Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Detroit woman became so crushed by despair that she decided to kill herself. Ethel Farbinger's husband and mother had died within the span of a month, and she felt she couldn't go on. Retreating to a bathroom with the intention of plunging a knife into her heart, she was diverted from her plan by a vision shimmering in the toilet bowl. There in the water she saw an image of Saint Padre Pio, who spoke to her. "Ending it all will cause more problems than it will solve," he said. "Let God's love help you through this ordeal." Farbinger's suicidal urges instantly departed, and she returned to her life with a renewed sense of purpose. I don't believe you're in anywhere near as bad a shape as she was, Capricorn, but I suspect there will be at least one similarity between her story and yours: You'll find redemption where once there was crap.


Check out your forecast for the week here

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A month between posts is not necessarily a new pattern. Has happened in the past and is hardly the harbinger of doom for either this post or my general tendency to rant. More often than not, what happens is that this is the last outlet. When I have no option but to bypass all the possible empathetic numbers on my cell and actually put finger to keyboard.

Let's see what I have for this update now. A few photographs, some events, small disasters and multiple possibilities. I've been shuttling between Bombay and Pune and that weird little lovely place in between where the folks live and are generous enough to feed me on my infrequent stints of complete vegetation. Bombay's great for me as and when Pune begins to get on my nerves (which these days is often enough as it is). I moved out of my lovely digs into an interim halfway house till I finally get my apartment in Jan. So all dreams of broadband net and rugs and lamps and couscous and long smoky nights of contemplation have to necessarily be relegated to possibility and eventuality. Work has been slow, not the least because I climbed a tree, fell down and pulled some muscles bad. And no, you don't get to ask me what I was doing on a tree.

Other than that, I have wined, dined, danced and gained enough perspective on life to wish I hadn't. I have attended a workshop on youth and identity and heard enough to almost give up on the idea. I prefer riding Pune's roads and battling traffic and potholes instead. The traffic here SUCKS!!! What also sucks is the complete unwillingness to yield, share, co-exist or harmonize. I suspect this might teach us a lot more about identity than all the workshops in the world put together. As the rickshawwallah I was riding with stated, "Madam, badee gadee chalao tho apne ko bhi bada lagta hai -- choti gaddi mein koi bhi dhakka maarke aage chala jaata hai". [ Madam, a bigger vehicle makes me feel bigger (and get your minds out of the gutter folks) -- anybody can push you and get ahead when you are in a small vehicle].

To digress, this is from my ride to Mulshi with S...

And this would be the aspiring rickshaw...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I feel floaty; if that is a word. Ambiguous? Ether-ed (does that fall in opposition to tethered?).


And I need time and space, away from activity, in order to reconcile with the unknown. Or the half known as the case may be. Or the fully known but unwilling to accept as in this case. But this is where I come up with the million-dollar quantum theory question. Does this sort of supposed, so called ‘fully known’ and fully sidelined end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy just because? In other words, which part of myself am I most willing to sacrifice? The believer or the knower? And why are they at such odds with each other? What I’d most like to do right now is my job. Correction, what I’d most like to have right now is a job. This is free floating ether, inconsequential conundrums and fully accepted and acknowledged ennui. But then to what purpose? Calming, spacing, separating, digesting…what exactly is this hiatus all about if I can’t get my brains to shut up?

So no, I don’t want to believe that this is going to work. Or anything for that matter. Give me one good reason why.

I waited outside the bank while the rain fell in pincer strands all over the streets. Cars rushed past, refusing to let it dampen their hurried negotiation of life and space. Hurrying scurrying, God knows where. And when I stare around, I can see the compartments etched and displayed. Rich, poor; car, not; tall, stoop; bald, not. Differences and cacophonic ditties. Is my dissatisfaction clouding the world or has reality seeped in?

She was here last year. I spoke to her. Now I don’t even feel loss. What’s sadder I wonder? Why this inability to hold feeling? This incredible mad need to move. I want to sit for a while. Wait and weep and want. It’s not happening. Sometimes, all these conscious states of mind...this insidious, relentless illusion of control.
One of these days, I want to be a picture in a frame. Either that, or deranged. Let my limbs float and my head shut up. Be disembodied and monochromatic.

This country does not affect me anymore it seems. But that’s a little unfair. I am doing precisely what I critique. Taking unity at face value. Beauty still affects me, colors still move me, strokes still make my head turn. What I do not buy any more is unity. Of this land being covalent with that milieu; of people necessarily inhabiting a culture; of mind and body being one. Signifiers are about signification and not a set of signifieds. And yes, Marx invented the symptom.

