Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year Resolution (Singular)

How many of you read that as Will Work For Free?


(Also, Happy 2013. Be good!)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hyderabad: Take Back the Night 5th Jan 2013

On the 5th of Jan 2013, there will be a march from Tank Bund to Punjagutta via Liberty (I'm not really sure that'll work, but okay).

Details here.

Also, tomorrow there is a Youth Forum panel of Sexual assault and violence at Lamakaan, off Road No. 1, Banjara Hills. That's 30th Dec 2012, 3pm-6pm at Lamakaan.


A.Suneetha, Senior Fellow, Anveshi, Research Centre on Women’s Studies, Hyderabad
Vasudha Nagaraj, Advocate, High Court, Hyderabad with expertise on the Sexual Assault Bill
Tejaswini Madabhushi, Organizer of the ‘Midnite March’ in Hyderabad
Natha Wahlang, PhD student, Hyderabad Central University

Jointly sponsored by Lamakaan and Anveshi(
Moderator: Sangeeta Kamat, Professor, University of Massachusetts

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Posters and campaigns against sexual assault

Over the last few months, I've seen a number of posters for campaigns against sexual assault. No surprisingly, these are all in other countries than India. Every time I see a post, I intend to save it and then forget.

Now that there's some kind of critical mass surrounding rape, rape culture, sexual assault and so on, I thought it was time to go looking for those posters.

1. How To Prevent Rape/Sexual Assault

2. Don't Be That Guy

These are not culturally specific to India in a number of ways beyond the obvious ones. But the Don't Be That Guy campaigns have apparently been effective elsewhere. And guess what? They acknowledge that men also get raped and sexually assaulted. It would be fantastic if we could have variations of these, no?

Posters and posters.

3. Statement by Women's and Progressive Groups and Individuals.

Here is a fairly comprehensive statement with a list of demands that does not include the death penalty, chemical castration and other absurdities. What is does include is demands for police reform, more, and more effective gender sensitisation of not just the police or other government functionaries, but from the primary school and up.

No, sorry, this statement doesn't ask that action should include gender sensitisation from a very young age, but duh! That is clearly necessary. Also, by the time kids are old enough to protest, they might know better than to wave bangles at the cops to taunt them in order to get them to do their jobs better.

At any rate, though it's possible that the statement doesn't cover everything, if you agree with it, do consider signing it (email given in that post). And do pass it on.

4. Solidarity and PLUs

This is also a good time to remember that it's not just People Like Us who get assaulted: not just urban, middle-class, mostly higher-caste women and men who get assaulted and raped.

It's fantastic that people are out and protesting, but let's not expect solidarity for ourselves and be less ready to give it when it is dalit women, rural women, people in Kashmir or Manipur, women and men in custody.

Anu Ramdas has a great post on Round Table.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Kavita Krishnan on Rape & Rape Culture

A fierce, necessary speech from Kavita Krishnan, Secretary AIPWA, outside Sheela Dixit's house. The translation here and the video below.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Raise your voice for Swar

Anindita Sengupta has written an article about the recent attack on Swar Thounaojam where a mob of about 40 men gathered around Swar, while the police constable present not only did nothing, but pushed her and didn't let her get in her car.

Thounaojam is Manipuri and the newspapers have focused on her racial background. What happened was because of a rancid stew of biases and hostilities, no doubt, and race has its own role to play. But Thounaojam is worried about the race issue being sensationalised. She points out: “You can’t ignore the fact that I am from the NE and this distance-marker played its own role in the harassment and intimidation I have faced. However, it is very difficult for me to bring up the race issue here because we don’t yet have the tools and language to discuss the racial discrimination NE residents face in various parts of India. Because of such a lack, it sounds like populist posturing whenever the race angle is brought in. It becomes dangerous too.”
Let’s also not diminish the fact that this was a gender-related crime. Thounaojam was subjected to harassment that was decidedly sexual in its violence. The fact that women are vulnerable on our streets anyway made it easier for the mob to use that particular form of intimidation.
According to some reports, the motorcyclist claims that Thounaojam demanded his licence and yelled. As if that somehow is a defence. Because, of course, a woman should not be assaulted and molested in a public place but if the woman in question is angry, assertive, vocal, heard — then, then...
Then, nothing. This cannot happen in any city or state that claims to be civilised. Under any circumstances. No matter whether (or how much) the woman yells. Or is angry or vocal or even unpleasant. This cannot happen. Forgive me the lack of subtlety but I cannot afford the comfort of that right now.
The rest here. There's also a link to the petition which, please sign.

