Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Cheer with a dash of Grit

No human being is born perfect.It is inevitable even for those bearing a slant towards anarchy to rejoyce when the season of resolutions draws near.In my attempt to revel in holiday cheer,I've decided to add structure and rigidity to my life by drawing out a list of resolutions that are either too stifling or too unbecoming of a diva.Here are the ones that are relevant to the blog.

- To expand my reading list to include subject matter that goes beyond classic literature.To explore work that is more contemporary.Not exactly stifling but nevertheless verging on anti-diva blasphemy.

- To brush up my skills in three different languages (Bengali,Kannada and French).It is said that heaven helps those who help themselves.Are agnostics even allowed to believe in heaven? (In the divine sense at least?)

- To come up with the first draft of either a novel,a collection of short stories or an anthology of poems.I would have prayed for the mental well being of publishers had I not been so fiercely agnostic.

- The readers of this blog may heave a sigh of relief as I do not have any new intentions for this blog.However,readers are urged to bear in mind that new resolutions may be appended to the list any time during the course of the year.

I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season and sincerely hope that the next year is full of promise and hope(no pun intended).Please continue to read my blog, I love to watch the numbers on the blog ticker spiraling out of control.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Limits of Dissection

What are the limits of cinematic dissection? Perhaps we can ask David Lynch or the ghost of Stanley Kubirck to answer.I know a lot of people(self confessed film buffs included)who insist that the purpose of film is to offer relaxation and a sense of escapism to the viewer.'Why read a book when you can watch the movie?',is what I often get to hear in the form of well meaning advice.

It is a commonly held belief that a film saves you the laborious hours of interpretation you would have spent on the book.It is often overlooked that film does for the director what a book does for the writer.Film represents the conglomeration of art,poetry and literature.If art,poetry and literature have the right to shove the human mind down the throes of discomfiture;why shouldn't film have the same privilege?

Film is as open to interpretation as any other form of artistic expression.It is wondrous to some and loathsome to the rest.An avant garde film maker once said that all films should have a beginning,middle and end but not necessarily in that order.The dissection of film as as simple as predicting the mood swings of the film maker.The limits of dissection are defined by the limits we, as interpreters,impose on our own ennui.

Yet again,what are the parameters that define whether a film needs to be taken at face value or not? I still don't know whether I should consider 'Eyes Wide Shut' as literally as I consider the next blockbuster, or whether I should subject it to the microscopic evaluation of every David Lynch inspired paroxysm.Perhaps the dichotomy grants the viewer the liberty to play the devil's advocate and say,'We only interpret something if the need for interpretation is made obvious'.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Selling Your Soul

Bangalore is a city that feeds the most quaint need of every other quaint bibliophile.One can find bookshops in the most unsuspecting corners(apart from the scores of pirated material available on street corners).I like to regard each bookshop as a separate individual,complete with quirks and a territorial sense of defense for its niche.

'Blossoms' is one such place in Bangalore.It is aptly called 'the house of used books'.There are two floors stacked with books on every subject and of every possible vintage.One can find brand new bestsellers, with crisp white pages reeking with the odor of the printing press,and the most unkempt manuscripts of the classics yellowing with age.'Blossoms' allows customers to bring in old books and buy new books at a discount.The question of 'to sell or not to sell?' arises quite inevitably.

The next question that follows is 'what to sell?'.Books that are either subject to unconditional love or irrational loathing are impossible to sell.The two digit discount percentage bundled with a new book may seem like the ultimate catch;but once a book slips out of your clutches it is gone,along with the portion of your soul that it possessed while you read it.Selling a book is like selling a portion of your soul.The new book may or may not fill the void, but that portion caressed and fulfilled by the old one is dead.Perhaps it is the reason fashionistas fail to part with their shoes.No wonder libraries in Divaland often overflow on to the streets.

I will never know what a double digit discount on a book feels like.

Friday, December 05, 2008

A Dying Breed

I once had an argument with a male friend over the degree of masculinity or femininity of a job in the software industry.He was of the opinion that software was to a greater degree the forte of the human male and that women in software(with a few exceptions) were just 'tailoring'.I spent a great deal of time telling him that he was being 'sexist' and he spent a great deal of time telling me that he was being factual.I found this article in 'The New York Times', that seems to support the claim made by my friend.

Apparently the number of women entering computer science is on the decline.The article doesn't count women who enter related fields like web design.It is alleged that women prefer not to enter the field due to certain 'artificial constraints' and because there is a sense that 'true girls don't play with computers'.As a woman working in the software industry,as a computer programmer,I find it a little offensive that we need to attach gender to a profession that has its foundations firmly rooted in the intangible.It is equally bizarre that the number of women entering the field is on a progressive decline since the early nineties.

A year and a half in the IT industry has taught me that the statistics quoted in the article are believable.In my undergraduate days,I was in a class that had 77 boys and 11 girls.The boy-girl ratio at my workplace is also a deplorable 'one girl for every four boys'.However,if one considers the Indian IT industry in isolation,the influx of the feminine kind has gone up considerably since the early nineties.More girls have started enrolling for courses in Computer Science.I could have dismissed the phenomenon as being 'purely American' if women still weren't a minority in the IT industry in India.

Factors influencing these numbers in India can be quite diverse.The enrollment rate is never equal to the employment rate as a lot of women graduates prefer to get become homemakers as soon as they finish college.Fewer women make it to the top owing to the pressures of juggling a family and a career in IT at the same time.The barriers we're talking about here are neither 'artificial' nor are they driven by the 'masculinity' of the software profession.Perhaps people to the west of the Atlantic, who speculate along the lines of mapping gender to profession,would like to look to the east before they dismiss something as 'not fit for the feminine mind'.

'So what does all this say about me?', I asked my friend after sending him a link to the article.He simply said something witty about me being behind my time.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Activity in the Reading Room

Tolstoy is irksome,overwhelming,sometimes redundant,brutally frank,brilliantly poignant and above all an irresistible force.One can either ignore him or yield to him.I choose to yield, and I am a million times more endowed with the capacity to love his work.I write this with a sense of unapologetic irreverence.I seek comfort in Tolstoy's insistence that events in history aren't the result of the whims of certain individuals.

I sought out 'War and Peace',Tolstoy's epic tale of the Napoleonic invasion of Russia.My readers are probably thrilled with the redundancy in my reiteration of the fact that I'm reading it for the second time(In all fairness, I read only 600 pages the first time).I've strained every nerve to read each word of the last footnote.My memory occasionally fails to recall the trivia,my mind filters out the subtle humor and the characters are like my kin.I loath the irony of Russian battle strategy and crave the disillusionment of Andrew Bolonski.My spirit dances with that of the spontaneous Natasha and alters with the profound changes in the mind of Pierre Bezukhov.One must read Tolstoy as one would regard,with reverence,a fable narrated by a grand raconteur.

I have a hundred or more pages to go before I feel satiated.The book doesn't grip one's senses at the very beginning;it gnarls its roots around them when the end is near and when one realizes that a thousand odd pages aren't quite enough.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Anarchists Rejoyce!

Being 'anti-establishment' has never been easier! Most establishments have reached such a stage of irrevocable decay that they are bound to crumble.The anarchist just just has to sit back and watch.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Inspired by Chopin

I stand by your tomb.
My eyes tread over the epitaph;
Tiptoeing with caution,
Lest this elegy wakes your slumber.
My eyes behold some distant mirage,
With the blurred reflection of your visage.
I try to recall,in vain;
Your face,its contours,
The subtle wrinkles
Bridging the caprice of youth
With the wise disdain of age.
My ears strain
To reminisce; the timbre,
The nuances and ecstatic thrill
Of your now failing voice.
I long to contain that intangible guile,
The kind akin to mourners.
I crave the comfort that only the living,
Can bestow upon their kin.

P.S. Listening to Chopin reminded me of the person I used to be.It is as though a part of me has died.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hail Thee Gertrude

There is the forgotten tale of Alicia and Roberto (aka Alice and Bob of the cryptography textbook fame).While cryptography textbooks make an ode to the legitimate romance of the illicit couple;they also neglect the working of the scorned genius, Gertrude (known in textbooks as Trudy).

