Before embarking on my annual overseas end-of-the-year trip, I've been trying to clean up the clutter of the year gone by. From the dust on my bookshelf to the trash in my email to the inconsequential texts on my mobile to the stale applications on my Facebook page, it has been quite a journey of accumulation and good riddance. Sifting through some of these tangible and intangible remnants made me alternately nostalgic about certain moments and hopeful regarding times to come. Moreover, as I near half a decade of staying in Australia, I realise that I have 'stuff' in this country - people and things, places and memories. I have become an adult here. I have learned to give and receive. I have self-expressed, self-cooked, self-sufficed. I can walk to Coles with my eyes closed and sense my bus stop without once looking away from the book in my lap. My environment is now embodied in me. My space is becoming my place. My gaze at Adelaide from the descending airplane will no longer bring forth a tide of dis/mis-placed emotion. I hope I can find Familiarity in Canada during my two-week sojourn there. And then slide easily into the domesticity of my parental home in India. Perhaps, when I get back, I will not feel crowded, or empty. And another year or choosing and discarding this and that will begin.
Friday, 16 November 2007
That is elicited with the labour of
The agony behind each word of
Of accumulating this fat on my
No purpose during floods and
The mind with the obesity of
The burden with poetry, prose and
Heat and light using paper as
The flames of my only offering.
Wednesday, 7 November 2007
Sunday, 28 October 2007
decisions and their precision And
expectations that travel in a wave forming
Crests and troughs
From the others to my many selves.
I’m reflecting, retro-analysing and respecting what I want from life again with
The desire to reinvigorate a free will and
The will to be free lining
all the clouds that I conjure up
in the imaginary reality of my past future.
In the hybridity of my existence that obfuscates meaning again even as it
Lives itself out day after day And
gives me glistening realizations that turn rustic
Over the course of words
formed and read, spoken and listened to.
I went to see the John Travolta-starring Hairspray recently, and was both inwardly and outwardly relieved to find the film was more than just a musical. It might be set in the 1960’s, but its references to ‘Negro Day’ on mainstream American television resonate with the multicultural-multistruggles faced by contemporary Australia and other western societies. There are examples aplenty…
After Big Brother’07 adopted the marginal by devoting a weekly task to a Bollywood theme, it is now the turn of Channel Seven’s Dancing with the Stars to pay homage to the Indians with a night of Bollywood-style moves. Is this another instance of patronizing the minorities? Or is it simply a case of western culture tiring of itself and lightly caressing the promise embodied in the exotic, not dissimilar to the fashion world embracing ethnic chic a few years ago through the vibrancy of Indian peasant skirts, printed kaftans and chunky silver jewellery? The current Prime Minister, John Howard, is not far behind in dropping the Indian name. During the ‘Great Debate’ with Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd last week, he unexpectedly compared China and the US’s not being signatory to the Kyoto Protocol to a World Cup Cricket tournament without India and Australia. I wish I could assume that appeasing new migrants, a significant proportion of whom are now coming from India, was not on his agenda.
But the mainstream is not the only stream attempting to ‘include’ the previously excluded in its magnanimous and newfound liberal self. When I flick through Rip it Up, Adelaide’s local gig guide to find out which bands will be playing at the Exeter Hotel, my favourite artsy haunt, I am both bohemian-pleased and migrant-cynical to see Wednesday advertised as ‘Curry Night’. Perhaps I/we should be glad that attempts are being made to integrate us (presuming there is a unitary ‘us’). Perhaps I/we will have more friends now that we are a wise economic investment, if not a desirable cultural precedent. Perhaps I/we ought to negotiate the terms of this ‘integration’ – so that way we can have our curry and eat it too!
Saturday, 13 October 2007
Wednesday, 10 October 2007
Saturday, 6 October 2007
Avoiding the thought is avoiding life in its nudest purity. Overlooking the possibility is overlooking life in its limitless opportunity. If effort is pain, so be it! A void of a lifetime is too high a price for the absence of pain. Activity is a virtue, but thoughtless action is as sinister as utter passivity. Self-imposed blindness is the greatest harm you can do to your inner flesh and blood. You are blight on humanity if you fail to contemplate on the stain.
