Friday, November 10, 2006

Young bride to her husband

If I were a humming bird,
I would fly to your window without
bada sahib
seeing me, nibble
your ear, nuzzle your neck, and fly
back.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Night visions

Cat follows.
The cat could be familliar.
Its white fur, dark patched, gleams near the shrubbery.
"Frodo!" I breathe.
But the gait is all wrong.
This cat backpedals into darkness.
Its eyes are different too.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Airplane

Are we different people free floating thousands of feet above the ground? Everything that holds us down left behind, left down there, and us soaring with happiness, with the lightness of unbeing.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Walking, No Talking

Walking is for me a private activity. Something to be carried out in the dim environs of Jangpura parks, with not very many like minded people about. Which is why I was rather taken aback when tonight two impudent young men on a motorbike entered this zone of contemplative peace. Last evening, at the Lodi Gardens, was disturbing in another way. I usually prefer to let my feet loose and meander all over the extensive gardens, but yesterday decided to take the fixed path many trod every day.

And felt, strangely, exposed. As though the presence of the hundreds (determined or joyful or sullen or indifferent) walking by and alongside put me in the limelight. The first few metres were, yes, self conscious. Then the rhythm of my walking and the rhythm of my thoughts took over and I was walking as freely, uncaringly and eccentrically as ever in that private space jotted by my feet.

sympathies all around

Finished reading a week back - and recommending, THE CORRECTIONS by Jonathan Franzen.

The book is a tour de force, "a vivid reading experience of tremendous texture and dimension, a masterwork of observed detail. It's not always likable, but it's real."

Most astounding is the ability of Franzen to get into the skin of each character, in turn, and show the reader their world (including that of a 75 year old with Parkinson's and dementia) and leave no room as to the validity of their world view; and then get into the skin of the next character and make the earlier character seem villainous, unbalanced, or quite mad. Alternately, to show them up in all their confusion and weaknesses when in their skin and when outside, as specimens of normalcy and amiability.

In other words, he accomplishes the feat of creating characters as complex as human beings really are.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Definitions from Uncyclopedia -

- are growing funnier by the minute as people refine and add to this "encyclopedia of misinformation, nonsense and utter lies."

Such as:

"Polyamory is the love of tending and raising flocks of parrots as pets. Many polyamorists are therefore sea pirates."

first fight

Is it unnatural to be pleased when you have your first fight with a lover?

I think of it as a relationship strengthening exercise. It's this that teaches you what strengths and weaknesses both people bring in to solving issues, and what in turn you can do the next time to ensure the going is not so rough. (Of course, the difficult part sometimes is remembering this the next time!)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

When did you last try to live a legend?

At Baijnath, legend has it that nine men can lift the large smooth rounded stone lying innocuously in a dusty arena outside the temple complex - kewal ek anguli lagaake (by using just a finger each). I challenged the men - my driver and the two from Haldwani who had found me at the riverbank and offered me fish food to throw to the rohu - to prove it true. They seemed eager to defend their masculinity, and soon we were calling out to other men passing by to join in the test. Here are the seven who formed the backbone of the team. Since the stone would not budge, they beckoned a rather senior citizen and a 14 year old gawper sitting on the railing. Women, they were firm, could not be part of the fun, since the legend decreed only men.

No luck in the first attempt, but the second time round our valiant nine, hooking one finger each under the stone, had lifted it up to their shoulders.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Over the Weekend -

- was at Kausani (here is a dreamy blog post on this hill station, which for the author has been "a fixation since I read about it in my Hindi textbook in school"). Working holiday, travelling to write, turned out to be quite marvellous, and not the least because S was a wonderful travel companion. Filled with curiosity and wonder and adventure, lots of bonhomous wise talk, and a love for walking.

And why is it that every time I return from a holiday, I find the carefully worked out schedule in my head has fallen by the hillside?

And I am all expansive.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

In My Midriff

He had done all those
things
one would want to do in secret
with a language.
Like scratching his own back.

(from Riding Two Horses)


Sivakami Velliangiri has just released her chapbook In My Midriff (downloadable here from Lily Press). Her poems are by turns deceptively tranquil, eerie, and blazing with feeling. Such as

and thunder softer than the cracking
of a neck at an unusual hour.

