Wednesday, November 05, 2008

In Search of Everyday

Now that Diwali's completely done, its festivities have become even more conspicuous by their absence. For the first time in many years, I didn't anticipate or prepare for Diwali. For the first time in adult memory, I didn't go to meet my relatives on New Year's Day with the customary boredom and dread weighing me down. In fact, this year, I was quite glad to see them. Indeed, it has been *that* strange a Diwali. This is primarily, I think, because the aftermath of a major fire at the workplace tends to make everyday a somewhat unreal experience. It utterly suspends belief in the daily.

For a month now, everything has seemed alien and somehow... distant. Buried in the soot, this is someone else's store and not the beloved space I've come to see as an integral part of everyday. This is a hot and dark space, reeking of smoke, ringing with the discordance of at least twenty different phones unmindfully blaring their own tunes. These are someone else's stocks that we work so hard to clean and sort. This is someone else's soot that we diligently scrub off from under our fingernails in the camaraderie of utter exhaustion. The dusty mall is unrecognisable. A once-bright corridor, now lined with black walls, opens out into a patch of dank, alleyway light. The children's play area just ahead is a garish, grotesque fantasy wrapped in red and blue plastic.

It is a weird kind of buffering, this sense of unbelonging.

Every evening, I leave the mall, walking at least fifteen minutes in search of a rickshaw. Ordinarily, I would have tripped over several right outside. Once I was on the way home, I would have caught up with a friend or with pending sms-es. I would perhaps have made plans for dinner. These days I sit silently, trying to reconcile my day. My head is curiously empty of the shop-floor buzz that I cannot decide if I love or I hate. I browse emails and cursorily make a few read — I have surprisingly few that demand any of my attention. There is nothing to look forward to at work, only an inescapable sense of violation. I actually miss that arsehole customer who publicly swore at me because I wouldn't let him copy poems from a book. My work phone doesn't ring with the madness of everyday. And that's when I finally understand that that is what I miss the most and what has changed the most — everyday.

It is easier, by far, to articulate this in the clear space of an empty store. There is more that I would say if I could but for now this will suffice. My book section children have been sent off to other locations while some others are still here. For me, I wait for instructions of which way forward. Things will be normal again, I know. The mall maintenance people work around the clock to ensure that they are as soon as possible. Until then, we will continue making ready.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


Some gems from the Guardian's list for the oddest book title prize:

Via email from Plain Jane.

While I'm still wondering *just* what the hey some publishing houses are thinking, I get asked why we don't have these in the store?! The questions you get asked, I tell you.

p.s. Work's been insane... I love every moment of it but I've been going insane nonetheless with the annual sale and what-not. Updates/ruminations on the book trade soon - I hope!

Monday, August 18, 2008


... my photoblog deserves a little promotion, you should go and check out the picture below over there because it really does look much better large.

Rajabai Clock Tower

I've been having some serious problems with my internet connections BOTH at home and the office and hence, all posting activity has been greatly discouraged. Regular programming should continue soon.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If Wishes Were Horses....

... and surely I don't have to finish that song for you?

Surely, you know how one is never too broke to buy books. That no matter for how many months one has been unemployed, or has spent too much on their credit card repayments, there is always money for books. We all know this. However, because each day teaches me something new, I have learned today that there is indeed such a thing as being too broke for a book. Allow me to show you.

The description reads thus:
Joyce, James. Ulysses. Paris: Shakespeare and Co., 1922. Quarto, original blue-green wrappers. Custom half-leather box.

First edition, one of 750 printed on handmade paper (out of a total edition of 1000). A superb, unrestored copy in original wrappers. Very light soiling to wrappers, slight wear to spine, faint crease on front cover. A spectacular copy, most rare in this condition.
And this piece of history, this gem of literary genius can be yours at a mere $60,000.

I don't know about you but I certainly had the breath squeezed out of me, I assure you. But it isn't all so obscenely unaffordable. For example, you could get a first edition of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience — no, no, not the engraved one. You'll need to first kill the owner to get it put up on sale. This wonderful, wonderful book is valued at $8000 only. It is also possible to get a copy of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, both inscribed by Lewis Carroll at $15000. And if you'll browse the list, there are a good number more to die over. But what's got me really salivating is this:

This is why the book is called The Decisive Moment:
To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.
With a dust jacket specially designed by Henri Matisse, it doesn't cost much, my dears. Only $9000. And I am convinced that at least some of you love me enough for me.

No? I thought not. Sigh... back to the hunt for the sugar daddy... damn!

You should check out the book page - there are some gorgeous photographs you can have a look at. Henri Cartier-Bresson is quite simply the most amazing photographers that I've ever had the privilege of viewing/studying. And to be honest, I don't have the language to describe his photography and the effect it has on me and so I am not even going to try. You should go and check it out here, here, and here. Also, someone has taken the trouble to put The Decisive Moment online - you MUST check it out at least for a bit.


