.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}
A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

26 September, 2006

The Hotel

(cross posted on my blog.)

“I’m telling you it was her man!”

“Boy, you must have been dreaming. How can it be her? She is thousands of miles away.”

“No, dude, I’m pretty sure it was her. I even followed her a little just to make sure. She is here. I’m willing to bet on that.”

We were on our way to a party neither of us wanted to go to when he dropped this bombshell. The thought that she was right here, in this city, made my heart race without my realizing it. It had been what, five years I think. We had said our goodbyes under difficult circumstances. I had never expected to hear from or about her again. But the world is small and in this era of connectedness any person from the past can pop up anywhere.

“So are you going to meet her?”

That question had been hanging in the air between us ever since he had said that she was here.

“I don’t know. Too much baggage still to be cleared on that front. So where did you see her?”

“At that hotel you guys used to frequent, you know.”

Yes, I knew the place. It was our adda so to speak. We were there practically everyday, so much so that the people working there knew us by our first names. In fact, we could get a room at a moments notice, a convenience which we often availed of frequently.

The street lights flashed by outside. The traffic lights blinked like owls. Traffic was sparse in this part of the town. It was a beautiful night. The wind flowing in through the window was cool on the skin. It was like drinking a glass of fresh water from a matka on a hot summer day.

The silence between us had stretched into a comfortable vacuum. Any thought was possible.

“Do you think she will look you up, you know, for old times sake?”

When lines converge life looks different. Ideas of fate take on an entirely different meaning. Yeah, that was indeed a million dollar question.

“I doubt it. If I know her she won’t. She is much stronger than me in that way.”

“What will you do if she called?”

“I’ll say hello.”

“Very funny. Seriously man, what will you do if she called up and said she wanted to meet you?”

How could I answer such a question? I suck at answering hypothetical questions. I can never understand people who are so sure about what they will do if such and such situation came to pass. Life is too random for one to be so confident about one’s reaction in my opinion.

Before I could answer we reached the place. Another hour or two of painfully polite smiles. People whose faces I’d never want to remember or see again. I hope the place had a nice balcony. Balconies are my favorite places at boring parties. Get a nice drink, sit with your legs up on the railing, your eyes communing with the stars and boredom can be thrown down from the balcony.

We entered, said our obligatory hellos to the host and went our separate ways. We had a prearranged meeting point to come to after a certain amount of time if we couldn’t take the party anymore.

I gravitated towards the bar without a second thought. There were cocktails too. Not bad. I picked up a couple of Caipirinha’s and started my search for a balcony. I passed many people but seeing that I was carrying two drinks they just smiled and allowed me to pass by. This was another trick I had picked up. Carry two drinks in your hand, look as if you are searching for someone and people will automatically assume that you have company and thereby leave you alone. The party was on the second floor so there must be one for sure. Ah, there it was, to the side, the door hidden by a palm tree of some kind. I opened the door and stepped out to a decently sized balcony which had an incredible view. The house was the last on a hill so the land dropped away below me and the lights of the city were laid out like jewels. It was an ocean of golden light. It was as if the sky had been inverted and the stars had been brought down from heaven to earth.

“Great view huh.”

I nearly dropped my drinks. I had been so caught up in the view that I hadn’t realized someone else was there. But more than that it was the voice. I could never forget that voice even if I wanted to in a million years. It was a voice that brought to mind the sound of a brook falling over smoothened pebbles. It was a sound filled with the freshness of spring and the romance of winter. It was her.

“When lines converge life looks different.”

She smiled that special smile of hers. A single ray of sunshine peeking into a darkened room. A wave of happiness rising in my heart. She knew how special that sentence was to me. I had made it up one time when we were lying in bed in each others arms, after a particularly wild afternoon of endless sex.

I wasn’t surprised to see her on the balcony though. We both had actually first met on one such balcony. We were both lovers of that special kind of solitude that such places offered in ample quantities. She hadn’t changed at all. It was as if no time had passed between then and now.

“What are you doing here?”

Of all the questions I could think of not asking that should have been the first on the list. She smiled impishly.

“I’m talking to you.”

I couldn’t help but smile back. I had irritated her innumerable number of times with that stupid response.

“You haven’t changed a bit, you know.”

“Well, neither have you.”

“It is so good to see you again. I missed your smile.”

“I can’t say I missed your inane remarks but I do miss hearing your warm voice.”

A comfortable silence flowered then in the space between us as we slipped into whorls of memory. The time when she held me tight and whispered, “Do not ever leave me.” Another time, on a cool summer morning, when she looked into my eyes so intensely and said, “You are very important to me.” The time when she hugged me from behind, under the barren trees, and kissed me on my neck gently. I smiled as I thought of the time when she fell off the bed in the middle of the night but still went on sleeping. There was another time when she fell sick and cried like a little baby in my arms. And there was this time when I slipped a snowball in her panty from behind and laughed so hard when she started dancing like a marionette to get rid of the snow.

“Do you still think of what-ifs?”

“No, that time is long past and you know it.”

“I don’t know. As you just said when lines converge life looks different.”

“You know, I don’t really want to go on this road again right now. I hope you understand?”

I didn’t reply. What could I say or do? I couldn’t force her to do what I wanted. Time had burnt so many bridges between us that we had very little common ground left. In the distance the city burned like a jewel. The myriad little light sources coming together to form one vast garland for the gods.

I went back in time. We had gone on a little hiking trip over a weekend. As we were walking on a small path meandering through a breathtakingly beautiful meadow, she suddenly turned back and hugged me without a word. The love I felt in those arms, with her warm soft body pressed against mine, I still remember to this day. Her words brought me back instantly.

“Do you still go to the Hotel?”

“No, but I heard you are staying there.”

“Your invisible sources again?” “Yes.”

She laughed her clear tinkling laugh again. But when she looked back at me she was serious, her eyes intense and hands all bunched up.

“I know this is out of the blue and perhaps foolish but I’d love it if you can come back to the Hotel with me now.”

And with those words my breath flowed easier again. Had she also felt it? She must have otherwise she wouldn’t have said those words. She had never been the impulsive kind.

I took her hand and walked back out. We did not even say our goodbyes. My friend had seen us going out and would understand. Outside, without a word she moved closer into me and leaned her head on my shoulder. A habit as familiar as the slap of the newspaper landing on my doorstep every morning.

I started the car and turned on the lights. As the gears shifted she leaned in and whispered into my ear. I smiled as I heard the familiar words again. The words shimmered and the memory of their sound remained in the air for a few moments. The past had finally caught up with the future. I drove off into the radiant night.

“When lines converge life begins to look different.”

25 September, 2006

The Amitava Kumar - Salman Rushdie Controversy

Read this article on Amitava Kumar's Blog. Can't say that I agree with him totally, being a die-hard fan of Rushdie. But, it now turns out that Rusdie has, some how, read Kumar's blog articles (some excerpts follow) and has threatened to cancel a lecture at Vassar College if he was introduced to the audience by Amitava. This may have the potential of blooming into a full-fledged literary controversy, me thinks.

"What Rushdie did was not exactly new in Indian writing in other languages or even in Indian drama, but its intensity and range was novel in the tradition of English writing that had been inaugurated by the likes of R.K. Narayan, Raja Rao, and Mulk Raj Anand. In a land allegedly in thrall to babu English, here was someone who was having fun with the English language. Reading him was a bit like coming across a giant ad for Amul butter on an Indian street—except that Rushdie was in command and kept doing it for five hundred pages."

"The trouble is that despite all his invention and exuberance Rushdie remains to a remarkable extent an academic writer. He is academic in that abstractions rule over his narratives. They determine the outlines of his characters, their faces, and their voices. Rushdie is also academic in the sense that his rebellions and his critiques are all securely progressive ones, advancing the causes that the intelligentsia, especially the left-liberal Western intelligentsia, holds close to its breast. This is not a bad thing, but it should qualify one's admiration for Rushdie's daring."

