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.