A quick aside but I wonder, you know, what it would be like to work in a niche part of the book trade like The Manhattan Rare Book Company. As a merchandiser for a chain store, I am not likely to ever hold a first edition like one of these in my hands nor am I likely to merchandise for books like these. I cannot imagine the research and the negotiations that would go into procuring each of these for the company catalog.

I've also wondered what it would be to work with a publisher like Taschen, Thames and Hudson, or Phaidon, doing only large format (quite often) high-gloss art and coffee-table books. Working with an author or taking on a series would take on a completely new dimension then. I think I'd end up spending most evenings in discussions with printers about paper and printing. Damn, I think it'd be exciting for a while! Though, to be fair, I'd finally want to get back to working on "regular books". I know I would.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Hot Monsoon Nights

You know, what I hate about the monsoon is that it just can't make up its bloody mind.

Consider. When the rains first began, it rained almost continuously for seven whole days, if you'll be kind enough to count them. Nothing tragic or even mildly distressing, thank you very much. Just the irritating kind of rain, and often drizzle, that will dirty salwar bottoms and discourage you from wanting anything else but for it to rain harder. Because then commuting is not possible, and without any guilt, one can then curl up in bed, everything but that wonderful Peter Ackroyd or E.B White forgotten. While one might seek a warm, warm cup of elachi chai, they might also venture a little while at the laptop, brightening photographs or jumping links lazily, only to come back to bed.

Then for a week and some more, it was as dry as a bone, if you'll forgive the trite comparison. And sultry and miserable and hot to boot. Since I don't sit in the perfectly air-conditioned but maddening environs of the shop floor anymore, every bit of the misery was magnified in my little room off the floor. Since this room has no manner of ventilation whatsoever, all that it really needed was a few more people stuffed inside (ranging between 4-9) to get the human humidifier going. Sigh... But the nights — dear God, the nights. Like the miserable October heat but worse — suffocating and stultifying.

But those hot monsoon nights have now disappeared, don't you know. Only to be replaced by hot, searing days interspersed too briefly with temperamental, fickle, flighty spells of rain. I tell you, the monsoon just can't make up it's bloody mind! I must admit that this does have its advantages. It is an indescribable thing to feel the humid air change character and depth, turning free and cold with the sweeping whispers of the rain through the trees. Suddenly, you wish you were out on the road, in a car of course, watching the rain envelop you... watching the city slow down...

But fanciful notions aside, I do not understand why it can't simply rain neatly in the night and let the days be overcast, dry, and gloomily beautiful. How can perfect photography weather possibly be so difficult — non-hot, non-sticky, and non-mucky? Please do me the service of not reminding me that I live in a tropical country with a full blown monsoon. I know — and apart from its indecision and heat, I quite enjoy the rains. Notice that it isn't the traffic, the congestion, or all the maddening things that make Bombay so charming in the rains that I am complaining about.

And I assure you, I am not the only one who thinks the heat is too much to take. Take, for example, our two friends below. It was two a.m and the ex-reviewer and I were on our way back from town when we passed them. Inebriated as we were, we went back to ensure that we weren't too drunk. And sure enough, there they were, licking and chomping away like it was nothing out of the ordinary. The neighborhood "icewala", as you can see in the top-right hand corner of the photograph, saw it fit or even kind to abandon this large chunk of ice on the pavement.

We watched them awhile and tried unobtrusively to take some photographs because dogs are fidgety-est creatures in creation. And the dog magnet that the ex-reviewer is, I had just a few minutes to get at least this slightly decent one. We left ten minutes later but the ex-reviewer says that he saw the female on right sitting at the block on his way home, while the male had disappeared with some of the other dogs around.

Hot Monsoon Nights II


I keep wanting to post without a photo but despite the photoblog, which I try update everyday, I might remind you dear reader, there are just too many photos to share. Perhaps I should stop carrying my camera everywhere...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Thoughts from a store opening

Over 600 cartons of books opened in just about two working days. Most retained for the store, some for the self, and the rest put back in storage. Twelve hours of manual labour each day, opening cartons, sorting through them, and carrying them when needed. Carefully watching three managers argue the logic of rack alignment into its correct places, an empty green and yellow space metamorphosing into a book section. Co-ordinating with the main store for difficult customer orders and placating other customers who should have been called at least two days ago. Kicking myself for not seeing ahead enough.

Two more days of frenetic unpacking, categorization, rack alignment, and racking await my need to learn while for the last two I have been too exhausted each night to do anything to do much more than eat, soak my feet in hot water, and surrender to the dull ache in the bones. But you know the best part of each day? It's been a crash course in book categorization, especially of the categories I hate - self-help and management/business. The holes in my grasp on things seem smaller now.

