Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Afterwards, the history books quietly tapered
references to it to paragraph mentions or less –
though an eminent name had once laboured
two decades over a work of crushing dryness,
a commissioned job that suffered from an excess
of statistic. But he was much favoured.

The later chroniclers, however, didn’t err
in their parsimony: they merely mapped
words on to public memory, as it were.
The frugality was no more than apt
for an empire’s demise while it napped,
and its foes made the most of its slumber.

Yet there were portents long before the fated
dismemberment. Sadly, the few who saw them
went unheard, unheeded; their voices grated
against the stern chorus of the anthem,
the lumpen Gloria they couldn’t stem.
Hubris soared. Patiently, nemesis waited.

The enemy cared little. With no past
nor glory to weigh it down, it went
openly about, colours nailed to the mast,
unwavering of intent;
while from afar rattled Neros sent
vain shibboleths to the outclassed.

In the end the Cassandras were proved right,
if only Pyrrhically. All the doom
foretold came to pass, as the final blight
descended in crepuscular gloom,
and sombre conclaves met to decide whom
to blame for the dominion’s shambled plight.

Little left now, little worthy of recall.
A few toothless proconsuls survive,
with bleached memories, versions of the fall:
blind to the last, they still connive
at lies they keep doggedly alive.
An aqueduct mocks; elsewhere a derelict wall.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cultural Awards? It's All a Cultural Thing, Isn't It?

Cultural awards? makes me think. A post I had made on a literary network made me gloat a bit. What isn't cultural these days. We are swamped by cultural shows, dance shows, award shows, all these have the same set of beautiful culture-vulture people smiling for the crowds, that's us, the receipients of culture.

A newspapers (I think the Guardian) called the Booker Award as a cultural award. If a certain author wins the award several times over the years, it mean the award is cultural. It's so natural. When the judges sit to confer an award, they say, "Oh, so and so is excellent in this novel. The also rans lack the touch of this genius, besides it is safe and politically correct." The publishing industry minders, the leeches who live sucking blood from the system are also happy as it helps with sales. The many deserving writers, who should have won an award, or been given a break in writing, don't get a foot in the door. The ones who are queueing after them, well, forget them.

Likewise if an actor, say Shahrukh Khan win the Filmfare Best Actor award five times, then it is more a cultural award. It shows the "industry" is in awe of him, his dimples, his acting prowess, his promotional skills. Those four awards out of five could have gone to more deserving debutants. But, no, it's a cultural thing, isn't it? We have a lot of talented actors who aren't recognized. Arjun Ramphal for one. I have admired his skills for long, and he manages to hold on, but never wins an, erm, cultural award. Is it that he is a bit reluctant to cultivate the culture vultures?

This fame business, methinks, works like a conveyor belt. If the top ones don't fall from the belt the smaller ones do. If the top ones don't gracefull exit the small ones don't make an entry. So the ones on the top make every effort to stay on top, or, sort of jam the movement of the belt, and that's a cultural thing. Merit gets side tracked for popularity and visibility.

The same thing happens I guess in matters literary. Poor writers (such as the humble me) have been trying in vain to get established writers to recommend their (our) work. This is established practice. Where would RK Narayan be without Graham Greene? Where would Arundhati Roy be without Pankaj Mishra? But, no, how could they? What would people think? How can they recommend a writer who may be a dud or a future competitor when they themselves are so desperately sucking up to the system? Make it a leeetle difficult for them, or, better ignore them, they would naturally fall off the conveyor belt soon.

Ranjit Bolt, a translator of classical European theatre who lives in the UK gives another jolt to the Booker as culture discussion by the statement that being brown helps to win the Booker. More the reason to believe that the Booker is indeed a culture award. Political correctness would have it that the awards go to the previously oppressed classes, incarcerated in their color, wanting desperately to come out. But Bolt forgets that one must be brown and female to win culture awards. Aw, look at Arundhati, Jhumpa and, now, Kiran. What flawless skin, what smiles, what teeth. But that is the cribbing of an unpublished, grumpy author.

If culture is what awards are all about society is also not far behind. Kalimpong has raised the flag of revolt claiming that it has been wrongly represented by Kiran, and likewise Brick Lane. Who says novels are for woolly headed nerds? Shows that people do take novels seriously. But the culture-vultures of the genteel literary world meet in discreet eating houses in New York and New Delhi and exchange notes on who is "cool" and who is not. What styles could likely win culture awards and what styles are most likely not.

These self-appointed guardians of culture can be seen everywhere. At award shows, art shows, movie shows baring their fangs (sorry, teeth). Visibility is what they are after. And the media, ever in awe of the Page 3 culture is only too willing to oblige. Culture rules, long live culture!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Do You Believe It?

“Three in one, three in one. Three movies for the price of one.”

He looks tired, his hair has not been dyed for a long time, white strands show under the black color that has been washed away. His voice grates. The evening is hot. The junction is clamoring with vehicles.

Pakya spits, drinks the glass of water in the smudged tumbler, gargles. Sweat beads, and drips inside his shirt.

“Which picture?”

“Loot Gayee Laila, Don, and Unkahee Chahat.”


“It’s a hit. Laila’s honor has been looted. Genuine movie, what acting, just like real.”

“How much?” Pakya asked.

“Rupees fifteen for three movies, aree, baap, no sisterfucking theater will show you three movies. This Javed Kanya guarantees.”

There’s a poster of Amitabh Bachhan and Zeenat Aman, stars of Don, and a lurid poster of Loot Gayee Laila. Laila shows a lot of smooth, chubby thighs, and a heavy bosom. It is dark and Pakya can’t see too well. The tea stall is clamoring with people sipping tea. A stove hisses below a steaming vessel, the stall-owner adds to the cacophony by banging his ladle loudly on it.

Should he go in? The so-called theatre is in a slum, there is a dark room that opens through what can be called a door, some seedy looking characters lounge near the door, suspiciously looking like murderers or rapists or both.

Pakya takes the glass of tea and sips it, downing it with the slow deliberation that wants to make the sweetness last.

The night is young and Pakya badly wants something to happen. That would include a visit to the dance bar, which is expensive, or this dingy, ugly little room in a slum that shows X-rated movies for Rs fifteen on a big LCD screen.

But he doesn’t like the look of Javed Kanya, who is dressed in white shirt and trousers, which were white once. That was long ago. Now it is a shade of brown. He is one-eyed, he squints. His long-sleeved shirt isn’t buttoned. The shirt front is open and the sleeves flaps about as he moves. His mouth is masticating betel nut, and when he speak the red juice runs down the corners of his mouth.

“Don, we are showing the old Don, starring Amitabh Bachhan, not the new Don, starring Sharukh Khan, baap,” he wipes his mouth with his hand, and afterwards scoops his private parts with the same hands and kneads them, balls and all. He shifts his hands and legs around a lot, in a sort of filmy style.

“What’s the difference between that Don and this Don?” Pakya asks.

“Old Don, Amitabh Bachhan, new Don, Sharukh Khan. What is Amitabh? What is Sharukh?” He ends his sentence with a derogatory lowering of his jaw.


Pakya looks at the inviting posters and imagines the bliss of seeing it all. At least the mystery of Laila’s taut thighs and bosom would be solved when he sees her on screen. Pakya drools. The sensation of lust passes down his head to his toes, pausing at his crotch. He craves some entertainment, the crasser the better. His works in an automobile spare parts shop doesn’t offer him any satisfaction. He is constantly fetching parts for his corpulent boss who sits, and sits the whole day smoking, and ordering him around. The work frustrates him so much that he needs to escape every evening.

“Make up your mind fast, fast. What? Or, you won’t even get a ticket for Rupees Thirty. This Don is the best movie every produced. I can dare anyone to contradict me. Even our real-life Don grew up on this movie.”

“Which real-life Don?”

“Arree, what Don, you don’t know. He grew up here. Have you ever heard of Chota Chetan?”

“Arre, that Don? Who doesn’t? What, you know him?” Pakya is amazed. Chota Chetan is the country most wanted man.

“Know him? We played cricket together, he and I. We sold tickets in black market together. We were close buddies once.”

“And you?”

“Fate. He makes movies now. He controls a criminal empire. I am still a hustler of movie tickets. He sits abroad, I am here.”

So sad. But he could be lying.

“I don’t believe you.”

“Believe it or not, it’s your choice. Tell me do you want tickets, kali fokat, don’t be too smart, what?”

He turns away to hustle some more.

“Hey Kanya, I will buy your ticket, huhn? But tell me your story. I mean, your story and Chota Chetan’s,” Pakya beckons.


Pakya hands him the money. Kanya wets his fingers with spit, tears a ticket and gives it. There’s a long time for the show to start. The evening is getting warmer. It must be hot inside the theatre.

“Then listen. First buy me half a glass of cutting tea.”

