Sunday, December 21, 2014

808, 807, 806, 805- Yes, you

 For the longest time,  I had thought that people who comment anonymously are people who are simply choosing to conceal their identity.  It's not like they are weak. But some time ago, there was someone or some people who posted something nasty and then said, "I know you will post something on anonymous commenters or someone like me so I won't come back." It's a little difficult to not consider that person chicken. And just so I understand, if you have commented anonymously and yet you are afraid of a backlash, what exactly did you accomplish?

When I was in college,  we had a symposium where Shabana Azmi, Kiran Bedi, and Flavia Agnes were the guest speakers. At the end of the lectures on rights to free speech and all that, the house was open for questions. The college had arranged for us to write our questions, without signing our names if we so wished, and have these conveyed to the judges. Then Shabana Azmi took the mike and said, "If you want to seriously get answers about rights and freedom, have the guts to stand up and ask the question. " Of course, not everyone who witheld was weak. They were just shy. I did not think earlier that the gutless commented anonymously. I have, after all, received some very generous anonymous comments also. But good or bad, somewhere I think there is a fear of being caught out. What are you so afraid of? Especially the snide, nasty commenters...what really are you so afraid of? You couldn't hide your resentment or your lack of courtesy or your viciousness. You only hid your name and thought that it masked your identity. And then scurried off pitifully.   That's why I have closed comments on the blog.  I am aware that the fake email ids will get made and all that to write and respond to this post.  But that's okay. I will do my bit to make it difficult for the cowards to speak up.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

812,811,810,809

I am back from Geneva and it has been the sweetest, loveliest trip. Work was good and so was rambling through the city at my own pace, taking in the lights and the fog, stopping somewhere for an expresso, browsing through Christmas markets and just running my fingers down some crystalware. On my last night, I tried the hot wine - wine spiced and hot. I also tried a really nice Swiss wine which was sweet and was the perfect thing to sip while reading Marquez's 'No one writes to the Colonel'. Interestingly, there's a line in the book, "He loved December. One felt that one was made of glass." (Or something like that.)

Marquez wrote it and I agree. Fully. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

813


Tonight, I spent time in a boulevard by the Rhone. Browsed through a Christmas market where I saw dainty Christmas ornaments in white ceramic by local artisans. There were drinks in a floating restaurant where I sampled some hot cherry cider. Wisps of Christmas light and stars reflected off the water. Had fondue in a little inn where the fondue fork had hand-carved wooden cupids (made sense since we love cheese). And a creme brulee while listening to some ruddy-cheeked kids play the harp and sing about the battle against France. They say that if you don't have wine or if you don't eat meat, Europe is a difficult place to visit. Don't know about Europe but Geneva certainly isn't. In fact, it's better. When you're not focused on what's on your plate or in your glass, you notice what a moveable feast this city is. In a different period and in a different place, had a Hemingway moment.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

815, 814

the soul being a hologram splicing pictures of a snow-capped mountain some distance away and some ocean in another tip of the world - making whole, complete universes of them all.

such be the last two days.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

817, 816

So much to write and so I'll keep it short.

In Geneva and outside my room, a beautiful stark tree sways.

It's beautiful.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

820, 819, 818

People...leave.  In all sorts of ways. It's good to simply accept that departure the same way one accepts one's death. And just as you wouldn't try to raise the dead, you wouldn't contact the ones who left. Or maybe sometimes one can try to raise the dead.But not get spooked out if they contact you back.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

821

It has not been a tough day and it has not been a long day. But I met up with a friend for dinner at Curry Leaves. She had prawns in a thick spicy coconut gravy and parotta. I had a plate of Kerala rice and roast mushrooms - which are plump slivers of mushrooms cooked in succulent curry flavoured with peppercorns, chillies, dry coconut and curry leaves. They add a very heavy dose of sautéed onions which sweetens the gravy and it's a great accompaniment to the Kerala rice. I love that rice. It fills me up just right and I don't feel bloated after that.

Lots of things to tackle this month. Slowly, steadily, one day at a time, hopefully things will get done.

Meanwhile I sit and blog sipping a cup of perfectly made tea. 
 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

823, 822

Beautiful days.

Some tough hours also - stuff that required me to talk to strangers, cook a meal for a friend and then have him step inside the house, sniff and say, "What's burning?"

