Anindita Sengupta

Mother Tongue – The Bangalore Review

Very pleased that my poem Mother Tongue is now up at The Bangalore Review. Check it out when you can! And because the link doesn’t show up on the front page thanks to weird blog design, here it is for you to copy-paste in your browser window: http://bangalorereview.com/2016/11/mother-tongue/ Or you can click into the post and click on from there….

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Tales and Poems of the Feminine Divine

A poem of mine, ‘Shakti’ which is also in City of Water, is in a new anthology published by Bibliotheca Alexandrina which is a library and cultural center in Alexandria, Egypt. Anat, Ereshkigal, Artemis, Juno, Venus, Bast, Seshat, Brigid, Arduinna, Freyja, Hel, Yemaya, Mawu, Pele, Ix Chel, Kuan Yin, Tara, Sarasvati, Kali. Goddesses were, and still…

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The Lake

Two poems went up at The Lake in August. (http://www.thelakepoetry.co.uk/poetry-archive/august16a/)

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Canyons & gardens – ii

I thought this was a Speckled Skink at first then found that’s not so common in California. They’re natives of New Zealand. Turns out juveniles of the Alligator Lizard are mistaken as Skinks. So a baby Alligator Lizard then? There’s a bunch of fascinating reptiles on this site and I spent my morning teatime staring at them. Which…

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Canyons & gardens – i

July was full of walks.  At Solstice Canyon, the sun was harsh but a couple of easy walks took us into shade and toward un-scorched plants. The canyon is in Malibu, just off the coast and it’s a short walk to the ocean which means it has coastal vegetation alongside other types. Here’s a Japanese…

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June

I’ve been back in Los Angeles for less than a week and it’s a been a hard week for the US, and for the world, a terrible week. Blood and guns, all that is wrong with this country. Despite this, and between jet lag and the exhausted relief of return (however transient), at the personal level,…

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despatch

I read at a gathering organized by Poetry Couture alongside Smeetha Bhowmick and others at Kulture Shop in Bandra, Mumbai. We were the featured poets before an open mic session.  The audience and energy were fantastic. The folks at Poetry Couture are organized, professional, and lovely. They gave Smeetha and me a generous amount of time each. They seemed genuinely happy to…

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Context of Cultures: High and Low

On Edward Hall’s Context of Cultures: High and Low which basically classifies societies on the basis of interaction, communication, relationships. High-context cultures tend to rely more on context: references, old relationships, community. A lot is unsaid. What is said is flowery, indirect.  Low-context cultures have open, direct communications, based on specific rules that are accessible to everyone. Commonly,…

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Waylaid

by jet lag and memory — the calibration of it. I’ve lived in Bombay twice, once for 21 years as a child, teen, young person; and once when I was pregnant and for the first two years of Amaya’s life. I left unhappily, both times, went to emotional lack and ill health. Bombay thus became that…

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March 5 is difficult

because it was my dad’s birthday, birth anniversary — the latter a term I don’t understand — anyway, it used to be, many aeons ago before he died at 56 of lung cancer — his birthday. He never celebrated it. He disliked us fussing about it and barely tolerated a birthday wish. As he grew older, he mellowed and…

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The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles

From the weekend

We’re in the last stretch of wrapping up now, which is strange because we’re not actually wrapping up. Because we are applying for two different visas, the chances of something working out are not insignificant. We’re leaving everything as is, mostly. We stopped buying plants some time back but I transplanted the Poinsettia we got for…

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Finishing

Some things, I dislike finishing. Dislike is the wrong word. I’m wary of. Finishing is so final—the end of tinkering means the end of power. I finally finished a crochet toddler blanket, which is to say I wove in the ends. It was really done for weeks but I couldn’t bring myself to ‘finish’. I typically betray/suspend pieces right before they’re complete,…

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A poem in One

Issue 8 of One is out and a poem of mine ‘Monsters’ is in it. You can read it here: One – It’s been a quiet, frustrating week in other ways. I’ve been distracted and trying to read and trying to write, and instead obsessing about limbo status, un-settlements, entertaining a four-year-old who’s got used to…

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Thoughts on letting go

1. From Ross Gay’s poem ‘to the mistake’, which is in his collection catalog of unabashed gratitude. “I am lecturing on the miracle of the mistake in a poem that hiccup or weird gift that spirals or jettisons what’s dull and land-locked into as yet untraversed i.e. cosmic” This made me think of wabi sabi. “Wabi sabi…

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It has been raining

and the garden is all wet. I woke to the sound of the lawnmower–or what I thought was the lawnmower–and struggled up, horrified. Louis who wields the machine is not mindful of spinach seedlings or fledgeling succulents. Louis is too busy to be so mindful of every step he takes. So I like to take out…

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Wildflowers in Death Valley

In the desert, we don’t know our names

It’s been eventful. We went to Death Valley and I was suitably overwhelmed by the salt, wildflowers, snow, sand and ‘lowness’ of the place. Death Valley is below sea-level and the sense of constantly traveling on land that once wasn’t land hung over me as we traveled across the miles of it. Lots has been said about…

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Transplants, Essays

A lovely short essay by David L. Ulin on the California Incline here: Transplants have to stay somewhere for a while to make it theirs. For me, the Incline has become a shabby-chic monument to this idea. Now it is closed for reconstruction, and I worry about what will be left when work is done….

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Infinite loop

A fractal is a complex and infinite pattern that repeats itself over and over. According to fractalfoundation.org, fractal patterns surround us, in nature. Trees, rivers, coastlines, mountains, clouds, seashells, hurricanes, all fractals. A screenplay is a fractal or can be written as one. From Scriptwrangler.blogspot.com: “The overall three-act structure resonates like a crystal. Its structure is…

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Where I live now

Driving into a freeway is like diving—the roar in my ears, a sense of being submerged, almost drowning, and somehow, I’ve surfaced onto the right lane. I coast along, buffeted by a force greater than me, like wind, the collective will of people wanting to get somewhere. The 110 or Pasadena Freeway is also called the…

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Voices Against Violence

For Mumbai folks, I’m speaking / reading (more reading than speaking) on Friday at the Press Club. Do come by. Here’s the official invite: VOICES AGAINST VIOLENCE Culture Beat of the Mumbai Press Club in association with 100 Thousand Poets for Change invites you to readings and a discussion on the issue of Violence Against…

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City of cats

Because there is so much fish, I suppose, being bought and sold in heaps, glistening on slabs and counter tops, and stinking in piles on the side of the road.  

