Thursday, December 29, 2005

a little respect

Yes, I've done it too - let my perception of "chick flicks" and "chick lit" be faintly colored with disdain. I plead guilty, sistahs, and abjectly beg your pardon. It took this post and then this article for me to realize how the condescension was as oppressive as "universal" feminism snootering black, lesbian, third world women.

Genrization is necessary and inevitable in this age of information & sales. But genres can oppress, and we must, as thinking people, deploy them only after some thought, some questioning.

Fine. Go ahead and snooter works that do not qualify as "great" art, "great" literature. But be aware of that unconscious snigger - it's popular among women, ha! ha!

Equating women with frippery, with the laughable, pinchable, ignorable - they're not central, not "us", so what if they're half of the entire?

Here's the avowal - I'm a feminist. In all its broad, queer, non-postfeminist glory. Thanks, Ratna, for teaching me what can lie beyond the limiting definitions of feminism.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Never Sufficient

On Wednesday, driving madly from Rajpur Road to IHC, trying to make it for at least ten minutes of Samit's reading/launch, long lines of cars and commotion extending before us and the thought of deadlines whooshing past blaring in my head, I turn to A. and say, "Writers' time is what we need."

Marquez, in an interview, on writers' time: "...a desert island in the morning and a big city at night. In the morning I need silence, and in the evening a few drinks and some good friends to chat to. I need to be in constant contact with people in the street and know what's going on in the world. This all fits in with what William Faulkner meant when he said, 'the perfect place for a writer was a brothel, because it's very quiet in the morning but there's partying every night.'"

A few hours to write and a few to read. A few to be with yourself, thinking or dreaming, and yes, a few to be with friends.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Ignore the writing,
Ignore the blog.

Compose bagatelles
of sms-es.

Delight in them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


On the editorial page in The Hindu today, an article exhorting that there be no 'unnecessary "coyness" about celebrating Christmas in a Christian country [Britain].'

The author completely misses the bus. It's not how many Christians there are in Britain or how strong the religious traditions are, but what Christmas stands for that makes it important to claim it from pseudo-secularists. The "spirit of Christmas", which is as pervasive in its good cheer and kindness as, I imagine, the air of Goa. Santa Claus, gifts, secret santa. Trees, decorations, mistletoe. Reds and greens, chocolate or plum cake. Christmas stories, Christmas movies, and above all, universal goodwill and generosity that you cannot but help respond to, get seized by. This is what the British and American kidlit of my kid days told me, and the odds are still is telling to kids everywhere.

Certain myths, like this one, are so beautiful in their innocence that you have to fight to keep them alive.

Trade tricks

It must be the oldest trick in a writer's book: when you can't express your displeasure openly, fictionalize them, put them down in your novel.

Without a qualm, I'm thinking of incriminating someones like this in the prose piece I'm writing for the Sarai workshop. You'd cheer if you knew how nervous I was before it --

"For the past couple of years that I have thought of myself as a writer, poetry has come much more easily to me than prose. I like working with its elusiveness and its precision, its ability to transmute experiences into half-familiar, half-forgotten beings and landscapes. Using its devices, I can leave behind straightforward narration or discourse and explore the oblique. More and more I find my poetic voice reflecting undertones of my political engagement with feminism, but not, I believe, in an unsubtle or unpleasing fashion.

Being an avid reader of prose, I know it is possible to attain with it similar effects, right from metaphors and imagery to sound patterning. The form of the prose text does not impose limits on its aesthetics.

The limitation, then, is in my own head and practice. A writer should be able to override the externals of form and structure and I think it would be of great benefit to me to take a deep breath and venture into the territory of imaginative prose.

So then, I want to attend this workshop to counteract in me the anxiety engendered by, and to instill in me the discipline of, prose writing, in a supportive environment with peers..."

I'm quite pleased to have finished two pages to read tomorrow. To be continued. Short, but they're there and not half-bad.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Better Man

Writing poetry in a man's voice is not coming as easy as I thought it would. While I can pull together all the parts of me-woman into vital writing, I seem to have lost that dual eye so necessary for an artist to give detail to the "other".

The men I know well, I know as people I love, and I can't/don't want to take over their voice from them. The men I don't, I don't want to cannibalise to caricature.

Okay, this is sounding a bit feverish. But writing it down might help open some valves!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Winter, Delhi, December 2005

My third winter in the city. Hopefully also my last for some time to come - I'm telling everybody around and promising myself that I'll be out of the city for the next one. But applications haven't been happening, and evenings seem to vanish and with them the opportunities to work.

I texted him last week: time seems to move differently in this winter light.

And then again, yesterday, about the sun drenching one half of my bed. If I lie on the foot of the bed, the sun falls all warm on my face.

I'd spent an afternoon at home after such a long time.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

This room

The last time we met, S had posed this as a “what if”: “What if I ask you to write a description of this room?” I’d taken in the room in an arc: the horizontal slats of the Venetian blinds, the grey and black photograph that insinuates their relentlessly parallel pattern, and thought, of course I’ll write about these.

When I walked in today, I noticed the circular table round which we sit had been shifted a tiny bit to the right, elongating the space that opens up, clear, on the other side. This meant I could not sit on what I think of as my usual seat: it would be too close to the wall for my liking. I have occupied the seat I’ve come to think of as my usual only twice during the four meetings we’ve held so far. S’s books are lying to its right, and since I can imagine a round table exhorting a staggered filling up, I walk up to sit opposite my usual spot, facing Sarai’s backyard.

In our second meeting, I gazed across the glass of the doors from my usual place to find the sun lighting up one half of a tree, one half of the lawn.

This afternoon, the blinds across me were drawn, a slitted wall of grey. Just as I am on the brink of feeling cheated, S opens them. The backyard has a tree. There is no sun.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


A new poem is like a new lover. The first time you write it, you're left sparking. And when you revise, you're perfecting the lovemaking, magnifying pleasure.

circa 30 Oct 2005

My favorite Rumi poem


Morning opens a door with help for
those who don't ask for any. Love

tears its shirt. Mind begins the
sewing repair. You come and both

run off. I burn like aloe wood to
touch the one who set this. Dressed

sometimes like disaster, sometimes
like a guide, the ox of the self

sweetens his mouth in a pasture. A
parrot falls in love with an Arabian

colt. Fish want linen shirts. The
drunken lion hunts drunken gazelles.

