Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Guest spot

I liked this piece by Vaaz, so I've posted it here with permission.

Tips for native writers by N(on)Is & NRIs

As you know by now (if you are a struggling Indian writer who was always dying to publish(IWDP), the big publishing houses are suddenly stumbling upon Non Indians(NI) and full or half Indian NRI (FI’s HI’s), born and bred in pure white lands & schools, writing on India, as a new gimmick, to hit the jack pot by selling the stuff to fully Indian born and bred grateful natives(IBBN).

A not so imaginary discourse between two such famous NI &FI(in India) writers, Darling Pimple & Chooti Devrani, took place in an exotic Caribbean Island, about their writings, their generous concern for the native writers and readers. The literary correspondent( herself a poor IWDP) of the famous national daily Sindoo, witnessed it in awe, while sipping a fresh lime juice (you understand now what we mean when we say IWDP) and the Sindoo, always wanting to educate their IBBN and the IWDPs of the latest trends in the literary circles, published extracts of their discourse, after paying a handsome royalty to the two writers(of course in euros you silly!).

DP-Ah! Weather here is so much less muggy… You know just flew down from Dayli, what a contrast.

CeeD- I know, I know, as my grand mother used to say it is hot and hotter in Calcata… you know its Coolcoota now, strange.
DP- oh! That reminds me of your book ‘spices …’er.. er sorry I am not able to recollect the full title, jet lag you know.

CeeD- I know myself just dropped from my latest book promo in Bambay and am soon leaving to Sydney for the next promo. Too much traffic and tight schedules… feel like one of those ballyhoo stars..oops I think my pronunciation stinks…

DP- Spices again..ha ha..OK let’s get serious. The lady from the Sondu, oops my pronunciation also …she’s on a job to write on our concern about those struggling Indian native writers.. we should be looking at the both literature historically and literarily to understand where they went wrong.

CeeD- You mean history and literature, that will be cool! Both were my majors at Harvard!!

DP- what I want to say is that this country had some kind of literary writing in ancient times but you know it was all oral, very well. But modern times you want to write even a simple story it requires research, some home work.

CeeD- My connection with the country is through my dad who migrated to the promised land with just an engineering degree in hand. I think yours should be more adventurous?

DP-Sort of, my great great grand father, served in the company as an accountant. May be some right and some wrong calculations, for a nice retirement back in the kingdom! So you see it’s my second home!

CeeD- I know as my grandmother said a few things about cooking and spices but I went to Coolcoota and lived in the crowded Toolly gang for a few months and did my research on variety of spices, amidst the din of a hundred helpful cousins and nieces, not to forget a few desperate aunties trying to palm of their rosegool looking sons to me in matrimony!

DP- Exactly what I mean. You see that spices book of yours, sorry I still cannot recollect the whole title, there is so much research done, the smell wafts out from each page. That becomes obvious even in the very first chapter itself.

CeeD- Not just research, I was, man, consuming the variety I was writing about! So it was not just historical but literal..oo..oo the very thought makes me sweat!

(at this stage our IDTP guiltily looks at her glass which she had to hold on to, till the end of the discourse).

DP- Well when I wrote about the last Moghul, the subject was not easy. No native seriously wrote about him. I could not initially lay my hands on any writer who had done serious work.. Mind you I was writing partly history, partly fiction but still I had to do my home work right.

CeeD- I can understand. In most of the third world this is the problem. Not much research especially in literature or history has been done. That is why I went for pure fiction so I need not complain..

DP- But even in spices there is history. It was Vascodagama who went all the way from Portugal to India in search of spices and he did find it and the rest as they say is history! So I plunged into history of Moghuls by accessing variety of sources.

Cee D- Oh, how was that possible unless you learnt some local language and read native literature in Urdoo or Indi!

DP- Not from native writing. There I had an excellent support from the government & bureaucracy, surprisingly!
I am not sure it could have happened in any other country of that region, since you see the country has some functioning democracy and they are kind to foreigners!