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Postpartum

Identity What can I say about the first few months that hasn’t been said before? With that disclaimer out of the way, let me go on to say, yes, it’s tremendous — exhilarating, terrifying, painful, messy, joyous, heartbreaking. Everything looks more beautiful, dangerous, fragile. Everything is delicate. There has been a fair amount of panic…

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Then there were two

Three poems in two new anthologies — The Harper Collins Book of Indian Poetry and The Yellow Nib, Modern English Poetry by Indians published by The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Queen’s University, Belfast. You can order the Harper Collins anthology here.  

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Blessing

“I turn my blessings like photographs into the light…” ~ Jane Hirschfield, Not Yet Amaya Sengupta (b. 30 April 2012)

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Quite contrary

It’s been a wet, rainy, miserable day. All day, my plants were swimming in too much water and every time I went out, water from someone’s balcony drip pipe leaked onto my head so I thought it would be the perfect time to update the blog which has pretty much been asleep these last few…

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Lets plant trees

For parents who want their kids to grow up tree-friendly, here’s something interesting. Lets plant trees is a picture book that comes with seeds.  

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The privacy of mountains

“Day and night, the lake dreams of sky. A privacy as old as the mountains And her up there, stuck among peaks.” ~ Sophie Cabot Black, The Lake May was full of rain. I left for Kolkata at the beginning of the month. There were a few hectic, hot days during which I spent time…

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Food

I’m looking at Madhu Menon’s Food Photography. This guy makes me feel interested in food in a deep sort of way and I’m not really a foodie. I mean I like different sorts of food but I can rarely eat a lot and this apparently disqualifies me. (I’m told this by good friends who are disappointed…

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Fonts & flowers

On handwriting and fonts, Nell Boechenstein at The Millions: Pens are often considered a fetish item of neurotics with disposable income, but a Mont Blanc sensibility is not my point. Despite being reliably cash-poor, writer-types are often as particular about their pens as they are about their fonts. (When Helvetica—the trend, the font, the film, the…

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Friending nobody

There is a scene in The Social Network in which the young Mark Zuckerberg, jilted and drunk, invents a program called Facemash that allows boys to rate Harvard girls, two at a time. The program, conceived in a moment of rage and hate, is as malicious and misogynistic as one can imagine. This was the…

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Why all the silence

There is a village called Heggodu in central Karnataka, and a miraculous place called Ninasam there. I don’t want to get into why it’s miraculous but if you read the news story I’ve linked to, you’ll understand. Anyway, that’s where I was in the first part of this month. Ninasam’s annual shibeera (camp) brings together…

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Pigeons at the library

I know a lot of people who dislike pigeons. Pigeons don’t have the prettiness of sparrows, the panache of ravens, or even the defiance of crows. They build nests in people’s houses, make unappealing moaning-grumbling sounds and shit an awful lot.  Some of my eeriest childhood memories involve the bathroom loft and pigeons. One summer…

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Write like a man

…is what I do. According to two different web programmes that supposedly deduce your gender from the way you write. I submitted a blog post and the results were quite unabashedly male. I’ve been thinking about this because I have to review Interior Decoration which is an anthology of poetry by Indian women. It makes…

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Flânerie: Manikyavelu Mansion

The National Gallery of Modern Art in Bangalore (or Manikyavelu Mansion as I think of it) is one of my favourite places in the city for some obvious reasons — art, trees, a building made for stories. I was there again about a week ago, noticing the way things are framed: the building by trees,…

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The Launch

So, I wore pink. I had planned to wear black but an ironing disaster got in the way. Maybe it was a good thing because the book is black and white and it would have looked like I don’t know any other colours. The launch went as launches go–I read for about half an hour….

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Boland on Poetic Dilemma

I’ve been reading Poetry in Theory, which is an anthology of essays by poets and philosophers written between 1900 and 2000 and today, I read Eavan Boland’s essay The Woman Poet: Her Dilemma. She talks about how the Irish woman poet had to fight multiple ‘force fields’ every time she sat down to write–‘romantic heresy’…

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Leaving, comfort zones, duck

Last days in Canterbury. The sky holds its light longer each day. These last months have been both rewarding and freeing. I had burrowed into a rut and I’ve been breaking out of it, I think. It’s all the time and the poetry, the solitude, the detachment from currents. I did a reading of my…

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Rambling, Riverside, Etc

I thought this was going to be another ‘linking’ post but it turned into something else. Which is reassuring because it means I’m becoming less lazy as it gets warmer. I’m on the last leg of my stay in Canterbury and feeling a bit reflective. It’s been particularly interesting because it’s my first time living…

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Poem up

My poem ‘The City of Water’ is now up at Unsplendid, an online journal of received and nonce forms. It’s a sestina. Do read if you’re interested in that kind of thing. That kind of thing being poetry, sestinas, etc. * My computer was down for six days and I suffered. I had to use computers…

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Harbour

Last Monday, I finally went to Whitstable which is only a few miles away. No excuses for not visiting earlier except that I was waiting for it to be less cold. I visited the beachfront first which is so very different from the ones back home. The sea looks serene and in the distance, there…

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The Seductive Snowball

Given my current situation (and seductions) in life, I thought this was appropriate. It’s been a month since I got to England and barring one week of illness and a few days of being snowed in, it’s been exciting. Actually, the illness and the being snowed in were probably useful because I got some work…

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The Book

So yes, City of Water is out. It’s my first collection of poems and do write to me if you’re interested in a copy. Or you could look for it in the Sahitya Akademi shop in your city. Under the matter-of-fact tone, there’s a swell in my throat. It could be happiness and not the…

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On abortion and mental illness

Jennie Bristow on abortion and mental illness: The glib assumption that life’s difficulties lead directly to mental illness is a problem on two main fronts. Firstly, it simplifies this extremely complex field, and thereby acts as a barrier to understanding specific cases of mental illness, diverting expertise and resources away from those who need them….

