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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

26 April, 2006

interior monologue

where do you see yourself four years from now?

Four? why not five? ten? I've been asked those before.
Four. This is new, what do you mean,
The seasons, the winds? I am in the doldrums,
All I hear is static, red sand whirling through my brains,
Four, four, what is this number? The trinity and I
Accusing each other, three times you deny Me,
Four you kill me.

Three minutes to die by hanging, four
For transit, four fretboard-scarred fingers,
Playing four beats a complete note,
In four minutes I complete this call, four
Corners in a page I tear out, where do I see myself?
Scattered life history no one wants to read
In a rational four-dimensional world.

Four years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds,
Time, ticking four, clanging bells, the wandering
Account of deserts in Numbers, wars with the Lord,
The unspoken Word and death wrapped in four,
where am I in this? between the unread
And the undead, I float wraith-like haunting the
Doppleganger infinite in enclosed mirrors of four.

where do you see yourself four years from now?

In a cage making music within bars,
Beats of four and then silence for-ever.
Writing four octaves waiting for the curse of the ninth,
Dying fall and then deafening silence.
Gazing at the broken notes written on stars,
Bleeding from jagged edges and then
Four times four millenia of rests.


My Burning Tree

you are my tree
the great big tree in the middle
of the road next to the restaurant
which divides those who burn their lungs
and those who get burnt anyway,
you shade them both

you are my tree
but you belong to other trees separated
by miles of winding roads
and I am just another passerby using you
not wanting to get burnt,
you shade me well

you are my tree
the great big tree that I want to
hold on to and take refuge in as I flee
the flames that follow me to the depths
of blank pages getting burnt,
you form words out of ashes

you are my tree
the tree I wish others don't burn and bruise
as they hurtle through life's fast lane
but I can only wish and pray
for you to stay thru fire and rain,
you keep me alive


25 April, 2006

"Give me your poems": An afternoon with Lyubomir Levchev

Three days ago, Lyubomir Levchev came to read on campus, in celebration of National Poetry Month here in yankville. Lyubomir is a Bulgarian poet, and this was his self introduction:

hello my friends, of famous rogers williams college.
I am lyubomir.
I dont speak english.
But after 2nd bottle, I speak english.

Sitting there with notepad and cranberry juice, I couldn't take my eyes off the old man: he has one of those faces that time's used like it would an old tree trunk-- wrinkles, warts and mottled skin like lichen and moss and owls nest in the top branches. He has the most beautiful smile, and carries his cane instead of leaning on it. He came with his lovely wife, his translator, and his publisher and friend, Alexander Taylor, one of the directors of Curbstone Press, and a poet in his own right.

Something about Lyubomir caught my imagination: I have never scribbled down so much verse thanks to the presence of one old man, ever before. His publisher read Levchev's work in english, and then the poet would read the same in Bulgarian:

He tells his translator,
no stopping.
Refuses to read, like a 5 year old
at his eye doctor's clinic,
and holds his cane
while listening,
like a flower

Levchev wanted Taylor to keep reading, while he sat there and listened, intently.

What a face!
If only this pen was a brush,
and I, Rembrandt.

He could've sat in a boat
on a wharf
in a ditch,
reading poetry with a pipe.

He smiles.
What a face!
I mourn my lack.

Lyubomir only picks up his cane
and points to the poetry growing
outside the window.

I kept scribbling things like this throughtout the two-hour reading. Levchev has written some fine poetry. The official blurb on him, according to the PEN American Centre is as follows:

Lyubomir Levchev was born on April 27, 1935, in Troyan, Bulgaria. He has published over 20 volumes of poetry and two novels. Over 60 of his books have been published in 33 countries. He has been awarded the Gold Medal for Poetry of the French Academy and the title Knight of Poetry, the Grand Prize of the Alexander Pushkin Institute and the Sorbonne, and the World Award of Mystic Poetry Fernando Rielo. Levchev is the founder and editor of the international literary magazine Orpheus.