"There can be no doubt that the threats that Rushdie faced and also the book-burnings and other protests were shameful and unacceptable. But I do not for a moment support Norman Mailer's assessment (Norman Mailer wrote Rusdie after the Fatwa "Many of us begin writing with the inner temerity that if we keep searching for the most dangerous of our voices, why then, sooner or later we will outrage something very fundamental in the world, and our lives will be in danger. That is what I thought when I started out, and so have many others, but you, however, are the only one of us who gave proof that this intimation is not ungrounded."). I don't believe that Rushdie has even found his most dangerous voice. In fact, I don't believe that Rushdie's is the most dangerous voice writing today. His is no doubt a powerful voice; often, it has been an oppositional voice; but it is a voice of a celebrity promoting commendable causes; more seriously, in some fundamental way, it is the voice of a metaphorical outsider, and therefore incapable of revealing to ourselves, in an intimate way, our complicities, our contradictions, and our own inescapable horror. I don't deny that it is a voice that can engage and delight and of course annoy, and yet it is very important to make a distinction: what Rushdie writes can easily provoke, but it is rarely able to disturb."

Kumar's grouse seems to be that Rusdie is being used as a milestone in Indian English literature as when we say "he writes like Rushdie" and "he doesn't write like Rushdie." But Rusdie opened the gates to the flood (or is it a trickle?) that followed, didn't he? Admittedly Rusdie criticized and parodied Indian life for a western audience, but he did it with considerable charm and wit and even we tend to nod our heads and smile when we read what Kumar calls "academic" writing. Here's what Rushdie says about migration, as quoted by Kumar, "To migrate is certainly to lose language and home, to be defined by others, to become invisible or, even worse, a target; it is to experience deep changes and wrenches in the soul. But the migrant is not simply transformed by his act; he also transforms his new world. Migrants may well become mutants, but it is out of such hybridization that newness can emerge."

I have underlined "invisible" because in "Midnight's Children" he calls the people who live beyond posh Neapean Sea Road area in Bombay as "Invisible People," or the migrant people. This is something I can identify with as I am of second generation migrant stock, living as invisible people in an extended suburb of Bombay. Here's a poem I wrote in my blog about how indigenous people hate migrants.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

23 September, 2006

Let's just omit the title

Let’s wait for things to happen
Let’s be lethargic
but not let the spirits dampen
Let energies lie low
Let’s just linger and laze along
Look the sun in the eyes and sing a gloomy song

Let's not retort
Let's give some space; let us not throng
Let's laugh at inanities
Let's be unsofisticated and not worry
about the spellings gone wrong

Let’s wave and wish strangers
and smile more often
Let’s not send lifeless emails
Let’s be back to that pen and paper

Let’s walk under the tress
and notice the green canopies
Crush the yellowed leaves and see the music
Let’s down endless coffee
And think of days gone by
Let’s call up lost friends
if only to say ‘Hi’

Stand in a daze
Get lost in the maze
Let the world swivel by
Let time fly
Feel numb around your head
Let no thought invade
Look through your desires
Just say it’s all fate

Be confused for a change
Dispel the surety away
Let’s not think even
Five minutes ahead of us
Let’s be lazily agile
To evade all the fuss

Lets write what we feel about
And when we feel like it
Let’s go act in a theatre
Let out the poet inside us
Yes, the one without the meter.


Reality Show to Sell a Book? Quite possible!

Saw the James McGreevey interview with Larry King on CNN. Now, for those who came in late, James is the former governor of New Jersey who has made a public admission to having a homosexual affair and to having cheated on his wife, as a consequence of which he had to give up his office. He has also come up with a book on the affair titled "The Confession" and may, me thinks, have been desperate to get publicity for the book. The confession includes trysts in anonymous truck stops, crawling into bed with his wife after escapades with his boy friend, etc.

What I found unusual was the handsome McGreevey was squirming in his seat while answering King's pointed and, rather, blunt questions. Several times he fumbled for answers, and on occasions he seemed as if he wasn't telling the truth, at least, fudging some. Larry King asked him if he had sexual encounters before his marriage, and he said, "yes," the next question was, "was it pleasurable?" What does he mean by asking if a sexual encounter was pleasurable? Why would he go for an encounter if it wasn't pleasurable. Come, come, now, Larry King!

To make matters worse there were also interviews with his cheated wife, and his boyfriend (no, he says, life partner), whom he kissed on the show. Yes, kissed on the mouth! All through the interview I was conscious of a brave show being put up, all that was wrong with such displays became quite obvious. I mean, the reality television kind of programs showing people embarassed, crying, shouting, and kissing.

I felt that this was the movie trailer to goad people to buy the book in millions to delve into the secret life of the handsome governor. Also, who knows, movie rights, and may be, a movie role (seeing as to how handsome he is!). Oh, the pits to which people can descend!

I may be terribly old fashioned (my blog says so), not to talk of getting old, but couldn't these emotions be handled a bit more discreetly? All through the show the interlocutor Larry King had a cynical set to his mouth, and conducted the interview with great detachment, as is his wont. But all this drama to sell a book? If this genre of publishing is so desperate to sell their books, then why don't they call themselves "The Celebrity Business" and not publishing at all.
Tags: , , , ,

18 September, 2006

The Zubaan Anthology of Young Women Writers, Volume I

The line up for The Zubaan Anthology of Young Women Writers, Volume I (which we helped publicise here), has been finalised. Here's a note from the editor.
We have had an overwhelming response to the initial call for short stories put out over the web. From over 200 stories, sent in from across the globe, we have finally narrowed it down to 21.

It is customary for judges to say how tough the decision has been before announcing the Booker prize. Well, being published by Zubaan may not have the same effect on sales as winning the Booker, but the selection process has been just as difficult, given the range and quality of work submitted!

So – a big thank you to everyone who has submitted their work. Even if your story has not made it through to the final selection, I and my colleagues have enjoyed reading each and every one, and are encouraged and excited by the new generation of exceptionally talented young women writers out there. Write on!

If you’d like to view a feature that CNN/IBN did about the anthology, including interviews with two of the writers, Mridula Koshy and Annie Zaidi, check out this link.

We’re aiming to publish towards the end of this year, and will keep you posted.

And here’s the final line-up.

1. Tishani Doshi - Spartacus and the Dancing Man
2. Madhulika Liddle – Murk of Art
3. Meena Kandasamy – The Suicide’s Inbox
4. Aishwarya Subramanyam – Lotus
5. Shahnaz Habib - Something Special About Sayyida
6. Annie Zaidi – E.C.G.
7. Anju Mary Paul - Sunday Christians
8. Narmada Thiranagama - The Third Cloud
9. Anjum Hasan - ‘Like a Scene From all Those Movies’
10. Nisha Susan - Broadband and the Bookslut
11. Swarnalatha R - Through the Eye of the Needle
12. Epsita Halder (Graphic short story) Vaidehi
13. Mridula Koshy – The Large Girl
14. Diana Romany – Ferris Wheel
15. Paromita Chakravarti - Instant Honeymoon or Love in the time of Television
16. Ashima Sood – Everyday
17. Revati Laul – Drool
18. Adithi Rao – Mango Tree in the Desert
19. Roohi Choudhry – Hammer Gang
20. Ruchika Chanana – Hue and Cry
21. Sumana Roy - Award-Winning Writer

Anita Roy


Oh! Beirut,
Nameless, faceless,
Besieged, bombed,
Occupied by militias, armies,
It's unbelievable, once,
You were the Paris of the East.

Now you are rubble,
Bombed debris,
Lying in a mangled haze,
Your hospices filled with the dying,
Death still waits at your doorsteps,
After the Jordanians,
Syrians and Israelites have gone.

The Cedars of Lebanon are bereft,
Alleys are filled with twisted steel,
Your people are not given -
A chance to survive, make peace.
In you there are enemy streets,
Where children fear to walk,
Afraid of hidden gunmen.

Will you rise from this debris?
Rebuild your proud monuments,
And foliate your naked Cedars,
With the leaves of verdant summer,
In the shades of which women don't wail,
Of kidnappings, shootings, and ransoms,
And of crazed, fervent militias,
Of which they are no part.

Oh! Beirut, Oh! Beirut, I mourn you!

Beirut was once known as the Paris of the East. No more. Now, militaries of Israel, Syria and Jordan enter and leave it at their whim. Its streets are full of bombed buildings and its citizens live in fear of being killed. This is a poem to its brave inhabitants. "Cedars of Lebanon" is a reference to a passage in the Bible.


16 September, 2006

A Day in the Life of Me, Myself!