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Padel, Thematic, Cathedral

There was an element of theatre in Ruth Padel’s reading of her poems. Not only did she bring alive the narrative charge of her poems but she also did different voices for the characters in her poems, usually Darwin or his wife since she was mostly reading from Darwin: A Life in Poems. The book…

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Critique, Cruelty

Some time back, a Facebook friend posted a link to the Poetry Foundation article on the decade in poetry and commented that it should have been called a decade in American poetry since it didn’t reflect British or Irish poetry. Or Indian or African or Caribbean, I pointed out feeling a little miffed, perhaps unjustly…

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Ostrich, Resolution

Revisit notions of beauty and ugliness–all notions, actually–plus get my head out of the sand and not plunge it back there again. This is the closest I’m going to come to a new year resolution. Of sorts (, out of sorts). Last year, it was consistency and balance and I’m happy to reminisce that I’ve…

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Cheer

So we are continuing with the cheer. Look, I even changed to a Christmassy theme! I thought this was nice, sort of subtle, unlike the ones which had holly all over them. I heart WordPress more and more for making it so easy to change look. I dabbled in web design a few years back,…

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In the spirit of the season

…I’ve changed back to the camel theme which is cheery (I think) and plan to deal only in happy stuff for a while. Wait, that might mean I have nothing to write about. But we shall take that risk. Next month I leave for Canterbury where for three months I will be reading, writing, walking…

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Bhopal: 25 years

The toxic seethes. Lip wound, split bone and the blood brays at noon. A tourist walks in, opens his mouth. Like a snake swallowing frog, he can devour history whole. The children are patient as gods, watching grey noise up red, listening to metal innards clink through the night, shrill kingdoms of sound. They stitch…

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Postcards from Amritsar: Golden Temple

This is at one remove–a substitute For final answers. But the wise man knows To cleave to the one living absolute Beyond paraphrase, and shun a shrewd repose. ~ Derek Mahon, Preface to a Love Poem Impossible to look directly into another’s eyes. Impossible to look into your own. You read the dense book of…

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Postcards from Amritsar: Durgiana

The entry is the usual narrow lane crammed with shops selling kadas, rudraksha necklaces, brass artifacts, flowers, garlands, sweets. Jumbles of colour. Women haggling over fake gold rings. Boys clanging dekchi lids. Frothy lassi being poured into glasses. The lane opens out suddenly into a temple compound, a clear white space. Neat counters where you…

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Punjab road trip

There were fields, lots of them; fields yellow with mustard flowers very reminiscent of the movies, fields burning in neat squares of orange flames. Also trees, roadside markets, men sitting on charpoys, men sleeping at bus stops, funny film posters, and a ridiculous number of shops selling ‘English Wine and Beer’. As opposed to ‘desi’…

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Stray (un)poem 1

Swim across this strip of sea. After all, what separates us is brief as an eyelash– only continent, only colour, only language, and a zone marked by the thin, thin fingers of a clock.

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Notes from Patiala (2): poets & poetry

Besides the talks on writing and feminism, we also had poetry readings. Because poets must, after all, do what they do best. And making speeches is not it. Highlights: Tamil poet Salma. There were many in the audience not paying attention because of the unfamiliarity of the language but they sat up when Swarnjit Savi,…

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Notes from Patiala: androgyny, social engagement, feminism

I’m back from the Sahitya Akademi Women Writers Conference in Patiala. It was one-and-a-half days of frenetic talk and poetry with about 50 women from 21 states descending on the gorgeous and formidably well-maintained campus of Punjabi University. The opening speech by Sukrita Paul Kumar was far more interesting than one expects keynote-type speeches to…

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Home is an odd place in the head

I’ve been thinking about the intense, complex energies of South Africa which were spectacularly on display at the festival. What I found most fascinating about Poetry Africa was the diversity of the types of poetry, which ranged from rap / slam to poetry with music and quieter ‘page’ poetry. It was interesting because the old…

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Hello my lovely people

I’m back and still reluctant to sink into regular life. How wonderful it would be if life was a poetry festival! But then, anything permanent loses charm, I suppose. Anyway, longer posts about Poetry Africa and Kruger National Park coming up soon but in the meantime, two bits of news that made me happy as…

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Bits and pieces

I’ve moved and almost settled in. In other words, my Internet connection is done but not all the pictures are up and the eager gardener who bounced up to the door to ask for the job, never showed up after that. Oh well. The good news is that my reading at the Sahitya Akademi Translators’…

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Lightness

I’m often asked why I prefer to rent rather than buy (especially in these times when the real estate market is low) and I always find myself making up mealy-mouthed excuses. But the truth is it’s because I like the freedom of renting. I like the fact that we can get up and move any…

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Interim

The weekend was full and exciting but I’ve been a bit sick for the last two days and relaxing with Neil Gaiman (have almost finished the Sandman series), and reading poetry. Also tried to get into Stephen King’s Dark Tower series but couldn’t. I’m a fan of good horror and have enjoyed quite a few…

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The Nizam’s Wives

Kuffir has very kindly translated my poem ‘The Nizam’s Wives’ into Telugu. Sadly, I can’t read the language but for those who can, it’s here at his blog Fakeeram. And here is the original: The Nizam’s Wives Four girls in brocade, tussar and stiff smiles, the slow stranglehold of gold on their hands, necks, faces….

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The women’s poetry question. Again.

I thought Courtney Queeney’s essay ‘The Kings Are Boring: Some Thoughts on Women’s Poetry’ was a confused, rambling piece, unsure of what it wanted to say. There are two questions here — ‘women’s poetry’ which would refer to a vast body of work written by numerous women from across the world, presumably quite different from…

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August already, and on my mind

Hiroshima anniversary. Bombs in general, actually. Coincidentally, I saw this production of Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen over the weekend. I liked the play (and the performance) and it took me back to poems on bombs including Yehuda Amichai’s ‘Diameter of the Bomb’ which I’ve posted earlier. Also, a few days back The Guardian featured war poetry…

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Landslides, bus rides and the sea

July’s been terribly hectic, in terms of actual activity as well as inner shifts, and the blogging always suffers at such times. First there was the very rushed, very rainy trip to Goa. For once (oh irony!), I actually managed to fall asleep on the train, only to be woken up at 8 am and…

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A severed head and other things

On the surface, Iris Murdoch’s A Severed Head is about a bunch of tangled relationships. At the centre is Martin Lynch-Gibbon, a man who’s comically deluded about a vast number of things in his life. He’s sleeping with smart and sexy Georgie, a young academic who pretends to be much freer and easy-going than she…