It cannot be said how you take form.
One man asks for spoiled cheese.

The prayer rugs all point different
ways. If you would soak again the

evening sky your garnet red, the
qibla tips would turn that way.

(from The Soul of Rumi: A New Collection of Ecstatic Poems trans. Coleman Barks)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Something's rotting

Was at Pitampura yesterday when someone called up aunt and told her to switch on the news. It couldn't get more repulsive - somebody had planted bombs in crowded markets and a bus two days before Diwali.

NDTV's coverage was itself appalling: a particularly inept/nervous/sick cameraperson was zooming in and out on a pretty young female reporter's lips, eyes, hair. And she was asking someone with an injured son in the RML Hospital how many casualties there were in the ward inside.

I seem to have lost touch with the way the visual media has shaped up - was actually watching the news after months yesterday. (Ironically the HT Brunch cover story today gripes about growing sensationalism in the media.)

On some other benighted channel, things were being blamed on "intelligence failure". What kind of paranoid society are we helping come to life where our sense of security and well-being depend upon police pickets? Panic is cancerous - and we can't counteract it with more surveillance.

If you want to inform them about new tenants, I'm one too.

Friday, October 28, 2005


The number jumped at me as I typed the last post. I used to think this was the brink at which I got unlucky.

The cats lasted four months. Just as my lovers before him.

Dear L,

The whimsical question which was lost in cellular traffic for 48 hours and, later, stopped making sense: Can people change?

Before my text got through to you, I had my answer - yes, of course they can. Or I thought I did, since of course in the matter of a few days everything had jumped out of or into mutant corners again. What a cataclysmic ride this has been. Me futilely trying to hold off change by leaning against what had already crumbled until everything came down and I could either lie there and be swept away into something godawful - or do something.

So I jumped - very deliberately, cat-like (after all, keeping cats for a mere four months will also change something) and now look where I am, now look who I am. So I look around me and think, yes, people do change, yes, things do get better - only if you make the jump.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Asli Superhero

[This was written for Lifestyle Trends - on the stands now, with an abridged, edited, slightly different version:]

Some people like their lives humble, unfervored and unexaggerated. Others are fans of Bollywood. It is for these others that I intend my blanket declaration:

There is a Hero Hiralal in each one of us.

Someone who loves films simply, with a glad heart and starry eyes. Someone who can suspend all belief but in the heroism of the hero.

Of course, like all other heroes, our Bollywood heroes perform good and noble deeds. They enroll in universities to protect damsels. They refuse to elope with lovers until families consent. They let fiancées go to be with their true loves.

However, they are usually doing something more, something greater than the merely extraordinary: something far beyond the abilities of us ordinary mortals. Take Amitabh Bachchan in Mard, who is seen performing the goddess' aarti using his palm as a lamp. We wouldn't try this, not unless we're crazy. Or Captain Planet.

The Americans understand why certain figures violate the laws of physics. They're blessed with powers and abilities beyond those of normal humans that let them fly, see in the dark, lift off entire buildings and hurl boulders - and with great power, we know, comes great responsibility: that of being Superheroes. But Bollywood heroes are neither relocated extraterrestrials nor rich do-gooders with cool accessories. So what gives?


The earliest films made in India centred round the legends of gods and goddesses, spirits, sages and demons. This mythology, through centuries of telling and retelling, grew into a "universal psyche" that allowed Indians to be comfortable with the existence of superhuman powers. It was also the most accessible source for creating new ways of storytelling about a new principal: the Indian film hero.

The American superhero emerged in the 1930s, a decade shaped by economic and political crises, as a protagonist of escapist adventures where the American public could imagine a world not trounced by forces beyond their control. He was usually a white, middle to upper class, heterosexual, professional, young-to-middle-aged man, ready to pull his weight to do good and fight evil, but clearly privileged.

The Bollywood hero comes into his own in the 1970s, once more a decade of economic and political turmoil. Yet again, he magic carpets the audience to a universe illusory - but located among the People. He is either a migrant from a small town or village or the lost son of atycoon, and becomes the voice and the muscle of the marginalized.


The one cliché that marks out a superhero in the American comic book is his secret identity. His credibility is assured by a colorful persona complete with a colorful name and a colorful costume.

Indian heroes, however, do not need a secret identity. Bruce Wayne might need one to protect his loved ones from retaliation from his enemies, or Peter Parker, to preserve a private life. But such considerations have never bothered the Indian film heroes. There can be no "private life" in India shorn of obligations towards the family, society and state, and it is desirable that each hero willingly join the pantheon of inspirational figures for the young. What, if not this, is the point of heroism?

Further, our heroes are far too valiant to battle under false pretences. I can imagine Sunny Deol gagging with embarrassment and contempt at the thought of needing a disguise to protect his mother. My brawn, he would drawl, can beat any adversary upfront, face to face.

Mr. India, of course, has been an exception to this rule, but this is because it was a conscious parody of masala elements from Superman, James Bond thrillers, Disneyesque adventures as well as The Invisible Man. Its release in 1987 was closely followed by the only othercredible Bollywood superhero films: Shiva Ka Insaaf, The Indian Superman and Shahenshah.


Another media where numerous superheroes spawned in the 1980s was the Indian comic. With liberalization under way, there was an altogether new class whose children aspired to know Superman and his indigenous counterparts better. What is incredible is how so many indigenous superheroes derived their inspiration from Amitabh Bachchan, the reigning megastar. The most famous of them all is Bahadur, a shaggy-haired, bell-bottomed dude in Diamond Comics, but there were also Anthony Gonsalvez and Supremo (with sidekicks Vijay and Anthony).

There is no room for doubt about the Indian public's emotional attachment to its heroes. And why not? Jai of Sholay may not be any more or less courageous than Spider-Man, but he blows up bridges and decimates thugs without spider-webbing wrists. This makes him moreobviously heroic. He also dies soon after, and this makes him more poignantly heroic.