Taylor, while introducing Levchev, said that the President of Bulgaria visited him, and that he was the lion of Bulgarian poetry. Hearing this-- albeit translated-- Levchev let loose a loud belly laugh, rocking back and forth in his chair in his merriment. His translator then said to us, "he says, 'very well if you say so'". Little things like this kept the audience charmed throughout the reading.

The first poem that Taylor read, was called 'Lullaby', and is translated from the Bulgarian by Valentin Krustev:

by Lyubomir Levchev

The boy was standing at the exit
of the new gas-station
like a deadlock,
like a gas pump,
like an air hose.
I braked suddenly to pick him up.
And only then did I notice
what an evil appearance he had.
I asked him:
“Which way?”
“To Plovdiv,” the hitch-hiker grumbled.
“Eh!” I joked bluntly like an intellectual.
“Such a young boy
to such an old city!”
“Oh, fuck this face of mine!
Could you, too, guess
that I still have no ID card?”
“But why are you cursing?”
“Because they won’t give me a job.
I can’t get started.
Do you know what it’s like
to be
and yet be unable to make a start?…”
I gave him a piece of chocolate.
He ate it up at once
and fell asleep.
I watched him, just in case,
in the rearview mirror,
in the loop of sleep.
His hair, long as a wig,
made him look like
a premature Robespierre.

And so we flew across eternity
like two centuries,
like two tenses:
past continuous
and a future that cannot begin.
Meanwhile the whirling wind hummed a lullaby:
Sleep, sleep, my boy.
It’s not your fault,
But our shameless falseness.
Sleep, but don’t trust Fukuyama.
History exists.
History is searching.
And soon
it will find you a job.
Oh, what a job!
They will remember you!

Levchev is part of the 'PEN World Voices: The New York festival of International Literature' which will be on from April 25-30. He will be there along with Chinua Achebe, Martin Amis, Upamanyu Chatterjee, Russel Banks, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie and others.

I bought his latest book, "Ashes of Light", and went up to say hello to him. He looks at me, takes my wrist in his hand and greets me in the old-fashioned way:

To say hello,
he lifted the back of my hand
to his nose and moustache.
Reverent aged touch.

Automatic, I would've done
the deep namaskaram,
shishya arriving after a long journey.

He prevents action by
gripping my hand and growling
"give me your poems"

Breathless, I read him my scribblage.
I gasp out, "this has not happened before"
Yes, he smiles. This is how it starts.

That's exactly what he said: "Give me your poems". After reading a little of what I had written for him, he kissed my cheek and said, "thankyou". I cannot describe that moment well enough: everything came together, Levchev was an angel, the afternoon sun blazed in from the windows and my pen would not stop moving.

There was a conversation on poetics, as can be expected. Levchev spoke on translation, how he felt translation was a separate art by itself. He also said that if the translation sounds better than the original, then the translator has failed. Both Taylor and Levchev agreed that the literal meaning was not as important as the true sense and feeling of what the poet is trying to convey. Taylor quoted an anecdote that's attributed to some hispanic author whose name eludes me: a student once ran up to this great author with a translation and asked eagerly if it was right. The author in turn said yes, it is right, but the aroma has gone.

Levchev drew a self portrait in my copy of his book for me. He told me he has visited India twice, and loved the ashram at Pondicherry. I told him I had a Bulgarian friend I had met down in New Orleans. He clapped me on the shoulder, and smiling, rumbled in Bulgarian to his translator, who turned to me and said, "ah, now he says you are family".

Out of all the poems Taylor read, two poems by Levchev made a lasting impression. One was, called Tomorrow's Bread.

Tomorrow's Bread

Once I reproached my son
because he did not know
where to buy bread.
And now...
he is selling bread
in America.
in Washington.
In his daytime routine
he teaches at the university.
At night he writes poetry.
But on Saturdays and Sundays
he sells bread
on the corner of Nebraska and Connecticut.


In Sofia
the shades of old women
scour the dark.
Ransacking the rubbish bin they collect bread.
Pointing at one of them, a teacher
of history and Bulgarian language, they say:

"Don't jump to conclusions, take it easy!
She's not taking the bread for herself. She feeds
stray dogs
and birds."

And my words too are food for dogs
and birds.