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Poems

Four of my poems are in the latest issue (pdf) of Origami Condom. You’ll have to scroll down quite a bit for the poems. I’m republishing two of them here: Desire.15. Intensity had its failings that summer. We clambered over cartons in the store-room, stumbled in semi-light. Your fingers played at ineptitude. I act like…

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RIP

K, a dear friend and someone I knew for ten years and across two cities, died of a heart attack last week. He was in his early thirties. Apart from the usual grief and sudden awareness of mortality, there was a lot of guilt to deal with. K and I had a falling out some…

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Nth Position

Just a quick note to say that the latest issue of Nth Position is up and two of my poems, ‘Separation’ and ‘Speaking in Tongues’ are in it. Do read. I haven’t been submitting too much recently, mainly because I got busy with my first collection. So I’m glad to see these somewhere other than…

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Sky

Sankey Tank is rather pretty if one can forget about the crowds and look at other things.

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Okay, one more word

…on this whole Oxford Poetry fiasco, and then I’ll stop (or maybe, not). But apparently our nominee AK Mehrotra had this to say: “From India where I live, these extra-literary goings-on appear more unfortunate than amusing. I hope that some lessons are learnt from this, not least that the private lives of poets should, occasionally,…

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Kreativ Bling

Just when I was wondering what on earth to blog about, I got this new, shiny thing from Aditi. Tada…! This means I get to devote one post to entirely pointless, self-indulgent revealings. Because see, according to the rules, I have to list seven things I love and award seven bloggers I love. So here…

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Walcott

The poetosphere has been abuzz with news about Derek Walcott’s dropping out of the Oxford Poetry Professor race because according to The Guardian, a  “100 academics mailed organizers missives an 1982 allegation of sexual harassment leveled against the poet.” Some poets posted notes about this on Facebook as well and some of the comments were…

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And related thoughts

One of the challenges of writing for a foreign media product is that context-setting eats up a lot of words  and one has less space for actual opinion. So here are some related thoughts. Before writing this, I asked a whole bunch of urban, educated women whether they had taken gender issues into consideration while…

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On booing

Should audiences refrain from booing? Etiquette is not, these days, a growth industry. The Internet is inundated with bile in the name of free expression. Television reality shows encourage a thumbs-up, thumbs-down mentality. The allure of instantaneous reaction makes Twitter the talk of the town. Meanwhile, the economic meltdown is melting down manners: More than…

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Distractions

Fairy Tales and Legends at this year’s World Sand Sculpture Festival. India’s there too. But my favourite is Gulliver. I love how they’ve managed to make his face so expressive. *** Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Nayara Noor with ‘Aaj Bazaar Mein’. *** And the World Digital Library recently went online, which “makes available on the…

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Summer Things

I’ve been in a sea-craving blue funk lately. I’m sure it’s ridiculous but there are times when I feel physically claustrophobic because I’m eight hours inland. Anyway all my moaning and bitching will find reprieve over the long weekend when we drive down to Pondicherry. Cheered by the thought, I’m able to appreciate Bangalore for…

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‘So that you will hear me’

April is turning out to be a dizzying whirl of a month. My trusty ThinkPad which saw me through many good times (and some really bad ones) faltered to an end last week — it was already a specialist in slowness but additionally, the screen hazed over and the adapter stopped working. I bought a…

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Firaaq

I saw it last week and thought it was very good. Some loose notes (may contain spoilers): – I like that there is very little gore in the movie. Riots have been done so often in movies that many of the images have come to be, awful as this may sound, hackneyed. The screaming mobs,…

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On hair and other things

It’s still hanging over our heads: the neat hair argument. I remember when the hair-straightening craze started a few years back, I felt increasingly uncomfortable with my hair which is wavy and temperamental, the opposite of neat. (No silky waterfalls here.) It was all those adverts. Plus the nuns I grew up with had drummed…

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Poetry Notebook

Over at The Guardian, they’ve started a new series of collaborations between poets and photographers. Poems and photographs being among my favourite things, I was quite excited. But gah. I think the poem might work okay on its own but the photographs are so hopelessly literal, so dull, that they sucked all joy out of…

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The obligatory post

I love Rahman. I’ve loved him ever since I was a little girl and first heard his music in Roja. I am very happy that he won the Oscar. I would have been happier if he had won it for his best work (which Slumdog certainly isn’t) and if it didn’t take a white man’s…

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Coorg diary (iii) or the most serious thing

Not snow geese, these. But beautiful all the same. Or at least, i think so. I’ve always liked geese despite their honking and their ill reputation as silly creatures. I think it’s because of ‘the ugly duckling’, one of my favourite fairy tale characters when i was little. Anyway, these were pets at one of…

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Wicked joy

Because I’m in a book which also has Sharon Olds and Margaret Atwood. The book is Not A Muse, an anthology edited by Kate Rogers and Viki Holmes and published by Haven Books. Three of my poems — ‘Medusa’, ‘The Kitchen God’s Mistress’ and ‘Homecoming’ — are in it. It is being launched in Hong Kong…

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Coorg diary (ii) or travelling sideways

In Kakkabe, high up on a mountain at the foot of Thadiyendamol, I meet E. Girl-woman who’s into peace and climbing peaks. I fall in love with the way she speaks — I think I keep her talking just to hear her form words. E is  from Moscow and wants to live in Nice some…

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Bring them chaddis out

It’s cool. It’s cheeky. It’s clever. I’m talking about the Pink Chaddi Campaign. Women all over the country are gathering pink chaddis and sending them to Muthalik as a Valentine’s Day present. The plan is to strike disgust in the teensy little non-heart of our chief moral guardian — and to loudly assert the fact…

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Coorg Diary (i)

As the bus rolls up a gentle incline, I stretch and shift in my seat, give up my frail attempt at sleep. It is 4 am. All night we have been traveling through small towns, the road a luminous rush outside the window, all sounds blocked by the antiseptic hum of the Volvo.  In 30…

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Rude Reality

The blogging resolution seems to have flagged already. But in my defence, I finally moved to my own domain. It’s been a bought plot lying vacant for a while so I’m feeling a real sense of achievement about this. Heh. Small pleasures. I’ve also been traveling. Last week, I was in Coorg and Kabini on…

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Keep cats

This guy has been lurking on my garden wall. He can look a little scary at times but I believe he’s harmless. Unfortunately, Dobby who believes he is the lion of the neighbourhood thinks its an invasion. So I must refrain from putting out milk, making kissing sounds or doing other things that may cause…

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Poetry with Prakriti

Poetry with Prakriti is on between the 16th and 30th of December in Chennai. I will be reading on the 20th at Vastra Kala and Goethe Institute, and on the 21st at Oxford and Apparao Gallery. I don’t know the timings yet but they’ve promised that the schedule will be up on their site soon….

