that the midwife who had delivered me lost her head and started to shove me back in, from where I had only just emerged. Dad again started creating a fuss, saying that, surely this couldn't be called a birth, that this surely couldn't yet be called a human being, but rather a semi-foetus, and that it ought to either shoved back again or put into an incubator. So I was born again and put into an incubator. They took my out of the incubator at New Year. My third birth.

Steven Fowler is writing a series of essays on little known European poets, in Nthposition. Go read. (I wish Nth would use the essay to link to the translations of the poems, though.)

Via Todd Swift.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dambudzo Marechera: 'Where The Bastard Is God?'

One night downtown
I had this breakdown
Not scary like horror
Not boring like nerves
Just this one-night downtown

Not filthy quiet
Like the death of a whore
Not flesh torn by bicycle chains
Like inner city riots after football
Not greasy blinking Loss
Crying into beer cursing the boss
Just this one-night downtown

My mind refused to cuff and kick
Bolted down manholes to licksick laughs
Out of the mess masquerading under my name
The candle of darkness was at midnight pitch
Only black cindersparks where I used to holler
Curses at the dark ghosts of history's bicycle
Not sneaking out of her life
Not holding out on her a revolution spin-
ning back-wards
and O just this one-night downtown
from Cemetery of Mind, Dambudzo Marechera, Baobab Books, Harare, 1995
I had a vague idea that Marechera wrote novels, but had no idea he also wrote poetry. All knowledge of him comes via China Miéville, who also mentioned his poetry in a recent podcast. So naturally I went looking.

Monday, August 09, 2010


A little sweetness and rejection for Monday: The Astrology of Literary Rejection.

Mine managed to be pithy but boring. This is the kind of thing that makes me believe in my Cancer ascendant [with apologies for previous enormous mistake. This is what happens when you write a post as you chat about IWE on the phone]:
Dear Landon,
Your submission was so upsetting that my doctor had to create an entirely new cocktail–a pinata, if you will–of anti-depressants for me. I briefly considered jumping off the roof of my building to alleviate my suffering, however, this would require leaving the house. Instead I took to my bed with Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night, Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz and a favorite Elliott Smith playlist to cheer myself up.
I am feeling better now, thanks. But I want nothing to do with your submission.
The Editor

Hmm. But remember it's a Monday and one needs cheering up. [Via Silliman]

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Two Minutes Older: Witch Hunts and War Logs

“Look, I went into journalism to do journalism, not advertising. My views are critical but that shouldn't be mistaken for hostile - I'm just not a stenographer,” said Michael Hastings, in an interview to Huffington Post, after his profile of Gen. McChrystal in The Rolling Stone lost the General his job in June.

Another man who is not a stenographer, or even – properly speaking – a journalist, but who has caused the US a great deal of heartburn in recent months, is Julian Assange. Assange is the founder of Wikileaks, which recently published – after making over 90,000 pages of material available to the Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel – the Afghanistan War Logs.

A few hours after the story broke, the White House sent an email to journalists advising them on how they could report the leak: “4) As you report on this issue, it’s worth noting that wikileaks is not an objective news outlet but rather an organization that opposes US policy in Afghanistan.”

I won’t point out the irony of a press directive that says Wikileaks is ‘not an objective news outlet’. Never mind Wikileaks; what about the documents themselves? Are they real or not?

The White House doesn’t deny the authenticity of the documents, but doesn’t take very kindly to their having been made public either. Julian Assange is now the Pentagon’s most wanted man. Bradley Manning, the US Army soldier who might – though it is not certain that it is he – have leaked the papers to Wikileaks, has already been arrested for leaking a video earlier this year, of a 2007 Apache attack on Iraqi civilians, and is awaiting military trial.

At the heart of these hunts and damage control exercises are the secrets that are necessary to war. Those who make war believe they have a right to protect their lines of communication and information. Those who oppose it believe that making secrets public will expose the atrocities that are committed almost as a matter or course in war; and inform the public about the nature of what is being done in their name, with their money. The Pentagon Papers, released in the 70s were also classified documents that shocked the American public and changed the course of the Vietnam War.

