June 29, 2006

A Moving Entry (Or A Moving Exit? Argh!)

Next to the house of God flows a river. The brown water is silt-y, not filthy, they insist. Across the river stretch the vertebrae of a metallic Gigantosaurus. Treading on them noisily, you reach the other side, where you see an erstwhile power station, which is now an art museum: the chimney meant to bellow out smoke now wearing a purple tiara, unless it is, as I have come to believe, a gigantic middle finger that Modern Art sticks out at its Seventeenth Century counterpart across the muddy waters. God-art and Machine-art attract Nikons/Canons with equal gusto, and make for good places to sell ice cream by.
Behind the art museum is a dumpy brown building that looks ashamed to be standing on the prime property it occupies, since its job description is not grandiose like its neighbours'. On the third floor, there is a room that is designed oddly, like the bit of cake left on the silver circle of cardboard when the candles have been blown out and everyone has been given a slice, and some people have even had second helpings, and nobody wants any more. The room has nine walls instead of the usual four, and the shower room attached to it has seven.
Outside the window is a building that has been under construction for over a year, and is still not quite done, although it is now abundantly clear that the glass monstrosity that is being built will look old the day it is inaugurated. That, and a patch of grass, and if you really, really lean to your left, a section of a railway bridge, completes the view.
This room I have called home for the last few months, and it is here that I am scraping Blu-Tac off the walls today, as I remove the posters (Van Gogh and an Archies Ganesha) that made the room mine. Bags of various sizes lie with their mouths agape, waiting to be filled with clothes, books, CDs, talcum powder, half-used packets of rice, and Septillin bottles full of spices, resourcefully packed into empty Pringles tubes.
I'll be in another, smaller place nearby, where nothing is as grand. The elephant close to it is not a patch on the gigantic art museum, and the castle is nothing compared to the house of God. The river that flows there is black, a sea of Black faces, and the black stroke of the Northern Line. It is a big step down from this place I've grown used to calling home (me and a bunch of students and a handful of millionaires). However, all is not lost… there is the furniture!
Nobody believes me when I tell them I came to London to see the furniture in the residence halls. A friend of mine got into the school the year before last, and told me the furniture was great. I thought that detail merited an application to a Masters programme. In case you're planning to study, you should apply here. The furniture rocks. No, actually it's quite stable.

Wendigo, you're right. My jokes suck. I'm going to cry by the riverside and flood London.

June 27, 2006

Guest Post Warning: Sound And Fury Ahead

This blog is very friendly and The Intended posts only photu-related stuff on his. Therefore, the following post is a guest entry: I take no responsibility for any damage, permanent or temporary, sustained by readers. (Not a very friendly gesture that.)


We live in an era of 160-letter-SMS-attention spans, so stylistic similarities to Hugo is the easiest way to non-readability.

On a lazy Sunday evening, a funny thought crossed my mind. What would be the result if we were to juxtapose the terseness of Shakespeare (sort of, for he wrote in verse – one could argue that so did Homer but let us be granted that verse is usually terse for the sake of argument) with verbosity of Hugo? Over two hundred years separate the two authors, and so we should not expect the authors themselves to have undertaken such an enterprise jointly. But since providence and printing press have connived to erase the eras that separate the two, by putting both their works in my hands, let me attempt it.

The plot for the following text was supplied by Shakespeare on which Hugo erects his grandiose edifice (we use the word plot here a little too literally for comfort).

Without much ado,
I present to you,
Monsieur Hugo’s Macbeth

We introduce Enjloras into the story a little abruptly, and in that he may be considered a digression, but the reader would pardon us for this parenthesis, which, as shall be seen, has a good reason for it. We have in our possession a letter that he addressed to Marquis de Champtercier; wealthy and avaricious old man, who contrived to be, at one and the same time, an ultra-royalist and an ultra-Voltairian, whose contents give us a startling insight into the ocular and oracular practices prevalent in the Paris of 1800s.

Enjolras that evening was restless; on what account, we do not know but we can guess with a reasonable degree of certainty, that nor did he. Such are the inner workings of the mind of a twenty year old. It takes little to upset the order, balance, poise, equilibrium of intellect at that dreamy age. The author, being long past that age, can offer no more conjectures. It occurred to Enjolras at that moment, that perhaps a quick walk would help him regain his composure. He put on his coat, tied a cravat about his neck, took his hat, and went out.

Once out of the house, he went to the Rue de Petit Banquier.

He had almost reached the middle of this street, near a very low wall which a man can easily step over at certain points, and which abuts on a waste space, and was walking slowly, in consequence of his preoccupied condition, and the snow deadened the sound of his steps; all at once he heard voices talking very close by. He turned his head, the street was deserted, there was not a soul in it, it was broad daylight, and yet he distinctly heard voices.

It occurred to him to glance over the wall which he was skirting.

