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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

27 January, 2007

Wanted: bloggers (maybe)

Last year, Caferati ran the official blog for the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.

It was an experimental collaboration between Caferati, the Literature and Writing section of the Festival and a few selected Bombay bloggers.

It was, as far as we know, the first time that bloggers were paid to cover an event in this country. Not much, we hasten to add, but definitely enough to cover non-luxury transport to the venue and dinner, with a bit left over. These fees were paid partly by the Kala Ghoda Association, and partly from money that came in through a sponsorship by an advertiser.

Chances are we'll be doing it again this year, and if we do, we will, naturally, need some bloggers.

What kind of team?

If it is a sponsored deal, the number of people we can afford to pay will depend on the amount of sponsorship we get. There will also be few important conditions, as part of our responsibility to the Kala Ghoda Association and the sponsors.

If we do not get sponsors in time, we are considering doing the blog anyway, but with no payment to the bloggers. There will be some conditions here as well, but limited only by our responsibility to the Kala Ghoda Assocation.
It still could be worth your time:
• each blogger brings in her/his own regular readers, so all the collablog's members benefit from being able to strut their stuff in front of new readers;
• the Kala Ghoda Association site will, if they get their act together in time carry headlines from the blog, and at the very least link to the blog as the official festival blog, so more traffic;
• and the Festival gets a fair amount of media attention, so, hey, even more exposure for your blogging skills.

Either way, we're still looking for damn good writers, reporters who can bring a scene alive with their descriptions, who can analyse, critique, insult with style and class. Of course you'll also need to be pretty enthusiastic about the arts and arts festivals, and, preferably, kind of fond of this city and the Kala Ghoda area.

We're also looking for a few photobloggers, podcasters and vloggers. Same conditions apply, with one extra caveat: we can't offer hosting for your files, so you can embed your stuff in your posts, but you'd need to store the originals on your own server or on some hosting service that permits file leeching, like Flickr or YouTube or Our Media.

In all cases, you'd need to be familiar with Wordpress, which is what we'll use to power the blog. And you'll need to be able to turn out your posts quickly. There's no point blogging your impressions after the Festival is over.

Clear? Right. Now, here's the deal.

If you'd like to get on board, please do the following.

Write to editors at caferati dot com. Use this subject line: Wanted: bloggers (maybe). Mails that ignore this will be repaid in kind.

In the body of your mail tell us:

1. Would you be willing to blog for free? Or only if we're paying? We will not think any less of you if it's the second. Just be clear about what you want.

2. State your preferred method: reporting, photography, audio, video, or any combination thereof.

3. Let us know how many days you think you'll be able to attend and cover. An approximation will do. (The Festival runs from Saturday, the 3rd to Sunday, the 11th February. Most events tend to be in the evenings, going on till 11 p.m. or so. The weekends usually have more stuff happening in the day. Heritage walks, workshops and children's events are usually in the day.)

4. Let us know which event streams you'd like to focus on. (This is what KGAF had last year, and we're assuming will all be there this year: Children's events, Cinema, Dance, Heritage walks, Literature and Writing, Music, Street Festival, Theatre, Workshops / Seminars, Visual Arts.)

5. Add at least three and not more than five permalinks to posts that you're particularly pleased with. Posts that showcase the qualities we're looking for. Preferably arts-related, natch. Do not send attachments. Do not send links to entire sites.


Added later. Apologies if this sounds rude. It's not meant to be. It's just that there's very little time left in which to do this thing, and we really don't have the time to wade through piles of questions.


25 January, 2007


Remember Sundaram Mama’s
Standing joke?
“I retired from Godrej and Boyce.
But wife didn’t retire from Godrej and Girls!”
He told it everytime.
Forty year’s service without a blot,
Daughter married off to America groom.

Or Venkatesan Mama in 25B?
Left early and returned late
To avoid the rush hour crowd.
No children, and no regrets.

Recollect Jayaram Mama?
The one who secretly returned potatoes,
Purloined by his wife.

That brings Sita Mami to mind.
The one who would turn up
After the poojai ended
And take a whole flaskful of payasam?

