Thursday, December 20, 2012

V for?

Not Vendetta. Sadly. What you're about to witness, dear reader ("mon semblable, mon frere" echoes in my head every last time I so much as think this phrase, leave alone commit it to paper or screen [that bloody Baudelaire was a genius]), are what might well be some of the most vituperative ramblings this 'ere blog has been home to in a while - and if you've read me before, you know this is saying a lot. I'm tired. Very tired, but this wouldn't come anywhere near doing what I feel justice. Why, then, this yen to write? Because 'the mind is uneasy, Krishna'. And I'm hoping, therefore, to milk it for something not entirely worthless. This last in keeping with my attempt at strict and exclusive utilitarian instrumentality.

I've been wandering around minding my own business; just another life in the process of living if you like, but these past few days have been painful. In a visceral, not ethereal, way. I wake up on the cusp of tears, and sleep much the same way. The 'cause', you ask (aside: I like how I get to manufacture your questions which are also mine, and pretend this is a dialogic exercise when, clearly, it is no such thing. I think I've finally understood why Gandhi chose this 'mode' for his gut-wrenching manifesto against modernity, 'Hind Swaraj')? Delhi. Calcutta. Ahmedabad. Three cities. Three gang-rapes; and these are only the ones which we've heard about since day before yesterday. And these travesties do *not* account for the countless little violences; the everydayness, the banalisation, the naturalisation of our collective societal attitudes which manifest in slighting, belittling, degrading, destroying thought, word, and deed in our dealings with women. We've always been about short-cuts, us. How? Alors, let me illustrate this with an example: we put women on pedestals - which, of course, is where good goddesses belong, n'est-ce pas? - and in so doing, render them a frozen 'stupefied' category. Poetry in stone, if you like. Immobile. Unchanging. Out of action. Unable to do. So far, so familiar, comforting/comfortable. Let's pat ourselves on the back - patriarchy has been saved to live and die another day. The problem, if you like, comes in when 'she' - my erstwhile stony goddess, chooses to be human. To live a little. To fuck a little. To read a little; to think a little. This necessitates her entry into a hitherto foreclosed public sphere. Here, she will see and be seen. She will have to do. And this is when she starts becoming a thorn in your side. If 'assertive' (in that she isn't mute), 'independent' (in that she's, *gasp* 30, happily unmarried and has a job/ is 22, married, with three kids, but *still* has a job/ is 16 and has been allowed to choose her own college degree program/ is 14 and has been allowed to determine whether she will read the Arts or Sciences for high school/ is 3 and oblivious to this debate) in that she has some semblance of self-determination, she is to our twisted, pathological minds "transgressing" roles/moulds/bounds/categories outlined for her since the beginning of time. And for this, by god, you will make the bitch pay.

Of course, this leads to the slightly problematic (if *extremely* apt in the current situation) formulation that most Indian men are no more (but some, even a whole lot less) than their penises. I've always, in jest, said a lot of them were dicks - I had no idea I was on to something so fucking profound. If the sum of their manhood is invested in their being able to assert and thrust themselves upon unwilling victims because they lack the ability to find someone who will love/fuck them out of choice, what does that say about them? And can this surprise you, given that as a society, you see women as objects - as pieces of meat - to be picked up off the streets/ on buses/ in trains/ on college campuses/ in their own homes and families, and abused at will? With - and this is what hurts the most - utter and complete impunity? Immunity, even? I've explored this theme before in and, should you want to examine what I'm referring to more critically.

My heart goes out to the victims of these heinous acts of unmitigated violence, misogyny and hostility. But, what is else, it also goes out to every woman in this country - regardless of who she is, where she comes from, what she does. This is no country (fuck off if you're about to point out how much "worse" it is in some other places/how nowhere is "safe" - I know this already, but as I've said before, another place being more dangerous is *no* excuse for us having to live in what is admittedly a hell-hole. Also? You. Made. It. Like. So.) for old (or young, or middle-aged, or...) women. We should hang our heads in shame already. Each and every last one of us is implicated.                 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

In which she makes herself wildly unpopular

by refusing to participate in this revelry - so tasteless, so loud it hurts my eyes [can it, Baudelaire would know what I'm on about], ears and fingers - occasioned by the pronouncement upholding Kasab's death penalty. Let me state my position categorically, and then follow it up by trying to answer potential charges which might be levelled against anyone who, much like I do, holds these truths to be self-evident.

