Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I like my pages properly laid out.
The font crisp and black.
Proper margins. Decent, white paper.Space to spare.
Even if its a paperback.
Especially if its a paperback. And the only book I’ll buy this year.
For the rest I have footpath sales, traffic signal sales.
I like the book to be bound perfectly.
And the edges to be perpendicular—not somewhat sloping.
Specially if I pay my scarce dollars and its fifty rupees to a dollar.
No thank you, Amazon—my book reached me ok but I’m disappointed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The distant thud of fireworks predawn. The strains of the distant prabhat pheri.A tree stands tall against the glorious sun. Am reminded of Hemkund sahib, a placid pool amidst seven mountains. Maybe some day, or some lifetime. Rabba lakh lakh shukar manava...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Since Sundays are the busiest day of the week, and since I try spend every minute like a miser at his money-- I found a timeslot I could use better, the post nap 3 to 5 slot. I also find myself stepping away from energy drains, negativity, politeness be damned. Y’day I walked out of a reception after fifteen minutes of kitsch.

Yatarth Ratnum, Shreyasi, Hemant.Each of them outstanding.Winners. What tremendous voices, trained too. Using sms to pick one is silly. (Zee saregama lill champs)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Why should I care what you think? Or not? Why do these lines from Shatranj ke mohrey ring true even after all these years- who decides that a pawn on the chessboard must move exactly x steps left or that a horse cannot? What if the pawn says – here- I’ll do as I please and you may lump it? No-- I don’t know either, I'm indulging in rudeness when I please and I’m getting there.

Tremendously bland days, working at work and squeezing in the time reworking text one has reworked a hundred times before. Losing patience with oneself. Ugly.Yes, in your own mind, you know when something is completely off, where its not working. Unbiased input from a fearless, clear-sighted soul only helps confirm what you already know but wish you did not. Grit teeth and back to the storyboard.

Even so, the day holds surprises, the dawn sky an English peach buffered by blue with high clouds this morning; and last night that candle-lit procession- statue, crystal clear hymn and all. Captivating – maybe because it was unexpected. How the mind craves that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Watching the traditional dress competition on Friday evening as a judge, I learn that when everything else is a given- everyone had decked up- the winners are different, in a class apart. They carry the audience with them, they had a skill to display- a song or a impromptu garba step and that took the audience’s heart and mind.

On Saturday, at the traditional Diwali puja at work loved the calm of the prayers, the chants of the lalitasahastranam as they washed over me. Returned home with a copy of Gandhiji’s autobiography, courtesy of one of the big bosses’ relatives who now is devoted to propagating the Gandhian way of life. Wealth and Bapuji- a paradox!

Sunday was a blank day- the Indian calendar is fill of surprises that way-but we ended up wishing everyone for the new year – a full day in advance.

At Bandra seaface, at the Carter Road promenade even as the palms shimmered in the lamplight and the sea turned black, got talking to a stranger we shared the bench with- an old man past 80. His father had been a Gandhian, stayed at Wardha ashram 1937-1944 and set up a ladies school and college in Karachi pre-partition. It was quite an honor to hear about the greats- Gandhiji, V Bhave, Nehruji, BG Kher, Pyarelalji, Mahadevbhai. This man was a kid of ten and collected stamps so he had a chance to meet the greats, plus he had free run of the premises where the Congress Working Committee meetings were held. Of particular interest was his request to Mr Nehru for an article on J Bajaj for the anniv issue of the kids magazine- a magazine that was put together on handmade paper- and Mr Nehru’s hasty, scowled, scribbling of an autograph in reply, apparently he had been interrupted in one of his famous tempers/ moods. But this ten- year old stood his ground, asked for an article for the special issue and that was that. After partition, he’d begun working in Bombay, but got so disgusted with the compromises expected that he lived the next forty years in the US. In listening to this person- Mr Gulrajani, the sunset and evening lost out on grandeur.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy Diwali!

And a prosperous new year, resplendent with riches however you define them...

above: Chopda pujan, the prayers to the books of accounts.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I will have a short story in the Celebrate Bandra souvenir that Caferati is putting together, after an open call for entries. This is one among two stories selected for print.