Even achievement comes with a sense of loss – the loss of the moment of the self. Accolade without self-appreciation, ambition without soul-search, accomplishment without personal interest; are we heading towards the altruistic abode of a naked saint meditating in the Himalayas, or the careless damning of a post-modern sinner? Is there such a feeling today which is not ‘corrupted’ by the traumatic slow-poisoning of pain? How long will the ‘ecstasy’ last – till the next one is administered? If we are happy on this day of your coming into the world, what is the need to accentuate this emotional state with material consumption? Dare you try and forget the pain, it will stab you harder the next time, and your battle will be harder by the day because you were too ‘stressed’ to handle it the first time it pinched you.
What counselling will help us, which psychiatrist will diagnose our fancy depression syndromes, what chemicals will dissolve our distaste when we pronounce the divine verdict of eternal happiness and misfortune upon our poor selves? The original pain is not as fatal as the grief we inflict on our selves through cancerous self-pity. While there may be no feasible prevention against a psychological onslaught, there is certainly a cure. Insanity is not a condition arising out of excessive trauma, it is more likely the result of a prolonged denial.
Pain is not satanic either. If you have ever seen a brave victim of a complex surgery, or a sombre kin of a deceased individual, you are bound to see an awe-inspiring strength of character emanating from their eyes. Whether or not there is a divine power that chose you to walk on the coals of pain so that you emerge a stronger person from the experience, the fear of ‘walking’ is often more agonising than the ‘walking’ itself. But the only weapon against this demonic fear is the act itself. Therefore, the act cannot be evil, although the procrastination of the act may be.
So, if your imagination hurts, you know that ignorance is not bliss. A fool’s paradise does not hurt the imagination like a painfully acquired wisdom that constructs heaven from the insightful reminiscence of hell. If you eat to live, work to eat, and socialise to work, then life must be a very important thing – so expand your horizons and get the most out of it!
strikes Brings grief Bodies
Jones’ pre-occupation with loss is conveyed to Aviva Tuffield in an intimate phone interview – “We have all lost a childhood, we have all lost friends and lovers, we have all loved someone who has died”. “This sense of loss is echoed over and over again”, writes James Bradley in a review for The Age. Talking of echoes, I am reminded of Jones’ own poetically resonant words that reach me through a microphone at the Adelaide Writer’s Week – “Most writing comes from loss or trauma rather than plenitude”.
Loss and Poetry?
Beauty and Poetry.
Machines and Poetry!
Synonyms are redundant.
Summaries are redundant too.
Lo and behold, screams the TV reporter, quoting the university professor, citing the invisible radiations – my phone could give me cancer.
Structuralism is human too.
May be post-structuralism is better suited to post-physics.
Savour the Intellect Linger in the Unmodernity
Poetry being primary
structure, or lack thereof, secondary
PS: Will this review be published? No answer.
Will humanity/modernity be redeemed? Disconnected.
I have to, however, reference those that have reviewed (and theorised) before me.
Engagement is the tone. And not just for Creative Writing.
Sunday, 23 September 2007
1 INT. KATH AND KIM LOUNGE ROOM – NIGHT
OPRAH steps into the lounge room from the studio. She is wearing a glamorous red dress and holding an Australian flag-imprinted coffee mug.
She is followed into the lounge room by Kim, Kath, Sharon and Brett.
Oprah sits down on the couch, with Kim and Sharon on either side of her. Kath goes into the kitchen and lights a cigarette. Brett switches on the TV, and begins watching the news.
Change the channel, Brett. I have to see Desperate Housewives.
Do you get it here?
Yes Oprah, we get a lot of American stuff.
It’s good to be aware of what’s happening in the world.
We also have our own version of Desperate Housewives.
And that is?
Kath and Kim.
Oh, I’ve never heard of that.