Can then Pankajam Mami be missed?
Sitting under the barren mango tree
To extract gossip from passers by.

I don’t blame you for not remembering.
I had to make up their names
To write this poem, for;
I have forgotten the original ones.
They were meant to be forgotten.



please blink.
you look too directly
into my head.
there are thoughts there,
that must remain thoughts,
they cannot become words
between us.

please blink.
you look too directly
at my heart.
it changes the familiar tattoo
and i stumble, dancing.
across the room you smile
those eyes fixed
in their intent.

please blink.
you look too directly
at me.
it sears my skin
dry, traps the words
inside my throat
i stand inarticulate
to your silent suggestion
across the room
you raise a silent toast
and smile
you know how i feel.

please blink.
you look too directly
at me.


21 January, 2007

Review of "The Inheritance of Loss" by Kiran Desai

Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss springs at you with the many-splendored colours of life in the North-Eastern part of India, Kalimpong to be exact. It is tragic, comic and a dark reminder of how insurgency, extremism is threatening to wreck this once-peaceful region of India. In fact, the threat of violence looms large throughout the novel, in the very words of characters that seem to have something lacking in them, just the feeling that their lives aren’t fulfilled.

Picturesque, but crumbling Chuo Oyu is the abode where young Sai is sent to after her parents’ death to live with her grandfather, the retired judge Bomanbhai Patel, who is living out the last phase of a life of a taciturn man who during his training in Civil Service in England didn’t speak to anyone for years and has painful memories of how he mistreated his wife to death, which he is trying to atone. He had sent his wife back home where his daughter was born. This daughter, a scientist, who never met her father lived all her life in hostels married Sai’s father, an orphan, who was also a scientist. The couple then go to work in Russia where Sai was born and both her parents die leaving her grandfather as the only caretaker and relation Sai has in the world.

Sai is being tutored by Gyan, in Chuo Oyu, who being a Ghurkha is sympathetic to the Ghurkha national Liberation Front (GNLF) which is violently demanding a separate homeland in this North-Eastern region. Gyan reports to his friends that the judge has two rifles in his house and one night they come and rob the house and humiliates him and his cook. The judge and the cook have a common bond that runs back to the days when the former was a district collector in a remote area where he went hunting for patridges and would write fake entries in his diary about the number of patridges he killed, whereas the truth was that he was a poor shot and killed none.

The situation in Kalimpong is shown to be getting worse as the militancy gains ground and the sisters Noni and Lola are coerced into harbouring terrorists in their house and they even come and poach on their property, building hutments over it. There are demonstrations where Khukri knives are brandished as the GNLF men demand a separate homeland. The irony of how they masquerade for what is according to them “a noble” cause, using insurgency and murder of innocents is brought out very well by the author.

Perhaps the most potent message that the novel conveys is of how a band of youth recruited by goons can threaten peace in a sleepy and peaceful haven and is only waking up to the new realities of life. These youth are inspired by re-runs of karate movies of Jackie Chan and the violent movies of Rambo. It’s a sad reflection of modern life. The novel’s principal comment, made lucidly clear, according to this writer, is how media can corrupt the youth and sow in them the ideals of violence and mayhem, manipulated by a few misguided individuals.

The cook’s son Biju is away in the US as an illegal immigrant, working in hotels run by shady Indian characters, being paid low, working all days of the month to chase his dream. But he finds that he hasn’t made any friends, and his relations are away in India. The idea of migration is well portrayed in these sections. Biju’s and Sai’s life become the leit motif of the novel with Sai being shielded from the childhood she hasn’t had neither in the convent nor in Chuo Oyu where she is a virtual prisoner and pines away for the love of the elusive Gyan, immersed in his poverty and ideals. There is a poignant section in the book when she goes in search of her absent lover and sees the depravity in which he lives.

Biju’s life is even more of that of a prisoner of his own conscience. Though he lives in New York he hasn’t the time to see the country, lives in poverty where he has to sleep in shifts, or on the floor of the hotel he works, and even has to serve beef which he detests. His friend the philandering Saeed Saeed is a colourful character from Zanzibar who is tormented by friends referred to him from his home country, as is Biju by his father the cook from India, who recommends to him stray wastrels who want to immigrate to the US from India. These “tribes” come to US for the first time and are desperate to make a living and like Biju is willing to undergo any torment to make ends meet. The novel truly depicts their sad lives.

