Sunday, June 28, 2009

Musical Chairs

I saw Goran Bregovic & His Wedding and Funeral Band at the Bass Concert Hall a few weeks ago. They were quite spectacular. Think of your neighbourhood brass band, perhaps like this one....maybe a little less savvy; one Bregovic in resplendent white, beautiful hair and a swaying right hip (very manly in a showman way); a loud raucous, ebullient, brass section; a couple of jugalbandi-ing Romani singers and oh, not to mention the super hot Alen Ademovic later, I was ready to sell my Dravidian soul and turn Serbo-Croatian. Of course, if you really want perspective, I would refer you to my friend who accompanied me to the show and kept insisting that these East Europeans are just like the Punjabis. I guess he was looking most of the time at the very Punjabi like wild arm waving, shirt twirling (once they had taken them off) pale faces in the audience. In his persuasive company, I ended up eagerly seeking jalebis and lassi in the break.

A teeny weeny teaser

The band and Bregovic played for an hour and a half straight and the crowd would not let him go. I had first heard his music on a film called "Time of the Gypsies"...strange strange film and if you haven't seen it, I suggest strong fortification if you want to truly enjoy it. And no, not the kind that employs canons and a hundred and forty Marathas.

Before I digress too far, let me come to the point of this post....musical chairs.

Bregovic and the band played a song called "Gas Gas" which reminds me of Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina" which has a tune remarkably reminiscent of Dick Dale's "Misirlou" which is of course, on the opening soundtrack of "Pulp Fiction", which also features John Travolta dancing to Chuck Berry's "You Can Never Tell", which reminds me of Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up" and from there to another Elvis, who sang "Poisoned Rose" and a version of June Carter Cash's "Ring of Fire"; put them together and you have "Ring Rose" or "Ringa Ringa Roses" or Goran Bregovic & His Wedding Funeral Orchestra singing "Ringe Ringe Raja" ....

What musical chairs can you rustle up?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Writing Visually

A red curtain
A red flapping curtain
A red flapping curtain with the bottom curling inward
A red flapping curtain with a ray of light that creeps in as the curtain curls inwards at the edge
A red flapping curtain with a ray of red, dying light creeping in as the curtain curls inwards all along the left.

A ray of light splayed across the woman who sleeps on the blue couch
A woman sleeping on a blue couch
[Blinking against the sudden light, she draws herself up on her elbow and gets up to go across the room]
A ray of light splayed across a blue couch
[The sun goes down. The woman stretches and turns on the light.]
A couch of a different colour.
A room of a different light.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thoughts for a sleepy afternoon...

From Peter Funch's Babel Tales.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tales of Dusty Books Unsold -- Part II

So after the Garden Book Centre and dear old woman of the beautiful saris and the blunt cut that I, of the unruly hair so envied, there was the British Council Library in Pune. Now the BCL as it is fondly known is a library in the most colonial sense of the word; remote, forbidding, and overated. But to my 19 year old self, it was infinitely better than doling out parental generosity on literature that I had not yet discovered. It was here that I found Arthur Wesker and Iris Murdoch and Graham Greene. Also Rushdie and Marquez. It was here that I learned to use online catalogues and strange library coding. Here, I added my name to random lists of strange events that I never attended and pretended to read highbrow newspapers in long rooms populated by hypermetropic doyens. Lesson number twenty five in the long list of lessons on how to be bourgie.

Of course, one might be forgiven for thinking that BCL was actually an Irani cafe sans the food. No computers, no checking out movies (limited student memberships), one notepad only, no sleeping:). The things that one could not do in the library made sure it had a very tight USP; in three words -- come, read, leave. And yet it was surprising how much those constraints helped. I actually did read.

James Wood says it better in a recent review of Shahriar Mandanipour’s novel “Censoring an Iranian Love Story"...

Sometimes, the soft literary citizens of liberal democracy long for prohibition. Coming up with anything to write about can be difficult when you are allowed to write about anything. A day in which the most arduous choice has been between “grande” and “tall” does not conduce to literary strenuousness. And what do we know about life? Our grand tour was only through the gently borderless continent of Google. Nothing constrains us. Perhaps we look enviously at those who have the misfortune to live in countries where literature is taken seriously enough to be censored, and writers venerated with imprisonment. What if writing were made a bit more exigent for us? What if we had less of everything? It might make our literary culture more “serious,” certainly more creatively ingenious. Instead of drowning in choice, we would have to be inventive around our thirst. Tyranny is the mother of metaphor, and all that.

While Wood contends that Madanipour's novel is actually a tough reply to strange dreams of such constraint, I wonder how this would apply to reading? In this world of hyperlinking excess, sometimes I just want a blinkered chamber to read. Perhaps even a word processor sans an internet browser.

[To be continued....]