(from Napoleon was the First, Hitler was the Second, So Are You the Third Antichrist?)


The striking imagery takes off from folk tales and modern tales, and can be often feminist (as in "To My Alma Mater") or very sexy (as in "Naughtiest Girl in School 1970").

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

BNP wishlist

Blank Noise Project is doing some amazing work. It has turned street sexual harassment into a subject of street performance, which can be quite a compelling method for influencing public attitudes.

I have my stories of harassment. There is this that happened two years ago (please try to be trigger-happy in the Jasmeen way, not mine!) - remembered more by being recorded on the blog. But what about that durga puja long ago, when I was shoved by one man, slapped across the butt by another, trying to make my way to another pandal with mum and brother and maid through thousands of people all out on the streets of Ranchi? Why does that memory stay somewhere at the top of all of my childhood memories?

Fortunately, today I've come quite far from the shame so many women are taught to carry around our bodies. I can choose to ignore innocuous looks and stares. If there's a stare I don't want, I can stare it down, or if that does not work - heckle it. There is a sense of power, of being able to do something, which means I can brush off these incidents from my mind more easily.

One of the first times I felt empowered this way was while walking down a crowded Brigade Road with my parents in 2003. A man pinched me and started walking away. Totally unrehearsed, I turned and grabbed his collar. Just a few minutes later - yes, fair Bangalore has its fair share of roadside romeos who all seem to be on this road - there came along another guy. I communicated some pretty unflattering things to him too. But what I remember most is being drunk on the knowledge, for hours after, that I had done something. The exhilaration heightened since this had happened in front of my parents, who had possibly never before seen - whom I had possibly never before allowed to see - me as a sexual being - being harassed, giving it back.

Yes, I celebrate my outrage. Let me say this again - I am fortunate in this. Still fear, shame, guilt, trauma remain a reality for so many women - across classes, regions, ages, education levels. Sexual harassment remains normal for so many men - ditto. Which is why the BNP initiative is so important.

Yet, I wish some things were different:

1. That we did not use Section 354 in the flyer, with its conservative moral tone and language.
2. Or the equally archaic term, "eve teasing". Even though, it is true, this is the term most laypersons recognise immediately.
3. That we did not list "leching" at someone as harassment. After all, we all lech. I lech. What is good leching? What is bad leching? What if someone wants to be leched? Can't you, when someone looks, "lech" back or (in many spaces) publicly object and get a public reaction/sympathy?

Some of BNP's strategies are fun. Can you imagine a row of women standing at a street corner, lolling or nervously purposeful, and a "stranger" tries to harass? Can you imagine the full force of a score or more eyes turning to him, boring into him, probing him? Wow. Kudos for imagining this and performing this, all of you at BNP.

Silly Photo


Okay, so I know my tree climbing (see right) and feet photos already, according to some, qualify for this, but every tag deserves a fresh attempt. So here it is: me at holi this year. After having prepared bhang ki thandai for the first time (though, honest, did not drink since its mother drug had handed me a not-so-pleasant time a few months ago) and, of course, many colours.

Also: tagging Em, Gautam, and Rakesh.

Friday, September 01, 2006

chhutiiiii

Having just finished a long, really long translation assignment, I sat down to journal. Today I deserve a break. Pizza delivery chains and other assorted stories for the editor can be written tomorrow. But surprise, I found my pen resisting any structured sentence or thought. I wrote no-sense, doodles, childlike sunfilled daubed up words. Happily. Make sense of this, the pen laughed. Don't you have enough sense in your life already? What will you do with so much of it? Just let go sometimes of sense, elegance, structure and your hair will grow much wilder, bushier and blacker. You'll see.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

chia did it

all black clothes
perpetually blessed

with white fur

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Capacity

The inaugural issue of DesiLit magazine is just out. It features my poem "Capacity". Read here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Chia at the Jangpura parks



If you ever come across this gorgeous one and a half year old at the Jangpura parks, do spare a few minutes (or more) and join her in her gambols.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What is ggkiss?