The Lost Sketchbook of Guillermo del Toro

I saved this for one month on my reader and found yesterday that it had disappeared. This is why: blog as soon as you see something you want to ready-refer from your own blog!

Image from here

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro put all his ideas for `Pan’s Labyrinth’ in a notebook — then lost it.
The heavyset man ran down the London street, panting, chasing the taxi. When it didn’t stop, he hopped into another cab. “Follow that cab!” he yelled. Guillermo del Toro wasn’t directing this movie. He was living it. And it was turning into a horror tale.

Via the amazing Subashini.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Readings in Hyderabad: Siva Reddy and Cheran

Putting up the invites for two readings:

Telugu poet Siva Reddy on 16th Dec at Lamakaan
Sri Lankan Tamil poet Cheran on 20th Dec at Sundarayya Vignana Kendram.

Please consider this an open invite. Come for either/both readings and do let people know.


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Sarah Manguso: Asking for More

'Asking for More'
by Sarah Manguso

I am not asking to suffer less.
I hope to be nearly crucified.
To live because I don't want to.
That hope, that sweet agent —
My best work is its work.
The horse I ride into Hell is my best horse
And bears its name.
So, friends, drink your cocktails and wear your hats.
Thank you for leaving me this whole world to go mad in.
I am not asking for mercy. I am asking for more.
I don't mind when no mercy comes
Or when it comes in the form of my mad self
Running at me. I am not asking for mercy.

I read Sarah Manguso first in Poetry - this poem, in fact - and wanted to read more. As ever, poems are to be found not as collections but chanced upon, chased or dug up.

If anyone (I'm looking at you, Cat) find Siste Viator, please get it for me.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Chaucer, channelling Bishop

Gives me advice and I take it to heart. Even if I do it by simple repetition.

Blog sum thyng every daye. Accepte the flustere / Of sleples nights, of weekends badlye spent. / The art of blogging ys nat hard to master. 

Ah but it's the sleples nights that are hard to accepte, and Ich'll admyte freely that it's not only the weekends that are badlye spent.

('The Sola Arte' by Elisa Episcopus may be found on Chaucer's own twitter. )

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Review: Selected Poems of Subramania Bharati

Last week in The Sunday Guardian, my review of Usha Rajagopalan's flawed translations of Subramania Bharati's poems.

Selected Poems: Subramania Bharati
Translated by Usha Rajagopalan
Hachette India. Pp 151. Rs 350.


About a century ago, two poets were writing transformative verse in languages other than English. In their own ways, these two poets changed the way people read and spoke about poetry. One was Rainer Maria Rilke and the other was Subramania Bharati. While Rilke’s poetry has been translated into English many times, it’s incredibly hard to find an English translation of Bharati’s work.

As a child growing up outside Tamil Nadu but immersed in Carnatic music, I have always had a frustrating relationship with Bharatiyar’s poetry: I know it only through song, both classical and filmic but I cannot read his poetry off the page and have always needed someone to translate his verse for me.

It was with delight, therefore, that I began Usha Rajagopalan’s translation of Bharati’s verse. It seemed to me a necessary project, to bring this poet who sang of ships and minerals as joyfully as he sang about Krishna and Shakti, to the notice of the Anglophone world. I was even more thrilled to read that Rajagopalan’s journey through his work also began via song.