I don't hold with capital punishment. Sheesh, at this rate, this is going to be a damn tight, aphoristic little post (I've never done 'brief' well, as anyone who knows or has read me will know), so you're correct in assuming that there's more. Loads more. We still have to cover my incessant internal arguments - ah, the joys of having so many Harmonies to grapple with in this one lifetime - which see me alternatively baulk and physically cringe at injustices in every way, shape, and form; froth at the mouth with anger, despair and utter frustration at my own painfully obvious inability to 'fix' wrongs so much bigger than I, and dealing with the always conscious near-guilt of knowing that these things - losing someone in the attacks on Bombay or during the riots or the tsunami or insert-catastrophe-of-choice-here -  did not happen to me, which makes me analyse critically my  response to them and question whether I have the right to voice at all. I speak, therefore, for nobody but myself/selves, and dissociate from the wider debate on the politics of representation at play here. I try and put myself in those situations, and wonder if my - to some people's minds, perhaps - glib and self-righteous responses would not undergo a sea-change from pearl to bone, to reverse the bard's metaphor for time and what it can and cannot do to us, were I to be more, well, implicated, if you will. I can't, of course, give myself, or you as it happens, a definite answer on this front. I suspect the core of what I'm getting at - how I try and live my life - would mean that I'd still try and reconcile myself to this simple fact. Human life is arbitrary only in that it is something 'we' (and we only become 'we' post-facto, and can thus only formulate this in hindsight) didn't ask for. But we got it anyway. At which point, it is a moral imperative that we *not* - in no case. ever. - arbitrate that it be taken away. Also, what separates us, and this us~as~Indian State, from them (and you should know me well enough to know that this hated binary does NOT refer to any place or definite co-ordinate: it refers to the ideologies of hate that made certain people commit particular crimes)? They ravage. They destroy lives. Why can't we agree that this person, representative of these ideologies, is  heinous - indoctrinated/taken advantage of owing to his socio-economic position in the world's scheme of things though the case may be - but that we won't kill him, simultaneously? How can a country which came into being because an apostle of non-violence dreamed it - willed it, even - into existence still uphold a public and legislative morality which finds room in it for capital punishment?

And whence all this whooping and yelling for joy on bloody Facebook and other social media platforms, yo? The same jingoism you think is national spirit which leads you to post a "patriotic" song on Independence Day and then forget about your precious India for the rest of the year? If you don't live and breathe what it means to be a 'citizen' in the public sphere - whether it's on the roads, your local society, your ruddy university or workplace - every single minute of every single day, your creed is a hollow one, and I want none of it. What did you do when Bombay burned? How are you as invested as you seem to be in the death sentence passed on this idiot now?

You're going to say I'm callous. Or a left-wing-arm-chair-intellectual pontificating on something she hasn't 'experienced' and therefore does not have the right to talk about. Except, I do, you see. This, little, is my prerogative. I'm not keeping you here - I didn't bring you here either, you'll remember - so feel free to vent, be vituperative if you must, but really, just go away. Go celebrate. Leave me be to lament yet another wasted opportunity for us to show the world that we're more than the world's largest democracy; we're that much rarer and almost mythical beast, a humane one that values life. Even life lived badly.      

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In which she thinks of Boulez and the War.

This post has been a long time coming, and now that I'm finally a) in possession of a working internet connection which isn't as mercurial as I am, b) relatively free-r, first draft duly out of the way, and c) in a position, slightly removed in space and time from the enormity of all I heard while away, I can actually posit an attempt to make the sounds cohere with what I know of life lived and life in the process of living. For the uninitiated, what I'm on about is this: whilst in London, thanks to the generosity of spirit of one I've long admired - my friend, my aunt, my lovely Farida - I was able to catch Bryn Terfel (one of the finest tenors alive today) in concert, singing a selection of opera classics, at the Royal Festival Hall. This was followed by an even more spectacular event. Aforesaid patron of the arts took me to listen to the most sublime programme I've ever been confronted with to-date. I saw a life-long hero, Daniel Barenboim (Why, you ask? Because alongside Edward Said, Barenboim came up with the East-West Diwan project where the idea was to use music as a means of conflict resolution: making musicians from Palestine and Israel come together to perform across their respective borders), conduct his East-West Orchestra as they went through Beethoven's First and Second symphonies, with Boulez's shattering Derive II separating the two. When Terfel sang Te Deum from Puccini's Tosca, I cried. I don't know what came over me (That's a lie: I've thought about it, and have decided it was the conjunction of the church bells, that tonal life-flow which is the majesty of a church organ, and the timbre of his voice as he plays that betrayer Scarpia; the resolution of the home phrase prised by the string section (reprised by the horns), which raises more questions than it seems to answer; I'm choking up as I hear it again right now - here: - listen, and you'll spare me the trouble of feeling too keenly to explain myself more clearly).