Finding Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis at forty bucks when you know the full price is 440/- just makes all the tiredness even more worthwhile! It's the same edition, you know, in as decent shape. I'm going to post a whole list of books that I've managed to get for myself. I will endeavour - I promise you - not to gloat too much.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Right, so Ideasmith's tagged me and apparently the rules are thus:
  1. Pick up the nearest book.
  2. Open to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the next three sentences.
  5. Tag five people, and acknowledge the person who tagged you.
Allow me to assure you that it's not quite as simple as it sounds. The trouble with this tag is that I'm usually not reading less than two books at a time. Not only that, I have the huge bloody guilt-inducing stack of unread but browsed through books waiting on my bedside table, baying for my attention. The third problem is that I'm having some trouble not reaching for the Tolkein or the Orwell (who is, incidentally, one of the nearest books around!) or one of newly finished ones and turning to beloved passages, uncaring if they are on page 123 or not. Or even if I type out the whole page instead of only three lines.

How, then, does greedy Extempore choose?

Like all great procrastinators, I'm going to to let a master, Mr Kesey, sort it out for me. I'm going with the book I'm currently reading instead of merely the nearest. I present lines 6, 7, 8 of Page 123 of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest .
"... Just raise that hand up there—"
"Fffffffuck da wife."
"Alright, forget it...."
I must admit, I would have liked the selection to be a little more illustrative of his glittering narrative, and indeed, prose skills. But I'm about 200 pages into the book and I see that it is much of indicative of the freewheeling madness, the careening randomness that I am coming to associate with this wonderful, wonderful book. By the by, I was supposed to read it at least a month ago, an activity the ex-reviewer and I were going to undertake together. But as it is with the best-laid plans of me, he's long done and I'm still reading it. Sigh...

And now to pass this on:
  1. Geetanjali
  2. Parth
  3. Hyde
  4. Nocturne
So there were to be five but I know only four!~

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New Beginnings

I must admit, I'm pretty thrilled about today. It just might have slipped by without so much as a whimper, quite like last year, but I suppose not especially since I'm quite so pleased with myself. Thus, despite not wanting to say anything, it is with a rather surprised pleasure that E Vestigio turns three today. :-)

I could tell you about what a wonderful journey it's been and how much I've learned and grown. Which I have and made some wonderful friends too. Truth be told, I know that I'm still here because of a few of you. You know who you are so I'll suffice to say just that much only. And I must say, I *think* that my relationship with this blog isn't ambivalent anymore. But that's not what I wanted to say. No, no, not at all.

I wanted to tell you about E Vestigio — Photography from Bombay, India instead.

Starting a photo blog is when you realize just how how few really great photos you end up taking. Despite the zillions of photos that I have taken over the past few years, I see now just how many of them are a learning experience and how far I still have to go. I've been photo-blogging for close to two weeks and lamentably, unlike this one, the photo blog is one space at least that I update everyday. Some of those pictures you may have seen over the course of the last few years but some, they're brand-new!

Also, in the absence of a website of mine own and the limited posting capabilities of both Aminus3 and Flickr, I've started posting albums to Picasa Web albums. As you can see, I've finally stopped collecting! These are a chronicle of themselves, of things I thought pretty along the journey but not always of the journey. They may not all be "good photographs" but I hope you like them anyway.


I posted one of these my first year and fell quite in love with them. This one's a lovely randomness of the events of the past near-year.

Friday, June 06, 2008

In want of a good home

This is Wheezy (female),


and this is Patchy (female),


and this is Brownie (male).


They currently live in the ex-reviewer's building and are part of a litter that originally numbered seven but because of human stupidity and nature's way, there are five left. The puppies are around two and a half months old now — these pictures were taken just a few days ago — and we're looking for homes for these three dogs because there are already between 5-7 dogs in the building and five more would be a bit much! More importantly, we'd like to give these guys a fighting chance at a good life, especially since Patchy has a bit of a bad leg. That doesn't stop her running around as much as the others though.

All three are very active and sweet tempered dogs who usually play nice. They're also in the process of getting all their shots and the such like. If you want, you can even meet the mother and the (probable) father, both of whom are extremely sweet, healthy, and good natured dogs. To be perfectly honest, we'd prefer people who have owned dogs before and we hope you won't mind when we ask you a few questions. We only want to make sure that the pups find a good home and are not re-homed after a few months because someone didn't think the whole thing through and then changed their minds.

