that kind of year

Fourth working Sunday in a row. *grump*



sunday was my last working day at my old job. i'm not going to talk about why i quit - it's a moot point, it's over and that's all there is to that. this post is about sorting out the muck in my head: it's about trying to figure out why i can't write anymore. 

i've said this before - i took that job because i wanted to travel. i wanted to see the country in ways i hadn't done before. i had spent way too long in a university, and i was aching to get my shoes dirty again. it was romantic in my head (it still is): i'd spend days on trains, lug my black and yellow featherlight vip suitcase up and down railway stations between towns whose names don't matter, meet people whose names i won't remember, gather stories i can never tell. i was indestructible when i took the job. i didn't figure i could be worn down by the people behind those stories, that hotel rooms inspire a dull throbbing loneliness, that at the end of the day i would be left with exhaustion (both physical and emotional), that i would be so angry about the world in general, that beauty would be so hard to find in depth and complexity. 

n-ben (last month), who was gathering firewood for a long, cold night when i met her. she's over 75 years old and alone. she has no shoes, no warm clothes, no house, no children. a brother who beats her, a sister who protects her. h, the lines on whose face were hard to count, who lost her children to the earthquake, who lives in a house made of wood, who scrambled around in the dark for half an hour to show me a heavily photoshopped photograph of her daughter. s, a dalit woman whose ghoonghat was yanked down by her friend when a man passed by the door, who doesn't sit on chairs because "yeh hamara culture hai" (a line delivered to me, seething with irony, anger dripping from its every syllable, so sharply i think she cut me with the kind of mastery only uma thurman in kill bill could manage.) m, a mahadalit woman who is fighting her upper caste mukhiya everyday, for whom caste is a debilitating physical reality, who articulates the everyday indignities she faces, who wears bright pink lipstick in defiance, who lives in a house made of sticks under a roof made of plastic sheets. these women are numbers on an excel sheet, omitted stories in boxes, anecdotes in a world that seeks "evidence". 

what am i allowed to feel? what am i allowed to think? how involved am i allowed to be? here we are, seeking a paradise experience between death camps and suicide bombers*, sitting in cafes that can be delhi, muzaffarpur, istanbul or paris just the same, seeking happiness in things so deeply embedded in the urban and elite. are all these just discontinuities in a world whose boundaries are drawn by technologies, filtered through screens, pixellated and defined through narratives we are taught not to hear, linearities we cannot draw because the locus is so damn hard to find. what the fuck am i supposed to feel? where am i to seek clarity, because goddamn it, i feel like i'm walking through a fog right now. 

*if i may borrow that phrase from romesh gunesekara. 


there is no joy

as particular as seeing a well-formatted table paste the same exact way onto a word document from excel.

what? i use office for mac, ok. life sucks. 



khwaish me lipti zaroorat ki duniya...

(ye duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai, piyush mishra.)



"somedays i write something and i feel like i'm my favorite writer."

-her (spike jonze)

(on most days i'm just the very worst)

lights will guide me home

i'm afraid of the dark: not the physical darkness of confined spaces which by itself is overwhelming; not even the darkness of poetry, depression and loneliness. darkness trains you to fear monsters. it's absurd and irrational. how do i explain it? my heart quickens all by itself. i put on my brave face: i wear a frown, my chin stays high, my bag, my feet, my clothes come closer to me, tighter. i walk much faster, in search for light and noise. i always consider going back to where i started. 

i always expect monsters to jump out of somewhere: they lurk in street corners, at chai dabbas, panwadis, thekas. they come out at dark and leer into your soul (if your soul was your entire being, if it manifested in your dupatta, in your bag, in your gait, the volume of the thoughts in your head). they live everywhere, but particularly in spaces cities ignore: back allies, parking lots, lanes where no buses go, buildings where no people live; marshes, ridges, land under litigation, spaces hiding behind facades in the middle of traffic. you're trained to pass over them with no thought; to register only their discontinuity, their blankness. they make you uncomfortable, so you walk around them. you cross the road, even if you don't have to. you take a different route, even if this one's shorter. 

no, it's not darkness itself i fear - nights hold me in ways days never accommodate me. it's what i'm taught to make of them. because that's what being foolish is about, right? riding into the dark, no holds barred? asking for it? 


i can't write anymore

it's something i've resigned myself to. i spent close to a year trying. there's nothing fluid about it anymore. so i'm going to stop making myself do it. it's only you and me now, blog. 

i had a moment today - i was listening to the latest all songs considered episode. and they played someone like you. and it's never been a song i listen to voluntarily - but i'm at work, doing the most boring task in the world (data entry) and i teared up and stopped what i was doing and went, fuck. 

i hate emotions. and i can't write anymore. that's what i'm trying to say here.  



Her name is Haseena.

She's 80 years old, lost both her children in the earthquake twenty years ago. I met her at her kachcha home today. It's fifteen degrees out, she only has one kerosene lamp and four litres of fuel for it each month. Come, see my bungalow, she says.

While telling me her story, she fumbled around in the dark, looking for her daughter's photograph. She looked through all of her belongings (all four plastic bags of them) and finally found it. She told me about how nobody gives a shit about whether they live or die. Even their pension is eaten by the amir log.

Where's the bloody justice in the world.



my brain be like tch remembering passwords be for losers hahaha

(i hate it when i get locked out of my email account)


now i need a place to hide away

no, beatles. love was never an easy game to play. 


if you wanna

You've gotta write if you wanna be a writer. 