And now I sit, a little buzzed and uncomprehending as to what it is that I have managed to build around myself.
A little security? Not necessarily.
Some community? Maybe fleetingly.
And is this how it is to be? Always.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

So this blog is becoming a strange liability. I know I have to keep writing, but the act of writing with this thought in mind seems a tad constrained and therefore unwarranted. Hence I wait for a moment of unrestrained, unmediated epiphany. But the waiting itself, of course, already always negates the possibility of lightning-like,sudden and uninvoked language. Thereby elevating such possibility to an even more exalted status. And thus the vicious circle. Round and round and round.

But today I have something to say. Just because it’s about something somebody else has already said. This is about a film called ‘Since Otar left’. Made in French and set in post-communist and post-USSR Georgia, ostensibly in Tbillisi, this is a sweet, sad and strangely morbidly hope-ridden tale of a family of three Georgian women, Eka, Marina and Ada. Eka has lived through Stalin’s times, Marina is hinted to have been a revolutionary whose late husband fought and died in Afghanistan and Ada is a contemporary child. In a debilitated economy, sometimes recovering and at others, lodged permanently in the twilight zone restructuring and statelessness, Georgia is treated perfunctorily and only lives in its absences. In the trinkets sold in the flea market that Marina and her boyfriend, Tenguiz work at; in the lonely, unlit and barely manned hospital that Marina and Ada take Eka to in the middle of the night and in the wishing tree that proudly displays its many tattered bits of cloth. Eka is beautiful and strong and life-laden. Doting on her son Otar who was once a medical student in Moscow, but has since left for Paris to work as an illegal construction worker, she waits for his letters to be read out patiently by her granddaughter Ada and sits by the phone holding onto every syllable of his infrequent and interrupted phone calls. Out of the blue, Otar dies and news of his untimely death reaches Marina and Ada. Marina decides to keep the news from her mother for fear that it would kill her. Ada, though unsupportive plays along for the sake of. And thus the film finds its main plot. Even then, I find this event to only be a loose structural device and what comes before is perhaps even more poignant than the after, even though the after builds to a crescendo and carries forth the morbid hopefulness that I find an interesting approach to the structure/ agency debate.

The film has a few ‘moments’, definitely engineered, often unassuming and seamlessly woven in. Watch Eka’s carefully groomed silver mane, her bright crimson nail polish and her little ferris wheel ride. Watch her smoke and watch as she unwinds the crimson scarf around her neck to send Otar. Also Marina as she stares at the landscape from the stairway outside Tenguiz’s apartment. One almost wonders if she might be thinking of jumping off. But of course, she isn’t.
Must notice: A strangely hauntingly beautiful Marina with a 60s hairdo staring out of a photograph where she looks directly into the camera through kohl-laden eyes even as she holds a gun to her temple.

To digress, I always have trouble deciphering any text as innocent. I’m assuming this has a political agenda one way or the other (meaning even the declared lack of politics is political in itself). And I can’t of course analyze this without giving away the plot, so be warned, there are spoilers ahead. So given that countries of the former USSR have often been seen to have paper revolutions, incomplete capitalism and tattered, fragmented economies, how then does one read this tale of three generations of women? Of course, lest I be accused of being too Marxist materialist in this reading, let me state that I am also concerned with the feminist subtext -- with the absence and yet overwhelming presence of Otar that governs the central structure of the film.

The three women live in relative insufficiency and Marina is often forced to borrow from Tenguiz, which she tries to limit to emergencies, like the time Eka suffers a cardiac arrest. She cannot sell the many books that they own because Eka treasures them as relics from a different time when her parents lived in France. She has schooled Ada in the language and the granddaughter often dreams of Paris even as she ghostwrites her dead uncle’s letters to her grandmother. Thereby structured by a lack that creates a void in the aftermath of some kind of possession, whether of ideology, belief or comfort, the film seems to thrive on a certain kind of barren ether, an empty light. And what then does the film contrast to this emptiness, this lack? In Ada's defection to Paris, I am not sure if to decipher a clear nod to capitalism's triumph or a tentative contingent understanding of agency.

And these darlings, are my tuppence.

(Also, see an interview with the director Julie Bertucelli here).

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Something somewhere is making minimal sense. It’s either the period where management of limbo is scarcely possible...or woe betide, God forbid, Valhalla be restrained, much worse...

(In chorus)
Something wicked this way comes!

Is this also to be classified as fieldwork? Inability to deal, complete petrification, utter incomprehensibility. Of self, more than anything else. So then, I have this irrational urge to lash out, to convert fear into anger, to assert knowledge in the face of blankness.

I would like to pick a fight. Any volunteers?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Capricorn Horoscope for the week of August 31, 2006

Brezsny says:
"If you were at the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert right now, you might be racing your souped-up tricycle through a miniature golf course-style maze while dressed in a superhero costume, after which you'd enjoy a sushi dinner served on the naked belly of a good-looking clown. Or maybe you'd be exploring the benefits of a short duration marriage to a temporary soulmate selected for you by a seven-year-old girl deity sitting on a neon green plastic throne surrounded by a circle of flame. Since you're probably not at Burning Man, however, you've got to find other ways to carry out your astrological mandate, which is to enjoy semi-crazy acts of liberation you'd normally never try."