This is a scenario I wrote today, just common events from my life. I might use this in a short story or novel, in future. So do not discount its literary value. Ahem!

Today is Saturday and I am thinking of finishing some work. I thought it was romantic, working in my pajamas and round neck tee-shirt working when you feel like, that is, until this morning.

Then they had to spoil it all. My neighbor is getting his house re-constructed. Re-construction is a harmless word when he is breaking it down with sledge hammers, and most of the debris is falling on my house with thuds the equivalent of minor bomb explosions, or, earthquakes. The houses in Artist Village, are independent dacha-type houses, which were constructed by a government housing scheme, and are packed too close for comfort.

Now something like a war is going on with frequent unannounced masonry falling on my house. "Oh, God," I say and run out and shout at the workers, who, are, huh, workers. For some time the earthquakes stop. They do what they are told to do. And my neighbor is nowhere in sight. See, he has moved to safe environs already. Good!

And then they resume all over again. Then I again run out and shout. Then they commiserate. And this goes on for some time, till the power goes off. I sit fretting in the dark with the debris of my despondency falling over me, darkly maligning. No, I won't ask, "Why does this happen to me? How can I get my work done?" No, that would be taking it badly.

Then I go to get some bank work done. The day is sunny and hot and sweltering, and I put on my dark, "cooling" glasses. The bank is crowded, and there's another bank I have to visit nearby to finish my transaction – actually I am making a draft to pay my son's yearly college fees. The deposit in this bank isn't enough to cover the transaction. So I have to withdraw money from another bank account across the street and come back. I didn't know that I hadn't eaten and suddenly hunger pangs strike.

I walk into a South Indian restaurant and am served by a nondescript uniformed waiter who reels off a variety of dosas from memory. I decide to have a Masala Dosa, which, I think, would be filling. Then I turn around and there is a family of beggars, the type who appeal to your religiosity to make a living, sitting next to me and eating rather boisterously. Food is spooned into wide open jaws, and the mastication is done in between loud talking. I find this particularly nauseating, eat my dosa, and leave.

At the other bank, a sales spiel keeps me engrossed. They have a unit-linked plan that would give me a pension for life, provided I invest around Rs 1.5 million now. Imagine having that kind of liquid cash lying around, I smirk, while coolly watching the earnest salesman making his pitch. Then I say I will consider his offer, and leave.

Then I take a rickshaw to the other bank with all the money for my son's fees and a helpful girl who hardly glances at me makes the draft. That done, I decide to visit an old church acquaintance who is indisposed and has been ordered rest. He and I have worked in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and we talk about old times. I guess company would keep him engaged.

And then it begins to pour, and pour. "Thulavarsham," he says listening to the rolling thunder. "Yes," I say, "It is thulavarsham, the rain that falls around the month of "Thulam." We speak of human foibles, church politics, and a priest who isn't as holy as I had considered him. Who is?

On the journey back, I am totally drenched by the downpour and my umbrella offers no solace. The sunny afternoon has transformed into a dark, menacing, darkly forbidding rainy evening. There are gangs of youngsters, college kids, at the bus stop. They talk and laugh loudly, wearing their unwashed jeans that have these ugly pockets, bulging out at the most unimaginable of places. I am wearing cargo trousers, but, it has pockets at the logical locations on both sides. I notice that they all have long hair, and acne on their faces. I too have long hair!

End of scenario.

15 September, 2006

The Booker Short List is Up!

The booker short list is up. Kiran Desai made it for "The Inheritance of Loss." Those who made it:

"The six books shortlisted by a panel of judges are: "In the Country of Men," Hisham Matar's semi-autobiographical first novel about childhood in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya; "The Secret River," Kate Grenville's tale of life in an Australian penal colony; "The Night Watch," British writer Sarah Waters' novel about characters whose fates intertwine during World War II; "The Inheritance of Loss," Indian writer Kiran Desai's cross-continental saga set in New York and India; "Carry Me Down," the story of an unusual boy, by Irish-Australian novelist M.J. Hyland; and "Mother's Milk," a portrait of a rich but dysfunctional family by English writer Edward St. Aubyn."

Those who didn't make it:

"Some of the biggest names on the 19-book longlist did not make the cut, including David Mitchell, whose "Black Swan Green" had been a favorite, and Australia's Peter Carey, a two-time Booker winner longlisted for "Theft: A Love Story." Andrew O'Hagan's "Be Near Me," another critical favorite, also was omitted."
Tags: , , , , , , ,

08 September, 2006

Without You

On the run in dense obscurity
You're the cause that shrouds
Every day dreaming dreams of
A woman in those scattered clouds

She said she was a loser
At the same old, old game
An angel with a brightening edge
Burning in search of fame

All I gained was a new gun
To satisfy her heartache
Just as the bullets began to fly
I had to clear the blue blue sky

Then she left my open door
Cold wind in her hair
And the dark night shrouds
No love, no tears, no ugly sounds

And tonight i'll make me one mistake
And the moon- it doesn't feel all right
Cold inside with a struggling thirst
Her young pride watchfully in sight

Then she left my open door
Cold wind in her hair
And the dark night shrouds
No love, no tears, no ugly sounds

She got me to hide tonight
'Cause I wanted to know
I couldn’t sleep with old rules
When the bullets began to fly

Then she left my open door
Cold wind in her hair
And the dark night shrouds
No love, no tears, no ugly sounds

And with no regrets I squeezed
the trigger and looked within
My memory of a lost love
Running the breeze in that sky

Living on my own I don't care
This one time I will carry on
With an image of love, of her
By the door... with a cold wind in her hair

Then she left my open door
Cold wind in her hair
And the dark night shrouds
No love, no tears, no ugly sounds

Then she left my open door
Cold wind in her hair
And the dark night shrouds
No love, no tears, no ugly sounds

...Without you...
...Without you...

acknowledgements: rohinton daruwala

(C) arjun chandramohan bali


07 September, 2006

"The poem resembles a bottle" [sonnet, semi-Petrarchan]

You can't insist   that others enjoy your poetry!
who could compel the mist   to applaud the flowers?
I wouldn't suppose   another perceives what penury
lately rims the brocaded yardage of swaddling hours

the poem resembles a bottle cast on the brine
containing the tale of a consciousness gone aground
one's private isle!   green glass is washed supine
by currents whose key strange destiny may've found

the very form of the poem achieves the seal
to keep the text contained   so when it's read
this opens the bottle   if reading might reveal

what letter an islander stowed   what has he said?
he broods at palmtrees   and an old worsted keel
while God alone knows   how an alien life he's led!


[This is my first contribution to the Caferati blog. I dub the form "semi-Peetrarchan" merely on account of its particular rhyme scheme (which affixes a Shakespearean head on a Petrarchan tail, so to speak)]


Censorship and Intolerance in the Information Age : Essay in Speech

For PEN Meeting 12.08.06
by Abhigyan jha

As Ranjit put in the email circular: I am a script-writer and director. And I have been most recently associated with the film, Sacred Evil (2006), whose theme – that ofthe parallel dimensions which lie beyond the reach of our rationality and science – was lost sight of, in the debate that ensued over itsportrayal of certain characters, clerical members of the RomanCatholic Church; and its interpretation of the relationship between orthodox faith and Wicca.

Though, I am the scriptwriter and director of Sacred Evil, I have never seen myself as scriptwriter or director. When our first novel November Rain (co-authored by my better half Mrinal) was published in 1994, I made it a point to include on the back cover the fact that I am not so much a writer as a raconteur. I am a narrator of the imagination. Sometimes I write stories, novels - poems or scripts, sometimes I make films but at all times I am a speaker for the imagination and a die hard believer in the freedom to create.

As my topic for the day is orthodoxy & creative latitude, I am going to take the liberty of taking a bit of creative latitude with the time given to me and the topic itself and stray into areas that I believe are important for all of us who value freedom at these challenged times. And I warn everyone that my views could be unpalatable to some including my fellow speakers and I hope I will not be censured midway. I will be rapid and I will tend to rave and rant. But for the sake of coherence I will stick to an overarching index. And I outline them now: they are in their order of appearance:

What is orthodoxy?
What is freedom? for creative latitude is nothing but the basic fabric of freedom.
The Spirit of the Age: what is our place in history?
What happens when we choke freedom?
Where are we going? Freedom and the next Paradigm Shift

What is orthodoxy?