CeeD- That’s great to hear. In fact you know Coolcoota has an elected Communist government for more than 4 decades!!! I find the place as good or as bad as any other place in the country. Same awful chaotic traffic, poverty, corruption & cows. But the poor people keep electing the same party since others are probably worse.
Well I am sorry I sound political and critical..

DP- well I think it’s just liberty of the writer to say what she feels seriously about. In my case doors opened in the corridors of power. Archive files and documents hitherto not touched or seen by many, came tumbling out like magic. My native friends were surprised. As a writer it’s important that you should understand that to be able to gain access into the corridors of power you should gain their confidence. This the native writer lacks.

(Our IDPT thinks how that would be possible for a local writer, who probably would have ended up in Tihar, on the charge of attempting to detonate the secretariat. It’s an art! Perhaps this man should write a separate book on it).

CeeD- You made a very interesting point about the governance. It’s an art which I hope the native writers carefully nurture. My problem relates more getting visa for short visits.
But then that is not much of an issue. However I notice yet another problem in native writing. Many of them tend to write for small audiences on sometimes not very native topics. You know a writer who writes on lonely women and string of affairs. Such writing is till difficult to sell in a conservative society.

(how many native writers did you two read dears! Our lime juice wala wondered.)

DP- There are a few writers who attempt something big but end it tamely without energy with which they began. Every one want to become a Solomon Rishi or Jumping Lemuri. No doubt SR writing has inspired many to take the pen but there can be only one Rishi. You should understand that the man developed his own style after coming to whiteland and studying there. That influence is completely different if you are born and brought up in hot Dayli or Coolcota. You should develop your own style. But research, that’s what I will underline dear, research!

CeeD- I may not fully go with you there. Writing also has to do with imagination. of course certain reading here and there to hone your skills. That’s important. This was dinned to me at Harvard. I know not many of theses natives are fortunate to go there or Oxford. But that’s what writing is all about. As we say back home, you get out of the kitchen if it’s too hot. There is no point in complaining. That’s my advice to aspiring native writers.

(by now our fresh lime observer is getting a little un-comfortable, she thinks she is being directly addressed. It’s getting to be a bit hot and she is flushed but she cannot afford another lime on Sindoo’s account. She is trying to dig into her butt pocket to see if there is any Caribbean coins left sticking. damn none, she cursed).

DP- Well you know I have an early morning flight to Sao Polo, for promo of my moghul book that is coming out in Spanish in two days. Iam happy that a tiny history of a country is traveling to thousands of kilometers to another continent to another culture. We should be thankful to the publishers who take the risk.

CeeD- Yes, it’s ultimately the publisher who takes the risk therefore your responsibility becomes all the more greater to stick to quality, whether it is historical or purely literary.

Our empty juice by now is working out furiously in her mind as to which crap to cut out from editing. “Well I leave it to the editor. Probably the old goat will print the whole stuff verbatim.” It hardly mattered to her. She did not have one parent of foreign origin or at least had her silly parents somehow migrated, when it was easy a few decades back, to the promised land of Mac Donald Duck, she would have automatically gained recognition and authority with the publishers, to speak about the culture and history of her native country, however dumb or shallow her knowledge was. National news papers, like hers would have dined and wined her to get a few bites, exclusively, for their literary supplement, for the hungry IDTPs and thirsty natives. Its all karma she thought. “I’ll go back and change the direction of my chair I placed in the study” she decided.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Of Possessions & Obsessions

The recent suicide of a techie, after killing his wife, had me thinking. Apparently, the reason was jealousy- he suspected his wife of an affair. Where do the self stop and the other begin? If one identifies with the other so much that parting would be like tearing of flesh then what is left of self and such identification is possible only if the other allows it. What if the other wants to be free- then the other becomes a possession- which is a cultural construct we are all familiar with especially with regard to women and children in whom we think are bound up lofty ideals like family honour etc which only intensify the chains for people who want to be unbound- a series of perpetuation of the Prometheus myth.