Oh God!
Why am I alive?
Why do I wander alone in the Rhodopes?
Why do I gaze down abandoned wells?
Why do I dig into caves where people lie?
And pass the night in sacred places, renounced by you?

I am seeking the way
to the last magician's hideout,
he who forgot to die
but has not forgotten the secret of bread.
Not today's bread, which is for sale,
not yesterdays bread which has been dumped...
I must know the secret of tomorrow's bread.
The bread we kiss in awe.
The bread that takes our children by the hand
and leads them all back home.

You wrote of bread,
and your son who sells it
at the corner of Nebraska and Connecticut.

You wrote of Sofia,
old women finding bread in dust-bins,
and your son, and no bulgarian bread in sight.

I wept silently,
thinking of my professor, Cyrus Partovi,
who will not return to Iran
but misses his mother's

We took plenty of pictures, which the media person said she'd send over in a few days time. He stopped smoking two years ago, for health reasons. But he stole a smoke from his wife, as she, the translator, the publisher and I stood outside the library, waiting for their ride to come up. For Priyanka, he said. Mike and Alex and some of the others came out then, and we exchanged hugs, and cards, and email addresses.

"To PriYanka- poet
From LYubo


He wrote it like that, Y's overlong. I asked him to come to India again. He crossed himself, with a little half-smile, half-nod.

I hope he makes it.


Cross-posted, ergo was here first.

22 April, 2006


"Our love must be inadquate,"
you tell me
"that's why you seek out
other skins
other lusts..."

But what if I tell you how
the day I was born
what an endless greed it was
that came over me
night after night
I puckered my lips
and bawled lustily
for my mother's breast
my face purple
the fevered zest of life
racking my tiny body.

What if I tell you how
even today
this greed courses unbounded
through my veins my gaze my loins
what if I tell you
there is no inadequacy
except in me.



1. A set of gradations that show positions or values.

2. The act of checking or adjusting (by comparison with a standard) the accuracy of a measuring instrument.

I'm here wanting to be there
and not sure if that is right.

I hear clocks chiming dark music
and not sure if the beat is right.

I look into a mirror
and not sure if I see me right.

I smell carrion rejected by scavengers
and not sure if they are right.

I drink poison from slashed veins
and not sure if it tastes right.

I sense a change in the wind
and not sure it blows me left or right.

But this much I know:

A check on my bearings to right a wrong
Is to wrong my right to leave what was right.

So right now what is wrong
Will be adjusted to what I assume is right.

Though an alignment to right what's left
May result in a loss of words once felt right.

So I'm left here wanting to be right there
and not sure if that is...


21 April, 2006

If Only...

a few pithy meets

(what a pity…)

didn’t even know
if I liked what I saw

what conclusions to draw

studied words,
tempered actions
flitting eyes
discomfited at being
caught in the act

of fake fending

yes, these were mutual

only these were mutual…

have we self-timed-out
ourselves in life?

but that too,
guess I’ll never know


19 April, 2006

I Shouldn't Have

I should've known better
After aeons of pacing barefoot
On cold spaces, counting squares,
That numbers bring no sleep but
A countdown to crash and burn.

I should've known better
After hours spent in silent darkness
And fears translated to silent screams,
That words spoken bring no relief but
Cause friends to fall apart.

I should've known better
Than to drag your head to this shell
To listen to raging seas
That splinter words
And ruptures your eardrum.


18 April, 2006


Except suitcases, replicating
As you move from city to city;
Filled with shards from rooms.

You carry these:
Floors that transform
Into faces into words into sentences
Devoid of expression adjectives punctuation
(You travel lighter faster);
Ashes that flap around
Build columns of fire
Around soul standing still watching
partaking in self-destruction.

You throw these:
Papers that bleed on
Clocks you smashed to freeze a moment
That melts at a song bruise touch in absentia
(You travel lighter faster);
Knives that glint at night
Carve patterns
On walls cracking still defending
attacking for self-preservation.

Except suitcases, replicating
As you move from city to city;
Filled with shards from empty rooms.