A throaty, monster kiss. The kind you want to nuzzle down your lover's neck and hair. In the middle of the workday, with the dog -- to your left -- blissfully asleep on sheets and pillow in disarray.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Notes on the new house

D and I did up the house today, with prints, posters, paintings and assorted masks. The house is already so much more ours. A charasi Buddha A. and I had always tussled over (he insisting on putting up egg-yolk-whatsits his mommy had painted - apologies, aunty!! - if I ever mentioned this lovely old thing) serenely sits over the mantelpiece. This, now, is the shelf below the kitchen pass-through window which gives me kicks no end. The house even has - and this is what sold it to us - a foldup drinks bar! And it is open and spacious and has a third room S and I use as our writing space. So welcome aboard to this part of the journey, friends and comrades.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Blogspot banned by the govt of India?

And Typepad? Neha V's continually updated post on this here. Can you access either domain?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Just discovered -

yogabeans! YOUR INTERNET SOURCE FOR PLASTIC ACTION FIGURES DEMONSTRATING ASHTANGA YOGA

(How? Through google, of course. And the random science of hyperlinks.)

- and have not been able to stop (a) being fascinated, (b) laughing.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Archivists

It should be possible to eternally save
simple odes from simple boys
and those other buoyant sms-es
from lovers, friends and well-wishers
      on your phone
without the fear of
running out of space, or losing or damaging the instrument
or them otherwise giving in to mortality.

My feet

Monday, June 12, 2006

Hear ye, hear ye all friendly graffiti artists...

...in Delhi - I promise you a wall to paint red or the color you like, very soon, in the new digs. Dream up ideas.

Monday pre-lunch

I'm at the workplace already, instead of going first to the writing office Susan and I now share. Much writing may not happen this week:

(a) Am doing a photography workshop with Sunil Gupta and need to explore ideas visually (and know that I'm not a natural or an expert in the language of images, and some of my co-participants are quite stalwart-ish!).
(b) A major transition comes up again - a house shift.
(c) Have to, have to finish off some freelance assignments for dear editor.

Guess where I return? To my favorite part of the city - Jangpura Extension. Yes, it was with the lover I discovered this area and it's ironic that I return when he leaves. But I'll have exciting neighbours: the corporate film dude, the grass cognoscente dude, the best nonfiction writer dude, a whirling dance troupe, a longterm jangpura devotee, and others I disremember right now. And of course, Chia the dog will be the third member in the household.

I'll miss the Def Col parks, in particular Sukun and Shanti. And the Barista, my sometimes-office, with the most best waiters on the planet (except when they're under orders from the absurd management not to let in people after eleven pm).

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ditty

Writing poems in rhyme is fun!
Sometimes it makes your pen and mind faster run.
             Not only with a meter Shakespearean is a poem empyrean.
             Nonsense rhymes and nonsense words
             hold some merit, have some worth.
Nothing "important" may come out this way --
say, for publication --
we only hope to let our pen hold sway
on the page - such fun!
             My poems, tied to the need to be good
             sometimes brood
             too much alone in my head.
             I must save them from sleepibed.

Circa 2 Nov 2005

Sunday, May 28, 2006

May 28 (TODAY): Street intervention at Bangalore/ Mumbai/ Delhi

Here, on the Blank Noise Project blog.

No, I don't have many more details to share - one of those times I want to make it to something without a preconception and expectation.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Urb-ania

How do you deal with the extremes of weather in Delhi? In winter and in summer, I tell myself every now and then the worst is yet to come; it's *hot* but will surely get hotter still; this is bearable - survivable - the fabled Delhi summer before which all of us crawl helpless and hapless is still around the corner. Ditto with the cold.

My first Delhi summer with an airconditioner (I'm sitting in my barsaati room with the AC on) makes it easier to pull this stoical wisdom on to you. Not strictly the first, actually - my car has always been airconditioned and so have the offices I've worked in so far. Why do we choose to live in this city with the terrible weather and traffic and noise and safety conditions? What keeps us here over an off-the-beaten-path paradise? Oh, all the reasons we love Delhi and big cities all over the world. Such as some landlords not batting an eyelid when you say you're looking to share a flat with a male friend. How many times have you managed to be "lucky" this way? And how many times have you been tempted to say, "We're married"?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Now Craigslist Delhi (and Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai...)

I'm quite excited about the Delhi Craigslist. C showed it to me the day before - it is a portal featuring free classifieds and forums and is, according to C, used by people in 150+ cities "to manage their whole life, from landing a job to finding a place to adopting pets, selling old crap, etc."

