Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Book Clubbing

Here's a rundown on what I'm reading at the moment (the moods, the moods):

The Powerbook
Jeanette Winterson
Only just finished it, and realised it really is a power-book (without the overtly political, Foucauldian connotations of power). For those of us ashamed to scan the self-help aisle in the local bookstores, this is ideal. It's literary, uplifting, sensual and conversational all at the same time. A lot of books with fragmented narratives leave you lost, but this one is a gem in that its style seems to mirror the average human thought process with all its mindless deviations and mindful delusions. The cover says it would make a great gift for someone you love, but I think it's the best gift you could give yourself (because a gift to anyone else would entail a return!). Besides, you could then always lend it to the several people you are likely to grow to love...

YEARNING: race, gender and cultural politics
bell hooks
I've never before bought an "academic" book before first having to order it, but was pleasantly surprised to see this one in the Women's Studies section at Borders. I've also yet to come across a an "ethnic female" (or "female ethnic"?) writer who enmeshes the past, present and future of race and gender politics in the everyday as simply and brilliantly as hooks. In other words, this book moves because it uses the author's own experiences as an African-American woman in the pre-dominantly white academy to talk about the "theories" of feminism and postmodernism. What particularly resonated with me was her honesty regarding the hostility that prevails among women of color/black academics. Are some of us revelling in our "exoticism"? Are we only making sure our work appeases the tastes of white audiences, or also endeavouring to reach our native readers whose responses may be more critical? (This made me think of Deepa Mehta's films...her reviewers in India often accuse her of pandering to western sensibilities).

The Vintage Book of Indian Writing 1947-1997
Salman Rushdie and Elizabeth West (ed.)
A collector's item for those into Indian writing in English, this 500-page volume is as much an assault on the senses as the country itself. It contain short stories, novel extracts and non-fiction by Anita Desai, Nayantara Sehgal, Amitav Ghosh, Mulk Raj, Bapsi Sidhwa, Arundhati Roy as well as other legends and novices on the subcontinental literary scene. My only nagging concern would be Rushdie's introduction to the edited collection - a rather apologetic blurb on why only those writing in English have been included.

Gail Jones
Jones is one of my favourite authors, the poetic and evocative qualities of her fiction are without parallel. Her sentences are often very cerebral and academic, yet have the uncanny ability to get under your skin and linger there. This is her latest book, and in a recent review of it I read in The Age, it was suggested that in the absence of a formal apology to the Aboriginal people on behalf of the Australian body-politic, it is artists like Jones who have to offer a literary reconciliation. With an opening that reads - "A whisper: sssshh. The thinnest vehicle of breath. This is a story that can only be told in a whisper", I am both enticed and moved, and read on...

Research "stuff"

PhD Working Title:
"Mehta’s Film Trilogy: Theorising Transnational Production and Reception; Practising Diasporic Creativity"

Project Summary:
Coming to a reading of Deepa Mehta’s film trilogy comprising Fire, Earth and Water from the situated perspective of a young Indian woman living in the West, I aim to not only analyse these films from a hybrid feminist-postcolonial-poststructural theoretical position, but also utilise them as a springboard for my own diasporic filmmaking practice. Through planned filmed interviews with the director, and with randomly selected audience members from the Indian diaspora and the ‘liberal’ west, the creative work will raise questions about the politics of meaning-making as observed in the production and reception studies. While the exegesis may arrive at a re-mediated reading of these complex, transnationally produced and consumed texts, it is also likely to highlight the need for wider awareness and acceptance of homeland-critiquing diasporic films beyond the exclusive international film festival circuit.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Poetic Politics

"I don't know anything - Should God be proud or humble, majestic or simple, yielding or un - ? What kind of idea is he? What kind am I?" (Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses).

"So is India Indian?...Let's Just say that we're an ancient people learning to live in a recent nation" (Arundhati Roy, 'The End of Imagination').

Political Poetics

"The poem - a manifestation of language and therefore essentially dialogic - can be a 'message in a bottle' thrown into the sea with a hope, surely often thin, that it might one day arrive in some land, maybe the land of the heart. Poems, are thus en route: they move toward something" (Paul Celan, Le Meridien).


A water rangoli pattern I once designed for a high school art prize unfolds in my mind like a sheet. I see a shallow square tray of water, over which I sprinkle charcoal dust. Then, over the black curtain of dust, I outline a rotating flower in silver, and fill it in with the alternating blue and grey hues of the sky. After shadowing the design with a layer of nearly imperceptible inky blue, I highlight the silver edges.

The curves of the flower mirror the absent contours of the water underneath. Its blue-grey-silver tones surreptitiously allude to the transparency of the hidden liquid. It is a shadow that has defied the opaque division of the charcoal. A simulated image that comes about when the free flow of light is blocked. Or the residual image that is formed when light peeps in through black curtains. Or the refracted image that is reflected (to us) when light tumbles its way through a translucent sheet.

As the light emanating from the water encounters different obstructions, it goes on aberrant paths, giving us ever-changing image-stories of its subjective experience of time.


