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."



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.


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. 



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. 



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!


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.