17 April, 2006

Written on Easter Morning, April 16th, 2006

Have you seen my lord?
I sit by this grave by day, by night,
I wait, I watch,
For signs of life within
As it passes me by without,
And I stare and wonder
If walking sleeping waking without you
Is a kind of existence
Worth breathing for.

Have you seen him?
Been three days, a day
A thousand years,
And all is emptiness, darkness, silence,
Wordless, yet I keep you
Alive in my heart, allow you
To consume my
Body and soul with your fire,
My hell your grave.

Have you seen him?
I look back and turn to stone
And now fall apart
Shattered to nothingness,
I do this knowingly, for
To free you from within
I have to die a million deaths,
Become a myth of your past and leave
No traces on your resurrected body.

Do you see him?
Now he rises, breaks through my stone heart,
Consumes what remains of me,
Walks over my watery grave
As the storehouse of my tears burst into
Raging storms of longing;
He rises and walks away
Away from my grave,
Increases as I decrease.


under their eager gaze

we are dancing
on the strip of carpet
and they crane their necks
outside the window
pupils turning as they follow
our bodies
through the glass

with a soft towel i blindfold you
and you me
now we don't have to see
all those eyes
googling us

and now i am holding you close
or you me i cannot tell
the swell of your body
pressing against me
your hand moving gently
along my back
and now i look up
and our lips touch

and now one by one
our clothes come off
skin to skin we dance
i put my hand on yours
bring it to my breasts
and we make love standing
my left leg resting tense
on the shelf

under their eager gaze
we are making love now
but for our blindfolds


16 April, 2006

Book Review - The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner-Khaled Hosseini

In his debut novel, Khaled Hosseini takes us to Afghanistan. An Afghanistan untouched by the Taliban, where we weave through crowded streets, climb poplar trees, nibble on dried mulberries and walnuts and spend lazy holidays readings books with 12 year old Amir and his servant boy and best friend Hassan.

Amir is desperate to win a local kite-flying tournament to gain the approval of his silently critical father. Hassan loyally promises to help his friend, little knowing how this one day would change the course of their entire lives.

‘The Kite Runner’ is about friendship and brotherhood and fathers and sons. Of relationships that strain against the boundaries of trust.Of circumstances and personal devils. Of the mistakes we make and the mistakes that make us. Of redemption and guilt and the power of freedom and forgiveness. Of unconditional love and unsullied trust.

The simplest writing that you can come across, which reminds you how difficult it is to write in simple words, once again. A credible story that comes full circle across continents, from an unblemished Afghanistan to modern America and back to a war-torn Taliban ruled Afghanistan. A story that reminds you how one moment can change your entire life.

There are books that punch you violently and you are left reeling from the blow for a long, long time (The Fight Club-Chuck Palahniuk)
Books which impress you with exquisite language and minute detailing (Shantaram-Gregory David Roberts)
Classics that can be quoted by generation after generation (Gone with the wind-Margaret Mitchell)
A ‘bible’ like ‘The Godfather’ which is treasured a like family heirloom.

And sometimes comes a book which quietly seeps into your entire being and stays there forever. A book that is so simply written that it can only be felt. That book is ‘The Kite Runner’.



14 April, 2006

pssst! wanna become a hollywood co-producer?

when i first heard the word 'co-producer' i fell off the chair laughing. was it something like a 'co-sister' or even 'co-brother'? i looked at the serious faces around the table and stopped. the lawyer wasn't laughing, and neither was the accountant.

so this is what it means to have your film thrown open to all.

i have been through endless meetings where words like 'co-producer' have been created, debated upon and finalised after having gone through a legal seive. i have grabbed my share of re-fried samosas and bit into fried green chillis to stay awake at these meetings. whoever thought making a movie was all fun and games and a giant session on the casting couch has never really created a film.

and this is even before we get anywhere near a mahurat shot.

and yes, you can become a co-producer. for as little as a hundred dollars, you get to see your name in the list of credits, and more (the fine print is online for you to read!).

the story is a cocktail of culture and crime, and i hope you will become a part of this film.

here's the link to the blog of the film, and you can get on to the website from there.