These are the kind of questions which exercise the mind of Isabel Dalhousie- editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, who in Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘ The Careful Use of Compliments has to deal with a whirlpool of emotions from which the only release is death as a complete change of life, the righting of an unfair dismissal by a careful and controlled takeover, the redistribution of inherited and therefore unearned wealth for social justice, all with whimsy and gentle humour, like the protagonist herself.
Talking of cultural constructs, the Law Commission’s recommendation that the age of marriage in the marriage laws be amended to make 18 the age of marriage for both men and women has raised a storm not least being the protest that it would result in under age girls getting married as the social norm is to allow younger girls to marry older boys. The amendment if it comes about will only bring it in line with laws elsewhere in the world. Anyway, our laws will still have an anomaly where child marriage is an offence but the marriage remains valid until revoked! The Supreme Court has added another anomaly to the issue by allowing a live-in partner to inherit a share in the partner’s property, though it only says that the partner would hold it in trust for the legal and absconding wife. The SC was giving the illegitimate children who are legal heirs their share, under the guardianship of the mother, without splitting the first wife’s share as she was not there to claim it. This is equity, but if we were to talk of legal change to accommodate second wives and partners, there would be a storm of protest- iniquitously. Anyway, the Supreme Court can only interpret or strike down law, not legislate when there is already a statute. This is also an artificial barrier of separation of powers that the Supreme Court has erected for itself. Just as in the Gita Hariharan case, the woman was given limited powers, not the right to recognition of the full exercise of powers possible, in the case

Friday, March 7, 2008

Glittering Prizes

My young daughter sat doodling. We were watching Team India’s Aussie triumph. My elder daughter who is into garnering trophies and does a lot from singing and dancing to playing basketball, insisted that I push the little one into a sport. It had crossed my mind that I didn’t push her enough but she’s a laid back kid and my instinct tells me that I have to simply leave her alone. She’s good at designing stuff- when she was three; she used to go around with a dupatta pulled through the leg holes of briefs on her head. She insisted it was her “long hair”. Then she cut holes in a plastic bag and wore it like a jacket. She made glasses out of a plastic covering and it was only then we realized that it could be done. Creativity grows out of boredom and if I crowd her days, she will not have time to think.

Which brings me to the other factor in my unease. Are we making monsters of our kids? In Hermann Hesse’s ‘glass bead game’ he speaks of a game taking over society until it becomes more important than life itself and until sophisticated and elitist intellectual pleasure crowds out simpler emotions like enjoyment. Are we replacing Gods who after all appeal to the higher principles in one with Achieving Success? Then shouldn’t we ask what success is? The roads of Chennai are so narrow, pollution hangs like an evil fug on Anna Salai, but every second car is a fuel inefficient monster sedan or SUV. In Alaxander McCall Shoes in his ‘Blue Shoes and Happiness’ speaks of Mercedes Benz thus: “ I would not get a Mercedes Benz even if I had the money, people would talk. Have you noticed it’s always the same kind of people who drive these cars?” [to paraphrase a bit] The moral seems to be- flashy opulent cars are driven by…you complete it.

Milton had it right, when he said, “ they also serve who only stand and wait…” So I will wait and see, what my girl will be- any way, she’ll serve, which woman doesn’t have work of some kind or the other?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Circus of life

What is it about a circus that gets me all dreamy with memory? I think it’s the trapeze artists or perhaps the acrobats, who knows? Like magic shows they are just one of those things which for me, have transcended time. So, it was with the idea of conferring a treat, that I asked my little daughter when she would like to go to the circus. I was completely gobsmacked when she said, “ I don’t want to go.” “Why”, I asked desperate for enlightenment ( oh no, I thought, a child of this generation, she’s lost all sense of wonder). “Will there be clowns?” “ Ah, she’s getting interested, all smiles, yes I answer.
“Then I don’t want to go”. “Why don’t you like them?” I’m mystified. “They make people laugh but don’t laugh themselves.” I was completely speechless- out of the mouths indeed. I tried to distract her, there would be trapeze artists, people flying through the air- no animals, as I knew she doesn’t like animals getting hurt- it came back to the same thing- no clowns? So, like the idiotic adult that I am, I came up with economics- clowns are paid only if we go- they smile when they get their money, etc economics vs sentiment. The child gave me a grave look- Ok she shrugged, but I knew in her heart, sentiment had won.Because she trusted me to be right always, she had agreed- talk of Pyrrhic victories!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lying Like Crazy