Kim goes to the kitchen, empties a pack of chicken nuggets into a bowl and puts it into the microwave.
I am just happy watching the American one, you know.
I can actually identify with all those attractive women.
Kimmy, attractive women don’t eat deep-fried chicken nuggets.
So Oprah, what do you think my chances in Hollywood are?
Fat people have no chances in Hollywood.
What do you think my chances are, Oprah?
Do you realise that Kate Winslet was 80 kilos when she was pregnant?
So does that mean you are pregnant, Kim?
Oh no! I’m just preparing in advance for it.
Oprah, you must tell me and Kim how you lost so much weight.
Two simple things – be active and eat healthy.
Are you listening, Kimmy?
I have to watch TV and be on TV. Isn’t that enough activity?
I thought Aussies were good at sport.
If I had Tom Cruise coming to my show,
I would quit eating for one whole hour.
Oh no, Kimmy! Don’t invite Tom Cruise, he left our poor Nicole.
1 INT. KIMMY LIVE STUDIO – DAY
KIM, wearing an ‘Enough Rope’ white polo-shirt, low-strung denim pants and trendy glasses catwalks onto the stage, and sits down on the bright-pink couch in the centre, facing the audience.
She is followed by Kath in a straight skirt and a puff-sleeved blouse, Sharon in a yellow and green Australian cricket team track suit, and Brett in poorly-ironed corporate attire. They sit on a black couch on the right side of the stage, facing Kim.
Kim clips her microphone onto the lowest button of her polo-shirt.
Women and gentlemen, welcome Mr Andrew Denton.
DENTON enters, holding a ‘Cheap as Chips’-imprinted glass of white wine.
Kim motions him to sit on the blue couch next to her. She waits for the applause to die down before speaking.
Of course, Andy needs no intro.
(frowning at Kim)
Now you haven’t done your google, Kim.
(in a hushed voice)
Andy, just ignore her, okay.
Kim, at least ask him whether he prefers being called Andy or Drew.
Andrew will be fine.
Sharon, do you realise you are talking to ANDRU DENTO double NE
on the ABC double E? Now do you have any serious questions?
Kim, do you realise even we are on the ABC double E?
Brett, please don’t compare yourself with Andrew.
You can’t speak a word in American. Now go and get me a Mars bar.
Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.
Was that a question, Sharon?
Have you read that book?
No, Mr Denton. I thought it was an American saying. But talking of books,
I’m reading Shane Warne’s bibliography right now. Have you read it?
Of course he hasn’t, Sharon. He reads more serious stuff.
Kimmy, let Andrew answer.
No, I haven’t read it yet. But I wouldn’t mind;
Shane Warne is an interesting Aussie character.
How’s your Cardonnay, Andrew?
Oh my Cha…! It’s great, thanks Mrs Day.
I wanted to actually serve you some chilled beer,
but Kim insisted that Cardonnay looks better on TV.
And besides that, Cardonnay is more Australian that Victoria Bitter.
Yes, Mr Denton, it’s grown in our own wine-yards.
1 EXT. KATH AND KIM HOUSE – DAY
SANJEEV, the British-Indian host of The Kumars at No.42 and the first of Kim’s three guests for today’s show, adjusts his ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’-imprinted tie and smoothes his bright orange coat before pressing the doorbell.
His indulgent self-appraisal is interrupted by a swivelling newspaper delivered by a speeding van hitting his backside.
Don’t the kangaroos have arses or what?
He bends, picks the paper up, and presses the doorbell. While waiting for the door to be opened, he admires the newspaper’s front page picture of semi-clad, sun-baking men and women at St. Kilda beach.
(running his fingers through his hair)
May be it was a she-kangaroo!
2 INT. KATH AND KIM LOUNGE ROOM – DAY
KATH, dressed in a knee-length lacy white dress and a big hat is lighting a cigarette and pacing the lounge room.
(facing the stairs)
Kim, Kim, Kimmy! Will you hurry up please?
These British people are very punctuational.