I remember that time in 2006 when my sub had got trashed for a book that Caferati had compiled. I got a well-deserved four marks out of 25 or some such.

No prize- the prizes went to essays and poems, but that’s fine.
I got my prize.

TY, Internet Writing Workshop.
TY, Mister God.

Monday, October 12, 2009

At the final pages of Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair.
Finally. Just as dazed.
Before this, I was comfortable in my skin. Before this.
Akhila’s story. Akhilandeswari’s story.
Possibly, the story of every single (as in unmarried, unattached) forty-five year old woman who lives in India.
At one level, this is the tale of six women—strangers who are co-travellers in a second class ladies compartment.
At one level, its not.

I read the words in italics before the start of her story; the blood in my veins congeals. Mirror image, mine. I read on, and it is as if someone cut through my veins with a sharp knife.

How did she know what if feels like? How did she know all this, this staying at the edges, unwelcome, this wary distrust that every breach of confidence adds to, this brittle sense of appearances? About being cast away, anchorless, till you find your will, your personal North to navigate by, and know that you are your own savior?

How does she know all this? How did she manage to think up these characters? Now, to write like one is, is pretty easy; but to write like one is not- oh la! Whether it is the fragile-as-a-piece-of-glass housewife Janaki, who at sixty-something clambers for a voice to call her own, or the lower strata tamil help Marikonlathu who talks with ease of a lifetime sweeping and mopping, always taking care to stay away from the wandering eye—how did she manage this, this authenticity?

The writing is Indian as the story is, it is fluid and effortless but above all it is unabashedly Indian, there is the music of the land in its cadences. It is difficult to put this into a genre, if this is a romance then it is a romance with oneself.

Awesome work.

Update: for all the languid beauty of the rest of the text, the ending is a whopper. Perhaps deadlines or market forces wormed in their influence. Not because her transformation into Scarlet O’Hara is sudden or disconcerting, but Akhila’s behavior is way off the golden mean that runs like a thread in the rest of this work.
No, something’s off here, and the reader is left askance, adrift.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Walking through the unfamiliar-- the crowded, twisting and turning lanes of Kalbadevi, Bhuleshwar in inner city Mumbai on Saturday.

Enroute to Mumbadevi temple. Mumbadevi, the patron Goddess of this megacity of Mumbai. The second time in eleven years.

Past the squashed buildings, crunched for space. Tumbledown builidings.Stately is hard to find. New construction dots the skyline here, too.
Ornate building entrances with grand archways, glimpses of dilapidated homes.
Single roo
m homes in crowded apartments that still bear fancy grills, remnants of another age.
Past so many temples. So many.
Raja so- and so- built this temple. These lanes must then have been too narrow for a hansom, did he walk here?

What a strange thought- My forefathers must have walked these very same roads. They must have jostled past these crowds, prayed here too.
Naav nadi sanjog- as the line from the song goes.
Fate- destiny- happenstance.


Maihar band. Baba Ustad Allaudin Khan sahib’s famous Maihar Band (and I touch my ears).
The only orchestra to play classical music in the Hindustani tradition.
The Hindustani system favors individual dexterity and freedom in the exploration of the notes of a raga… but for an orchestra?!
They performed at Bhavan’s Cultural Center, even as dusk fell and a quiet took over the setting. A lake lined by lights. By mango trees decked in green lights. By the palms swaying in lilt. And rain clouds that rumbled overhead…
Swaranjali. Kirwani. Shyam kalyan.
A complete orchestra- from jaltarang, sitar to flute and cello..
What dexterity and co-ordination.
Imagine taking tans and alaaps with every single of the ten performers not missing a beat.
What attention, what restraint and practice must this require! Bravo!
Later, a virtuoso Pandit Basant Kabra performed on the sarod, a lilting desh,
But my mind was trying to recollect and grasp the notes of the desh bandish we had learnt long long ago.
I could not remember, for all my trying—and I never forget words, never…

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Another Oct 4th.
The skies are overcast.
Moisture rolls off the rubber leaves and chandni.
Wet cobblestones reflect the whole wide sky.
In peace.