Go get yours!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Did I tell you that my blogging life has now split into two? For fear that I haven’t yet gotten into the habit of writing on the other, I will not give you the address…yet. For now, I am happy to update you on the inability of updation while in limbo. And yes, I know I am updating. But that’s only on account of the fear that I will forget. I will forget how to write, how to rant, how to make my erudition and articulation presentable for an undoubtedly worthy audience. Be it none as the case may be.

So here is what I have been upto since the last I updated:
1. Entered the hallowed halls of candidacy (a little iffy that journey was, suffice to say that I don’t care to relive it, even for the sake of immortality).
2. Packed and shipped tons and tons and tons of books.
3. Cleaned house, sold furniture and gave away five bags of clothes.
4. Condensed all wordly possessions into three suitcases (all of which are red – and so are my socks, but that’s a story for another day).
5. Had four going away parties, one replete with some fantastic pomegranate martinis.
6. Failed a driving test. (And no, this has nothing to do with point no.5)
7. Endured my umpteenth bad travel karma, landed at Atlantic City when I should have been at JFK, spent a night in a very lifeless airport lounge (are there any other kinds?) and cabbed with three very nice gentlemen, one of who hasn’t yet cashed my cheque.
8. Melted into the thronging golti populations infesting Niagara Falls and elbowed and jostled my way among the teeming millions to look at rani pink lights on gushing water. I must say that the Canadian side definitely has a better eye for colour (yellow versus bright pink, pick your pick). Also dined at the worst Indian restaurant ever!!! Do not not not ever visit Sardar Saheb (this being my little bit towards QEDing my marketing professor – bad products equal bad word-of-mouth! – if I may go off here on a tangent, just a leetle bit, my brother and I did figure that bad publicity would not be much good since no doubt, the restaurant does not suffer repeat customer visits – but to counter that, I hold up the stereotype of the desi couple that must, under pain of being accused of lack of family love, drag every relative that visits to the aforementioned gigantica just so they can go back home, display pikchurs and declare their patronage of America’s favourite monument to trade)
9. Was driven around the length and breadth of New York and its variously appropriated native Indian title-age – refer Amitav Ghosh who mentions that those that the Americans did away with, they memorialize in their SUVs.
10. Did my little NYC jaunt just because it’s going to be a while before I go back. Visited lovely restaurants and pigged out on some seriously sinful guava flan.
11. Moved countries.
12. And now I wait to move cities.

Monday, June 19, 2006

So I get to be a finalist on the "oktatabyebye" travel blog community thingie(via Jabberwock)...and they need to interview me in B'bay...and the event kicks off from the 1st to the 15th of July (50k odd to do a specific route through India, blogging along the way)...

And I'm in Austin!!!!!!!!!!!So no deal.
Damn damn damn! Damn damn damn! Damn damn triple damn!!!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

I'm writing an exam. And yes, I'm also blogging. Yes, I'm doing both. So?
And yes, this is a real exam. Very very real, very very exhausting. And yes, I am at home in PJs, rooted to my desk, fingers permanently stuck to the keyboard. Also, I am eating more than I should.

Wondering if I should miss "real" exams. You know, the ones where the loser behind me who definitely hasn't seen the inside of his textbooks in at least three years keeps nudging me in the MOST irritating manner ever (Yes, I was one of those who would perpetually be copied from, so sue me!). And I eventually give in, (1) because my back has a ridge from his persistent physical assaults, (2) he looks like he has a biker gang waiting outside to slash anybody who refuses him the answer to question five or (3)I have written a really bad paper and guess I might as well split the spoils.

But seriously, the pit in the stomach, the pukey morning attacks of virulent viruses right before the math exam, the feeling of complete ecstatic exhiliration right outside the exam hall...been so long.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I'm sick and tired of self, identity and subjectivity. What say we shift to the body?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

It is the perfect end to a not-so-perfect day. My dal rocks. My mother always feels a little sorry that I have to cook for myself, I always try and assure her that for me it is not a chore but a decompressing, therapeutic act. I have inherited some of my father's meticulousness and a lot of my mother's intuition in that regard and all in all, I am an involved cook. And most of the stuff that emerges from my swanky white stove (electric albeit) is almost always edible.