KIM, wearing a short printed Indian skirt, a midriff-baring singlet, and a dot on her forehead is catwalking down the stairs.
Her husband, BRETT, is holding the ends of the long Indian scarf draped around her neck, and following her.
(with her head held high)
How do I look?
(pointing to Kim’s skirt)
Oh Kimmy! What in Fountain Lakes are you wearing?
(letting go of the scarf and despondently sitting on the stairs)
All I know is it cost me a fortune.
(moving to the kitchen and opening a pack of tandoori-flavoured chips)
Oh shup up Brett! I am becoming a talk show host from a talk show wife.
You should be thankful.
SHARON, Kim’s ‘second best friend’ enters the scene.
Stop eating those chips, they are for the guest.
Do you have a fancy dress theme for your show, Kim?
(giving up the chips and reaching for a pack of tim-tams)
It’s not a fancy dress, it’s the in-thing.
Oh Sharon! You don’t know anything about fashion.
Even Liz Hurley was wearing an Indian skirt at the Oscars.
But wasn’t hers longer?
Oh yeah! I cut it in half, so all those fat women can see my beautiful legs on TV.
I think they’ve seen enough, Kimmy. But wait, I don’t get it.
Why an Indian skirt?
Mum, you don’t do your google, do you? Sanjeev is half-Indian.
(adjusting her hat)
I thought he was from the Queen’s country.
Kim, Mrs Day, he’s not half-Indian or half-British.
He’s an Indian brought up in Britain.
Oh I see! Just like we are Australians brought up in Fountain Lakes.
Sharon, you’re a genius.
Thanks Mrs Day.
Sunday, 16 September 2007
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
The first film of the trilogy, and the foremost chapter in the life of Apu, this is a fascinating chronicle of life and death, the pleasure and pain of childhood, as well as the mundaneness and unpredictability of domesticity. Several international film critics have appreciated the "humanitarianism" of Ray's cinema, commenting that such scenes of rural bliss can be witnessed in a wide range of contexts. At the same time, the Academy Award-winning director was often criticised by the mainstream Indian film industry for highlighting the poorer aspects of the country. Is this similar to the dilemma confronting Deepa Mehta's elemental trilogy? Would be accurate to propose that all the "serious" Mehta films received better reviews and reception from overseas viewers? Mehta has acknowledged Ray's influence on her own work in a number of interviews, but the question remains whether she is a mere follower. One of my favourite images from "Pather Panchali" is the reflection of the sweet-seller and the brother-sister duo in the water as they walk along the river bank. Mehta seems to have appropriated this imagery, especially in "Water" which, not unlike "Pather Panchali" tries to balance aesthetic/stylised cinematography with the sheer austerity of the widows' lives.
Aparajito (The Unvanquished)
The adolescent phase of Apu's life is also likely to resonate with film viewers the world over. His migration from the Bengali countryside to the buzzing city of Calcutta for higher studies and a wider horizon does not initially sit well with his widowed mother, but is a social-intellectual turning-point of sorts. One could argue that this is the archetypal "coming of age" film tale, and is mirrored in the self-discovery undergone by the characters of Radha in "Fire", Baby in "Earth" and Shakuntala in "Water". Also, the battle between the forces of home/tradition/stability and those of homelessness/modernity/instability is being inwardly and outwardly staged in both Ray's "Aparajito" and in all of Mehta's elemental films (notwithstanding the particluarities of their historical and geographical circumstances). One of the scenes in the film, however, that directly evoked the memory of "Water" in my mind was the image of the dying father who asks for water that Apu just about manages to get from the banks of the Ganga in Benares (Varanasi). In "Water" (also set in Benares), Chuyia does the same for the ailing Patiraji, but the elderly woman expires before the water arrives.