Historical records reveal very little about her lineage.While it is known that she was the sole heiress to a couple of estates in Tuscany,the antecedents of that inheritance are somewhat hazy.Gertrude ensured that all the wayward gossip and uncharitable hints concerning her ancestry,were reduced to a trickle of whispers in her lifetime.It is thus hardly surprising that there are no visible traces of Gertrude's existence,not even a tombstone if you please.

Little did Gertrude anticipate that her jealousy would serve as fodder for posterity. Gertrude knew she was plain;her sharp mind was the antidote to her unflattering looks.She possessed both wit and charm.In fact several anonymous poems and scrolls of the Renaissance period have been attributed to Trudy.However,no amount of wit could sway the affection of her wayward husband Roberto in her favor.She gazed on helplessly as her husband carried on a cryptic correspondence with his lady love Alicia.She often confronted him with proof of letters she intercepted by use of her cunning and guile.He often turned pale as she shredded to pieces every code he devised to encrypt his love letters.Roberto often looked at her with awe,the kind that is laden with mistrust and guilt.How this woman learned the art of numbers without being aware of their beauty,no one knew.

After Roberto died,she withdrew from society and lived like a hermit.She lived and died mysteriously, but left to the world the invaluable wealth of her analytical mind through her diaries.The rest,as far as cryptography is concerned,is history.Just as hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned; the fretting genius of a spurned wife is rather indomitable.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Animosity at the Aisle

In weddings in Bengal, it is customary for the mother of the groom to be absent.I have often questioned members of the family about the origin of this custom,but sadly enough there aren't any convincing answers for posterity.I am thus left to contemplate its origin and come up with cynical interpretations of it.

I would like to remind my readers that this custom isn't generally 'Indian', it is more peculiarly 'Bengali'.In the heyday of the arranged marriage,matches were made more for convenience than for love (I don't wish to give the impression that arranged marriages are passe in India,it's just that the marrying parties are entitled to an opinion in a lot of cases.)It was common for the fathers (or other male relatives) to strike what was literally a business deal.The bride and groom never saw each other before the wedding and the groom's mother was usually denied the pleasure of glaring at her future daughter-in-law.Perhaps the custom was a move to abate the effect of the impending hostility for the benefit of the bride. Or perhaps it was meant as an indirect reminder to each woman that in laws are required to treat each other like outlaws even though they are now part of the same family!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Numb

Elusive fleeting doubt;
How thought is thrust
Into narrow corners
With jagged edges.
How deeds amble
With the lethargy
Of fading inspiration.
How the shroud of hope
Gags the stuttering harangue
Of speech,once valiant,
Now thwarted.
So here we are,
Swarming,with bated breath,
Around the buzzing drone
Of a forlorn dream.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Mission Statement

If organizations and individuals can define themselves with mission statements why can't an independent,intangible entity like a blog have one? It does occupy a finite space of the blogger's mind after all!

Here one for 'La Diva':

To attempt to express through the medium of writing,that which cannot ordinarily be said in words.

P.S. : I swear I didn't use a mission statement generator.

Drizzle

I slink past the unsuspecting,
I steal subtle gazes and telepathic whispers.
Where this poem turns to prose,
And where stoic lines are blurred,
I shall never know.
I tiptoe down a noiseless hall
That echoes sentiment with fraying zest.
I hum;till my song is slurred,
Till the earth turns to quicksand on its spurs.
Where sense turns to a senseless drizzle,
And rattling prattle dwindles to mournful scorn
I shall never know.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Of Knights,Damsels and Mills and Boon

I accidentally stumbled upon this link about a hundred years of Mills and Boon.I was reminded of the one and only Mills and Boon romance I read as a precocious 12 year old. I discovered a dusty and tattered copy of 'The Son of Adam' flung away at a corner of a loft. 'The Son of Adam' was in the exalted company of 'O Jerusalem' and other books of caliber,but to a wide eyed adolescent damsels and knights held more promise than the uncompromising research of Lapierre and Collins.

The Damsel

'The Son of Adam' was the story of a distressed damsel who eventually rescues the unlikely knight.Dove Gray,the heroine who in every way epitomizes the 'English rose',is suddenly shunted out of a sheltered and fettered existence in her attempt to get her parents out of a financial scrap.She decides to take up a position as an au pair to the children of a wealthy Arab sheikh.She is interviewed by the hero,a close friend and confidant of the sheik.

The Knight

I don't recall his name so I will refer to him as 'the beast'.'The beast' fits the tall,dark,rugged and formidable stereotype of the typical romance novel of the 1970s.He has this jagged scar across his jaw that came from the time he saved the life of the sheik.'The beast' seems to disapprove of Dove and her slow learning curve.Yet, he is passionately taken by her beauty.

The Story

Dove Gray struggles to get accustomed to Arab customs that have her confounded and miserable.'The Beast' doesn't make life easy; with his endless censure of her activities at one end and his tormented lust at the other.He asks the sheik if he can marry her.The sheik being hospitable and quite indebted to the hero consents immediately.They are married much to the horror of our poor damsel.She eventually breaks the thing off.'The beast' is devastated but nevertheless lets her go.She slowly comes to terms with her stifled attraction and affection towards this vulnerable rock with a core of whipped cream.They eventually marry and 'live happily ever after'.

I flipped through the pages of 'The Son of Adam' faster than I turned the raciest portions of 'The Da Vinci Code', I giggled at the pathetically unromantic confessions of love and at the end I cooed when the hero begs her to 'save him'.The appeal of a Mills and Boon novel doesn't lie in its saccharine coated pill of delusion or in its soap operatic thrill.It lies entirely in the fact,that despite being badly written,it carries an irresistible pull.Happy hundred Mills and Boon!

Love in the time of Facebook

Most web 2.0 enabled young adults find themselves experimenting with Facebook sometime or the other.Despite its questionable usability and the bizarre terms and conditions,the 'Info' page is the first page people encounter(not counting the fact that it's one of the simplest pages to use on Facebook).The information page allows users to fill in their date of birth,relationship status,job information and a bit about their religious views.While users have considerable control over what they enter in most fields,the relationship status field is probably the most laughable with terms peculiar to social networking websites.Here is a dig at all the options that exist in the 'relationship status' menu and the less obvious implications of each one of them.

What they read and what they might just mean!

Single :

It's not that I need a 'partner' to validate my happiness. No I'm not desperate.I just need a date for Valentine's day and New Year's eve. As much as I love Facebook, I can't spend my weekends crawling from one site to another.

I'm actually not single,but a little harmless flirting never hurt anyone.

Okay,I'm not single but I have way too many folks from the family on my friends list.I'm afraid that if they get to know the real story they will squeal about it to my parents (a common dilemma faced by young Indian people engaged in covert courtship).

In a relationship:

I'm a lot cooler than all you single people. Ha ha!

I'm not really 'in a relationship'. I just picked this option to make it look like I've got a 'life'.

Married:

I'm single but I don't want weird friend requests from potential stalkers.

In an open relationship:

So I like to swing. At least I'm honest about it unlike those 'in a relationship' types who tell the whole world that they're 'single'.

It's complicated:

I want attention! The least you can do is visit my profile when you read my relationship story.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Dash of the Exotic

Aravind Adiga's Booker prize win for 'The White Tiger' and a reading of 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' got me thinking about the appeal of the indigenous.'The White Tiger' deals with the great Indian class struggle(I haven't read it yet,the reviews and newspapers are my sources) and 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' deals with the eternal strife of the Afghan people (women in particular);enough to have the west sit up and take notice.There is an unwritten rule that I like to call the curse of the great Indian novel;Indian writers need to gain validation in the west in order to gain so much as a compliment from their compatriots.

It seems that a best selling book involving the Indian subcontinent or the middle east must fulfill the following criteria.

- It must conform to a commonly held misconception.
- It must must arouse a condescending sense of pity in the reader.
- The writer must be represented by an American or European agent.
- A first novel is an advantage.
- It must be written in English peppered with indigenous references.

While I loved reading 'A Thousand Splendid Suns', and as an Indian I feel proud when Indian authors gain prominence; I sometimes wonder whether we,in our zest to heap praise upon what we consider to be 'native but mysteriously exotic',overlook the quiet greatness that is staring us in the face.I do not question the methods,the craft or the potential of these writers .I'm just a tad concerned that we may have missed out on the wit of a potential R.K. Narayanan, or the melancholic romance of some obscure middle eastern bard.