However, there were no tears when, at long last, I heard Barenboim and his people do their thing. No tears. Just infinite sadness couched in the sheerest ecstasy this side of morphine. Beethoven's first is a light, bright piece - thirty-odd minutes of delicious movements which stun you with their levity and affirmation of life. It is decidedly yellow. I tasted it, I know. The second, while still bright, has a moment of doubt, a profound questioning half-way through the third movement, which makes you stop and reconsider whether this brightness is a shade...contrived; whether it masks some shapeless, formless (yet) beast you cannot presume to know or name. It passes; resolves. Orange, I decide. Deeper and more organic, but nowhere near earth or root. That will come later in this cycle of nine. The piece I want to write about though, really, is the one that separated these musings on life and living which are the symphonies - Boulez's Derive II. I can preface what I'm going to say next by stating up-front that if you were to ask me whether I 'liked' this piece, I'd stare at you blankly, unable to muster an answer. What I can say, however, is that this is the most challenging piece of music I have ever been faced with as a listener. Challenging not just in its execution - I'm hoping you take that as a priori - but in its scale and scope to speak, to divulge, to scream. I can tell you that even without knowing a thing about either Boulez or his music (or music altogether), coded into this piece is the information that it *could* only have been created in a world which had known the World Wars. If it put me in mind of anything, it's closest ally (and other) in literature would be that much bandied (but shamefully misunderstood) movement known as the theatre of the absurd. Point and counter-point; instruments, sections even, running in diametric opposition in their wrought ascending and descending of scales, bringing to mind every trope you associate with western classical music - heck, you've just heard Beethoven's first a few minutes ago - and challenging you to dispense with it, only to put these tropes together again till they speak a new language, or the beginnings of one anyway: think of Coleridge. He held that to imagine was to think of a table, blow it to smithereens, and then reassemble another form from those particles; recycle, re-iterate, re-new goddamnit. And that's what Boulez does here. He's playing with the tropes of tonality whilst making coquettish overtures at a-tonality, the cheeky bastard! Forty-five minutes of this. I saw the audience at the Royal Albert Hall shuffle their feet. Check their phones. Even, gasp, send SMSs. But you have to stick with the metaphysical conceit to the end, if you want to *get* where Boulez can take you. I tried. I did. I don't think I'll ever be able to listen in the same way again.    

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Of dervishes and theses

Perhaps musings about theses written and dervishes whirling are, well, uncommon, and make for unlikely bed-mates, but that's exactly what you're going to get to-day. I've been in England, referencing my monstrous first-draft, and culling tons of new material besides, since June. The British Library, St. Pancras, is now officially my favourite playground in the known universe. As I keep saying to anyone who'll listen, if they'll let me pitch a tent in their courtyard, I'll consider myself the happiest bunny in the world (and that's an understatement, if ever I've erred on the side of less over more). Thesis dealt with, and London walked till my feet knew it better than my eyes and ears and fingers and tongue did, I left for Istanbul. Bear in mind that I didn't go there completely untutored: I've *known* the place before I ever set foot in it - or thought I did anyway - through vicarious traversings, readings and other suchlike. Bref, I've wanted to visit Istanbul forever and a day.