The World of Apu
Does this title imply that Apu, now an adult, has finally become "worldly"? The idealist that is university-educated Apu, is rather like the Gandhian Narayan of "Water" in that both young men are driven to the women they come to love by their unconventional (and somewhat naive) nobility and are in turn shattered by the untimely loss of this love. Another noteworthy parallel is that just as Apu and his son Kajal are "rescued" by each other towards the culmination of the trilogy, Narayan and Chuyia are arguably saved by each other at the end of "Water". Again, it would be tempting to typecast the Apu-Aparna and Narayan-Kalyani love sagas into a universal (read Eurocentric) typecast of tradition-defying romantic passion that climaxes tragically. While this may aid "identification" with the male and female protagonists, their specificties of time, place and cinematic treatment must be kept in mind. Whether by virtue of their own artistic limitations or due to flaws in the script, John Abraham and Lisa Ray as Narayan and Kalyani fail to achieve the emotional finesse of Soumitra Chatterjee and Sharmila Tagore as Apu and Aparna. At the same time, the attachment of the latter couple is moving precisely because of its middle-class everydayness, and is thereby different from the "grand" love of Romeo and Juliet.
The intelligence of my emotions and
the sensuality of my intellect.
The word in the image as well as
the visual in the written.
Love film as much as I have been
passionate about literature.
Live in the ephemeral moment even as I look forward to
the retrospection of tomorrow.
Draw my lines of flight while giving them
the colours of light and shade.
Drive the wheels of cyclical pleasure
that pain must grease.
Tuesday, 4 September 2007
Tuesday, 21 August 2007
Forbidden hence desired?
Incorrect because political?
Craving for the fish that has been thrown
That sympathises with other land-borne fish.
Yet befriends the cunning mammal.
How do you know my plight?
I know you have sailed across the same
That I have flown over.
You helped me see right and left.
I can only write of my love for you and your
Sorry I cannot vote.
But I still seek you with these words
That you may never hear.
Although I am air-borne again, it was good to see you on
Monday, 13 August 2007
Walking down the road after a hard day at work, she didn't see the pillar in the dark. And her old flame approaching from the opposite direction. She wondered if she could face it/him. But there wasn't enough time to think. So she drew on her last dredge of strength and confronted him with her feelings. He said she was too much of a post-modernist. She told him he was the one without hope. Their past had come to be engraved in their minds. It was a work of art. Couldn't both of them see it? She placed one hand on the pillar and embraced him with her free arm. He felt the outlines of her body, but not her.
Sunday, 5 August 2007
Thursday, 2 August 2007
Friday, 27 July 2007
They came back to her place after a friendly-flirty second dinner date at the Bayside Cafe. She poured some red into two disposable glasses and offered it to him. He sipped it and gazed into her dilated pupils. She returned the gaze. She moved next to him. He felt she wasn't another person. He experienced her zone.
"So, do we kiss now?" she offered, her hand on his.
"Um, is it ok in your culture?" he returned, his free hand moving to her shoulder.
She wished he hadn't asked. But she didn't bother replying. He soon forgot. But he had wanted her to answer.
Monday, 23 July 2007
Anyhow, this op-ed piece in The Age says nearly everything I could have possiby had the flair and freedom to pen down myself:
Wednesday, 18 July 2007
Because I feel
Like the inner turmoil of this Woody Allen film.
On my skin.
The pain that was in my back, my neck, my shoulders
For the last two years
I now feel
Is the balm for my mind.
Has turned inside out.
I feel life teasing me with its love and the loss of it
Its seductions and rejections.
The force of it
Has created me anew
Even as I battle the desire keep in touch with my past.
The lag in my feelings
And the apologetic inadequacies it brought forth.
There is still
A dull ache
As the interior catches up with the sculpted exterior.
But I feel alive
Because I feel.
Wednesday, 11 July 2007
It was cloudy and pouring buckets over the three days of the Adelaide Festival of Ideas 2007. Reminded me of the current political climate in Australia. Not to mention the social and environmental components of the ambience. Clouded is the word. The sessions were well-planned. The speakers inspiring. The vision(s) encouraging. Yet as I stepped outside Elder Hall and gazed at the rather grey horizon, I realised there was an inside of ideas and an outside of apparent idealessness. While 'we', the privileged, the knowledgeable, the cosmopolitan agreed on the need for action to combat racism, conservatism and all manner of regressive -isms, there was no 'them' to challenge us in the elitist egalitarianism of our idea-filled confines. Gandhi was put up against Marx; India was proposed as a threat to China; Reconciliation was preferred over Intervention. But was there a debate? I opened my copy of the Festival booklet on the bus and felt hopelessly out of place. This surely cannot be the the way to the future.
