29.12.13

resolve

Ladies and Gents, I got my New Year's resolution for 2014 from Post Secret.


Well, I can't do *never*, but not this year.

This year is going to be the year of accepting my body the way it is. It is the year of working out because I want to, and eating whatever I want to, and the year of not feeling bad about whether or not I get clothes my size. 

Since I have to quit a lot of other things for health reasons (alcohol, caffeine, oil, butter, cheese, fatty things in general), I might as well quit something that makes me hate myself, so I can learn how to love myself. 

Yay?

22.12.13

little by little

falling in love
despite my best intentions
is quick, merciless
and stupid.
there is no art to it:
a smile, a look,
a conversation
a silly joke.

i learn instead
how to dismantle memories
that we put together
to unsmile at
the sound of your
quiet laughter, the smell of you
in the morning,
what you would have said
about what i just might have heard. 

falling in love
is easy.

it is unloving
that requires talent.

**

"if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you."

- Pablo Neruda

17.12.13

anger

how is it that
you ask me to
be silent?
how is it that
i am?
where am i going
to put my grief?
how do i turn it
to anger?

(there is another act, they say
but the curtain falls now
leaving us with
shadowed lives
masked hands
and memories
of double rainbows
in the fading autumn sky.)

27.11.13

dear diary

on some days, i really want to ask the guy who does the voiceovers for z cafe out. it's a real downward spiral because usually 1) these are days on which i have watched too much tv 2) i wonder if he's indian doing an accent or a firang and in either case there are obvious problems 3) i end up asking myself what's a man with a gorgeous voice like that doing voiceovers for? sing, man! in a rock band.

anyway, i watched too much tv today. none of it was any good. being sick isn't all what it's cracked up to be. (especially without the porridge and strawberries).

20.11.13

a hero

My stories were all that I was made of, once. When I was younger, stronger and braver, everything I did was worth singing about. My aim never wavered, my arms never tired and my opponents never lasted. I could move mountains with my hands, jump oceans in a single bound and fight wars for people who loved me. I made and broke kings, I saved and killed thousands, I ravaged and built empires. I lived in the certainty of eternal youth for as long as my help was sought and my songs were sung. I was sure I would never die for as long as my stories were told. I was a hero, make no mistake, but my stories were all that made me. 

It was a time of peace, an in-between, when my mortality started to catch up with me. An evening with my children, I was teaching my daughter to string a bow, when I realized I couldn’t see so clear. I had to try three times to do something I used to do without thinking. My hands shaking, I left my daughter there and walked away in a daze. For three days and three nights, I left my home: For the first time in my life, my strength had betrayed me and I had no answers for myself. For the first time in my life, I could taste bile and fear in my mouth: neither of which you should mix with anything.

Like a curse that came to fruition, everything I knew rapidly fell apart. When I returned on the morning of the fourth day, all I could see was yellow. I speak in no metaphor. The whole world was in monotone, and all I could see was yellow. My wife left me, taking my children with her. My ruler betrayed me, taking my loyalties with him. My friends abandoned me, taking my trust with them. No sooner than was I blind, no sooner than I lost my footing, no sooner than I was tired, my stories came unraveling behind my back.

Me, I took a hero’s path. I sacrificed myself for the good of my stories. I left them behind with their happy endings. When you find my stories, I will be young and handsome; proud as a hero about everything I’ve done. When you find my stories, you find only what I was, not what I have become.


You think your stories can make you? You’re wrong. Your stories are all you are. Stories can take from you everything you’ve ever got, and never return them to you. They can make you believe their own truths, they can make you forget. They are an act of smoke and mirrors, and they never tell you what they know for sure. 

When you undo your stories, they come after you.

7.11.13

is feeling dramatic

if i can never really drink anymore, how will i be a writer?

29.10.13

noise

i want to know.

(because we're stuck in different mazes of this labyrinth: we were lost together only briefly, and then you took a left where i took a right, and i've been listening for the sound of your feet because i think i know how you might step because we stepped together for a bit.)

(because i only have guesses: i can't go back to look for you because i don't know how i got here in the first place; i can't go looking for you because i only find monsters and fools when i look for something i have already lost, and i can live with monsters because they can teach me something new but i don't know if i can stand fools.)

(because we are as new as we are old, and i'd like to know before i decide if i want to be newer or older today.)

23.10.13

not actual poetry

the internet echoes of our
private lives are
only growing louder
and more coherent
but don't let it bother you
because, you know,

privacy settings.

14.10.13

brb sneezing

(brb empty inside)

9.10.13

line break

my
time is still

not like
composed hands
in sepia photographs

but an empty moment
in the middle
of a

song.

**

(alt. titled "caesura" for patrick rothfuss fans.)

1.10.13

fictitious

"so is your story based on personal experience?"

"no, i haven't dated anyone who's not real just yet."

:|

29.9.13

make me laugh

I had a dream about you yesterday. 

You were laughing, which is strange because I didn't think I remembered your laugh. 

I may have made it up entirely, which is the more exciting thought. How does a person make up the laugh of another in their head? How do you know what their face looks like - How did I know that your eyes crinkle on the side, that your laugh is not deep, that your mouth turns downward when you laugh, that your soft voice can generate a voice that loud?

You know what would be fun? If you don't laugh like that at all. If your laugh is actually throaty and high. If your laugh is less infectuous, more like a comma than a semicolon.

But I have a feeling dreams don't lie about these things. 

If I see you again, I'd like to make you laugh. 

27.9.13

regularly

he threw it like a tantrum.
i caught it like a pro.

24.9.13

how would you know?

(who's to say
we live
in a real world
with real people
and really pink pajamas?)

23.9.13

a story

in Helter Skelter New Writing Vol. 3 here - Paper Cut on My Tongue

Go go! Read!

:D

13.9.13

places

(A Cool Dark Place by Supriya Dravid; Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto)

I just finished reading A Cool Dark Place. I bought it on one end of a flight journey in the airport bookshop, and finished it by the time my taxi pulled into the gate.

What is a book with only beauty? I don't know, really. It may not be a good thing. Because make no mistake, A Cool Dark Place is beautiful. It is made purely of emotion, it seemed to me. How can characters who are supposed to be so empty be people so full of life? She does so many things right: so many characters, so many moments, so much love, so much brokenness. Such poetry in so many places, so flawlessly.

But I have to ask, how much is too much? I ask this as a reader averse to books that carry too much emotion to begin with. (So this might not be the case for a non-loony reader).

For example, this is one of the first couple of sentences in the book that I thought "wow" about  - "For a long time before my father ended his life, he'd hidden himself in the darkness. So my mother had hidden there with him, in the forlorn shadow of his helium heart, in the never-ending nuclear light, under sunken iron beds and love-sewn quilts. I think she hoped her Olympic tolerance would help him may his way back to the living, and destroy the lonely world, the Prozac paradise he had cocooned himself in." 
But I read it again, rolling the words in my mouth, and I wasn't sure if I knew what I thought of it.
For a long time before my father ended his life, he'd hidden himself in the darkness. So my mother had hidden there with him, in the forlorn shadow of his helium heart, in the never-ending nuclear light, under sunken iron beds and love-sewn quilts. I think she hoped her Olympic tolerance would help him map his way back to the living, and destroy the lonely world, the Prozac paradise he had cocooned himself in.