Some of my favourite projects:
1.Pesto: By far, the easiest condiment and I hyperbolate in calling this a project. All it requires is a good parmigiano reggiano and fresh basil leaves (and no, the tulsi in my amma's backyard, I doubt, will work). Works beautifully with spaghetti and even better as a dip or on sandwiches with mozzarella.
2. Rajma: Second on my list of comfort foods. Mine never turns out near as well as my mom's, but adding pomegranate seeds I figured, adds a little kick.
3. Pasta: Farfalle mainly and spaghetti these days; some squash, some roasted peppers, no sauce (marinara or alfredo or otherwise), lots of coriander and oregano and of course, parmesan to top it all
4. My friend R also showed me how to make some rather simple and delicious Turkish dishes (she's an elaborate and fantastic cook, so I can barely imitate the simpler ones in her repertoire), one of these just being green beans with tomatoes and olive oil or Zeytinyagli Taze Fasülye
5. Tomato and avocado soup: Precisely what the title says; easy, healthy and perfect for a hot summer day (tastes like a cross between guacamole and tomato soup)
6. Dal in myriad forms (moong, toor, chana, et al) and multiple regionalities
7. Pongal gothsu: I tried my hand at this recently and it came out perfect. Really esy and the tamarind in the gothsu is so so so good!
8. Penang curry: Alright, I cheat a little on this one and buy the chilly paste, but butternut squash is the perfect veggie addition -- totally melts in your mouth
9. And last, but not the least, the queen of comfort food, the ludicruously easy to make and wonderful to eat, thayir saadam, or in other words, plain curd rice (lots of ginger, curry leaves and mustard added of course - with onion sambar)

Alas, alack, I cannot however, make rotis. And as I type and salivate over my keyboard and as my dal boils in the background, I wish I ghetto blaster meanwhile plays the food song from "Duplicate"...yes, the one that goes like this.

Friday, May 26, 2006

So, what exactly is the deal with online dating?

And here, I include orkut, ryze, myspace, et al in the same category for purposes of simplicity and economy and constraint in my tendency to wax eloquent on anything and everything that does not have to do with my exams. And yes, the former do have other ostensible uses such as "activity partners" and "networking":)...but, in the righteousness of my smallmindedness, I am going to react to the latter with a resounding "yah right"!

A friend of mine told me about friends of friends of friends of his and many more not so closely related people who had fairly good relationships offline after having met online. In his smirking words, "They did find the one. After screening about 200." I am assuming that it cannot be any different. The exponential increases in reach, coupled with the ability to move on from one prospect to another with little or no emotional, physical and financial cost, will no doubt, engender large volumes of matchmaking along the virtual wires.

I used to run an online experiment on some desi sites a year ago. And then I got bored. My profiles are still online and I get strange responses every now and then, a lot of them being, "let's match time of birth, stars and dietary habits and also, your parents can talk to mine". Whoa, back off buddy. Just a little bit. To give them the benefit of doubt however, this is a site that announces "marriage" intentions, but they could have read what I've written to begin with!!! How exactly does this process work? The profiles suck, by the way. All of them. Uniformly. Bar a miniscule 0.216 percent.

The experiment did not yield any ground-breaking results either. Lack of community, breakdown of social systems and a tendency to inbreed (desi community being the breed I am talking about) will, of course, render opportunities for "real-world" romance null and void. But that sounds a tad reductive to me. I did not have the chance to actually explore the processes whereby people actually date and meet and build the idea of romance. Or even the idea of community, gender role and heteronormativity that is sustained in the process. Maybe sometime in the near future. And before I launch into my highly nuanced thesis on what this is about, check this experiment out. They stole my idea! Of course, two psychologists and two MISs do not an anthropologist make;)...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Snippets heard from various places on the 49.5% "reservations"...(More here, here and the creamy layer argument)

1. This is not going to help the populations it claims to address
2. This will dilute the quality of India's manpower
3. Our USP is our intellectual capital, it's quite disgusting that we're giving it away in the course of our political games
4. What is the point of our being secular?
5. Quota should be based on economics, not caste
6. We need a party for the middle-class now!

I will not bother collating the various sources these have come from, google the issue and these or versions thereof will turn up in high frequency. A response would necessarily have to be a thesis comprising the origins and political upheavals that have accompanied the rhetoric and practice of affirmative action in India from Ambedkar to V.P.Singh and the Mandal Commission, to now. Not to mention the regional stances and politicization of the issue, i.e states where high quotas already exist, Tamil Nadu and of late, Andhra Pradesh being cases in point.

P.V.Indiresan, former Director of IIT, Madras calls it an addiction and not a remedy, also creates his own picture of the poor, forward caste child losing out to the rich, backward caste one. This is an argument that has often been made against affirmative action in India, that it does not help the most disempowered classes and instead creates further class divides among the SCs, STs and OBCs. But nevertheless, is that reason enough to posit a newly inverted relationship between caste and class? Also, most protests that I see are coming from the IITs, IIMs and students, of course. Also businessmen and corporate voices in the fray. Here's an exception ...what's Shiv Khera got to say?