The thrall of ordinary mortals with extraordinary abilities: that's the thrall of Bollywood. Heroes who are content saving a family, a village, a girl; who don't obsess about saving the world. Heroes who don't look uncomfortable and itchy in costumes in fan-pictures takenwith us. Heroes whom we can look upon with affection and pride: jaise apne Dharam pa!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

To The House I Did Not Get To Rent

I woke up and smiled and stretched in
this room. I sleepily grabbed purring

cats. I padded through space sprawling
plump spreading sensual and strung

with abundant plants. I lived beyond my
means and supped reveried wrote. Sun

suffused each particle of air with winter
honey. I'd possessed you in a twinkle --

so what if we were never joined?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Nayi zindagi, naye andaz

3-4 weeks ago I was finishing my days completely exhausted, whether or not I'd done the awful cross-Delhi commute. Impulsively (and it's slightly embarassing to admit to these impulses) I picked up a book called New Feminine Brain with a lot of hogwash about "gender brain" but a very useful detailing of mineral and herbal supplements whose addition to/absence in your diet affects you physically and emotionally.

Now for me supplements and multivitamins have been something my parents religiously pop into their mouths. I had also been warned by an aunt that if I take supplements "at this young age", I'd need that much more of them when I grow older.

I had been postponing visiting a doctor, trying to convince myself the fatigue was not serious enough, it would go away. Then I happened to discuss it with four vivacious women colleagues and, most marvellously, each of them was an expert - to some extent or the other - on nutritional supplements.

So I self-medicated. If you're reading this and plotting the next step, please do what I say, not what I do - go see a physician!

I'm right now on Chyavanprash, Vitamin B Complex, Calcium and Iron (whew!). I'm drinking milk and eating fruits regularly, and trying to overcome my habituated disaffection with exercise. And I'm feeling so much better. So much more able to do the day! Also - and I agree with Dr. Mona Lisa Schulz here - that matters on the "personal front" are pleasanter than they were then, during my days of severe back ache and limb-dragging exhaustion - is also gratifying.

Sadly, it looks like these supplements are with me for life. The toll urban living, unmindful living takes on you.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Labels matter

The 10th International Women and Health Meeting (IWHM) is going on in Delhi. On Thursday evening, I went for a stunning performance by a Malaysian troupe of transsexual persons called "Prima Donna". Several of my friends had seen them perform at the 2004 WSF at Mumbai and had come back raving, so I had to catch them this time.

I invited the friend I was supposed to have met that evening to come with me. She said she didn't want to see transvestites perform. I indignantly pointed out they were transsexuals, not transvestites, but it was all the same to her.

It is difficult to see the big deal about the varieties of social and biological genders if you don't have access to this information. Diane Wilson's site and explain the various terms quite nicely. In short, a transsexual "wants to change his or her physiological gender, and to live permanently in the new gender role", while transvestites are crossdressers.

As it turns out, the Prima Donna troupe included transsexuals as well as cross-dressers. And so awesome they were.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


The Milk in its cream-red carton and the two Curds in their cups live in the door shelves of the refrigerator. They’re often visited by an assortment of Juices on weekends, and a bottle of Tahini is an honorary resident at the moment. The bottles of Water camp here every once in a while, ostensibly to keep a watch on the oft-dissenting occupants, but they far outnumber the residents and end up intensifying the strife.

Space, you see, is the main problem in the door shelves. And the army of Bottles does not seem to realize that.

(prompted by Writers Digest)

morality, morality

"...sexuality that is "good", "normal" and "natural" should ideally be heterosexual, marital, monogamous, reproductive, and non-commercial. It should be coupled, relational, within the same generation, and occur at home. It should not involve pornography, fetish objects, sex toys of any sort, or roles other than male and female."

"Any sex that violates these rules is "bad", "abnormal", or "unnatural". Bad sex may be homosexual, unmarried, promiscuous, non-procreative, or commercial. It may be masturbatory or take place at orgies, may be casual, may cross generational lines, and may take place in "public", or at least in the bushes or in the baths. It may involve the use of pornography, fetish objects, sex toys, or unusual roles."

- Gayle Rubin, in Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality

Once I'd known this by heart. The other day, at a Voices Against 377 meeting, I was struck afresh by how each of these norms of acceptable sexuality are bundled together.

Getting married? Very good, very good.
Sex for money? Very bad, very bad.

It's hard work

The thing about political choices is they present themselves every step of your life. There's no permission to let up or retire; you have to keep negotiating them through life.

Because you're not, after all, the only star in your universe. You can't make your choices in abstract or in a void - say "I'm A, B and C" and believe it to suffice forever. Each choice is to be made within a context, with a set of external factors to contend with - social norms/prejudices, families, work.

Sometimes the battle seems almost not worth it because you yourself don't know what's at stake; what would happen if you surrender. Only a vague reluctance to fit into the system.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Cats drunk with sleep stumbling in the house.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Is Harry Potter Still a Nice Jewish Boy?

Found some really funny Potter links on the Guardian. Read what happened at Accio!, the Potter convention,The Half Blood Prince digested, and, the best of all, alternative accounts of Dumbledore's death. My favorites are in the style of Helen Fielding, Sappho, Alexander McCall Smith and Roald Dahl's BFG (by Lousie Emma Rouse, 9!) - but I have to admit, I've yet gone through less than half the page.

This is the North East

Returned from a four-day trip to Guwahati. The TRI Continental Film Festival was traveling to the North East.

(Over whisky and rum)
Me: I have this confusion. Should I, shouldn't I talk of the "North east"?
B: It is a rather meaningless term. There is so much strife and ignorance in this region.
B proceeds to give me a thrifty overview of these problems. She is part of the North East Network.

Another evening. I've run into N, a friend of a friend, at the film festival, and she invites me to hang out with her and a few friends. We're at L's house, and L's bar is also stocked with rum and whisky. I'm not keen to repeat the rum-with-water experience and we go down to get some beer.