I'd really appreciate it if you'd please tell as many people as you know in Bombay who'd be interested in giving any one (or all) of these a good home. You can mail me at evestigio[at] and we can take it from there. And yes, in case you're worried about the names - don't be, They don't really answer to them. I just like calling them that. :-)

Pictures courtesy the ex-reviewer - and that's only because I need to be at work during the day! I quite wish I'd taken the one of Patchy though! Sigh...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Of Flowers and Poetry

The best part about working in your favourite bookstore is how books you'd reserved yonks ago show up out of nowhere, still reserved in your name. The books section staff come waving the bundle, reservation slip secured by rubber band intact, mischievously asking if you still want the books, knowing full well that you do. You chase them up and down the aisle, behaving in a manner most unbecoming of bookstore staff, till finally the pile nestles in your palm. What makes this triumph even more happy is that the books in questions are this one, this one, and very, very awesomely, this one!

I am the most thrilled about Tell me the Truth About Love simply because of its incredible price. I mean, when was the last time you bought Auden for Rs 150?! I've read some of the 15 poems (and no, it's not the same thing as the expensive version just because there are only 15 poems!) but some are new and, as all Auden is, they are delightfully brilliant and the subject of another post. The other two collections are really rather great and one of my very favourites from Short and Sweet is this one:


Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it's no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn't need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn't want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days

--Frank O'Hara

The Chinese Erotic Poems, you say? Well, I'm still savouring a lot of the book but of the ones I have read, I lack the finesse to describe the sheer *poetry* of these two so I'll just let you get on and read them.

Tangled Hair
From 42 Songs

Last night I didn't comb my hair.
Like silk it tangles down my shoulders
and curls up on my knees.
What part of me is not lovely?

Night is Forever

From 42 Songs

The night is forever. I can't sleep.
The clear moon is so bright, so bright.
I almost think I hear a voice call me,
and to the empty sky say, Yes?

-- Zi Ye
(3rd-4th centuries CE. Translated by Mike Farman)


I'll leave you with a photo from a set that I hope to finish over the coming weekend. It was taken at the Globe Hotel in Udwada, Gujarat. I'm not much of a fan of "flower photography" (and I know there's a better name but I just can't remember it!) and I indulge in it quite infrequently but I must admit, I really do quite like the shot.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Deep Blue Something

One dark and exhausted evening in Madras, after hours of racking the HR and business sections — both of which I loathe, don't you know — a colleague offered to take me down to Marina. Despite warnings of it being dark and hazy and my not being able to see too much of the area or even the sea, I was quite happy to take him up on the offer. You see, not only am I seldom at the beach at night, I also didn't want to go back to a (then) alien and cold guest house. The smells and sounds of the ocean would go far calming very frayed nerves I thought.

It's a nice walk down to Marina from the mall, a single road that changes character at least thrice till you get near the beach. You'll pass a large gutter, overhead rail tracks, and small local shops nearly all your way down, when suddenly, wider, posher parts of the beach front arrogantly push their way into predominance. Amongst the lovelier buildings at Marina is the Police Commissioner's office. The graceful columns of that gorgeous building are an exquisite reminder that quite often, being a government employee pays. Marking the middle of the waterfront road is a Sivaji Ganesan statue. Erected by Karunanidhi, very interestingly, the plaque on the side of the statue carries the late, great actor actor's name in a much smaller font than the politician's.

I must admit that I was quite pleasantly surprised at the state of the beach. Quite unlike the filthy madness of Juhu Beach, Marina's fronted by a small promenade full of small carts and followed by a huge sandy expanse. The beach, I'm ashamed to admit, seems much cleaner than most in Bombay. We sat, watched the sea in a rather uncomfortable silence (mostly because of my unwillingness to speak then), and finally went home. I was still blue but certainly a little soothed. That visit, I didn't get another chance to go back for daylight photos, but one evening a few days into my second visit, I spent a few hours at the Besant Nagar beach.

Besant Nagar Beach, Madras

This beach was at least a little more reassuring, with the eats on the beach and the balloon boards (the ones you try and burst with an air gun?), and the beach a little littered. The best part of being there was finding out what coming face-to-face with the Indian Ocean was like, especially after a lifetime of a very intimate acquaintance with the Arabian Sea. The ocean, whether in Madras or along the ECR, seems wilder, the waves crashing with more force than I remember seeing in Bombay. It is also certainly cleaner and with more vividly azure waters. The one thing that stands out most clearly about that night on Marina is how threatening the waters seemed. Two months and more down the line, I am not entirely sure if this is because I am aware of the tsunami.

These pictures below were taken at the main promenade in Pondicherry, on a rather short trip down. A and I'd planned to get some photos of the sunset and then head back to Madras. But that evening in Pondicherry, the wait seemed endless, and finally, the dusk arrived with only herself for company. Only later did it dawn on me that the sunset would never come because in the east, only the sunrise ever does.