An answer or reaction, of course, cannot be one way or the other...even though politics demands a vote.

My questions are these and most as you will see are rhetorical...and some too deconstructive and theoretical to be of immediate import.

1) Is this a political move?

Absolutely. A bill that seeks to affirmatively affect an ambiguously yet astutely nominated sector of the population is clearly not about them. Caste structures do not uniformly confirm to class brackets, variations across regions matter too.

2) Why has this issue come about at this particular time?
Let me not tout the opportunism line as the no-brainer answer. Rather, I think there is a way in which I will follow (ironically albeit) my mother's "nazar lag gayee/ kanna pattooduthu/ evil eye" framework. Or to put it in a simpler fashion, why the hue and cry from corporate India? More than the students, who clearly see something that they have stake in being negotiated, modified and I would agree, unfairly legislated (read unfairness as the lack of any larger dialogue and the lathi charges on protesting students) it strikes me that the corporate voices embody a certain middle/ upper-class hysteria at the resurgence of the state. I also read the state's resurgence as a way of staking power in the most overt manner possible, even as it continues to woo capital and celebrate outsourcing. I am reminded of Chakrabarty's discussion of alternative modernity, politicians and khadi. To give a short synopsis, Dipesh Chakrabarty takes the figure of the politician in khadi seriously and instead of reading it as the most obvious form of hyprocrisy, uses it to confront the idea of what it means to be modern in postcolonial India [1].

3) Last, but not the least, are the terms of debate instructive?
Affirmative action versus Real affirmative action
Caste versus Socio-economic conditions
Equal distribution versus India's growth and status on the world map
See something happening here?
The untenability of both/and should be indication enough...
My hunch would be to ask why the IITs, IIMS and AIIMSs?
What is specific to these that cannot be separated from this neoliberal moment?
Why does this follow in the wake of "India Everywhere" at the World Economic Forum?
Nazar lag gayee? Or is it a peculiar haunting of an incomplete milieu?

On a parallel note, Arjun Singh also ratified a decision by the Executive Council of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) for a 50% reservation to Muslims in 36 PG courses there. AMU is a minority institution and has an explicit mandate as per the Aligarh Muslim University (Amendment) Act, 1981, to “promote especially the educational and cultural advancement of the Muslims of India”. Others claim, that this is in denial of section (8) of the same act that categorically says that admission to students should be given irrespective of religious considerations. The decision has been questioned by about 65 teachers from the university itself, which includes noted historian Professor Irfan Habib. It is for the first time that reservation on the basis of religion is being given in the history of Aligarh Muslim University since its inception in 1920. More here and here.

The much larger question here then is the state and its relation to education and the multiple ways and sites on which we have seen recent struggles (textbooks, teacher salaries, reservations)...this requires a much larger and more astute genealogy than my random ramblings...

[1] Chakrabarty, D. (2002). Habitations of modernity : essays in the wake of subaltern studies. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

So I lied. So I haven't been blogging everyday. But then I haven't been studying everyday either, so it all works out. And no, it is not required that the above necessarily be understood.

Given that my exams loom large on the lightless horizon two weeks from now, I ought to be reading. And digesting. And ruminating. But all I do, is chew cud. That's right. I eat, I cook, I dawdle, I pace, and find newer, and stranger ways to pass time. As of this moment, I eat yakisoba.

From my doggie bag of yesterday's jaunt to Banzai. That's right, I am now into Japanese junk food. And it tastes so good!!! I love giving up on the whole idea of knives, forks, spoons and all those ummentionables. Chopsticks also hold my hair by the way.

Monday, May 08, 2006

I have to make a wedding toast. Unlikely occasion and ever more unlikely sentiment.
What is that can safely be said without running too far from the ostensible cracks in the niceties?

"Here's to x and y, a truer couple there never was and yada yada yada..." or......... "I will keep this short and sweet, cheers" or... "Salut".

What I really want to say is, "I fear for you, I do. I believe it's a brave thing you do. And maybe a foolhardy thing too. This ostensible belief in the promissory naturalism of happily ever after. I wonder how you will resist the temptation of fusing into one, the comfort of speaking for and being spoken for. And then waking up one morning and beginning to sense the unsenseable, say the unspeakable, scream the unrantable."

But that perhaps is my worst fear, and here I am doing what I warn against, making my story theirs. Perhaps the calmer thing to do would be to say,
"I hope for the best. For each of you. In whatever capacity you deem fit. In the perilous nature of hope itself that pre-empts the possibility of its emptiness, I raise a glass, a toast, an ephemeral bubbly overflowing of sentiment and happiness. I hope it all goes splendidly. All I ask are front-row seats;)".