N tells me she couldn't stand watered rum or whisky either, but then she returned to Assam after a decade and her cousins said: What kind of a tribal are you? You need to sweeten your drink before drinking it? Finally, a few weeks back, when as usual there was nothing on offer except whisky, her resistance wore off and she now guzzles it as well as a veteran.

I was supposed to have gone to Shillong for screenings on the 5th. The program got postponed. The Khasi Students' Union had agitated about something or the other and the govt. declared a six o'clock curfew. I was told people would be scared to come for a festival even during the afternoon.

There has been an economic blockade in Manipur since June 19. Over 50 days now. Imagine the shortages people had to face: food, medicines, all essential goods and commodities.

The IAF finally airlifted supplies on the 6th of August. I had no knowledge about it till the 4th when B told me about it. I might have missed it in our Dilli newspapers - I checked with the lover, a more consistent reader of news; he hadn't seen it either.

The Guwahati newspapers were carrying each development on the front page. The national media seems to have picked the story up now, after the Centre's involvement.

To be continued...

chacun a son gout

So I've finally read the sixth Harry Potter. In less than 24 hours, exactly like everyone else. Potterphilia made it so easy to give up daily life for a day.

And it was a good read. Rowling seemed to lapse in a few places, but the fan in me wasn't disappointed. Perhaps, says the lover, we're more undiscriminating than most!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Neat Categories

I met two army officers on a train traveling from Ranchi to Delhi. Our journey started at five-ish, and by dinnertime we were arguing about non-government organizations, the ambiguity of human rights violations, democracy vs. military rule, freedom to choose vs. fundamental national values. It was strange to be a part of such a textbook debate, to know that this is precisely the dialectic you've been told to expect when you meet an army guy.

Night before yesterday, met another textbook case: a casual migrant with a bit of land in Shahadara, which he leaves every once in a while to pull the rickshaw, knowing that all this can ensure him is bare survival. With talk that veers involuntarily to his children and eyes that grow wistful at this remembrance.

We inhabit stereotypes. But it is painful when there's nothing of an individual that leaves a tiny escape route from categories. Lets them sprawl a bit, be something they're not expected to be, say something they're not expected to say. Military discipline or the harshness of want. Or social norms. Or familial obligations. Or peer pressure.

Do we have it in us to resist, resist?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Reflections after transcribing

Was transcribing a half hour interview yesterday - another first, this transcription work. Completely backbreaking, and took me around 3 hours, with a break in between.

I realized your attention just dies out on you after you've listened to and typed out a certain number of words (1-1/2 pages in my case). And then you have to force your ears to listen, you mind to interpret what you hear, and your fingers to type.

I realized that though I type fast, I mostly end up using my forefingers - making me feel like a toy train running on tracks meant for an electric engine.

I realized that after a point each sentence begins to resonate of exquisite craft, each meaning acquires depth, and each sound-pattern becomes as intimate in your ears as your mother's voice.

I realized I don't want to transcribe again.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

In Delhi, babe. Or, To be whole again

I tried to be a Delhi chick today. Hanging out with friends at the Priya Complex for the first time ever.

What a wondrous experience it was. I was so surprised to be asked, and not just once: "Where is your boy?" I've become so used to my "world" where it is almost... declassé to ask about the whereabouts of the boyfriend when you don't know anything about him or the nuts and bolts of the relationship, and thereby suggest women need boyfriends to hang out with.

Most of the other girls there (oh, I don't mean to go on like this - I really liked these girls - so self-assured and vivacious and young - each at least two years younger to me - but this was so bothering) were either with boyfriends or the boyfriends were coming later.

I suppose I'd be singing a different tune if I was not going steady. I don't know. But what is this emptiness we're culturally baggaged with? Why are we taught to hanker after the boys not there? (And this makes me pause, reflect, realize I do the same: hanker after the boy not there. Uh-oh.)

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Cats

There has to be at least one post with their photos, to introduce them.

The goodhearted bignatured grey sage, Frodo, and the indomitable twinkling orange star, Toft.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

In Continuation: A Love Affair with Words

I'm still not used to saying "I write" when asked about what I do (particularly when you're travelling, as I've been doing, this is a question you often get asked). I located my discomfort in how slowly my writing seems to be going (this is no excuse, but we adopted two delightful kittens three weeks ago - I let them claim an unnecessary share of my time) - once I become more industrious, I thought, I'd be able to say the words easily.

Then I heard a friend, a published writer of some repute, introduce himself as an "editor of the magazine XYZ". Was this modesty? - and if so why? Or diffidence about being in the writerly profession: more dubious and unprofessionlike than most others?

Another friend in another conversation felt a published body of work is what entitles you to call yourself a "writer". I was slightly disappointed - hey, I may not be published, I may not be writing every day, even (at least those cauldron-words of the soul), but this is the identity I'm most at home with: a writer!

Yes, A. - I know I really need to gather my creative energies with much more urgency.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Cooler is Bought


the heat lying low
just below the chiks
ready to rise and pounce
on me

its tang
of terror reaching my cheek

The Morning After...

last night
the cooler so delicious
i couldn't thank it enough
thank my fortune

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Of Egos and Dial-ups

Reached Ranchi today (yes, my feet do seem to have pahiye attached) and am coping with a reliably infuriating dial-up connection.

Meanwhile, here's me measuring Paheli's Bollywood Pulse at EGO.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Beyond Imagine

Attended a chilled out recording of Money Mantra on June 7, where Mallika Dutt on behalf of Breakthrough and Anjali Gopalan from the NAZ Foundation were discussing funding for HIV/AIDS programs in India. The NDTV people had also invited a few august troublemakers from AIIMS to be in the audience, who initiated several insightful debates such as how India, as a truly great country, should not need HIV prevention programs: its sprightly, courageous, Swadesi youth can more than handle the tweensy infection on their own. How TB's track record as a killer is more proven and why don't organizations such as ours campaign against TB. How much of the world population is infected with AIIMS [sic].