An online Free Ads which is simple to use, intimate, responsive and totally cool. What a blessing for people who have just moved in and are trying to find their feet, or even for those who have been here for years and years! The site does not advertise and will grow into a vibrant urban community only if all of us word-of-mouth it. So go ahead, Dilliwallas - talk about it, use it and bring more simplicity into your life.

(In Wikipedia)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Delhi: Open Mic at Nigah - 27 April 2006

QUEER CAFÉ

Come join us for an evening of poetry, spoken word, music, singing, stories and performances about our bodies, selves and lives. Share, read, or just sit back and listen at the Queer Café – featuring readings and performances on gender, sexuality and the weather.

To sign up to read/perform, email queercafe@nigahmedia.com. Ditto if you have questions.

27th April, Thursday @ 7 pm
THE ATTIC, 36 Regal Building, CP
(Above The People Tree)
Tel : 2374 6050, 5150 3436

No photography, video or audio taping is permitted without prior permission. Email info@nigahmedia.com for more information.

www.nigahmedia.com

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Artists' Day at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi: The NBA protest

Today was the 23rd day of dharna at Jantar Mantar by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) against the raising of the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam by the Narmada Water Authority in contravention of Supreme Court orders.

On April 5, at around 11:30pm, a force of more than 400 police swamped Jantar Mantar, forcefully and roughly attacking the satyagrahis who were peacefully sitting on their 20th day of dharna. Medha Patkar and Jamsingh Nargave, on their 8th day of indefinite fast, were arrested, forcefully lifted and taken in an ambulance to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. They have both maintained their fast, Medha refusing IV and taking only lime juice. Meanwhile, over fifty Narmada Bachao activists were arrested, dragged, beaten up and taken to the Parliament Street Police Station where they were harassed and detained.

At the dharna space, Bhagwati Patidam today continued on the 11th day of her fast. Other people have joined in on the indefinite hunger strike: Bhama Bhai and Raja Kalla from the valley (6th day of fasting); Mona Das, President JNUSU; Dananjaoi Tripathi, Vice President JNUSU; Avadhesh from All India Students' Association; and JNU Prof Kamal Mitra Chenoy (4th day of fasting) and two others today.

It is heartening to see the support extended to NBA by organizations and individuals from our city and all over the country. Tomorrow, all artists in Delhi are urged to join the NBA protest: painters, filmmakers, singers, dancers, poets, writers -- bring your wares or just show up in solidarity and make this a Day of Protest by Artists.

WHEN: 10 am onwards, April 9, the entire day

WHERE: NBA Dharna Site, Opposite Jantar Mantar, New Delhi

Read Action Updates at narmada.org or sign a petition to be faxed to the Prime Minister and other government authorities.

Friday, March 03, 2006

oil-and-water

She once described herself as "a pessimist, a feminist always, a Black, a quiet egoist, a former Baptist, and an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive." Octavia Butler, black woman science fiction writer, died recently - Tyler Cowen writes an obituary.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Review: Rang De Basanti

[For EGO]

When the film begins, you love “Rang De Basanti” instantaneously. With its young, fun characters swaying inveterately to young, fun music, the film pulls you to itself with unabashed enthusiasm that is so characteristic of confident, urban, Punjabi Delhi.

The actors are good. The five main, male actors – Aamir Khan, Siddharth, Kunal Kapoor, Sharman Joshi and Atul Kulkarni – live and breathe their roles, both as university lads and as legendary revolutionaries. Alice Patten (quite to the surprise of the disdainful native in me) manages to be natural and at ease in hers. Soha Ali Khan is chalti hai, and the other actors, including Kirron Kher and Waheeda Rehman, are competent too.

Music fills each frame of the film and indeed, it is not possible to imagine RDB without the pulsing Paathshala or the haunting refrain of “ziddi…” from Khalbali, or the joyful title track. The AR Rahman and Prasoon Joshi team has given us one of the most gorgeous albums of the year – you can listen to it over and over again.

Here we also have one of the most slick recreations, in sepia, of the militant splinter of the Indian struggle against the colonial rule, represented by Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Ashfaq and Bismil.

The problem is that the film is so confused.

