Category Archives: Books

“Dedications”

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“I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains’ enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
hand
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.”
Adrienne Rich, From an Atlas of the Difficult World

For more on this poem do read: this ~ click here
Picture clicked in Bordeaux, France, 2012.

The Normal Heart – VU Book Club

Things I learnt at the VU Book Club session conducted by Dirk Visser on Larry Kramer and his play “The Normal Heart.” It was a learning experience for I had little knowledge on AIDS and almost no idea as to how it was directly linked to homophobia:

  1. The AIDS debate is, “Not a rational but an emotional debate.” It was not a medical panic but a moral one. We discussed whether drama (if at all) counter-acts this rhetoric.
  2. AIDS did not get its name for the longest time. The first article that appeared on the disease was in the NY Times, “Rare Cancer seen in 41 Homosexuals” – the cancer was called Kaposi’s Sarcoma.
  3.  As late as 1987 (as a disease it had already been around for almost 10 years) did Ronald Reagan, the then President of U.S., use the terms AIDS.
  4. One of the first names given to AIDS was GRID – “Gay related Immuno Deficiency.”
  5. The word homosexual first appeared in 1869 – heterosexual as a term came much later as a reaction to this.
  6. You need to read Susan Montag to understand how illness is used as a metaphor in relation to blame.
  7. Larry Kramer consistently juxtaposes the holocaust with the predicament of the AIDS victims and the gay community.
  8. There have been many conspiracy theories around why and how AIDS came about – one involving alien kidnapping, another to do with the elimination of gay people, amongst many others.
  9. The words epidemic and plague have different reactions in different people. Many attendees commented on how the plague had Biblical connotations as opposed to epidemic, which somehow seemed more manageable. This had no co-relation to actual meaning but seemed more to do with assumption (perhaps sound).
  10. Larry Kramer is an angry man. And I understand now why he is.

I wonder if this play can ever be staged in India. Will they permit the film to reach theatres there? If homosexuality is illegal – does it make all representations of it illegal as well? Won’t that make all action movies illegal, so if that argument does not hold for cinematic liberty – then why does it not apply to staging of plays? My mind tied up in knots as I drift between the rational and the emotional. Even more than before (if that was possible) I value the freedom to be critical.

The VU Book Club is organised by:
Manon Stassen
Nezjma Ramdas

Emmanuel Moses in Amsterdam

Location: Broodhuys

Only  a poet could go through pain, heartache, agony and say, “it was beautiful.” Only a poet. Thank you Emmanuel.

Nitasha Kaul – What Does it Mean to be an Internationalist Today?

Having known Nitasha and read her articulate, precise and insightful work, it gives me immense pride and pleasure to share with you this video of her speaking at a conference in London about what it means to be an internationalist today.

“Beyond the nation state and concentric circles of self” – if there is one thing that you listen to or watch today – let it be this.

The dancing moth

photo (7)I have been mulling over the relevance of people and opinions. And, I turned to the cosmos to give me a sign as to what is the way forward. It should not surprise me but I was pleasantly so when I read this:

“Instead, the major stories in Book Two are primarily concerned with the challenge of discerning the true nature of people behind appearances, in order to identify with whom one should associate so as to progress on the mystical path.” (Mowjaddedi, Rumi: The Masnavi Book Three xii)

Intrigued I read on – Rumi writes:

“Our bodies are like leaves, as in appearance / They are alike, but each soul has a difference. / People at the bazaar appear so similar / But one feels joy while grief consumes another. / Even in death we leave here the same way: / Half of us lose, half of us rule the day.” (Rumi, Mowjaddedi trans. Rumi: The Masnavi Book Three 214)

“What my eyes have already had to view. / I’m not one of those frail ones who would end / His wayfaring due to imaginings, friend. / I’m like the Ismailis: I lack dread / Or like Ishmael, with no care for my head.”  (Rumi, Mowjaddedi trans. Rumi: The Masnavi Book Three 249)

“Dig deeper each day in a muddy pit / And you’ll find water there by doing it.” (Rumi, Mowjaddedi trans. Rumi: The Masnavi Book Three 249)

The book ends with “When legs break, God gives wings.”

Each morning brings with it questions, afternoons are spent looking for insight, and early evenings the answers unravel without much effort. The seeker lives a different cycle. In the night some see darkness, I see only light.

Who is that girl letting her veil slip a little more each evening?
Why do the stars wink at her?
Who lights those street lamps that dance in the canals?
Who is working on those stations whose screens I can see glimmering from afar?
Shadows get formed when as object crosses the path of light
Short and dense, long and fragmented
Words in a poem – me a willing moth to your flame

Georgia

There is always so much more to read. I find myself in conversations: “No, I haven’t read that.” The prospect is thrilling and worrying. There is that constant niggle – out there could be that one book I wish I had read before putting pen to paper. Each day passes in the pursuit of that text. Words tumble out easy and smooth from the tip my fingers but my mind is in the jungle – hunting. I am reassured with, “But that’s always a constant.” If the quest got over, there was no other material, I would feel defeated. A battle that I willingly lose everyday. I like the manner in which the pile of my books comfort me in the cold. The buffer between the chill and me.

Here: Sitting waiting for Bambi to complete his swimming lesson I am traveling to 1950s Georgia. America – a country I have never visited.
The rain pours, the wind whips the flag, the scrawny brown boy struggles to keep his head above blue waters in the deep end.

There: I read on, she has just birthed on a mattress on the road. Her child unwanted in every way.

Here: I wipe his soaking body and he trembles and shakes, words flood out of his mouth. He is excited. He tells me how it was easy. I squeeze him like a sponge to take the damp out of his bones. He grabs my neck and rubs his nose against mine smiling into my eyes.

In the evening, over cups of tea and tostis, and later wine we talk, “Have you read Althusser?” I shake my head, “I have it on my list.” “You must, really, it will change your views about this, really, I insist.”

Here: It’s dark.
There: I return to Georgia.

Persepolis

Reading Persepolis was like returning to a warm and safe place. Ironically, the graphic novel is the loss of that, that someone understood, lived through it, to bear witness to that truth is beyond powerful. This is the second graphic novel I’ve read (the first one being Maus) and I immensely enjoy the form. To a new found love – I raise a toast.

Merry Christmas. Wishing you such joys as well.

Images courtesy: Google search for Persepolis