Well, after the recording was over, Dr. Kapil Yadav from this venerable band gave me his visiting card, which had this, um, song, at the back:

"Imagine all the people living life in good health you may say Im a dreamer, but I am not the only one. I hope some day You'll join us and the world will live as one."
John Lennon
Kapil Yadav


  • Metamorphose into a part-time jobholder.
  • Write your first ghazal.
  • Attend your first writers' group meet.
  • Take your first creative writing (sort of) class.
  • Begin your first radio play.
  • Have several fights with lover.
  • Get engaged.
  • Buy new cushions and cushion-covers and cheer up the living room.
  • Survive Delhi heat by sprinkling liberal doses of water on the floor, mattress, clothes, skin.

That's not too bad post-a marvellous-holiday, is it?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Escape. Delhi. Heat.

Bliss. Cool. Hills.

Yes, I leave for a holiday today and am too worked up to post anything other than, foxily, a note I wrote on the Reader List when gmail first came on the scene:

Agent Gmail

Gmail invites are a bit like Agent Smith, na? Much as you try to eliminate them, hardier varieties spring up.

And what a clever dispersal strategy. Who can humanly resist the exclusivity of an “invitation”? You have to beg/borrow/steal for one, and pass it on, and accept if you get one.

Soon, then, one can foresee a tyrannous reign of gmail accounts – each one spawning a dozen more – and internet human-users helplessly, recklessly opening more and more gmail accounts, sending out more and more SOS invitations, just to keep their inboxes looking non-messy and invite-free…

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Giving Ideas to Copy-leftist Inventors

Books inspire in me a predatory impulse. I crave to usurp them all, to add them to my library, to have them at my beck and call.

In reality, I can xerox only so many books. I can buy only so many shelves. I can’t imagine reading for pleasure on the screen. The thought of reading an e-book makes me quiver with panic.

So, to plant an idea in bravehearts out there who, like me, care for books, feel wolfish about them, and have more tech savoir faire than me:

The world needs a device to zap a book into a chip, and chips back into real books. With a straight spine, pages that can be stroked and patted and thumbed, the smell of words aging better than wine, a shape you can walking, hold comfortingly close to your bosom.

If someone could master this technology, just imagine: I could have thousands of book-chips packed away in a suitcase, all zappable into books whenever I wish to dip into them. Imagine the marketing possibilities!

A device like this could also be part of the government’s literacy drive: in a city like Bombay, where every inch of space goes a long way, the government could in good faith exhort residents to buy and read more books.

Interested, anyone? In funding the research, or becoming a part of the research team, or showing solidarity? Write me.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Baghban: An Incomplete Review

Some films are supremely maddening. I remember watching Baghban on VCD exactly a year ago, and it provoked me enough to begin this invective (and I think it has sufficient bluster and fire to make it enjoyable even in its incompleteness):

The premise is sweet: a nearing sixty couple are so madly in love with each other even forty years of after marriage, that teen-agers find them a bigger inspiration than Laila-Majnu or Heer-Ranjha. Their love story finds a gushing publisher, becomes a blockbuster and bags the “Booker’s Prize”.

So why doesn’t it work as a film? Maybe because it manages to perpetuate, while ostensibly being a movie about two old people, the same stereotypes that almost every successful Bollywood film has flogged till now. A breathtakingly beautiful woman jisne samay ko mutthi mein band kar ke rakha hai, and who is therefore adored by her husband, the patriarch. Saif and Rani, perhaps, forty years hence? What has changed but the wrinkles and the white hair? If the love between a couple married for forty years is shown as still dependent upon her beauty (you may argue that Hema Malini’s good looks are peripheral to the issue, but catch Zohra Sehgal playing the role of Pooja – even a Zohra of thirty years ago), the Hindi film audience would surely lap up the movie, it is so in accord with our candyfloss desires! This, then, is not the reason for the film’s collapse.

Perhaps it is the excessive brand propaganda. Hema with a Tata Tea packet every two minutes in the initial half hour; the “chhoti-moti” company ICICI; the Archies Gallery which is a café; the Ford which Amitabh is compelled to test-drive around town. But almost every recent film has done this, and sometimes with less panache, so this is not what gets hackles up either.

It must, then, be the way Amitabh sidelines Hema in conversations: “yeh hamare-tumhare beech mummy kahan se aa gayi?” when their son talks to his mother first about money; removing the receiver from her hands when she is on the phone with another...

This Morning: A Lurid Story

Driving to work. Rush hour traffic. Ring Road. Hundred of cars inching along.

I see a squelched-out rat on the road when it is barely a metre ahead. There's no time, no space to manoeuver, and a second later it is under my wheels.

Doodling an Evening Away

Delhi, May 2005

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Creativity is all Nonsense

Something attributed to John Lennon which so exemplifies the non-rationality of creativity:

"We've learned over the years that if we wanted we could write anything that just felt good or sounded good and it didn't necessarily have to have any particular meaning to us. As odd as it seemed to us, reviewers would take it upon themselves to interject their own meanings on our lyrics. Sometimes we sit and read other people's interpretations of our lyrics and think, 'Hey, that's pretty good.' If we liked it, we would keep our mouths shut and just accept the credit as if it was what we meant all along."

Nivi's Edge

I was startled to see a short story by Nivedita Menon in Lines (“Engagements with ‘At the Water’s Edge’”), and then completely bowled over. This woman is truly amazing. As an academic/activist, no one can match her brilliance and charisma, and when she chooses to fictionalize her “left-secular-democratic” cohorts, an entire incestuous subculture spanning Delhi, Colombo and “abroad” comes to life.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Contingent Friendships - 1

These days when my car rolls up at the traffic crossing, the beggar turns and walks to the row of vehicles on my left. If after the detour the lights still haven't changed, he approaches me, looking quizzical. Just to say hello and tip his hat at me. He doesn't ask for money anymore. If I take out a coin from my wallet, that's fine, else he walks on to the car behind mine.

Ever since I'd started a chatty conversation with him more than a month back, he avoids me. And I avoid him, keeping my eyes fixed on the book in my lap till he is actually near my window. As though we know something shameful about each other.