On the one hand, it is about the restlessness, hope, angst of a generation. The most interesting of the young male characters, also because of what Aamir Khan and Siddharth bring to them, are DJ and Karan. DJ is frozen in a present where his future is always potential, just around the corner, unexplored. Karan wears unrelentingly uber-coolness and a casual cigarette, but something else, a disquiet, shifts underneath. There’s also Aslam, discontent with his family’s increasing insularity, and Pandey, who crosses the line between idealism and hoodlumism running with the Hindutva political party in power.

On the other hand, it sets up a very demanding parallel between a generation of young people let down by the modern state, and a generation of revolutionaries fighting against a colonial state.

Let’s not even get into comparisons between the motivations, the repression, driving the one versus the other. Just in terms of forms of protest available, our generation has a plethora of choices that simply were not there seventy years ago. RDB, in that sense, completely discounts the role of media and technology today. If a candle vigil commemorating whatever outside the India Gate were to be disrupted in so brutal a fashion now as shown, some sections of the media at least would take up the story, interview people on site or at least later. If not of their own accord, through some “connection” or the other. Power and influence are just two and a half degrees away in the real world of the University of Delhi. Further, in the real world, the virtual one – the internet – would be another arena of protest. Liberal/left mailing lists, the blogosphere, are informal spaces that are used, have been used to draw attention where the intervention of the mainstream media has not passed muster.

Neither do I want to paint too rosy a picture, nor do I want to disregard the fact that I am coming from a very particular background: “urban”, “elite” and “educated” in the sense that “we” know how to go about the business of activism. Injustice and brutality happen everyday, much still perpetrated by the state and much going unpunished. But these actors are shown to be students from the Delhi University, an extremely politically aware space. Hence, that they are completely clueless and get drawn into the logic of violence and self-annihilation so easily, is very disturbing.

There is also no conception of non-traditional, non-mainstream ways of expressing political obligation in the film. Join the army, or the police, or politics – but what about working with a voluntary organization? “The young must do something” is a great message. How to get youth involved in social and political affairs of the country is a real issue. But how it should be done, what should be done to tackle youth apathy – the film promises, but does not deliver on a way out. Rather, it leaves you in a web of half-formulated notions. (“We’re not terrorists because we didn’t go into hiding or kill innocent people.”)

Karan, through the film has said, “Nothing is worth giving your life for.” Towards the end, when Sukhi, the fifth friend says, “We’re not killers!” he replies “But they are.” This point, where a bunch of carefree easy-hearted young people turn into self-sacrificing revolutionaries against “them”, has such a knell of despair. That there was not even one end of hope for them to hold on to; that they had to go for the final option and kill someone who may not even be the ‘real obstacle’ but merely a symbol.

This sense of bleakness does not go away when sincere young people from all over the country say on television, this is it, now we must wake up, act. We know the futility and ephemerality of these assertions: they too will die out with the news of the day.

Did the filmmaker think of that? Or was he too busy making a blockbuster that would inspire the young people of India?

Phew! Forgive the rant. This is, after all, Bollywood. If we can take Sue’s no-budget documentary turning out to be a kickass fiction-drama with our customary pinch of salt, we can love RDB for what it’s worth.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

There, moving on

Wrench a beat for what isn't there, can't be, can't return.

Or turn back the pages and there's Him and Me - we look up, smile, get back to whatever we're doing. There's our sage-shine cats.

An entire life lived, to be lived, missed, thrown away, all right there.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Travelling...

Which means I'll miss the DBM 2nd anniversary!

Blogging in the midst of 3CFF

When friendly bloggers like Shivam Vij assure me my not being addicted to blogging is good, I feel somewhat happier and un-guiltied about the sporadic nature of my posting. But I genuinely have been busy for the last few weeks with the TRI Continental Film Festival - which has just finished in Delhi (very successfully!) and is starting in Bombay tomorrow.

Here is the screening schedule:

25-27 Jan: Mumbai
29-31 Jan: Bangalore
1-3 Feb: Chennai
3-6 Feb: Kolkata

Do come for the screenings! I'll be travelling to Bangalore, Chennai and Calcutta.

Meanwhile, The Hindu pressed us for an interview with Rabbi - our chief guest for the Delhi festival - glibly assuring us a great front page coverage of the festival. Here is what she finally delivered. These media people, I tell you.