I'll tell you what this book makes me want to do the most: It makes me want to write a belated review of Em and the Big Hoom. Apart from the fact that both of these books are about broken families trying to grapple with their darknesses, there are two reasons I want to write about Em and the Big Hoom instead. I probably shouldn't compare (so I'm going to try my best not to) but while I was reading, it was all I could do.  
The first is how both of them deal with similarly rebellious, off the path love stories. The second is that when I imagined Gravy, I could only think of him as the Big Hoom: holding the world together with his strength and love.

About halfway through the book, this book made me want to also write a belated review of Em and the Big Hoom.

Apart from the fact that both of these books are about broken families trying to grapple with their darknesses, there are two reasons I want to write about Em and the Big Hoom along with this.

The first is how both of them deal with similarly rebellious, off the path love stories. The second is that when I imagined Gravy, I could only think of him as the Big Hoom: holding the world together with his strength and love.

Both of them write of a disparate world in which they fit and don't with at the same time. In both their worlds, we constantly make references to poets and literary geniuses in our daily lives, find pasts and futures that we can only imagine. 

What Pinto managed to do for me is this: He was convincing of a universe in which a boy lives with a mother who's not all there. He's convincing of their triumphs and their depression, he makes us believe in the times in between. I guess what I am trying to say is this - he gives us context. He gives us quirks of language, he gives us cultures, he gives us conflict.

Dravid, on the other hand, who writes mad characters with booming laughter, doesn't quite cut that. 
She gives us tiny hints about where these people are coming from, of course - the bobbing up and down of a priest conducting a funeral, the book of Marathi short stories, names of places: Madras, Delhi, Gokarna. 

She does little else to moor her characters in any sort of context. Not a time or a place, not a reference I can place. This would not have been disconcerting to me if not for all the others that I could. (For example, a "part-Gatsby, part-Hemingway" man who wears neon socks and runs away regularly to Europe for business; him throwing regular Lurhmann-like Gatsby-ian parties in the middle of Madras - I can imagine it, but I'm not convinced by this madness or this alcoholic, opiate, ("Prozaic") universe.)

But the real question, I suppose, is whether she means for us to be at all. These details are meant to be lost in the cobwebs of old chandeliers and jenga-like three storeyed houses with plastic life-size Ambassadors. And while I see what she is trying to do, I don't know if it works for me completely. 

So I have to ask again: how much beauty is too much? Because there may be such a thing as too much.

**

Edit: I've been thinking about this, and the truth is, it's not usually that insufficient cultural context bothers me. Is it something I have come to expect from South Asian writers? I wonder. (Because if that is the case, I probably have to rethink how I read "Indian" or "South Asian" writers.)

Edit 2: At the same time, why is the universal/neutral necessarily non-Indian?
Additionally, is there such a thing?

28.8.13

consequence

where will immortal people go when the world ends?

asking for a friend.

23.8.13

liar liar lipstick

We've all read the CNN iReport article. We've all had an opinion: either extreme or nod along. We've all had a thought about it, and we've all discussed it. Usually, I don't engage with people who say things like "she's just an attention seeker" or "it couldn't have been that bad" or "was she stupid?". I find that to be a pointless exercise that always results in my getting pissed off and incoherently yelling. But today, after two conversations of "India isn't all that bad, we're all developed and shit" and "She's just being attention-seeky" I need to vent. 

First of all, India is all that bad. Whether you're white or not, although I know for a fact that white women have it really bad (not from this article, from white American colleagues in Bombay). To list three instances of sexual harassment I faced today: Auto driver stared at my boobs and licked his lips suggestively for the entire 11.6 kms stretch from JNU to Teen Murti. A man on a bike next to me at a traffic stop yelled lewd things at me and tried to touch my legs. One auto driver had a conversation with my crotch. And these are just the ones I noticed. Tuning out, by the way, is how most women I know deal with sexual harassment. Sometimes, we add an iPod and earphones. We even take out phones.

Which brings me to my second point: Women Urban, middle-class women in India have filters. We are socialized into watching ourselves constantly: What we wear, where we go, how we travel, what we say. More significant than these, as elite, urban, middle-class women, we are taught how to filter the people we are friends with. We are taught how to recognize people from similar class (also caste, sometimes religion) backgrounds and make friends only with those people. From a lot of discussions I have had about this (and two years ago, about something else), I always hear "She was so stupid not to know who to hang out with." This, obviously translates into "she was hanging out with shady looking people." And I have to admit it, if only for half a second, I thought it too. 

Mostly because that is how we learn how to live with daily indignities. That is our first instinct. We have a list of things we do to avoid them. We filter people. We tune out. We carry a book. We carry a bag. We wear dupattas. We wear jeans even on days so hot, I'd want to wear shorts. We drive cars or take cabs instead of using public transport. And when people who haven't learnt to deal with it are faced with this blatant sexualization of their bodies, when they speak out, we call them liars and fools. We tell them they're stupid because they didn't know what the right side of town is. 

We tell them they should have hung out with the good boys instead.

20.8.13

you

I looked in the mirror yesterday, and just for a moment, I thought I glimpsed a person in there that I had never seen before. I knew her eyes: they were brown-black, just like mine, but I didn’t know a single other feature. Not the nose, not the shape of her cheekbones, not the curve of her forehead, not the curl of her hair, not the mole on her ear, not anything I see today. 

I looked in the mirror yesterday, and I only saw you.

12.8.13

home

home is feeling

like yawns can be
stretched out, full
sometimes with a roar
and a shake of the head.

home is knowing

the shape of the ceiling
even in the dark
even in your dreams
even when you've been away
for months and months and months.

home is comfort

in sadness and loneliness
music at the right volume
a clock, eight minutes fast
familiar awkwardnesses
and all the right wrongs.

**

for m and me, for leaving and coming back.

7.8.13

legitimate career choice

i should write love letters for a living.

someone want to pay me?

i'm pretty good.

promise!

6.8.13

an audience of one

i'd rather write
pages and pages
of plotless prose
but i'm afraid
even i
wouldn't read it.

**

"An audience of one?"

"That's all she needed," she said. "That's all anybody needs."

- from bluebeard, kurt vonnegut. 

1.8.13

true story

i'd stop making excuses
and just run away
if not for my knees.

28.7.13

churning of the ocean


Adi Parva
by Amruta Patil

My love for Amruta Patil's work is too personal for me to share. Kari spoke to me in ways that I will never speak about. In a tiny corner of my heart live boatmen, disappearing lanes and prickly heartbreaks; panels, dialogues and journeys that have defined entire relationships for me.

But Adi Parva is different from the very beginning. A much grander tale, Patil goes from telling the story of a girl in a city to retelling an epic. While it is still a deeply personal work (a painstaking labour of love), it is not personal in the story but in the telling. And this is where Amruta Patil excels. It has taken me forever to start writing about this book. Mostly because I really don't know where to begin.

How do you write about a book that is so vast in its scope and beautiful in its rendering? How do you write about the possibilities it explores, the mythologies it breaks down, the narratives it builds? How do you talk about storytelling that is about storytelling? How do you ask the questions that it asks? And what is the use of a book without pictures? 