A Love Affair with Words

Old identities die hard. Stubborn, outdated bits of you refuse to let the new bits feel at home. You have to take a deep breath and give the latter an unfaltering welcome: "Welcome, New Me! I hope we get along well."

When you introduce yourself to someone, you might say, "I'm working with a human rights organization," and leave it at that, and then feel awful for finking out on the new you.

You might say, "Well, I'm currently working for a human rights organization," and hope your audience is discerning enough to catch the delicate emphasis, that hint of hesitation, in your sentence. You'd still feel more or less like a fink.

Or you might take the deep breath. Will this sound silly? What if they ask what I've *published*? What if this is all a big mistake? Breathe.

"So, what do you do, Monica?"

"I'm a writer." There. An apologetic grin quick to follow, but I said it, I named me. I am, I am, this is who I am.

Congratulate me, mon amis. June onwards I'll be employed part time, and can spend more time writing and doing crazy things with my life.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Queer Haikus

Faggot Haiku

Faggots reach into
their own asses we are not
afraid of our shit

Haiku on bleeding nine days out of every month

It's time to invent
machines to suck the blood out
and make me come too!

Haiku on being the only lesbian from Jamaica

Wonder whose pussy
I was eatin' when I had
a P.O. box there?

Staceyann Chin

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Dream fragment

A warning is issued about a sea monster. People run in panic. I see a giant trapezoidal wave crashing down on a ship, and think: is the monster screened by the wave?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

At India Gate

I finished the bhel puri.

A scream fizzed in my throat, ran through the length and breadth of my mouth, till I thought I’d have to let it out. Happily, there were many distractions around: the lights rippling in the lake, the merry boats, the people, the carefully dreamy air out of a film set.

Three minutes later I realized the sting had silently rolled off my tongue.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Single, or How often are resolutions fashioned

Last night of being single. The lover's away in the far south and this feeling of expansion (all this space, mine alone!), this time that's mine to plan or rest or expend as I will, is delightful in its rarity. Any lessons here? Nothing can be done about the space, but perhaps we need better nonspatial practices...

Looking sharp some more for surprises

Today, at the beauty salon, I saw the child in a woman, an employee.

She was wearing an oversized coat and came and sat on a chair that was too-high, and started swinging her legs. Suddenly I could see in her the wife, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, who left home in the mornings to reach work on time - to reach an entirely different world than the one left behind. Like I do. Who held on to her wildness until she could return home in the evening/night; had to throw off fatigue and perhaps pay attention to other demands. Like I do. Oh, how we hold on to this memory keening yearning, this conviction that home/the evening will come and bring freedom!

Of course, more and more I find the "wild" part of me infiltrating and blitzing the code of civil conduct delineated for public personae. Which is all right. We should all be able to dress and behave in the way most authentic for us - formal cool or wild child or anything else in between or beyond.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Cat at home

There's a cat who visits our kitchen in the dead of the night to scrounge for leftovers. She wriggles through god knows which godforsaken opening to get to our third floor, all-doors-closed flat!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

In search of etymology

Doodled "water under the bridge" in my journal in the morning - and reailzed I don't know where the phrase comes from. Googling yielded me a painting by Monet, a sketchy explanation and another one.

The find of the week, however, was this quite unrelated trove of words. Rummage away!

The unintended sneer

"You're constantly thinking about the house!"

It took me a few minutes to fathom what about this comment riled me so much. Certainly, the gratuitousness of the "constantly". More than that, the implication that thinking about the "house": what needs to be bought, what needs to be repaired, is a simple-minded, lowbrowed exercise. Rather than a labor of love.

You didn't mean this? Perhaps.

At the Lodi Garden

Memories of regeneration, of greenery and birdcalls and the wind shimmering with flower-scent and me rolling in the grass
sometimes with you, often alone
have a way of impressing themselves on the microchip in the head,
so when I return for minutes so brief they have meaning no more than hands ticking across the clock
and sit on the green swell of earth,
the connection calls me back into the centre of stillness
and I lie back to smell the grass and feel its itch on my skin, and behind my head gardeners dig the earth.

When You're Away

Possessiveness the engorged serpent
billows up from my waist in
ordinary conversations,
hood flame and flaring,
and rushes to swallow
the room, chairs and tables,
my companions.

Chagrined, I sit on it and
push it down.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

headlines scanner

More and more frequently these days you find me sheepishly confessing: "Urmm, I haven't been following the news. I had no idea about this Shakti Kapoor incident..." Apart from the usual daily rush to work/other places, it's also part-apathy borne out of a realization that I actually don't miss the "news" too much. This Sunday, in blessed solitude, I sit and devour the Indian Express and TOI, and feel, suddenly, my relationship with the world, my place in the world, re-scanned and re-established.

a friday gathering

A magical poetry/song evening at Friday's at Nigah. Everybody seated in a circle that was not-quite round, with chapbooks and anthologies in the centre for those who hadn't carried something to read as well as print-outs of some magnificent poems that Sharmi had brought. Indolence and sharing and much singing and music and general well-being. Poetry all around me. Mogambo khush hua! - and we've been spurred to put a date to a long-standing plan to host a poetry/song evening at home: 30th of this month.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

How I get angry

Silence is a tent I drag over bruises.
Each word must be prised out of me.
Each word is overkill.

how fringe we are

Am trying to get babysitting jobs. This is one of those deviously convoluted schemes that divebombed into my head one day when I was trying to figure out good ways to get access to children's books (about this: later). So I advertised my services on the white board of my friendly neighbourhood sandwich bar, and today, three weeks later, I get a call from Mrs. Jordan to enquire about my antecedents.

She wants to know if I work; my age; where I live and with whom; where my parents live; which community I belong to. At the last one, I stumble. This question I usually wave away nonchalantly, secure within my progressive pomo identity. But here I can sense how important it is to tell her, "my dad's marwari and my mum's punjabi". At which she laughs - what a weird coupling - and moves on.

Later, while driving, I hope my children can grow up in a place and time when they don't have to preface the introduction of their selves with such identifiers. For if they couldn't, I wouldn't know how to identify myself.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Pets 2

The Encyclopedia of Cats can be as much joy for us nomads as real cats.