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Horror and memory

Perhaps it’s time I talked about something else. But here is OJ tracing memories of her home: And that one over there was my perennial threat from Nana. “If you don’t eat like a lady, how will I take you to the Taj?” And so I fed my face like a well-trained robot lady at…

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Mumbai: random thoughts

I’ve been unable to do much all day. I’m not an obsessive television watcher and deliberately did not switch on the tv. But there’s a surfeit of information right here on the Internet and not knowing felt worse than knowing too much. Also, suddenly, a lot of other things seemed trivial: deadlines, applications, regular things….

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Darling

The tree outside is dead. Unhand me, will you? My bones melt in the heat when I go out in the afternoon sun. Look how crows have replaced the leaves. Their silent, alert eyes fix me. They have me down as someone who fails continually to understand the simple things. That water boils. That one…

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3

Chasing Cars (i)

The road glistens like fine silk, grey and silver, an old sari hung out to dry on that familiar line loping into the distance– my insatiable need for a different place. I squint at water, slide grief and hope back and forth across the smoky windshield. *** This picture was taken from inside the car…

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6

The comfort of strangers. And animals.

I was in Malaysia recently, working (well, sort of) at a golf resort in Johor and then holidaying in KL. The first part of my trip went off smoothly but the excitement started when I reached KL. A close friend who lives in KL had left the keys to her apartment for me with her…

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6

Still Life

Peach heavy on my palm. Its hard-knot, rattling heart muffled by flesh I want to pierce. Its skin soft as felt, smooth as unshaven down on bare arms, dust on butterfly wings. Its in-between colour — less than orange not quite pink, ambiguous like brown. Apples, pears and plums are cool against the cheek, but…

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4

i-magic

Here are the long overdue pictures of Pondicherry. The view from the seafront restaurant at hotel ‘The Promenade’ A Pondicherry cop waddling smartly across the street Sunlight filtering through the Big Banyan near the Matri Mandir at Auroville …and another view of the Big Banyan A bohemian restaurant and art studio called Le Space in…

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5

Commenting at the Guardian

My first post for the Guardian blog,  ‘Comment is Free’, is up. Do read :). It’s about something fairly talked about here, which is the whole point. I also chose to talk about this — yet again damn it — because nothing is changing. I think it’s time to start yelling in chorus. Interestingly, I…

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3

How much do I love this woman

Margaret Atwood, I mean. Her latest book is due this month and as usual, she has her finger unflinchingly on the pulse. This one’s called Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth and it talks about the phenomenon of borrowing and owing as a cultural issue. She weaves in Faustus, Scrooge and Eric Berne…

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4

Chamundi, churchgoing, city lights

On Sunday, we drove down to Mysore. We ate lunch at The Metropole, which was a former guest house for the Wodeyar family’s special guests and is now a Royal Orchid property. Then, we drove up Chamundi Hill. Both of us have seen all the ‘sights’ before so we were just trying to hang out…

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2

Three poems

Three of my poems have been published in the latest issue of Pratilipi. The issue also has works by Keki Daruwalla, Sridala, Meena and Sridhar/Thayil. Do read.

1

Woman is a social being #1

So, as I was saying, I hate socialising after an event. Which is really awful because I either retreat into the shadows or look like I’m sulking into my drink. What I am doing actually is mulling over what I’ve seen or heard, existing for a little while in a calm bubble in my head….

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3

Dastangoi

India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) recently brought down Mahmood Farooqui and Danish Husain for a Dastangoi performance. Dastangoi is a tradition of oral story-telling, which goes back a gadzillion years to medieval Iran. The dastan-gohs (narrators), inspired by the Shahnama—a story of kings composed in verse by the famous poet, Firdausi — recited tales…

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8

Things i am liking tonight

Aravind Adiga’s White Tiger. So far. Despite the tense straining of muscles I generally feel against things hyped and vulgarly in the news. I’m trying to get over this perversity of not being able to watch, read, enjoy things when other people tell me they are so-very-enjoyable. Sometimes they really are. Anyway, I’ve just started…

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16

Look Who We Have Coming to Vogue

Vogue India’s August issue features designer bibs (like the Fendi bib the child in the photo is wearing), handbags, clutches, umbrellas–all modeled by the aam aadmi. Of course, considering that prices for  brands like Hermes Birkin and Burberry can range between $200 and $10,000, this is the only time they will ever get near them….

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4

Two Things

Upcoming writers, photographers and musicians, the annual Toto Funds the Arts awards are here again and anyone below the age of 30 can apply in these categories. Here are the details on the writing awards. If you want details on the other awards, write to me and I’ll forward them you can just click here….

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4

bLooDy bRilliAnt

So Orange Jammies at Wisdom Wears Neon Pyjamas has, in all her infinite wisdom, decided to give me this. And because I’m such a generous soul, I am getting over my love of shiny things and actually passing this on. Well, actually, because the rules say so. 😀 The Brilliant Weblog award is a prize…

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4

You’re invited…

So, this Saturday, some of us will be reading / performing poetry. The event has been organised by Unisun to showcase the poems in their upcoming anthology. Jeet Thayil will be performing some of his poems. I will read one of Meena Kandasamy’s poems and two of my own. The Rajas will be performing some…

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8

Poetry and bombs

These are poetry days and I’m swimming in it. The Toto Funds the Arts (TFA) monthly poetry reading happened yesterday and Keki Daruwalla read. (For those who don’t know, TFA organises poetry readings once a month at Crossword book shop.) The other poet who was supposed to read with him, Trina Nileena Banerjee, couldn’t make…

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2

Pink

1

A poem…

of mine in the latest issue of Quay Journal. Do read.