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Why I watch Battlestar Galactica....

What lovely thoughts for a bright June morning.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tales of Dusty Books Unsold – Part I

A large part of my waking life has been spent in libraries. Yes, those boring institutions associated with curmudgeonly men and women, eccentrics and bookworms. Smelling of books, dust and filtered daylight, libraries have been very important to my life. My first memory of a library is of a steel Godrej almirah stored at the corner of a large cement godown that had been converted into the colony club. I am sure there was a time before this when it was an almirah at the corner of a dingy apartment, but I don’t remember. Uncles and aunties of various antecedents donated books, mainly pulp fiction and cold war novels. My first memories are of borrowing Richmal Crompton’s William stories about a schoolboy and his friends, who called themselves the Outlaws. And then there were the Enid Blytons, the Nancy Drews and the Hardy Boys. I rapidly moved onto Arthur Hailey, Sidney Sheldon and Robin Cook. There were also the random James Hadley Chase-s (am not sure that counts as moving on as much as maybe just moving, like drunken derelicts…) but the covers of the latter didn’t pass maternal muster so I rapidly digressed. Lest you think these were porn disguised as thrillers, more like the other way round. The covers were hardly there and the insides all square [I rhymed, I rhymed!]

Exhibit A

Incidentally, for those interested in my find of the year, the opening frames of “Johnny Gaddar” have a dedication to James Hadley Chase. And speaking of pulp fiction, Chase's real name is Rene Brabazon Raymond.

One year, my father, in his aspirations to dictatorship took over the helms of the library and club. I have fond memories of sitting by him while he painstakingly bound and covered books with titles like “Airport”, “Tiger by the Tail”, and “The Dead stay Dumb” [as a Hindi film, would that read “Murda Goonge Rehte Hain”?]. It was also from him that I learnt to judge people by the way they kept their covers.

The school I went to had a nice little library on the first floor where I spent many hours reading encyclopedias. Yes, not very exciting, but in the process, I also got roped into writing the school’s yearbook. In the 1980's of no computers and a typewriter guarded fiercely by the accountant, ten year olds ended up being slave labour/ scribes. Somewhere in the annals of the Jagdish Chandra Mahindra Memorial School is a record of my handwriting as it used to be.

For my pleasure reading, there was the Garden Book Centre at Chembur opposite Diamond Gardens. Run by a wonderfully straight-faced lady whose name I wish I could remember, it saved my parents many years’ worth of savings in Enid Blyton and comic books. For the princely deposit of Rs.250 and Rs.2/5 per comic/ book, I had my fill of scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam and wafer thin cucumber sandwiches (ugh) and traipsed around in macintoshes and galoshes [read obscenely cream-filled puffs from the neighborhood bakery and many hued colors of raincoats and ugly oily gumboots]. I also dated freckle-faced boys and scowled at snooty heiresses [Is he really getting married to her? Really? Really?]

More libraries ensued, but that will be a tale for another sunny morning.

[To be continued…]

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Couch. Books. Humans. Conversation. Bliss.
There are things one knows. With certainty. With force. About goodness, about trust, about possibility. In the face of every logical outcome that predicts otherwise, there are still things one knows. Or maybe these are merely things one wants to have come true, and hence the supposed certainty of knowledge. Knowledge being power and power being the will to make come true. At the end of it, one can never really know anything....

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Today I have been simultaneously skittish and quiet. The only time I felt truly and completely at ease was when I was at my desk, face to the computer and wall, back to my living room and door. Staring at a few thousand words, I could have let the world go. Work is what it is, but it is also what everything else is not.

I am taking my friend Gouri's advice, and saving my rage for the page. And while on the subject, do see what she has to say about a house. Not that it is related, just that when I talk of solace, there are so many other lives that receive none.

A quiet poem for a silent night....

The Wind

The bay is thick with flecks of white.
The freezing air is honed and thined.
The gulls sleep on the stones tonight,
Wings locked against the prising wind.
With no companion to my mood,
Against the wind as it should be,
I walk, but in my solitude
Bow to the wind that buffets me.

-- Vikram Seth

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Anxiety is simultaneously meaningful and profane.

It is physical (I am PMSing; I am ill; my head hurts; I sprained my ankle), emotional (I can't think, my eyes well), psychological (what if it could be better? why me? do I feel something else hurting?), existential (why is pain not meaningless?), intensely personal (how can you know what I feel?) and surprisingly fleeting (it will be better tomorrow; or at least different).
Mindful work is on the rise....

Reading Alain De Botton's "How Proust Can Change your Life".
Writing about Trespassers.
Thinking about self-help and self-improvement as a genre that unwittingly identifies that which is extraordinarily pathétique. (Read "The Happiness Project" and see if you can get a sense of this; if not then ah well, what do I know?)