Pakya looks at his face, a million finely etched wrinkles crowd it like spider webs. He has only a few teeth left in his mouth, his speech is rough, disjointed.

“He and I were friends,” he says blowing into his tea, “why, we are friends even now. If he came here we would have a drink. He is from these parts, we grew up together, played cricket together.”

“Really?” Pakya is incredulous. His mouth hangs open. He had only read about Chota Chetan’s exploits from newspapers and television channels. That this ruin of a man knows, or knew, the real Don, the real real Don, not the Don of the films, fascinates him.

“Yes. And we sold tickets of the old movie Don together at the local theatre.”

“What does he look like?”

Javed Kanya tries to remember, but his memory isn’t that sharp. He wipes his mouth with his sleeve and leaves a long stain on it.

“Short, long hair just like you. He always used to toss it off his eyes. And yes he used to walk very fast, his rubber slippers flopping after him.”

“How did he become so big a Don and you are left in this dump?” Pakya asks motioning towards the dilapidated theatre made of tin sheets. Some Hindi music plays inside. It seems odd, but life can be odd.

“I can make a picture with that story. Tell you a secret? Chota Chetan was inspired by this movie Don, the old Amitabh Bachhan movie, I mean.”

“How? You mean the movie Don created a Don in real life? You mean he became a gangster because of this movie? Tell me how.” Pakya asks incredulously, his jaws dropping further.

“Listen, words have power, they are sharper than any knife, can penetrate you more than any bullet. Javed Kanya knows.”

“You think I am a chootiya, a fool to believe you?”

“Abey, don’t call me Chootiya, what?”

Then Pakya remembers he is a friend of the real Don, and shuts himself up and listens.

“Those days… what a life we had. We were only small children, innocent of the ways of the world. We thought selling tickets in black was fun. Chota Cheta was a youngster like you. We did it for want of something to do. Just like that. It would fetch some money to buy clothes, a bike, and we could see movies for free.”

He is silent for a long time. The clamor of traffic around the junction is getting louder. More people are anxiously gathering around the theatre. Javed Kanya seems too engrossed in his story to care.

“We used to sit in the back rows and whistle and clap as Amitabh came on screen. Chetan would be too engrossed in the movie. His eyes would light up, he would jump on his seat, clap, whistle, and throw money at his hero. He was a bit too involved. Remember I told you words have power. ”

Finally, Kanya drank what was left of the tea and spat on the road.

“You know this dialogue, ‘Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahi namumkin hai’? To catch the Don is not only difficult, it is impossible.”

“Yes. That’s my favorite dialogue.”

“His favorite dialogue too. Those words… that snatch of movie dialog… they have such power… it was written by fire in his soul. He has been on the run for so long and believes nobody can catch him, not his enemies, not the police. I doubt if they ever will. I know him.”

“Aree, your mother’s! What are you talking?”

“Yes. Only he believed in those words so strongly, so strongly, they have tried everything, the police, his enemies, the Interpol, the spy rings, they still can’t arrest him.”

“What? I can’t believe it. A mere dialog of a movie can’t turn a middle-class boy into one of the country’s biggest criminals.”

“Believe it or not, it’s up to you. But this is his story. He believed. I didn’t believe in anything. That’s why I am here, and he is where he is. Now I have to go, got to sell more tickets.”

He ambled away, a broken, decrepit aging man, his hair like wisps of candy floss.


After the movie Pakya looked around for Javed Kanya. He was there lolling against the makeshift table that had a cash box and a bossy-looking man sitting in a plastic chair.

“Do you believe me now?” Kanya asked.

“No, I still can’t,” Pakya says shaking his head. He could never believe that a mere movie - floating pictures and dialogues on a screen - can create a real life criminal as powerful as Chota Chetan.

But who knows? He is one of the disbelievers like Javed Kanya here who don’t believe in anything, and drift aimlessly as a leaf in the monsoon wind.

“Disbelief cannot alter the truth,” Kanya says wistfully. The night is hot as Pakya walks home. He fervently hopes he isn’t inspired too much by the movie to become a criminal.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


“The only person KVK doesn’t know is himself probably.”

- Colleague at work to others, in response to an apropos remark of mine.


He’s profoundly unaware of what he’s said.
He’s part of what I call canaille, not my kind;
I indulge his inane jokes and grin
inanely back, hiding distaste behind
a forbearance wearing tiresomely thin.
But this once I widen my eyes instead,

stopped short by the remark’s unwitting truth:
“Out of the mouths of babes” – the image
sits grotesquely with his frame,
and is quickly discarded as sacrilege.
Still, wondering whence his wisdom came
(for the chap is nothing if not uncouth),

I essay a tentative bow, an awkward nod
at humility. Uncondescending, I pat his back,
smiling more at circumstance than at him,
while he, confused, senses a different tack,
mumbles a thanks, ascribes no doubt to whim
this strange indulgence (distinctly odd),

and moves on to wonted worlds where he’s
at home. Alone again, I take two drags, flick
the butt in an arc, missing the bin…Damn.
Somehow never quite learnt that trick –
as indeed many another, making me what I am,
whatever that may be or is.


Friday, November 24, 2006


I watch the doc and intern discuss the ‘case.’
The drollery escapes both – or maybe the joke
in this slightly absurd farce is beyond them.
After all, they must be saying, a stroke’s a stroke,
even if the cause was someone dumping him
to marry. The wife knows, puts a face.

Is it face, I wonder, that makes her nurse
that uncouth hulk, rude and petulant as a brat
as she cajoles meals and medicines in
with bully or banter: no more than that,
surely? For she can’t hope to win
what the other had, what never was hers.

Soon he’ll go home, wheeled out by hands
now duty bound, strangers to love: and back
in his dreams or cups will rue and pine,
and snap at table at some imagined lack
or other, while she humours his whine,
cheerful victim of his crippling romance.


Monday, November 20, 2006

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri - A Review

I have just finished wading through “The Namesake” written by Jhumpa Lahiri. “Wading” is the word I use because, though Lahiri is an engaging writer, she fills her novel with too many details, over which I stumble, ponder, wonder (hmm, now why would she have had to say that?), genuflect, and then straighten myself. Her paragraphs are uniformly half a page and in that, too, these inconsequential details of everyday life, some cultural vestiges lie around like stumbling blocks.

I am constrained to mention this here because the flow is hampered, I lose track, and finishing the book was a great effort. I don’t like to be exhausted reading a book; I like to be entertained. I guess this applies to most writers of the Diaspora and, our own homegrown variety. We are so much anxious to impress with our knowledge and our articulation that we overdo it, consistently, constantly.

Now, I may be veering into the rant mode but this is something Lahiri does through this excellent novel. If you are through the first hundred pages, it becomes a little better. You can safely ignore the details and go ahead, come what may. But getting over the first hundred pages is the toughest part. When Lahiri describes each item in a house, or, a rented hotel room, you have no alternative but to sit up and cry, “Whoa! She is so perceptive, she gives me a complex.” Yes, she does, to all pretenders, such as I, who think they can write. But one also thinks, “There she goes, why would she include all that? Is it significant, a leit motif, for the rest of the story?” But disappointingly it isn’t.

It’s the story of Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli. Ashoke is told to leave the country by a man he meets during a train journey. The train in which he is traveling is derailed in the night and the compartments are smashed and thrown off the rails. Ashoke is injured in the accident but has a providential escape because he happens to be clutching a novel written by Nikolai Gogol which he was reading at the time of the mishap. So, obviously, Nikolai Gogol has a prominent part to play in Ashoke’s survival and he names his first-born Gogol, probably to record his thanks to the Russian story teller.

He immigrates to the United States with Ashima, gets a job raises a family of two. Gogol and Sonia are the two children he raises the Indian, sorry, Bengali way, protectively, always apprehensive, always paranoid about security. The children are happy-go-lucky American kids and they do not know from where their parents’ fear comes from. (They do not know that the fear originates from India where anything left untended is summarily snatched away, or vandalized.)

But Gogol resents being named thus, and is not flattered by his Russian name, that too of a writer thought to be a maniacal genius. He militates against his father’s choice of nomenclature. He has his name changed to Nikhil but the original name sticks to him like a ghost from the past, and haunts him. The teaching of Gogol’s writings in school is a big embarrassment to him, and he cowers from any association with Gogol, the writer.

Ashoke and Ashima does a heroic job of raising a family, protecting a culture in an alien land, in which they are recently emigrated strangers. They have a very close-knit community of Bengali friends in the US and their interaction is restricted to this group who meet for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and other social dos. The urge is very strong among migrants to maintain their cultural identity when they are in an alien land, and Ashoke and Ashima would like to pass on their Indian-ness to their children.

But the children are drawn towards the mainstream White culture. Gogol has affairs with white girls/women and nearly marries one much against the wishes of his parents. The Indian girl he marries eventually, through the persuasion of his mother Ashima jilts him for a Russian. Sonia marries a white man, and therefore Ashoke’s and Ashima’s dream of propagating the culture they have so assiduously cultivated in an alien land collapses. So, in that sense, the emigrant’s strict phobias seems trivial and unfounded.