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Pictures of Bengaluru Pride

I’m not the kind of person who likes participating in marches. Most of the time, I’m not sure what difference they’ll make. But in a country where homosexuality is still illegal, the sheer visibility of the gay pride parade on Sunday made it something worth talking about. (It was Bangalore’s first gay pride parade.) And…

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5

Taking the Stitches Off

Cross posted on UV The highest compliment in my grandmother’s book was “What a sweet girl! She keeps her mouth stitched up.” Of course, in Bengali, this has a nicer ring to it but it essentially means a girl who keeps quiet, who is silent in the face of adversity (and torture and ill-treatment), who…

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3

High in the clean blue air

So I was reading Mary Oliver again today, after a long time, and thought I’d share. Not because you haven’t read this (you probably have) but because it’s one of those rare ‘happy’ poems. For various reasons, I’ve been on a quest to find these lately and it’s hard! Poets are a gloomy lot ranging…

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1

Snails

The Helix aspersa or garden snail is edible. But since A and I have not got around to eating snails yet (or at least not killing them ourselves and then eating them), it thrives in my garden. Wikipedia tells me it is a chief ingredient in skin creams and gels sold within the Latino community…

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5

In the Shade of the Mangrove

In coastal Andhra Pradesh, I visited a number of villages where the project is doing some work on environmental rehabilitation, specifically mangrove forest restoration. At Polatithippa, we took a boat into the creek to take a closer look at the forest. Our boat was small, wooden but motor-powered unlike some of the others that roam…

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10

Shreds and Patches: Machilipatnam and Kalamkari

Recently, I traveled on work to the villages around Machilipatnam in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. I usually enjoy driving through the countryside and this trip involved plenty of that (about three hours back and forth from my hotel in Vijaywada to the villages). Perhaps, the landscape failed to move me because I found the…

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3

Plath, English, etc

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/v/BJbX5o2gqhM”] I’m drowning in Plath right now — again — because I have to write a paper on her and I had forgotten how exhausting and entrancing she can be at the same time. It’s like a fix. You know too much is bad for you; it’s going to leave you fatigued with your head…

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3

About Ram, Anurupa Roy and Puppeteering

Published in The Hindu today. “I am fascinated by the relationship between the puppeteer and the puppet,” says Anurupa Roy, founder of Kat Katha and director of About Ram, a new media theatre presentation that had the audience spellbound when it played recently as part of the India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) New Performance…

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4

Resistance is futile

It’s the second time I’ve been tagged for this one, first by Chandni and then by Anasuya and the latter is family so I can hardly refuse. 🙂 I’ve decided to go ahead and inflict the personal and the self-indulgent on you. So here’s the tag: Post 5 links to 5 of your previously written…

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10

Shiny, happy things

So the Toto Awards 2008 were announced ten days back. And I was one of the two winners in the creative writing category. Quite cheered up my month. Besides a trophy and plaque, there’s a neat cash prize of 25k but what I like most is that one of the judges was Keki Daruwalla (the…

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7

Jane Eyre, power shift and the other mad woman

The mood for period drama struck some time last week and I satisfied it by watching the 1983 BBC miniseries version of Jane Eyre starring Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke. Independence is a pivotal theme in Jane Eyre and each reading/watching leads to thoughts on this. Bronte’s concern with this is clear right from the…

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7

On East Coast Road and melancholy seas

Last month, we took a drive down to East Coast Road. As a day trip. Yes, I am aware it sounds faintly ridiculous that we drove all the way from Bangalore to ECR and came back the same day but there were extenuating circumstances. It was one of those spur-of-the-moment urges to hit the road…

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2

More on Gieve Patel and poetry

Some of us had dinner with Gieve when he was in town and the discussion, predictably, revolved around poetry. Poetry is always difficult to talk about — so much of it is subjective and it’s difficult to exactly pinpoint what the elements of a good poem are. Some say sound; the words should resonate when…

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4

Gieve Patel and poetry with young people

Originally published in The Hindu. “Poetry may be the most misunderstood of genres among the arts.” So says poet and plawright Gieve Patel in his introduction to Poetry with Young People (Sahitya Academi, Rs 100), an anthology introduced and edited by him. Featuring over a hundred poems written during Patel’s workshops at Rishi Valley School…

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Hiatus

The truth is I’m a little bored of blogging. I just don’t have the urge to say anything in this particular space any more. I thought reinvention would help but it hasn’t. Hopefully, this is temporary. So, until later. UPDATE: Okay, that didn’t last long. About ten days.

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Online identity and faint pencil lines

A few days ago, I changed the look and feel of this blog and didn’t explain it. The change had a lot to do with drawing lines between personal and public selves and explaining my motives, I felt, would be counterproductive. I’ve changed my mind since then because this whole business of drawing lines is…

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4

The Next Episode and solitary pleasures

Is it just me or does anyone else find Nokia’s “the next episode is about to begin” commercial a bit disturbing? I mean, it’s really slick and artistic with all these staccato images, a Philip Glass song in the background and a voice-over that alternates between sounding like George Clooney and Brad Pitt, but I…

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2

Resisting Coastal Invasions

Whose sea is it anyway? The question begs an answer. Increasingly, the coast is under threat from industries like sand mining, tourism and organized fisheries which erode the rich ecosystem and threaten the rights of traditional fishing communities. The only piece of legislation that stands between these forces and the sea is the Coastal Regulation…

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8

Among the Narcissi and carnal loving

The virtual living is getting ridiculous. I think things were under control as long as it was just blogging and (even) until social networking sites like Orkut. Facebook takes things to a different level altogether. For those of you who are not familiar with Facebook, it’s a social networking site that deviates from the standard…

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3

The Shock Doctrine, KP Sasi and Ururkuppam

The Shock Doctrine is a short film by Alfonso Cuarón and Naomi Klein based on Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. It is a severely disturbing look at the rise of free markets and corporate hegemony on the shoulders of disaster. What Klein says is this: people are in a childlike…

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2

Andrew Lichtenstein’s ‘Never Coming Home’

One of my favourite sites, Alternet, has a photo essay here on Andrew Lichtenstein’s new book, Never Coming Home. This launches their new multimedia series and features a slideshow of some of the images used in the book as well as an interview with Lichtenstein. Andrew Lichtenstein’s new book, Never Coming Home, shows the faces…

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3

Close Encounters: Mallika

I felt inadequate and a little afraid, without quite knowing why. Was it her toughness? Her anger? Her warmth? Was it the timbre of her voice? Or the whiplash of her patience? Was it the strength of eyes? The weight of tears? The lines on face or hands? Was it her otherness? Or sameness? The…

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1

Close Encounters: Hajira

(Dearest) Hajira, I am writing to inform you (regretfully) that you will never be a doctor. Today, when I came to your house by chance (because you saw me passing on your street and I will always remember how I heard a delighted “hi” – you were imitating what I had said while meeting and…

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3

Saidapet slum, speech and silence

3 pm A slum area in Saidapet. Two girls in black hijabs lean against the gate of a small house. Curious but friendly looks. They greet me in English. There is something proud in the way they wrap their mouths around the words, learnt painstakingly.