Tuesday, 3 July 2007
Saturday, 30 June 2007
Friday, 29 June 2007
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
It began with a headscarf
that flew away
despite being knotted.
And then there was a hat
that didn't quite fit
over the bun.
So the hair was shorn
like autumn leaves
that are auburn
and tragically beautiful.
The split ends are now gone
and the broken heart
has lived through winter.
Wednesday, 20 June 2007
Friday, 15 June 2007
The Experimental Musician sips a freshly brewed cup of camomile tea at Om Organic Café. The beads-clad Blonde-turned-Brunette sashays through the crowd in an ankle-length cotton skirt. The newly-bald Recent Convert to Buddhism practices patience in a supermarket queue. The Afro-haired Prince Charming chats up with a Jehovah’s Witness. The backache-prone Yoga Practitioner takes the lift to his first-floor office. The Curry Lover asks for more meat than sauce in his main course meal. The Vegan thinks…we all need to get back to our roots.
After two years of living in a Western Society, these are the tokens I see of the East. And what do I see when I go back to the East? Much more than tokens of the West. Hybridity abounds, but unfortunately, so does misrepresentation.
Premier Rann gives a glorified speech to the New Citizens of the state. He himself has visited India, and is bent on pointing out the similarities as opposed to the differences between the two nations. We are both democracies, and we both value our multi-culturalism. Sorry Uncle Rann, your good intentions aside, we don’t call it multi-culturalism in India. We prefer the more pedantic Secularism. So Prime Ministers don’t mourn over Popes and Popes don’t Cry about Wars.
Agreed we have communal riots now and then, inter-religion marriages are still frowned upon, but things are Changing. The average urban youth is a Hinglish-speaking Kylie fan with a distant cousin studying in America. He/she is not living in a mono-culture, or a hybrid-culture, but a culture where culture is not self-consciously multi-cultural. Where culture does not try to Include or Assimilate. Where culture is not a Melting-Pot or a Soup or a Mosaic. Culture is just human nature not yet subjected to the inward gaze of postmodernism.
When I came to Australia, I was asked what my mother tongue was. Probably Hindi, because that is the national language of my home country. Or Punjabi, the tongue of the religion I was born into. Maybe Urdu, the official language of my state. Perhaps it is none of these, because I do not Think in any of these languages. I learned more Punjabi while working at an Indian restaurant in Adelaide than I would have ever learned in my particular social circle in India. And my English, formerly the Queen’s version passed down to generations of post-colonial subjects, is now closer to the colloquial jargon of a native speaker. But worst of all, I am Conscious of my Accent. I am Aware of being Different. I am an Ethnic person in a multi-cultural society.
Who then, is not Ethnic? Is multi-culturalism only relevant for the countless Ethnicities? If it only implies food and travel for the majority; if it is another consumer durable for a shopping-friendly society; if it only means world music and world cinema for the arty-farty…then a few Oxfams are adequate.
Friday, 8 June 2007
And by the time she reached the end of the steep climb, she thought the craters wouldn't matter.
Nor would the effort.
She hoped it would all be worthy of her passion, deserving of her resolve.
But she couldn't bend anymore.
She had to walk away.
To discover she was not the end of the beginning she always assumed herself to be.
She envisaged herself as a grand stairway in an ancient mansion.
Though she later found out she was made from the steel and cement of outdoors.
And still had pink outlines and shadows.
Friday, 1 June 2007
Tuesday, 29 May 2007
Here's a rundown on what I'm reading at the moment (the moods, the moods):
YEARNING: race, gender and cultural politics
The Vintage Book of Indian Writing 1947-1997