What I was confronted with upon encountering (and I use the word advisedly; for its connotation of aggressive head-on-ness) its lived reality, however, took my breath away. Evoking tropes such as, "we have a soul connection, do that city and I," or "it feels like I was born to tread those lanes which skirt the Blue," or "the Bosporus flows in time with the blood in my veins," while accurate, just won't do. Yes, I feel like the smorgasbord that is Istanbul from the third through to the twenty-first centuries has been one I've partaken of over several - each, even? - lifetimes; that I've never felt as content as when wandering across Sultanahmet and thinking, processing, coping with the onslaught that is the city's magnificence and digesting it into little bite-size pieces I feel I've already known, will always know, and all that jazz. But what really shocked me was the visceral-ness of my reaction to this place. I've loved cities before, but I don't think I understood what love was until I saw the dervishes whirl. Until I sat in the Blue Mosque past midnight, revelling in the beauty of the voices, the sounds at once alien and familiar, of the muezzin's cry. Having my breath taken away by the splendour that is the Ayasofya across the square - the Blue's template, muse, and most formidable rival and other. Thanks to a nifty little app on my phone, I managed to click and write up first-quick-edit-and-therefore-honest-to-goodness reactions to several places. Here, for your delectation, dear reader, are three.

The Blue Mosque: It's amazing how these stories set in stone speak in colour, texture, and elastic time The process of semeiosis which makes them mean continues to resound, as though from beyond the pale. The playful artists of yore even slipped in owl eyes for me to see. The Blue Mosque tastes like orange in my mouth. Is it plenitude?Giving, dropping because it is so laden, that the motifs bespeak? And the crowds? Is it glorious for or despite them? Do they matter? Did they ever? Was this popular enough, even then, for them? Perhaps even this carpet dust outdates some countries; and still people come here and talk of Angkor Wat and Vietnam...the red brings out the blue; the blue the red. Gold for everyone, and then the rest.


Topkapi Palace: Lots of little fragments which, rather surprisingly, appear to add up to some kind of whole: sumptuous, lascivious, exploitative and cruel in its education and preparation of concubines and slaves for the delectation of Sultans. Is it as fine or quietly grand as many of the palaces back home? As opulent, dwarfing and intimidating as some others? Not always, not everywhere and in every aspect, but it is simple to see from this point in time and space the commonalities shared/inbred/borrowed/forced upon both cultures. This last, brought home by sitting afore the Diwan-I- Humayun; the Diwan-I-Khas equivalent; wondering whether they would trade their kaftans for my angarkhas.

And then, there was the Ayasofya: This place reeks of continued transferences, which derive from the same fount: the work initiated at the start of its creation. I was overwhelmed when I entered it - in good Christian tradition, clearly it was meant to dwarf me,humble me, show me my place as a speck of sand and remind me I had no business aspiring to beach-hood. But as I sit on its marble floor - cracked, uneven, smoothened by centuries of usage underfoot - I see it better; learn it in my mind and eye. The stained glass calligraphy, Jesus and Gabriel mosaics transposed in the Kuranic ethos and tradition, Christ as pentekrator-emperor of this world, and the eight holy names and shields of Islam, make utter and complete sense. Mainly, because they are here together. Because they exist in, dare I say it, harmony. Because the mosaics may have lost their faces, but they kept their soaring wings. This place is a wonder, a paragon of unity in disparity. No mystery about it - if it was once a church and then a mosque, now, in its avatar as a museum, it is both, and more than both, simultaneously. It reinforces, in it's beguiling and utterly unpresumptuous humanity, this sceptic's faith in mankind. 

True to my word (whenever I feel like it) since I promised you dervishes as well, you'll get them here. I'm neither religious nor particularly gobsmacked by the esoteric - not often, in any case. However, witnessing the Sema ceremony of the order of the Mevlevis, those followers of Rumi (and through him, Shams-i-Tabrizi [aside, read Elif Shafak on them: she is my favourite female writer alive today, and that's no small praise], of course) was unlike anything I've ever done before. I thought I knew what music~message congruency meant. I clearly didn't, prior to that night. The beauty of the Sheikh's voice made me want to cry - hold it close to me, so I could live enveloped in its warmth and obvious passion. He invites one to surrender, and for once, ungrudgingly, you do. Then come the dervishes. The 'ne' introduces the spirit of animation - literally breathes life into proceedings - and then it begins. They salute each other, and they whirl. On the spot, for the worlds they are in and of themselves, and then around each other, for what rotates must also revolve, if the universe is to perpetuate itself. The aspect of the hands is just so: one raised heavenward, to receive from the cosmos. The other, palm down, to give it away. Nothing kept for the vessel, the conduit: the death of ego. I think it more telling that I wasn't moved to tears. Merely deafening silence. Then, when they stopped, being able to finally breathe again, in the wake of a dam-break, my mind was filled with phrases, attempting to comprehend what I had been privileged to be part of. The one I remember, the only one worth keeping I suspect, was a paradox born out of their movement meeting the discipline of their philosophy - the dervish's is a controlled abandon. Not an abandonned control, which is something quite else. But how can abandon be controlled, you ask? Go watch the dervishes, I reply.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Foxy Lady - no, really