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Films of Desire and queer sexuality

Susan Sontag once said that “fear of sexuality is the new, disease-sponsored register of the universe of fear in which everyone now lives”. In India, this fear is buttressed by social conservatism and hypocrisy and our films, for the most part, are a reflection of this. Burdened by archaic censorship laws and the pressure of…

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2

60 and getting sexier?

Sixty years of independence and the mood is dichotomous. India-shining-style optimism is colliding with the stark reality of 250 million still below the poverty line and two of our most important newspapers reflect this divide in the usual, predictable ways. The Times of India is replete with gung-ho proclamations. The front page screams “60 and…

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20

CNN-IBN, Sanjeeb’s blog and racism

CNN-IBN journalist Sanjeeb Mukherjea has “written about” (since anything passes for writing, these days) Sivaji on his IBN Live blog. I was taken aback as soon as I read this: We Aryan Indians are terribly clannish in our collective ignorance of Dravidian cinema and stars. Hence we are “kanstantly” overhyped about a certain tall dapper…

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2

Poetry, TFA and Sridala Swami

Poetry is quite the thing in Bangalore these days. Firstly, Toto Funds the Arts (TFA) has been organizing poetry readings at Crossword every month. Their strategy is to pair a well-known poet with a newbie and provide a platform for both to present their work. I think it’s an admirable effort to encourage one of…

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4

“Bra-burning harridans” and women’s pages

Have you noticed how, sometimes, even the most vociferous, soapbox-loving, liberal male, will tiptoe around women’s rights? Apart from the cursory nod in our direction (“of course, I believe women are equal”), he will engage very little with feminist concerns and lend none of his (often formidable) intellect to it. I’m not making a generalization…

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14

Delhi Police advises the ‘Seven Sisters’

This is disturbing at so many levels that I don’t know where to begin. The Delhi police has printed a booklet titled Security Tips for Northeast Students/Visitors in Delhi , which among other things, advises them to cover up to avoid being raped and not cook their ‘smelly’ food so there is ‘no ruckus in…

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1

Mumbai, rain and Esther

This picture was taken from Hotel Marine Plaza in Mumbai, during a leisurely lunch on a rainy Thursday. The murky grey Arabian Sea, the yellow-black cabs dotting the landscape, the red dot of the traffic signal, the droplets on the gigantic glass pane–it was a perfect moment, begging the canvas of an Impressionist painter. Me…

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3

Dust and Memory in Kolkata’s New Market

Glitzier malls may attract the youngsters but Kolkata’s New Market continues to draw the old-time shopper, bargain hunter and culture-hungry tourist. And it’s no secret why. In a city where markets serve as meeting places, milestones and melting pots, it is one of the oldest and most vibrant. Along with the phuchka, rolls and chaat…

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1

Jaigaon Diaries III: No man’s land near Pasakha, Bhutan

As I went deeper into the village settlements, the roads became steeper and more difficult. It was raining during the nights as it often does in these parts and in places, we were worried about whether the jeep would be able to cross over the roads that had become gushing streams. I was visiting the…

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4

Beyond Sight: Photographs by the visually impaired

Photography is the art of ‘drawing with light’ but can people who inhabit a lightless world draw with light? “Beyond Sight”, an exhibition of photographs by the visually impaired, is proof that they can indeed. “When a blind person touches a cup, he is also seeing it with his mind’s eye,” explains Partho Bhowmick, whose…

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3

Jaigaon Diaries II: The Women of Deorali

After a sleepless night, I was not looking forward to the day but things improved as soon as we took the detour towards Manglabadi area, veering off the town road into the villages. The town of Jaigaon is noisy, dirty and largely charmless but the villages around it are beautiful. The rains make sure that…

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Jaigaon Diaries I: A relentlessly seedy lodge

I entered Jaigaon in the dark. It was 7.30 pm and the power had gone, a frequent occurrence in these parts. A market spread out on the road, little shanty shops lit by candles and kerosene lamps, a sprawl of a town. It had the precarious air of a border town, a shape-shifting town which…

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1

Lens Eye View: Driving through North Bengal

The little border town of Jaigaon lies at the foothills of the mountains where North Bengal ends and Bhutan begins. To get there, I had to travel to Calcutta (Kolkata) and from there by flight to Bagdogra, which is the closest airport and gateway to many of the hill stations in that part of the…

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3

Gita Aravamudan, Gender and Organised Genocide

A whole gender is getting exterminated. It is happening while we, as a nation, slumber. – Gita Aravamudan Gita Aravamudan’s book Disappearing Daughters: The Tragedy of Female Foeticide was recently published by Penguin Books. A scorchingly honest and compelling account of female foeticide in India, the book is an important and valuable study of the…

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1

Open Summit and India’s Gender Cleansing

openDemocracy, an independent online magazine, is hosting openSummit featuring the views of women activists, academics and journalists from a variety of organizations worldwide in the run up to G8. The idea is to prevent women’s perspectives to decision-makers at G8. Of course, who knows whether any of them will read this but this can’t stop…

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5

Vadodara and our crippled freedom

I am dismayed, angry, heartbroken, and positively blue in the face. I am talking about the Vadodara incident, of course. But I am not surprised. I am not surprised that freedom (artistic and otherwise) was curtailed in such a disgusting, dramatic show of bluster. That legal machinery was used to do it. That the Vice…

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2

Len’s Eye View: Chitrakala Parishad

It’s interesting how both noise and quiet can be so sustaining. Last week, I went for a NWM meeting and then, because it was a sunshiny day and I had spent a lazy afternoon under the trees (albeit amid the flies) at the Press Club, I decided to continue the mood of green and sun…

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14

Sexism and Internet Purdah

About two months ago, eminent tech blogger Kathy Sierra decided to stop blogging because of the horrific death threat comments she received, many of them explicitly sexual and violent. Last month, Jessica Valenti from Feministing talked about how the web became a sexists’ paradise in her column at the Guardian. She mentioned her own experience…

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Lens Eye View: APD and Horticulturing

Because I’ve been moping around the house all week about the tree, we went on a mad hunt around the city today to look for things, which would beautify the home office. The idea being that we were trying to replace the beauty of the view lost with something else, inadequate as it may be….