I am lying on the banks of the Torrens, my hands and feet touching the grass, my eyes turned skyward, when I see a white trail in the endless blue envelope around me. A colourless rainbow is the closest analogy I can find to explain the phenomenon. The memory of a passing aircraft. An image fleshing itself out on sky-paper. A slow-moving dissolve on a wide blue screen.

Cinematic screens and photographic papers spill the ink even as it forms letters and words. A structure etched on the surface of water. A fluid structure-less structure that captures the image in the sky, but does not reflect it. A camera of sorts then, one that follows the light and the lines of flight and disperses them in its own memory-image. The dispersal produces countless sparkling dots on the surface of the water, twinkling like stars in the sky, but disappearing into the waves.

My eyes turn skyward again, and I notice the trail has disappeared. What proof do I have of its appearance? The sound of a passing boat interrupts my meanderings and directs my attention to its own bubbling trail that disappears almost as naturally as it appears. Now, whenever I try to recall the absent sky-trail, I remember the then-present water trail. Yet they are unrelated. One’s cause bears no relationship to the other’s effects. There is nothing but my subjectivity to link them. To make image resemble or differ from perception. To perceive the image itself as an object and effect an image of the image-as-object.

Another boat approaches from the opposite direction and forks through both the water and my images and perceptions. As I try to imagine an aircraft splitting up the landscape of the sky, a child in the boat waves at me. I return the gesture and notice both the child and his mother waving back. A gesture reflected and dispersed. The dispersal does not cause it to disappear though. The boat has to go on. And so must this writing, with timely-timeless, present-absent, reflective-refractive gestures and trails.


"Ideas (in the Platonic sense) are not shiny, metallic Figures in conceptual corsets, but somewhat shaky maculations, tenuous blemishes on a vague background" (Roland Barthes, The Responsibility of Forms).

"I have decided to exist as my own literary commentary. I have decided that I will still be beautiful, though tragic" (Janette Turner Hospital, 'Golden Girl').


"All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and re-inscribed exactly as often as was necessary" (George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four).
"It's an all-purpose rainy day pursuit, this reducing of stories called history" (Jeanette Winterson, Oranges are not the Only Fruit).

Saturday, 26 May 2007


Am I glad that you still stand tall?
Or saddened to see you decrepit like
My grandfather.
Who owns you now?
Who rents your dusty spaces?
I hope you are still peopled.
Would it be better if you came down?
Would my family survive it?
How would I remember home?
Don't haunt me now.
I can see you peeping like
You overlook my new place too.

Saturday, 19 May 2007


A corrugated tin roof
And the monsoon titter-tatter
Splattering oil in the frying pan
Electricity in the air playing havoc
Darker inside than outside
Snap snap, go thunder, wires, teeth and all

Far far away the snap re-imagined
Tins and monsoons willfully recreated
Power cuts played out in the mind’s eye

A gaze at the fireplace
And the scrupulous rain dance by the window
Bursting muffins in the oven
Reliable bulbs and well-predicted weather
Who wants to go outside
Sigh, a leather-bound volume on a coffee table opens up

A couple(t) of winters

Autumn left yesterday
Through that little space
Under the door.
But it hasn’t left
My heart yet.
Is there no room
Under my door
Or have I lost
The key?
I feel the cold more
Because I still have autumn
Sad part is
When I do finally
Let winter in,
I will be required
To actually accommodate
How can I be expected
To bloom
When my heart is cold
Or vice-versa.
And be furious
When I am really in full-bloom.
Maybe I am running
One season behind.
It probably happened
When I moved from
The north to
The south.
And had a couple of
Successive winters.
Such emotional lags
Can last years.
But what if they
Go on for a lifetime?
Skin and bone
Expectations and Intentions
Words and Thoughts
Are never reconciled?
I will dwell between them
And be neither the snow
That melts
Nor the water that

Friday, 18 May 2007


Which city is this? Nostalgia or Presence. Hidden or Disguised. Memorised or Forgotten.
Perhaps forgiven for its lack of clear vision.
Excused for its childly insolence.
Loved for its view of the skyline. And why shouldn't it be?
Now that the city of temples is present in the city of churches
And there is a divinity in familiarity that goes beyond godliness.
Is the city my god then? Or my goddess?
Perhaps it is confusing all sorts of boundaries.
Don't blame my camera for it. You know your roofs are unstable.
But I like it here.
I mean there.

Sunday, 13 May 2007


Every thing is a shadow
A size or two bigger
Than me, my body, my skin
In my own image
Seeking the dark trail that
Threatens to engulf
Not the devil him/herself
But a shapeful fluid
Like malleable water
Black and wonderous
Shade me no more.

Friday, 11 May 2007


Why do I hear that song whenever I turn on the radio?
When the lines are not meant to straigten out. they will flyaway
chalking out non-linear paths for my memory-ways.
They will
collide with one another producing sparks of anarchic love.
They will travel in
crooked lanes of the universe that converge and diverge.
They will turn up in the
corners of my closet
crowd my life
like a tear drop on the
contours of my face.