The most poignant part of the novel is the sudden and unannounced death of Ashoke. Now, this is the best part of the novel. It is narrated in such deadpan prose that it rings so true, so authentic and life-like. Death is the most unexpected of visitors. The reader is shocked beyond disbelief, and can understand the emotional turmoil that Ashima, and her children Gogol and Sonia go through at this juncture. It is to Lahiri’s credit that she has handled this evolving drama pretty well.

Gogol falls in love with Moushumi, the girl his mother has picked for him, and who is trying to get over a broken engagement with her White boyfriend. They marry, and for sometime all is hunky dory. This section of the novel is well handled and the reader is shocked that Moushumi would go off with another man, a Russian professor, leaving poor Gogol. But that is life, and that is literature, so authentic as to be stupefying. Lahiri handles these passages really well, one is awed how naturally it happens, and how her story lends the incident so much life-like uncertainty. This is Lahiri at her best, delivering a deadly punch in the narrative when the reader least expects it. This is as shocking, or, was as shocking to me, as was Ashoke’s death.

The novel is a chiaroscuro of images, experiences, some sad, some elevating, all written in the author’s perspicacious style, with much detailing. Much as I had enjoyed “The Interpreter of Maladies” I relished this one that promises to be a watermark in the annals of literature produced by the Diaspora.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


It is possible, perhaps even reasonable
to tell oneself that this alone is real,
the one grim truth ineluctable.
Purgatory or hell, it’s immaterial.

Not Dante but Bosch, this: the stylised fright
of ether, smells and swabs, and groans
punctuating the strip-lit night,
unspared by strident insistent phones.

Outside cars, neon, flights overhead –
the whole damn business of living in fact –
cavalcade past the varying dead
like dreams against this waking act.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sonnet for a Stolen Mobile Phone

Sonnet for a Stolen Mobile Phone

You were cuddlesome and oh! so cute,

Full of lively chatter and, sometimes mute,

Hours I would spend waiting for you to ring,

You were a universe in the joys you bring.

You spoke to me in several lingos,

Mallu, Hindi, English, Bambaiya patois,

Yet you departed so abruptly, without feelings,

Nary elations, greetings, or glad tidings.

 Then one evening, I know not,

Who stole you from me, my Camelot,

Are your rings dead, are you still alive?

Has he de-SIM-ed you, do you still survive?

 Please come back to me, I miss you,

Without you, I am not me, nor would you be you!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

NOVEMBER 11, 2006

Your dust lies scattered in alien lands,
and the ones you thought you died for
have whelped unhallowed seed.
The wreaths mock the souls we cried for;
and your silly simple hearts would bleed
to see your graves profaned by unclean hands.


Today is Remembrance Day. The poem was prompted by a photograph of Sonia Gandhi laying a wreath at Ypres.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

2100: The Long Commute


The year 2100. Another morning, another commute, I groaned. I parked my mini electric car at CBD Belapur station and saw my friend Shashi N emerging from the thick yellow-tinged morning fog, wearing a heavy jacket made of bullet- and bomb-proof material. He is a technical writer and so am I, and, moreover, he is the only friend, and relation I have in this world. We are close.

We work in Bangalore, only a two-hour ride on the 500 kmph train from Beloved Leader Sharad P. Railway Station, the erstwhile Vashi Station, Bombay, named after the last of the great Marathha politicians. The former island of Bombay was totally destroyed in the great flood of 2047, and the then New Bombay, nearby, had assumed the identity of Bombay, for commercial and historical reasons. All that is left of Bombay is a few islands where the hills were, inhabited by the die-hard hill tribes who once used to boast that they were a superior race as they lived on Malabar and Pali hills. The CBD Belapur station hasn’t been cleaned, Teflon coffee cups and dazed sleepers lie around in careless disarray.

“Hi Shashi N.,” I greeted him. Surnames weren’t to be mentioned as religious fascism had peaked and religious mercenaries were everywhere planting bombs, shooting through small, light-weight, rapid action Mauser pistols. One could get killed if one’s surname was known.

“Hi,” he acknowledges morosely.

“Late again?” I ask.

“Yes,” he said mournfully, “I reached home at 2 a.m. this morning, and slept for hardly three hours. I had bought a thousand units of electricity and didn’t know I had let my computer on through the day, and when I reached home there isn’t even a single unit to light a bulb, or even heat some water for a bath.”

He looked shabby and unwashed, his hair matted with dust and dirt, as if he had slept at the station like the P.O.O.R. people lying around us with their impact-proof blankets. Electricity was strictly rationed and had to be paid in advance. No electricity meant nothing would run in the house, everything depended on electricity, and there was such a big scarcity. Gas and petrol was the privilege of the super-rich who owned cars run on fossil fuel, a scarce commodity.

“What’s that you are licking?” I ask.

He was licking the last slobs of a gooey liquid from a tube, shaped like a toothpaste tube.

“My breakfast. It contains enough nutrition to last me till I reach the Goohoo canteen.”

Goohoo was formed when Google and Yahoo decided to merge in 2085 when the Lin-Baden-run Vironi Corporation operating from Babylon unleashed deadly viruses on the networks that almost destroyed all World Wide Web servers.

I was wearing my bullet- and bomb-proof jacket and an old-fashioned helmet with a radiation-proof visor. Violence was common after members of the parliament fought with automatic weapons inside the law-making body and the Consortium of Corporations (called CC, in short, dominated by Goohoo) had taken over the legislative functions of the country. The transition was overseen by Beloved Leader Sharad P. who maintained that instead of corporations funding the government it was better if the corporations took over and gave politicians a percentage of the profits. There would be less wastage. Politicians drew a handsome salary sitting at home. The executive authority stayed in the hands of the policing machinery, now controlled by the Consortium, or, CC. They are the ones who introduced high-speed trains between Bombay and Bangalore. It was a big success.

“Nice Jacket,” I say.

“Five million rupees,” he says, “even after a special discount to Goohoo employees.”

Around us are a milling crowd all wearing hooded jackets and helmets. A small mean-looking person pushes us apart and scurries toward the platform. He is skinny; his walk is jerky, but fast. He is wearing a computer screen on one sleeve of his jacket and on the other has a keyboard. He is typing something on the keyboard even as he is cutting a neat swathe through the hundreds of morning commuters.

“Did you see him?” I ask.

“Yes, he is a Code Devil who works in Goohoo. I know him.”

Code Devils are the elite programmers trained by corporations like Goohoo. In a world totally dependent upon programming they are the new stars and idols, as movie actors used to be at one time, in another century.

The train arrives with a great sonic boom. It is bulging with commuters, all going to Bangalore, the technology capital. There are people clinging to it everywhere, even some mysterious hooded forms sitting on the roof. Life would be hell for them, what with the cold and chilly slipstream.

I close the visor of my helmet and Shashi zips up his jacket. Entering the train would be like squeezing through a fruit juicer.

A posse of women surrounded by heavily armed women police arrive and the jackets of all the desire sensors worn by the men on the platform light up and shimmer with desire. The rare creatures were escorted inside the train even before there is the possibility of Cupid aiming an arrow or two.

“Hey, to think that once they used to mingle with us!” I say.

“Blame skewed sex ratios. If they mingle they would be raped and killed. The CC did the right thing. At least, they have security now,” he says wistfully.

He knows. He has a girlfriend and is in love, a feeling the CC has patented and copyright controlled. Due to a variety of reasons including the population growth the CC legislated that all love should be a copyrighted commodity, like a program, and any use should attract a heavy Love Tax.

Therefore these desire sensors were mandatory. Anyone not wearing it could be sentenced to the Love Dungeons and anyone found coveting the opposite sex would immediately be arrested and confined for breaking the copyright code, unless Love Tax was paid.

For procreation the CC’s Ministry of Love had arranged for exclusive hospitals where a woman could walk in and have a sponsored baby and donate it to the care of the Consortium which would train them to be Code Devils. The consortium needed only programmers and the risk of casual flings upsetting the genetic engineering code was terrifying.

“How is Sangita?” I ask.

Shashi’s girlfriend’s name is Sangita. He had written and posted a love poem to her on the online forum Neterati. The Ministry of Love’s detection department had sensed this in their latest Love Audit. They also found that Shashi hadn’t paid Love Tax which should have been deposited in advance before a man and woman can fall in love.

“I feel so hopelessly torn apart. I haven’t met her in a week though we work for the same corporation. She is in a glass bubble across the lawns but I, I am so helpless, I can’t meet her. I fear for my life and hers, they are monitoring my thoughts, I can feel it, and I am broke, I can’t afford to pay Love Tax,” he says as we find a convenient corner inside the door of the train.

