Monday, October 22, 2007

A word of caution to nugget seekers

If you’re looking for some great literary utterances, or even a string of lucid and edifying thoughts, let me warn you, they aren’t to be found here.

At Shout, as a policy, we don’t indulge/ massage/ feed brains. If anything, we’re quite happy to suck on yours [accepted with thanks at the comment box.]

This is the personal weblog of a self-professed bottom feeder, in the interest of bottom feeding [not to be construed as nibbling on nether parts] and has never pretended to be otherwise. Any coherence or smattering of perceived intelligence is to be overlooked as an unintended glitch or the result of an unlikely obsession [a recent one being with a certain sparkling shortlistee on the booker forum.]

If I were as sharp and dazzling as my paranoia insists you’re expecting, I wouldn’t be offering my opinion here under a single-letter alias, I’d sell it to you at posh seminars with my entire ancestry on a handout cv.


If you’re still around, good luck. There is much to muck around in and I’m sure you’ll have a promisingly thoughtless time here. 107 posts on nothing is consistent, if little else. Go on, nose around. I don’t mind, as long as you don’t burden me with sharp observations about the world and its clattering revolutions, in anticipation of an intelligible response.

In fact, now that we’re on the topic of intelligence, I’ll let you in on my thoughts on it. I dislike the term deeply. Its use reveals a revolting, discriminatory and self-aggrandising perspective that is despicable at best. It suggests an idea that a certain kind of verifiable, quantifiable grasp of reality is laudable. It assumes a standpoint, wherein the judge of another’s ‘intelligence’ is armed with the tools to qualify and quantify another’s capacity to process information.

It is presumptuous.

It is as insulting as the label “dumb”. To be called intelligent by someone is tantamount to being told that someone is able to sum up your mental processes. And what do they base this judgment on? A few words? A few actions?

Is it not extraordinary that someone thinks they have the right, or capacity to judge what your brain – the only faculty that helps you make sense of your life, drives your perception of the world, allows you your identity – is capable of?

The audacity.
The naivety.
The delusion.

There are as many kinds of capacities as there are beings in the universe, and each, unique as it is, is just one.

So before you call someone “intelligent” or “dumb” the next time, try assessing what your own head is able to retain and assimilate.

Well I did leave you nugget after all, didn’t I? Incredible me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

On why Jaanwar doesn’t need the Booker Prize

This is what the First City blog had to say about Animal’s People, one of the six books shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. The Prize was announced last evening in London. The winner is… well, inconsequential to this post.

I had commented in defense of the book in their comments section to the piece, but I deleted it for several reasons.

One is that I think it merits an entire post [long overdue now], and isn’t meant as a defense as much as it’s about my [selective] views on the book in the context of these remarks. So here goes…

On befriending Jaanwar [Animal]

“I used to be human once” is how he starts, hinting with his first words, that a genuine friendship between you and him is, if not impossible, a questionable proposition.

Jaanwar walks on all fours. His arse is higher than his head and he can smell out people who haven’t washed their crotches, in a crowd.

Jaanwar will have you know at the outset that he doesn’t value your opinion much. He’ll deliberately mislead you. He’ll pretend to trust you. He’ll have you buy into the ostensible innocence of his most outrageous deeds. He’s manipulative and he thinks it’s all well within his right to be so unreliable, because, after all, he isn’t human.

Jaanwar’s words are clever because he is clever. Chaalu. Street smart. You [Eyes] are meant to get beyond this cleverness. He’s very clear he doesn’t want your middle class friendship. It’s nothing but a burden to him unless of course it can either a.) help him walk straight b.) get him laid. At least that’s what he’ll have you know.

He’s telling you this story because it must be told. Because he has a duty. Because he has been infected, by the end, by your [Zafar’s] middle class notion of fairly won justice. So he thinks you will appreciate this story, because inexplicable as it is, that’s how, according to him, your world works.

The New York magazine had it spot on when they called it “scabrously funny”. Jaanwar is a wily mischief maker, and he’ll offer no apology for it. He, who shares an unspoken bond of mutual respect with scorpions, doesn’t care whether you think he's adopted an appalling trick of glorifying misery – his scabrousness as much as his disdain towards you and the many people who’ve expressed sympathy over ‘that night’ – or whether you feel pity. He is unmoved. Show him a miracle, not your sympathy or your hand in meaningless friendship.