Where there are secrets, there’s espionage. If Assange has done nothing any self-respecting journalist wouldn’t have, what of the source of the leak? Has Assange’s source broken the law and committed – as some commentators allege – treason?

In the world of undercover work, the law is meant for those who live above ground. Spies know they have no recourse to the law that others abide by, even as they break it in the interests of some higher moral or national interest.

Nobody knew this better than that master novelist of the Cold War, John le Carré. In his fictional world, spies are known one from the other not by methodology but by ideology. Intelligence is the painstaking accumulation of sordid, tiny mosaics of information. Lies and truth are counters in a shadow war against an equally shadowy enemy, a dance of information and misinformation.

Assange has done what he intended to by putting out the material: make what was secret now open to public scrutiny. What others do with the material he puts out will separate the journalists from the stenographers. But are we perfectly sure how to tell them apart?

As a long-time reader of le Carré, I can only hope that Assange has not been suckered, and that the War Logs are not an elaborate double bluff. It is dreary enough in its detail to appear to be the truth. But what if the Logs are salted with misinformation? Who can tell what the implications really are for our neighbour Pakistan, and elsewhere, for Iran?

It’s been 47 years since The Spy Who Came in from the Cold brought le Carré world-wide fame. The most chillingly relevant thing about the book today is how people who have a capacity to believe the worst of humanity, and yet have a strong sense of duty, are most vulnerable to being played in finely calibrated ways to suit the ends of governments. It’s a book Julian Assange should read.

(An edited version of this in Zeitgeist, the Saturday edition of The New Indian Express.)

Friday, August 06, 2010

Dog days

A few days after my father died, a stray started to visit us. She'd wag her tail, flirt a bit about coming in and behave in the most Rum Tum Tugger-ish way. Never ate anything but bread and turned her nose up at rice or leftovers. If she ate at all, it had to be fresh stuff and something exciting or she wouldn't bother.

What this has to do with my father is this: though he was as sick as a (don't say it. Don't say it. It's rude and inappropriate). Though he was a very sick man, his was an immensely strength-giving presence. So that, even when he needed help to walk, we never felt the need for any additional protection of any kind. Long before we had neighbours, people used to ask if we oughtn't to have guard dogs, and we laughed.

So when he was no longer there but the dog was, it was reassuring, and for some reason, in mind the two events were inextricably linked. No logic there, I admit, but there it was.

On Wednesday, some long pending thing that was knotted and messy since my father's death, was resolved. I couldn't really believe it. In fact, I spent the afternoon looking as if doom had paid a visit.

Yesterday, in the morning, we found a dog curled up in one part of a sari that was hung out to dry in the verandah because it was raining outside. My mum tried to shoo her out and away from the sari but she looked up and put her head back down. I went to see what the matter way, because through the window it looked as if her eyes were cloudy.

They were. Also, a large part of her intestines were hanging out. She had bled all over the verandah and the place was crawling with ants.

We called Blue Cross, which promised to send a rescue van. We fed her some warm milk with bread soaked in it. She got up on shaky and shivering legs to devour the small bowl of food. The air smelled of wet dog and blood.

When the rescue van came, the man said the dogs were in heat and it could be because of that. Raped dog, I thought. But he took one look at her and said, this is something else. He didn't say they'd put her down, but that is what they have done.

I was distraught the rest of the day. It was one real, suffering dog; but in my head, she was also symbolic of another kind of end. I told myself all day that this was wrong, that it was stupid to think of my father in this context, but it was roughly equivalent to telling myself to use a nail-cutter when all my teeth are handy.

I don't really know how to conclude this. There are no homilies to hand. Why a dog that was shortly about to die reminded me of my father is something I'd rather not spell out. I feel embarrassed enough as it is.

Oh, this dog was the first one's progeny from a recent litter. rip, nameless one.

Just 'cause

You've seen that notorious Time cover?

A long way down the road from why the US went to Afghanistan in the first place, we have now arrived at where, apparently, Aisha is one reason why they should stay. Or so (many of ) the folks in this comments stream seem to think.

Here's what the cover could have looked like.

The 2010 Srinivas Rayaprol Prize Announcement

Deadline 1 September 2010.

Details in the poster.