Fit into a pair of black jeggings with a snug white tee and a grey and black wrap...Was really happy that I looked slim in that. It was easy and comfortable to wear and I didn't have to struggle to stuff myself in it the way I had to a month ago. The new yoga regimen is certainly helping.

Started reading 'Zorba the Greek' and am feeling a little and a lot blessed with the way things are now. December feels like it will be gorgeous!

Wow!

 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

First Impressions: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep is the sequel to ‘The Shining’. King apparently had written this book in response to questions he’d been asked on book tours, “What happened to Dan?” Dan was the little boy who had an abusive father he loved and a gift called ‘The Shining’. The gift had, in some ways led to events that killed the dad in the Overlook hotel.

In this sequel, Dan Torrance grows up to be plenty messed up. Thoughts and memories of the evil dead he’d seen in the Overlook crowd his mind. To kill them some more, he drinks a lot. The book in fact begins with him nursing a fat lip after a drunken brawl. An incident occurs where he really believes he has hit a new low. It’s time for Dan to quit drinking and change. So he packs his bags, gets on a bus and moves to a new town. There, with the gift he has, he works in a hospice helping people on the brink of death to sleep and cross over to the other side. They call him ‘Dr. Sleep’.

While at the hospital, one night Dan sees a name scribbled in chalk, ‘Abra’. Not very far from where Dan lives, a little girl is born called ‘Abra’. She is a peculiar little girl. Her parents have heard her pluck piano notes from the air as a toddler. Who, when she was maybe two, scared her parents by staring at the T.V. and making all the channels broadcast ‘The Simpsons’ simultaneously.

While Dan was creating a new lease of life by trying to circumvent the shining, there was a little girl who was growing up with it.

In the time that Dan Torrance has grown up, the world has changed. And yet the world has not. There was a sense of evil that Danny had imbibed since childhood. He had learned to lock up that evil inside his head so that he does not, as King describes in some other part of the book, ‘find himself in a motel, looking at his reflection under a naked bulb with a gun on the table.’ However, in Abra’s time, the world has the ‘True Knot’ – a posse of unworldly people who kill and torture children who have the ‘shining’.  Their aim is to inhale ‘steam’, i.e. – the essence of these gifted children.

One thing leads to another and the True Knot go after the girl. The girl gets in touch with Dan again. And Dan, with memories of Overlook and his father and his shining that helps people cross over to the other side, has a destiny that’s intertwined with past, present, guilt, redemption and all points in between.

As a sequel, Doctor Sleep is a worthy one to The Shining. You don’t have to read the Shining to get Dr. Sleep – which I think is interestingly true to life. You don’t need to know a person’s childhood to understand the patterns of his battles. The childhood will surface soon enough.

The book has a lot of quintessential King – the stuff that had caused me to shut down my first Stephen King novel many years ago – details of thick blood dripping down eyes, gaping wounds, sickles slashing the necks of undeads. But in the books I have read, King has always shown a mastery over the fragile relationship between a man and his inner beast – and a man and his beastly parent – and that zone where there is no difference between the two. I had loved ‘The Shining’ for this. When the Overlook hotel is snowed in and every hollow in the hotel is ridden with shadows, deep resentments rise. Jack Torrance couldn’t quell them. And Dan Torrance is his father’s son. How will he manage?

Dan’s struggle with the netherworld is juxtaposed with his struggle with alcoholism. King has weaved in the tenets of the AA 12-step program with the other narrative of fighting evil. These parts are really strong. Also moving is the way Dan’s friendship with his buddies is set up. You don’t really think of this much when you’re thick into reading but you remember it later. King builds these relationships as a bookmark to the ethos of working class American men. Simple, decent folks who just happened to stumble badly at some point.

Here is why I will keep returning to Stephen King’s books despite pages of endless violence – for the quiet poetry of his phrases that appear suddenly – like a word-rafted rainbow in a crowded linguistic metropolis. There’s a part where Dan and Abra meet near a pond. King describes it thus: The color on water had faded to the faintest pink tinge – ashes of roses...when Abra joined him.

Makes you sigh.

