Monday, April 30, 2012

Nagphani. And that steep incline to the top, after the level, walk-in-the-park bit… That thudding-heart clambering about on rocks and climbing on, ever upwards till that steep rock face with no toe-holds and no-shrubs-to-hold-for-dear-life incline Perhaps it was the slope of the treadmill or its speed, but while the doc continued to make polite conversation, the machine hummed and the probes recorded, that’s what I thought of. That stress test was neat, no fuss.

I’m delighted to announce publication of a short story, Brittle, in Them Pretentious Basterds, a smart, cool magazine out of Chennai. The artwork is amazing.

(See page 45)


Other people, other places

Slices of memory, wisps really, that seep through the indifference of an ordinary existence. Sentences remain, disjointed, or the memory of a look, and add color to the arc of a life lived, somewhat. Sentences of unexpected concern permeate the thick cloak of an everyday-thick skin that one sheathes oneself in, the better to do battle with the contingencies of the day, and reminds one of the kindness that we bring to our transactions merely by being human.

Years later, these lines reach out of the ether and pour the salve of kindness and understanding on wounds that may otherwise remain raw lifelong.

The high school teacher, rumored to be from an old Chicago family, who’d brought life to history in small town India. Else all kings would have built roads and planted trees and had wells dug for travelers.

That sub-zero day in DC, and that tall lady in afro hairdo who’d taken pity on my shivering self, the trail of moisture from my eyes, and said, “ Your stole’s about falling off, dear.” Its been eight years, and yes, I remember. And its her I remember when I think of the US, and not the slights at check in.

That wizened tribal who’d offered us a hand up, that day that we’d gone to remote Amboli in a rattling, empty state transport bus. She’d almost lifted the parent and helped him alight.

Amazing what stays alive in this storehouse of memories.

The kindness of strangers on the writing circuit, sheer goodness that goes way beyond the scale. Rob of six sentences was the first to give me a break, my sentences terse and staccato, and strung along on a bonanza of commas. But his acceptances had helped me gather up and put together scattered parts of myself. A few lifetimes may not suffice to thank MS, who like an angel from some scripture, had stepped forth to direct me to the IWW that day in 2006. Yes, it has been as long..

And the generosity of strangers on IWW, strangers who’ve become closer than family in some ways.

How do you even begin to thank them?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Once upon a time, my neighborhood’s maze of buildings, shanty-towns and glitzy hi-rises was a jumble of forest, tiny velvet fields tucked in by an ancient Buddhist shrine. A story, *A Kondivita Girl*, featuring a puzzled ghost, won a prize and was published in *The Mahakali Voice*.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

My portfolio is on tumbhi!

Go read. If you've read, then re-read. And so on.
“Perhaps its me.” All this time the man would talk some and switch off, talk some and yes, you get the drift-- connect and walk away, this over YEARS—and all the time I’d keep wondering what happened, what I’d said wrong, and then I’d go on living my life. My reticence and thankfully traditional 17th C mores kept me out of any nonsense. Of course there were tears, and much beating of chest, I was an emotional idiot those days. Now I’m the cynical bitch (and loving it).

NOW I’ve learnt what

The man is a CYCLER.

Yes, a bipolar, MDP.

Explains so damn much.

Monday, April 23, 2012

So where do you step in. Should you even step in, people resolve their own karmic paths, their own journeys, life lessons, and all that. Not to discount the ego-build up brownie points, that do-gooder pat on the back, which creeps in automatically, can’t miss those red flags of I, I I…. The new lady who cleans the washroom had lost her husband in a nasty road accident a year ago, the kids are pretty useless and the family distant, as it sometimes is. So where do you step in, if at all--do you? A note or two passed wouldn’t make much of a difference to me, but might help her. Usually by conscious effort I try hard to stay uninvolved, preferring people to sort out whatever they have to, would helping interfere with a path of repair and learning that is already on?

I wish I knew.