It is one thing to offer encouragement and quite another to overestimate achievement.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Growing Up

With growing up comes a sense of loss,of death, of something gone awry and not quite right.It isn't quite the same as altering superficially with age and remaining youthful at the core.Something within hardens,toughens and turns into an impenetrable lump that cannot be swayed or moved easily.

Perhaps some of the aftermath spills over to the blog.I started the blog as a chit of a 21 year old with no concrete intention whatsoever.It was intended to be a place to recuperate. I used to call it 'Alone all the Way'. I wrote about darkness,distress,disillusionment,dichotomy and a lot of other things beginning with other letters of the alphabet.A year later I reinvented myself as 'La Diva'; so as to say,'I cerebrate therefore I am apathetic'.

My apathy was pronounced in the way I scourged for anything and everything that would make the blog appear a tad off tangent. I was apathetic enough to say that I loathed the empty blubbering of contemporary literature. My nonchalance was enough to start a whimsical campaign to 'plunge platitude down the drain',to write scathing things about Dan Brown's fiction writing skills and to drool over Dostoyevsky and lament his misfortune.

Now,the growing up starts.Just as a raw yearning gave way to apathy. The apathy slowly makes way for the ambivalence that has no end.The intensity fizzles out. There is just a lurking sense of the nebulous.

The aging spirit; a full circle it doth make.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Art of Complaining

Being mugged and robbed was like opening Pandora's box. I have now become aware of a slew of things I would have otherwise overlooked. For instance, the art of filing a police complaint in a place like India. Law enforcement in India is preceded by the reputation of magnanimity its officers bear.Owing to previous instances where police officers have refused to accept complaints filed by civilians,it is now illegal for the cops to refuse the same.The cops have decided to overcome this tiny glitch by altering the nature of the complaint.

I initially filed a complaint for theft.My complaint contained a detailed description of all the stolen items,the incident and that of the offender.The subject of the complaint read 'Theft of purse containing the following'.While I was busy writing things down,the cops questioned my dad about what he did for a living and what I did for a living.The moment I was done, the cops politely refused to accept the complaint."No madam, this is not the way. Don't write 'theft of purse', write 'missing of purse'", said the clerk(complete with the grammatical error).I soon realized that since I am devoid of any kind of pull or clout;I cannot coerce law enforcers to listen to me unless I have the government of India sitting snugly in my pocket.I duly wrote 'missing of purse' in another version of the complaint,which was sealed, accepted and filed by the officer on duty.

It gives me a sense of cold comfort that he overlooked the use of the word 'stolen' in the body of the modified complaint.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An Interview with the Diva

My friend Rajat suggested that i try this out.So here goes.Know thy blogger better!


WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?
Not to my knowledge

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
A few days ago,curled up in my bed all alone.

DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
It's legible and has a nice slant to it so I guess yes.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?
I prefer fish and seafood to meat.

DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
Not human kids,do dogs and puppies count?

IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
Maybe.

DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
Sarcasm? Who does justice to sarcasm these days?

DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
Yes

WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
I want to but I'm not sure if my insides do.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
I don't eat cereal that much.

DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
No. I prefer sandals or letting my feet go commando.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
Anything with chocolate.

WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
Facial expression or its lack thereof.

RED OR PINK?
Pink!

WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
The fact that I love cynicism.

WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST?
My pet rabbits, and all other animals that I've known and loved and are now no more.

WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
Dark brown cuordroy pants and no shoes.

WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
An apple

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW?
The sound the keys of the keyboard being hammered upon.

IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
A deep,misty blue.

FAVORITE SMELLS?
The smell of coffee,dogs(very offensive but very comforting) and new books.

WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
That's classified information.

DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO TAGGED YOU?
I wasn't tagged by anyone, but the person who suggested this seems real nice.

FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH?
Football(what Americans call soccer)

HAIR COLOR?
Black

EYE COLOR?
Brown

DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
No

FAVORITE FOOD?
Pasta

SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
Scary movies

LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
Deception

WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?
Deep blue

SUMMER OR WINTER?
Summer

HUGS OR KISSES?
I love to get both but prefer giving hugs.

FAVORITE DESSERT?
Chocolate fudge with ice cream

WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
'The Rainbow' by D.H. Lawrence

WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
The table is my mouse pad!

WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON T.V. LAST NIGHT?
A silly reality show followed by a sillier soap opera.

FAVORITE SOUND?
The ticking sound of a dog's feet.

ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?
The Beatles

WHAT IS THE FURTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?
Uh Kolkata?

DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
I can read the thoughts of dogs(I think I can).

WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
Kolkata(known as Calcutta when I was born).

Spammed

Given the encouraging number of hits this blog gets (an average of 10 per day), I disabled character verification for the benefit of those who wish to comment on the blog.It has come to my notice that there has been some spam related activity in some of the older posts.I have no other recourse but to enable verification. So dear reader,please do not cringe every time you have to type that annoying little character string to prove that you are not a machine. The inconvenience is deeply regretted.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

An Obsession with the End

Why do writers,those aspiring to snag the 'dark and brooding' tag,obsess with death? Is it driven by the dread of posterity, the novelty of astral projections or by the embarrassing dearth of subject matter? For me it had to be the irresistible allure of immortality; fueled by the gore of goth, peppered with the subtlety of Sufi and tempered by the terse verse of a certain Ms. Emily Dickinson.

Here is an excerpt from a Dickinson inspired poem I had written as a supposedly angst ridden teenager.

Where to,does the winding path lead?
Covered with sand and cobble stones,
It must be the sleep that my soul will need need;
As I walk this path alone.


If that was death by verse circa 2003,here is death by verse circa 2008.

Sitting perched on higher ground,
I watch her lying,swaddled in a shroud.
Her lips are pursed,her eyes tightly bound,
Her arms folded,lest she be aroused.
I cannot,by the parchment kneel,
My own faint breathing I cannot feel,
For though she and I were once one;
Our present disparity cannot be undone.


The obsession continues as the verses continue to kill.

P.S.- Gone is the age of 'Death be not proud'. This is now the epoch of 'Death, thou art a dead bore'.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Portrait that Paints Itself and Remains Incomplete (Part II)

There stands an incomplete portrait.The canvas is stretched across the easel. It has yellowed with age since its untimely abandonedment.The diva strolls into her studio,with the sun in her hair and the floor caressing her bare feet.She cocks her head to one side to study the fruit of half baked cerebration.It isn't normal for subject matter to age with the portrait,but it has happened.

Take 1:Time for some damage control.We don't want self portraits that remind us of Dorian Grey.So the diva picks up a brush,with the right blend of several shades of paint to impart the botox effect.

Take 2:The Dorian Grey effect is achieved but the botox has rubbed off some of the distinctive vanity.All self portraits are supposed to be vain,but how in the name of art do you dab the right amount of vanity?

Take 3:Now the portrait looks vain enough.The diva still sees platitude smeared at one minute corner.Bring in the varnish,let's dissolve the flaw and be done with it.

Take 4:The background and foreground look like a nightmare from a book of kitsch.The diva rips the canvas into two and watches the asymmetrical parts fall to their death.

Take 5: The Diva decides to mend it by sticking the parts on to a blank sheet of canvas.The two parts look like pieces of a puzzle that need to be forced to fit together.

Take 6:Perhaps self portraits are not meant to be perfect.The portrait is now scarred and left to heal itself.It will paint itself and remain incomplete.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

On the Fence Passing Judgement

Why is everlasting joy the forte of the spiritual writer while despair is the niche to which the existentialist is condemned?

The Diva Does a Ballad

I have lived in a cocoon;
In comfort,in oblivion,
As still as forgotten carrion,
Like a moth that doesn't see the moon.

I've emerged from my sleep;
My wings fine and feathered,
Not bound nor tethered,
No boundary too fickle or steep.

Now how I shimmer;
My back cleaving from the strain,
Of intrepid flights made in disdain,
My memory; the hope of yesterday's glimmer.