What is it about some parents that they want to tell the truth to their children ALL the time? And sometimes one doesn’t even know if things are true or not. Could we see a nano [ cell component] with the naked eye? Could we see God? Do we know He/She exists? Its all a matter of belief. My little kid, came to me troubled. Her friend had told her that Santa Claus had died a long time ago and parents lied while buying the gifts for Santa. She sat hunched over, her little face worried, her eyes big but not so trusting, looking up through her eyebrows, wanting to believe but not knowing if she could. So I told her that it was a matter of belief. Maybe he didn’t visit her friend ‘cos she didn’t believe. Her sister had got gifts till she was 10 when Santa’s mandate ran out. I listed them- a Big Princess doll, an umbrella etc. So would she as long as she believed. St Nick did die , but he was sent back to give kids gifts from the North Pole. She went, happy. My husband & I came up with this theory that little kids need wish fulfillment and belief in magic( witness the popularity of Harry Potter- my kid wanted to marry him!!!). B’days are caught up with clothes and party expenses so Christmas seemed the perfect time to make a dream come true.

Long years ago, two children photographed fairies in the garden. I wish the image had remained unexplained instead of its being exposed as a fraud- paper fairies suspended from wires! Children need dreams of many kinds so they remember to dream when they go up. If Harry hadn’t believed in his early dreams which were all he had of his history, if Gandhi hadn’t dreamt, if Martin Luther King did not have a dream, where would we be?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Of Temples & Celebrations II

There are 3 more temples I need to talk about to give you the whole picture. Some people living on the road- the man used to take loads on his tip, attached to a cycle, with his shaggy dog of indeterminate but cute breed[ of this more later- its got material for a full blog] and the women were rag pickers. They lived on the pavement and in a bid to avoid eviction, they built a temple to Amman, which in course of time was adopted by a local “political” and acquired a mandap of sorts, just painted and decorated with red stripes, common to all temples. For about a decade, they did manage to avoid eviction but eventually, commerce won, the temple stayed and they had to go, though an itinerant vendor of chaat seems to have taken up residence in the corner, with his family.

The other Amman temple in the opposite corner was completely innocuous until the police quarters and the local boys club adopted it. Suddenly last year, the idol grew to about three feet on a high pedestal and acquired awe inspiring colors of red etc. A gaana concert was arranged on the street which my kids enjoyed.

A third temple grew in competition with the old Amman temple, probably as a result of a falling out among the trustees in regard to sharing the collection. So now the slum has two celebrations but this new temple is no match for the old one which is hoary and older residents remember times when only one festival, the Chitirai festival was conducted with priests from the village and folk artists.

A major fracas was caused some years ago[ at the dawn of the millennium] when the Church acquired some members, die hard firewalkers until then. Somehow, cordial relations were restored and the next year, I saw the firewalkers back in the fold in their yellow and red sarees. However, a new custom has been inaugurated since those times- the Christians take out a procession, at the time of the Chitirai festival and we are treated to carols and hymns in Tamil over the loudspeaker and a small group, dressed in their best, takes out the idols from the local shrine[ which sprang up at the same time] for an airing. Sometimes, all this coincides with the muezzin’s call from the big mosque at the end of the street.

There is a big Jain temple, filled with beautiful idols, which for a long time was the tallest landmark, until it and everything else for about a mile was dwarfed by the Accord Hotel.There is also a Sikh temple where free food is served on Sundays. Our neighbourhood- a microsm of India.