I want to say that's not true. I want to say that it's a state of mind. You don't necessarily have to write, you have to chronicle. You underline sentences you think you can make short stories out of. You footnote moments you can build around. You archive shapes of noses, the way people wriggle their toes, how people like their eggs. If you linger too long on the way someone sticks their tongue out awkwardly, you may not ever write about it, but you know the emotion. The private thought, the joke they're not telling, the shyness, their bodily manifestation for a single second in that stuck out pink tongue. You'll use that. Or you'll plan to, anyway.

You don't make sense of things until you do. You always have an idea you're playing with - a person, a word, a thought, an author, a concept, a history, a newspaper article, a narrative. You're trying to fit it into a narrative. You're pulling it apart and putting it together at the same damn time. You don't realise it, but a moment comes along when you can see it in front of your eyes. I want to say that it looks like a perfectly consistent image, but it's more like an impressionist painting (Monet, most likely. You're staring at it from 2 feet away and all you can see is swirls. You stare at it from the bench and you can only see loneliness). You don't really know what it is. You write it desperately, urging yourself to remember what it was you saw in that moment. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn't. 

It doesn't matter, you think. The important thing is that you gotta write if you wanna be a writer. But then you get older, and you feel like a fraud. The truth nobody tells you is that it isn't enough to write. You gotta write well if you wanna be a writer. You gotta suck up and do the work. Read. Write a first draft. Then a second. Then take it apart and write a third. The truth is - you gotta edit if you wanna be a writer. And you absolutely have to have taste. You're just a blogger if you don't. 


lack of motivation

losing lucidity again. hate it when that happens in the winter. more cocoa for me, please. 


echoes of turkish delight

You'd think I'd be craving elaborate turkish breakfasts - we spent half a morning at a village near Kayakoy, devouring everything they gave us. Bread (cooked like a kind of french toast; toast; fresh bread - the Turkish don't seem to believe in buying bread. Always only seem to eat it fresh from the oven); sausages (sucuk! a love letter); six kinds of jam (of which sour cherry jam, tomato jam and pumpkin jam are favorites); fried eggs in a pan; four kinds of cheese (my lord the cheese!) and four kinds of olives (sigh), watermelon, cay and kahwe. I do miss them. (Sigh, do I miss them or what).

But more than anything else, I miss menemen. One bowl - tomatoes, olive oil, eggs (slightly runny, perfectly cooked), paprika and (if they love you very much) a slightest amount of cheese. top this off with fresh parsley/basil. Eat with fresh, warm bread.

Menemen, I want you now. :(


happiness is at the depth of our being

A couple of days before my grandfather died, he gathered enough lucidity and strength to defy every bit of pain in his body, sit on a wheelchair and come out to the living room. He asked for the newspaper, read the headlines, chewed some food (he had entirely stopped eating a week before that meal), drank some coffee, then sang a song with us. (I can’t remember which – but my mother made a recording). Six months prior, he would have demanded Aar You Em to go with it.  

Despite his extended bitterness, physical pain and unhappiness, his inability to move his limbs, his dependence on somebody to go to the bathroom (all of which angered and embittered him to no end), he wanted to sing that evening. We were only too happy to oblige.

When I was leaving that evening, I said “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He made no such promises. “Alllll the best,” he said. He started to deteriorate that night. The next day, I learnt what it meant to have a death rattle at close quarters. The only kind of hope it has is for us. Before I left to be with my grandmother, they were beginning to unplug the pulse monitor. It seemed to be as strong as anything. He died later that night.

I can’t still figure out where these impulses come from – to be happy, in spite of everything else. It must be at the depth of our being, where else?


As I write this I must note something that has been bothering me since yesterday*. The past two years have been Death years. More people around me have died than I can count. Not everybody I was close to – they were family members who I met on a regular basis and had conversations with. Some were loved ones of friends and family. Over the past month, four people I knew personally or who were close to people I love very much have died. Most died of old age – but that begs the question, why now? why in these two years? I know there are no answers, but my heart is asking them. It defies logic.

*Two people passed away yesterday. A grandmother and a father. Both lovely people, both loved and loving people. Both related to people I love very much.  



is the absolute WORST.


yalan dunya

But Istanbul is where it's at.


in absentia

i seek you in my darkest moments.

at my loneliest, dingiest moments,
when i’m dissipating into everything around me
not bothering to gather myself
sans locus.

you are at the depth of my self-pity.
my very worst.
you are what i fear i will fall into
if i give in to my mediocrity.
you are what pulls me out of it.
you are what i hope for.

how can i explain that without
falling into the worst kind of rhetoric?
i suppose you believe in reincarnation
(i don’t).

would that explain the kind of
familiarity i feel for you?
the intimacy with which i know
your laughter, your fingers, the bumps on your head?

would that explain
the cruelty of my gaze,
my rejection of you,
my refusal to engage even in
the most perfunctory eye contact?

it’s inconsistent to reduce it
to something so physical as lust:
but your body draws me to you,
and i make fiction
of everything else.



A poem in the Scribbler's wonderful new exhibition, 'Home'. 



translating a folk song i just heard in gujarati:

salt eats up our land.
it eats the shade, it eats the trees

our days are spent in the sun. 

if this wasn't enough,
we turn to the sea for work

our sweat is salt, our blood is salt
even our labour is salt. 


a song by the maliya mahila shakti sanghatan: a women's collective of fisherwomen in maliya - the coast along saurashtra, gujarat.

women whose lands have turned salty because of excessive (legal and illegal) salt extraction pans; whose livelihoods, dependent on farming and prawn harvesting have both been taken away from them because of land grabbing and change in soil quality because of salt pans, and climate change has affected how freshwater meets seawater, so prawn harvesting is less and less profitable. even where it's profitable, it's monopolized by large contractors who sell to cities and companies.  


selling my soul for money

it's absolutely worth it!