P.S. - A Lousy attempt at being Sylvia Plath

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sitting Pretty in a Corset

She sits pretty in a corset,
Emancipated,free and uninhibited.
Her face is flushed,she gasps for breath;
She still sits pretty in her corset.
How will they measure her worth?
By the inches of her waist?
Perhaps,by the swing of her gait.
Or maybe by the number of suitors who wait,
In suspended thrall,to court her.
How she sits still as a picture,
Emancipated,free and uninhibited.
How will they gauge her depth?
By the inches of her heel?
Or perhaps by the way she conceals
Her nerves of steel.
So she may deign to impress
By playing the damsel in distress.
She sits,still and pretty in a corset.
Emancipated,free and uninhibited.

P.S: Older,wiser and a feminist.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Coming of Age

The only thing worse than getting a year older is having to deal with it on a Monday(which happens to be tomorrow).I feign nonchalance as I write this piece.My eye flickers towards the astrology website opened in another browser tab.All the years of agnosticism,objectivism,skepticism and cynicism culminate to nothing as I flush my stoic rejection of 'the concept of destiny' down the drain.I gain a sense of relief as the horoscopes don't seem offensive(as a matter of fact they never do),and no news is always good news.

Speaking of futuristic intent; there is plenty as far as this blog is concerned.Readers may look forward to a year of nasty narcissism,nastier tantrums and the nastiest kind of antagonism.There will be plenty of rants with wayward references to insignificant fiendish things, and enough critiquing to make slander seem harmless.

On the bright side; none of it is personal.Just plain and simple vanity.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Skeletons

There are skeletons in my closet,
Placid,onerous and bronzed with dust.
I dare not gaze into their hollowed visages
Or deign to meet mummified stares.
I leave them as they have always been,
Handcuffed,bound and slouching;
Lest they twitch and tell all.
I erase all traces of their recollection,
So that they do not resurrect
And prattle with the living dead.
There are skeletons in my closet
Let such reminiscence be laid to rest.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

How to act like a Diva

Here's a little skit I've prepared on the basis of real life events.These are dramatized transcripts of actual events that occurred yesterday evening.

The Discussion on Matrimony- Or Futile Attempts made with the Intention of Altering the Marital Status of the Diva

The Setting: The characters are seated around a dining table. The table is set for three.There are two dogs sleeping blissfully,unaware of the gravity of the conversation that is about to ensue.The atmosphere is informal and there are bits and pieces of the regular dinnertime banter, till it all starts to go frightfully awry.

The Characters:

Mom: A well meaning,generally progressive and Web 2.0 challenged professor of Physics in her fifties.She was married at the age of 23

Dad: A well meaning,generally progressive,professor of Electronics touching sixty and possessing better Web 2.0 skills than his better half. He was married at the age of 26.

The Diva:The irreverent author of this blog, who is too vain to disclose her exact age.She is somewhere in her twenties and has a job(the blog doesn't generate any revenue in case you were wondering); which,in Indian terms, implies that she is 'marriageable'.

Act I Scene I

Mom: You know, my friend's son just got engaged to a girl who's two years your junior.Isn't it time we started looking for a suitable match for you? Why don't we create a profile for you at shaadi.com,simplymarry.com or one of those matrimonial websites?

The Diva (rolling her eyes): If you want to start looking you may start looking without any assistance from me.You may turn on the computer yourself,login and create profiles all by yourself.

Mom: Oh, I will take dad's help.

(Dad has remained unperturbed and amused all along.)

The Diva:I cannot guarantee that I will get married right away,I need at least two years for consideration.

Mom: If you want to get married in two years time, we need to start looking now.

The Diva: I don't wish to marry young.I lack the maturity. I think thirty would be the right age to get married, right dad?

Dad(diplomatically): I don't believe in forcing people to do things they don't want to do.

Mom: By the time you turn thirty all the nice boys will be taken.You know all the best girls and boys get married when they're in their twenties.

The Diva:In that case,I do not wish to be married.I'd like to keep my space,individuality and peace of mind.

Mom:You need someone to look after you. I cannot die in peace if you don't get married.

The Diva: In that case please feel free to live forever!

(Mom grimaces,while dad and Diva burst into peals of laughter)

The skit never ends.Till the next act,it's curtain call time!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Love,Loathing and Libertarianism in Bangalore

The thrill of being 'Bangalored' gets mitigated by the minute.Despite the potential blow that Barack Obama intends to wield with his outsourcing policy (if he gets the keys to the White House); the decay is from blows suffered from within.Serial bomb blasts, the ineffective infrastructure, the night life ban and all the moral policing threaten to curtail the bliss that Bangaloreans took for granted.Let's toast to Bangalore before they make it illegal.

Love.Starry eyed couples are now a shadow of their brazen predecessors.Any displays of affection are subject to a fine.Thankfully I can still afford to pet the average decrepit stray cur without fear of being ostracized by the cynophobic (those who fear dogs).Perhaps the city administration wishes to make its contribution to the 'teach India' campaign, by being pedantic with puppy love smitten couples in Bangalore, by trying to hint that there is more to love than a public display of affection.Nevertheless, an effective teacher is one who doesn't underestimate the indomitable spirit of his/her pupils.

Loathing.We loathe the roads,the traffic, the open man holes, the clogged drains, the hazy smog, the endless construction in the name of 'beautification', policies made with the intent of beatification and the fact that we pay taxes to remedy the maladies of a city with a waning spine.We also love the fact that we loathe with such passion.

Libertarianism.I've always maintained that libertarianism is the luxury peculiar to Utopia and a privilege peculiar to the delusional (I am libertarian therefore I delude!).Gated communities in Bangalore do exactly that.They are something like 'Atlantis' in 'Atlas Shrugged', with the exception that they don't necessarily house the likes of John Galt.Only true libertarians would shut themselves up in fortresses to savor every bit of personal liberty.

So at the end of all this, how do I love Bangalore? Let me count the ways. I love it to the depth the human spirit can sink when shirking duty and fleeing guilt.(I think I heard Elizabeth Barret Browning curse!)Here's to love,loathing and libertarianism in Bangalore.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Diva's Commandments of good Writing

A book can be great if and only if it isn't lost in the ravages of time and translation.

There is a difference between writing that is eccentric and that which is cluttered.Eccentric writing bears some semblance of coherence.Writing that is cluttered is likely to confound the one who wrote it in the first place.

Good writing will hold the attention of the reader as well as that of the writer in equal measure.The reader will be inspired to read while the writer will remain prolific and unblocked.

Critics are often more predictable and trite than the books they review. The only thing worse than a bad review is a badly written review.By no means are reviewers entitled to such impunity.

The prolixity of a writer isn't measured by the thickness of the manuscript or by the weight of his/her adjectives.

Poetic licenses are meant to be used and not abused.Poets who wish to be exploitative may invent their own dialects.

Writers must bear the consequences of punctuation abuse,both intentional and otherwise.

There is no excuse for the violation of any of the above. Here's to the elimination of platitude! There's a limit to which readers can withstand insults to their intelligence.

Friday, August 15, 2008

In all Fairness

Since today marks the 61st anniversary of India's independence ,I find it fitting to write on a phenomenon that has wielded a blow to the self esteem of several Indian women.It is called the fairness cream.While a lot of self-proclaimed intellectuals attribute the success of the fairness cream to a colonial hangover; I like to attribute it to a cunning marketing campaign that exploits an obsession,as old as tradition, to make women feel lousy about themselves.

It is no secret that the average Indian would like to feast his/her eyes on a 'fair' individual.I cannot really define 'fair','wheatish','dark' and the other near-racist terms used in matrimonial advertisements.From the eyes of an artist who regards color as a technicality; 'fair','wheatish' and 'dark' are really different shades of the same color.I've often heard bemused foreigners suggest that all Indians really appear brown irrespective of what matrimonial color scale they belong to.It is something like the phenomenon in Korea where women get cosmetic surgery to have sharper features and folded eyelids. I'd like to quote Oprah Winfrey's opinion on 'sharp featured' Koreans; 'They all look Asian to me!', she said with a sense of the obvious.