Deep Blue Something


And that evening, A and I sat watching the sea forever, taking a certain comfort in seeing the familiar on a completely unknown coast because some things don't change no matter where you are. This is a universally acknowledged fact, not to be disputed. Any urban beach in possession of a rocky outcrop must be in want of its share of the lone watchers and the couples sneaking their kisses. But it is quite rare indeed to find a couple sitting apart doing their own thing, staring out at the sea. I'd like very much to think that they were in perfect accord — not needing to say a word after so many long years, each part of the other's whole. They could, of course, be completely irritated with or indifferent to each other but it makes for a nice ending, what I saw of the way they were sitting there to imagine that they just were... the way I'd like to be.

Pondicherry Promenade I


Just a few of things really. One, the Pondicherry pictures, on some screens, tend to have a most unbecoming yellow tinge. I assure you, that's not what I am seeing on mine or in my camera. Two, the second photo in Pondi is A's. Three, in nearly three years of E Vestigio, this post marks my 101th. :-)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Shameless Plug!

Small diversion to let you know about Landmark's 2nd Anniversary celebrations. I'm most excited so here I am to plug shamelessly.

You see, for this special occasion, Landmark Bombay's got a 10% percent discount on all book purchases over Rs 1000. The only difference is that unlike the annual sale, there aren't specific books on sale. Any book, whatsoever, in the store is game. One caveat: the offer is open only on books. So my dears, please to find yourself down at the store on the 26th and 27th of April, 2008 between 10:30 a.m and 9:30 p.m and have yourselves a blast! And honestly, this is the only chance you'll get to get all the books discounted — it won't come back anytime soon.

Just to confirm: the offer is open only on books and you have to make a minimum purchase of Rs 1000!

I keep meaning to finish the post that I'm writing about the silence and the sea... I'll get back to the Madras Chronicles soon. There are just too many beautiful photographs (if I may say so myself!) to leave languishing around and I've decided not to collect things this time around. :-)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Of Sore Throats and Certainty

Along with the sickening realization that summer is finally bloody here, I have just discovered that I have taken over two thousand photographs in the past eighteen months. How many of those have seen the light of this blog or Flickr? I am, admittedly, more than a little disappointed in myself that I have begun to collect photographs to "do" the way I collect posts to "write". And if I go to Goa at the end of this month, I just might end up collecting photos and posts of another trip before I finish the Madras posts or, bloody hell, before I finish the Goa pictures from October last year!

Since I'm stuck awake because of a sore throat and the oppressive Madras heat (yes, yes, I'm back here!) that won't quit, I'm going to content myself with this small post and this, if I may say so myself, lovely photograph of a tree outside the guest house balcony. I took this while waiting for this kooky friend to show up. I've finally made one of those in Madras. She's taken me around a lot, stood up for me and all Gujjus in the face of ridicule, and been one of the girls. It's been much better this time indeed. I'm still not at ease but it's been okay... really.

Outside the Window


I wonder if the guilt trip would work but I suppose there's no harm in trying, no? If I neatly make a list of all pending photo albums, will I finally start "doing" the photos? I wonder. Here goes nothing then.
  1. Kerala, August 2006
  2. Hyderabad, Dehradun, and Pushkar, January 2007
  3. Bombay, October 2007 - March 2008
  4. Goa, October 2007
  5. Pune, December 2007
  6. Nashik, March 2008
  7. Madras, April 2008
That's it - I was wrong. There was harm in trying — my procrastination is even worse listed down. Kill me now and be over and done with it. Really. I mean that.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Madras... musings?

I wouldn't have posted this at all if I hadn't received the most beautiful e-mail a few evenings ago. A dear friend described, in aching and evocative simplicity, how she missed the dusk in Bombay. She spoke of the dusk in London where she has lived for about six years now. Describing the alienating and bleak twilight, she wrote that I would understand only once I'd experienced it.

But I did quite understand what she meant anyway.

I spent a month in Madras where the dusk was a blur outside an unfamiliar window, shaded in brown and grey, murmuring in a language that I did not understand... the streets were a darkness that seemed to roar and confuse me. The air was indifferent, the shadows hostile almost; the birds silent in their appraisal of me... the silence in the evenings an endless continuation of white mornings.

But I am digressing… I am disguising resentment in melancholy.

Madras was, by no stretch of the imagination, easy. If you asked me if I liked the city, I do not think I could give you an answer. Of course I met a few really nice people and had some good times with them. Yes, I went to a lot of concerts and drank with some very nice colleagues. I went shopping with some others, I ate out some, bought some great books, music, and clothes. I did a lot of these things on company money and time. I even went to Pondicherry for a few hours. But through it all, I do not think I ever felt at ease in Madras.

Forgive the cryptic abruptness but since I refrained from imposing on your kindness and posting a high-pitched, frenzied whine through all the days that I was in Madras, I'm just going to continue to refrain, yes?