The good father Booty who lives with Uncle Potty is found to be an illegal alien, though he has lived all his life in Kalimpong, trying to make it into the dairy capital of India. But he is thwarted by the ever present Amul brand of the original dairy capital of India – Anand. Father Booty is sent back to Switzerland for overstaying, and Kalimpong descends into mayhem with no food available, not even bread, and is overrun by terrorists and the military.

Much speculation has gone on in the media about the portrayal of Kalimpong, of how the denizen of the town hasn’t taken kindly to its portrayal by the author. But this writer feels that the novel has a valid point to make, of how an author can use artistic licence to make his/her point though it may be somewhat in the extreme. The author is primarily writing a work of fiction and not a factual account. It is a story of imaginary characters, though the settings may be real and the world he/she creates is unreal, and hints at his/her view of the truth.

She encapsulates the essence of Indian thought and thinking in this oeuvre of vivid colours of the literary spectrum. For example when the judge loses his dog and goes around asking if anyone has seen it, and the men whisper behind his back, “Sala, he is bothered about a dog, when people are dying here.” How typical.

A definite must read, even if only for Kiran Desai’s devastating wit, charming style, and the way she keeps the pace going. Desai is an author of the new breed who use multiple question marks “???” and multiple exclamation marks, “!!!” throughout the text. I think it jars and should have been avoided. The need is for subtlety and not overt exaggeration. What I also found jarring was the intimate description of the characters including some of the disconcertingly intimate habits of the judge and that of Gyan. Was the author following a stereotype here? Don’t now. However, given the Booker Award and all the salient points the novel makes, a not to be missed novel by a true artisan of the word.


Caferati at the Jaipur Literature Festival

15 January, 2007


In the space
between your fingers
I found
a silence sleeping.

The interplay of roving fingertips
awakened hesitant speech
and, now, the frost lines along my eyes
and inside my heart, marked by the long freeze, melt.


14 January, 2007


Some say
life is about
taking risks.

Risk sometimes

On a dizzy cliff.

The involuntary
into nothingness.

Down below,
the body hits rock
with a thud
that stills all else.

I feast on the remains.

© Alaka Yeravadekar, 2007


My first love poem

"This night I shall dream of you
and potatos and rafflesia.
This night as all nights,
I long to kiss your tin-plated lips.
In my dreams we fly
on the dodo of love,
skimming vast continents
of postage-stamps and nostrils.
The seas shall never separate our gins.
Its waters wave like small bearded angels
greeting us from afar.
We shall feast on chocolate-coated bandana
and tend to an exodus of love.
Adorned in white silk,
crown'd in cabbage
mounted on an alligator,
thou art my queen.


09 January, 2007

Blame it on the Martini

I just adore a tipsy man.
Not drunk--
just a little fuzzy,
with an easy grin
which hasn't gone foolish.
He stops stomping,
lowers his guard,
and learns to trust.

and delightfully fragile,
with a dreamy look
and a knowing smile,
A little boy
who plays games
like "Dare!"

A romantic
with surprise hugs
and stolen kisses,
which he can later
blame on the booze.

I just adore a tipsy man.


04 January, 2007

A New Year's Party

That there is room for other conversations too
is a thought, a double-edged sword
for me,
and for you.

My friend on the next bar stool
is mesmerized with your heaving breasts,
your slender frame sitting straight,
laughing, sipping wine, while the world waits
to genuflect to the moment
when the woman in you will glow.

“Yes! Yes! I know what the world has come to!
Hunger, intolerance, head-butts, Zizou!”

Please! Please take note of what I’ve become too
but I don’t know how you do that
I forget my misery; laugh at your jokes.
You caress my cheek, playfully pat.

“No seriously! I mean there are more bombs than childbirths.
Ask a man gone casual walking in Baghdad, Madrid.”