You know I'm talking about you, Hazel Karkaria. Who else could it possibly be?

Since you insist on giving till it hurts - yes, there's no other way
Since you will nurse for it is what you know how to do,
Since you will give of yourself till there's scant left for you (or me)
Since no Squish or Dio or Brownz will ever go orphaned till there is you,
I doff my hat - my heart - to you.

Every day a little bit more than the sum of a staggering legacy,
You make life worthwhile; hiding behind your squish, even as he once hid behind you.

I hope you'll always love till your heart breaks
And that you'll love again - as fiercely - as before.
Also, that I come back as a puppy or kitten or squirrel in another life; so you will love me more.

Hang in there. You have no choice.
Another Squish will need you soon.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

She used to sign off as 'H'.

She used to sign off as 'H'. It was simpler to let that letter, that alphabet, stand in for her; who she was, and who she was every moment becoming. It had none of the burden of her 'real' or 'given' name. Harmony. Talk about the responsibility attendant to a name like that. You have to cultivate, propagate it - sometimes at tremendous odds with what you might really want to do to/with those jackasses you share the road with - live it, goddamnit. Then there's the musical implication. How could a Harmony - any Harmony - not harmonise? And well at that? Bref, she used to, as I said, sign off as 'H'.

She read an awful lot, did our H. She only wrote a little. She heard an awful lot of music, and sang with a band thrice a week for the better part of 13 years. She only composed a little. Her biggest fear was mediocrity. She wielded her erudition like a weapon; prayed it would pass off for genuine intelligence - and, of course, that nobody would discover the difference. She used aforementioned erudition too, as one ought to be able to do with any good weapon, like a shield. To hide behind. Hide what? Well, that wrinkle newly appearing on her face, that little roll of fat around her once tiny waist, the feeling that she was (somehow) an impostor in her chosen field(s), the sinking realisation (or presumption - she was never sure which) that she was more of this world than she liked to believe, that she was heartbreakingly human despite her assertion that hers was an alien creed, and finally, whether this really was all there was. This she cloaked in what most who saw her deemed confidence or arrogance, depending on the generosity of their spirit, or the capacity in which they met her.

She loved, sometimes. She suspected she was a cold-hearted bitch, because she could switch off, retire into her mind which was always her favourite play thing, and contentedly sit out most storms there, snug as a bug in a rug. This was not to say she loved in half-measure, but she was scared by how quickly she was capable of being disenchanted; or worse, indifferent. She was scared of everything and nothing simultaneously. This was largely because, at age 15, she awoke with a start one night. She realised she had been sobbing and gasping for breath in her sleep. H was convinced that this was her last night on earth - alive, anyway - and she was scared of sleeping again for the fact of the yawning neant waiting to claim her for itself. Since then, she seemed to make an uneasy sort of peace with the idea of death. No, she didn't have some sort of revelation that each sorry day needs to be seized or anything as dramatic as that, but she did decide that she had to pack her life with as much seeing and doing as she possibly could. Also, selfishly, she hoped that she wouldn't outlive her parents - the only two people she loved decidedly more than (definitely as much as, at any rate) life [you would too, if you were lucky enough to know them] and the few others around whom the planet that was H revolved or rotated or whatever it is planets are meant to do around their axes.