It opens in redness: blood red, vultures and death. 
It opens: "There are somethings your forefathers didn't want you to forget. So they sent the story down through the mouths of the sutradhaar - storytellers who carry the thread. We are an unbroken lineage of storyteller nested within storyteller. When I open my mouth, you can hear the echo of storytellers past. ..."
It opens in poetry and art, and compelling narrative. 

And it effortlessly holds you to it. 

Adi Parva also arrives at a time when there is an immense interest in retelling or reimagining mythology. So many people are doing it, yet not too many of them manage Patil's depth or articulation. And hardly anybody else I have read so far (except two that come to mind immediately) has done it with as much self consciousness of the politics of the work. 

I remember reading Kamala Subramaniam's version of the Mahabharata when I was in school. It remains one of my most favorite versions of the story, but its task seemed much simpler. It told a story we all knew, and asked very few questions of it. (I say "very few" because Subramaniam's treatment of a lot of characters is quite nuanced. Karna, for example, is the real hero of her story and Duryodhana is wronged by almost everyone he loved.) Around the same time, I also read Ashok Banker's version of the Ramayana and I remember being absolutely stunned by it. Here was a man who took another story we all knew and completely changed it around. He asked questions. Wondered how the hell some of the things that happened could have possibly happened. Traced histories. Rewrote characters. Asked questions. Found loopholes. Messed with language. Turned the Ramayana into a fantasy series. He changed how I saw the telling of epics at all. 

Amruta Patil is a different kind of artist and writer. She asks questions not only of how the story is told, but also of how we see it. She asks who sees it and why. She asks how histories shape stories, and how generations reimagine them. And she does this with so much passion. 

And how. 



"Creation is leela. Amusement, play, reverie."

21.7.13

gone

i think of you
in the past tense:

my stomach has no
butterflies for you,
your kisses have faded
with the waning moon
and your songs won't
keep me warm this winter.

11.7.13

this year

has been a still year.

so i have a reminder for me:

Burnt Kabob

by Rumi
(translated by coleman barks)

Last year, I admired wines. This,
I'm wandering inside the red world.

Last year, I gazed at the fire. 
This year I'm burnt kabob.

Thirst drove me down to the water
where I drank the moon's reflection.

Now I am a lion staring up totally
lost in love with the thing itself.

Don't ask questions about longing.
Look in my face.

Soul drunk, body ruined, these two 
sit helpless in a wrecked wagon.
Neither knows how to fix it.

And my heart, I'd say it was more
like a donkey sunk in a mudhole
struggling and miring deeper. 

But listen to me: for one moment,
quit being sad. Hear blessings
dropping their blossoms
around you. God. 

6.7.13

walls

an excerpt from a short story i can't publish here:

Walls remember: Walls to homes, bedrooms and kitchens; boundary walls, walls that we build only to forget why. Walls we jumped to get into places we’d never been to, walls we lean against to share cigarettes and chai. Walls we sat on and spoke about the world for hours on. Walls we hid behind to steal a kiss or a hug, walls that hid us when we lay in bed for hours, staring at the ceiling, sharing our space, doing nothing.

They watch ominously from the peripheries of everything, always judging, always saying things they are made to say. They are covered by stealth with colours or not; with graffiti, crayons, shoes or not; with urine and shit in irreverence or not; with dung and newspaper and plaster of paris or not; with photographs and paintings and posters or not; with markers of lives they watch, or not. Walls know the physicality of true stories: of secrets and lies, of politics and truths, of things everyone would rather forget. They’re always crumbling in the weight of what they know, always weighing in on their foundations, always breaking down. Walls crumble because they remember. 

:)

3.7.13

see someone you know?

A story I wrote a while ago just got published in Rose Red Review, an online journal I have loved since its inception: Blurb

Go read it!
 

1.7.13

a moment of silence

for google reader today.

you've defined the way i use the internet, prodded me along on days that i've felt bored, insignificant and lonely; overwhelmed me with things to read at the end of very busy days / weeks; helped me keep track of what is happening in the world. since the first time i saw that notice about your death, i've been dreading this day. i gave you a flower on slate, read every comment on nearly every forum that loves you, read blog posts and news articles and listened to rants about you.

i just want to say thank you google reader for being a part of my life. 

love,

me

17.6.13

sense(i)less

"hi kiddo"

"hiya"

**

yes, mundane conversations make my day.

12.6.13

june, she'll change her tune

i might be older soon,
but know that

i wear make up now:
red lipstick, blue eye shadow,
mascara, and pink blush.
i have opinions about
using nude lipliners
and shades of brown.

the bigger picture never figures:
i flirt more, but i date less
i exercise, but i don't lose weight
i sing, but always in the shower
i try, always until i fail.

i scoff at people who don't do
stupid things:
flirt with strangers in bookstores
(roll down grassy slopes)
wear bright yellow hats
or sing in public when they're
happy.

being adult manifests
in ways you never imagine.

8.6.13

come summer solstice

...and i'll have something exciting to share.

(exciting for me at any rate.)

in the mean time:

"In two weeks it'll be the longest day in the year. Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it."

from The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald.

5.6.13

sometimes words are just words

Sometimes words are just words. Their meanings are vague and unformed in your head. You play with them, you try to fit them into sentences by yourself when you are bored, you sound them out in your mouth. You think you know what they should be. You have an idea, anyway. Like play-doh, they have texture; but when you hold them in your hands, they remain there, unyielding. 

In some moments, words that were alien to you only a minute ago will clarify. If you've done chemistry experiments in school, you'd remember the joy of sometimes when you get it right, the whole mixture will uncloud and turn into something clearer than water; clearer than mornings in the moment you put on your glasses. These words will fit your thoughts most perfectly, as if no other word were made for that thought.  

The simplest of words can stump you at times. Corollary, for example. Or baritone. Of course you know the words. You weigh them, you hear them, you even use them at times when it comes together in sentences. Sometimes you don't even know there is a word for some things. How often have you heard someone say overmorrow? Not even Microsoft Word recognizes it as a word. 

But sometimes, words are just words. You don't know why you say them. You don't know why you hear them. Hollow and unrelenting hollow unrelenting, loose and senseless senseless loose. They flit in and out, a radio that is playing on its lowest volume. 

You hold on to them anyway, because words, they keep you whole.

4.6.13

huff.

don't "bro" me, bro.

huff.

25.5.13

paper cut

on my tongue.

23.5.13

on sleep

night takes me 
like a lover.

which is to say,
it doesn't.

**

(this post is alternatively titled 'on sleep deprivation'.

also, the best thing about sleep deprivation is the day you spend in recovery sitting on a bed, watching reruns of whatever is on TV and eating cheap chinese food.)

(oh, if you don't mention the not blogging thing, i won't either. shh.)  

15.5.13

silences

an interlude:

for some silences are
too heavy with effort
too contrived, too obvious
too much has gone unsaid
too much has been heard
anyway.


an interlude:

in which i say
nothing at all.

1.5.13

No-Blog-Month

Today marks the beginning of my no-blog month.