He clearly wants to goad you [Eyes] over your assumption [which may well be a clichéd perception on his part] that all villains are bastards, and those that they perpetrate their villainy upon are allowed a meek dignity that comes with acceptance or then the haloed righteousness that must burn through nothing less than a raging rebellion. But it is possible, isn’t it, for someone to be both [in this case – a bit of] a bastard and the survivor of another’s bastardry.

Bhopal in a poor guise as Khaufpur

The metaphor was meant to be ‘ill’-disguised. Given that Bhopal does exist, that IS has spent 14 years writing and editing for the Bhopal Medical Appeal, and that Khaufpur is Bhopal, it would be unfair to suggest that setting it here is merely a gimmick designed to milk the most of Indian exotica. That said, the cover is a seriously unforgivable disaster, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for feeling this disgust, purely for its lack of visual appeal.

The Booker Prize

I’m not surprised that Animal hasn’t won the Booker. It is not ‘expansive’ enough in that it does not speak of generic things that are of interest or relevance to an ‘international audience’ [the definition of which is at best truly confounding] like American paranoia, sexual angst or dysfunctional social constructs; it doesn’t creep around sturdy, time tested pearls from English literature – either Biblical or non… and I’m sorry I cannot draw up any pithy observation about the fifth book.

And really, it doesn’t matter. The Booker forum has already brought it as far as it could in aid of what it [the book] set out to do – [get you past the cloying 1980s development sector imagery of the cover, and] be heard in what it tells you about the deep, alive and spreading roots of poison that Dow has sown in Bhopal, in the words of someone who continues to live with the repercussions each waking moment long before and well after we’re done dispensing our opinion on the literary merits of his voice.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Streaming odious

It’s so much easier to write when you’re bleeding thoughts. Contentment is a spoilsport.

Not to say that I’m contented. ‘Twould be blasphemy [even at my age] to admit to such a horribly common state of being. To be so unthinkably indistinguishable from people.

When I was a teenager, brimming with inconceivable potential, I bled poetry.

One poem, my first, was about a candle. Burning bright, shedding light etc.
Another was about Anger.
A third yet, was about Hate.
I’m not sure if I wrote one on Love, but there was one about a Kiss.
Another was addressed to God. But I never completed it because I realised it was either going to use up all my words, or none.

I also sang “Those were the days my friend…” [learnt at a private school we attended, run by an ancient, crumbling British lady in Calcutta], with a special, reawakened understanding of a time I hadn’t yet experienced, but could already look back into my past from. Confusing. I know. It wasn’t then.

I wore a frown. I hated everything with consummate passion. I brooded deeply and darkly and inexplicably. I wrote my diary daily, often in such moods. I curled the ends of my ‘d’s. And I moved in an aura of being perennially misunderstood.

Now, however, I find in times of distress I can only muster up mildly ironic and largely vapid jokes that are amusing solely to my head. I laugh. And my laugh lines are actually deeper than my frown.

How did I get here?
How did I regress so significantly?

It is a question that I do not wish to ponder. Clearly, I have lost the capacity to question the order, significance and point in Being with such consuming intensity as that from which my teenage brain drew much sustenance and succour.

So I will respond to a tag [or two] instead.

My P-list

This one is from my beloved soul sis in Pinoy land: I’ve to compile a list of seven words with P that are especially meaningful to me [I think].

1.) Pinoy is a word I’ve included in my dictionary very recently. Post Blogger. My first Pinoy awakening [I believe I have some Pinoy blood that has been stirred] was when I ‘met’ HB on blog. I have come to adore him, as I have come to love my sister in spirit Lizza and the sassy Barnsleyian Diva. The latest addition to this tribe is the enchanting Migs Bassig. Someday I am going to indulge the Pinoy blood coursing through my veins with the most debauched holiday across this fascinating archipelago of 7107 islands [can you believe it?] with this delightful extended family of mine.