Somewhere the ghazal singer croons Faiz…

“Aur bhi gham hai zamane mein mohabat ke siwa…”

Ah no! I remember “dukh” in the original work.
“Dukh” is stark, naked, intensely painful than
“Gham”; a ghazal singer's mellifluous, melancholic version.

“Ha! Here speaks the poet
whose only tool to a woman’s heart
is semantics!”

Everyone titters, I feel naked.
You giggle, wink, blow a kiss.

“Don’t you think it was chilling to watch Saddam today?
As if he’s walked into a bar asking for a table!”

I feel a shiver up my spine.
Raise my glass, toast the wine.

“Long live America!”

We all laugh.
“I love your sense of humor.”
But I wait for the inevitable.

I wait for the moment
when your own thoughts
conspire, chain your heart.
I wait for the moment
when my poetry's logic
play tricks, seal your lips.
How long,
how long can you avoid the moment
when the glass is empty,
a solitaire stares at you?

That there is room for other conversations too
is a thought, a double-edged sword
for me,
and for you.

Ah! She sings my favourite Momin ghazal now...

“Ulte wo-h shikwe karte hain aur kis ada ke saath,
betaaqati ke taanein hain uzr-e-jafa ke saath.

Maanga karenge abse dua hijr-e-yaar ki
Aakhir to dushmani hai asar ko dua ke saath.”

© Dan Husain
December 31, 2006


03 January, 2007

Christmas with Cheriachen

Cheriachen is sad. It is Christmas, a season to be joyful, and none of his children are around. It’s a day to be happy and jolly but he is not the least happy. He invited me for lunch on Christmas as my family was away and I went, as I am an acquaintance. We are related, yes, but a very distant relationship, in fact, he is a cousin four times removed.

The afternoon is a wintry cool, not too hot, not too cold, the plants in Cheriachen’s balcony dance in a complicated rhythm weaving patterns on the roof of his plaster-of-paris roof where Christmas baubles and streamers hang forlornly.

“There is no future in India. You know something? You should have gone abroad long ago,” he says morosely, “there is no happiness, no future here. Only sadness.”

“Then why didn’t you go?”

“See I could have gone. My brother is in the US, my daughter is in the US, a daughter is a nurse in Ireland, I can go and live with them even now, but I am comfortable in my life here, though I am not happy, I am not very unhappy here,” he says chastened.
“The same with me. I have learned to adjust. But I read there are guns in schools, violence, and racism, in fact, color discrimination, ten times that we have here.”

“What color discrimination? What are you talking? My daughters are as white as milk, put them next to the white Saiyips, you can’t tell the difference,” I forgot that Cheriachen and his children, though they were a darker shade of beige, considered themselves white, as white as an Occidental.

He pauses as his wife enters and offers me a cool glass of some colored water and Christmas cakes.

“How are you?” she asks me perfunctorily to which I give the standard answer. There is great tiredness and deliberation in her voice, as if she is not feeling too well.

“We were corporate employees. Our lives are gone. We get a pension, which is enough to make ends meet. Our children are enjoying the fruits of our labor.”

I remember, Cheriachen and his wife would walk the three kilometers from home to railway station every day, and not waste money on rickshaws. They would scrimp to the point of starving themselves, but they would save every extra Rupee. They taught their three daughters the value of thrift, and the children all grew to be responsible adults who knew the value of money, and, most importantly, how it is retained and not frittered away.

I know his routine nowadays as I live nearby. He goes for a walk in the morning, comes back exhausted, looks at an animated picture of a waterfall with sound effects, birds chirping, water falling on rocks, which the company he worked for gave him as a retirement gift. That’s all the nature he can afford in the concrete building in which he lives. The building is part of a complex named “Sahyadri,” in Vashi, New Bombay. Then he sleeps the whole day before he goes for an evening walk for purchasing groceries.

The phone rings insistently.

“Lillykutty, pick up the phone, it may be Jessy,” he says from where he sits. He has arthritis and a lot of other illnesses of old age, and is slumped in his chair, his chest collapsed into himself, his stomach protruding, and his face sagging with tissues that were once taut and healthy. His eyes have large circles under them due to sleeplessness, or, due to extra sleep. He sleeps all the time.