12 April, 2006

Dom Moraes - A Poet Extraordinaire!

I was then working in Colaba and I used to bump into Dom Moraes quite a lot. At the bank, in the bookshop, this gentle looking, shy man with a receding chin, looked the most improbable of celebrities that he was elsewhere in the world. He wore ordinary clothes and didn't have the assumptions one would have of a poet. I knew of his fame and therefore hesitated every time I came face to face with him. How I wish I had introduced myself.

The most unapproachable thing about him was that he always looked down and not ahead of him. Mostly he had his glasses perched at the tip of his nose. The forbidding thing about him was his reputation as a poet who had made it big, and the fact that he had married one of the most beautiful women in the world, Leela Naidu. But now I realize, it wasn't his fame and the fact that he had married a beautiful woman that made him unapproachable, but his shyness. He lived and loved his own way and had had a very interesting life. Several wives, and a trusted muse with whom I often saw him at Kala Ghoda.

A brief biographical sketch.

Dom was born in Bombay; into a Goan family. His father was Frank Moraes, editor of The Times of India. Frank Moraes was well known for his journalistic writing and Dom grew up in the shadow of a celebrity. May be this was what made him very diffident and a very protected child. He received a Jesuit education and had opportunities to travel to many countries. It is probably this wanderlust that took him to several countries as a war correspondent and a travel writer.

After two years in Sri Lanka, at the age of 16 Dom arrived in England. In 1956, he began reading English at Jesus College, Oxford. The following year, his first book of poems, A Beginning, was published by David Archer's Parton Press (which had published Dylan Thomas's first) and, in 1958, it won the Hawthornden Prize for "the best work of imagination". Dom was the first non-English person to win the prize, and was also the youngest.

WH Auden read and liked his work, and, Stephen Spender - who first met him in Bombay - was publishing him in Encounter magazine.

In 1960, he published Poems, and the autobiographical Gone Away, about his travels in India. The Brass Serpent - translations from Hebrew poetry - followed in 1964, and John Nobody the year after that, that is, 1965. All were received well, Dom became a familiar and well-liked figure at poetry readings and in poets' pubs in England.

By 1966, he had published Poems 1955-65. Two years later, in 1967, he settled in Islington, and published his autobiography, My Son's Father.

In 1968, Dom settled back in India for good, only resuming the writing of verse in the late 1970s. In 1988, he published his Collected Poems, and two years after we met came more poems in Serendip.

But then the poetry muse left him. He was bitten by the journalism bug.

He traveled - he was to mention that he had visited every country in the world - and wrote journalistic accounts, travel books and a biography of Mrs. Gandhi (1980). A compelling study of several states of India including Himachal Pradesh, and Karnataka forms his travelogues.

A third volume of autobiography, Never At Home (1994), was followed in 2001 by another poetry collection, In Cinnamon Shade. He also contributed to Voices of the Crossing (2000), edited by Naseem Khan and Ferdinand Dennis, on the impact of England on writers from the subcontinent and the Caribbean. He co-edited The Penguin Book Of Indian Journeys (2001), and last year published The Long Strider. For television, he scripted - and sometimes directed - more than 20 documentaries.

Dom's contacts with English friends were, it seemed, few. He kept up with the loyal Peter Levi. His first marriage, to Henrietta Moraes (obituary, January 8 1999), and his third marriage were dissolved. His second wife, Judy, predeceased him. In the last stage of his affliction with cancer Sarayu Srivastava was his companion and muse.


More Reading:,3604,1231084,00.html

11 April, 2006

These Days...


These days
I find everything staged:
the words of comfort you plant,
the concern that I fake,
the platitudes that we toss,
twirl, throw into each other’s face.
How brittle is our truth
that we wrap it with pretexts
believing love holds good
only in certain contexts.


The other day
at Carter Road,
when the Sun was
a speck of orange in your eye
and the world
a soot covered portrait,
I felt I had a poem for you
but then, these days, I don’t write poems.
I look for words instead,
words that string into freshly minted idioms;
idioms that burrow into the silences
you puncture our conversations with.