Am completely taken up by the new Pepsi commercial: Oye Bubbly. The humor is wacky and Shahrukh Khan is finally cast in an ad where he doesn't look as if he doesn't know what to do with his extravagant energies.

There is an Amitabh Bachchan+Preity Zinta+Indian cricketers version as well - Pepsi is obviously opting for a full-dress incursion - but I'm yet to embrace it with as much affection as the first ad.

(Link to Oye Bubbly courtesy Neha)

Friday, March 25, 2005

little blue man (or, this is a mistake)

It was obviously a memory -
perhaps a dream -
that smell on your breath -
was it really me?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Thank you, Universe

I'm awed by the kindnesses extended to me the past two days. Just when I needed some.

Explosive together

Holy fools and wild wolflets don't mix. They blow up.

Four walls

I've written before about the space I inhabit
in college
my words scuttling all over the page
in a new rhythm, a rhythm all my own
I am a bull
I like knocking things about
to come to know them on my own
and now I write again
write about a space of my own myown mysecret
strung slimly on a wire and Sarojini curtains
(red and orange) rippling in the wind
no technique, no planning
all haphazard, but Me
This space, this solitude is vulnerable as a kitten
And realized I was happy
and a clotheshorse behind my back blithely
braces the washing
Rueful, for I certainly know when to laugh at myself
I position my journal to catch the brightest of the weak, yellow light
to scribble
But happy

Friday, March 18, 2005


By Tild - this is so cool - I love it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

I can't help reading

Am supposed to be undergoing a week of "reading deprivation". Broadly this means no books, newspapers, movies, TV, radio, internet or emails. Had started on Thursday night (the 10th) with remarkable moxie, thinking of all the ways I could avoid reading my emails at work. Sadly, after going through the experiences of a few others (trust a google junkie to come up with this), I realized work-related reading was exempt from this strict injunction.

Well, it's my sixth day and I'm still going strong. Probably since I've been sneaking quick little glances at emails from friends, comments on the blog, what my partner's writing; reading an entire news article about our friendly neighbourhood sandwich bar while munching on sandwiches...

Having to work largely on the internet at office does not help, but I can't help but feel, ever-so-slightly, like a wayward child.

Scary time?

Am truly, truly confused. Blogshares shows an outgoing link to my blog from Gautam's blog, and further, to Anand's and Mario's blogs.

Now we might be dear friends in real life etc., but my naked eye cannot find a visible link to us in G's online hangout. So how the hell does Blogshares find out who our confreres are?

Sunday, March 13, 2005


The best antidote to feeling rushed in life: watch a sunset.

The sun takes all the time it needs in the world to make a magnificent descent. It sails through the spectrum of yellow, orange and red, deliberating over each hue with ardor and indolence. Lengths of time pass by and the sun does not finish its downward journey.

An hour to sit or stroll and attend. An airplane flies through the transluscent amber sphere with its wingtips peeping out over the curve. Many minutes later, standing at another level, another airplane passes clear over. The red ball that had vanished from the line of sight when you were down at the lake reappears when you climb to the top of the ruins. The sun, you realize with wonder, had not quite set; it's not yet gloaming.

circa Feb 16, 2005


(Or, how unshut doors make all the difference.)

I walk into my hairstylist's salon to get a haircut and find a door ajar on the right. It opens into a tiny kitchen where a grizzled old woman and a young moustachioed man are cooking. I don't ever remember seeing a door here, let alone a kitchen, and for a moment think I've entered the wrong house.

circa Feb 16, 2005

Friday, March 11, 2005

Not merely a mood

Tiny jets of despair issuing from me.

circa Feb 16, 2005


As some of my friends and I go through certain phases in our relationships, it occurs to me that we are the vanguards for generations future and past, to usher in "new relations of equality". The burden of it makes me slightly resentful, although, to be frank, I would not have it any other way.

circa Feb 16, 2005

Like on a high

So that's a flow. Thoughts leap inside your head. And colors. And textures. And images. Flashing 2D sometimes vividly 3D. Behind closed eyes a story unfolds.

circa Feb 14, 2005

Like cats and wolves

When I thought the 'us' was dying, the special language of grunts between us lived. And I thought, "Why not? Why make it die?"

circa Feb 14, 2005

Once upon a time, and soon

Those were the days of a mad creative frenzy when words came pouring out of my pen - I had something to write every two hours.

circa Feb 13-14, 2005

I tell fibs

Meeting an old friend after a long time. Those that have not even seen the you that was, once, and is already not, is already in the process of becoming another - a change that's not happened, that is in motion, that you're not sure would lead you where.

And I hear myself uttering half-truths, untruths, talking certitudes, professing what's already left.

circa Feb 13, 2005

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

the age of uncertainty

Is the state of being unsettled an addiction, a habit some in my tribe my generation just can't get out of? Me, for instance - I have been undecided so long about my "true vocation" that I'm surely, at some level, resisting the finality of a decision. Gradually, am beginning to let myself be convinced of the conclusion that there need not be a conclusion to this my quest.

Then there is the restlessness that hit me a week back - should I grow roots with someone right now or is it too early; wouldn't it prevent me from growing upwards, towards the sky?

A friend wrote about herself, "...I ...realized that I was blaming lack of growth on someone who was just incidentally intimate."

But the obligations of intimacy can be fulfilled only with trust, and I, brat of the age of uncertainty, am afraid to let that trust in.

Holiday posts

So I'm officially on a vacation. Bombay followed by Goa. Moved today to Colaba, to a ramshackle hotel next to the Taj and across the road from the magnificent ocean, and the plan for the day was to go see the Elephanta Caves. But with my blog berating, "You have a lot of catching up to do - you better sit at an internet cafe and type away!", here I am.

Tempting trust

I write again. Poetry a wild woman sitting on my tongue gives a sly cackle. Words course out of my pores and fill the pages of my journal. They chatter in my ears and make me smile at their lustiness.