A while ago, I read a book about the importance of Hindu temples in the community and economy. Looks like this social function persists to this day.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Of Temples and Celebrations

There are two temples in my neighbourhood. Both are well-established and one has a collection large enough to be taken over by the HR&CE Board. The Amman temple has been there since I began living here,longer than 20 years. The other Ganesh temple has a curious history. There is an old building near a slum.People take a path through its grounds to get to the road. Infact, when the owners wanted to sell the building, locals claimed an easementary right and went to court.The path is still there but info on the case has been swallowed up by time. Twenty years ago, there used to be a lot of old, broken black stone idols on this path. Local children used to defecate closeby, the rain washed them and the sun dried them. As time went by, I noticed the statues disappearing one by one.The antique business was still in its infancy but we reckoned they were probably being disposed off to service the local supply of evening drinks. The temple business was one of the most lucrative, then. Witness our Amman temple which began as a small idol covered by a rude stone arch, under a tree. Flats came up and people began to take an interest as other temples were too far off. We began to celebrate all the festivals. Loudspeakers were hired for the annual fire walking. The local Don took an interest in the collections.A formal shrine was built.Subscriptions were collected and in a ceremony, on the final day, big contributors and the local committee was honoured.

But back to the saga of our Ganesha. He was the last of the idols to leave the path, and to our surprise, one day out walking, we discovered him on the sidewalk, freshly washed, adorned with a white dhoti and a tikka. A metal hundi and the local rickshaw drivers were in business. Soon, as this was the main road and Ganesha was the God of prosperity, more universally acknowledged and not a cult goddess like Amman, the local big business began to patronise him.A brahmin priest was brought in to conduct the services.He got a gramd mandap as shelter, flower vendors took up residence, cars began to come to him for their blessings before their first ride and he had become famous. Ganesh Chaturthi saw performers from the film world and local artists perform! The rickshaw pullers were ousted from the commitee and the HRCE tok over.

What about Amman? The locals were smart.They brought in locals from the big houses on to the Trust. Amman was decked in jewellery and acquired silver weapons and face[ Ganesha had by now been covered in silver with sparkly gems on his forehead]. Leading singers were now invited to her festival and she was taken round in a well decorated chariot. A brahmin priest was brought in.She had arrived!

Thursday, January 31, 2008


That summer when there was a water shortage and I had to get up at 4: am has to be the worst time ever in my life. I am not a morning person. I think I need about 12 hours every night. The bane of my life is I can manage only six, with my present schedule. I once consulted an astrologer, who was highly recommended by a friend. He told me that I could be successful only if I got up at least 5 mins before dawn every day. Then I read a book on Ayurveda, which lists all the body types with a quiz to show you which type you belong to. Even though I was more pitta with a bit of vata, I find that like kapha people, my day goes well only if I wake up at 5: am. Does that mean I have reached the old age stage where kapha predominates? Terrible to contemplate! This is why when I read, Sleep by Tejaswi Niranjana [ I hope I got this right] in a book called the Inner Courtyard, I was gobsmacked by how right it felt. She writes, in the first person, about a woman who couldn’t sleep when young as she had to study, when newly married, due to her husband’s desire, when a young mother, because of her baby’s demands and when older, because she had lost the habit. So she takes an overdose to court the long sleep! What a telling comment on a woman’s life! Any wonder I am fed up?

Hey, I discovered a super bus, at 20 bucks a ride, rather dear but still much cheaper than an auto ride. It’s got padded [unworn] seats, is clean, with piped music AND DOORS since it is, hold your breath, air-conditioned!!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Oh I’ve fallen....

….in love! With Fannie Flagg’s Aunt Elner- she’s the protagonist in “Can’t wait to get to heaven’ and appears throughout “ Welcome….Baby Girl” and Standing In…This is such a nice homey view of small town America. Elmswood, the prettiest place to live and reminds me of EL Doctorow. Their lives go on with much love and laughter, there is so much safety and security in the sameness, the small joys of blue bird tracks on a cake spelling disaster[ if only that was true of my life] and women cook and bake and get their hair done and clean house and run businesses if they need some money and get ulcers in case they work in the city becoz they can’t stand the erosion of values success brings. What you see is what you get- almost as Aunt Elner demonstrates by dying and going to heaven and coming back to tell the tale. Who would imagine that she had to conceal evidence when her mentally challenged neighbour killed a man in self defence and was prepared to take the rap!Great books of the salt of the earth and I had to go out and get the earlier books. Reminds me of EL Doctoro’s ‘Ragtime’ and Smiley’s “ A 1000 Acres’ or Tyler’s ‘Saint Maybe’. Have you read it yet?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fannie Flagg Can't Wait to Get to Heaven