It's so easy to stop writing something when I feel like it's long enough for a blog post, that I don't think beyond 1000 - 1500 words.

So this month, I'm not posting anything I write. To see if it helps.

I'll miss you more!!
:(

xo

26.4.13

tanay

"ayyo! rama chaddi!"

"it's rama chandra, not rama chaddi."

"how does it matter? rama also wore a chaddi." (oune kuda pichchi karan aatom chaddi potkindaan.)

(he's 6.)

22.4.13

nesting

i want a kitchen
(onions and garlic
an oven that works
four fresh cheeses and seedless olives
white wine vinaigrette 
a set of knives that cut
tomatoes on the first try
and maggi noodles for
when i'm lazy)

i'll bake every second night
(there will be croissant batter
foiled and setting
at all times in
my freezer)

and i'll try out new recipes
(cinnamon and banana bread
from orangette
raspberry macaroons from
that guy in paris
mambazha sambar and nune vankaya
from my grandmothers)

i'll have someone do my dishes
(i know i say it's therapeutic
but i doubt it would be
if i had to do them
everyday)

leave me to it
won't you,
tomorrow
in my own apartment
with my bright red curtains
and new wooden bookshelves

19.4.13

sometimes

i'm really afraid people will know me for the fraud i am.

other times, i get away with it.

17.4.13

on starry night

what i have been trying to say for the past six months about starry night, but have been absolutely inarticulate about is this: when i first saw it, i cried. 

i spent a whole fifteen minutes watching it, not staring at it, not looking at it, just watching it. i kept going from one painting to the next, laughing a little everytime i came across the painting of the church (in which the doctor vanquished the monster) smiling everytime i came to the painting of the idiots taking a nap on the hay and tearing up everytime i came to starry night.

i stood in front of it for as long as i could. it was a hell of a task, i wanted to do the same thing with the bedroom, the same thing with his self portraits, the same thing with the painting of auvers.

but it was starry night that moved me, starry night that made me cry, starry night that made me fall in love with paris. it's a vibrant night sky, not dark, not quiet, but bright and rich with blues. the stars are dancing, in his starry night. there are lights on the shore, lights that are gassy, mellowed and dark, lights that are reflected in the movement of the water, lights that are dancing with the stars in the sky and flirting with the winds in the water.
 
it wasn't the stars in the sky, it wasn't the lights on the ground, or their reflection in their water that did it for me. it wasn't even the couple in the corner. standing there by the boats. claiming their night. looking at me. having their night under their starry skies. making it their own. making it mine.

it was the kind of night that i am familiar with. alive, musical, buzzing. it is the kind of night i live in, the kind of night i live for.

so when i first saw it, i cried. not only with the heavy sadness or the serenity of this painting. not only with the joy of my first van gogh painting, the joy of being in paris in the rain, but with the joy of the night.

i may not have found the words for it just yet, but i want to be that couple with their backs to this night. i want to be in a starry night like his.

16.4.13

up up up

thinking of doing something stupid, telling yourself "wait this is pathetic" and then not following through. 

congratulations on growing up, sitoo. 

9.4.13

advance to pall mall


i. hinging


This summer’s day reminds me of my yearly vacations in my grandmother’s home. A heady smell of ripening mangoes, the sound of the massive cooler in the afternoons, the wooden armchair in the hall, Monopoly with my cousins. It was three years ago on such an afternoon that, with momentary clarity, I saw. I cannot say for sure what it was that I saw. I remember the moment: I was rolling dice to inevitably fall onto the hotel in Vine Street and go bankrupt. I have never played a game of Monopoly where this has not happened. Everything seemed to hinge on the roll of dice that I knew the outcome of. A precarious line of outcomes, which are seemingly random and always left to chance (a one in six probability of losing everything to that hotel on Vine Street).  It wasn’t the dice or the roll or the outcome that seemed to matter. It was the hinging. A sense of foreboding, of something hanging in the air.

Why did I remember that roll of dice from that game out of the hundreds I played that summer? What is it about that particular time I lost everything to that stupid hotel on Vine Street? How can it be of any significance, that emotion of clarity? These are questions I often ask myself. I suspect the answer, but it’s too vague and arrogant: too much of it is based in self-importance and curiosity to explain that which I do not know. I am told everybody has one of these moments of clarity. They are known to uncloud your sense of the world in a flash for a moment when you are doing the most mundane of things. (Crossing a road is the most oft cited example – “I was crossing the street one day when in a flash all the possibilities of everything that is or could have been or was burst in my mind.” Often, this is followed by an accident.)  

I shall tell you what I suspect about myself, and you’ll know that my concerns aren’t unfounded.

Memories, especially human memories, are colored and heavy. They are filtered through layers of sensory perception and shaped by the emotional intensity of the person who owns them. They are anything but real, as is the world as we go through it every day. We expect that our memories shape us and tell us our history; they show us the person we are and tell us what we love about who we are. All of us, we constantly chronicle memories. We speak of them in stories, we tell them to ourselves. We index them and file them away for future reference. We expect that we are the sum of all our memories: we think that we have sieved through the endless possibilities of what could have been since we have experienced what was. We find finality in our memories, we resolve and we move on.

It is the ease with which we do it that puzzles me the most. Every moment between where one memory ends and the next begins in our mind: these moments are the ones on which our possibilities hinge. They are the roll of dice whose outcomes you might already know (the inevitable orange rectangle on which Vine Street stands); the moments in which there is no lucid transition between what is and what was – instead there is an immediacy of futures, no reality, no telling of tales. These are the moments in which we are stripped of everything that makes us us, moments without history or context, without form or content. These are moments of clarity. In one such moment of clarity (between Pall Mall and Vine Street, somewhere around Marylebone Station if you’re lucky) I saw that everything I knew (or indeed, we know) is so dangerously balanced on how we comprehend what we think we know. 

Another memory of a summer afternoon. The smell of sweat dominates this one. It is a mild summer afternoon I spent in bed with someone I thought I was in love with. We spent the day drinking whiskey, having sex and eating the remains of the previous night’s dinner. I don’t particularly remember what we spoke about. We may not have spoken at all. There was no urgency to our sex: we were both lazily lying around in the bed, thinking our own thoughts and being our own person. Instead of doing it by ourselves, we did it together. Silently, thoughtlessly, claiming each other’s space as our own. The next day when I thought about it, I only thought about the heat and the sound of the slow, rusty fan. I thought about the whiskey and the headache it had brought. I thought about the sex and the cleanliness of the shower after. When I think about it now, I can hardly remember what the fan looked like. I don’t know what whiskey we were drinking, or what we actually ate that day. I remember the smell of our sweat, and really just that.

It stands alone by itself in my head, this memory. It is a completely pointless day on which nothing of significance took place. The kind of day that is most routine, the kind that is so inconsequential that you forgot it even happened if not for the crossing off of a day on a calendar and the moving of the hands of a clock. Which day which year what was I wearing what was the concern of my life at that point who were the people I was friends with what did I do the previous day what did I do the next day what soap was I using what book was I reading what was I watching on television how many places to the bright red hotel on Vine Street what did I roll on the dice? I don’t remember any of these things. Those things aren’t important for this narrative. What I did that day is simply noise. All day that day was the dice rolling, waiting for Vine Street to turn up on the map.