In the quietness of the night
the simmering underbelly
of this ever-changing city
explodes into a shrill scream
unheard from the glistening
living rooms of Malabar Hill
draped with Bach's Symphony.

But I strain to hear your voice
in this mutinous noise…

© Dan Husain
March 25, 2006


08 April, 2006

An SMS Poem

(: but not in SMSese :)

People saved love-letters, once;
mementoes, tied up with a ribbon
or a shoe-lace.
Souvenirs for solitary moments,
opened, smiled at, re-bound.
Or, more often, forgotten,
to be found 27 years later
when spring-cleaning.

I held your words too,
in their 160-character slices,
abbreviated, condensed, concentrated.
I held them close, took them everywhere –
added more, agonising over which one to delete,
because the phone card could take no more –
took them out to read
in strange, lonely places,
in crowded parties and busses,
in moments of joy
and sadness,
recalling special moments,
admissions made hurriedly.

I held your words next to me,
possessively, desperately
(one can't be parted
from one's phone these days,
which makes a good alibi),
unable to let go.

I guess I knew
I'd accepted that you
wouldn't be coming back
when I deleted them.




[There's an older version of this here.]


07 April, 2006

The Other Deaths

My niece said,
What should I do
when people say,
"I'm sorry about your grandmother.
I'm sorry she died"?
And I gently gave her
a choice of stock answers
that may help her get by.

These are easy, I wanted to say
There are other deaths
that could freeze your words
and chill your heart.

Slowly they all died -
and Didi and Papaji and Nanima
and friends and relatives
and friends' relatives,
and strangers in global disasters.
The rituals of these deaths
are familiar now
and I have learned to order my grief,
mumble the right words, even
think the right thoughts to carry on
with or without the Alprax
and Bach flower remedies.

These are almost easy,I want to say.
There are other deaths
that chill my heart
and freeze my words.

What rituals should I follow
when friendship and trust die?
How accept the drowning
of civil dialogue;
the death of freedom and conviction,
of belief and human faith,
of compassion and love
What prayers should I perform?
How bury or cremate
my innocence and illusions?

What shall I say,
I want to ask my niece,
when people say
"I'm sorry about your friendship.
I'm sorry it died"?


05 April, 2006


I stood under the waterfall,
With fingers in my ears,
Listening to its song.

I drank the freshness,
Until something melted,
And the waterfall became me.

I smile when my toes
Curl around the rocks,
Made smooth by the song.

Wasn’t it but yesterday
When I had tentatively stepped,
Upon the sharp edges?

Should I stick out my tongue
To taste the waters,
And interrupt eternity?

The words of the song
dappled by the midday sun
Have long since washed away.

But every time I close my eyes
And breathe your name,
I am song, I am waterfall, again.


03 April, 2006

Tonight, I have questions for you

Tell me, do you see love when you walk into my room?
For under the sweetness of your façade virtuous
I cannot seem to see the love that you spout

Dear love, forget me
What do you see?

Tell me, what is it to see what you see?
Now that your lungs breathe 'pure love'
as you lie – eyes open wide –
under a momentary temptuous sky

Dear love, forget me.
What do you see?

Tell me, do you see love trails from my eyes?
When but, for his theft – a declaration of love
that brought chaos – you blushed shame
leaving me with a simmering summer vision

Dear love, forget me
What do you see?

Tell me, does your sight still glaze?
Maybe it gets tough through this serpentine
story of our jaded lives seeking chimeras

Dear love, forget me
What do you see?

Tell me, do you now see any worth?
Go on break the stupor. Blink.
Word your answers with care
for I might not in my pride see
what you might want me to see

Dear love, forget me
But gently, do tell me
What do you see?


(c) arjun chandramohan bali.


The Kitab Festival

Venue: Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi

Thursday 6 April

19:30 Festival Opening
by invitation only
Deborah Moggach reads from her novel These Foolish Things , set in Bangalore and is interviewed by Caroline Phillips.

Friday 7 April
10:00 William Dalrymple previews his new book, The Last Mughal. Followed by a Q&A session with Rahul Bose.