I just finished this book.Its amazing.Heaven is just one big party.Or so she says and the future is bright not bleak. In Nov 2007 when APWLD, WLD and WILDAF completed 2o years, we had a workshop in which one session consisted of constructing the future.Everyone came up with Apocalypse- terrorism made worse by technological and medical advance, inhumanity and environmental collapse.When The Lovely Bones [or whatever] came up with a heaven where people could do what they want even party all the time or interfere in human lives in realtime, it made some meaning. However, Flagg has come up with a fantastic character in Aunt Elner and she's so good but so lovable. outside Caspar , I thought such a character was impossible.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Stars On the Ground

OK so I cried throughout the film and my kids cringed and watched me more than the film but I saw a tear finally trickle down my teen's cheek. Aamir Khan must be proud. Its an intelligent film. Not just sentimental mush.What killed me was that the parents are shown to be so average. Their kind, interested in their kids, wanting them to get ahead, be accepted and trying to snuff out dissent- just like any of us and Aamir the teacher asks unconfortable questions- why should we want a child to conform and his friend asks of the differently abled kids at Tulip- why should we teach them to fit in? Its so easy to push a child over the edge. That's the scary part-to care and not know enough to help-its so easy.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Victim(and Justice) Bites the Dust

The recent harassment of women in Kerala and Bombay on New Year's eve- our family had a quick indignation meeting at the dinner table. My daughter said it happens all the time, her Dad quickly rushed in- doesn't make it right-no, she agreed-Indians have no sense of public propriety and no respect for women.Me-using an analogy I use in my trainings- why should they let objects on dispay at stores alone but not women?-becoz those are inanimate but women can respond- but their response is likely to be no-becoz they think women who go out are available- and , my husband-becoz they know thye can get away with it. That's the crux of it- look at the police response in this case, a Commissioner who is unsensitive and higher officials whosimply shrug saying that no complaint was lodged.Reminds me of a case we fought a few years back- a highly respected official from another state was travelling on a train to Madras and reported a gang rape in a compartment. The victims did not file complaints- given the public response to women do you wonder-the state filed a case of wrongful complaint against the complainant and we had to argue really hard to get him off.
Which brings me to moral policing- predictably the response of the police has veered to locking women in at night as in the case of the bar girls.In Chennai the police have taken to going into private parties and booking people for nuisance, breaking into discos- instead of catching the perps- they're after victims and they demand apology letters! What price CEDAW, ICCPR and the Constitution? Sultana's dream seems so far off even though Qurrat-ul-lain Hyder has been republished.Lock up the men and leave the women to roam free.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Story of my book

I am currently desperately trying to complete a historical mystery enmeshed with a contemporary mystery. I was on chapter 6,pg 82 when inspiration struck and I began to write in the contemporary mystery and now I am hopelessly entangled in both and boring my way out word by word.
I first saw Hampi by moonlight, the outer battlements of the city wall glimmering, and their enchantment slithered into my subconscious, unfurled and remains to this day. The next day, sitting in the Queen’s Bath, I slipped back in time and Achale danced before me, out of the keys, onto the page.While Achale remained a part of me, I heard the first faint whispers of her story only when I read about the strange case of the boy-saint, a widow’s son who came out of the temple pond with his sacred thread, in the colonial gazetteer.
The theme was born out of the desire to rewrite history from the woman’s perspective, not as a victim as she is so often shown, even in the non-fiction works which deal with Indian women through the ages, not as goddess/harlot/harridan, which distorts the image of Indian woman even today, but as an individual, making the best of her circumstances.
The modern protagonist was born out of my own observation of the effect of one form of globalization on India’s modern youth and the trends of innovation and experimentation which are sweeping through the field of classical dance today. She seemed to be an ideal counterpoint to Achale- the modern career woman- how far has she journeyed?
Why make religion central to the whole story? Religion, even in modern India, occupies not only the headlines but page three as well. More so in Vijayanagara, where an empire was established allegedly to rejuvenate an ailing religion. This was the age of the Bhakthi Movement, after all. In modern India, at the time of the story,the Bombay communal riots had happened and the Gujarat carnage was still in the offing.