I've been back ten days and every time I'm asked how Madras was, I smile and say "Good fun!" but I know inside that it wasn't all good fun. I wonder if it was simply me over-reacting as I am so wont to do especially since the elder sibling seemed to find my trials and tribulations vastly amusing. Perhaps, retrospect will show me the difference. Until then, I'm just going to get on with it and post about the sea and silence, about the music and photos, about the books and customers.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


... in Bombay only this evening.

One month and five days.

Exhausted. Relieved.

Thoughtful. Recovering.

Regular programming continues soon. Thought you'd like to know.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Right here!

No, I haven't forgotten you, my dears. The thing is that I'm just not coping very well with being back at work. The sunshine of the last six months has transformed into too many bright lights and smiling customers — both of which I am not entirely equipped to handle. I spend the whole day in the office or at the store, not knowing when afternoon has flown to dusk. To help things along, I am in Chennai. Without the first idea about when I'm headed back to Bombay. This is, most certainly, depressing me at least a little. The experience would be much easier if I spoke the language, I am sure, but I've had six days of being ranted at (and fleeced by!) by rick drivers and of suffering the irritation of continually being excluded from conversations.

But that apart, there are at least a few upshots of being here — the breathtakingly fabulous discount racks, both books and music. Whatever little money I have left after this break teaches me a new way to watch it dance away in gleeful delight everyday. One day it's the music and the other, it's all browsing the best buys instead of continuing with the racking. My colleagues threaten to show me the returns books (books that have remained unsold for between 6-12 months and will be sent back to the distributors for the cost price). This way, apparently, everyone's happy but I, though, have no clue how!! But the greatest reward of the past 10 days? That I know that we're not as badly read as I'd imagined. Can't tell you how heartening that is, don't you know.

But there there's so much pending — the ex-reviewer's first incredibly wonderful concert, the One Tree Music Festival (in Bombay and Chennai both!), a performance by a jazz band, observations about books, publishing, and book-selling and so, so many photos! Between washing clothes by hand, cooking, and trying to keep up with the endless tide of information from a new industry, I don't think I'm doing such a good job of managing. In the middle of being taught some software and the supply chain in the organization, I start chasing words and arrange them into sentences that I assuredly forget later. I'm hoping things will be better this week onwards but why I would imagine that, I don't know though. :-)

That's the ex-reviewer at Kala Ghoda. A proper post with more pictures will follow but let me leave you with something.

The Ex Reviewer at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

That time of Life

Right then, my dears, I'm going back to work.

After seven months, to the day actually, of living a fuller life, I'm finally re-joining the ranks of the "gainfully employed". And totally unsurprisingly, the only person who's completely excited about this is my father. The poor man's had visions of his only daughter going down the idle poor road, you see. Once every month since I've been on a break, my father's asked me gently, but very diligently, what my plans were. No words like work or employment or job, don't you know. Dad is nothing if not sensitive and supportive. And yet every month, I'd smile beatifically at him and say "I haven't the faintest clue!" At one point I think he wondered if I ever planned on getting back to work.

The elder sibling says he will appreciate not having me underfoot all day with my "whining" and being a drain on all his resources. But personally, I think he'll miss me because not only does he utterly adore my company, he also won't have a peon anymore! The mother will generally miss me a little but the one person who's most certainly not going to miss me is M, who works in my home. I won't be dragging the sofas and chairs all over the place and enlisting her help to dust all the books for at least a month now.

To say that I am excited about the new job is a whole new acme of understatement. I finally have a job that I want, one that I am not embarrassed about, bordering on being ashamed of. I won't mumble while telling people about being intimately involved with running a bookstore, one of my very favourites places. I'll finally be realizing at least a part of my long-cherished publishing dream. So what if the execution won't be from within but from without? But I must admit, as hugely thrilling as being a book merchandiser is, I am more than a little sad about losing this break, this buttery, feathery independence. You see, there are few things as deeply saddening as not being able to ride into town on a whim for a beer at Mondy's. No, no, please don't state the obvious. The wonder of it is being able to do this at 3 p.m on a Wednesday when every other person you know, except the ex-reviewer, is working AND swearing at you when you call to say hello.

And you would have thought that my last two weeks would have been even more molasses-y. Time would have passed even more deliciously. I would have posted more, seen more of Bombay, drunk more beer, watched most of the 120 GB of films I brought back from Bangalore. Life has a way, I tell you. Like this cat outside the Standard Chartered Bank Building in Fort, I should have been sunning myself in the unnatural cold Bombay's been experiencing. Instead, I was hunched over my keyboard frantically finishing a last-minute freelance project. Life just has a bloody way that just bloody tears it!