All of the above is little consolation to an Indian girl ,on the threshold of womanhood, who is told that she isn't a very eligible bachelorette as her skin isn't of the right shade.Her eyes are glued to the television screen as she watches the fairness cream advertisements that show 'fair' women snagging the all right jobs and the most eligible men.She then buys the pink and white tube(surprisingly all fairness creams irrespective of the brand come in pink and white tubes)with hope in her eyes and a prayer in her heart.Most fairness creams are glorified sunscreens containing a bizarre mix of substances.The girl stares at herself in the mirror every hour waiting for some visible change.The change is barely significant,even after the fourteen day guarantee period. She buys the second tube and the third and the next to gain a sense of fake comfort.The slightly wealthy bachelorette will risk infection, discoloration and unsightly allergies to get her skin whitened using a procedure that uses a deadly mix of lasers and antibiotics.

I resent the fact that the entry sounds as trite as newspaper editorials on India's independence day.I suppose it's because nothing really changes over the years.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hitotoki - At the Bus Terminus

A follow up to the previous hitotoki.

Location: The Majestic bus terminus in Bangalore
Time: 18:00 Hrs.

The terminus is aptly christened 'Majestic'. It is majestic in an unlikely sense.Commuters sway like a multitude of flies lost in the common din.The buses ;some empty and others straining to balance the weight of passengers dangling precariously from foot boards,hog as much space as they can. There is an attempt, by harried employees of the B.M.T.C. , to maintain some semblance of order.They swirl their batons, directing the movement buses and commuters alike. How they bark at commuters who invite death by sprinting across platforms instead of taking the safe over-bridge.

The platforms are a world by themselves.There is hardly enough room to stand.There are families sprawled along each platform, with all their belongings huddled together in one place.There are small time entrepreneurs,striving to make a living be selling maps,newspapers and booklets with bus timings.There are travelers from outside Karnataka as well as illiterate locals,confounded by the scrawl of the Kannada script (most buses have boards written entirely in Kannada), they occasionally request locals familiar with the script to help them decipher what is written.Such locals themselves wait eagerly for that familiar bus that will take them to the desired destination. They crane their necks so that they can read the route information mentioned on bus boards.

The buses come one by one. Bus drivers and conductors encourage commuters to fill each bus to the brim.They often procrastinate at the terminus till driven out by B.M.T.C. traffic controllers.One cannot help inhaling the smog,the dust and the heavy air.One cannot avoid being jostled around like raw material in a centrifuge.It is impossible to remain placid and riveted to a single spot. One has to accept the discomfort of feeling lost and displaced.There are no individuals, there is no governance, there is only anarchy.If there wasn't anarchy the terminus would be stripped of its hostile majesty.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

An Unlikely Reconnection

When I decided to read 'The City of Joy', I approached it with the wary skepticism with which Indians tend to regard foreigners' accounts of India.I expected it to be filled with stereotypes portrayed, with so much conviction, by the European and American media.I probably underestimated the extent of Dominique Lapierre's research.I was struck by the introduction,where Lapierre urges readers not to form a generalized opinion of India based on what's in the book.

Lapirre's description of life in 'The City of Joy' ranges from stark to tender.Memories of alighting at the Howrah railway station came flooding back.So did wrenching images of the most dehumanizing poverty,the agonizing contrasts that make no sense,the immobilizing humidity and above all things an inexplicable sense of comfort.The book tugs at one's senses and invokes the kind of familiarity and fondness one wouldn't expect to feel for a hapless,overpopulated city.

As many of my readers know, I am a Bengali raised in Bangalore. I have often mourned the fact that I feel alienated and disconnected when I think of my roots, of Kolkata(Calcutta's new name) and a culture that has me confounded and bemused.Lapierre's moving account of the city and its spirit sparked off a reconnection.It rekindled the bond I shared with the city as a child.It is now time to make amends.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Rant that Shouldn't Exist.

I cannot stir
I cannot mutter
I am the storm
Frozen in malform.
I see all that I behold,
All that is blurred
By another's vision.
I cannot wince
I cannot sigh
I am the past
Erased to oblivion
By another's prism.
I belive that I move,
That I feel and reminisce
The loss of time,
Will and sense.
I must be a dream
In my selective reverie.

P.S. - The impact of Big Brother and 1984.

Contemplation in the Reading Room

Reading 'Atonement' by Ian McEwan compelled me to face something in my own writing style that I abhor;the ability to start something with compelling promise and then force it to dwindle to obscurity.'Atonement' is the story of Briony,a girl gifted with a wonderful imagination that goes haplessly wayward and leaves a scar that can never heal.She almost single handedly ruins a young life full of promise, tears apart a close knit family and lives to make amends for her irrevocable folly.

I loved McEwan's treatment of Briony's innate complexity,the studied narrative of life in Britain during the 1930s and the unfortunate series of events culminating in the conviction of an innocent man.The book comes in three parts.Sadly, the brilliance of each part diminishes progressively, leaving the reader feeling cheated at the end.It brought back the memory of 'The Alchemist' by Paulo Cohello; another book that began with what seemed like an uncommon spiritual premise and ended with the fizzle of a moral science textbook.

I too plead guilty to the same crime against literature; the inability to fill the increasing void as the pages progress.Perhaps I'm just a diva with a deficit of attention.If only I were an anachronism instead of being contemporary!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Inconvenient Truth

The title is intended as a tribute to the Oscar winning documentary bearing the same name.In the past few weeks I have been plunged into darkness,with my thirst unquenched and my finer senses regressing to their baser cousins.Yes, dear reader,Bangalore has been having a shortage of electricity and water!

The inconvenient truth is this- diminishing sources of energy have adverse effects on the entertainment and publishing industries.The need of the hour is to find alternative sources of all those things that appeal to our aesthetic needs,irrespective of whether we are successful in our quest for alternative energy sources.

Imagine a world where people paint their own pictures using natural pigments,where people write their own books on recycled paper(by hand).Where musicians travel on foot in order to serenade a potential audience and where the art of film making diminishes and the days of the theater and the opera are revived again.Ah the fine days of antiquity!Here they are again,making the truth a little inconvenient.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Rant in Prose

Who is it that speaks of smoldering passion?
One that derived from a lingering belief
That wavers between the means and the end.
Not I; for I do not deign to rage,
Or gauge the irrevocable despair of my generation.
Maybe it's the dissent of fraying youth,
The accursed machinery of faith,
Or just a dampened,nagging irritant
That aids my silence.

P.S. - Let's think about indifference and pray that it subsides.

Friday, July 04, 2008

An Epitaph by Demand

The entry is inspired by the revolting title of a recent bestseller,'Who will Cry when You Die?'. While I intend to intend to make crying an offense at my funeral,I will appreciate a nice epitaph.For yours truly,it's more a question of 'Who will Concoct the Least Offensive Epitaph when You Die?' Here is an example of an epitaph that a diva wouldn't find offensive.

Diva; proponent of individuality and forerunner of the 'make people read classics' movement.Forever agnostic,amen!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reading Humbert

My eyes scan the lines,
My fingers touch the cover,
I can barely contain
The loathing;
The aftermath of your
Lustful and vile rancour.
I sense your mind traverse
The length and breadth,
The tone and colour,
The aura of that fiendish seraph
Who deigns to feed your longing.
Oh this woe begotten memoir!
There isn't a beginning to its end.

P.S.- A hint to the interpretation, 'Lolita' by Vladimir Nabokov.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Let's Dress Down

Talk of inflation isn't becoming of the nonchalant,but sometimes undignified purging is quite therapeutic.The double digit demon that threatens to make our lives trite and mundane is here with a sardonic grin and a bag full of bad couture.We may as well forgo epicurean pleasure and be content with the most distasteful grub on our plates.This is the era of stifled musicians,emaciated writers, starving artists and those dreadfully long skirts that sweep the floor with every swish.It's time to dress down to show solidarity with the economy.Strangely enough,as history has taught us,the length of a skirt is directly proportional to the cost of fabric! Let's all dress down in sombre habit till our pockets start to ring with the annoying cry of 'bling bling'!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Guilt in the Reading Room

Last Saturday I found myself,quite intentionally I must admit,in a bookstore.This was clearly a violation of the oath I had taken, swearing not to set foot in a bookstore till I read all that there was to read at home.At that point in time,I came up with the unreasonable premise that as a Diva,I am morally bound to have a new book to read every week. The proponents of haute-couture will no doubt empathize with my predicament if they replace 'book' with 'dress' and 'week' with 'day' in the previous sentence.