Finally, the sacred and the profane are closely interlinked in the religious discourse and sexuality is but an expression of love for the divine. AK Ramanujan’s translations of Tamil poetry of the saints in ‘ Speaking of Siva,’ the meta physical yet erotically charged imagery of secular poetry and Hindu philosophy which links Creation, procreation and destruction in the dances of the Gods presented me with an irresistible opportunity to flesh out the background of my story with the rich cultural tapestry which forms part of India’s heritage.

As a reader, I have enjoyed diverse literary genres from Jane Austen/ Arnold Bennet/ Gothic Romance through LOTR/ Harry Potter/E. Nesbit to Salman Rushdie/ Marquez/ Achebe , Vikram Seth,William Dalrymple,Umberto Ecco and Amartya Sen. In a sense, Middle Time is a tribute to these varied influences which have swept through my life.

I started by randomly selecting names of agents from Bloomsbury's list and mailing them a copy. I got a few faint(damning?!!!?) words of praise- I wrote good prose/it was not a reflection of my work but I did not fit into their list.Then I tried to be discriminatating and sent off a sample to those who seemed to represent South Asians-not even a reply from some.Next, I tried Indian publishers- they made good speed in sending it back.I then trawled the net and made a list of the agents who represented mystery writersI liked. I've sent them all e-mails-no reply. I decided to befriend silence-no news is good news and next checked out writers' blogs- I found a list of friendly agents and I tried them as well-you guessed right-no reply. Next I tried some sites which gave names and addresses of agents and graded them- I found out that my book fitted into a new category all by itself- multi-culti-historical mystery. I made alist of agents who represented both genres and sent off e-mails. I'm waiting.....waiting...while writing...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Life In the Times of Tsunami

Life In The Times of Tsunami

The tsunami is just a series of images now- its strange how an overlay of events can filter memories until they are just videobytes. Just waking up late on another morning and hearing of the horror rom my husband in the next city!Worrying about my cook whose family stays in a tenement on the shore.An awful dread when something you had thought of as a blessing becomes a threat.Overcast skies.My cook's little granddaughter talking about being carried downstairs from the marooned thirdfloor on her father's shoulders, quite casually without emotion and marveling when told later that she has nightmares.My little daughter telling all her friends that she had been caught on the beach, in the tidal wave.Collecting clothes for the Greenpeace drive from the neighbours and sifting through suits, swimsuits(!) and funny hats.Hearing with a horrified shiver that the beach in Srilanka my kids had sneaked away to, alone, from the resort, had been washed away. Watching queues of people for food supplies on the beach and the debris from the flood.My nephew who had gone to help with the bodies on the second day, saying he had found just a leg, once.Going to Nagapattinam a week later and finding the church still standing, miraculaously at Velankanni, the massive turnout of volunteers and the
comradeship, the heartening response from the authorities. Helping set up a legal coordination cell with my husband and help desks.Talking to relatives of surviviors and helping them identify bodies- one man had not heard from his son in a year -he was from Bihar- and had heard just then that he was in the area- the hope that he would not find his son's bodyand the hopelessness in case he continued missing-a trio of construction workers women from Andhra whose families had gone-a man from Nilgiris who had lost 9 family members.Rushing from court and a pesistent client who wanted the case done when judges had fled on a tsunami scare, worried about my assistant reaching home, worried about my kids and stuck in a massive traffic jam, cellphone lines jammed. Hearing about a Swedish woman I had met and bonded with about our little daughters, dead in Phuket.Filing a writ when fisherpeople werto be evicted without their consent from the shore as a relief measure(!). Being soothed by Anita Ratnam dancing as goddess Kwan Yi in white, she of the lantern in the graveyard of souls on 31st night. Perhaps writing about it, the remembered horror will recede a little.