Imagine my surprise when what turned up was New York Avenue: and it bankrupted me just the same.  



ii. magic



In old Telugu and Hindi cinemas, there is this trick they do with the picture. They take a single image, replicate it in six separate frames and make it go round and round the screen. The idea, I guess, was to escalate conflict and make the screen look full of emotion and turmoil. It used to fascinate me as a child. Why bother showing the same thing six times? Why make the picture smaller? What were the trying to prove?

One fine, unremarkable winter’s morning I was crossing the road when it happened when I was doing nothing of any consequence everything flashed before my eyes and then there was an accident. I woke up early from a nightmare. The sun had just begun to rise, so the sky outside my window was a blue grey only foggy winter mornings can achieve. In this nightmare, a monster was pursuing me. She was disguised as a beautiful woman with fair skin and the most stunning eyes I had ever seen. There was such depth in her eyes, such misery and loathing that I couldn’t imagine ever looking in them for longer than a second. In this nightmare, my whole world depended on my running away from her with all my teeth intact. Every time a tooth fell out, I would put it in a pouch and hope that the dentist will find a way to put it back in my mouth. When I reached the dentist, I realized I lost the pouch. I had to run back into her territory to find it. When I was running away again, she was gaining on me. That’s when I woke.

I was sweating profusely, my heart was beating very very fast and my stomach was clenched in fear. Now awake, I told myself a story about how I escaped her for sure. I tried to rationalize it. It was just a dream after all. I started to list everything I could have done to run away from her. Then I started to list everything I could have done to fight her. Then I started to list everything I could have done at all. For the rest of my day, I kept recounting that nightmare to myself in my head, and every single time, the story of what happened in the nightmare would change. Soon, it was not just a nightmare from my sleep anymore, it was a paranoia I saw everywhere. Everywhere I went, I started to list the possibilities of what was and what could be if she was there. In a couple of weeks, I could hardly tell between my memories and my imagined world. Did I really eat cornflakes for breakfast or was it one of the things I did on one of the lists of my ways to tackle her? Do I have a deadline for Tuesday or is it just my way of telling myself that the next time I expect to run into her it’ll be Tuesday?

What I knew for sure, what I had in my head as definite memories, what I thought was mine for sure, what I thought I knew for sure, everything I thought I had resolved, everything I had moved on from, every memory to which there was a beginning and an end: all of these were fading. The moments in which there were clarity (the moments in which there is nothing yet everything the moments in which there is only the roll of the dice no outcomes or inevitable hotels on Vine Street) were disappearing, and I was being left with possibilities of pasts and probabilities of futures. Things that may have been and things that might come to pass.

How I escaped from this spiral, I cannot say. When I was younger, I didn’t believe in magic. Nothing much has changed since. Magic is for people who can’t see wondrous things and wonder, or know that the magic is in the wondering. Was it Douglas Adams who said that he doesn’t need to believe there are fairies at the bottom of a garden to see its beauty? If there is magic, it’s not in the world you make up around you: it’s in the world there already is. But answer me this: how do you know the difference?

I can tell you for sure now, that I did indeed escape. I used my days in between as markers of days that are real. (days on which I did nothing but roll dice days on which I had lots of inconsequential sex with people I hardly remember days on which I crossed roads with no accidents). Time is a mystery of habit. It is in the movement of the hands of the clock and in days that are simply crossed off days on a calendar that I found myself again. Memories that I hadn’t bothered to bookmark, simply chronicled and filed away in non-descript cardboard boxes: It is in these that I found myself. Sometimes I slip, but I don’t know that I slip because these things are fuzzy in my head. Sometimes, I don’t know if a pipe is a pipe or a picture of a pipe in a frame within a frame. Sometimes I can’t tell if I’m standing on Blue Angel Islington next to a Station or on Oriental Avenue next to a Railroad.

But most of the time I ground myself in the things that are happening around me. In things that are being experienced, things I can see and smell and taste and know. I try to see the garden for the garden, its roses and thorns and rusting wheelbarrows and seeds and trees and bees and beetles. I try to feel the dew in the grass for the dew in the grass and the wind in my hair for the wind in my hair. If I hear a sparrow call or a mockingbird sing, I know these to be sparrows and mockingbirds. For these things are wondrous, and these things are magical, so in these things I will firmly place my two feet and try not to peek too hard in the clouds.

5.4.13

flamboyance


you kicked me out of bed
one sultry morning
at 5 am
to do at least
one fun thing
in bombay.

we waited for the train
unshowered unbrushed
uncoffeed ungry

with three women
clean, jasmine in their hair
baskets full of
smelly fish
on their way
to work.

we got off at sewri
walked past
(what could only have been)
a hundred lorries
and three hundred
drunk lorry drivers

to finally reach
the shore.

one large, broken boat
one tree

and a thousand
white and pink
flamingoes.

what is the word,
we wondered then,
for all of those flamingoes
all at once?

for an hour we watched them:
ugly, grey and white
sitting in
ugly, grey and white water

until they began to fly:
majestic. pink.
flamboyant.

a flamboyance of flamingoes.

2.4.13

tang


Tangy, smelly, and I really don't know what to do with it. It's a potent mustard. Somebody bought three jars of it for me all the way from the Netherlands. So it must be special, I think. I'll have to use it the right way, I imagine.

I look up recipes. I think about what to do with it.

Curiously, I apply it on a slice of whole grain bread. The slice is about half an inch thick. I slam a slice of cheddar on top of it. I wonder if I should grill it.

I decide to take a bite and then decide.

In a second, my nose goes up in flames. It is a taste unlike any other I have tried. Except may be wasabi. Actually, the feeling is exactly like wasabi.

For the rest of the day, my whole mouth tingles with the feeling of the mustard, and through my nose, everything smells only like the mustard.

In the evening, after my fifth cup of coffee, one plate of very onion-y bhel puri and two rounds of listerine, a ghost of the mustard comes back to haunt my nose.

It is a sweet, subtle hint of it. It makes my whole morning of trying to get rid of that feeling in my nose, redundant. In that moment, I crave more.

So I wonder.

How can I not believe in the everyday magic of regular things? 

31.3.13

why i so insanely love doctor who

"Imagine that. Human souls trapped like flies in the world wide web, stuck for ever, crying out for help."

"Isn't that basically Twitter?"

Ha. <3

28.3.13

there's nothing as something as one

Bodies are superficial.

Their only real purpose is to aid the human mind in comprehending the world it encounters on a daily basis. It offers linear continuity in appearance, if not in consistency of structure. It presents us with a norm against which we measure everything we come across, even ourselves. It is how we tell ourselves, our mothers and the homeless man you will never see again from each other.  It is the only constant in a series of infinite variables. I might even go as far as some philosophers to say that it is the only constant in the entirety of human history. I only talk about this as a preliminary, to help me explain to you my conundrum. It is okay if you don’t understand it completely.

I have a simpler way to talk about my conundrum itself, if you please. I will get to it in a moment. I have just a question for you to ponder upon. Bodies, even for those who have them, aren’t always “perfect”. I don’t mean this in the sense of beauty, for that is something I don’t have either the experience or the patience to deal with. I mean this in terms of bodily structure. Not all bodies have the right legs or hands or eyes or noses or ears; not all bodies are even born in the singular, if you think about it. So the question I would like you to simply ponder upon is this: why is having a body important at all?