Sour Puss

In all the hunching, the Kala Ghoda Festival came and is almost gone. It seems to have been quite an experience, being run as an arts, music, film, literature, and children's festival this year. And I've missed most of it. All's not lost yet because in some rather excellent news, the ex-reviewer is performing at the Kala Ghoda Music Festival. I was at the festival this afternoon, looking through the schedule next to the main stage for his name. And even though I knew that I'd find it, I do not think I can describe the overwhelming pride at actually seeing his name on that large, black schedule.

The ex-reviewer's solo act is called Dischordian and will be playing between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m on Sunday the 10th of February at the Kala Ghoda Amphitheater. Come and watch him. I am not just biased but he really is a wonderful, wonderful musician who's experimenting with a new kind of sound, especially in our musically retarded and time-warped country. I can pretty much guarantee that you'll enjoy yourself.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Eastern Promises

If you've watched Eastern Promises, I'd appreciate it greatly if you'd tell me how the fight scene in the bath was. You know the one I'm talking about. The one that the world and its grandma are hailing as the new benchmark for "spectacularly deployed gore"? No, no. Don't say "Watch the film." I already have. But you see, in this fantastic country, the blood and gore's been deemed too violent and hence, edited out almost completely.

To quote the Wikipedia entry about the "pivotal fight scene":
Adam Nayman of Eye Weekly reported that director David Cronenberg said "Just don't give the plot away" and Nayman wrote "His request is understandable." Nayman said, "There is one scene – the in-depth discussion of which prompted the director's anti-spoiler request referenced at the top of this story – that should rank not only in his personal pantheon of spectacularly deployed gore but among the most exhilaratingly visceral patches of cinema, period, full stop." Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert noted Cronenberg's quote and agreed, saying "He is correct that it would be fatal, because this is not a movie of what or how, but of why. And for a long time you don't see the why coming."
And this is what the article says about the use of weapons in the film:
The script made a point of excluding guns, and Cronenberg deliberately left any sight of them out of the movie. In an interview, Cronenberg explained, that the knives used in the film's pivotal fight scene weren't "some kind of exotic Turkish knives, they’re linoleum knives. [He] felt that these guys could walk around in the streets with these knives, and if they were ever caught, they could say 'we’re linoleum cutters.' "
Where I should have been watching Cronenburg's subtlety and vision play out in a film conspicuously devoid of the mandatory gun fights, I saw one nano-second of a flash of steel from under dark coats and that was bloody all!! And in what I saw, forget "pivotal", the fight scene was hardly even worth calling a scene. Read the Critical Reception section of the wiki article. Roger Ebert and ten other people are going on and on about the fight scene and our wonderful, protective censor board has very considerately saved us from the horror by ripping the whole bloody thing out.

And I do suppose it's not worth the time and energy to rant about whether the censor board is qualified to make any such brilliant decision. But that question begs asking if the people that constitute these committees are going to emasculate movies thus. It is, I think, equally useless to lament that a movie that good and interesting ran for a mere week. If I'd been working, I highly doubt that I would have been able to watch the film, given its warm welcome in theatres, but if you can, you must watch it.

Eastern Promises is everything the critics say it is... and more. The direction's superlative, the acting precise, and the film is superb in its overall effect. The story unfolds brilliantly and might have turned out to be just another ordinary crime thriller if it was told by a lesser director. The 'why' of the plot will keep you thinking long after you've left the theatre. And if you liked A History of Violence, you'll love this one. Watch it on DVD, people. It's going to be a while till I can and I'd like very much to know whether the massacred scene is as brilliant as everyone says it is.


One last thing. I know I'm flogging a dead horse but I JUST don't get it when people behave idiotically in cinema halls AND have the audacity to get irritated at you for telling them to shut up!! I don't appreciate added, jarring sound effects in the middle of a much awaited film and incessant chattering through innumerable others. What is most galling is that guy next to you who very indignantly asks you if you're happy now that he's stopped ruining the dialogue. Or that row of cretins that catcalls back instead of shamefully shutting up. I don't get it. Not at all!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Say a little...

... wish that the best works out for me tomorrow, won't you? I'm not a believer but if you are, a prayer is very welcome too!

I'm off in less than six hours to another city for the day. For an interview, you see. I've barely been looking for a job and I'm quite astonished that this lead has gone so far, so quickly, and so seemingly neatly. It's unbelievable actually, especially since anything and everything was so difficult to get done all of last year. And honestly, I cannot describe just how enthralled I am with this opportunity and how much I am looking forward to getting the job. In fact, in all excitement and trepidation, from pattering peacefully like a penguin, I have been jumping around like a crazed cat. The poor ex-reviewer went mad trying to get me to sit still on the bike. This is certainly to say nothing of the poor man going cross-eyed simply trying to talk to me this evening!