“Then give her up. Break up and tell her you can’t afford her.”

“It’s easy for you to say that, yaar. We are way too much involved.”

“But the most they could do is ask Goohoo to pay on your behalf, since they have the controlling interest in CC, and are represented on the governing board.”

“No, stupid, that won’t work. I get these fainting fits. When they monitor you they fill you with fatal love thoughts that almost kill, just testing us. Of late, it is happening frequently. I am afraid for my life. Even you are at risk if you are found with me.”

The CC had embarked on a Total Asexualization Drive to curb the sexual instinct that they hoped, rather vainly, would boost productivity in the workplace. This was fully supported by Narayana Premji and Azim Moorthy (grand children of the two pioneers, the second generation having inter-married) who had all along maintained that corporate goals should be above personal goals.

“Then what about all the books, novels, films on love and longings and the love poems that existed and still exist in libraries on this mysterious feeling called love. I don’t understand; I am lost,” I say. I haven’t felt any love for a woman since I haven’t been near one in years. I don’t even know who my mother is, or, rather, was. May be Shashi could explain what it was all about.

“Ah, that was the twenty-first century you are talking about. That was the time when Neterati was still an online forum of free expression for writers. I remember, a lot of love poems were posted there, a few of them were really atrocious, some were even spelt, ‘Pomes.’ Now they are underground. I still attend their meetings, though, surreptitiously.”

Shashi and I are wedged closely, inside the door, almost out of the train. The wind is howling around our ears and the sound is deafening as the train levitates within the field created by two powerful magnetic rails above and below it. I think of the hooded men I had seen sitting above the train. They would be shivering and their hands would be almost frozen by the cold.

We pass the Project of Outcasteing Religion (P.O.O.R.) areas between Poona and Bombay. These are the areas where the religious zealots live. Areas are marked by communal flags and their extreme poverty is obvious from the shabby hovels in which they live. They are all uniformly greyish, probably, the soot emissions from Alliance’s giant petroleum refineries in the area.

This is the dark space I had heard about, I mean, the P.O.O.R area. There is no electricity and life is as it was in pre-1879, the year the electric bulb was invented. They can’t afford electricity. The police ignore the denizens of these slums, they are afraid for themselves. Killings and riots are quite common and the CC is quite content with letting them decimate each other. After all, the Consortium assumes, it is their mistake that they didn’t learn to write programming code, or even understand computing algorithms, preferring to sow the seeds of religious hatred.

“So how are things at Goohoo?” I ask.

“Bad,” Shashi says, “at least for technical writers,” he has opened his jacket hood a little so that I can see his sleep-deprived eyes.

Poor man, I think, squeezed from all sides, not able to meet his girl friend, and, somehow, to add to all that the insecurity with his job.

A series of staccato explosions shake the train as it speeds across the vast arid land, still under a thick fog. The heavy rains had cut fissures through the landscape and the recent heat waves had all but burnt the earth to a greyish-black.

“Cluster bombs,” Shashi mumbles. The sounds grow distant. CC has instructed the train driver to disengage the compartment if there are any explosions in it. “Production should not be affected,” was the sole mantra. The rest of the train hurtled forward.

“Why is it bad?”

“It is bad, bad, bad, so bad I can’t tell you. My very existence in their mammoth air-conditioned bubble is at risk.”

“Why? Tell me no, why?”

“You know what those Code Devils have gone and done?”


“They have written a program to author help manuals. They don’t need technical writers any more in Goohoo.”

“What?” I am so astounded I knock my helmet against Shashi’s head. He curses me in choice Malayalam invectives I won’t mention here.

“Yes, a bloody program writes help manuals. It writes stuff like “For p=p+1, next p” for something as simple as ‘turn to the next page’,” imagine, and the managers are happy with it. ‘After all, who reads help manuals,’ they say.”

That’s a holler. It is real bad news, without writing jobs both Shashi and I wouldn’t have anywhere to go, I think, as I look at the cold morning transforms suddenly into a hot mid-morning with temperatures hovering around 95 degree Fahrenheit. Presently we all are sweating.

“Global warming,” Shashi says, loosening his jacket, “they don’t seem to care. They have their climate controlled apartments in the Goohoo campus, and their minders and managers to assure them nothing is wrong. Why, even their television news channels are doctored by the Consortium. They only see the news CC wants them to see. They never travel in trains, and if they venture out, it is from their roof-top helipads to their private jets. What do they know about the long commute?”

“So if a program writes help manuals we writers would be out of jobs, what would we do?” I ask.

“Good question, dumbo! Even I don’t know,” Shashi shakes his hooded head, “What do they care? They say product life cycles are short. Before they can finish reading the help manual, the product is obsolete; the next model is in the market. So why write product help manuals?”

I shake my head, too. My career as a creative writer hasn’t taken off. Most of my manuscripts come back with form letters wishing me “all success in finding a suitable publisher.”

One publisher even said, “If you want to be published, become famous first.” That means if you are a woman, get laid by a famous man and write about the number of moles on his private parts, or if you are a man, well, the only alternative is tell all about the idiosyncrasies of corporations like Goohoo. But that could put my life in danger.

This could be the end of me. I would end up in a call center, after all, something I dreaded all along. I would be measured each day by the number of calls I make. I hate call centers. I hate them for being so uncreative, unoriginal, and so mechanical. There is software that senses and blocks all calls but they still persist.

Zap, zap, zap! Everything seems to spin around me. I am feeling a lot of love, er, feeling of being loved excessively. Though I have never been loved, I have sometimes fantasized about a queer feeling that came over me sometimes, and had given in to its frenzied rhythms.

Suddenly epiphany strikes. Am I also being monitored by the Love Auditors as I am with Shashi? Shashi is reeling, he holds on to me. His face seems a blur, so also the faces of all the hooded forms around us. The train, or what is left of it after the cluster bombs have struck, is hurtling along a vast desert that once used to be the Deccan Plateau, now laid waste by periodic meteor hits, as the outer atmospheric shield around the earth has mitigated to a very thin layer around the earth. The wind howls, the hooded forms, unzip their hoods, and I can see their eyes bulging, as they stare at us.

“You are Love Offenders. Get away from us,” their eyes accuse us.

I recover. Consciousness comes back at once. It was one of those Love Audits, and they seemed to have exonerated me. But what about Shashi? Shashi is slumped against me, his hood askew, drool at the corners of his mouth. I shake him, slap his face. No response.

“Is he dead?” I ask the man standing next to me. He has a red cross sign on his jackets and “Goohoo” written below it, apparently, a doctor working for the world’s biggest corporation. He is familiar with such situations as he has ministered to many employees who have died on their computer workstations.

“Yes, your friend is dead, you must throw him out now,” the doctor says.

“Should you be so cruel?”

“CC policy 11.13287.9840 on corpse disposal states that dead organisms could disturb the creativity index of the Code Devils who are travelling to Bangalore, and further, that dead bodies of Love Offenders should be dispensed of immediately.”

“But can’t I give him a funeral or something?”

“No, the body could putrefy by the time we reach Bangalore in this heat.”

I knew it was no use arguing.

Slowly he and other Goohoo employees, there seem to be quite a lot of them in this train, say a company prayer written in C--, nudge Shashi N, my only friend and acquaintance in the world, towards the door and push him out. Helmets, bullet- and bomb-proof jackets watch as the body disappears from sight into the fast-receding landscape outside the speeding train. The blazing afternoon is a blur. I close the helmet visor and say a prayer for Shashi. I must phone Sangita and tell her, if at all she is alive.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Surely there must be release
from this timeless maddening gyre.
A link falling off perhaps, a limp cuff
come loose, or a gnarled arm entire
that’s about had enough
and flops to welcome knees.

Or will the smug board descend –
not gently let down but torn
from its skewed four-nailed cross
by hands that will not mourn
its tyranny’s loss:
a perverse passion’s end?

I watch with awe undiminished
an incipience finely pencilled
(a curve at commencement’s verge),
the mind circumscribed and stilled
as countless worlds converge:
an incompleteness so subtly finished.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006


a green-burn howl works its way into the road
and slips along the quiet, night pavement
under the cassia, slithers
like an asp at a queen's breast
exciting her last megalomaniac gasp

my father's corpse was dragged unwilling
in an ambulance across these streets
dry as a winter sheath or autumn leaves
when they crackle dull brown underfoot
and leave a stale smell

the walls of his house, formerly sparkling
turned grey-pink over the years
the blood slowly seeping into each crack
whispering in the wrinkled crannies
starting up at dusk to sigh sometimes

city of hiss and shout
and resigned fatigue
and quiet headaches,
I wish I could leave.

~ N

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


No willed or ordained martyrdom awaits us.
Yet the end must seem the same, swift
with swords or stretched to common tedium:
laboured prize or relenting gift.
Only the silence sports a rarer idiom,
a canonical gloss that separates us.

