Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bhanu Kapil defines things on Urban Dictionary

You know Urban Dictionary? The place where you go to keep abreast of current slang, innuendo and acronyms (since nearly everything needs fewer vowels, bb).

I didn't know you could make definitions there that would make you want to buy mugs & t-shirts that said Architecture - 5 or Humanimal (I would buy the heck out of that t-shirt).

It appears you can, and someone did. Bhanu Kapil has done something to Urban Dictionary that I hope it will never recover from.

Here's a sample:

The inability to conceive of a happy ending.

Sometimes I think that the whole reason I met him was to discover that his wife was studying Counseling Psychology, if indeed that is the name of something a person might actually learn, with the great-grand-niece of Frida Kahlo. In the narrative of desire, perhaps what matters is not intimacy but it's counterpart: a new thought. In this sense, the lover is a necessary force, but rarely it's limit. I said: "Maybe this is the reason we met." Thinking of the yellow table, the third eye, the monkey in her arms. Dominant. I begged for an introduction, forgetting for a moment who I was. To him. For her. A cunt. Do cunts get to meet Frida Kahlo? In the flesh? Greeley, Colorado is where the slaughterhouses are. I'd like to visit that university town.
I've always thought - from what little I've read on her blog and on Almost Island, that Kapil is someone I need to read more of. Maybe some day I will manage it. Until then these sudden instance of brilliance must do.


Re the entry True Love: I am wondering what a list of lovers' occupations would look like. I already know it will be boring and unpoetic and undeserving of a definition on Urban Dictionary. Perhaps there's an Obscure Sorrow that defines the sadness of never having a lover who was an actor is a miracle play.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A bag full of cats

When I was pregnant, there were a battery of tests that my doc recommended, among them for a series of potential diseases that might damage the foetus. So, I obediently got them done. One of these tests came back positive: Toxoplasma Gondii. I consulted my trusty What to Expect and was horrified to discover that the thing sounded hugely dangerous. I was traumatised.

The doc recommended I re-do the test and the next one turned out negative ( though why disregard the first and accept the second? Would there be any way of finding out until it was too late?) and all manner of things were well after all.

So this Toxo thing seems like a special parasite, one that was (almost) mine. Naturally, all related reading are of interest. This piece suggests that this parasite - usually considered harmless in healthy adults and reasonably-sized children - actually can cause all kinds of changes in the brain.
She began tagging the parasite with fluorescent markers and tracking its progress in the rats’ bodies. Given the surgically precise way the microbe alters behavior, Webster anticipated that it would end up in localized regions of the brain. But the results defied expectations. “We were quite surprised to find the cysts—the parasite’s dormant form—all over the brain in what otherwise appeared to be a happy, healthy rat,” she says. Nonetheless, the cysts were most abundant in a part of the brain that deals with pleasure (in human terms, we’re talking sex, drugs, and rock and roll) and in another area that’s involved in fear and anxiety (post-traumatic stress disorder affects this region of the brain). Perhaps, she thought, T. gondii uses a scattershot approach, disseminating cysts far and wide, enabling a few of them to zero in on the right targets.

To gain more clarity on the matter, she sought the aid of the parasitologist Glenn McConkey, whose team at the University of Leeds was probing the protozoan’s genome for signs of what it might be doing. The approach brought to light a striking talent of the parasite: it has two genes that allow it to crank up production of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the host brain. “We never cease to be amazed by the sophistication of these parasites,” Webster says. 
The whole thing here.


Someone on Twitter said that this explains Naipaul. I give you that observation without comment.

Monday, February 11, 2013


With many qualifications, I adore Bombay. This time, the qualifications just removed themselves: I stayed in town, had one reading and one and a half days to myself to do what I wanted. What I did was wander round, watch people, meet friends, browse the Dilli Haat-ness of Kala Ghoda during the festival. I sat facing the sea, I sat under trees, moved with the shade, began and finished Brat Farrar. Paid homage to Mondegar and Leopold.