And now, as you can see, I am completely unable to sleep. But I should get to bed... not a good idea to tire myself out, no? I need to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning, if you will forgive the god-awful cliché. I'm all packed, notes to wow the potential employers and a day's travel essentials in place. Details when I'm back, of course — with good news hopefully . *deep breath* Now to sleep.

One last thing in case you're interested. The article's still not done. No surprises there I know, but I did discover this nice one about writing for a grant though. B, you might be interested. :-)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Troubling Tedium

It's been one of those days. More accurately, it's been a few of those days.

Despite all the deadlines writhing around me, I have been completely unable to concentrate. If I've been at the computer for six hours during each of the past two days, at least four-and-three-quarter of those have been spent browsing pages that have nothing to do with notions of sociability and what they mean in a technologised world. Nothing whatsoever, I assure you. And yes, I should have been done with this essay at least four days ago.

I suspect I'm just dragging my feet because I haven't written something remotely academic in nearly five years. To make me an even greater (procrastinating) wreck, in response to a draft, the ex-professor said, and I quote: "Good work on the outline. I look forward to the essay." This in itself is not a big deal, you see. But in all the years he's known and taught me, it's most complimentary thing he's ever said to me — I'm officially ready to weep in terror now.

And that non-existent God knows, I've tried hard to concentrate. Yesterday I even clanged around the house, attempting to drum up some enthusiasm or even interest for the writing and research. Not a good idea because predictably, the clatter engendered no great spurt of intellectual brilliance. Instead, I got comfortable in bed and finished The Encantadas or Enchanted Isles and The Firework-Maker's Daughter AND I got started on The Book of Imaginary Beings. Groan...

What's that? Yes, of course I know a day spent in such absorbing company is never a waste. But I've got to get that essay done. It is essential, don't you know, to the health of one of those academic begging bowl packages. And still, I'm just being aimless, pointedly ignoring the bloody thing! These are times when I wonder if I should actually get back to academia. No matter that the course is mostly professional in nature, it will still involve paper-writing, research, and all the things that are currently wrapping me in endless ennui...

Today, I've come back to my computer and stared at blankly it for what seemed like an age and hence proceeded to get thoroughly depressed. To cheer myself up a little, I went trawling through my daily reads. In more than one place I found some incredible poetry or stories about poetry. And so, with sickening alacrity, I abandoned the one paper I'd managed to open and went about some poem sampling. I just know it — this essay is never going to get done!!

You must check out this wonderful Philip Larkin poem — which cut too close to home right now. One day, you should also remind me to tell you about the time I bought the hardcover edition of the Collected Philip Larkin from the British Library in Hyderabad for a paltry 200 rupees. It was whacked from me by another beloved ex-professor who has appropriated it so completely that she even claims to have inscribed it, to herself from me!

In those guilt-ridden hours, I also found this lovely one by Robert Frost — and being so completely taken by the brilliance of it, I spent another hour looking for his company. I'll leave you though with this one by Mary Kinzie — it's something that loosened the guilt with a wintery, imperceptible "aaah".

The Close Path

What have I trained for what
have the years of
whatever I did
during them
made me
ready to take on
if the tears are to
stream coldly
like long streaks
of rain down the light
brick of the storehouse
and I become
afraid to look
lest the pain
with my breathing
its path
near enough
to disappear

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Like every other year, 2008 also arrived with a whole bunch of resolutions. Like what, you ask? Oh, I don't know... Like keeping in touch and like mailing/calling friends often. Like spending long, languid hours reading in bed and like writing/blogging more often. Like getting my camera out more and like seeing more of Bombay. Like eating healthier and like getting some exercise. Like learning to tune some people out and like focusing on the important things. Like finally getting back to work and like being proactive about the bloody, rotten job search.

I must admit, the prospect of leaving the lovely, lazy life when there's finally a winter about is so entirely daunting. But still, it's got to be done and unfortunately, it's got to be done by me. I've started looking for "gainful employment"... keep your fingers crossed for the alternate dream job to materialise and make up for the disappointments of last year!

And don't you know, 2008 has also squarely put an academic begging bowl in my hands. I'm busy thinking out articles and digging up old academic essays. I spend e-mails harassing old professors (now very dear friends) and sucking up to ex-bosses. All of this, lamentably, is taking just the wee-est bit precedence over typing out a post. I assure you, my dear, I do not like that. No, no, not one bit indeed, especially since I have some rather yummy pictures of Pune and some other nice things to share.

But since one of those aforementioned resolutions is to be proactive, I'm soldiering away and ignoring the urge to procrastinate. Also, despite some rather major roadblocks, things are shaping up slowly and I finally have the beginnings of an application package in place. Now only to conquer the nerves and I should be fine. All in all, I do not think I should be longer than a few more days and so, on the off chance that you'd missed me, this notice!