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Woke up too late, read too little. Summer's creeping into my brain, in a sudden rush of post-rain madness. We had thunderstorms here yesterday. Again. And now the day is too hot and my nerves too restless. I need to get out to the trail sometime today.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

My reading technique is beginning to be perfected. I resolve to read nine interesting, intriguing, mindblowing, soul-searching, pot-smoking pieces a day...and one extremely crappy one.

I figured this stretch of time before the exams is going to be like the night before the math test. Daddy's not here to drill common sense into my head and even if he were, he would have no idea how to wrap himself around this nonsense; engineers and anthropology you see do not necessarily go together (of course, dropped-out engineers do very well). So, coming back to my technique, I will only keep going if I feel like I am going somewhere. And the easiest, most moronic way to do this is by reading a small amount of easily surmountable, pathetically uninformed, piteously vulnerable scholarship. And so it shall be.

The almost lost art of the cheap thrill rears its sinful head.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

In honor of upcoming exams, which I am most definitely not going to ace, I will blog everday! Yessiree! Every friggin day, I intend to bore you with my not-so-witty, hardly-interesting and intensely-monotonous-and-verbose vaccillations on theory and the lack thereof. And, of course, gossip when I feel like it.

It's raining here, the famous Austin weather definitely makes me feel much better about my own inconsistencies. I was supposed to go see this movie tonight, but am going to back out. Too much to do and too little time and overwhelming panic. Friends of mine are putting up a mini-exhibit on representation though and I plan to get to school for an hour or two in the evening to peep in and run out. And think really deep about the problems of representation even as I struggle to re-present anything resembling a thought, borrowed albeit.

Reading Scandal of the State and trying my best to summarize. Here's what I have so far:
1. The problems of women's representation, rights, condition and progress are statements fraught with the uncertainty of a) defining what we mean by "women" - both as empirical category and as rights-bearing entities disparate from men, b) negotiating radical critiques that disavow the possibility of liberalism versus reformist analyses that aim to work through existing structures of state and governance and c)the very notions of progress and representation
2. The state is not just "state" but this "postcolonial Indian state"
3. How then does the state name "women" and how must a political project do so? What implications does this have for women in the neoliberal state, especially in their accumulative capacity as working women?

Three true questions a day, beats Hemingway's one sentence don't you think? The more I babble, the greater is the possibility of making sense once in a rare while.

Betting on quantity vs. the purist encirclement and evasiveness of quality.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Work beckons. I have been reading randomly over the last few days. And trying to figure out where it is that I may find something to do besides my research. I have become the one who wants to "make a difference" (shudder shudder faint). No, not really.

Indian Ocean were playing in Austin yesterday. The last I heard these guys live was in 2000 I think. At Chaos, IIM Ahmedabad. 1000 strong audience at least and we had front row view. This time, it was an all-seated fairly stoic audience (though they did generate some energy in the second half). So, considering that they have precisely four albums out, it was fairly easy to predict what they would play. I love all the songs nevertheless and they are fantastic live.

Heard Ma Rewa again and especially fitting given that Medha Patkar's indefinite fast entered its 13th day yesterday. 300 professors, countless activists, school-children and international organizations have been pressuring the government to take a stand on the lagging rehabilitation efforts. The arguments, of course, are complex. I do not have the ability to simplify the masses of data, analysis and discursive reasoning analyzing the Sardar Sarovar Project.

However, I do agree with critiques of the Sardar Sarovar Project that the dam seems to have become its own monster, a symbol of Indian modernity at the cost of the very bodies that are promised the fruits of modernization. After all, lives are considered differentially worthy of the modernization effort.

And from the likes of those "demanding" that work on the dam not be halted and the terms that they seem to be cohering the debate around (E.g. "Why can't NBA produce a list of the villages affected?", "Why aren't they going through the proper channels? Why must she fast?"), I know where my empathies lie.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

This post will be posted because I want to feel like I did. Like I wrote something apart from the reams of mind-numbing, fact-laden, theory-driven scraps of meaninglessness I have inured myself against and lured my work into. This is to check if I can even make sense anymore.

The sun shone down today, wafted down actually. Weaving in and out through troughs of humid air, it reddened my face and flattened my hair. As I walked out, a note of long forgotten Bombay shivered through my skin. Nostalgia. An always forgotten sin. But that little detail aside, it felt good. Funny how memory of body always brings with it the automatic corollary of mind. Like dragging into the future an indelible, illusionary past unity of self. Longing for an already lost certainty. How many times will I repeat myself?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

It seems like this day will end on a note of depression. Ever notice how the notion of space is always configured in terms of other things in contrast and opposition?

Holidays versus working days...
Safe places versus dangerous one...
Buying places versus selling places...
Places to colonize versus places where one is colonized...
Yellow versus grey...
Places to run to versus places to run away from....

