Monday, November 30, 2009

In Defense of Bad Poetry

Have always responded to the din of work which blows its horn way too loud by writing bad poetry. In the initial years it was Mom who had to listen. Well, Moms are supposed to be sympathetic. Same cannot be said about little brothers who will memorize the shitty lines into adulthood and will embarrass you in social circles by reciting them for the comic effect.

Since I met G, it was she who had to stoically listen to them because you can't really read out the so-called 'love poems' to your mother. G has always responded by drawing thick fat red lines in all the supposed grammar mistakes and inappropriate use of language.

R was more sympathetic since I always convinced her that the lines meant better in my mother tongue [which she can't make nuts or bolt out of] and a great deal of poetic intensity was lost by my insufficient efforts in translation. You can't always write 'great' poetry as well as translate it, can you? R generally is not at all a gullible duck, but has some how managed to keep up the benefit of doubt with her.

Ever since I grew out of dog eared notebooks into the pseudo anonymity of the cyberspace, have always managed to let the 'poetry' sleep peacefully in blogs where they do not posses any threat in general, unless some one decides to read them.

Well, here is yet another gem induced by the necessity to read up tones of crap dutifully turned out by various academicians at various points of boredom. To top it, self is supposed to come up with 4000 words which no one will ever manage to understand. It is rather hard on some one who believes in 'onions are onions' philosophy. So much for the preamble.......


In the unwashed smell of sleep
Pour a bit of coffee and let us stay a bit more awake.
Don't be so pompous, you are just a borrowed book.
You decide nothing.

If I flit a bit and dream a bit more of impossibilities
Don't throw a tantrum.

Past is such an honored guest
A few words there and a few sighs here
Isn't gonna choke the moments.
They are just moments, they decide nothing.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dear London

Dear London,

It is difficult not to fall in love with you.

I came here expecting regimented routine where things never go wrong, where buses always run on time. But was relieved to find dug up railways, bank men who want you to come on another day because they want to go home [at 3.30 pm]. And bus drivers who will decide to just terminate the route because they felt like it.

They said you were rich. But going through your second hand markets where even the worst junk has takers, I doubt it.

But in the infinite number of people from myriad cultures and countries who float through your streets, you are definitely rich.[ I say that at the cost of sounding cheesy].

While looking at the supermarket aisle and sharing appalling sighs over the price of a jar of peanut butter with an African lady, I feel a certain richness. In India, one never used to carry poverty on one's sleeve with so much pride.

In the hospital like smell which emits from the silence in your tubes where crowds exist in negation of any sound, there could be a need to reach your tribe- your little China or Poland or Senegal or England or India or Egypt. May be when the tube drops you at your 'country' the silence will burst open in a bottle of drink, a cup of tea or a prayer.

I love asking people on your streets for the way. The stiff faces open up in a smile or a scratch of the chin. Every one of them tries their best to find out the way for a stranger. In that utopian state of mind of maplessness, one can ignore the helpful and not so helpful of your road signs.

I hate the broken bits of beer bottles on your streets, wondering when will they break open my only pair of shoes. If you are anyway risking your liver, why not risk the intake of a little plastic? But since your shops sell alcohol cheaper than fruits or vegetables, my concern can only end up in the dust bin.

Well, I am not looking for a happily ever after with you; though you are charming and mysterious, complicated and easy, rich and poor, beautiful and worn out, handsome and trampy. I need a bit more ownership of 'my place' if I ever find it.

Wouldn't ever want to get into a "where did u come from" argument with you where my colour and attire might some day become stones around my neck. 'My place' if I ever find it, would have neither commitment phobia nor Othello syndrome.

But while I am here, let me sit by your river sides, watch your crowds float by, sigh at the impossible prices inside your shops, wade through your unemployment scene, and whisper to you- that it is difficult not to fall in love with you.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Of War and 'Reporting'

Saw a really horrible film which raised more than grotesque questions.
But, it wasn't a was unfolding before you- in a conference room.

Remembered Kurtz.
Some thing out of what Coetzee could have written, without the underlying self knowledge.

How do you go and 'report' a horrible inferno of war in Africa and come out and talk about how to get insurance coverage for the equipment.The people you reported about wouldn't be affected any way because they are all dead. How is it to come out of some thing where you are the only few people alive- the television crew.

To parachute into umpteen such situations. The dangerous disney ride to the 'developing world', out of which you will come out with terse sound bites and visuals which incite horror. You take the visuals of the man whose leg is cut off, then attend to him in whatever possible medical way [in that order]. Probably they waited with the wounded man in the van till you arrived so that it could be in the camera.

Is the television journalist the new colonizer? Getting air dropped into countless 'uncivilized' countries where people can be neatly arrayed into a range of dead bodies or can be displayed in grotesque acts of 'barbarism'.After all, what can Africans do in British television news other than killing each other or using human body parts for witchcraft?While the 'crew' explains how they managed to get those awful visuals, you are supposed to sit back and mull how things are in the 'dark' continent.

Meanwhile the ones who are getting initiated into the trade of 'reporting' gets all kicked up about the "adrenalin rush" of war and how s/he really wants to do it. They have solutions for safety issues while you cover disaster in a slum, like a fire. Carry a gun trotting security guard so that no one will try to pinch your dollars or steal the equipment.