You die as you live, in the bored channel
of your use, with neither royal favour,
nor fated fallout of its frown –
no subject for the engraver,
or hallowed mascot for a town.
Nor – least of all – a stained-glass panel.


Monday, September 25, 2006

The Amitava Kumar - Salman Rushdie Controversy

Read this article on Amitava Kumar's Blog. Can't say that I agree with him totally, being a die-hard fan of Rushdie. But, it now turns out that Rusdie has, some how, read Kumar's blog articles (some excerpts follow) and has threatened to cancel a lecture at Vassar College if he was introduced to the audience by Amitava. This may have the potential of blooming into a full-fledged literary controversy, me thinks.

"What Rushdie did was not exactly new in Indian writing in other languages or even in Indian drama, but its intensity and range was novel in the tradition of English writing that had been inaugurated by the likes of R.K. Narayan, Raja Rao, and Mulk Raj Anand. In a land allegedly in thrall to babu English, here was someone who was having fun with the English language. Reading him was a bit like coming across a giant ad for Amul butter on an Indian street—except that Rushdie was in command and kept doing it for five hundred pages."

"The trouble is that despite all his invention and exuberance Rushdie remains to a remarkable extent an academic writer. He is academic in that abstractions rule over his narratives. They determine the outlines of his characters, their faces, and their voices. Rushdie is also academic in the sense that his rebellions and his critiques are all securely progressive ones, advancing the causes that the intelligentsia, especially the left-liberal Western intelligentsia, holds close to its breast. This is not a bad thing, but it should qualify one's admiration for Rushdie's daring."

"There can be no doubt that the threats that Rushdie faced and also the book-burnings and other protests were shameful and unacceptable. But I do not for a moment support Norman Mailer's assessment (Norman Mailer wrote Rusdie after the Fatwa "Many of us begin writing with the inner temerity that if we keep searching for the most dangerous of our voices, why then, sooner or later we will outrage something very fundamental in the world, and our lives will be in danger. That is what I thought when I started out, and so have many others, but you, however, are the only one of us who gave proof that this intimation is not ungrounded."). I don't believe that Rushdie has even found his most dangerous voice. In fact, I don't believe that Rushdie's is the most dangerous voice writing today. His is no doubt a powerful voice; often, it has been an oppositional voice; but it is a voice of a celebrity promoting commendable causes; more seriously, in some fundamental way, it is the voice of a metaphorical outsider, and therefore incapable of revealing to ourselves, in an intimate way, our complicities, our contradictions, and our own inescapable horror. I don't deny that it is a voice that can engage and delight and of course annoy, and yet it is very important to make a distinction: what Rushdie writes can easily provoke, but it is rarely able to disturb."

Kumar's grouse seems to be that Rusdie is being used as a milestone in Indian English literature as when we say "he writes like Rushdie" and "he doesn't write like Rushdie." But Rusdie opened the gates to the flood (or is it a trickle?) that followed, didn't he? Admittedly Rusdie criticized and parodied Indian life for a western audience, but he did it with considerable charm and wit and even we tend to nod our heads and smile when we read what Kumar calls "academic" writing. Here's what Rushdie says about migration, as quoted by Kumar, "To migrate is certainly to lose language and home, to be defined by others, to become invisible or, even worse, a target; it is to experience deep changes and wrenches in the soul. But the migrant is not simply transformed by his act; he also transforms his new world. Migrants may well become mutants, but it is out of such hybridization that newness can emerge."

I have underlined "invisible" because in "Midnight's Children" he calls the people who live beyond posh Neapean Sea Road area in Bombay as "Invisible People," or the migrant people. This is something I can identify with as I am of second generation migrant stock, living as invisible people in an extended suburb of Bombay. Here's a poem I wrote in my blog about how indigenous people hate migrants.
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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Reality Show to Sell a Book? Quite possible!

Saw the James McGreevey interview with Larry King on CNN. Now, for those who came in late, James is the former governor of New Jersey who has made a public admission to having a homosexual affair and to having cheated on his wife, as a consequence of which he had to give up his office. He has also come up with a book on the affair titled "The Confession" and may, me thinks, have been desperate to get publicity for the book. The confession includes trysts in anonymous truck stops, crawling into bed with his wife after escapades with his boy friend, etc.

What I found unusual was the handsome McGreevey was squirming in his seat while answering King's pointed and, rather, blunt questions. Several times he fumbled for answers, and on occasions he seemed as if he wasn't telling the truth, at least, fudging some. Larry King asked him if he had sexual encounters before his marriage, and he said, "yes," the next question was, "was it pleasurable?" What does he mean by asking if a sexual encounter was pleasurable? Why would he go for an encounter if it wasn't pleasurable. Come, come, now, Larry King!

To make matters worse there were also interviews with his cheated wife, and his boyfriend (no, he says, life partner), whom he kissed on the show. Yes, kissed on the mouth! All through the interview I was conscious of a brave show being put up, all that was wrong with such displays became quite obvious. I mean, the reality television kind of programs showing people embarassed, crying, shouting, and kissing.

I felt that this was the movie trailer to goad people to buy the book in millions to delve into the secret life of the handsome governor. Also, who knows, movie rights, and may be, a movie role (seeing as to how handsome he is!). Oh, the pits to which people can descend!

I may be terribly old fashioned (my blog says so), not to talk of getting old, but couldn't these emotions be handled a bit more discreetly? All through the show the interlocutor Larry King had a cynical set to his mouth, and conducted the interview with great detachment, as is his wont. But all this drama to sell a book? If this genre of publishing is so desperate to sell their books, then why don't they call themselves "The Celebrity Business" and not publishing at all.
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Monday, September 18, 2006



Oh! Beirut,
Nameless, faceless,
Besieged, bombed,
Occupied by militias, armies,
It's unbelievable, once,
You were the Paris of the East.

Now you are rubble,
Bombed debris,
Lying in a mangled haze,
Your hospices filled with the dying,
Death still waits at your doorsteps,
After the Jordanians,
Syrians and Israelites have gone.

The Cedars of Lebanon are bereft,
Alleys are filled with twisted steel,
Your people are not given -
A chance to survive, make peace.
In you there are enemy streets,
Where children fear to walk,
Afraid of hidden gunmen.

Will you rise from this debris?
Rebuild your proud monuments,
And foliate your naked Cedars,
With the leaves of verdant summer,
In the shades of which women don't wail,
Of kidnappings, shootings, and ransoms,
And of crazed, fervent militias,
Of which they are no part.

Oh! Beirut, Oh! Beirut, I mourn you!

Beirut was once known as the Paris of the East. No more. Now, militaries of Israel, Syria and Jordan enter and leave it at their whim. Its streets are full of bombed buildings and its citizens live in fear of being killed. This is a poem to its brave inhabitants. "Cedars of Lebanon" is a reference to a passage in the Bible.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Day in the Life of Me, Myself!

This is a scenario I wrote today, just common events from my life. I might use this in a short story or novel, in future. So do not discount its literary value. Ahem!

Today is Saturday and I am thinking of finishing some work. I thought it was romantic, working in my pajamas and round neck tee-shirt working when you feel like, that is, until this morning.

Then they had to spoil it all. My neighbor is getting his house re-constructed. Re-construction is a harmless word when he is breaking it down with sledge hammers, and most of the debris is falling on my house with thuds the equivalent of minor bomb explosions, or, earthquakes. The houses in Artist Village, are independent dacha-type houses, which were constructed by a government housing scheme, and are packed too close for comfort.

Now something like a war is going on with frequent unannounced masonry falling on my house. "Oh, God," I say and run out and shout at the workers, who, are, huh, workers. For some time the earthquakes stop. They do what they are told to do. And my neighbor is nowhere in sight. See, he has moved to safe environs already. Good!

And then they resume all over again. Then I again run out and shout. Then they commiserate. And this goes on for some time, till the power goes off. I sit fretting in the dark with the debris of my despondency falling over me, darkly maligning. No, I won't ask, "Why does this happen to me? How can I get my work done?" No, that would be taking it badly.

Then I go to get some bank work done. The day is sunny and hot and sweltering, and I put on my dark, "cooling" glasses. The bank is crowded, and there's another bank I have to visit nearby to finish my transaction – actually I am making a draft to pay my son's yearly college fees. The deposit in this bank isn't enough to cover the transaction. So I have to withdraw money from another bank account across the street and come back. I didn't know that I hadn't eaten and suddenly hunger pangs strike.

I walk into a South Indian restaurant and am served by a nondescript uniformed waiter who reels off a variety of dosas from memory. I decide to have a Masala Dosa, which, I think, would be filling. Then I turn around and there is a family of beggars, the type who appeal to your religiosity to make a living, sitting next to me and eating rather boisterously. Food is spooned into wide open jaws, and the mastication is done in between loud talking. I find this particularly nauseating, eat my dosa, and leave.