I walked out with a motley crew of books,ranging from the tragic to the political and ultimately the perverse.I picked up 'Authority and the Individual' (which I have just completed),'The City of Joy','Atonement' and finally 'Lolita' (the lust-laden first line has me all geared to pick a winner D. H. Lawrence or Nabokov).

In an attempt towards atonement I am reading 'We the Living',so that the older books don't feel 'jealous' of the new ones.When you spend as much time with books as I do you start to think that books are comatose necromancers with horrendous powers.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Solitude

I cannot breathe the odor of din.
Here I am bereft of wit,
Hungry for soliloquy.
I crouch in the comfort
Of a seemly mirage.
How it flits,turns and spins;
Till I seek solace
And remain still
Until all is forgotten.
Oh solitude,oh solitude
I recall nothing else.

P.S.-I wonder if post rock is sometimes effective in alienating a poetess from her poetic license.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Whispers from the Reading Room

There has been a flurry of covert activity in the reading room.I've been reading with such haste that the activity assumes the importance of breathing or existing.I decided to write this entry so that I wouldn't forgo the pleasure of reminiscence.

Let me start with Victor Hugo.I became interested in his work after I read that he was Ayn Rand's favorite writer.I started reading 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' with a big chunk of bias. For some reason I expected it to be a soppy story written for children thanks to the animated and abridged versions of the book.There is more to 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' than just the usual grind about an unseemly creature with a beautiful heart.I loved Hugo's picturesque description of medieval Paris,its architecture and its people and his observations on philosophy and on the dichotomy of human nature.

I then moved on to R.K. Narayan,my favorite among Indian writers who express themselves in English. His style is quirky and very peculiarly Indian.He captures the essence of life between the time that India was still an English colony and the time of its independence.His stories have unapologetic,tongue in cheek revelations about the Indian condition(a superset of what is known as the human condition).

I then read a collection of bone-chilling stories by Daphne Du Maurier as I felt I could do with some 'light reading'.The intrepid blogger then decided to turn into the intrepid reader.I wanted to read 'O Jerusalem' by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre. I offhandedly mentioned to my dad that I was looking for the book but couldn't find it.He then told me that it had been stashed away in a rather inconvenient corner of the loft.I realized that the procurement of this gem would be a test of both strength and skill. Since I'm more craven than I imagine myself to be,'O Jerusalem' will have to wait.

So here I am at present reading 'Anna Karenina' by Tolstoy.I seem to enjoy Tolstoy's impressions on marital infidelity more than I enjoy his reverie on war.I'm reading this one at lightening speed. Hopefully I'll be able to do the same when I revisit 'War and Peace' towards the end of this year.

The future of the reading room: I was considering reading these two books at the same time.'We the Living', Ayn Rand's scathing anti-communist account of life during the Russian revolution, and 'Mother',the pro red-guard hit by Maxim Gorky.I sometimes wonder if reading makes people insane....

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Intrepid Blogger

I have the misfortune of being someone who loves to write, and loves it even more if the numbers on the blog counter are of obscene proportions.I tend to overlook the fact that I have very few claims to either fame or infamy.It can be a tad disconcerting to maintain a blog that gets about a 100 hits in a few months.Not that I particularly envy Indian actors whose paychecks have more digits than my blog counter.I find it intriguing to find newspapers literally printing transcripts of 'star-blogs'; with all the mud-slinging,finger pointing,name calling and other antics akin to those of four year old kindergarten students.Where does that leave yours truly? In a rut with blogger.com,a silly css template and no domain space!

Since divas need to give themselves airs in order to survive;I hereby induct myself into the institution of the intrepid blogger.The intrepid blogger thrives like a tiny being that bears ten times its weight and runs the risk of being crushed to an unrecognizable pulp.The intrepid blogger will blog till the hosting site vanishes into oblivion or till web 2.0 is deprecated and the craft of blogging is dead.If one can measure pride and vulnerability,then the intrepid blogger can boast of having an abundance of both.There isn't time for bitterness because there is so much to rant and rave about.

In the self-obsessed realm of blogging, only the valiant survive.It takes courage for the insignificant to shower themselves with indulgence in public.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mushy Rant version 8.05

If love were all about
Silver moons,crystal seas,
Words whispered in roundabout
Heart wrenching pleas;
Perhaps I'd be a writer
Of greater eloquence and grace.
I would capture,with dignity,the finer
Aspects of a torrid lovers' embrace.
Since love isn't imagination's ward;
I am constrained in articulation.
Thus I must be content with the menial reward
Of yesterday's cerebration.
Perhaps a distant thought
Would suffice to carry forth with ease
A hard earned sentiment wrought
From the depths of human expertise.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Standing Still

The power of existence is enough to overwhelm.It overrides all effects of time and space and makes one feel quite numb,utterly useless and completely devoid of sensation or sense.People often constrain themselves,perhaps intentionally,to feel the void of existence and its endless bickering.One individual didn't intend to grant himself this privilege. I needn't mention his name.People who have been students will see a little bit of themselves in him.I can however call him 'X'.

'X' sits in a grimy classroom in some woe begotten college in India.He hasn't eaten since the night before.The classroom is now a makeshift examination hall.'X' sits with a 2B pencil,an eraser,an OMR sheet and a question paper.The splinters of wood from the dilapidated desk are cutting through his shirt into his skin,the question paper looks like a delicate parchment with a cryptic script and the invigilator looks like a fossil with tremendous glasses.

The girl sitting to his left nibbles on the tip of her pencil,she nervously runs her fingers through her hair and then darkens one of the bubbles on the OMR sheet.The boy sitting to his right smirks to himself and nods his head as he answers a question.'X' looks down at his answer sheet.He wonders about the pristine purity of an empty answer sheet, a sharp 2B pencil and a hairdo that hasn't suffered the ravages of the education system.He smiles at the perfection of his hairstyle.Just the right amount of gel mixed with the right conditioner, not too much spike and at the same time not too droopy.It took him two hours to get it right.Perhaps the boy in front with the dark circles spent those precious two hours clutching flashcards and cramming formulae scribbled down at the last minute.

'X' is suddenly hit by the lull of having to exist. How did this spec of time and space fit into the larger plan? Was it significant enough for him to spend three hours in the sweltering heat with a roomful of strangers? He had gone over all the well meaning advice from parents,friends and extended family. He replayed his responses to their endless questions over and over again.All of it fitted together like a script that is so badly written that it becomes a masterpiece in its own right.The warning bell is rung.'X' gazes lovingly at the graffiti and the wisdom,etched so carefully on the desks of decrepit institutions, by hapless students waiting in vain to be inspired.

It is now time to submit the answer sheets.'X' is the first to hand in his sheet. Another test,another OMR sheet with the mark of nothingness.The examiner shoots him the look of disgust that the elderly tend to reserve for their younger counterparts.'Write your name,useless fellow',he says.'X' simply does as he is told.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Reverie in Traffic: An Attempt at Hitotoki

A shot at Hitotoki by your favorite Diva.

The buses stand at angles,often crossing into adjacent lanes, much to the chagrin of cab drivers trying to slither into claustrophobic spaces in the endless lines of traffic.It has been nearly 45 minutes and all is still.I look out of the cab window.The bridge stands like a stoic witness to the silent pandemonium.There is a line of abandoned trucks parked along one side of the narrow lane.There are people thronging the dust laden tea shops,eagerly sipping on the smog-infested morning beverage.

I stare into one of the tinted windows of the adjacent van.I sense that the face staring back at me is familiar.Of course,all faces in traffic appear familiar.The sea of expressionless visages painted with different shades of boredom is a very familiar sight in early mornings.

Across the street is a railway station. Faces fatigued with excitement throng the platform. Bags and suitcases are hurled from one end to another.There is a fine line separating the sentiments of those starting the unpredictable journey of drudgery,courtesy the Indian Railways,and those stuck in traffic, halfway in their quest for drudgery.The former and latter occasionally cast wayward glances at each other,part piteous and part envious.

I cast my attention to the neighboring window again. The face appears clearer and the expression keener. Do I know her? I wonder to myself. Familiarity mingled with a tinge of anonymity is a bizzare privilege. There are the momentary flashes a polite smile and the insolent 'Indian' gaze. All of it seems acceptable,given the impenetrable wall of silence between strangers. The traffic finally moves,crawling an inch at a time only to come to a halt again, with an acquired resignation.There is a different cab,a different window and yet another face. The reverie is still the same.