H would like you to read this post as an obituary. Not because she is deceased, but because she believes we change every second of every day. Not in dramatic ways, perhaps, but change we do. Why, there are some events in her own life which seem so remote, she can't believe they ever transpired. But they did. Is she disowning her past life? No. Is she seeking absolution because the person she is this minute is a different one? Again, no. Why? Because the people that we become are the by-or-end products of the people that we were, and every last thing we've seen, heard, dreamed, touched, felt, abandoned, hurt, carried, loved, shot, eaten, plucked, planted, shorn, revised, bitten, swatted or glued together, bloody well counts. So, this is an obituary for the Hs that were, to make room for those that are, and those that will come.
She wrote this post today as a response to something a friend (dear; so dear. and talented - so bloody talented) sent her a few days ago. From him she took the idea of masking autobiography by couching it in the form of an Obit. She got distracted along the way, as has been the story of every H there has been yet, and therefore mused on the form-proper and what it meant to 'be' or not to 'be'. More, to 'become'. Hanged if I know what, though.

And now, back to the thesis. *sigh. I was actually quite enjoying this.      

Monday, April 9, 2012


Or, what I found when I looked into notebooks which were my only friends during meetings past.

Ostentation is in fashion -
Wear your caste, class, house,
Use your clout; shout out
that you've got it

Loud, so that they know you've arrived.

Who says Partition wasn't tangible?
You can touch it in the hardened
identities and fixed ideas we wear

Who (not what) underpins you?
Do I?
Is it your self?
Man, woman, other?
F(r)ag~men~t M
E now.
Perhaps this is what is known as self-centred-ness.

I wonder if
it'd still be cold
in Gujarati.
Translation has pitfalls.
Or, perhaps,
into a pit falls.
She has no sympathy for apathy, does our H.

Go already,
Or, Before that cup of coffee

I wake up in the middle of the day,
And I know I want a cup of coffee.
All around me greens are bright and blues are gay -
Bref; it's rarely ever this right.

Just around the bend
across the road from here,
Is a place that sells instant nirvana.
The colours choke you in a million different ways,
And when you breathe?
You become them.

Instant is a good word.
It comes in a cup
The future is dune. The future is camel.


Resistance is clearly a dish
best washed down with
a bottle of Bud;
Mainly because Chinese beers haven't hit our markets yet.

Tibetan settlements serve, so,
the best Chinese food.
As ever, consumption creates and perpetuates the norm.
Consumption, you see, needs no gumption. Ingest. Digest. Eject.

It is the currency;
it is the price
of freedom.

I wonder if His Holiness likes Chili Tofu?

Faculty Meeting 2.yawn~oh.
The day after World Music Day,

isn't one on which we're going to play:
Stuck in a moment I can't get out of,
In despair - sheer, utter -
all I can do is my weary head lay
on this 'ere desk.

After all, 'tis said that poetry comes out of misery.
I'm about to find out.

One more cup of coffee 'fore I go

You cannot force silence
into a shape
to fill the shoes
of a story-sized hole.

You cannot make it speak in tongues.
You cannot make it speak at all.

Is it vulnerable?
Is silence strong?
Can it hurt her?
Can silence be wrong?

To end in the beginning,
In Bombay, they had told him
to land in white flannel.
He did. The rest is his~story.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In which she stumbles and falls and generally makes an ass of herself. In the nicest possible way.

Elton John got it all wrong, I tell you. 'Sorry' is nowhere near 'the hardest word'. I put to you that 'thank-you' (hyphenated, two technically, but one yet) is. There are some debts you incur by the fact of living that seem near impossible to settle. The ones I owe my flower-power mother and father, for example. Or the ones I owe Hazel and Melody.

Then there are others which defy explanation by the unbearable lightness of (their) being; by insinuating the ones bestowing these goodnesses into my life in ways even I scarce understand. Shiv, Bini, Tridip, Aditi; I mean you, and the world of your making which I will forever cherish and treasure.

How often does one get to meet the most gargantuan intellect of their age? How much less likely yet is it that when aforesaid intellect personified and ossified in the form of one Shiv Visvanathan (who wears his erudition and learning as lightly as if it were woven of that muslin so fine, it got that poor Mughal princess of years gone into all kinds of trouble) breezes into your life, he introduces you to others of his ilk - the inimitable civilising force known in short-hand as Binita Desai, and the Auditor-General of the universe-at-large, Tridip Suhrud? Of course, Space-Oddity-Nut Sarkar, who doesn't even remember if he saw Janis Joplin ("some woman was on stage alright, but I can't be sure it was her") live completes this, my unholy trini - wait. Quartet.