 

 

Friday, November 28, 2014

825, 824

What I wrote to some people about reading Herman Hesse' Siddhartha:


In one edition, Paulo Coelho has written the prologue of this book. He read this book when he was in an asylum, tackling his nervous disorder. When he finished, it was daybreak - literally and metaphorically. I read this book because a favourite boss recommended it. He said I'd 'get it'. What can I say? In my reading life, it's not my most impactful book (that’s Roots by Alex Haley),it's not the book my heart pulsates for(that’s Rushdie’s ‘Shame’),it doesn't leave me with the wild melancholy that doesn't leave (Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath). But Siddhartha...it broke my heart. In the way something simple like sunshine on dew will break your heart someday - with its true, delicate honesty. Did I 'get' Siddhartha? Not sure. But what happened was a strange, surreal kind of alchemy...the book read me. In an age of book proselytizing, I won’t go into a 'you gotta' read this book. But every heart needs the experience of being broken gently with the written word. You owe it that much.
 
Also, finished reading Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. Now picked up Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. This was recommended by a friend. Looking forward to reading it.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

826 - The Twelve Steps of AA

As I drove to an early morning yoga class, I saw a thin sliver of moon in the sky - a shy, golden-white smile. My heart was clenched and I thought of a remark and very angrily - with a temper I thought I had tamed - I spat out 'coward'. And wished I had come face to face with that wimp to bash his or her face in. Not good. 

Also, finished Dr. Sleep by Stephen King. Made me think of AA's 12 steps (it's a strong motif in the book.) Here it is. A reminder for when a shy, golden-white moon is in the sky and an old, rousing temper in the heart.


  • We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
  • Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  • Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  • Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  • Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  • Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  • Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  • Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  • Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  • Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  • Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
  • Wednesday, November 26, 2014

    827

    Went to Crossword last evening. There, I happened to read the introduction of a book called 'Bol Bam' by Scharada Dubey. It's a compilation of essays on various pilgrims and pilgrimmages associated with Lord Shiva. There seemed to be a few pictures and I dipped into some pages in the middle of the book. Seemed insipid to me. But I was very curious about the author's life after reading the Introduction.

    She had a quiet childhood, mingled with friends from other faiths, and was exposed to diverse ways of approaching religion through her parents' mindset. Her mother was fairly devout. Her father wasn't. Neither forced her to pray or follow any religious ceremonies. She picked up pieces of Hinduism as and when she could, mostly unknowingly. Then the scene in India changed - or actually, maybe it didn't change. It just got more vivid and there were the riots and the rise of Hindutva and the inexplicable shame of calling oneself a 'Hindu' - even though the rise of Hindutva itself came with a call, "Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain." (Say it with pride that we are Hindus.)

    Then her first marriage fell apart and she married again. Her second husband is an atheist and he always asked her how she could believe in a religion that is so stratified and unjust. If you take into account the way widows were treated (a situation the author was familiar with because she saw her father's widow sister live out most her life in white saris and no real life outside her brother's home) or the caste system, you see this religion as just plain exploitative and unfair. She seemed to grapple with those questions herself. She had seen that side of it but she couldn't explain away that sense of deep connect and nourishment that her faith provided her. She had shopped around the spiritual market - done Vipassana and chanted the Buddhist chants. But she felt comfortable with the notion of a God you can see and touch and imagine when the eyes are shut. Somehow, none of that seemed to be the thing one admitted to in polite, secular company.

    This book is, I think, is her trying to find answers through pilgrims and their journeys.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    828

    It was a good day yesterday. I think any day that begins with yoga or some form of exercise usually turns out to be good. There was a fair bit of work but the project turned out pretty well in the end. Most of us left office beaming.

    I came home and was suddenly in no mood for paratha. No mood to warm it up and have it with  palak daal and soya cutlets. So I made rice.

    I have a large plastic canister of rice. It is one of the most joy-creating items in my home. Fine, white grains feel smooth and sharp when held in the palm of the hand. I like how each grain - each one of them will swell in hot water and will fill me up with taste and well-being. I can see why rice is used as a symbol of abundance in rituals.

    Even with a fistful you get a sense of there is so much of so much.

    Sunday, November 23, 2014

    830, 829

    Yesterday was a bit of a downer.