America's founding fathers were men of both science and faith who attributed creation to the laws of Nature and Nature's God. Not the Christian God or the Jewish God or the Islamic God: Nature's God. In that hallowed tradition epitomized in the Declaration of Independence , a document I will refer to again along with its counterpart the Bill of Rights; I am strongly inclined to believe that after acknowledging the effects of quantum mechanics and looking through the lens of the Hubble we will find that woven throughout the universe is an abstract intelligence which may without offense to either science or religion, be permitted to call divine.

This is the language of the twenty first century which was not accessible to Galileo or Bruno. To doubt and to question are rights we have had to fight long for. Whoever we humans have had to fight for those rights are the orthodox and their agents of inquisition. As we go on I intend to leave you in no doubt as to 'who' these reactionary orthodox are.

I will briefly mention the challenge from the Orthodox Church to my film Sacred Evil. Sacred Evil was/or rather is the story of a nun who is haunted by grim visions. Though she lives in the sanctuary of the Convent the demons continue to pursue her. As a last resort the Mother Superior calls in Ipsita Roy Chakraverti to heal the nun. Now Ipsita is a qualified Jungian psychotherapist as well as a self proclaimed Witch or practitioner of Wicca.
This raised the heckles of the Church. No matter that the rest of the film was about the healing of the nun and no Christian doctrine or ritual was put into question or subverted. The point made by the Orthodox in this case is that you have no right to judge what is correct portrayal of our faith. Only we can judge. This then is the domain of the Orthodox. He is the final arbiter. He is the judge. No law or due process applies to him. He has abrogated that right to himself.

It is pertinent to note that those who challenged my film with a Wiccan theme, are the same people who killed millions during the Inquisition, including 600000 so called witches who were burnt to death like Bruno the scientist. 400 odd years later they haven't yet been brought to book or tendered a proper apology though everyone goes on and on about one Hitler. The Catholic Church has killed more people than a hundred Hitlers put together. So have the fundamentalist followers of Allah and the Zionist landgrabbers of Israel. Even the supposedly nonviolent Buddhist emperors of India razed a minimum thousand Hindu temples and were responsible for the killing of thousands of priests between Asoka's time till Sankaracharya revived the Vedic faith.

From Wicca to Wikipedia we have come a long way But the orthodox of course have never understood the bottom-line for all those who like me and you are governed by the creative impulse. That bottom-line is: Nothing less than Freedom; nothing more than Faith.

What is freedom? For creative latitude is nothing but the basic fabric of freedom itself?

Freedom in essence is a negative concept. In this it is different from power which is a positive priciple. by negative or positive I am not referring to their ethical value. I am only refrring to their intrinsic nature. Freedom is about being free from… a subtraction of something undesirable. Whereas Power is an addition of something desirable. As more often than not we differ as individuals about the nature of the desirable but agree on what is absolutely undesirable: Freedom is a higher concept than Power. And nowhere is it more enshrined than in the United States Declaration of Independence. A document drafted by the greatest pioneer of freedom Thomas Jefferson. A sign of these deluded times is the way we have treated this man whose words have enabled every freedom we have been able to gain over the past 217 years. Freedoms which did not exist for any man before Jefferson enshrined them forever.
I will repeat those words for I feel we are beginning to foreget them often.
We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
I also repeat the first five amendments to the US Constitution, popularly called the Bill of Rights, for they make explicit the rights of all men promised in the Declaration.
First Amendment – Freedom of speech, press, religion, peaceable assembly, and to petition the government.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Second Amendment – Right for the people to keep and bear arms, as well as to maintain a militia.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.
Third Amendment – Protection from quartering of troops.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Fourth Amendment – Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Fifth AmendmentDue process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, private property.
No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

I know America bashing is the popular pastime of the day and America itself is rather not conducive to its own constitution these days but if you were Tammam Adi you might agree with me that it is still the freest place on earth. Tammam has been helping me research the background of an immigrant Muslim family in USA post 9/11. He himself is one such immigrant and to top it is a leading cleric of his mosque in Eugene, Oregon. He was born in Syria. I quote him:
I enjoyed reading dictionaries and learning new languages in the same
way other kids enjoyed playing basketball. I did not know that such a
loving, harmless hobby could put me in serious danger.

I had just translated a famous Armenian poem into Arabic when my
translator friend said that he had a great idea and wanted to introduce
me to an interesting man. He took me downtown to a tall unmarked
building and we took the elevator to the fifth floor. We were expected,
and the man behind the desk grinned as he greeted me, but I saw no trace
of humanity in his face. Where did it all go?

It was as if he read my feelings in my face--I am very transparent that
way--and I stuttered into explaining why I was there. He made several
disjointed opening remarks (one would have done if one is honest), I
understood that he wanted me to translate peoples' letters and phone
calls, just to check them for national security reasons.

I was triply frightened. I was shocked at the "job offer." I knew that
my face revealed my shock. And I also knew that my refusal to accept the
offer would have dire consequences.

Spy on my beautiful friends who taught me the nuances of all those
beautiful words in their beautiful languages? What a monstrous request!

But I froze. "I would love to serve my country," I stuttered. He said,
"We will see what we will do next. We will contact you."

There was only one way out. I had to leave Syria.
An Armenian friend picked me up at the Charles De Gaulle Airport in
Paris. We went to his roof-top apartment and I could not wait to
whisper to him all the gory details of my ordeal with the faceless
spyman. My whispering upset him a lot. It upset him so much that I
felt scared. He stood up, opened his window, stuck out his head and
screamed as loud as he could, "De Gaulle is crap." Then, he turned to
me and said, "See, you are free now, free, free, free. You can say what
you want, wherever you want. You are no longer in Syria."

That was my first lesson in liberty. Paris, October 1970.

Soon thereafter, my joy with freedom was interrupted when I discovered
that every French person I met wanted to know whether I prayed and
fasted as Muslims do. If I said yes, they would frown and turn away
from me. They all believed that religious Muslims were dangerous and
did not belong in Europe. Practicing Muslims had to hide their "foreign
cultural practices" in their own ghetto in the town of the Eiffel
Tower. This was also my experience in Germany for 13 years.

I had to hide my prayers in the West and did so even after I settled in
the US, until I finally found out that, unlike Europeans, Americans
include religion in their concept of liberty. From then on, I no longer
pulled my livingroom curtains closed when I prayed.


This was of course before 9/11. Tammam's life has changed radically since. An FBI van watches over his mosque 24/7 and monitors/videotapes everyone going in to offer prayers. He finds it humiliating. But still Tammam finds the strength and the hope to write articles like these: Many Muslims do not understand their religion well anymore. In unfree societies, one is not taught to think, only to hear and obey.
Another of Tammam's articles:
America represents ‘true’ Islamic principles . Quote : "America may be the most Islamic country in the world. With our Bill of Rights and our national history, we have struggled to implement the central Islamic principle which commands pluralism in matters of gender, race, national origin and religion.

he notes : It is ironic that in 1492, the Spanish monarchy not only conquered the last Islamic-pluralistic city-state of Granada, but also sent Christopher Columbus to discover the New World, where a second great pluralistic society took root.

We go on and one about democracy but democracy or majority rule was not the guiding principle of the constitution is of the USA. It is the concept of individual freedoms which is at the heart of that magnificent bill of rights.

