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.