At the other bank, a sales spiel keeps me engrossed. They have a unit-linked plan that would give me a pension for life, provided I invest around Rs 1.5 million now. Imagine having that kind of liquid cash lying around, I smirk, while coolly watching the earnest salesman making his pitch. Then I say I will consider his offer, and leave.

Then I take a rickshaw to the other bank with all the money for my son's fees and a helpful girl who hardly glances at me makes the draft. That done, I decide to visit an old church acquaintance who is indisposed and has been ordered rest. He and I have worked in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and we talk about old times. I guess company would keep him engaged.

And then it begins to pour, and pour. "Thulavarsham," he says listening to the rolling thunder. "Yes," I say, "It is thulavarsham, the rain that falls around the month of "Thulam." We speak of human foibles, church politics, and a priest who isn't as holy as I had considered him. Who is?

On the journey back, I am totally drenched by the downpour and my umbrella offers no solace. The sunny afternoon has transformed into a dark, menacing, darkly forbidding rainy evening. There are gangs of youngsters, college kids, at the bus stop. They talk and laugh loudly, wearing their unwashed jeans that have these ugly pockets, bulging out at the most unimaginable of places. I am wearing cargo trousers, but, it has pockets at the logical locations on both sides. I notice that they all have long hair, and acne on their faces. I too have long hair!

End of scenario.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Booker Short List is Up!

The booker short list is up. Kiran Desai made it for "The Inheritance of Loss." Those who made it:

"The six books shortlisted by a panel of judges are: "In the Country of Men," Hisham Matar's semi-autobiographical first novel about childhood in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya; "The Secret River," Kate Grenville's tale of life in an Australian penal colony; "The Night Watch," British writer Sarah Waters' novel about characters whose fates intertwine during World War II; "The Inheritance of Loss," Indian writer Kiran Desai's cross-continental saga set in New York and India; "Carry Me Down," the story of an unusual boy, by Irish-Australian novelist M.J. Hyland; and "Mother's Milk," a portrait of a rich but dysfunctional family by English writer Edward St. Aubyn."

Those who didn't make it:

"Some of the biggest names on the 19-book longlist did not make the cut, including David Mitchell, whose "Black Swan Green" had been a favorite, and Australia's Peter Carey, a two-time Booker winner longlisted for "Theft: A Love Story." Andrew O'Hagan's "Be Near Me," another critical favorite, also was omitted."
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Sunday, September 03, 2006


“Your pressure’s fine,” the doctor says,
unwrapping the velcro. A ritual for a fever,
and I’m done. “How’s the sugar?” he grins –
an old joke, knowing I don’t much give a
damn one way or other. “Paying for my sins
Doc,” I smile back, “you know my ways!”

We go through this vaudeville, he and I,
each time some nuisance knocks me flat.
He writes his stuff, I do mine, both assured
in our certitudes, both aware of what we’re at.
It’s been long enough for us to be inured.
Well… at least it’s a harmless enough lie.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Munnabhai MBBS (MMBBS) and Rang de Basanti (RDB) – Flawed Beyond Recompense

Both are, in a manner of speaking, super-duper hits. Both are targeted at the Indian youth and makes pretenses to be different cinema. Both have captured the imagination of the Indian youth who swear by the originality of both movies, not realizing that both movies are flawed beyond recompense, at least, to me, a minority of one.

RDB was shown on Independence Day, probably to incite patriotic feeling in citizens. Patriotism? Is killing your own father – as one of the protagonists does, although, the subject is a corrupt politician – patriotism? The message here is that murder is good and that would include parricide. Are we back in the dark ages? Amir Khan in a scene from the film is clearly shown giving money to a policeman to stay off a fight that his friends had started. The message here is that bribery is also very good and worth emulating.

In another scene which I found very objectionable, the character played by Amir Khan is shown standing on a high wall bending backwards and drinking beer, a hit song sequence, I guess. Drinking while bending backwards down into a precipitous pond is a juvenile and dangerous exercise for a youth, of that everyone is aware. But the movie is absolutely insouciant about the wrong images it is sending to the youth. Firstly, the impression created is that drinking is good, and drinking and doing risky things are even better.

What sort of message does this convey to the youth? I will summarize: Parricide is good, bribery is good, drinking and doing foolish stunts is good. How can such a movie not even be panned by critics who rave about its great qualities and even confer awards on it? How can a censor board – which has been constituted for this purpose – not object, at least, where the politician is shown as being bad and killed by his own son?

There are many more flaws in this supposedly youth cult film which I am not mentioning here. One of them is lewd remarks made to a white girl which she cannot understand. It is clear that there is sexual harassment involved. The movie left a bad taste in my mouth. Are our youth so cynical as to applaud all these bad qualities in themselves? The stereotype here is youth of the north somewhere around the Punjab. Do they behave so grossly, if so, what can the nation expect from these citizens? Peace or violence?

This is over the top, way too exaggerated, and made with a view to appeal to the baser instincts of viewers. Is it an ironic reflection of the state we are in that this movie is a huge hit?

Here's another flawed film that is a super box-office hit. Here the protagonists are Central Indians, most notably Bambaiya, and talk the language of the Bombay hoodlums. The character played by Sanjay Dutt is admitted to a medical degree college to train as a doctor. There is a shortage of bodies to be dissected and the hoodlum phones his sidekick to bring him a body from somewhere. The sidekick played by Harshad Warsi clobbers and kidnaps an oriental-looking man and brings him to the dissecting table.

Okay, okay, what went wrong here? Raju Hirani, in an interview said the film portrays some of the problems that MBBS students face during their training. Yes, there is a shortage of bodies in medical colleges, but, can it be solved by clobbering a foreign-looking oriental and bringing him to the laboratory in a sack? Again, what message are you sending across Raju Hirani?

Munnabhai doesn't know a single letter in the proverbial three "r's", even to spell or sign his own name and forces a doctor to impersonate him in the medical college entrance examination. And, surprise, surprise, he is admitted. He is doing all this to take revenge for some slight against his family's honor. Message: cheating in exams is good for your family honor.

The irony doesn't end there. Munnabhai becomes a doctor in the end. That means cheating, lying, impersonating, threatening teachers; all are accepted behavior in Indian medical colleges. Believe me when I say freaky messages are being conveyed here, messages full of bitterness, insubordination, deprivation, and the use of violence.

Would the people of India trust the medical fraternity after seeing such gross exaggerations of their profession? Why didn't they speak out? Is that again an indication of some malaise at the root of the medical system that extracts millions of rupees from students seeking admission into medical colleges?

And this film too is a box office hit. It raked in enough cash to encourage the director to make a sequel with the same theme. The sequel goes a bit further and hints that hoodlums should be treated on the level of national figures – with pictures of them printed on currency notes. What an insult to the nation's leadership! I can only say, what guts and gumption these directors exhibit to the public, and that when it comes to exaggerations Indian films recognize no boundaries.

As they say, "Whither, Indian Cinema?"
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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

An ode to Qana

Further than proximate fires
and natal storms
We bury innumerable open hands
into the pollen smell of

Into the womb of this cold earth.
Hands that no longer seek warmth.
Shut in.

The invisible shadow of missiles lurk
Hungry. Arrogant, cascading on thickets
and thorns.
And a hush falls on yellow eyes,
quiet bodies.

Leaves wilt into shadows of green.
No winds resurrect them. Neither water.
The Sun does not sing in them
the galvanic rhythm of seasons.

The black hands of death break
into secret sounds
of a simoom.
And our mouth lies caged in
hypnotic threads
In our ashen breast
whispered into untamed disregard
to the earth and the sky.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


I pause midway in the in the whirl,
Of deadlines, things undone,
And averaged the sadness and joys -
There remains only loneliness,
Of which I see no cure,
No bitter palliatives, no anodyne.

We remain in life’s journey,
Like loners sitting depressed,
On solitary park benches, or,
Staring at people from balconies,
Loneliness gnawing at our minds,
As hungry ants at a grain of food.

Often in life’s vicious lanes,
In lonesome moments,
It’s our failures we ponder,
Not the joys and victories; both,
We have given and earned;
Not others’ courage, but faults.

When in each passing lonely moment,
I count the millions of seconds,
I was alive to witness this world, and,
Mimetic thoughts that pass into eternity,
My loneliness vanishes, I shout,
“I live; I am alive this lonely moment.”
(c) John, August 2006
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Monday, August 07, 2006


No one really got the measure of you,
Not all your biographers, who erred
On one side or the other. And the film –
Predictably, one would think – deferred
To the image, meant to overwhelm
With landscape and legend. And the few

Slightly wiser lapped it up like the rest.
After all, the public pieces were there
In splendid scope, and true more or less.
And since a hero was intended, only fair
The treatment, even the slight excess.
The director certainly knew best.