Location: Near the K.R. Puram bridge.
Time: 7:50 am.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

One Line Movie Reviews

Here's to keeping it short and hopefully sweet.

Crash - A gritty and enduring tribute to short sightedness and prejudice.

Stigmata - A perfect example of a film that is conceptually promising and a failure in execution.

To Be or Not To Be- Mel Brooks meets(and even becomes) the Fuhrer, what could be more hilarious?

Your average Bollywood flick - Boy meets girl,falls in love,beats up bad guys and marries girl; almost like the birdie-dance routine!

Your average Hollywood cop-flick - Cop with integrity oversteps jurisdiction,gets suspended, solves a crucial case and is decorated; more like the hokie-pokie routine.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Recuperating..

The Diva was ill(even we Divas fall ill sometimes). I was in the exalted company of Franz Kafka, the eternal dreamer and existentialist. According to a survey once conducted in the United Kingdom;television viewers find themselves empathizing with on screen characters to the extent that they feel they even suffer from the same ailments. I stake claim to a similar affliction thanks to the intimidating and very abstruse Franz Kafka.Sometimes metaphysics causes one to swing between a nauseating sense of numbness to an invigorating sense of hyperactivity. The fact that I was feverish didn't contribute to the fleeting sense of wellbeing either. I am now recuperating. I'm not quite sure if I should be thankful for that.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Alive and Kicking in Kafkaland

The trouble with Franz Kafka's work is that it is meant to be felt and not read.I find myself stuck in transience between the hazy surrealism of Kafkaland and the glaring self portrait of reality.I read a piece titled 'Meditation'; a collection of short stories and reverie from the ever-fleeting mind that conjured them. I wander helplessly from page to page; in search of meaning,logic or anything tangible. I am discontent and turn to the piece titled 'The Metamorphosis'. Since I am no stranger to 'The Metamorphosis', I devour it gleefully with a false and misleading sense of pride. I arm myself with the comforting sense of familiarity,little realizing that Kafka's words take new meaning every time they are read.Kafkaland is the only place in the space of imagination where a hopeless romantic, taking a walk in the clouds, can get consumed by his own romanticism.A life in Kafkaland is as superficial as its supposed depth. So here I stand, sensing that I am alive and kicking, till I am buried in the vanishing crust known as 'Kafkaland'.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Art of being Tongue-Tied

I am perhaps fortunate enough not to write for the sake of bread,butter or bills. My position gives me the luxury of writing for the sake of writing; without the intention of building a closet tumbling with awards.My predicament lies in the fact that I often find myself at the center of all my complacence,blissfully unwilling to do something to override the block.I suppose I take it for granted that the block gives a writer the impression of a safety net, or that of a bubble of comfortable superiority.

I have often used 'the block' as an excuse for the spasms of ineptitude that hinder my thought process.I now prefer to use the euphemism of being 'tongue-tied' instead.The state of being tongue-tied is often misconstrued as a state of being in deep contemplation. It is the not-so-discreet way of buying time and the benefit of the doubt. I hereby give myself the benefit of the doubt! I am sorry for the inconvenience. It isn't my intention to insult anyone's intelligence.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Study in Melancholy

There is a melancholy that comes with early mornings.
The uncertainty is far from dulcet,
It flutters on like an endless drone.
The air lingers with the lassitude
Of its blithe former self.
I stare into the wilderness,
And wonder when my blank daydream will end.
My fingers curl from some forgotten
Former exhilaration.
I soak in the present decrepitude
Till I can languish in pity no more.
I can only wilt into the wilderness
And wonder when this daydream will end.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Love in the Time of Jane Austen

The past two weeks have witnessed a downpour of chick-lit at this part of the world. I read 'Emma' with an almost embarrassing voracity(I am so excited about this entry I nearly typed veracity!).Jane Austen can be quite an addictive source of temptation to the loitering feminine mind.'Emma' had all the ingredients of the average chick-flick. There was romance,scandal,gossip,heartbreak,engagement and eventually matrimony.What sets Jane Austen apart from the others in her genre is her portrayal of romantic love.

Romance in the Victorian era comes across as a far cry from the blatant display of affection in present times.An arch of the eyebrow,a carefully crafted letter,a slight touch of the hand and a swift covert glance can mean so much more than the 'I like you,just the way you are' line from 'Bridget Jones' Diary'. A couple walking at a distance from the rest of a travelling party can set tongues wagging about the prospect of a wedding.A proposal is a subtle endeavour carried out after considerable deliberation. Proposals are rejected with the aid of polite letters of apology and misunderstandings are forgiven with all the appropriate terms of endearment.

The imminent danger in Jane Austen's work, lies in all the hidden innuendoes that wreak havoc in the minds of young,impressionable divas like yours truly.It is quite understandable why there are so many delusional 'maidens' waiting in distress for certain individuals known as 'knights' to rescue them.

ps: A little trivia here, 'Emma' was the inspiration for the mindless chick-flick 'Clueless' starring Alicia Silverstone. The resemblance between the two is indeed bizzare.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

All the Chick-Lit of Yore

I have a lonesome copy of 'Emma' by Jane Austen stashed away at the bottom of the forgotten portion of the bookshelf. I have attempted to read it four times and have given up. I presume, I would have flunked English Literature if Jane Austen's work had been a part of the curriculum. I admit that Ms. Austen's work is astute,witty and on par with that of her contemporaries. I also admit that I occasionally take a fleeting interest in chick-lit, and that Jane Austen was the forerunner of that unfortunate genre.

My interest in chick-lit is fleeting enough to give in to the lazy urge to watch the movie instead of reading the book.As a result, I've watched adaptations of 'Sense and Sensibility' and 'Pride and Prejudice' before actually reading them(in my opinion a heinous crime against literary genius). 'Emma' is different. I haven't seen a film or a mini series based on 'Emma'. Thus 'Emma' poses some sort of dilemma to my wayward conscience;'to read or not to read'.

Ms. Austen's books stereotypically have characters like gorgeous damsels, plain Janes,cranky old men, snooty aristocratic ladies,thick headed dandies, unstoppable matchmakers and embarrassing mothers with both feet in their mouths.There is heartbreak,misunderstanding,double crossing,torrid romance,more torrid gossip and nearly every other ingredient of a daytime soap opera.What sets Ms. Austen's work apart from contemporary chick-lit and the average soap opera is her persistent wit and her keen assessment of human character.

I figured that after a dose of Dostoyevsky's mysticism,common human hypocrisy,hardcore libertarianism,forgotten lives in the Salinas valley,racism and war; chick-lit would be an excellent remedy. I've chosen 'Emma' to prove that my conscience,though occasionally unpredictable, is crystal clear. Stay tuned for more outlandish desecration.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Epitaph of Imagination

Imagination is dying.The fleeting sense of possibility that was once celebrated is now bowing down to the world's obsession with reality. What would have once made poingant fiction will now sell only under the banner of 'a really poingant memoir'. If Oscar Wilde lamented over 'The Decay of Lying', I will lament the death of imagination itself. Here's an epitaph that I hope will be fitting enough when imagination gets its final blow.

Here lies imagination.
Friend to the lonesome,
Foe to the irksome,
Saviour of fiction
And Antidote to bad writing.
Rest till you are resurrected
By those deserving of your living presence.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Matrimonial Platitude

The matrimonial column beats the stock quotations page in its formidable quality and the gossip column in its entertainmetn quotient. I often read the matrimonial column when the stock market is full of 'bears' and when there isn't enough gossip making the rounds. My mother,a stauch believer in the indomitable goodness of the human spirit, tells me to keep an 'open mind' when it comes to finding a spouse. 'If you start looking now you might find someone nice by the time you're 27', she says to offer encouragement.(Readers please note,I don't believe that the goodness of the human spirit is indomitable.At least not in the treacherous field of matrimony.)

As I am still waging an endless battle against platitude. Here are some terms that are peculiar to the average Indian matrimonial advert.

Slim - Quite a misnomer because the average Indian woman lacks the genetic makeup of the likes of Kate Moss.