Think about it deep and hard, because I am about to put forth my conundrum to you simply: I don’t exist.

Not in the “real” way you are known to experience, at any rate. I don’t have a body. I never have. (I’m not a ghost. Don’t be preposterous.) I wasn’t really aware of this problem until I fell in love, and let me tell you, not even then.

I meet all sorts of other parameters that you bodily beings seem to consider important. I have a name, for instance. I have an address, a college education, a vast intelligence and an understanding of the universe that can only be paralleled by about 30% of you humans. I, however, don’t have a passport. Or a ration card or a driver’s license or a degree or a recorded fingerprint or a scan of my iris. I don’t have a medical insurance (ha) or a gym membership. I have never been photographed. Even saying “I” really is something that I don’t know how I am to explain to you, because it seems like something that is determined by having a body.

Many people around me have their own ways of comprehending this situation. Many people with bodies (like someone else who has written about this from my own network before me) have chosen to think of it as a problem of perception: one of “maladjustment to reality”. I suppose it is a just way of classifying it from the point of view of someone who lives in a world full of bodies. To me, this is not an acceptable classification. I write here to tell you my story. If not anything else, just to present you with a new question.

I fell in love three years ago. It was something new, something that lit up everything around me, something that brought colour into the world and brightness into music. It was something that made me feel alive. Falling in love allowed me to learn the wonders of having a body: of holding hands, of looking into eyes, of oh, so, orgasmic, sex, of the warmth and the taste of a morning kiss, of the smell of chocolate soap in the shower. Neither of us even noticed my condition. It wasn’t an impediment until it really was.

When my partner started to tell friends and family about me, the inevitable doubts began to appear in my partner’s mind. Doubts about if I’m real at all, doubts about sanity of the mind, doubts about the ground one was standing on doubts about everything one has ever known. If I don’t tell you how strong and brave my partner is, this would be an incomplete account. Even after everything everybody said, months and months of counseling, there was an infallible belief in me on my partner’s part. It was a difficult time for both of us, but we came through.

Through this time, we found the Network. In the vast depths of the internet, hidden in a cave not lit by anything, we came across the Network. In the beginning, it was just a trickle. There was the person who started it and her boyfriend (I believe he identifies male, and I need to acknowledge that even if I don’t comprehend it) and some others. Now there are at least a hundred people like me on our Network and it is growing everyday. The Network helped us through our most torrential time.  Talking to them regularly, meeting with them and discussing our experiences with each other helped us all cope.

It was in one of our monthly meetings that we started to think about telling the world about us. If now there are hundreds, then talking about it will surely bring hundreds more who need this space. One of our members has gladly allowed this space on her blog to host as many of us who want to write about it, and so that’s what we’re going to do.

To anyone who wants to think of this as fiction, I hope this is entertaining, for that is the point of a good story anyway. But for those of you who identify, please know that you are not alone.

"one hasn't a why or because or although
(and buds know better
than books
don't grow)
one's anything old being everything new
(with a what
which
around we come who)
one's everyanything so"

- e e cummings

**

this is the second in the series of stories i am writing about "imaginary" people and third in the series of stories about things that aren't real. 
the other imaginary people story is here: we're everyanything more than believe. 
the first story is here: fresh lime soda.
i'm having quite a bit of fun with this series, so you can definitely expect more of these!

17.3.13

i wouldn't mind

beer. lots and lots of beer.
a slightly better internet connection to watch thursday's grey's anatomy episode and today's good wife episode.
cold drinking water.
a regular, non-squat toilet.
did i mention beer?
a shower.
6 straight hours in which to sleep.
1 straight hour in which one isn't fumbling around with language.
a mojito.  
an english newspaper.
milestones.
or just roads, for that matter.
vehicles with better suspension. 
alcohol of any kind, really. may be wine. white.

(top of the list of things i constantly forget: doing important things is tiring work!!)

12.3.13

kumbh mela


I'm currently in Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh. Yesterday was the last day of the Kumbh Mela. This place is about three - four hours from Allahabad, and all of these people (and many, many, many, many more) are either going to the Kumbh or waiting for a train to go back home.

There were policemen only at AC compartments, making sure people with no reservations could get in. They had lathis and weren't afraid to use them. All of the other compartments (general, sleeper, whatever) had hundreds of people in them, on them, around them, hanging from them. This picture is from 6 AM, but I was stuck in that station till 7.30 PM. 




The waiting rooms (especially for reserved trains) were worse than the platforms!


It was absolute madness, to say the least. It made me ask all sorts of mean and elite questions of the Mela, but in asking these questions, it made me ask questions of myself for asking those questions.

Is all this worth it? For taking a dip in three really polluted rivers? Even at the price of going to heaven?

unmasking

we wear masks to hide, they say.

they don't know the truth.

we wear masks to become.

7.3.13

you

hate
hating
you.

6.3.13

bookstore love


I love bookstores.

Big, chain ones with outlets all over the country; small, tiny ones in which only one person can actually fit; lovely, comfortable ones that play the blues in a corner; beautiful bookstores for which I am willing to visit a whole new country; bookstores with reading rooms that even F Scott Fitzgerald used to frequent; stalls that sell second-hand books or pirated books; vendors on footpaths with old, fraying books; bookstores whose books only the shopkeepers can find. 

You can gauge reading habits of a whole town from its bookstores, sometimes. 

I know that Landmark in Hyderabad has a horrible collection, but Landmark in Madras is always rich in the books they have. Blossoms in Bangalore is possibly my most favorite bookstore of all time. Bookstores in Delhi are usually eclectic. They have shelves and shelves full of academic books (neatly arranged by printing press) often just behind the section with poetry or graphic novels. They'll have three different translations of Marx or Dostoevsky and depending on how the bookshop owner leans politically, he'll tell you which one to buy. (I've come across very few women who sell books. Barring the Full Circle in GK, I can't remember a single one). Bombay is strange about its bookstores. They're commercial and mindless, except may be Strand when it's in a good mood. I never found a bookstore I liked in all my time in Bombay.

Bookstores are how I find new things to read. They are where I experiment. They open my eyes to new books, writers, genres, ideas, styles like nothing else. I have never made a friend in a bookstore, but I've never needed anybody's company but my own in one. Sure, I buy more off Flipkart and Infibeam these days, but I mostly buy books that I've already looked longingly at in a bookstore or read parts of in a library or borrowed from someone else. And I do it only because the discounts are amazing when I buy online. (Student, okay?) 

Bookstores make me happy in any shape and form. 

They make me happy because I always end up looking at more books than I can buy. (They make me sad for about the same reason). I have found the strangest, loveliest books just browsing in bookstores. It's how I found American Gods by Neil Gaiman (at Blossoms, was I 15?). It's how I found Kari by Amruta Patil (in Chennai, I was bored), Em and the Big Hoom, Hush, Sita's Ramayana (all in Yodakin while waiting for people to show up). Spending hours and hours in bookstores with friends or cousins, before or after or during coffee also yielded great results. I was introduced to lots of wonderful books like this: Nick Hornby, Aminatta Forna, Sandman (frikkin' Sandman!), Jasper Fforde. Actually, if I think about it, that's how I spent much of my time as a kid in Walden, with my grandfather.  