The last is a bit of a problem, one keeps turning into the a result, the former never arrives.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Too pragmatic to deny it and too naive to forgive...or forget...or forego

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I am very relieved to find that the world is indeed, complicated. For what is to be achieved by simplicity except the repeated and chronic acts of hierarchy, erasure and violence? Not to mention the disavowal of difference in the service of a manageable and controllable unity.

Every morning at school, we repeated this:

India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters.
I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage. I shall always strive to be worthy of it.
I shall give respect to my parents, teachers and elders and treat everyone with courtesy.
To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion. In their will being and prosperity alone, lies my happiness.

Even as kids, the first comment that this would elicit from the usual smartass backbencher was, "Not every Indian can be my brother or sister, who do I marry then?"

Such a charged statement...the already inculcated taboo of incest, the normalized virtue of domesticity and heterosexual normativity and the furtive lurking of insurgency.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Must the world be given up?

We the non-agents,
We the cynics,
We the bystanders, the viewers and the sometime-doers,

May we take your leave?

The world that does not bend,
I who do not believe,
And you who do not care.

Round and round, never knowing,
thinking we will...

Pretty picture we all make

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Maybe this is where D&G are supposed to make sense. I leave filaments of myself wherever I go. On the fingerprints sullying my keyboard, on the last bit of saliva that drooped off the edge of my last cup of coffee, in the memory of the last person who I had a conversation with, in the last breath I left behind in the chilly Austin air even as I entered the warmth of my office building. In my blogs, on my Amazon wish-list, in my last comment...

But what if I were to shift attention from a singular 'I' that lets go of individual filaments like so many bits of shedded hair - to the hair that floats around breaking the fiction of that singular 'I'.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The practiced deceit of good cheer and bonhomie. Lifelong conspiracy, year long fatigue.

Some like it hot, Some like it cold.
Some like it in the pot nine days old.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Drawing out emotion, filling in details.
Time of day.
Make of vehicle.
Co-ordinates of the road.
Is this what sense-making has been reduced to? An architectural plot.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

I don't even have a photograph. And the mind is a fickle chronicle. It's all I have. Sights and sounds. Of the road in Coimbatore and the front of his scooter. Of the palm on which I stood when I was tiny. As have counteless others after me. Of ice-creams and juices and cold things that are bad for the throat. Of him dropping me off at the station in Chennai. He called me later. When I was back here. To say that he was tired of all the work. That he would retire. And come visit.

Freeze frame.

Somebody please please please...keep him well. Keep us well. Save us from the miseries of our own fears. Somebody please please please fucking stop.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Once upon a very long time back, for a course called 'Unconventional Communication', I offered myself up at the altar. For an exercise called the elevator pitch, I woke up at 6 and walked to Shela to await Prof.R as he drove in to morning class. And I dealt my hand. In cool, measured, controlled pitch, I objectified myself. I was my business plan. I was, in my head, the first reality show star, when none around me had heard of reality television. I broke myself into saleable parts and un-inhabited my own fetishized self. I was my sandwich board, placard and front page. For sale. A blank slate. It worked.

Today, I just came back from a class on India. In cool, measured, silence, I heard about the essential culture, nature of people and terms of engagement for young business graduates wanting to bet on an idea, a geography and an imaginary.

It's going to work again.Tch.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
— L. P. Hartley, The Go-Between (1953)

No.78 from this fascinating anthology linked via Jabberwock, who also has additions to the list.

And co-incidentally No.94 -
In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together — Carson McCullers
is from the book 'The Heart is a Lonely Hunter' referred to in 'A Love Song for Bobby Long' which has a ton of fun lines. (Did that rhyme? Did I just do that???)

Monday, January 30, 2006

If I am right, do you have to be wrong?
Uneventful day. Things are moving at their usual snail pace. I am battling with EndNote trying to figure out how to make a bibliography with the least effort. Besides the point of course that expertise with said software will not make up for lack of content. I'm on it. This year, is for sure, the getting-out year. Or so I would like to think.

I am suffering from roving eye syndrome. NPR just announced that there has been a rodent invasion in Chile. And I digress. Roving eye, yes. Am whoring myself among multiple theorists, unable to either make sense or come to rest. Everything looks good and it's all customizable, especially when one specilizes in the anthropology of globalization ( synecdoche for sure)...but this semester then must be a certificate course in the fine art of paring down. Keeping it simple. Thinking straight.

Am I talking about blinkers?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

I have a paper acceptance for this, and a whole week of endless tasks. Time to wake up and smell the coffee. And tea, and whatever source of caffeine I can find.

Restlessness has crept in. Along with intolerance, impatience and all the other irritating prefixes. The naysayers. And make no mistake, I love them all. At any point of time, I only have to locate the hyphens and the prefixes to figure out the number of things that are wrong with life and its demons. Right now, I detect fear, uncertainty and that order. Fear of inability to write exams, fear of prospectus fear of never being able to make sense of why exactly it is that I do what I do...uncertainty about whether I will ever manage a week of unending certainty...and frustration with the lack of tolerable humans. The last I haven't been able to figure out. Either my bars are too high or I do not make enough of an effort or I do not have the time or I cannot afford the risk or the man with the blue turban is announcing the end of the world. Maybe all?