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7

Homosexuality, Growth and Class in Edwardian England: Maurice

The 1987 Merchant-Ivory classic film Maurice, based on the EM Forster novel of the same name, explores the delicate subject of homosexual love long before Ang Lee made it fashionable—and does so with a touching bravery that one finds in few love stories. Maurice opens with a scene that is both telling and comic. A…

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2

On the Fireflies Festival of Music

The Fireflies Festival of Music last night was a wonderful experience. The Fireflies Ashram itself is charming and the setting was just right for a night of music under the stars (actually visible, for a change) in the open-air amphitheater. The stage was demarcated by a gorgeous, spreading Banyan tree whose abundant leaves and gnarled…

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6

Hindi film, the other India and a growing schism

The Hindu Magazine on Sunday had an article called Cinema: In search of a new face, which I found very interesting. The writer Zia Us Salam explored the question of how “serious Hindi cinema, entrenched in real India, has died”. He is, of course, talking about parallel cinema of the 1970s and 80s, a movement…

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4

The Ganges, Calcutta and the Namesake

The SAJA Forum points to something interesting. NPR’s “Morning Edition” has been running a series called “The Ganges: A Journey Into India”. The entire audio and a series of diary entries from Reeves is available on the NPR website, along with photos by Heathcliff O’Malley. I found this one particularly interesting because inexplicably, Calcutta is…

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1

A Giant Leap Backwards

State governments in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have banned sex education in schools. This is despite the central government’s attempt to make it compulsory from standard six, next academic year onwards. The explanations for this ban rest on the usual pillars of obscenity and objectionable material. The minds of young children can be irreparably…

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15

21 Under 40 and ‘Women Like Us’

I recently covered the release of 21 Under 40, an anthology of twenty-one short stories by women under forty, for Mid-Day. Edited by Anita Roy and published by feminist publishing house Zubaan, the anthology features some interesting new voices including Tishani Doshi. The event was organized by Toto Funds the Arts, a Bangalore-based organization that…

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A UNFPA report, Blank Noise and including men

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has released a new report that offers 10 case studies from across the globe, which show how interventions that adapt to local contexts can actually reduce gender-based violence. Their online flash-based exhibition on this here. The report emphasizes that communities can become critical of their own cultural practices if…

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4

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit was British novelist Jeanette Winterson‘s ambitious debut, written when she was 26. The book won the 1985 Whitbread Prize for first fiction and is considered a seminal work in gay and lesbian literature although Winterson disagrees with this narrow view: “It’s for anyone interested in what happens at the…

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1

TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year

TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year is You. In a tribute to the stupendous growth of what is popularly being called Web 2.0, TIME Magazine has congratulated the wiki editors, bloggers, podcasters, video bloggers and online community buffs who have created a parallel media that is powerful and credible while remaining largely non-commercial. It’s a…

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1

Bookshops, cafes, mood and music

I spent the day with mum yesterday and besides devouring some topshe macher bhaja and malai chingri at 6 Ballygunge Place, we also spent time at the Crossword outlet in Indiranagar. The food at 6 Ballygunge Place was good as usual though richer and oilier than home-made Bengali food. The service was better than usual,…

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Coffee county, elephant farm and Bylakuppe

Coorg was lovely. Usually, I hate that word. It’s stiff-upper-lip, wishy-washy, mealy mouthed — all the things I dislike. But in this case, it’s apt because there is no other way to describe Coorg. It’s not exactly ‘beautiful’ (not as excessive as that); nor is it wild, intense or uplifting. Miles and miles of coffee…

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2

On watching chick flicks

I went on a chick flick binge over the last few days. First, I watched Raising Helen, the 2004 movie starring Kate Hudson who has grown on me over the years. I started off hating her blonde, wide eyed, bright-smile look but have come to realise that she can be quite watchable. The movie is…

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2

On Calcutta summers

I haven’t been to Calcutta in years. The place I was born in and the hometown of my parents–and theirs–seems remote now. I hear of new construction, gleaming buildings and impressive flyovers but I remember dusty streets, rolls from roadside vendors, cycle rickshaws that trundled along bravely next to overcrowded buses. Most of all, I…

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5

The Sea by John Banville

The Sea, John Banville’s Booker prize-winning novel, is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. A writer who knows exactly how to use the language without resorting to gimmickry is extremely refreshing. And while The Sea may not be heavy on plot, Banville builds enough tension through the 300 pages or so…

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Women are so silly, that’s their problem

Interesting article by Polly Toynbee in Guardian Unlimited about the report from the Women and Work Commission on the pay gap between men and women in Britain. She hasn’t said anything very original but some truths are worth pointing out – and thinking about – repeatedly. She starts off with her usual, sardonic brand of…

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1

Mixed Doubles

Mixed Doubles is mixed fare. Stuck uncomfortably between being a comedy of sorts and a serious look at the modern marriage, Mixed Doubles is a bit of a hash. You come out of the theatre neither with profound thoughts on marriage nor vastly tickled. Director Rajat Kapoor starts off with an interesting premise but sketchy…

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6

Beloved City

It’s a difficult city. Like an eccentric old lady with a young heart and calluses on her feet, which she squeezes into pinching heels every evening for a prance around town to the watering holes – where everyone is free and young – and when everything else has closed, to sit by the sea and…

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1

The Mexicans do it like that

Anjuna flea market on wednesdays in Goa is a very interesting place to be. Apart from the many bizarre things you can buy, it’s also a great place to see people of various kinds congregate. From wise little Englishwomen to freckled German hippies, they’re all here. The flea market extends right up to the beach…

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