But there was more to you than fancy
Dress, or driving flags and crescents
To some private Acre of your own –
That was a sort of crusade in essence
Anyway, whose seeds were sown
In Oxford probably, or your infancy

Cutting teeth on castles. Still, that came
To nought, save as happy windfall
For venal masters; in the event,
A foregone outcome you couldn’t stall.
Yet there was more to disillusionment
Than that drama in a three-hour frame,

Beyond the lens’s circumscription
Or the boards of books: what romance
Was it that so irrevocably soured –
Caught in that brief backward glance
But inadequately – what powered
Your effacement into almost fiction?


Sunday, August 06, 2006


Let me speak in grasshopper hazes
if you want to be green
Let me fade in the chime of fireflies
if you need to feed on fleeting darkness.
And tell you all there is to know about
arriving storms and earthquakes.

Burn like the soft fiery moon
if you shall lose your way among shadows.
A desertwind if you forget
the tongue of water.
and tell you stories about absent tides.

A raindrop falling quietly
into the kohl lined sea.
A sliver of moisture
wrapped in your silence
forever between petals
and you can sail me to some obscure sound
stringed to the lashes of summer breeze
every night.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Ignite then
slowly inside
Without the song of smoke
or crackle of splinters.
Like an obscure
splash of water
in the womb of aged rivers
born from butterfly-oars
sailing through nameless fogs.

Kohl snows,
from ashes
Awake wide,
magic brimming,

Carried through maritime
sand dunes
Aflight on
desert’s wings.
As the monotone dusk sits licking
to memory.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Of storms and related things

Each day winds blow,
cocoa dark
from north to south
east to west
and wherever they go
They bring the
youth of flowers
to some
and fable of death
and wars
to strangers.
Aged winds from hushed wildflowers
frenzied and burnt.
Long lived.
Some from the sea, moist,

Each day a night grows,
unkempt and wistful
on the tender mesh of swansong laziness.
feeding on the echoing madness
that is left behind.
The moon only rises to mold it.

Each day we falter
to speak
of hopeless causes
and long lost reasons
but the world still spins
through some cannibal spell
that makes not a pause.

And each a day distance grows
From the fallen leaf
to the absent ear.
And we do not hear
the sepulchral skies
that the tree sings.

Each day a fire dies,
behind the wooden heart of logs
and barks
ashes to ashes.
Flesh, blood and bone,
And another ignited.

Friday, July 21, 2006



In your bosom I wake up with fear,
In your sky there’s only unending tears,
You always roar, but within,
Hangs silence like a shroud of death.

You are rocked, periodically, by bombs,
Yet, people go about their business,
As if nothing happened, all’s well,
Are they too dazed to protest?

In your hungry, convoluted entrails,
Lies paupers and millionaires,
Separated only by the whimsy,
Of your very partial caress.

On your skyline of sooty chimneys,
Decaying concrete, bristling antennas,
Are the sad stories of fortunes,
Made and lost, just as lost loves.

City of gold, they say, which never sleeps,
Will you stay awake, tonight,
Wipe away our cascading tears,
And give our tired bodies some sleep?

Monday, July 17, 2006

So you're dead...?

- In memory of Syd Barret

last night came a message from a friend:
'Syd Barret died'.
yeah, so? i am dead too, fending off masked people,
tracked documents,
words, words, words, too many words
...and yet, what is this feeling, this lack of feeling?

Another death.
The end of hope
for another song, poetry, image
strung on your Fender, end of a life
that was dead anyway,
except now there's something permanent
about it, 6 feet under more music, no more words.

Shine now under red mud
or beneath blue skies, wherever you longed to be
paint under a willow tree
all the words you thought you lost in your haze
in colors that will enhance the black ties
your divided band wears for you
today, shine on you diamond,
in the darkness of our memories of you.

A Kind of Death

when you feel like you contain nothing
except ashes, smoke and dust

when you stare at walls and realize
that you built them

when you stumble through ancient paths
and clutch only air

when you hear laughter bounce off the floor
and cannot remember how to smile

when you feel the rain on your face
like stings of poison darts

when you see visions of words
fade into shadows in a purple sky

when you know you cannot
give anything in return

when you don't know a thing
except that you can't live

this way

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Monsoon Vignette     [ekphrasis]

How tenuous toys the world they say
like a dewdrop poised on a lotus leaf
a shimering noise in its quavering way
                  and all so brief

How wondrous blooms the world meseems
like a castle festooning the vacant air
it's spun from looms of lunacy's dreams
                  where foul or fair

Dumbfounding arrives the world indeed
like a field mouse dry on a puddled frog
astoundingly aye it upholds frail need
                  with rain agog

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A cuckoo sky

A cuckoo mind breaks loose
on the grasshopper wind
on borrowed wings of
cotton-light clouds.

As cuckoo silences get lost
in green grass fields like
skittering butterflies.
from one reticence to another.

The wayward heart plays with
the frenzied breath
across winter’s picket fences,
as I sit peeling
the orange sun in evenings lap.

And countless nights are born into autumn glaze
as sundown breezes, wild
in a desire to sleep, undone.
And right at that unfastened moment,
my cuckoo heart breaks open into
the green of rainforests
like the galloping hoof of an agile buck.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Communally hated!

This is me, a martyr,
Bleeding inside, lacerated,
With a thousand wounds inflicted,
By all of you, strangers, whom I hate.

You who deprived me of my livelihood,
You who raped our women,
You who brought your skills and toil,
Where I was comfortable with my existence.

You should die for your sins,
There’s no forgiving your greed,
You who snatch our money,
And money order it to your kin, must die!

I am good, you are bad,
You have no right to exist,
A world without you is my dream,
You who manipulate my destiny.

You live on my soil, drink my water,
And don’t respect my culture,
You bring your alien rituals,
And pollute my environs.

You are people whose rages,
Have been compromised in smiles,
When you laugh, you do not,
Laugh with me, but at me!

For your transgressions you must flee,
For the harm you have done,
We must teach you a lesson,
And kick you out of our homeland, our state.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow. - Book of Lamentations 1.12

it takes only seven fragile letters
to hold the burden of moments about to i hate
the bottom-right corner of my laptop
that displays day, date, time;
how i hate my eyes straying there
(why do we follow those who slip away? tick tick tick...boom!)

it takes seven letters rushing in
to open a door and let someone hurtling out
without getting i hate
the seas you cross leaving me on burning sand
that swallows what remains;
how i fear to stay, how i dread to follow
(remember what happened to pharoah? clip clop clip clop...whoosh!)

just seven letters remain observing
silence for the waste of space in emptiness
that is left i hate
my room, my music, the sky outside my window
that will soon become the center
of my life, my grief, my grave, how i fear
(who will remind me to breathe, to breathe? inhale exhale, in...)

seven letters, seven sins,
seven lines falling one over the other
without i hate
this feeling of containing just ashes and dust
in the absence of those who pass by
and disappear as if they've seen a ghost
(who am i in this burning bush except a myth? nothing else...)

seven letters
die stillborn in our throats,
stifled by the other words
we speak to build a bridge across silences;
seven letters
form cross-bars to lock and store
our tears.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


All else notwithstanding (and it wasn’t much
by mores of time and place) history finds
for her. One can see her juggling brothers,
wooing Rome, looking for ominous signs
from the less kindly disposed others
who viewed Alexandria as a touch.

Not easy too her bit of cheek on the Tiber,
flaunting son complete with sire’s name:
that needed nerve. From their villas
the wives watched like hawks as she came
in triumph to shake an empire’s pillars,
silk and steel entwined in her fibre.

But she was doomed. Fate would intervene
with the Ides; and with her patron went
whatever Egyptian wind that bore her sails.
Actium did the rest. She was spent.
She came home to asps; and the tales
clung like unguents to embalm a queen.


Monday, May 29, 2006


Let’s put things down. There’s the man,
“Ecce Homo”- forget the irony for a minute
and be literal if we can.
Baptised, Jew, 33 as far as you can pin it,

give or take a year. Good looking too,
though the portraits are copies – unreliable
at best, and descriptions are few.
Only the charisma’s undeniable.

Attractive to women no doubt. The Son
of God could hardly be otherwise
than the nonpareil Perfect One.
Certainly the most arresting eyes!

And then there’s the Magdalene,
the most famous – no, forget the name
by which she’s so unfairly been
reviled, the object she became:

the man himself preached compassion,
remember? We shall do no more
than follow, and in our own fashion,
dispel the myth of the whore;

although, admittedly, the slander of ages
must take a while to die. Spare her
then the pious pulpit outrages,
the common urge to tear her.

Consider her instead as wronged –
there’s nothing empirical in scripture
to deny her what belonged
to her: she suffered by depicture.

Thus, no longer base, she could
be lover, wife, mother, all
in the fold of Christian good.
A worthy married woman withal.