Well, truth be told, this is the situation. I have been lucky. I have known people who care. And I will not settle for less.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Did I like 'Rang De Basanti'? Like is too strong a word. Did I dislike it? Dislike demands too much involvement. At best, the language and the lines hover at the periphery of my attention; at worst, it threatens to be an irritant.

Not a preachy film, yet moralistic.
Not demagoguery, yet borderline.
Not unaware, yet superficial.

I wouldn't even mind if the film were nihilistic. But it is not. What it is is a surefire attention grabber, the movie equivalent of a 30 second Amul ad. The parallels lack integrity, the homology between freedom and recapturing the essence of the Indian nation, again commits the fatal mistake of assuming an Indianness and a unity. On the contrary,ruptures in this assumed notion are what cause the very condition of conflict. And further, drawing upon Bhagat Singh and Azad assumes as legitimate the notion of violence against a valid and named oppressor. Straw dogs and straw hats. Save me from the sun.

The characters are paper warriors.
Aamir Khan is the loud, Punjabi-speaking, good-at-heart neo-bumpkin, happy and safe in the coterie of friends who admire and crowd around him. His transformation though is real, his confusions empathetic, his sadness touching. Kunal Kapoor, playing Aslam is suitably restrained, bringing as best as possible to a role that is a marginal improvement on the good Muslim citizen. Siddharth tries his hand at intensity, threatening to overplay cynicism to the point where it comes across as another Freudian childhood emitting another shaken infant. Sharman Joshi is a revelation, bumbling, joyous, confused and schizophrenic. Atul Kulkarni...hmm, now that's a tough one. Do I believe that there exist people like the role he plays? Sure. Do I think transformation is effected that easy or that late? Duh, no. This underlying appeal to humanity bothers me. Aren't we too far gone for this? Can evil sometimes not be unreasonable, out-of-control, running amok evil? Or is that not what we see? Yes I know that a constant last breath appeal to humanity is what will probably keep the human race with a voice loud enough to appeal, but for chrissakes can we move beyond good heart, bad company stereotypes? This is why I loved Abhishek Bachchan's character in Yuva so much more!!! He just was. Unreasonable. Out-of-control. The face of rage, with the power to sustain it. The difference is the difference between Mani Ratnam and Rake(y)sh Mehra. One delves even if he finally tries to wrap himself up into a neat package, the other rants in order to come to where he has already decided to be. Ptsk.

And why are Madhavan, Soha Ali Khan Pataudi, Waheeda Rehman, Kiron Kher and Alice Patton afterthoughts in this review? Well, I'm just going with the movie, what do I know?In keeping with historical authenticity, it's only the men who are at the forefront of revolution it seems. Even if the woman sounds the call, it is her fiance whose intensely righteous life triggers this reaction. I have a number of peeves with this literal obsession with the famous five, but that I will leave for another day.

In the end, do I think Rang De Basanti to be more than reasonably entertaining? Sure. Have the actors done a good job? Absolutely. Does it have glitz? Yup. Does it score well on technical mastery, comic timing, the colour of Soha Khan's kameezes, the intonations of Alice Patton's accent? Yes, yes and all yes.
Does it have soul? Only the appearance of.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Why would one want to be in a relationship? To be happy I guess.

To live in that uneasy tension between one hand that gives and the other that takes. To play over and over the vicissitudes of power and desire and love and lust and anger and hate till such time as the form becomes evacuated of content and the game becomes devoid of the desire to win. Till time becomes the easy susceptibility of one day into another and life makes meaning only in shock and scandal.
And then it ends. Only to start all over again.

Really? Is that what it is? Or did I get the order wrong?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

It's the first day of the new year...and things are going well so far.

Yesterday started out well, walked around downtown on a beautiful sunny Austin day. There were people milling all over Congress around the Frost Tower, Bank of America, Paramount

and Radisson. Austin City was trying to do a day-long countdown event with dance, music, puppets, et al called 'First night Austin'. Most of the events were amateurish and overhyped, but it was nice to actually see people outside, instead of in their suburban houses and suburban SUVs! (and yes, I have a bone to pick, but I will save that for a drunken night).

Then I was out again in the night listening to Maneja Beto and Grupo Fantasma. The club wasn't overcrowded, the music was good and my friends were around. Not a bad deal, is it now?

And today, I sit and think about life, home, people and characteristic bouts of 'event'-based nostalgia...even though I know this is just another artificial marker designed to trap me in its headlights.

If only I could stop according life the privilege of being alive...