No dilly dallying, that constitution makes it clear that the state and society that this constitution creates is for the good of each individual. Specifically that this state should facilitate each individual's pursuit of happiness. In his own way.
Everything else is of secondary importance. Society. state, groups? No. Only that One matters. One that is you, me, him, her and all others. But as one. Not as a horde. There are no rights given to groups of people.
The reason I did not quote the Indian constitution is because the language is not so clear, the heart not so set on the rights of the individual. Our constitution is regressive compared to the US as far as rights and freedoms are concerned. You mights check the exact words if you doubt me but I warn you the shock will be greater at the duplicit and decrepit formulation of our natural rights. Even the UN Charter of Universal Human Rights pale in comparison to the text Jefferson enshrined.
Why? Is the question I have ponedered a lot. Why no stress on the word individual in these two century later modern documents? Why no stress on private property? Why no mention of pursuit of happiness as the goal for ensuring the rights?
Who made sure these were deleted. Only one answer is pertinent. There has been no influence greater than the American Declaration of Independence on 20th century thought except the RussianRrevolution and its individual crushing theries of Totalitarian State. whereas jefferson sought to liberate man from all who tried to control him including the state, the leftists saw the individual as a cog in their social wheel, a part very easily dispensable if the collective good decided otherwise. It is they who weakened the UN charter. It is they who weakened our constitution. It is they who supported dictators like Castro and looked the other way when Saddam and Khomeini appeared. It is they who popularise the concept of collective bargaining and reduce the individuial to a powerless beggar, it is they who want to control the so called greed, lust and passions of the individual and assume the roles of cultural, moral and ethical dictators. These are the purveyors of power in the garb of liberals. They are the self-righteous who often supposedly fight on behalf of the underdog, the people and other half baked group entities who are forever trying to limit the horizons of thought, the floors in buildings, heights in dams, segregated classrooms for intelligent childrten, whatever goes beyond the ordinary and smacks of the individual is to be denied and defiled.
They are stuck to an ancient tribal/cabalistic code that revels in the sacrfice of the individual to the group.
My plea to these tribal gods is to let us alone. We have fought hard to shake off those chains and we are not going to be bullied by your higher moral ground wherever you might derive them from, religion, race, ecology, humanism, communism, nothing allows a group of men to censure and dictate terms to an individual on the basis of the gun or collective will.

They must go to the courts for all their grievance and the courts should use the bill of rights to judge the truth.

One of my poems has a line: You can let go only that which you are holding back.

In this case all you fascist chieftains; you are holding back the rights that empower me. Let go.

The Spirit of the Age: what is our place in history?

When we think of Descartes' famous assertion "cogito ergo sum", I think so I am; we tend to hear it as the supreme expression of enlightenment belief in the power of human reasoning when in fact it was the upshot of his struggle with grave doubts about whether one could be sure of anything at all. His remedy for this uncertainty was to postulate that there could be no capacity for doubt unless there existed an "I" to do the thinking. An I that is separate and individual from all else. With this Cartesian divide he severed the mind from the matter and made the world focus on what was objectively real. And he used this scientific objectivity to banish centuries of dark and malignant orthodoxy and superstition.

350 years on, orthodoxy still haunts us. I will quote now from quickly drafted rant against censorship which I wrote for a PEN Meeting on 13.03.06 called Censorship and Intolerance in the Information Age. It has gained relevance because it turned out to be prophetic in nature. As the Censors, extra legal in this case, came out in full force at my own doorsteps to ban Sacred Evil.

I might have changed my view at some future point in my life but now I permanently abide by these words I wrote then:

It is a dilemma of the liberal world that in the Information Age suddenly we are threatened by censorship.

In many ways it is the doings of the neo-liberals that has resulted in such a situation.

Freedom is a constant vigil and freedom is not a relative ideal. If you let an inch of your freedoms slip, you will lose all of it. Gradually, if you are lucky, without warning, if not.

Remember the old story about the German shopkeeper : first they came for the communists, i wasn't a communist I didn't protest, then they came for the poles, i wasn't a pole, i didn't protest, then they came for the Jews, I wasn't a Jew, I didn't protest, then they came for the man down the road, well I wasn't him so I didn't protest, then they came for my neighbor and I didn't protest cause it was none of my business, then they came for me! There wasn't anyone left to protest!

In the last 20 years, we liberals have stood by and watched the rights and freedoms of many a group of people trampled upon and very often (to the horror of someone like Jefferson) joined in the chorus demanding the subjugation of such rights.

First it was the smokers, every conceivable inch of space was snatched from them, they were painted pariahs (forget the fact that from Newton to Russell they were all smokers). People have to stand outside buildings like untouchables to have a couple of puffs.

Before I proceed here is a disclaimer. I am not a smoker. I smoke from time to time only to affirm the right of the smoker to smoke in peace. The moment I saw Yevegeny Yevtushenko's grinning smoking picture on the cover of a book Jerry Pinto was reading in this room, I decided to enlarge and frame it. Jerry was not sure about handing over the worn out, out of print copy so mrinal had to win by an auction on ebay another worn out used copy. The enlarged print has gone n0ow for framing. With the caption in red scrawl: smoking lives.

Let's not get into the righteous garbage about the rights of non-smokers. Yes they have the right to not smoke passively but where is the courtesy of choice. Yes you can build massive areas for non-smokers but the smokers must be given their space too.
Why is smoking banned completely from public spaces?
Why can't we provide for their preferences?
Since March the anti smoking lobby has spawned a series of howlarious acts of censorship, the latest being in England.
The man who is playing Churchill in a play about Churchill has been asked not to smoke the pipe. I am amazed they have not actually hopped aboard a Time Machine and snatched the pipe out of Churchill's mouth even as the poor man stood gaping in the war room! I will return to the need for a time Machine among many protesting groups in our times.

I go back to the Broken Windows theory...if you leave one broken window in the city, you will find the whole city contracting the disease of apathy and disorder...fix the rights of those whom you might even abhor and only then can true freedom flourish.

What of the recent bit about the revision of ba-ba black sheep in British schools to ba-ba Rainbow sheep? What is that? Do the antiracists know that the poem itself was a protest about the tax on wool during the 13th century, 1 to the local lord, one to the king and the last 1/3rd to the poor little boy down the lane, himself?! Where is color in all this? What's going on?
Why are the anti-racists fighting the free expressionists...are they racists? Aren't they supposed to be on the same side?
The liberal west denies one the right to deny the holocaust, you can't and shan't be a Nazi sympathizer...making us as Nazi as Hitler. Mein Kampf is not the holocaust. If I were to read passages from it without telling you who wrote it, you could be mistaken into thinking they were written by Lenin, or Marx or a latter day Arundhati or Medha Patkar. Hitler's acts of violence is unpardonable but his ideas and words are as sacred as any other man's. Notwithstanding anyone's sentiments.

This business of not hurting the sentiments of others is hogwash. The only hurt we should worry about is the physical kind.
Free expression is bound to hurt sentiment; didn't Galileo hurt the sentiment of the church? Sentiments are not worth a dime, freedom is. It is the basic right to freedom that gives one the luxury of sentiment.
We must stop ghettoizing drugs, fundamentalism and other so called socially unacceptable behavior... the only thing ghettos breed is violence. Let's defend everyone's freedom to be as they choose to be under the Human Charter, even those whose expressions may repel us. And if everyone is confused about what the Human Charter is, let's draft a NEW BILL OF RIGHTS for the whole world.

Because in the end, people don't live as groups. People live as individuals. The smallest and most vulnerable minority in the universe is the individual.

We must protect the rights and freedoms of each and every individual and that means we mustn't gang up against the rights and freedoms of anyone except those who intend to browbeat history back into the Dark Ages. Let's not champion environmentalists against the entrepreneur, let's not champion governments against parents rights to raise their children the way they want to, let's not champion the rights of minorities against the rights of the majority,
let's not champion the rights of those who question the basic human rights and finally let's not champion the rights of nations, let's ask at all times for the abolition of all boundaries.

Let's not forget that History must march on , liberties must progress, let's not revise our position backwards, let's not redraw the boundaries of freedom, we fought hard for 10000 years to find the individual his freedom from the TRIBE, let's not lose it now.
Now when the Information Age is ready for freedom of expression beyond the wildest imagination of Jefferson when he wrote the Bill Of Rights.

What happens when we choke freedom?

Look at this wonderful city of ours.
Hemmed in from all sides with restrictions.
Nature forces the city to be a bony finger island.
Then we put in laws like rent control. a man is not allowed to charge a fair price for his own land.
Then comes urban land ceiling act. in a city where everyone comes to fulfil the dream of unlimited wealth, even an Ambani cannot acquire the land for a decent sized house after paying 20 crores. contrast this : For 20 crores you can buy 200 acres in new York sate on ebay.