There, in fact, sat three personages, flat on the snow, with their backs against the wall, talking together in subdued tones. What followed next is known to us through the account presented by Enjloras in the aforementioned letter. The first thing that he learned from their voices, although he hadn’t yet picked a single word that he could distinctly comprehend, was that those personages were in fact women. They were clothed in black, with a guimpe, which, in accordance with the prevalent norms of certain orders in the Parisian society at that time, mounted to the chin. A robe of serge with large sleeves, a large woollen veil, the guimpe which mounted to the chin cut square on the breast, the band which descends over their brow to their eyes,--this was their dress.

We know now, from this very vivid sketch his words drew in the letter that these women were a lot more. They were witches of the dark order of Orephia.

They spoke argot.

Argot is the language of the dark. Thought is moved in its most sombre depths, social philosophy is bidden to its most poignant meditations, in the presence of that enigmatic dialect at once so blighted and rebellious. Therein lies chastisement made visible. Every syllable has an air of being marked. The words of the vulgar tongue appear therein wrinkled and shrivelled, as it were, beneath the hot iron of the executioner. Some seem to be still smoking. Such and such a phrase produces upon you the effect of the shoulder of a thief branded with the fleur-de-lys, which has suddenly been laid bare. Ideas almost refuse to be expressed in these substantives which are fugitives from justice. Metaphor is sometimes so shameless, that one feels that it has worn the iron neck-fetter.

That it was Enjloras who stood there at this moment, we owe to providence. For Enjloras, though not adroit with argot, knew enough of the patois of Orephia, for him to divine snatches of the conversation that transpired between the trinity of crones.

The women were at that point discussing a propitious moment for their next rendezvous. Enjloras gathered they had a strange predilection for tumultuous weather phenomenon – for he clearly heard these words pronounced in that dark tongue - mirlababi*, surlababo, mirlition. The first witch, who spoke these words, said them with such a measure of confidence that Enjloras wondered if she was capable of summoning a storm at will.


Of course this would then be followed by a long and winding prose on:

When the hurly-burly’s done
When the battle’s lost and won

And since the couplet concerns a battle, inadvertently, we’ll be taken to the Plateau of Mont Saint Jean, to witness that grand struggle between Bonaparte and Wellington.

-- written sometime in 2006 by an Indian inspired by an original work of an English bard in English and a classic English translation of a French author’s French novel by an English knowing friend of his.

p.s. certain sentences in the above text (in blue) were copied verbatim from Isabel F. Hapgood’s translation of Les Misérables (which can be downloaded from project Gutenberg), a few words come from a translation by Charles E Wilbour, the remainder we owe to the Indian author’s fecund imagination. If you are feeling inclined to reading Les Misérables, and your knowledge of French precludes you from venturing anywhere near the original, I highly recommend Charles E Wilbour’s classic (and somewhat tedious) English translation of the text. The gentleman was a friend of Hugo, and managed to publish his translation in the same year as the original was published in France. Available in a beautifully bound edition in Everyman’s Library, this is as close as you can get to the real thing.

June 25, 2006

A Prayer (And The Unbearable Weight Of Memory)

Aye maalik tere bande hum, aise hon hamaare karam
neki par chalein, aaur badi se talein, taaki hanste hue nikale dum

ye andheraa ghanaa chhaa rahaa, teraa insaan ghabaraa rahaa
ho rahaa bekhabar, kuchh naa aataa nazar, sukh kaa sooraj chhoopaa jaa rahaa
hai teree roshanee mein jo dam, tu amaawas ko kar de poonam
neki par chalein, aaur badi se talein, taaki hanste hue nikale dum

badaa kamazor hain aadamee, abhee laakhon hain is mein kamee
par tu jo khadaa, hai dayaaloo badaa, teree kirpaa se dharatee thamee
diyaa toone humein jab janam, tu hi jhelegaa hum sab ke gham
neki par chalein, aaur badi se talein, taaki hanste hue nikale dum

jab zulmon kaa ho saamanaa, tab tu hi humein thaamanaa
wo buraee kare, hum bhalaaee bhare, nahin badale kee ho kaamanaa
badh uthhe pyaar kaa har kadam aaur mite bair kaa ye bharam
neki par chalein, aaur badi se talein, taaki hanste hue nikale dum

June 23, 2006

Determined To Give Up Saintliness

Me: So now I'll go make dinner. Boil my three color pasta in one pan, and in the other, stir fry onions and capsicum and carrots and broccoli, add salt and cook, and add pasta sauce, a little cheese, pepper, the pasta, and oregano.
She: Ok.
Me: Ok? OK? Are you not drooling?
She: No. Such food does not make me drool.
Me: What makes you drool? Moong and Masoor Daal?
She: Yes.
Me (to myself): That is the reason I left home.