Take a bow before the insanity. Next time while picking up a Television remote control, use hand sanitizer.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

From The Cooking Pot

Self's greed and ultimate devotion to food can only be matched by complete lack of cooking skills.

Tea- Yes, Yes.
Sandwich?-Ok, almost
Omlette- It can look like a shady map, but can manage.

Anything apart from these are expecting too much out of some one who can't even boil an egg. However, knowing to cook thy own broth is an essential skill in the new city. Restaurants or even small eateries can charge you the equivalent of a three day room rent for a single meal. In addition, they will send your digestive tracts into a "wanting repair" stage.

So, there is no option but to cook. Looking at Japenese, Korean and Taiwanese house mates, it looked incredibly simple. They chop a few veggies and meat, boil some water and put a few secret sauces and produce tasty meals in no time- all with the ease of a magician producing rabbits out of his hat.

After all, how difficult can it be. So, unpacked the vital machinery for Indian cooking- the pressure cooker. Mom had lovingly packed it and self has lugged it across seven seas or whatever.

Now, the thing with pressure cookers is that they produce whistles of good horse power. In India, among the pandemonium of several noises, the sound seems a trifle. In fact, the whistle of the neighborhood Aunty's pressure cooker [it had particularly strong lungs] was like a much loved song- a kind of melancholy song, reminding me of all the dishes she can cook and I cannot.

However, in the new city, people have an entirely different approach to sound. As soon as the little pressure cooker gave its first tentative whistle, my house mates ran hither tither as if a nuclear bomb alert has been sounded. It took some time and a few monologues on 'Indian cooking styles' to reduce the blood pressure of the room. So, the good old pressure cooker became a sitting duck from day one. This ruled out three out of the four dishes that self knows to cook. Some thing should be done about the over reliance of Indian cooking on pressure cookers.

Since "not to give up" is our motto, soon enough started pottering around to make some thing to eat. My preparations were received with much enthusiasm from the spectators. Several inmates from the East Asian countries came to have a look at the "Indian curry".

Self basked in the glory of all the attention and did not find it necessary to mention that what is cooking on the pot was not "curry", but "kichdi", a kind of low market Indian broth, generally served to the sick.

In a span of two to three days self single handedly managed to destroy the reputation of Indian cuisine in the minds of the Far east Asians in near vicinity- read house mates. No one hovers around self's "curry" pot any more. In fact, even self finds it difficult to mouth or digest the Indian atrocities dished out by own hands.

But still, "never to give up " is the motto. So after watching a well informed Taiwanese house mate cooking very posh looking salmon, self went ahead and bought raw salmon worth not a small sum of money. Then proceeded to buy 'coconut milk' [salmon and coconut milk can't go wrong] from a spice shop run by a seedy Chinese old man. "Darling, you made my day", said the old man while I paid the 72 pence for the coconut milk.
Digression. The yeoman English [and their Chinese, Indian and Caribbean impersonators] have a habit of addressing anything remotely female as "darling"

So self was 'darlin'ged soon after the English shores were touched. The very first man/boy in the world to call self "darling" was a 17 year old punk street seller. Self was haggling with him about the price of a mattress. How poignant!

Now, back to the salmon. As soon as it was made and tasted, it had to be immediately transferred to the dust bin for the good of all involved. Made a mental note that one should never buy 72 pence coconut milk which qualifies more as sticky liquid. On the next day, "baingan ka bhartha" was also well received by the dust bin.

Very soon, self came to the following very important conclusions.

1. To cook only a small quantity- that will preserve the health of the dust bin and self's pocket.

2. To rely more on fresh milk, eggs, bread and fruits which the British supermarkets give out of their plenty

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Kaminey- faala, faltu film

When Vishal Bharadwaj makes a film, you are supposed to sit up, watch it and make the right noises . Of course, you can do atleast that much for the man who made Omkara.

The film critic of the Toilet Paper of India knows all this too well.
So, she sits at home, watches a few more promos of the movie in
the DVD player, sips some wine and writes some fiction for
the next day's column.

Fools like me wake up, gets very kicked by the liberal use of
the word 'Tarantino' and digests the whole review along
with the morning tea. Then, rather than trying to fix the day's
lunch, gets tickets fixed for the show. Alerts friends that
shouldn't munch popcorn during the show since the
esteemed reviewer has warned us that the film " demands
your unbridled attention from the word GO and allows you
to sit back only at your own peril"

The result is that you walk into the film with more intelligence than it needs. Vishal Bharadwaj and his team might have had a ball in making the film, no doubt. So, you have multi coloured gangsters in different linguistic attires coming in and mouthing cheeky dialogues and blowing each other up for God knows what. On the top of it you have Bollywood's equivalent to Hollywood's multiple personality disorder, THE TWIN BROTHER. So, you watch the same
movie which your entire line of family starting from great grand dad has watched -the ultimate story of two brothers; played by the same actor here so that some money will be left for
the lavish dance scenes 'full of energy'.

As you walk out of the show, you try to rhyme it with Reservoir Dogs.
The end result is a very serious desire to give one tight slap to the
movie reviewer of Toilet Paper of India.