Others sit on 100s of acres of land from before the dumb act waiting for the day when this ridiculous act will go. Meanwhile they don't develop an inch of that land depriving the city of much needed space and the ability to grow with some sense of plan.
Finally we arrive at the doors of FSI. The unlimited dream of the mumbaikar is snuffed out by the worst FSI restrictions in the world. No city with a population of more than 10 lakhs has a FSI of 1:1.33. This is not UP or Bihar. We are not in some medieval farm belt. This is a city. The commercial capital of the country. Compare this with FSI in New York (FSI 1:15), Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore where it ranges between 5 and 15. Let's not even mention Hong Kong and Tokyo lest we humiliate ourselves.

So buildings are not allowed to rise in Mumbai beyond an average 20 floors. and if someone dares everyone tries their best to cut his dreams to size. New York had a 50 storey skyline in the 1920s and almost a hundred years hence we are stuck yet in our 20s. Americans meanwhile have been to the moon.
And then we have the gall to be angry and shocked and even disappointed when the waters rise out of our gutters and spill first into the streets and then into our homes. Drowning in sewage the bodies and aspirations and achievements of some of the most enterprising people on earth. Cars, trophies, mementos, businesses, buffalos all swept aside by the waters that should have flown downwards but instead keep rising and rising with each monsoon.
Newspapers say the garbage clots the drain pipes. I say it is too many dreams choked that now choke our pipes. When we deny the spirit a glimpse of unlimited sky, when we flush the aspirations of countless dreamers down the drain, we invite buried filth in our gutters to rise up and submerge us in the darkness of watery graves that we deserve. For there is no fine balance in the battle of being. Either go up or go down. Only the mediocre fantasize about the middle path. But for civilization there is only one choice, really; progress or stagnate. Dream on or perish.

I come back to that Time Machine. Would the people who are forever asking for restrictions on development and barking for no development zones, cuts in greenhouse gases and clamoring for the rights of tribes to retain their way of life like to get on a Time Machine and revert the world back to the 1500s? I am sure they would love to For they have a morbid fascination for tribal warfare, virulent disease, darkened mud houses and infant mortality not to mention the condition of women in those hallowed times before development began. Why then don't they support the Taliban? a very Tribal group. Dear liberals you have to choose: either you want this free modern world or go back to the dark tribal ages.

The freedom to go beyond the restrictions of our time is the most important of all. For all ages are burdened with a majority which loves to gather moss on the unruffled waters of status quo. or worse want to thrust their nightmarish aspirations for the Old world.

When Galileo says the earth goes round the sun. The problem is not one of dogma. What he confronts is the spirit of the age. A medieval spirit not yet fully awakened from its long slumber of the dark ages. Galileo's affirmation is denied because he exercised the freedom to get ahead of his time. His crime is not religious. His crime is: he has moved on; for human society has developed this knee jerk response to one man walking a new path: safety is in numbers: if he walks alone he must be wrong. What moral ground could he possibly have? Isn't society supposed to be for the maximum good of the majority?

Let me tell you a short story. A railway track forks near a village and splits into two. one line goes to a dead end which is no longer in use and another that carries on to the next station. Today as the train approaches, children are playing on the tracks. On the track that leads to the dead end is playing a solitary eight year old and on the main line are playing approximately 50 children of various ages. What should the motorman do if he cannot stop the train on time. Should he change tracks and kill the solitary girl and save the 50 on the main track? or should he carry on and let the 50 children die but save the one child who is doing the right thing by playing on a track that is no longer in use? what would he do if he believed in the collective good and what would he do if he believed in doing what is simply good. The right thing. I hope you would choose right.

After all Galileo was in the minority. The loneliest minority in the universe. Me. You. Him. Her. And of course The One.

More than 500 years after Galileo and Bruno, we are still stuck with the morality of the medieval. Most of the countries don't even tackle it explicit in their supposedly free constitutions. So the question of individual or the group - which is primary, still remains.

It appalls me when educated people who have had occasion to study the history of mankind; who know how hard each individual freedom has been won; still take to the streets to claim another man's mill land for the city. No one protests the stupid FSI rule, in fact some of these well meaning bleeding hearts support the horrible FSI rule and applaud the courts every time they cut down on TDR which enhances the narrow FSI, just as narrowly.

None of these so called liberal intellectuals protest the Octroi which affects every individual in the city, be it beggar or broker.

These liberals cannot still make up their minds about reservation in centers of excellence.

They could not make up their mind about the cartoon controversy either. When a writer's freedom of expression is threatened, one expects other writers to protest such threats, and to show solidarity by sharing the expression with readers fearlessly, instead we find the same liberals whose hearts go out to human rights violations in Iraq, acquiesce to the fundamentalist's line that there is a limit to the freedom of expression.

I said that day that when we agree to censorship, the ban mongers will land up in each of our houses with increasingly ridiculous demands on the limits of our freedom of expression.

That's exactly what happened within 60 days. They landed up on my doorstep with a demand to ban or censor objectionable portions in my film sacred evil. This after the learned censors of the land had passed the film with no cuts.

It is like a car, if you never take the car out on the highway for a drive on the open road, gradually the engine forgets it can do 140kms per hour without breaking into a sweat. It gets used to the stop start traffic and the jerky shift from the third to the first gear. It forgets the overdrive and begins to believe it is beneficial to have a restriction on the speed limit at 50.

The freedom deniers keep upping their ante when we don't keep pushing the limits of our freedom.

There seems to be a limit to all our inherent undeniable rights. Who sets these limits? Invariably you'll find a group of people pitted against that vulnerable minority of one. For whom no one takes to the streets.

Originally our rights are meant to balanced (I won't even use the word curtailed, because rights curtailed are rights denied) by others rights. But with each passing day this interpretation is being twisted by the liberals not to mention the fundamentalists, to create new limited boundaries of freedom.

To give an example, I go back to that PEN meeting on censorship. An extremely learned and equally articulate editor of a prominent Marathi daily tried to argue the case for limitation of individual freedom by citing an old English adage : your freedom stops where my nose begins. Then proceeded to apply that to the cartoon controversy. I couldn't believe my anguished ears!
Your rights stop where my nose begins, is one of the best ways to understand our freedoms. The nose is the most extended extremity of our bodies in normal circumstances, with due apologies to the fairer sex - so the nose signifies that when our rights intrude on another physically, then we must withdraw lest we infringe on his/her rights. It clearly draws the distinction between the mind and the body. To kill someone in the pursuit of my right to life is not ordinarily justified but to kill someone's arguments by another argument is my inalienable birthright. It also makes it clear that freedom of expression is not limited by anyone's nose as no one knows the smell of expression. Of course the fundamentalists know how to raise the stench of medieval graves and the liberals know how to spread the stink beyond the boundaries of those Islamic danger zones.

That is the bottom-line then. As long as the practice of my rights do not physically intrude on another, I must have unbridled use of my rights.

A poster, a banner, a cartoon, an affront or a verbal or written abuse is not physically injurious and so cannot and should not be allowed to become an issue.
No one should be allowed claims of mental injury as it is one's own duty to maintain mental strength and fight the battles of the mind with the mind.
This is the basis of civilization; we have reduced the battles of the physical to the realms of the mind.
To be mindless then is not a right in the free society. As also there is no right to resort to physical violence in a free society. insanity and guns are both not conducive to the practice of our individual freedoms and the insane and the gunweilder are both then citizens of the province of the freedom deniers and no wonder often it is impossible to distinguish the insane from the one who wields the gun.

We must make it clear that nosaying is not an option. In a free society the one thing that cannot be permitted is saying no to any peaceful pursuit.

Booker winner Ian mcewan in his new novel Saturday has written a passage which I will quote: Perowne steps under the shower, a forceful cascade pumped down from the third floor tank. When this civilization fails, when the Romans, whoever they are this time round, have finally left and the new dark ages begin, this will be one of the first luxuries to go. the old folk crouching by their peat fires will tell their disbelieving grandchildren of standing naked midwinter under jet streams of hot clean water, of lozenges of scented soaps and of viscous amber and vermilion liquids they rubbed into their hair to make it glossy and more voluminous than it really was and of thick white towels as big as togas, waiting on warming racks.

And again: what simple accretions have brought the humble kettle to this peak of refinement: jug-shaped for efficiency, plastic for safety, wide spout for ease of filling, and clunky little platform to pick up the power. he never complained about the old style - the sticking tin lid, the thick black feminine socket, waiting to electrocute wet hands seemed in the nature of things. But someone had thought about this carefully, and now there's no going back. The world should take note.