My mom is not impressed that I am cooking and eating healthy things. So I'm just becoming a drunk punk; let me have some fun at least.

P.S. Healthy food can be tasty. There are some leftovers in the fridge. Once I'm a drunk punk, I'm not gonna need them. Kitchen 4, Third floor. Help yourself.

June 21, 2006

The darkness of the music of the night

Close your eyes for your eyes will only tell the truth
And the truth isn't what you want to see.
In the dark it is easy to pretend
That the truth is what it ought to be.

- Charles Hart(?) for Lloyd Webber

June 18, 2006

Melted Brainhood

And in about twelve hours I will click my pen shut and vigorously tap it against the table in the examination hall with the pitpitpitpitpitpitpit sound that the bubbles in the coke can on my table are making, beating against aluminium walls in their impatience to be free from high-pressure captivity and dissolve into thin air. If some monster dare swallow me on my way out, I will emerge as a burp, but I will have my freedom!

June 17, 2006

London: The School Of Economics

"Nahin yaar, maine usey kal ke liye nahin bulaya hai, uske parents paise nahin dete use. 10 pound to entry hai, kabhi kabhi use 5 pound de dete hain McDonalds ke liye, 20 ki hoon kehti hai saali 17 ki hai, and it is not even like I have banged her yet….koi sense nahin banti yaar itna paisa uspe waste karney mein…"

Overheard by the riverside today.

June 16, 2006

View As Slideshow

My parents captured my childhood in a camera, and got slides made, because the clicking was plentiful (firstborn etc.) and prints were prohibitively expensive. The slides were stored in cute little paper or plastic boxes, their ends labeled with multicolor insulation tape by my parents to signify which set of pictures each slide belonged to. Dad had a slide projector and a projection screen (which had rust marks all along its back because of the two metallic ends). Every once in a while, a slide show used to be organized where the whole family sat in the living room, the screen was brought out and put up (for a longish time the rolled screen held like a stick was about as tall as me), all lights were switched off, and the magic began. Dad inserted a slide into the projector (which let out heat and light from its top) and a huge picture of a grinning baby overwhelmed the audience, which made cutesy noises, and if the audience happened to be my mother, squished me into a ball in her overzealous cuddle.

Meanwhile, Dad held the next slide against the light coming out of the top of the projector, to check which way the next slide needed to be inserted (for all their passion for all things photographic, Mahatta Studios did not always label "Insert this side" correctly). I am sure that in the two seconds before he began work on the next slide, Dad looked up and beamed at the picture; at least half his love lay in seeing the pictures and not playing with the technology (Who said something about women falling for who are like their father? Woe! Woe! Woe!)

Phhhhhhbbbbbt! We were talking about images overwhelming the audience. It was amazing. Much better than going through a picture album together. Each picture usually has a story attached to it, and its repetition at each viewing concretizes a history of one's early life for oneself. All the hugging that happens is also phenomenal for bringing the family close together. Baby sis had her set of slides as well, and I have to confess she looks way beyond adorable: she looks edible.

The whirring of the projector and the funny smell of the slides return to me as I type this. The projector bulb went kaput many years ago, and the slides were relegated to a cupboard somewhere. Once every few years, they were held up against the light to see a miniscule version of what they were intended to represent.
And then one fine day the nice people back home got a CD made! Hooray! The big TV is a decent replacement for the projector screen, and the magic of community awwwwwing is back! Am dying to return home and see all the pictures with everyone.

The slide-turned-digital image here reminds me of a doting grandmother I only faintly remember, a house that I remember all wrong factually, a cross dressing phase that I have completely forgotten, a domestication that I have mixed feelings about, and cheeks (and a chubby forehead!) that I ought to have lost on my journey to adulthood.

June 15, 2006

Off For The Painultimate Time

And then this morning I saw a dream where the Director of the Gender Institute was trying to inoculate me against exam stress by jabbing a needle into my bum, except at the end of the needle was smouldering  jadi-booti!
They're telling me the madness will subside when the exams are over. For now, my best hope is to believe them.

June 13, 2006

2006: A Love/Hate Story

It was about seven years ago that I first met him. I was a bright-eyed teenager and he was this mysterious stranger who spoke in riddles and bid me close my eyes and believe in things that I could never have imagined to be true. Who was I to keep such company, when I did not know my nose from my toes? My awkward attempts at an interaction were half-hearted and futile, and were soon given up.

I had forgotten all about him till I landed in London, where I was introduced to him again. He's more often in London than he's in India, probably because his home in France is just across the channel. I blushed to remember the gawky teenager who'd dared to strike up a conversation many years ago, and vowed to steer clear of him. He still talked in riddles, it is not for the French to talk straight in any case, and he is not quite straight himself. I was deft of foot, and turned a corner or merged into the background when I saw him coming. But he was smarter. He showed up everywhere I went. Soon, there was no place I could hide. When I feigned indifference, he got me through my friend. He sent me messages through wendigo, and, after a while, I started responding to them. Why would this mysterious man want me, I wondered. What good is one half-baked soul to a man who has wooed and wedded many, much nobler ones? But he continued.