Two Translations from Jibanananda


We still are not dead- yet, ceaselessly, vistas are
Mohin's horses graze upon moonlit autumn fields,
Like prehistoric horses- still grazing, grass-greedy
Upon the grotesque dynamo of this earth,
Stable scents drift in, in the crowded night-wind;
Sad hay sounds fall on the steel machines;
Tea-cups, like sleeping kittens-devoured
by leprous dogs
Go frozen in the restaurant over there
The paraffin lamp goes out in the stable
blown out by time's quietus
Touching the moonlight of the horses' neolithic


'Rather write a poem yourself-'
I offered, smiling ruefully; the shadow-man did not
I realized- no poet he, but enthroned posturing:
Manuscripts, commentaries, footnotes, ink and pen
Make up his royal seat- no poet- undecayingly,
Professorial; toothless- eyes impotent mucous
Wages a thousand a month - another thousand and
a half
Come from scavenging the flesh, worms of dead
Even though such poets had wanted the strange
Of hunger love fire - had surfed in shark filled

© Arka Mukhopadhyay, 2006

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Haiku....

AD(double click on pic for higher res) Posted by Picasa

When Others Sleep

others sleep
while you and i watch the sky
turn to various shades of blood alternating
between hot and cold and dead
in our heads

others sleep
while you and i dissipate words
to exorcise images of losses recurring
in the time and space and silence
of our hearts

others sleep.
we watch others.
and wonder why we've forgotten how.
others sleep.
we dream.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Delhi - A Revisitation

Delhi - A Revisitation

It’s akin to visiting my foster mother, today,

That I am returning to you, mother city, after twenty years,

I look at your broad, bereft streets, mater,

Through which emperors, prime ministers cavalcaded,

In victory and defeat, through gates and triumphal arches,

That murmur of the pains of your rape and impregnation.

The sudden shock of your poverty upsets me,

It is evident in the desperation of the cycle-rickshaw puller,

His eyes intent on the ground, standing on his pedals,

He pulls his woes, as if there is no halcyon tomorrows.

Your grimy streets are dusty, high walled, impenetrable,

As if you wish to guard the gory secrets within.

Is this where histories, dynasties were made, and fallen?

A dynasty now rules by proxy the city of the great Akbar,

And a fratricide of a potentate now fills you with awe,

When you are the city of kingly fratricides and parricides.

Remember how Dara Shukoh was marched and beheaded, by his kin

In your own street of Chandni Chowk, of not long ago?

The secrets of the present and past mingle,

Where now stand glitzy malls, I know, blood had flowed,

In your dark corners soldiers, spies, princes plotted to kill,

You witnessed stoically the dethroning of emperor Shah Jehan,

And the ascendance of his wily progeny, Aurangazeb,

As you watched, your face covered in the folds of your veil.

Yet, now, mother city, your tears are dry, your sobs silent,

Slowly you die, spent and ravaged by your many lovers.

Though it is kitsch melodies that you hum today, you were once,

Serenaded by Tansen, and Amir Khushro Dehlavi,

In your parlor once, poets and artists did conclave,

Over the “daughter of grapes” and the smell of tobacco!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

reflection of Blue

He who fills the universe
and yet remains apart,
how could I fit him inside
a mere heart?

so I became a mirror and-
His reflection I caught
within me

now however big He is outside,
will also be so, forever,
within me

but unaware I was
of laws of reflection
until the moment of revelation

what was right, is now left
truths that I knew
have become untrue
black turned white
and eyes, Blue

© Rajendra Pradhan


these days I remember
the stories you used to weave
and would ask me to believe

they make me aware
of breaths that we take
and venom that we spew
of lives that we fake
and lies that we live
universes apart

time is fine sand
and our untwined hands
make a coarse sieve

you should have stayed
when the world was conquerable
or so, I used to believe

© Rajendra Pradhan

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Like some ancient monument it pushes its head
above the trees. Under the massed amorphous green,
unsuspected, the city quietly lies unseen:
the dome might be a mausoleum to the dead.

Streaked with ages’ dirt, it doesn’t require much
to transpose it (if one is so minded) to some fabled
riverbank, a watercolour or engraving neatly labeled
Robert Orme, or a Daniell or some such.

But I who know it’s no cupola-ed tomb
wonder in what repair the ratchet is, the date
of its last greasing, in what dubious state
preserved the precious optics in that room.

Now no less a reliquary than the chapel’s own,
those old Jesuits who turned an eye skywards
would hardly credit this rookery of birds.
There, I see two now…no, one: the other’s flown.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

interior monologue

where do you see yourself four years from now?
Four? why not five? ten? I've been asked those before.
Four. This is new, what do you mean,
The seasons, the winds? I am in the doldrums,
All I hear is static, red sand whirling through my brains,
Four, four, what is this number? The trinity and I
Accusing each other, three times you deny Me,
Four you kill me.

Three minutes to die by hanging, four
For transit, four fretboard-scarred fingers,
Playing four beats a complete note,
In four minutes I complete this call, four
Corners in a page I tear out, where do I see myself?
Scattered life history no one wants to read
In a rational four-dimensional world.

Four years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds,
Time, ticking four, clanging bells, the wandering
Account of deserts in Numbers, wars with the Lord,
The unspoken Word and death wrapped in four,
Where am I in this? between the unread
And the undead, I float wraith-like haunting the
Doppleganger infinite in enclosed mirrors of four.

where do you see yourself four years from now?

In a cage making music within bars,
Beats of four and then silence for-ever.
Writing four octaves waiting for the curse of the ninth,
Dying fall and then deafening silence.
Gazing at the broken notes written on stars,
Bleeding from jagged edges an then
Four times four millenia of rests.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

My Burning Tree

you are my tree
the great big tree in the middle
of the road next to the restaurant
which divides those who burn their lungs
and those who get burnt anyway,
you shade them both

you are my tree
but you belong to other trees separated
by miles of winding roads
and I am just another passerby using you
not wanting to get burnt,
you shade me well

you are my tree
the great big tree that I want to
hold on to and take refuge in as I flee
the flames that follow me to the depths
of blank pages getting burnt,
you form words out of ashes

you are my tree
the tree I wish others don't burn and bruise
as they hurtle through life's fast lane
but I can only wish and pray
for you to stay thru fire and rain,
you keep me alive

Friday, April 21, 2006


1. A set of gradations that show positions or values.

2. The act of checking or adjusting (by comparison with a standard) the accuracy of a measuring instrument.

I'm here wanting to be there
and not sure if that is right.

I hear clocks chiming dark music
and not sure if the beat is right.

I look into a mirror
and not sure if I see me right.

I smell carrion rejected by scavengers
and not sure if they are right.

I drink poison from slashed veins
and not sure if it tastes right.

I sense a change in the wind
and not sure it blows me left or right.

But this much I know:

A check on my bearings to right a wrong
Is to wrong my right to leave what was right.

So right now what is wrong
Will be adjusted to what I assume is right.

Though an alignment to right what's left
May result in a loss of words once felt right.

So I'm left here wanting to be right there
and not sure if that is...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I Shouldn't Have

I should've known better
After aeons of pacing barefoot
On cold spaces, counting squares,
That numbers bring no sleep but
A countdown to crash and burn.

I should've known better
After hours spent in silent darkness
And fears translated to silent screams,
That words spoken bring no relief but
Cause friends to fall apart.

I should've known better
Than to drag your head to this shell
To listen to raging seas
That splinter words
And ruptures your eardrum.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Except suitcases, replicating
As you move from city to city;
Filled with shards from rooms.

You carry these:
Floors that transform
Into faces into words into sentences
Devoid of expression adjectives punctuation
(You travel lighter faster);
Ashes that flap around
Build columns of fire
Around soul standing still watching
partaking in self-destruction.

You throw these:
Papers that bleed on
Clocks you smashed to freeze a moment
That melts at a song bruise touch in absentia
(You travel lighter faster);
Knives that glint at night
Carve patterns
On walls cracking still defending
attacking for self-preservation.

Except suitcases, replicating
As you move from city to city;
Filled with shards from empty rooms.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Written on Easter Morning, April 16th, 2006

Have you seen my lord?
I sit by this grave by day, by night,
I wait, I watch,
For signs of life within
As it passes me by without,
And I stare and wonder
If walking sleeping waking without you
Is a kind of existence
Worth breathing for.

Have you seen him?
Been three days, a day
A thousand years,
And all is emptiness, darkness, silence,
Wordless, yet I keep you
Alive in my heart, allow you
To consume my
Body and soul with your fire,
My hell your grave.

Have you seen him?
I look back and turn to stone
And now fall apart
Shattered to nothingness,
I do this knowingly, for
To free you from within
I have to die a million deaths,
Become a myth of your past and leave
No traces on your resurrected body.

Do you see him?
Now he rises, breaks through my stone heart,
Consumes what remains of me,
Walks over my watery grave
As the storehouse of my tears burst into
Raging storms of longing;
He rises and walks away
Away from my grave,
Increases as I decrease.