11:00 Globalisation, the writer and the nation
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown chairs a discussion about whether globalisation limits the types of stories that writers can tell. Panel members include Amit Chaudhuri, Shashi Tharoor, Nadeem Aslam and Rana Dasgupta.

13.15 Muslims and the Media
Allan Jenkins chairs a discussion on the media's coverage of Islam with Yasmin Alibhai Brown, MJ Akbar, Nadeem Aslam, Muneeza Shamsie and Clare Short.

14.30 Bridging the Gap: Literary Festivals, Writers and Readers
Geordie Greig (chairing), Palash Dave, Alexandra Pringle, Catherine Lockerbie, Pablo Ganguli and Tarun Tejpal discuss the growth of literary festivals around the world and examine the potential for literary festivals in India to boost readership.

16.00 Women's writing: what is it and do women want it?
Muneeza Shamsie chairs a discussion including Catherine Lockerbie, Deborah Moggach, Malavika Sangghvi, Manju Kapur and Urvashi Butalia.

18:00 Penguin Book Launch – Edna Fernandes's Holy Warriors

Saturday 8 April

10.00 Bihar and India's new modernity
While talk of nuclear power and globalisation preoccupy the Indian capital, the Indian state of Bihar is wrought with poverty, corruption and violence. How do such regions figure into the narrative of contemporary India ? Somini Sengupta chairs a discussion with Sam Miller, Vir Sanghvi, Tabish Khair and Siddharth Chowdhury.

11.30 Small presses versus multinationals
Alexandra Pringle chairs a discussion including Pete Ayrton, Richard Beswick, Pramod Kapoor, Renuka Chatterjee and Boyd Tonkin.

13:30 Media Culpa: Does the media fail literature in the UK and India?
Geordie Greig chairs a panel including Alexandra Pringle, Richard Beswick, Allan Jenkins, Tarun Tejpal, Jai Arjun Singh and Toby Lichtig.

15:00 Wasafiri Panel: Writing Across Worlds and Between the Lines
A discussion of little magazines and their role in promoting South Asian writing with Susheila Nasta, Aamer Hussein, Tabish Khair, Maya Jaggi and others.

16:30 ‘A Lotus Grows in the Mud'
Goldie Hawn will be discussing her recent spiritual memoir A Lotus Grows in The Mud and will then reflect on seminal life experiences with Geordie Greig. Followed by a Q&A session.

18:00 Penguin Book Launch – Sanjay Suri's Brideless in Wembley

19:00 Wasafiri-Routledge Literary Reception. Readings by Tabish Khair, Aamer Hussein
and others.

By Invitation Only

Sunday 9 April

10.30 Readings : Rana Dasgupta and Amit Chaudhuri

11.30 Humanity, fallibility and truth in contemporary politics
Vir Sanghvi chairs a discussion with Clare Short, Rory Stewart and Shashi Tharoor.

13.30 From snake charmers to call centres
Rana Dasgupta chairing a discussion with William Dalrymple, Pavan K Varma, Randeep Ramesh, Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi and Amit Chaudhuri on new trends in literature, narrative non-fiction and reportage from South Asia.

15:00 Readings : Pavan K Varma and Rahul Bose

16.00 The Home and the World
William Dalrymple chairs a panel on the role of the South Asian disapora in contemporary literature with CP Surendran, Tabish Khair, Aamer Hussein, Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi and Manju Kapur.

19:00 Roli Books Launch – C.P. Surendran's debut novel An Iron Harvest

[From Kitab's site]


wondering about dying

You tell me about death,
I fear it greatly, I fear.

I fear it happening to you now
For no reason, as you question -

Why the diseased rot in beds, disintegrate,
Yet exist in too slow obliteration.

Why comforts metamorphose into demons
Piloting a trip to the whale's belly.

Why parents die without a will,
Without kindness, without forgiveness.

Why friends take a flight a bus a car,
And never return to us.

Why some hurtle towards darkness,
Drown in a sea and vanish.

I fear and you wonder why
We live and etch graves in our memories.

You ask all this and I fear, I fear
For I know the shadow that walks with me.

You speak of death, and I know,
I know you know it could happen to me.