There is no going back.
So, no, the tribes do not have the right to languish in their prehistoric backwardness.
No, the economically underprivileged uneducated have no right to say no to the educated privileged.
They must pay the price of freedom.
Every privileged person has won that right the hard way and all underprivileged must do so too. They have the right to earn privilege and they must. And no, one cannot argue that privilege has been inherited.
Bill Gates' father was not a billionaire, nor was dhirubhai's, abdul kalam's father was not a doctorate and no he didn't buy him a seat at harvard, mani bhowmick rose from a famine stricken midnapore family to invent laser surgery that has freed me from the need to wear specs with a power of minus7 and yes he made millions from that invention and no the other 100 kids from his village didn't.
They didn't bother to walk the 10 miles to school in the post flood muck like mani did for years.

My grandfather didn't speak a word of English and died when my father was 10. he left his family penniless. I myself left home when I was 19. There was a time when I lived in a slum without a toilet and only a tap for a bathroom and when the lift carries me to my 23rd floor duplex today, I know I have earned it. I have sustained myself for 15 years on my own without any inherited privilege except my dna.
I never did graduation in English but I have earned more from writing in English than most Indians who have been educated in England. I have paid the price to be where I am. The price is called struggle.

And when my American agent tells me my screenplay has sold but I will get only one tenth of what an American author would get for the same sale, I don't whine at the American writer's privilege. Jefferson has earned it for him. And perhaps if I fight well I too will be able to earn it for my countrymen.

I am nearing the end of my agonized tirade and because all things that end well are well, rather wellier than the rest; let's look at the possibilities that present themselves before us.

Where are we going? Freedom and the Next Paradigm shift

I am going to quote from my essay on The Next Civilization.

Each new Age in human civilization brings its own mode of production and its own barometer of wealth as also its own system of trade. The means of production in the Agricultural age was human labor and a piece of land, wealth was basically how much land you possessed and how much that land yielded in terms of crop. Money was around but barter was fine. Wealth was not measured in terms of money yet. Trade was an informal system of barter.

The industrial age changed all that. The means of production was machine and man's labor. Capital and labor. Wealth was money itself. Money was no longer only currency - it was capital itself. You could buy and sell money. Trade was not possible without money. If you had land and couldn't get rent or sell it for money, you were as poor as if you never owned anything. You might have owned a million shares but if you couldn't monetize them, you were hoarding junk. Your labor was useless unless someone paid you money in exchange. This is the principal difference between the Age of Agriculture and the Age of Industry. In the Agriculture Age you produced what you consumed and what was extra you bartered for stuff you called luxury. In the Industrial Age you consumed what you could never produce yourself and you needed money to consume the bare necessities. It was complicated and it disconnected a vast majority from the cycle of consumption as they didn't have the basic currency to be part of the exchange mechanism – the market.

But that is changing in the information Age. Before EBAY came along – imagine an unemployed Martin in Arkansas whose sole possession is his labor and a bunch of old Vogue magazines that his mother used to collect. What could he have done if couldn't get a job. He couldn't monetize his Vogue magazines in the small town he lived in. But in the Age of Information and EBAY, he sold his collection to me across 8000 kilometers just when I needed it desperately for my film shoot. He could monetize seemingly worthless junk as we could connect directly with each other. EBAY is not a conventional market. It is a peer to peer mechanism of exchange. Often it is only an exchange of information. It even facilitates barter.

We see outsourcing all around us. Why? Because everything that a man can do – that part of a man's labor that can be digitized will be digitized and become commoditized. This will proceed at such a rate that soon there will be very few things that man will be able to charge for as fees for his labor. Though this will be a destabilizing factor for millions of people, this is not a bad thing at all. At last man will be free from the tyranny of physical labor. He will have to find ways for monetizing who he is and not what he can do with his hands. How unique he is and what unique value he as a human being can bring to his fellow beings will determine how much he is worth. Surely a human being is not human because he can make his hands produce rice or turn a lever or punch a few keys. He is human because he can think, he can emote, he can empathize, he can help and he can entertain. In short he is as good as his imagination is.

Welcome to the Age of Imagination. A short 39-44 years away. In between will come the shortest of All Ages in History : from 2025 to 2037- 45. The Knowledge Age, where for a brief period the barometer of wealth will be knowledge. Some will also call this the Age of Energy as the only other measure of wealth will be who has the highest control of the World's Energy. But all this will change with the Advent of the Age of Imagination. In this Age there will be a New Economy (not the one we now call the dot com bust) that will be as much about valuation as the dot com bubble. But the valuations will be of human beings and the product of their minds. And this won't be a bubble. This Age will last a minimum Thousand years. The Next leap in Human Civilization will come only after that long a time because the implications of the Age of Imagination will boggle the human minds burdened with the baggage-thought of the preceding Agricultural (feudal), Industrial (imperial), Information (corporate marketing) Ages. That Age after 1000 years is beyond Imagination. It could be anything that our grandchildren wish to create. Yes, it will be the Age of Creation. The Final Frontier. When finally we will be able to gaze at the face of God. And when finally, He will embrace us as his equals.

This is the process which the proponents of Censorship and Fatwas want limited and sabotaged. They want to gag our imaginations.

When I started writing for this presentation, a line kept bubbling up over and over again.

NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR YOUR imagination. YOU ARE YOUR imagination.

Let's revise that collectivist motto of daylight robbery and parasitism: From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs.


This then should be our code in the Age of Imagination and beyond:

I am here to create. Because nothing that is created can ever be destroyed completely.
Our first goal is to be happy.
Second is to create. Create anything that can make us or others happy.
But create we must. This is the second will of the Universe. It manifests itself in Creation and all us created beings have to carry the task forward.

God created us in his own image and we must create just like him. God doesn't distinguish between good creation and bad creation, he creates prey and predator with the same skill and same love.

But God insists we create something unique. For in God's creation every one of us is unique. Happiness is served only by Creation of Uniqueness. A moment, a gesture, a face, a touch, a poem, a story, a sunset...nothing impacts us if we have experienced it before.

This now is what I know as nature of The Truth: we are here to be happy by creating new experiences. We can choose to be victims or victors, brutal and brutalized, melancholic and forlorn but we can also choose to be compassionate and kind, joyous and inventive, original and the best of this possible world.

True evil is nothing but the impulse to steal, subvert, fake and destroy the creation of The Original.

To all who read this and have felt this truth in their souls, I tell you: be undaunted, what you create is your offering to HIM and his Creation. He will uphold. He will protect and He will experience the bliss you sought to create. Even when no one else does.

So don't stop creating. That is the wealth; you will carry beyond your grave.

The Grateful Universe will return to you the Creator, a hundred times the joy you helped Him experience; if not now then next time you choose to be Here!

Introducing: Caferati Listings

This is to inform you that we have now started a new mailing list, Caferati Listings.

Unlike most of our newsgroups, this one doesn't require moderator approval to join. And it is a send-only list, so you you will not be subjected to endless replies, debates and chatter.

To subscribe go to and sign up. (Or mail one of us, and we'll send you an invitation.)

About Caferati Listings

Since we have access to a bunch of writers, we get a lot of requests to help publicise contests and submissions to anthologies, list job openings and stuff like that. Some of these we post to our forum, or forward to our local groups. This can get tedious when done piecemeal. So we decided to create a separate newsletter devoted to just that task.

Caferati Listings will send out information about interesting writing opportunities, paid and unpaid (provided we think they're cool) and events.
This includes:
• Contests, online or in print.
• Calls For Submissions from publishing houses and the media, online or in print.
• Information on literary events and festivals that seek participation from outside their own geographical area.
• Job opportunities for writers, full-time, part-time, freelance, retainer-based or one-off assignments.


Emails to this list will never exceed one a week. More likely than not, it will be a comprehensive monthly mail, unless something very juicy, but with a very short deadline crops up.

You can also choose not to receive any emails, and only visit the group's home page whenever you please. (Just remember to bookmark it, hm?) You can adjust those settings when you sign up, or later, by visiting the group's page.


Caferati's editors are the only ones who will have access to the email address you use to subscribe to Caferati Listings.

We will never sell, rent or lend this list to any other person or organisation.

