3.12.14

work rant

I would write a whole paper about how tiring writing is, if only it wasn't so damn counterproductive. 

27.11.14

the real question

about the modi government, one that i have no answer to, is this:

where is their faith in technocratic solutions coming from?

25.11.14

why

problematize?

10.11.14

making monsters

Cross-posted from the wonderful Scribbler.co

**

"I know people who belong to the RSS tradition," someone commented on a Facebook discussion I was reading recently, "and they are all good people with tremendous discipline" (emphasis mine). 

I think of this today again in the context of the recent Kiss of Love in Delhi, where the protest was pitched against 'sanghi gunday'. The image that appears before you is instantly of a saffron-clad man with a bright red tilak on his forehead aggressively protecting an abstract "Indian culture" that nobody can quite define, but everybody knows. 

And it is in this context that I wonder: Is it a mistake to make monsters of those on the extreme right of things? 

Because I don't think it is truly the Sanghi Gunday that one is up against. 

It is the regular middle-class Mama who wants his daughter to have a PhD from a foreign university and a stunning career, but also wants his to know how to make the perfect keeray molagutal and is afraid of her daughter marrying a Muslim. It is the Aunty who thinks it is perfectly fine to have a drink with her daughter on Saturday evenings, but will bring down the skies if her skirt is a single inch above her knee. Write a thesis on sexuality, sure, as long as it is part of your academics, but the choice of marriage will be made by horoscopes and stars. You have to be financially independent, but you cannot have a say in when you want to come home at night. Have as many friends as you want, but don't eat in the Muslims' houses - their food smells. Those gays, you know, it's okay whatever they do on their own time. You don't have any gay friends no? 

There is nothing more political than falling in love. Identity (caste, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation…), ways in which you define your relationships (not defining it, intimacy, love, live-in, open, closed, committed, married, engaged, the list goes on), spaces, institutions you engage with in the context of the relationships - all of these have to be negotiated. So much has been said on love jihad/'jihad against love'; about personal laws regulating marriages, laws against homosexuality. It is naive to argue that any decision is made by the two (or, indeed, more) people in the relationship. People are acid attacked, hacked to pieces, thrown under trains, shot, beaten up brutally, raped, kidnapped, I mean - you've all watched the films and read the news - all for love. But you have also heard of people who give up, compromise, "be pragmatic". It doesn't have to be extreme - even little things like keeping quiet when your partner's mother calls. Love isn't ever only pretty

But at the heart of this is control over sexuality. 

Let's for a moment think about why the media felt entitled to put up footage of a couple kissing at a cafe; and about why (I use the term loosely) 'sanghi gunday' felt entitled enough to beat them up. It didn't happen out of the blue. 

I don't know if this is true specifically of Kochi, but I know it is true of any college in Hyderabad, many colleges in Chennai, Bangalore, Madurai, really any city in the South -  but for over a decade now, educational institutions have been violently curbing any expression of women's sexuality. Dress codes, separating men and women in classrooms, having rules about girls and boys talking to each other in class, not allowing any physical contact whatsoever, strictly regulating time between classes, also regulating after-college hours - these are all "normal" in most colleges. It is apparently okay to suspend students for laughing loudly

I read this week that Bangalore College Principals published guidelines on how girls should behave in colleges, and this is endorsed by most people who send their children to these colleges. I wouldn't be surprised if these guidelines regulate women's access to spaces, their friends, how they speak on the phone, which staircase they take, where they sit, how they sit, who they eat with, what they eat; there is nothing about the way a woman conducts herself that the principals couldn't have set a guideline about. 

These principals are regular, educated, middle-class men and women of all shapes and sizes; but really, how are they any different from 'sanghi gunday' who protest against men and women sitting together in a cafe? The only difference I can see scares me - The fact that they are organised, have direct power over women's lives and careers, have support (whether explicit or complicit) from the families of the women they seek to control and the fact that they use it intelligently. 'Sanghi gunday' are reactionary, angry and violent; but men and women like these who are 'well-intentioned' and are 'only doing it to protect our girls' are the real threat. 