I wish I didn’t remember what kick-in-the-gut grief feels like, every time I see her

Friday, April 20, 2012

Trees laden with yellow cassia
laburnum trembling awake
To birdsong
And someday perhaps I shall write of these
In happy, complete and content stories,
plump and placid with ever-afters.

Until then I find delight
In giving shape to
The sly and crafty, shrewd and cunning,
Shortcut prone, gritty underside
The city trembles when they walk.
Women with rich pasts and edgy tempers
And smiles like steel
Stories that waft in with the wind.

much as you’d like to believe otherwise
When I dot my I’s and cross them t’s
Tis with glee, at least, or a smile.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An underworld-inspired story, A Day of Silent Prayers, is now published on Pure Slush

It is your birthday today. April 17.

I shall do all the usual things one does on birthdays.

Then I shall stare at the skies.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Yesterday I’d dug deep, googling an author who was a very distant name (my stepma’s grandfather) and I’d almost fallen off the settee. The accomplishments were awe inspiring, numbing, even a hundred years after- Bar-at-law, fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society, reference works that are perused even now. Yet, the immediate family, his third and fourth generation descendants, does not quite give a damn. Got me thinking about legacies, particularly of the written word. And lineages that go beyond the geneline.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Delighted to announce publication of a poem, Spring, on 7 beats.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

So little time to the day. And there are personal commitments I will NOT cut down on. I will walk. I will cook. I will write even if its scraggly. Work is not too easy, not too tough, requires I keep up with a barrage of information, just keep moving. Personal time is limited—very. Just realised that it is personal ENERGY that is limited. Must be very careful about who and what I invest that energy in. If I spend 1.5 hours in front of the idiot box staring at a Balaji story that really is my problem. If I tell bai that locking someone’s keys inside their house and running around to hunt and find the keys was a result of her perpetual hurry—but I frown about this all day, then that energy drain is MY problem.  Why should I play any part, however reluctant, in anyone’s life dramas? Tumhara natak, tum sambhalo. If I fritter away energy, where will I find the time to invest it, direct it?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Link OD

Chanced upon a dream home in kota stone and white. Perfect for dry hot cities (like back home), where temperatures are above 40 degrees C most times and above 47 C a few months.

Loved the way they’ve used stone, light and splashes of color.

The AT small cool entries are drool-worthy…

“Wish-I-had-written-that” envy at the tumbhi shortlisters, specially Vibha Batra’s The Survivor. Perfectly crafted.

Friday, April 06, 2012

There is a time for all seasons....

What a googly life throws at you sometimes.

You can butt your head against the wall, and to no avail.

And then be surprised out of the blue.

I wish I could've told you.

But I shouted to the skies anyway.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Today I tracked down the closest bank branch where they’d do a Western Union transfer, and collected $50 (or Rs.2482, to be precise), but how rich does every pence feel when its for your writing.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Bai’s son has flunked his 9th standard. Yet again. Bai slogs at 5 homes, an endless round of “top work” chores, stretches her limited salary and pushes her sons to an English medium school and tuitions. The vagabonds skip classes and play marbles or whatever is the equivalent thereof. Her eldest, a driver with some travel agency, took his boss’s car on a midnight spin with his coterie, crashed the car, and the lady slogged to repair and return the car to its owner to avoid a police case. For a calamity, any of the memsahibs would have helped, but who wants to throw money at a lost cause, the boy is a scoundrel? Of course it is not the son’s fault, he is good, his friends made him do it. Why does she not make the 9th class–in-limbo a wireman or an electrician or plumber instead? No, he must clear his tenth boards and he must go to college come what may.

One can take a horse to the water but one cannot make him drink, as Baba used to say.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Had I known installing plants on that tiny window ledge was going to be as inspiring, evoke a sense of ownership and yes, contentment, I’d have done that long ago.

In the shanty town these days there seems to be a season of nonstop recital of the Ramcharitmanas.

Yesterday from 4 till ten I visited two worlds. Negotiated a single person-only, winding alley in a shanty town to reach a friend’s engagement ceremony. Later, dined in understated opulence elsewhere, making polite talk, calculating the manhours it would take to keep the environs as pure and pristine white.