“It was difficult,” he reminisces, “bringing up my girls, the work was hard, I was a storekeeper you see, and if something is missing you have to take the rap. I slaved all these years.”

“Jessy is on the phone,” his wife Lillykutty says, “she wants to wish you.”

He gets up heavily from the chair and waddles to the phone re-tying his loose loin cloth around his waist. It had slipped.

“Haaaan, happy Christmas,” he cackles, “how is Shinymol? Fine? How is Joji? Fine?”

Static and an excited metallic voice at the other end.

Yes, he is happy for some time. But the happiness doesn’t last. His face droops again, his eyes again take a haunted look, he sinks into the chair.

“There, I mean in the US, they work only five days. And they don’t have to work like the company has bought our souls. They do their work and then go home. On weekends they go to beach resorts or holiday homes. If you don’t have a job the company pays you five hundred dollars a month, imagine. Around Rupees Twenty Thousand for doing nothing, just sitting at home. It’s not like here.”

It seems he is very upset and disgruntled, “Is that so?” I prompt.
“My other daughter, Jomi, who got married recently to a doctor, she is luckier,” he says pompously, “she is in Ireland and only works three days in a week and rests for four days, and draws a handsome salary, unlike here, you work six days and… all the harassment…,” he groans and shakes his head.

“And free healthcare, do they have free healthcare?”

“Yes, everything is free, absolutely free. Even education. I remember the difficulty I went through to get my daughters admitted to nursing school. I had to pay the hospital fifty thousand rupees. Then the fees, and after passing the miserly stipend they get for two years. Then for the passport, I had to bribe the officials. Yeverywhere corruption. God, it was so awful, but now they are enjoying a good life. God bless them,” Cheriachen says.

“Jomi took her doctor husband to Ireland, and he has a job in the same hospital where she works,” Lillykutty says from the kitchen. She sounds morose and depressed, too, two unhappy people in an empty two-bedroom flat. She is preparing our Christmas lunch. The smell of mutton and assorted curries fill the flat in Sahyadri housing society.

“Jessy’s daughter Shinymol studies for free. You should see her photographs,” he fishes out some photographs from the bottom of a pile of newspapers on the teapoy, “she is so fair, chubby, and fat, anyone would want to take her in hands and kiss her.”

“I guess it is the food they eat there. I read it is full of fat.”

“No. Not that. They don’t have to exert themselves, no? All they walk is inside their houses, from this room to that. To go anywhere they sit in a car, to go to school they sit in a car, to go to church they sit in a car. Not like we used to do. When I was a boy, I would walk five miles to our school, in Kerala.”

So that’s it. The number of empty, wasted miles spent walking is making Cheriachen a bitter man. He should have been in another country, sitting in a car, I think.

The phone rings insistently again.

“Lillykutty, it must be Jomi from Ireland,” Cheriachen says from his chair. He doesn’t make an effort to get up. He can’t.

Lillykutty comes into the room. Picks up the phone and says the usual “Merry Christmas.” She sounds happy.

Then she say “What?” into the phone and listens for a while. I can see her face fall, her body sag. Then she says, “Why do you want to do that? God, help us! God help us!”

Some static from the other end, a distraught voice. She motions towards Cheriachen.

Cheriachen comes to the phone, smiles joyfully, says, “Merry Christmas,” his sagging face muscles stretch, up, up, as he listens. He is imagining in his mind the heaven from which his daughter is calling him, free of worries, free healthcare, in fact, free everything. He is about to cackle when the whole muscles and integument of his face drop like a stone dropped from a height.
“What?” he says and looks at Lillykutty. Their eyes meet. There are tears in Lillykutty’s eyes. She sobs. Cheriachen puts down the phone. His eyes glaze with tears.

“Now, why would she want to do that? She has everything, works only three days a week, has around two lakhs salary per month, a good-looking husband, has everything virtually free, everything free….”

“We found the best husband for her, imagine, a doctor, handsome, too. We arranged the best wedding for her in the community. Now she says she wants to leave him, and she can’t get along with him,” Lillykutty says.

I look away. The rest of Christmas with Cheriachen was a torture, for me, at least.