    There's a bunch of us that meets periodically to discuss our writing - whatever we do of it - and throw around ideas. Although I really like the group, the last few weeks I was hoping for extensive feedback on my work. A critique. Something more than a nod or a 'Nice'. I suppose it is hard to give feedback to someone sitting directly opposite you...but we had met a few times and I thought we were in a place where we could comment on each other's work substantially - especially mine. What surprised me was a defensiveness or an unwillingness from the group when I asked for it. It annoyed me. Until I figured out that no feedback is a kind of feedback itself. My material didn't connect. And that somehow seemed worse.

    There was someone in the group who thought that I was basically looking for people to say they liked my work. That I found a little irksome. I have been writing for a really long time. I do it for a living. I get feedback all the time - many times scathing. And I have not let it affect me. In fact, if there was any area of my life that I have been very sure about, it has been my writing. Not that it will always be good but that it will always be earnest. And most times, something good will come out of it. Yes, I like praise and don't like flak. When someone says something bad about my work, I breathe and mentally raise a middle finger. Because here's the thing. Most people give unsolicited advice. Most people who give unsolicited advice on my writing do not seem to write enough. They do not seem to read enough. They usually haven't demonstrated the discipline of actually writing something and sharing their own work. Most people who give unsolicited advice on my writing are weak and do not know what they are talking about. If the advice is favourable, there is some semblance of good taste. If the advice is unfavourable, there is no indication of it.

    I must also lay down, perhaps, that I am not often receptive to feedback about my writing. Unless I ask for it. I know that there is a tendency, even when one asks for feedback, to seek only praise. But I'm not like that when I actually put my work out there and say, "What do you think?" (In a blog I just put stuff out there. There is no follow up question, "What do you think?" Because frankly what you think I don't really care.) So when I do ask for feedback and I don't get it, it upsets me.

    But in the walk from the coffee shop to the main road, I thought long and hard about why getting solicited feedback is tough when unsolicited feedback is easy. Because of the nature of request. Because when I ask someone to read my work and give feedback, I am asking for that person's time and his or her application of thought. Those are tough things to ask for - even of people who are part of a group that is designed to help writers. Also, I realise that my work isn't very easy to get. It doesn't have the snap and crackle of personality and pop. It's more mood and vibe and season. It, I suppose, is not easy to connect with unless you give it time. Unless you read it in private. Unless you read it without expecting to give a snap opinion of it immediately. Like a friend of mine told me - that the fact you write well is probably a given. But what you write may not be what the group wants to read. If that's the case, I either leave the group or write what they will respond to. It is not the world's responsibility to like what I do. It is not even their responsibility to be interested in what I do. I just have to figure out how much I ought to let it affect me.

    And yesterday, it affected me a fair bit.

    But today's a new day. I walked up a hill in the evening with a friend. We had an encounter with a beautiful Siberian husky who stared at us with Arctic blue eyes. We saw car lights get lit on the narrow strip of road, looking like red bits of plump jelly. Today I decided that I will finish what I started. It's not a book. It's a script. I am not familiar with the format. But I will get it done. Whether it gets read or made or appreciated or denounced - I. Will. Do. It.

    Thursday, November 20, 2014

    831

    An awesome lunch was had at Curry Leaves. If you find yourself in the vicinity of the Baner-Pashan Link Road, definitely try out the Kerala spread at Curry Leaves . Flaky, soft parotta and a later of spicy roasted mushrooms that came dusted with cumin powder and garnished with crisp, fried curry leaves. A bowl of payasam one slurped hastily enough and a tall, cool glass of spicy lassi. That was what I had. Friends had a chicken thali that came with three pieces of fried chicken, avail, Kerala rice, sme stew, payasam and some bowl of veggies. Fish thali had all of the vegetarian things and also Surmai.

    The best part that the place is very reasonably priced.

    The best part was that we walked along the curve of the road in the afternoon. It was hot but there was a really sweet soporific calmness. Day has ended. I walked a little bit around Aundh too. Visited Crosswod and made mental notes to buy Pyaasa.

    Day has ended and am really looking forward to gorgeous sleep.

     

    Green Giant by Jack Prelutsky (I find this very cheery)

    There lived a green great giant whose name was Sam
    His hair was the color of strawberry jam
    He had one brown and one blue eye
    And a beard the color of pumpkin pie.
    His coat and pants were oh so bright
    Like a peppermint stick all red and white
    His socks were as brown as a chocolate drop
    His head was the color of gingerbread
    With a tall, tall feather of raspberry red.