(If this is not it, Mandira, if there is another story to follow, I promise I'll apologise with the deepest humility.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Ghazal 605

How will you hear these lines, sings a titter in my cunt,
If I fashion a poem of the jitters in my cunt?

It was late when I discovered the shape of roundness
(Imagined in my palm) stirred a glitter in my cunt.

Loving you is treacherous -- an hour ago sweetness,
Unspoken hostilities are now bitter in my cunt.

The sounds I taught to remember myself to scream
Are yet one quarter the primal Schwitters in my cunt.

I sell condoms to the unversed, teach them safer sex.
Yet there have been times I willed your litter in my cunt.

She often singes innocents with her hotheaded glare
That for oglers intends the hitter in my cunt.

My sheer cunt, still, is enough to give you pleasure.
You practiced -- to worship, to play the zither in my cunt.

Eve reclaimed the vagina, but the unfinished tales
Of good girls to come still clatter-clitter in my cunt.

Slowly discover rules for yourself, Monica.
Cheer's vitalest, let not dolor fritter in your cunt.

Monday, January 09, 2006

the regulars

Delhi really is a small city.

When I lived in Jangpura Extension, I’d meet him at the Moolchand traffic crossing on my way to work. One day, he wasn’t there.

Then things changed in my life. I moved to Defence Colony. This morning, I met him again on my new route to work. We see each other, the light changes, cars move ahead by a few metres. He follows.

“Hello. It’s been a long time since we met.”

“Yes. You stopped coming to Moolchand, didn’t you?”

“They closed that crossing. I’ve been here for 3-4 days now.”

“And before that?”

“L… I live in G…, you know.”

The light changes again. We smile at each other and move on.

And I’m suddenly happy Delhi’s such a tiny city.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Review: NHRC Disability Manual 2005

It is a huge task to try and cater to “lawyers, NGOs, academics, human rights activists and the general public” as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) wants to, in its recently published Disability Manual 2005. For a lawyers’ handbook, it may be enough to include legislation and case law, academics may prefer critical analysis, and activists may need practical examples from real life. The Disability Manual works best as the first, with faint swings at the other targets.

The disability rights movement began in the 1970s in the aftermath of the American civil rights and women’s rights movements. Today international norms and legislation duly recognize persons with disabilities as rights holders and enjoin national governments to actively promote the necessary conditions for the disabled to fully realize their rights.

The manual, a sturdy publication with good production values, is divided into six parts. The first explains the historical and conceptual underpinnings of disability jurisprudence. The understanding of disability has changed from medical (disability as individual pathology) to social to the human rights definition in vogue now, with factors as wide-ranging as wars, poverty, natural disasters, crime, occupational disasters, and Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) of the World Bank brought under scrutiny. These are looked at briefly and one wishes the language was more lucid and the text more elucidated, especially since this chapter is meant to be foundational to the rest of the manual.

The models that inform law and policy have also shifted, but in the strange way law has of enduring, continue to uneasily coexist. The charity model, the bio-centric model, the functional model and the human rights model are examined in the next chapter with particular regard to their impact on Indian legislation. The final chapter in this section outlines the fundamental right to equality as guaranteed by the Constitution of India, the Directive Principles of State Policy, along with statutes like Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities; Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995; Mental Health Act, 1987 and Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992.

The four parts following trace international norms and legislation relating to the protection and promotion of social and cultural rights, economic rights, and civil and political rights of the disabled. These are dealt with comprehensively but staidly. There are useful tables that compare international standards with national standards contained in laws and regulations, and also tables comparing general rights with rights specific to the disabled.

The sixth part deals with international mechanisms and procedures that can be deployed to advance the rights of persons with disabilities. The role played by international human rights law and procedures is, here at the end, properly contextualized and attempts to adorn them with a “talismanic quality” are protested. The chapter explicates with hypothetical cases the procedural options available to someone wishing to protest a human rights violation or issue internationally. This is the one place in the book where case studies, albeit hypothetical, are used, and, not peculiarly, they immediately enliven the text.

Eight annexures, beginning from national legislation to international frameworks and principles, make up the tail end of the book.

As suggested earlier, people engaged in the advocacy of disability rights might not find the Disability Manual stimulating since they would be looking for more case studies, more strategies, more hands-on tips and advice on how to challenge rights infringements. They would want to know what lies beyond rights jurisprudence. Law and legal change have proved ineffective in bringing about social change, and the attitudes of pity and discrimination against the disabled so prevalent in society have not yielded to the rights discourse which ends up seeing the disabled subject as single and monolithic.