This had happened once before, when I read the warm, wise words of crone-poets. Invigorating, healthful drags of muse and their power to melt the calluses, cure the trust, scrub the loneliness off my soul.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

the eye deceives

body thick body earth when i don't dance
feet striking the ground.
i danced a year ago wispy as a flame.
the eye deceives,
you cannot see, yet body feels it.

Lone wary lunches

I'm in the balcony on the green cane sofa with a book. He sits in a room deep into the house with a newspaper. A long passage opens between us.

We don't eat together when alone, not trusting the other with our company. What could slip past? His presence circles around me nervously, and mine -

The raptures of spring

Journaling a lot these days. Usually in the mornings, sitting at the little balcony at the back of the house overlooking the park. So there was the pair of them on the telephone wires opposite, tinted versatilely in gray, swinging. Two salmon-red feet each and a shimmering green speckled neck. They had figured out how to tip the body a tiny jot from beak to tail-wing, and it was a treat to witness that solemn, gentle sway. Till with a flash of black and silver wings, they flew away.

And in the park a dog was rolling in the grass.

Saturday, February 12, 2005


a tentacle extends from my left breast
groping for you.
i know i must not look.


So I return, but not to the same ol' blog - this person is changing with the speed of a chameleon and finds herself rather delirious with all that's going on inside.

Afterwards, another state

Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities is the kind of film that finds you cynical till the end when suddenly you find your heart beating faster, cheeks feverish, and a dark liquid instead of blood singing in your arteries. Tabu has a flowing role that she insinuates with blissful nuances, but the film has more to it - the power to transport.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

the next post

On a sabbatical from blogging. The next post will be after a while.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Rewrite, rewrite

Sunday evening, Vivek Narayanan went through a few of my poems. This was the first time someone formally grounded in the discipline of poetry was looking at my poems with a critical eye. The experience threw me over bit but also made me look at them again - as written not merely for myself but for a wider public - double take - and showed me things I had not seen (both good and bad), what I was actually doing when writing.

I'm looking forward to more sessions. Suddenly, there is another level of seriousness I have to apply myself to. When there is someone taking apart your poems scrupulously, you better do a very good job or let your ego mortify! So the next few days will find me revising and rewriting extensively, and the poems already posted on this blog might appear again in a brand new avatar.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Blissful sun

It’s Sunday morning and all’s right with the world.

Had a strange dream last night – about blogging. Can remember only part of it, a volley of questions thrown at a man sitting on a chair, including: “What is the name of Grinchscrumpit’s blog?”

And the man on the chair says, “Grinch!” while I know his answer is wrong.


In the final year at college, we put up a play about a class reunion eight years’ hence. While this imaginary scenario was being played out on stage, with occasional flashbacks about friendships, affairs, exams, ambitions, decisions and regrets, at the side a complementary slideshow of photographs taken "eight years ago" carried on - for which we had all posed two days before the show.

Here is one - sent by a friend (a co-star) last week, with the message, "I though this picture may bring back some memories !!"

The memory of playing at memory while still in college. Two years later, the real and the artificial real blur in the memory - did this happy group actually stand together thus for a keepsake of happy times? - its reality existing beyond the photograph clicked for the purpose of a play.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Philip K. Dick dedicates The Man in the High Castle to his wife and son, “with great and awful love”.

Have you ever felt within you this oxymoron, this passion of the Dark Lords, this Darcy-like terrible love? Almost masochistic in its need to annex every emotion to its fold.

Of course, think Insufferable Roadside Romeo a la Aamir Khan in Dil and you think “great and awful love” also, but I talk here about the kind that suddenly turns its face the other way, facing something not yet seen or borne.

Once is enough. The memory of that once makes you deeper and wiser for life.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Join the Dots

I cringe as I find myself on the front page of the Sunday Express supplement. The Eye of media glare is less enjoyable than I'd expected it to be.

The cringe-factor is higher on page 4, where the highly successful interview I thought I'd had is rendered inane and my responses reduced to infantilia.

Cringing, this blogger emerges from the shell she has been in for the past six-odd days.

Yes, Loper is back.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

frogs in love

a green frog hovers
on my smile glistening
irrepressible glad

all raw green charm

darting fearlessly onto
every shoulder, lavishing
the sun you turned on

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Nothing else

When nothing works for you except fat bites off a good chunky novel. The ultimate, most delectable comfort food, something you must usually eat in restrained quantities, since you know you need nutrition other than chocolate and get only so many hours a week to fill up the tanker. In an emergency, you need it to prop up the body against the pillow, so you have nothing to do except turn the pages.

Boondoggling at the moment with The Cat Who Sang for the Birds. The satisfaction of a lazy read.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The quality of mercy is not strain’d

Or it sometimes is. Like when you see a young man with plastic buckets and tubs outside your house, ready to exchange anything for a pair of “sport shoes”. Like when you invite him up to show him a pair of unfashionable sneakers, and he turns his nose up at them, asking if you have Adidas or Nike. Like when you tell him, laughing uneasily, to get lost if he doesn’t like these.

Like when he beleaguers you about knickers or watches or old transistors, and you feel terrible for having to refuse him, for wanting to refuse him. Like when he asks you for a glass of water, and after that, another glass of water, and you raise an eyebrow and shut the door tightly behind you before going off to the kitchen for an entire bottle. So he doesn’t bother you again.

Like when he leaves, leaving behind a bitterness in the air.

When I give, I give on my own terms. Don’t demand, don’t pester me with your needs: I’m not concerned with them. Only with myself, and how I feel at the end of the transaction. Let’s all go home feeling good. Acknowledge my generosity.

Loper Update

Not found. Walked inside all of Friendicoes between rows of cowering dogs, snarling dogs, excited dogs, indifferent dogs, ugly dogs, beautiful dogs. Between their keen(ing) extra-human awareness that we were looking for someone else, not them.

Hundreds of these friendless animals, and here we were going berserk worrying about Loper. Makes one think.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Severest critic or sympathizer?

Other people might remember Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz for different reasons. I remember it for the spell its characters cast: I, avowed feminist, find myself almost in sync with Amina's angry bafflement with women who step out of the house or question male authority, and thus denigrate "sincerity, virtue, and religion". What better marker of great literature?