Of Cabbages and Kings

May 13, 2007

The Jacaranda Tree (work in progress)

Filed under: Fiction — Chinmayi @ 5:49 pm

She sat on the pavement under the Jacaranda tree. The years had poured into the tree so it reached high above the buildings that mushroomed like impertinent upstarts down the street. The years had wrung the flesh from her so she looked like a hunched frail withered shadow that lurked among the shiny new buildings which loomed threateningly at her all along the street. She took refuge in the familiar – in the huge leafy, red flower laden Jacaranda tree which continued to pour leaves and flowers on the sidewalk regardless of the threatening new buildings and the threatening new people which now lined it.

The tree protected her. She put her rickety wooden cart with large wheels under it every night and crawled under the cart with her little brown kitten. The tree protected her and she protected the kitten. During the day she swept the trees leaves and she sold flowers from her rickety wooden cart. The kitten wandered, clambering up the tree in its little red collar which proclaimed to anyone who wanted to drown stray animals that it had a protector. The woman swept the leaves of the tree, demonstrating to anyone who wanted to drag indigent octagenarians to horrible faraway slums dedicated to making them miserable that she had a function in that place, on that street and under that large Jacaranda tree.


Writing in the dark

Filed under: Across the Universe — Chinmayi @ 5:26 pm

David Grossman has written a beautiful article for the New York Times on how it feels to be a writer in Israel.

‘Kafka’s mouse is right: when the predator is closing in on you, the world does indeed become increasingly narrow. So does the language that describes it. From my experience I can say that the language with which the citizens of a sustained conflict describe their predicament becomes progressively shallower the longer the conflict endures. Language gradually becomes a sequence of clichés and slogans.’

[read the rest here]

May 12, 2007

An autorickshaw and a fruit stand

Filed under: I saw this — Chinmayi @ 6:25 pm


Saw this near Safina Plaza in Bangalore. It’s blurred and isn’t a very good picture really, but I thought I’d save it for a time when an auto-rickshaw and a fruit-stand will each be so scarce that seeing the two together will be like looking at a picture of a dodo perched on a mammoth.

Against forgetting

Filed under: Poetry, Uncategorized — Chinmayi @ 6:03 pm

“For I am not the first, but the second
The scream of the first, the grief of the first, the love of the first
An eternal calling out to the first, a second.”

From ‘Against Forgetting’ by Manglesh Dabraal as translated by Annie Zaidi (available here)

1857 and this week

Filed under: Across the Universe, Random musing — Chinmayi @ 5:48 pm

Yesterday, a friend mentioned something about celebrating ‘1857’. I screeched “1857?” repeatedly, much in the manner of my grandmother screeching “orkut?”, until the friend asked a little snippily if I know what 1857 is. Yes, I know what 1857 is. What I don’t know, is why we are celebrating it.

We are delighted with ourselves because over a century ago, Indian soldiers rebelled for the first time against the British and refused to rifles with cartridges that were greased with animal fat. They refused because to bite a cartridge covered with animal fat would be to lose caste. Versions of exactly what form the revolt took vary, but all sources agree on the origins – caste. And there we have it a ignomious caste encrusted beginning which we insist on pegging as the starting point of the Indian war for Independence.

And look how far we have come. In the same week that we are making a hullabaloo about 1857, we are passing legislations that ban women from working at night, we are beating up priests, burning down newspaper offices (and killing people in them) and burning paintings in art schools.

I suppose there is some irony in all this – that we should begin fighting because of caste, and we should end up a country which has graduated to persecuting its minority religious groups, women, the press, artists and anyone else that dares to have an opinion.

May 9, 2007

Patenting the Padmasana

Filed under: Across the Universe — Chinmayi @ 5:21 pm

The Americans are trying to get IP rights over yoga. More accurately, actually, opportunistic Indians are trying to get IP rights over yoga through the US patent office.

Suketu Mehta writes here about how the entire concept of yoga, as well as most other forms of Indian traditional knowledge such as classical music, simply won’t fit within the concept of Intellectual Property.

‘The term “intellectual property” was an oxymoron: the intellect could not be anybody’s property. You did not pay your guru in coin; you herded his cows and married his daughter, and passed on the knowledge to others when you were sufficiently steeped in it. This tradition continues today, most notably in Indian classical music, none of whose melodies have been copyrighted.’

May 5, 2007

Ta Ra Rum Pum

Filed under: Random musing — Chinmayi @ 7:04 pm

One of the hazards of a corporate job is that once in a while you will get dragged along to see some unbelievable trash that calls itself a movie…because unbelievable trash is apparently the only sort of fare that will please everybody. And so it came that I was sitting in a red plush chair watching something called ‘Ta ra rum pum’.

The film was replete with shiny little skirts and wild parties in New York. The girl-protagonist was a small-minded rich girl that kept track of every penny she lent to people…and this was supposed to be a good thing…what one man calls ‘kanjoos makhhichoos’, apparently others call a healthy respect for money. The hero of course was imprudent and generous to a fault and kept (literally) throwing money all over the place. Psychoanalysis was an unheard of concept, kids were conniving upstarts who were far better able to keep secrets than their parents were.

I intended to describe the film in detail but thinking about it bores me – so I’ll just say this much: try and watch it in one of those places with huge comfortable couches and plenty of food so that you can eat a lot and have a little nap like I did…there’s no other way to sit through the film.

May 2, 2007

She calls out to the man on the street

Filed under: Personal — Chinmayi @ 4:52 pm

In an hour it will be midnight. I am exhausted. The text on the screen is blurring, my back hurts, my shirt smells stale and I rub my eyes every few minutes. But it is finally over and I can go home. As I rise from my corner, in which I had crouched silently over my computer all day, he spots me.

Swoop. He is standing over me like a vulture. I am crouching again in my chair because I know that this is going to be a boxing-match conversation and I don’ t have the energy to stand and think at the same time. His eyes are pink like white lab rat’s eyes, and they slant just a little. “Why are you going home alone?”, he demands. Part of me wants to scream childishly, I’ve worked so hard and I just want to go home. Leave me alone! “Would you put yourself in danger simply because you don’t want to ask for a ride home?”, he demands, his tone more aggressive, his voice a little louder. I would rather die than depend on people all my life, I think, but you’ll never understand so I’ll never say it. Just let me be.

He drives me back home finally. He is resentful because I would neither argue nor cower like a little girl. I would only thank him for the ride. Fortunately for us, I am old enough to resist the urge to tell him that it is none of his business, and to think that his bullying is kindly meant. Unfortunately for us, he is old enough to guess that when I let him drop me home, I am indulging him and not agreeing with him, and I am old enough to resent a world that compels me to  accept the kindness forced  on me instead of telling it to go to hell like I’d really like to.

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