Submissions to Caferati Listings

You are invited, nay, urged, to send in information about contests, events, writing opportunities, calls for submissions, literature festivals and the like.

You need not be the person behind whatever it is you're submitting. You're welcome to send us tip-offs and links as well. In the case of tip-offs, we will credit the first person to send in a particular item. Like so: Via: Salman Naipaul, your URL (if you send us one). Please let us know if you do not want to be credited.

Mail editors AT caferati DOT com, and use the words For Listings - Submission or For Listings - Tip in the subject line to ensure you get past our spam filters. (Do NOT mail the group directly. It is, as we said, a one-way mailing list, so your mail won't reach us or Caferati Listings subscribers.)

Make your submission brief, and do include URLs where those interested can get more info.

Ideal submission:
• Name of event or opportunity
• Brief explanation
• Rewards
• Conditions / restrictions / deadlines
• URL for more information, if necessary
• Your name and URL

Conditions for Submissions

Do NOT send us email with attachments. We won't open them.

If there is any kind of entry, admission or application fee, please state that clearly.

Likewise with deadlines, and any other restrictions or conditions.

For unpaid writing opportunities, please state why you think the opportunity is worth the application.

If you submit a paid job opportunity, please state clearly the experience, qualifications and/or certifications you consider mandatory, contact details for queries, and the preferred method of, and deadline for, application.

If you're including a "more information" URL, please link directly to the relevant page or permalink. Don't post a parent site site link and expect people to go search. If you're expecting us to hunt and then list your submission, we have two words for you. Ha. Ha.

Caferati's editors reserve the right to refuse to include your submission, and to not give you any reasons for refusal.

Listing events or opportunities will be free for as long as we can manage it.
However, if this list becomes insanely popular (we wish!), and begins to take up large amounts of the time we set aside to earn our livings, we may consider charging for submissions, particularly where the person or organisation making the submission stands to make money. This will be with plenty of advance notice. And if we do so, paid submissions will be in a separate, clearly marked section.

Strictly local events

For information on Caferati's own local read-meets and other strictly local writing-related events and opportunities, please check if we have your city covered in our list of local newsgroups (URLs below), and subscribe to one of those.

Just to make this clear, you don't have to be a Caferati member to subscribe to Caferati Listings. Of course, for those of you who aren't, we would be thrilled to see you on our free Forum, currently hosted on Ryze.

Thank you.

~ Annie Zaidi, Manisha Lakhe, Peter Griffin
News for members:
Announcements of contests we run, endorse or partner:

Local Groups in India:

Local Groups elsewhere:


Coffee In Times of War...

Just the other day a friend asked
Have you ever tried war poetry?
War, I said, I haven’t seen one.
I was only born in seventy-one.
I’ve often seen pictures –
Oh why pictures! Even a painting
in a restaurant once –
of a Sikh General
making the Pakistanis
sign the surrender.
And then I grew up
reading lessons, history
about World War One and World War Two,
Plassey, Panipat, Waterloo,
War & Peace, The Day of Armistice,
the ancient tales of the Mahabharata,
the Muharram majlises, Karbala.

But then who needs textbooks these days?
Television brings Beirut live, like irrelevant foreplay.
And if this isn’t enough there are movies –
A Bridge too Far, Platoon, Killing Fields.

But no, I have never seen a war.
I don’t know what it means
to sit through blackouts, power outages,
to hold my breath and wait
for a bomb to detonate.
I don't know what it means
to have splinters of plastic and tin
pierce through my clothes, skin.
I don't know what it means
to lose an eye, to lose a limb.
I haven’t seen my child without her head.
I don’t know what it means
when a mother grieves for her dead.
The closest I have seen a man’s guts
split wide open was from a scene
in a movie called Saving Private Ryan.

I don’t know what it means
to run from desk to desk
in a dank office corridor
asking for compensation
for a son dead in a war.

I don’t know…

My words trailed in the wispy heat
of Delhi’s August afternoon street.

My friend cursed himself
for bringing this topic up,
dunked his biscuit in his coffee,
as I waved to the waiter,
May we have more of these, please!

© Dan Husain
August 23, 2006

PS: This version is a stanza shorter than the one on my blog. I felt it was unnecessary. Thanks.


02 September, 2006

Munnabhai MBBS (MMBBS) and Rang de Basanti (RDB) – Flawed Beyond Recompense

Both are, in a manner of speaking, super-duper hits. Both are targeted at the Indian youth and makes pretenses to be different cinema. Both have captured the imagination of the Indian youth who swear by the originality of both movies, not realizing that both movies are flawed beyond recompense, at least, to me, a minority of one.

RDB was shown on Independence Day, probably to incite patriotic feeling in citizens. Patriotism? Is killing your own father – as one of the protagonists does, although, the subject is a corrupt politician – patriotism? The message here is that murder is good and that would include parricide. Are we back in the dark ages? Amir Khan in a scene from the film is clearly shown giving money to a policeman to stay off a fight that his friends had started. The message here is that bribery is also very good and worth emulating.

In another scene which I found very objectionable, the character played by Amir Khan is shown standing on a high wall bending backwards and drinking beer, a hit song sequence, I guess. Drinking while bending backwards down into a precipitous pond is a juvenile and dangerous exercise for a youth, of that everyone is aware. But the movie is absolutely insouciant about the wrong images it is sending to the youth. Firstly, the impression created is that drinking is good, and drinking and doing risky things are even better.

What sort of message does this convey to the youth? I will summarize: Parricide is good, bribery is good, drinking and doing foolish stunts is good. How can such a movie not even be panned by critics who rave about its great qualities and even confer awards on it? How can a censor board – which has been constituted for this purpose – not object, at least, where the politician is shown as being bad and killed by his own son?

There are many more flaws in this supposedly youth cult film which I am not mentioning here. One of them is lewd remarks made to a white girl which she cannot understand. It is clear that there is sexual harassment involved. The movie left a bad taste in my mouth. Are our youth so cynical as to applaud all these bad qualities in themselves? The stereotype here is youth of the north somewhere around the Punjab. Do they behave so grossly, if so, what can the nation expect from these citizens? Peace or violence?

This is over the top, way too exaggerated, and made with a view to appeal to the baser instincts of viewers. Is it an ironic reflection of the state we are in that this movie is a huge hit?

Here's another flawed film that is a super box-office hit. Here the protagonists are Central Indians, most notably Bambaiya, and talk the language of the Bombay hoodlums. The character played by Sanjay Dutt is admitted to a medical degree college to train as a doctor. There is a shortage of bodies to be dissected and the hoodlum phones his sidekick to bring him a body from somewhere. The sidekick played by Harshad Warsi clobbers and kidnaps an oriental-looking man and brings him to the dissecting table.

Okay, okay, what went wrong here? Raju Hirani, in an interview said the film portrays some of the problems that MBBS students face during their training. Yes, there is a shortage of bodies in medical colleges, but, can it be solved by clobbering a foreign-looking oriental and bringing him to the laboratory in a sack? Again, what message are you sending across Raju Hirani?

Munnabhai doesn't know a single letter in the proverbial three "r's", even to spell or sign his own name and forces a doctor to impersonate him in the medical college entrance examination. And, surprise, surprise, he is admitted. He is doing all this to take revenge for some slight against his family's honor. Message: cheating in exams is good for your family honor.

The irony doesn't end there. Munnabhai becomes a doctor in the end. That means cheating, lying, impersonating, threatening teachers; all are accepted behavior in Indian medical colleges. Believe me when I say freaky messages are being conveyed here, messages full of bitterness, insubordination, deprivation, and the use of violence.

Would the people of India trust the medical fraternity after seeing such gross exaggerations of their profession? Why didn't they speak out? Is that again an indication of some malaise at the root of the medical system that extracts millions of rupees from students seeking admission into medical colleges?

And this film too is a box office hit. It raked in enough cash to encourage the director to make a sequel with the same theme. The sequel goes a bit further and hints that hoodlums should be treated on the level of national figures – with pictures of them printed on currency notes. What an insult to the nation's leadership! I can only say, what guts and gumption these directors exhibit to the public, and that when it comes to exaggerations Indian films recognize no boundaries.

As they say, "Whither, Indian Cinema?"
Tags: , , , , , ,