Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On why she doesn't write.

Do you find you don't rhyme because you're scared?

When you read as much as I do, it's a wonder one ever winds up putting pen to paper at all, because the 'anxiety of authorship' (and the fact that I know what it is in the first place) rests heavy on what feel like increasingly fragile shoulders.

I'm scared that nothing I ever write will be a fraction as fine as some of the things I've read. And since I'm afraid of laying bare my soul, for I can't do it as eloquently as I'd like, I write very little verse. And when I do, most times, it is in French. To make it even less accessible than any poetry, by virtue of being a window into your own personal semiosphere, already is.

I'm just a scared little girl, me.

But I like Warhol's golden heels.

I will wear them diamond dust shoes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Colonial Hangovers

I've come to a conclusion. It mightn't be radical, but appears sufficiently *true* even as I play with it in my head, coming at it from as many angles as I can think of. You know how students out West, especially in England, take a 'gap-year' between high-school and university? It's a trend that's fast catching on, so I'm going to assume you know what I'm on about. Well, the amazing alacrity with which they wander the world, thinking that it IS, in very deed (I love 'New Grub Street' for this phrase alone) their ruddy insert-shell-fish-of-choice-here:compute- oyster, has a distinct forebear.

These are the children of Empire. The sons and daughters of ethnographers, historians, naturalists, adventurers, buccaneers, mercenaries, merchants and administrators past. The number of them who show up in India every year is pretty damn high - heck, it used to be the starting point of most conversations, when people used to try and chat up your 'umble writer in her student/bar-maid-at-a-pub-in-ye-olde-Blighty avatar: "Where are you from, love? India? Really? I LOVE INDIA! I spent most of my gap-year there, smoking some really good shit in Goa before moving on to Kerala, Delhi and Bombay!"all the while playing Indiana Jones, looking to 'rediscover' the jewel in the crown that once was. Just like the scores who came out before them, during the high-noon of the Raj.

These are the kids to the colonial hangover born. Consider the *authority* which informs most social history/travel writing from the 19th century onwards. See the writings of even a Liberal like Gladstone, for example. Or CA Kincaid. Or Colonel Todd; en bref, my point is this: These were people for whom the world was laid out, on the great A'Tuin's gigantic back if you like, to explore and make sense of as they would. They constructed their own realities, and in so doing, their histories, historiographies, geographies, sociologies, anthropologies and nations.

Our present-day breed of 'gap-year' backpackers haven't the same advantage of Empire that their ancestors did. They *do*, however, still have the same maverick spirit of exploration and the money (I'm tempted to add 'pilfered from the East over centuries', but I won't. Oh wait. I just did) to feed this yen to 'travel'. There are differences too, mind you. Unlike the Orientalists of yore, who came here to see/hear/experience/feel India in their bones, a lot of the newcomers are content to visit hackneyed places on the tourist map, where they can kick up their feet, smoke good weed for very little money, meet and spend time *exclusively* with other tourists (White-Caucasian-uninterested-in-immersing-themselves-in-the-sounds-colours-and-lives-here) bitch about how "awful these Indians are" and what harrowing trials they've had to undergo in that crowded bazaar in Pushkar, go back home in a few months, and chat up another (not so) hapless Indian chick in a student pub near Uni.

Oh well.

Friday, August 6, 2010

On truth(s); momentary and otherwise

I saw something on TV the other day which sickened me to the gut. Much that is sordid-lurid-despicable is on air currently, purporting to reflect who we are as a people and what it is those benign assholes who pass off for channel ideators/producers *think* (that's me showcasing my much vaunted 'generosity of spirit') we want to see. This wasn't just that. This was horrendously hurtful, not to mention more than a little harmful to one's general well-being. Notice how I slipped in the 3-point alliteration without diluting/distorting the import of what I was trying to say. Nicely done, H. Smooth. Yes, I *write* to myself. Someone has to.

The travesty I'm on about is 'The Moment of Truth', where people are paid money - and a hell of a lot of it too - to answer painfully personal questions 'truthfully'. On national television. A lie-detector determines whether they're being honest or not. Each of the relatively simple questions in the beginning of the show give the contestant increments of 5000$, then jumping on to 10s of thousands of dollars, before doubling and trebling the amounts in question, ending at something like 5,00,000$ for, what is it, 20 questions? If this sounds too good to be true, it is. Like most things.

I'm sure a lot of us think of ourselves as being *good* or *honest* people, no less righteous than the next person. While this is all very well, we often discount the fact that being honest does not equate exactly with telling someone every gory detail about what we feel for them at any given time. Consider this: we love our families, for the most part. But how many of you can honestly say you haven't had an uncharitable thought about how this cousin can be a real retard, or that aunt a bitch who could put Hitler to shame? Does this, however, affect your ability to carry on living life as best you can, or *being* a family? Consider now what would happen if you went onto national television and told each of these people what you really thought about them. Sure, you could walk away up to 5,00,000 $ richer, but at what cost? Does anyone know what new families are going for on the market these days?

Our lives are meticulously constructed, based as they are on how we function and build relationships - personal, social, professional and otherwise. It is poignant omissions and occasional white lies which allow this edifice to keep from crumbling; crashing and burning everything in its wake. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating lying. Far from it. I *am*, however, suggesting that telling someone you're about to marry that you still fantasise about your ex is not something you ought to get paid for. It's also not the best idea in the world to do it on national TV. Give them a cuppa tea spiked with brandy, sit them down and have this chat if you must. It's kinder. Really.

I guess this rant is about recognising fallacy for what it is. A convenient, important part of the glue that holds societies-extended families-lives together. Denigrate it another day. Today, sing paeans to it instead.