If Shiv's is the elemental beat, setting this bossa groove a-going, Bini plays Brubeck, conducting and leading with her searing sense of aesthetic [to which we all secede, concede, and defer diligently]. Add to this the stand-up bass playing, backbone-providing walking jazz lines of Dr Suhrud, and we have something of a winner on our hands, my increasingly puzzled readers - stay with me, because this metaphor; laboured as it is, is about to bear fruit! (teeheehee) Oddity Sarkar is the sax-playing, melody providing layer that makes this mix pop, sizzle and crackle. They play bizarre time-signatures even I fain understand, these people do, but when you *get* where they're going? *sigh. It sounds as intricate, beautiful and life-affirming as this:

Can you blame me for being enchantedbedazzledinaweandmorethanalittlebitinlove?

What brought on this slightly illiterate (but very heartfelt) paean to the wonder that is my DA-tribe?

Something that is less bright, light and for those very reasons probably the most important thing I've ever seen them involved with. You see, Shiv, Bini and Tridip, alongside another woman I admire as much as life itself, Teesta Setalvad and her Citizens for Justice and Peace ( were the 'brains' behind the Gulberg Society Memorial on the 27th of February. This was to commemorate the massacre which occurred there during the Gujarat riots (and that's putting it very mildly) of 2002.

When I learnt that these people were working with the CJP on this 'Memorial to a Genocide', my first reaction was that I wanted to help; in any way, shape or form that I possibly could. Shiv co-opted me into writing for this issue of Communalism Combat (which saw the most devastatingly poignant of his writings yet, to my mind. These have been beautifully translated into Gujarati by Tridip and Saroop Dhruv). Bini came up with ideas for the other 'installations' at the society, and they were meant to sensitise anyone who showed up - no questions asked about who or why - about all that happened, conditions in euphemistically named rehabilitation-camps to this day, and allow them to engage with Gulberg society; a place which saw loss in senses of the word most of us cannot imagine possible. She came up with the idea of a 'Wailing Wall' along one side of the mosque which stands as quiet witness at the entrance of the society. On it we hung up almost 800 photographs of those dead or missing post-riots. Needless to say, the victims of the Godhra tragedy were equally a part of this space for mourning.

As the victims-survivors-witnesses to these riots started coming in on that day, from all across the riot-affected areas of Gujarat, this wall took on the afterlife of a sacred symbol - testament to lives lost; stories which weren't ordained to narrate themselves through, in the form of lives lived. Clusters of people stood in front of it throughout the day, for hours on end. Someone moved some of the pictures around, so that the members of one family could rest alongside each other at least in this commemoration of absence; someone else prayed in front of the photographs of their relatives. With every passing moment, as the day wore on and one finally sat down and let the enormity of the situation sink in when Shubha Mudgal joined her voice - earthy, organic, as attuned to the loss of those she sang for as any human being could be - to the ones of those asking for cognizance of devastating wrongs done, and justice, before conciliation can become a reality, my heart broke into a million pieces.

I started obsessing over the photograph of a child lost in the Pandherwada massacre. This little guy couldn't have been over three years old, and behind his intense Lennon-inspired dark-glasses, I'm sure he was looking out at (but also beyond) the photographer, with a brazenness that was so endearing, I was shaken to the core.

I was all of 19 when the riots 'happened', and left India a few months after the last of the fires had been put out. I've never really engaged with loss on this scale; I haven't had to. This might also have been because, as I've said in an earlier post, Ahmedabad is bloody conducive to the building around oneself of towers. Of the ivory variety. I didn't know what happened in 2002 any more than what was common knowledge owing to media coverage. It imposed upon my consciousness years later, when 'writing the city' for DNA made me grapple with it in ways I'd dismissed in the past. In allowing me to see, hear, but also touch, feel and smell Gulberg, Teesta, Shiv, Bini and Tridip allowed me - more accurately, forced me - to own up to silence as culpability; to inaction as disaster, and reminded me (as if this ever needed doing) why they fight the good fight every day of their lives.

You, each and every last one of you, are responsible for whoever and whatever I am 'becoming'. I absolve my selves (many. plural. yes. I know what I mean) and future selves from any and all responsibility in this regard.
Shelley says the word love has been too often profaned, so it won't mind my abusing it once more yet.

So love, then. Always.