They're good, well-intentioned people. Their only visible fault, of course, is their warped sense of entitlement on women's bodies. Women (because make no mistake, they are adult women) who have no way to own their bodies with some integrity. At the heart of it is the fact that it is a power relationship.  I've been in the women's position. I've done it - I wore salwar kameez for five years in a girls' college, where I was sent back home a few times because my kurta was higher than my knees by a few inches, I wore a stole instead of a dupatta, I wore jeans instead of a salwar, my sleeves were too short, even thinking of the list is tiring me. I've justified not fighting it, too - there are bigger battles to fight. I can't win this.  

So I wonder. Are we making monsters of the wrong people? 

4.11.14

glass of wine, chocolate ice cream, yellow lights. 

i miss my home. :(

24.10.14

#4

Close to the top of the list of things that piss me off:

People who romanticise poverty. 

I understand it's difficult to find poetry in things; I understand the need to find expression in what you believe is most indigenous. It might speak to you in multiple ways; you might see it as beautiful imagery. You might write it as beautiful imagery. But there is no romance in poverty. There are only people struggling for their dignity while they make their ends meet. Write about them, please. But don't project your romance onto their lives. 

21.10.14

adolescence

You are the latest addition to my private collection of people. 

There are all sorts in there. An old woman I saw the day after I got my tenth standard board exam results. I was in a bus on the streets of Delhi. She was in a rickshaw with a bag of vegetables. A man whose butt crack was peeking from the back of his pants on a train. He was snoring on the upper berth of a train from Bhopal to Godhra. When we reached, he jumped off the upper berth, dragged his suitcase out, pushed me out of the way and got off the train. I can't remember his face, but I know his butt crack intimately. 

A woman with short hair I saw five years ago. She was in the library, going through books in the women's studies section. I practiced talking to her everyday for a whole week in the shower. I haven't seen her since, but I still have conversations with her sometimes. She has longer hair now, the kind that falls along her shoulders in waves. She sings like a dream. She sings in my dreams. 

You're different. You have a name and a place in my world. You like potatoes and spend a large part of our time together convincing me about them. You have a way of saying my name. You emphasise the first half, lilting on the second half. There is warmth in it, but there is ownership in it. I have never had a private person who could own my name. It says something of you, I am not sure what.

Your hands are a beautiful shade of dark. Which is strange, because nothing else about you is. But your fingers and long and warm. I’ve never kissed anyone with long fingers. Only stubby and fat. Or short and pretty. (With their nails either bitten or cut. Usually bitten off.) I'll very quickly skip everything else and arrive at your hair. It is almost straight, only slightly wavy where it is ponytailed, which is also a novelty. I’ve done the whole range of super crazy fizz to stick straight, but I haven’t done yours.

Faces are difficult. Yours, especially. I can think of everything in its own way. I know your ears. I know your teeth: There is something blackish stuck in them but your grin is overpowering. I know your lips, but not the way I would like to. Your nose hooks a bit like mine. Your eyes. But I can’t put them all together coherently in one face. It’s as if I have bits of a puzzle to put together, but just don’t know how. I always wonder if I will recognize you if I see you out of context. Suddenly in an airport. Or eating pani puri on the road. 

Do you like chaat? It’s an important parameter.

16.10.14

cookies crumble

i feel like i'm living my life between one crisis and the next with crap hotel rooms in between.

in other news, i'm presently homeless. any kind souls who read my blog, live in delhi and know someone who's looking for a flatmate please write to me/call me.

sigh.

10.10.14

:\

what if i'm just being stubborn? if there's value in what they're saying? am i missing out on something i might regret not knowing? am i going to go my whole life carrying this feeling?

i really don't want to watch game of thrones.

ps. in other news, i like being alone in good hotel rooms that have star world at 9PM. i hate being alone in hotel rooms otherwise. also, muzaffarpur has the worst hotel(s) in the country. muzaffarpur, however, has a baskin robbins. i've never eaten so much ice cream in my life. 

5.10.14

postsecret

all of us turn into creepy internet stalkers at 2AM.

but if you need help, i'm pretty good at it. 

27.9.14

splosh

too exhausted to tell a story about this woman i met in the sea who just kept swimming but kept missing the boat. 