It helps that this is a bilingual edition as, I think, all translated poetry should be. Unfortunately, this is as far as the good news goes. The risk in a bilingual edition of course is that for those who can read the source language, the shortcomings in the translation are inescapable and apparent. Every translating decision is laid bare on the page and the translator’s only defence – if it can be called that – lies in an Introduction.

This translation of Bharati’s poetry does not have an Introduction. It has a list of important dates and an account of his life that very briefly outlines his engagement with the Independence movement, his political writing, his subsequent escape from British India and his life as an ardent spiritualist-nationalist. But there is nothing from Rajagopalan on what her approach to translating his work was or how she engaged with the very different kinds of poetry he wrote: the spiritual/love poems and the rousing nationalist verse.

Not all translators need be scholars or even be in a position to contextualise a poet’s work and place it in the broader framework of the times in which s/he lived. The Selected Poetry of Rilke translated by Stephen Mitchell, for instance, has a comprehensive and intelligent Introduction by the American poet Robert Hass. If it was beyond Rajagopalan to write an Introduction that examines Bharati’s poetry with the care it deserves, surely someone else could have been commissioned to write one?

For a reader who is not already familiar with Bharati’s verse, this plunge into the deep end of his work is very disorientating: the first poem is an invocation, which is all well and good. It is followed by a poem that Rajagopalan titles ‘A Special Song’ but in the Tamil is called ‘Ammakannu Paatu’. Even for someone whose Tamil is as workaday as mine is, it is apparent that ‘Ammakannu’ is a term of endearment and ‘Special’ in no way conveys the tenderness and affection of the title in Tamil. The poem itself is a barrage of trochees that assault the ear: The hand opens a lock,/Wisdom opens the mind./ Melody makes a song/A woman makes a home happy. For a poem that is called ‘Song’, it is singularly unmusical.

There are many such instances through the book and it would be unnecessarily cruel to draw attention to more of them. Let us admit that poetry is not easy to translate. When it is done well, it is a cause for celebration.

But when a translation of poetry does not read or sound like poetry, I would imagine that those involved in the project would do anything rather than put the work out into the public domain. They could, for instance, have had two translators: one who knew the source language well and the other who knew the mechanics of poetry in the target language well.

Here for instance, is Stephen Mitchell translating Rilke:

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,

            (‘You Who Never Arrived’ from The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke)

And here is Usha Rajagopalan translating Bharati:

If I can forget Kannan’s face,
What use having eyes at all?

            (‘Kannan, My Lover – I’)

Someone who knows nothing about Subramania Bharati, who cannot even struggle through the Tamil on the page or have someone read aloud the original Tamil so they can absorb the beauty and power of the sound – if not the sense – of the poetry; someone whose first and only encounter with one of 20th century’s greatest poets is through this translation is absolutely sure to ask what the fuss is about.

Bharatiyar’s poetry is in no danger of being forgotten in his native land. It is a great pity that our definition of ‘native land’ must be more narrow and parochial than his own expansive one, at least until a better translation replaces this one.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Search engines, writing advice and miscellaneous trivia

What did you expect? It's Saturday, idyllically sandwiched between Friday's anxious socialising and Sunday's frantic preps for the week to follow.

Of course there's work but everyone knows what to do with it on Saturdays.

(If you don't, I'm fairly certain link #1 will have the answers).

And even though you should be prepared for time-wasting persiflage, with no further ado, I give you...

1. The Calvin & Hobbes Search Engine, which I found on Slate, while reading...

2. Kurt Vonnegut give his students the kind of assignment I wish my teachers had given me.

3. Oh, and of course you wanted to know that Yoko Ono's Lennon-inspired menswear collection has a bumless (I don't even need to say any more, do I?).

4. While we're on the subject of The Beatles, a story about George in Rishikesh.

5. And just to creep you out, this image.