And bought lots of books. 15 of them. The first two, I bought on my way to my reading, just a little bit away from the David Sassoon Library. I didn't dare to leave them there because the session was going to be chock full of poets, and what if it occurred to even one of them to check out the place and pick precisely these books up?

Books 1 & 2: Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poets from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond* [ed. Tina Chang, Natthalie Handal and Ravi Shankar]. And Anne Sexton: The Complete Poems**.

Next to the guy who had these books, there was another who had mostly art magazines and law books. But he also had a whole lot of other stuff and two things that I saw and coveted. I promised myself I would return the next day for them. What was to be a minor rescue mission turned out to be a major evacuation.

Here's what I got:

The abridged Don Quixote is, of course, for the kid; as is Goopy, Archy's Life of Mehitabel and the Leslie Charteris. The le Carre and the Mary Stewart are replacement copies and the Allingham is so! beautifully! preserved! Also, Rumer Godden. Only finding a copy each of Flowers for Mrs. Harris or Cider with Rosie would have made my joy more complete.

But the books I'm really pleased about finding are the Ali A. Mazrui, Book 1 [see above] and the Raymond Carver.

Especially the Carver, for all sorts of reasons. The title and the title poem (Where Water Comes Together With Other Water). The joy of finding a collection which contains an individual poem that has moved you. The wanting to know whether Carver's poems were edited as hard as his stories and if so by whom.

Oh, and because I love donkeys, (if you didn't know this about me already, welcome to the blog and make yourself comfortable) and I can never find donkey things the way other people find owls, elephants and tortoises, I was ecstatic because this time I lucked out!

So the kid gets Don Quixote and I get Donkey Hottie.

Okay, fine. It's a pack mule. But I'll take what I can get.  


But I'm not done.

A couple of days before I left for Kala Ghoda, I was in a sad-but-foul mood about something I can't even remember now. I complained about it and asked for hugs or books and my friend offered to send me something.

I came back from Bombay to find she'd sent me Anuja Chauhan's Those Pricey Thakur Girls. Needless to say, I swallowed it in one sitting last night and my crush on Chauhan just grows and grows. It is full of late-'80s Delhi wonder and though I never thought I'd hear myself say this, it made me so nostalgic for my late-teens! All the Depauls and Wengers and Bercos and every cheesy song and landmark and Delhi thing (including Interact, for heaven's sake) was there and I loved it.

At the risk of sounding like GRRM fan, I want the next book from her, like, later this year or something.


*I wonder whose copy landed up on the pavement so soon after the book came out. Reviewer? Or *gasp* Contributor?

**I picked this one chiefly for an over-wrought, handwritten letter from a son to his mother on the flyleaf. Either she was heartless or dead and the book landed up on the pavement. Either way, it's fascinating.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Poetry Reading at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2013

Five years after my first and only KGAF, I'll be reading at this one. Unlike the last time, I don't have a book. I'm also not as stressed as I was then. All it needs is for me to keep my fingers crossed and for you guys - those of you who are in Bombay - to turn up!

The 7th evening is given over to three hours of poetry. I can't wait to hear Adil Jussawalla, Eunice de Souza, Melanie Silgardo and everyone read. So much excite!

Here's the full schedule for Thursday, 7th Feb, from 5pm on, at the David Sassoon Library:

Session 1: 5-6 pm

1. Adil Jussawalla
2. Gerson da Cunha
3. Jane Bhandari
4. Eunice de Souza
5. Melanie Silgardo

Session 2: 6.15-7.15 pm

1. Arundhathi Subramaniam
2. Sridala Swami
3. Jerry Pinto
4. Anupama Raju
5. Ranjit Hoskote

Session 3: 7.30-8.30 pm

1. Menka Shivdasani
2. Christine Herzer
3. Mustansir Dalvi
4. Athena Kashyap
5. Dominic Alapat
Do come if you can.