2.) Potty is self-explanatory, and part of H’s uniform – head to toe. The other day, exhausted from spilling gin-and-tonic on the dance floor, my very vivacious [and possibly as inebriated] friend Go(ld)phish suggested a theme party – “we *slur* must preszhent ourszhelves aszh our online identiteeszh”. It was decided unanimously that I must attend as a deranged turd.

3.) Posterior and posterity: which for me are so close in meaning and colour, that it matters not which I use, and where. I have both in abundance. One – with due thanks to my paternal grandmother’s very insistent and domineering genes; and the other – creditable to a humongous and long-standing delusion of imminent greatness. Someday, both will get me stuck in something very murky. I am almost certain.

4.) Pig and pink: which are again very close in hue and weightiness. They have in different ways ruled a large part of my life, and I have been undeniably enslaved to both at various junctures of H-history [which is not a stutter]. Sometimes the [Golden] Pig has been the boyfriend. Sometimes the boyfriend has been a pig. Sometimes the pig is pink. And sometimes pink is pig. It is confusing and time consuming to differentiate between the two, and frankly, I don’t see the need.

5.) Pert. Sweet, short and sassy. Something that my posts never are.

I’ve completed the quota for my list of Ps. But for the record, I also like more literary sounding words like prosaic, probability, pernicious, pestilence, percolator and potential-packed. I also like double-entendre [which could perhaps sometimes start with a 'p' depending on how cleverly you enunciate.]

Five Nights

This one’s from Brothah HB.

I must recount five of my most remarkable nights. I will add here that this tag was actually about the five best nights, but I’ve taken the liberty to modify it a bit. These are nights that will remain forever imprinted in my memory for reasons that you should best judge for yourselves, fair readers.

1.) The night I discovered the Dehradoonis – an elderly couple from Dehradoon – were actually a pair of evil blood-thirsty ghosts. They had a lime green passenger bus into which they lured unsuspecting travellers who Mrs. Dehradooni, in all her tiny old-lady frailness, proceeded to disembowel with a large glinting carving knife, spilling great rivers of blood down lime green steps. I haven’t yet lived down the full horror of how I escaped their clutches. But what really traumatised me is the memory of my family howling with laughter when I recounted my brush with this evil couple the next morning.

2.) The night I discovered I was a Nazi. I had a ginger beard when it started. I was on a trawler, hunting down members of the Jewish resistance, much against my wishes, scouring the river, seeking signs of life amidst the densely packed stream of bodies floating along the current. I was labouring under a deep underlying sense of discomfort. There was something that I needed to be aware of. At one point I too was in the water, floating on my back beside a body. Suddenly its head turned, and a pair of very large, bulbous, angry eyes glared at me. I turned the other way, pretending I hadn’t noticed that ‘it’ was alive. Suddenly there was talk of breasts. I looked down to discover that I had a pair of breasts and no ginger beard. Those big glaring eyes still haunt me. As does the sudden discovery of breasts and no ginger beard.

3.) The night that Carlos cracked open the baby’s head like a lizard egg. I was playing with the baby, tossing it higher and higher in the air, when my hands missed and the baby fell on its head. Carlos said it had a clot that must be removed immediately for the baby to survive. He cracked its skull open and sucked out the clot from the baby’s brain. It survived. Then Carlos became a spy and a few years later turned into me.

4.) The night the big pink spider and the big black spider waged a war. I had to write a script, I was sitting in a room, fretting over my lack of inspiration when the pink spider – it was as high as the doorway with legs that looked like they were made of shiny pink plastic detachable links – appeared. I was so frightened I spent most of the night battling with it. When I had almost managed to wound it fatally, the enormous black spider appeared, carrying a distinct aura of evil. Suddenly it became clear to me that the pink spider was the good spider that was going to help me complete my script. Shit, I thought.

5.) The night I was pottering about on an empty stage. I was sad. I wanted desperately to be part of the play. As I walked from end to end, contemplating the futility of it all, my footsteps became faster and faster, lighter and wider, till I was suddenly airborne. I had grown a pair of delicate silken muslin wings and I flew blithely around the stage, happier than I’ve ever remembered being. My mother said “I knew you could do it. See it wasn’t so tough was it?” The Sibling and my father waved out to me as they cheered me on. The next day I was cast as the fairy princess in the play and the audience applauded with abandon.