Fair- A highly relative term indicative of 'skin tone'. I really cannot define the word 'fair' without coming across as being racist.A foreign writer once said that he couldn't tell the difference between a 'fair Indian',a 'dark Indian' and a 'wheatish Indian' because all Indians looked the same to him.

Homely- Here's an example of the importance of taking words in the right context. When taken in the context of the dictionary, homely means 'plain'. When taken in the context of Indian matrimony; homely is a term applicable only to the female kind. A 'homely bride' is one who keeps the house squeaky clean,cooks a delicious meal and is a model of perfection irrespective of the circumstances.

Convent educated- This was a very common requirement prior to the IT boom. A girl who was convent educated was something of a 'trophy'. The 'convent educated' requirement has now been replaced by 'bachelor's degree'.

From decent background and tall- I don't quite understand qualitative terms without a point of reference.

Drawing six figure salary- This is a trait used to describe prospective grooms. Even 000000 has six figures doesn't it?

It's time to trash platitude. Long live originality!

Random Conclusions from the Reading Room

Too much reading makes the average writer feel inspired and 'blocked' at the same time.

It is better to read 'To Kill a Mockingbird' when you are an adult.The dichotomy becomes crystal clear.

Bad spelling and grammar may complement Joyce's 'stream of consciousness'. Nevertheless,'Ulysees' is sometimes impossible to read.

D.H. Lawrence comes across as a hopeless romantic with a whiff of the 'Odeipus Rex' complex.

You cannot implement Ayn Rand's philosophy by the book unless you live in Utopia.

I love John Steinbeck!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

It Happens only in India: Camel Rides in Silicon City

'Bangalore,India's silicon city'; is an overused cliche in it's own right. However,not all silicon cities can boast of Bangalore's little quirks. At least not in the department of camel rides. Read on for more.

How it all Started

Camels are brought in from Rajasthan (I've heard they are actually made to walk all the way from the Thar desert to silicon city)and sent to 'camel farms' in the outskirts.There was an epicurean angle to the whole thing. Apparently some folks think that camels make excellent grub. By some stroke of fate, the animal rights activists became aware of this practice. There was quite a furor over the sale of camel meat and soon a ban was imposed. This hasn't been a deterrent to some enterprising members of society who thought that 'camel rides' would be a great way to generate revenue.

Enter the Camel!

Camel rides are typical weekend features, particularly in the suburbs of north Bangalore. The ships of the desert are decked in colorful attire and paraded from street to street. They have formidable anklets that sound like the clanging of temple bells. One can hear their approach from quite a distance. Excited children come running out of houses in anticipation. The adults gaze in curiosity as the mighty beasts sway from side to side,much to the chagrin of all the stray dogs. What ensues is sheer cacophony. The deadly combination of canine hysteria and ringing anklets is enough to curtail the peace of a lazy tropical afternoon.

The Outcome

As an aftermath, there has been a surge of camels in the neighborhood. In addition to this there are happier children, unhappy dogs and adults who have found an ingenious way to keep their brats amused.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Skipping Introductions

It is an opinion, held unanimously by folks who love to read and folks who don't, that the introduction is the most dreary and the most dreaded part of any book. While it may be of some accidental use to a literature student in desperate need of a decent summary of the the book's general premise,it tends to crush reading pleasure for the the rest.

I generally avoid introductions like the plague. I care to read them only if they have something insightful about the author. An introduction to a book is more painful than the stiff upper-lipped and excruciatingly formal pleasantries exchanged when people meet each other for the first time. Introductions to books contribute to that annoying sense of bias and expectation, just as personal introductions often ruin first encounters.I like to read a book without any prior knowledge or suggestion of its content. I like the uncertainty of stumbling upon the unexpected,and sometimes, the unpleasant.

'Atlas Shrugged' is probably one of the few books that had a fitting introduction(I read it after I read the rest of the book). I liked Leonard Peikoff's unobtrusive and respectful account of Ms. Rand's masterpiece, with references to Ms. Rand's actual notes and thought process. I also liked the humble translator's note at the beginning of 'The Brothers Karamazov'.

As an afterthought; it is probably more fitting to have an epilogue and an index of reference. What good is an introduction if it doesn't serve its purpose?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Confessions from the Reading Room

Here's to John Galt,the man who stopped the motor of the world a.k.a. the answer to Ayn Rand's most pressing question,'Who is John Galt?'. I still cannot fathom how a near-radical ideology like objectivism can deliver so much peace to a reader. The motor of this blog came to a halt last week,with undersea cables going 'snap'. Nevertheless, it made enough room for introspection and some much needed inspection of my reading space.

I tend to rave about my bibliophilic tendencies without actually attributing any credit to the folks(my parents) who made bibliophilia synonymous with a way of life. I also owe them credit for my inclination towards art.Except that they love the impressionists and I whatever came towards the end of the impressionist movement,as a precursor to abstract art.(My only form of artistic rebellion.)

It is hardly surprising that the bookshelves are filled with books on impressionism. My mother says that she couldn't get enough of the impressionists when she visited the Louvre and other art museums in Europe.My particular favourite is a large hardbound volume on impressionism written entirely in German. It has pictures of great works by the impressionsit masters and analysis accompanying each painting.

Other books dying of neglect include 'Tess' by Thomas Hardy(the neglect in this case is intense enough to make me forget the complete title),'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee,'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' by Victor Hugo, 'Pastures of Heaven' by Steinbeck,'We the Living' by Ayn Rand,'Nineteen Eighty Four' by Orwell,'Gone With the Wind','Shirley' by one of the Bronte sisters, entire volumes by Dickens,O. Henry and Guy De Maupassant. Perhaps the hallmark of shame lies in the fact that I haven't read any of the books written in Bengali(which is supposedly my native tongue and the only language that I can speak and not read).I am reminded of the translations of Gitanjali and other works of art by Tagore, looking as good as new even after three years. (One can always use the condition of a book to confirm if all this biblio-gabble is true.)

I suppose I have my resolutions for this year charted out clearly, at least in the reading and writing department.I hereby pledge not to buy more than I can consume.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Irresistible Objectivist

My tussle with the work of Ayn Rand has been far from the ordinary intellectual encounter. I am one of those readers who initially finds Ms. Rand's passion contagious but isn't quite as enamored after some retrospection. Ms. Rand's philosophy is like manna to a tempestuous teenager ,who devours each word of 'The Fountainhead' on her sixteenth birthday instead of throwing a 'sweet sixteen' bash. I grew up with the spirit of Howard Roark; his words ringing in my head and his indifference to the establishment dictating every move I made.

Somewhere down the line, I felt the tiniest urge to disagree with Ms. Rand. I couldn't understand the dichotomy of 'to feel or not to feel' expressed by several of her characters. I couldn't quite understand the virtue she associated with selfishness, just as I couldn't understand the virtue of altruism. I didn't find her work particularly 'artistic' but nevertheless, I secretly wished I could be a hardcore objectivist.

Perhaps all the dichotomy was, as philosophers often say, 'within and not without'. Surprisingly, I see Ms. Rand's point with greater clarity now than I ever have before. My readers will find it amusing to know that I started reading 'Atlas Shrugged' soon after I read 'The Brothers Karamazov' (Ms. Rand,although a Russian herself, rejected the mysticism of 19th century Russian authors). I now see that one has the right to 'feel' if one wishes to and that there is nothing 'selfish' in the selfless pursuit of excellence.

The irresistible objectivist wins again!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Reverie: An Experiment with Verbosity

I exist in the mellifluous mirage of the mindless,
My movements mime the meaningless
Memoirs of an insignificant life.

I resist the screeching reality of the relentless,
My words rhyme the senseless
Sounds of irresistible strife.

I desist the drudgery of the dreamless,
My singing stirs with heaves of hopeless
Sighs and a reverie running rife.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Words

Words are devious loathsome things,
A poet of veracity will say.
A mouthful of whispered sweet nothings,
Will keep even the chivalrous at bay.

Children and those of great enlightenment
Have no use for such literary device.
Only the callous and those with resentment
Use words to mince virtue with vice.

Where does one seek succor?
From the strain of misplaced wit.
What comfort does hapless stupor
Gain from a lyrical writ?

I write from petrification,
The irremediable affliction of the mind.
Words enchain me without altercation.
In their guile I lie entwined.