25.9.14

kadaknath

my blood might turn to
coffee one day. thick, bitter,
5% chicory, half a spoon of
sugar and completely black.

but i must tell you a story
about a kind of chicken
they breed in jhabua:
whose flesh is black
whose bones are black
whose wings are black

i don't suppose
it drinks very much
coffee. 

23.9.14

/

don't want to write/can't write anyway. 

14.9.14

fall in love in cities by the sea

old loves
kiss me softly
on my nose, like a
duck on my chin;
nibble my ear a little
to the left while i
dream about
popcorn, the sea
and winter rain.

10.9.14

drunk post about a book

i am drunk. i haven't been drunk in 3 1/2 weeks. there are two reasons for this - the first is that there really isn't any alcohol legally available in rural gujarat (and i didn't know a bootlegger); the second is that the only kind of people who get drunk in rural india are men or witches. in any case, this isn't a post about my being drunk, this is a post about a book. 

cities nauseate me. i mean this in a literal sense. i am asthmatic, and this means when i don't pay attention to how my lungs work, i suffocate and feel nauseous. when i don't swim, when i don't jog/walk/do yoga/exercise, i start to pay attention to things like air density and humidity levels.

this has nothing to do with how much i love cities.

i recently read the latest murakami book, colourless tsukuru tazaki and his yeas of pilgrimage.

i talk about how cities are nauseating because i have belatedly come to a conclusion about all of murakami's books. his most central concern, or the one that i relate to most anyway, is the condition of urban loneliness. or to put it in another way, he writes about people who put themselves in boxes. i may mean this literally - because what are urban homes if not boxes; but i most certainly mean it in a metaphorical sense. we become people without names or faces; we become persons whose lives are only meaningful to ourselves. 

we become concerned with what we eat and what we wear and our daily routines and who we are friends with and what sort of books we read and what towels we use and whether we use conditioner meant for dry hair or oily hair  and what sort of music we listen to and whether we think epubs are better than whatnot and where we download our music from and whether we are indie enough and whether we support the right kind of hip issues and whether we are green but what the hell is wrong with any other colour which brings me right back to murakami. 

i love him, and i was asked recently what it is i love about him, i love him because he is so bloody good at talking about the urban condition. murakami, better than anyone else, talks about what it is like to be a person of one's own - not merely in the sense of being independent - but in the sense of being singular. that's not true. i love murakami because i associate my own solitariness with his characters. they are not driven or passionate about any one thing; they do what they do because they do it. they have no strong sense of direction - they go where they go because life takes them there. and that's just how it is. 

but the truth is also (okay i'm drunk so i'm gping to tell this story - someone had a whole 45 minute conversation with me today assuming i was about 5 years younger than i really am - i'd blame it on my new and fancy haircut) that i love murakami because i loved him when i was younger. when i needed him, he was there. when i read after dark at 17 alone in a cafe-cum-bookshop after a fight with my best friend when i was sure i'd never talk to her again (it has been ten years since, we're still talking) it struck a deep resounding chord in my heart and i was hooked. five years after, when i read dance dance dance, it spoke to me in ways noone else did. his work has left a deep blemish on how i read and write fiction, no question about it. but do i love him as i did four or five years go? not really. is he as relevant? may be more than ever. 

i might delete this post tomorrow, but right now i'm super astounded by how few spelling and grammatical errors there are.

also i read the book on a sunday on my kindle on my phone in a village 10000000 miles from a mobile phone tower. and i'm back in delhi now. i really feel on some days that i should make my google calendar public, just in case someone wants to hang out with me. (while we're still on the urban loneliness thing). okay post ends.

edit: tomorrow, when i'm sober, remind me to talk about cities, anonymity and loneliness; and why sleeping under the stars is all fine but really airconditioning is where it's at.

5.9.14

burdens

i think a promise
slipped out of my bag
yesterday. i can't seem
to remember which or
where but i know
i'm just not feeling
it weighing down
on me.

15.8.14

where are you going

YES LET'S POLICE EVERYBODY because that's the bloody answer.

(i'm constantly surprised by my own capacity for anger at things i was sure i had made my peace with. oh well.)

13.8.14

learning from this week

sita does not know how to take a selfie.

*groan*

11.8.14

air

i hate people
who never know when
to use
"air quotes"