Bookstores make me happy for the smell of old paper and the promise of a new book. I know it's a romantic thing to say and we're all against the idea of being romantic about bookstores these days, but I don't think I'm going to apologise for it. I love bookstores because I can get lost in them. (Not like a library, where the book isn't yours to write your name in and hide in your cupboard or write little notes in and stick pretty flags in).

Bookstores make me happy, and that's about that.

5.3.13

if i were a bukowski poem

would you like me to draw the shades, mr. chinaski?

the man with the pack
on the sidewalk in the sun
is about to disappear
and the neighbours are fighting
in their perfect home about their
perfect lives.

would you like me to draw the shades, mr. chinaski?

there's very little money
no job no love no sex
the hands of the clock
are moving slowly enough
for me to see
loneliness.
 
would you like me to draw the shades, mr. chinaski?

it's a bright sunny day
high noon
and all i want is
a shot of whisky
and some quiet.

would you like me to draw the shades, mr. chinaski?

1.3.13

happy endings

On some days, I want happy endings the way you would picture them for me. 

I want the wedding you want for me: I want silk sarees and exquisite make-up. I want diamond jewellery and special photographs. I want everyone I love from everywhere in the world to come give me a hug and tell me a joke and share my happiness. I want a tall, handsome boy from a good family who is independent and earns lots of money and whose parents are also of a similar mindset. 

I want the right career as you think is right for me: I want a job that is interesting and that will pay my bills all at once. I want tenure. I want for it to allow me maternity leave. I want for it to pay for expensive shoes and mandate expensive watches. I want to have to do my hair everyday and have meetings with power-point presentations. I want to live with my husband and my in-laws and come home by 6 o clock. 

On some days, I genuinely wish for a life that can conform. I don't want have to explain myself. I don't want to have to fight. I don't want to be judged for the way I am. I don't want to hear sly remarks about how my parents didn't know how to bring up their daughter right. I genuinely wish for someone to find me a boy to marry, a job in the same city as him and friends that we can share.

On some days, happy endings are all that matter.

28.2.13

28

the fog is gone. the grass is wet from early morning dew. all the flowers in this park are just beginning to open up for the sun. the birds are leaving their nests, loudly, calling out to dawn. winter is slipping away from between my fingers. 

the roads are grey, being swept clean of the leaves they collected all night. there are people here in neon vests, chattering away by themselves about the state of the world. cars are stopping by the gate just there to buy themselves chai and biscuits. night is slipping away discretely. 

your hands are in mine, cold and numb. i turn the key and drive away, leaving our winter's night alone.

27.2.13

too tired to blog today, so i'm just going to post blog ideas i had through the day.

1. i'd like to live in fitzgerald's paris.

2. i was reading tender is the night by f scott fitzgerald on the flight today.

when my flight was landing, all i could think of was our night in the french riviera: five bottles of moscato wine, cheap chinese food and watching airplanes take off and land in the distance. 

3. one of the reasons i am afraid of growing old - i don't like hands that are halfway wrinkled. 

24.2.13

believe me blue

tell me a story about falling in love.

i want it to be cheesy, bordering on sappy. i want it to have a favorite kind of chocolate and flowers and that kind of thing. i want it to have hand-holding and moments under starry skies.

i wouldn't mind if there was heartbreak in the middle, as long as the ending is happy.

make it magical for real, with things inexplicable and mysterious. make it so i know it could happen to me tomorrow, but make it so i'm not too disillusioned if it didn't.

tell me a story about beginnings for endings and journeying for wandering.

tell me a story about falling in love. 

22.2.13

cross posting*

Aisi at freeze-dried along with Aishwarya S has started a challenge called the South Asian Women Writer's Challenge where they've asked participants to read and review books written by South Asian women.

I've signed up for Level 2 which is read 6 and review 3.

This month, I've already read Adi Parva by Amruta Patil and Love Stories by Annie Zaidi. I definitely want to write about the very beautiful, very evocative Adi Parva (every panel of which I want to own as a poster or a print). On my list for next month is Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie. Kuzhali Manickavel's Insects Are Just Like You And Me Except Some Of Them Have Wings has been on my list for more than two years now. I just haven't gotten around to it out of sheer laziness.

I can't think of more writers I want to read just yet.

From Bangladesh, I have only read Tahmima Anam. I haven't read any fiction from Sri Lanka at all (whether written by men or women, unless Ondaatje counts). From Pakistan, I've only read men: Mohammed Hanif, Mohsin Hamid, Daniyal Mueenuddin and Hanif Kureishi. It's not something I had thought about before now. 

Suggestions as we go are welcome.
Also, please go and sign up for it if you can!



**
*cross-posting does not count as cheating. this counts as a post. okay? okay.

what the water gave me

Dive in.

Let the temperature of the water shock you.

Don't stop. Keep swimming.

Swim till your arms hurt. Swim till your breath stops. Swim till your feet cramp and tell you you need to stop.

Don't stop anyway. Stretch your arms while you're swimming. Breathe deeper while you're swimming. Your feet aren't important, you don't need them when you're swimming.

Stop when your head is spinning too much. Stop when you don't have to scream anymore. Stop when the music in your head is calmer. Stop when you want to. Not because you have to.

Stop in the middle of the pool. Roll over. Hum to yourself. Fall asleep on your back. Let the water hold you up.

Let go.

crap tv rules my life

I am a Grey's Anatomy fan.

It wasn't ever something I was proud of, let's be honest. What with the crappy dialogues and the really this-is-like-Sun TV-on-crack plots and all that. But then I was reviewing my life's TV choices (yes, unemployment does that to people), and I decided, well, I'd better start admitting to the crap I like. So I sat down and made a list of the crap TV that I genuinely like but don't like to admit or I don't like but watch religiously.

1. True Blood. Which I'm not even slightly proud of. On my good days I like to pretend it's ironic love, for vampires and what not. In truth, though, I love it because I genuinely think it's awesome.

2. Suits. Which I only watch because I used to like it.

3. Scandal, which I watched about a season and a half of. I can't say I liked this show ever, but I watched a lot of it with much dedication. That ought to count.

4.  Come Dine With Me. Which was possibly my favorite show on Indian television until BBC got pulled off the air. Those middle class Brit people brought true joy and laughter to my life.

5. Las Vegas. Yes, it's true. I like this show if only for all the pretty people on it. Or for the show itself. You know. What ever.

6. Mogali Rekulu. It qualifies as a television show. I watch it nearly three times a week. I even have favorite characters. I can sing the whole damn title song. I need to put it on this list. That's all.

So what shows do you think are crap but love anyway?

21.2.13

i don't agree

I spent a large part of my day yesterday watching a series of interviews on News Laundry called 'I Agree.' It is a series of interviews in which a journalist (Abhinandan Sekhri) engages with people who have slightly controversial opinions on a lot of things: ranging from Amy Chua to Mohammed Ahmed (the Secretary of the Jamaat e Islami Hind) and Jai Bhagwan Goel (leader, Rashtravadi Sena and one of the main accused in the Babri Masjid case). While the journalist himself is often quite smug and sarcastic and doesn't seem to be agreeing at all, even trying hard not to laugh out loud, the show is fantastic.