Today was the day of reckoning for this uneasy relationship. I thought about him for the last few days on the sly, pretending all the while I was doing something else. And when I met three of his friends today (no friends of mine, these, I assure you), all I could do was blabber incoherently about how besotted I was with him.

I am disciplined and punished. Foucault got me in the end.

Aside: We had three hours to write three essays in today's exam. Pretty lenient for Delhi University examination monkeys like me. But my Norwegian classmate is used to answering one question based on everything she's studied through the whole course in an 8-hour exam! Anybody wanting to be funding a PhD on international examination systems?

June 11, 2006

Quite the Exammed Out Moron

Last night when I seen
The prettiest moon that ever was
I wonderful happy been
For no other reason, just because

The sun he shine so bright today
He take that pretty moon away
But I ain't taking no big fright
There will be another moon tonight

Title Courtesy: Wendigo

June 06, 2006


Received feedback on one of my Easter break essays today. Had got the marks earlier, and they were pretty good: "this candidate is capable of undertaking PhD work" grade, and frankly, if there were a handful of marks more, I cannot say I wouldn't be tempted to.

The feedback, however is a completely different story. There are two words of appreciation, and a systematic dismantling of everything I had thought, said, or deduced since the day I was born. My analysis was well presented, but it was well presented tripe. Well presented cowdung. Well presented horsepiss. My lame assumptions, uneducated analyses and trivial conclusions were all well presented. But they threw a great many marks at me. After all, presentation is everything.

I checked up the anonymous list of scores, and I am pretty high up on it. Which makes me wonder. How about people who got ten percent less than I did? Would they have missed out on the presentation? What must their feedback be? "Your analysis of hyperventialtive Foucauldian power in a post-post-post-capitalist patheticocracy opens up new paradigms of thought for a generation of intellectuals and dismantles everything the academia has held sacred so far, but shouldn't you pay attention to adding subheadings for clarity and following the essay skeleton laid out in the guidelines? I mean, C'mon, presentation is everything!"

How about people who flunked? I suspect theirs read: "Your dog, who undoubtedly wrote this piece, ate half the guidelines book, and this lack is evident in the sudden disappearance of structure from your essay. The points about woof woof woof are relevant, but the analysis of Hamerbas needs barking…er… breaking up into subsections. We are terribly sorry but you shall have to submit this essay again. This time, ask your cat to write it."

And how about the people whose marks shot through the roof and condemned them to a PhD? "Piggy poo matrix with a cherry on top! Wanna teach?"

Ok. Enough. Back to studying.

P.S. All of London is topless.

June 04, 2006

Signifying Everything

A latter day player of tragedies: Macbeth and his lady incorporate in one body, I carelessly dangle the dagger before mine eyes. Glamis I am, and Cawdor, but wasn't that decreed before the witches cackled? With one clean wound, I shall be what I am promised, but the face of the trusting sleeper doth too much resemble my father's, and rightly so. Shall I make the multitudinous seas incardine incarnadine because of the drunken crone's prophesy? Or shall I stay and let fate fulfill itself? 'Tis to no avail that I have learnt this day to pay little heed to hags, for whoever wields the dagger, the sleeper is doomed, and witches do not prophesy to the dead.

June 02, 2006

June 3, 2005 to June 3, 2006

by John Donne

ALL kings, and all their favourites,
All glory of honours, beauties, wits,
The sun it self, which makes time, as they pass,
Is elder by a year now than it was
When thou and I first one another saw.
All other things to their destruction draw,
Only our love hath no decay ;
This no to-morrow hath, nor yesterday ;
Running it never runs from us away,
But truly keeps his first, last, everlasting day.

Two graves must hide thine and my corse ;
If one might, death were no divorce.
Alas ! as well as other princes, we
—Who prince enough in one another be—
Must leave at last in death these eyes and ears,
Oft fed with true oaths, and with sweet salt tears ;
But souls where nothing dwells but love
—All other thoughts being inmates—then shall prove
This or a love increasèd there above,
When bodies to their graves, souls from their graves remove.

And then we shall be throughly blest ;
But now no more than all the rest.
Here upon earth we're kings, and none but we
Can be such kings, nor of such subjects be.
Who is so safe as we? where none can do
Treason to us, except one of us two.
True and false fears let us refrain,
Let us love nobly, and live, and add again
Years and years unto years, till we attain
To write threescore ; this is the second of our reign.

(Some people's prince charming type characters ride into their lives on white steeds, mine came by taxi - airplane - taxi - autorickshaw - autorickshaw - autorickshaw, quite melted and befuddled, on a horrible summer day in June.)