A discussion of the Ability Fest’05, where disability-themed films were screened for four days and created an air of excitement and debate in Chennai, or the colorful India Gate demonstration which bemused all the passers-by and hangers-on, would have added something extra to the manual.

All said, the manual fills a gap long felt for a comprehensive publication on disability rights in India. It is hopefully the first of many to come.

Monday, January 02, 2006

journal (v. intr.):

Let me declare, first, that this post was composed in my journal. Of course, I was sitting then on a train going from Ranchi to New Delhi, laptop ailing in the suitcase and hundreds of miles away from an internet connection, but even if I were at home with everything technical in place, I'd probably write the first draft on paper. It is about the old-fashioned thoughts flowing smoother on paper yada, but it's also about a relationship I share with my journal.

We try to spend some quality time together everyday, my journal and I. Usually in the mornings, but if I'm running late, and can't, by late evening I can sense a kind of pressure growing within me. Some miscreant words and actions involuntarily part my company.

To avoid this lowgrade consternation, journaling has a crucial place in my life. I pour out many emotions on these pages, much I'd rather not share with another soul. I vent without self consciousness, let my pen travel wherever, however it will. I reproach. I whine. I'm petty and nasty. I write first drafts, redrafts, onlyever drafts. I make peace with myself here - and to get the best results I don't censor anything.

Fastforward fifty years. Say I've written and published and become known. Say I die. And all these numerous journals of mine are published unabridged.

What will the readers read? Who will the readers meet? Not, or not just, Monica Mody the known.

The thought's exhilarating yet dreadful. And this is why, after reading Joyce Carol Oates' review of The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, the journalista in me finds myself obliged to proffer a counter.

For Oates, Plath's journals "present a very mixed aesthetic experience". Is aesthetics the point anyway? Journals are not after all "unrevised, inferior work", they are a space to sift and cleanse the soul. A space where one finds the energy and wisdom to go on living our quotidian and creative lives, where we come to terms with our truths and lies and half-lies.

This -
Confronted with a manuscript so uneven in quality as these journals, Plath would certainly have discarded hundreds of pages in preparation for its publication -- lengthy, breathless adolescent speculation about boys, dates, classes, career (''Can I write? Will I write if I practice enough? . . . CAN A SELFISH EGOCENTRIC JEALOUS AND UNIMAGITIVE [sic] FEMALE WRITE A DAMN THING WORTH WHILE?''); sketches and drafts of stories aimed for the lucrative women's magazine market; awkward early poems (''Down the hall comes Mary, bearing sheets / Crisp squares of folded linen / And, dressed in green, she greets me / With a toothless morning grin''); countless reiterations of physical symptoms (''Woke as usual, feeling sick and half-dead, eyes stuck together, a taste of winding sheets on my tongue after a horrible dream''); petty squabbles with Hughes; and the determination to be a good wife -- must not nag (ergo: mention haircuts, washes, nail-filings, future money-making plans, children -- anything Ted doesn't like: this is nagging).'' Plath's ceaseless anxiety over submissions to Ladies' Home Journal, The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, The Atlantic and other magazines runs through the journals like a demented mantra; the mailman is both the blessing and curse of her existence through the entire span of these journals. Surely such repetition might have been avoided.
- I don't agree with. Readers of journals don't, shouldn't, read them expecting to find precision or brevity. They come to them for - or find - all the murk and beauty of the human mind, in its higgledy-piggledyness. This, I hope readers of journals remember, is not the person the journal-writer is: what would an ubermicroscopic examination of the self yield but a distortion? Neither does it detract from the writer's "major"ness or skill.

My opinion may alter radically once I actually read Plath's journals. As of now, I find the designation "piranha voice" for Plath's journal voice a wee bit unjustifiable. You see, I know. I know I can, too, obsess endlessly endlessly about things big and small.

***

This book, borrowed and read in college, was what got me to take my "diaries" seriously.

***

Just finished reading Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang by Joyce Carol Oates and found it truly fabulous.

After ages a book I read at one go not piecemeal five minutes snatched before bed or driving.