What I am trying to figure out for myself while watching these interviews is this: what sort of thought process does a person who believes in very, very patriarchal or communist things go through?

Between Mohammed Ahmed, Ram Madhav and Jai Bhagwan Goel, the interviews span a range of extreme right views on topics such as from the roles of men and women in society, religion, marriage, homosexuality, schools, clothing, love and valentine's day, cricket, films and so on. The views expressed are nothing new to anyone living in India. That they exist and are being taken up as causes by some of the biggest political and religious groups in the country is not what shocks me. It is that they morally sanctioned by hundreds of thousands of people who see them as the unquestionable correct way.

Some things are just plain ludicrous. Jai Bhagwan Goel, for example, talks about how he doesn't believe in the concept of elections. Anyone who does something that goes against the grain of Indian morality (as prescribed by him) is anti-patriotic and either Pakistani or a Pakistani agent. (By his count even Bal Thakeray doesn't measure up to his great standards and is indeed an agent of Pakistan). Obviously, it goes without saying or problematizing that 'Pakistani' is the bottom of the hierarchy, and the absolute worst thing that an enemy of the state could possibly be.

Sekhri points out in nearly every interview that there is only one issue over which all these right religious groups come together: homosexuality.

Mohammed Ahmed puts their ideology about it quite well. He says that men and women are complementary in nature, and anything that goes against this is unnatural. Be it a man doing chores at home, or a man doing a man. He goes on to talk about many related things based on the beauty of this complementary relationship between men and women. He says that marital rape is impossible because men and women have carnal needs and that there can be no such thing as marital rape because there is now an "understanding" between them. Men and women living in together must be treated as rapists because their sex isn't sanctioned by marriage. He also goes on about modesty of women's clothing, chastity and why there should be no co-educational institutions.

These views are stated in a casual sort of way, in a way that assumes righteousness and morality. All of them are backed by political power, threats and bullying (although all of them in their interviews also say that they are non-violent and have never instructed their cadre to raise a hand on anyone). In my opinion, these views are only extreme manifestations of everyday views that regular middle class people have.

I know people in my own family who think that all muslims should be treated with hostility, for example. Or that girls and boys should have minimal interaction. Or that women should not wear short clothes. Or that this love-shove is a huge farce and all women should be married by the time they are 25. These aren't unintelligent people in the least - quite the opposite. Some of them are even high powered executives working in top echelons of multi-national corporations. So really, how do people arrive at these opinions and can anything be done to change them?

20.2.13

I don't have any excuses for slacking off.

I've been not busy in the slightest.

I have, in fact, spent the last couple of days doing experiments with my body to see how much a human being can sleep in one day. As it turns out, my body can sleep a LOT.

The downside of sleeping 16 hours in a day is that it makes you really, really drowsy, unproductive and slow.

So I spent today recovering from oversleeping yesterday.

I'm going to go now and swim away my sins, and then drink every calorie I could possibly lose swimming.

So not considering this post as a real post, I promise three posts tomorrow: One about my supreme discomfort with Aman Sethi's A Free Man, one about my inexplicable love for Grey's Anatomy and one about a bunch of interviews I watched on Newslaundry today.

17.2.13

sunday

i'm wearing my bright orange shorts today for the first time since barca. i have beach sand in my pockets and everytime i put my hands in them, i can only think of that blue, blue water. 

i spent the day listening to my father crib about losing all our mangoes in the farm to last night's rain. 

now i'm looking forward to my aunt's chamagadda pindi miriyam. 

that's my hungover, over-slept drowsy post of the day. :)

16.2.13

snapshots.

(i)

he is selling jasmine. 

he is crouched on his knees with his blue, checked veshti pulled up all the way above his boxers. he knits the jasmine together with his dark hands, a lesson in contrasting colours. his fingernails are all pale and white, the colour of bone. 

only the little finger on his right hand has a nail that is an inch long, lacquered in bright pink. 

(ii) 

she is selling roses.

she is calling out incessantly, but the words she is saying are incoherent. a straw basket is balanced precariously on her head while she tucks in her cloth purse full of money into the breast of her blouse. she is wearing three green glass bangles on each hand, any of which might break any moment. 

on her ankles, are bright silver rings, about a centimetre thick and jangling with her feet. 
 

15.2.13

hashtag mylifekindasucks

I'm not a fan of most social media fads in the universe.

Facebook, for example, I'm a reformed addict. I hate it but I couldn't get myself to stay away from it. I don't understand (/refuse to understand) the point of putting your life up for everyone to see. What I understand even less is wanting to know what everyone is up to every day of their lives.

I found myself stalking people I had met probably once by chance, looking at pictures of their vacations with parents or their nights out with friends or what not. I found myself being incredibly affected by little things like my once-friend-twice-removed's valentine's day gift from her husband. I found myself stalking people I had never met but who had open profile settings only because they were open. 

More importantly, I found myself not doing anything of worth with my time. So I quit. I deactivated my account some nine months ago. I told myself that if anyone wants to really get in touch with me, they would do it the old way - text, phone call or email.

Sure, I keep reactivating it for a few hours at a time once every couple of months. But these were for necessary reasons, like looking for events, concerts, plays or lectures I was planning to go to (all the anti-rape protests in Delhi I found were on facebook), looking up people I have a crush on (important OKAY!), looking at pictures of people's birthday parties or engagements or the like. But the important thing was, that I always felt ugh at the end of my facebook interaction and I always deactivated my account instead of logging out. (I do miss Poke though. It was the most amazing tool to annoy people with!)

Twitter, I understand even less. What the hell is 140 characters! What is the point?? I mean - what is it?

Is it just a way to keep track of people you know? Is it like a whole bunch of constant status updates? (Those are generally quite hilarious, but I still don't get it!) If you're twitter-stalking a stranger, does this mean you're really stalking them considering they want you to read their stuff? (I do twitter-stalk tons of celebrities and TV people and journalists and authors and Manmohan Singh. I'm normal too on most days). I know that people sometimes put up links, and that makes a little sense. But sharing thoughts on books or TV or films or music or politics or life in general, in 140 characters - I just don't get it!

More mind boggling than anything, what the hell is a hash tag?! Seriously. Can someone explain it to me? Because I have tried to understand. And I've been on many twitter pages to figure this out. (Twitter pages? Is that what they're called? Feeds?) Sometimes they creep into regular conversation. Or emails. Or (as of this morning) newspaper articles. The only use of the hashtag that I have understood yet is Neil Gaiman's Keep Moving stories. That was the first time I thought twitter actually could be kinda cool. But I really really don't understand the context or usage of a hashtag.

So I guess that makes me kinda un-hip. And terribly uncool. And inaccessible. (Being off facebook feels like my year long experiment when I went without a mobile phone.) And everything important reaches me few days late. (This is also a good thing. I only heard of Gangnam style a month after it went viral). 

But it gives me more time to do other things on the internet. So there's that.