Saturday, December 31, 2005

2006 -- Hello!

Well -- top o' the ladder to everyone!

It's just past nine in the morning of the new year. We had a peaceful and friendly last day. Went upstairs for lunch, which was (as always) beautifully presented, delicious and accompanied by interesting conversation. At night the nearby residents' association club had an ear-splittingly raucous party that lasted at least till 2 o'clock this new year. The music was so loud it was shaking the foundations of this house, which is practically one block away. I can't IMAGINE what it must have been like to actually be at the party! I guess some people enjoy being deaf.

I began 2006 with a choco-bar! And I was online, writing a message to a friend right till the final minutes of '05. So I suppose that's an augury of sorts -- perhaps the twelvemonth ahead will be cold, sweet and filled with chocolate covered e-mails?

Whatever. I've add a couple of pix from the old year, taken in Vermont. If Stone's Throw Farm looks as good here as it does in real life, please credit that to my little Nikon 2100 -- hardly the most advanced of today's digital cameras, but it does what I need of it and with very little sweat or effort on my part.

One of my resolutions for the year is to Take More Photographs. Not because I'm good at it, but because I always regret NOT having 'em when I look back and see ... no pictures. My idea is to take pictures of whatever's around me, the street, the traffic, the people -- of course, like many amateur photographers, one of the things I am most squeamish about is taking pictures of other people (like on a street) -- I always worry that they'll object and then I'll have to -- whatever -- swallow the camera, blush and move on, whatever. It certainly helps that with a digital camera, I can compose the picture on the view-screen at the back, and don't necessarily have to hold it up to my face.

So ... may there be more pix, pixars, pixels in the year ahead!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

2005, Final Days

At the end of every year, I visualize myself reaching the final rungs of a long ladder, the ladder down which I have been climbing, day by day, ever since that year began. On the night of the 31st of December, however much I try to argue myself out of an improbable situation, I can sense my internal time-keeper gathering up her energy to make the leap up, up, UP -- right to the top of the next year's ladder, all in the course of that mystical no-moment as one year ends and the other begins! It would be so much more RESTFUL to imagine one ladder merging calmly into the next but -- no! I see the ladders laid out in a neat row, each one's top aligned against the tops of those that have gone before(I don't presume to guess how many there are ahead -- so I don't see 'em!).

It's been a peaceful and pleasant two weeks since we returned. I've spent the greater part of my time just gathering together my sense of being HERE, rather than en route to somewhere else.

Yesterday, for the first time since we've been back, we went for a long drive, to the bird sanctuary at Sultanpur. As with our expeditions at the beginning of 2005, our valiant charioteer was J, and the chariot was his supremely comfortable Pajero. This time, accompanying us were his son, Y, visiting from the US and our very dear friend and frequent visitor to this blog, A (I most often refer to him here as Amro). Aside from the horrific traffic all the way till just beyond Gurgaon, it was a pleasant outing. Inside the sanctuary, we saw quantities of dabchicks and egrets, painted storks, ibises and one splendid black-necked stork -- how elegant and courtly he was! The plumage for which he is named was not merely black but subtly irridescent, so that even at a distance (and through binocs) we could see a play of midnight colour along the long graceful extent of his neck. That, combined with the white of his body, the soot-black patches on his wings and his spindly crimson legs made him a very handsome sight.

There were quite a few Neelgai around -- we saw maybe 20? According to the ticket-wallahs at the gate, the resident herd numbers around 100 -- and we were close enough to them that my survival skills, normally in deep coma, stirred and raised a mild alarm. Today, of course, a whole day later and no longer within a hundred yards of a 300 lb antelope I can bemoan my weak nerves. Ah well. Next time I'll run up and cuddle 'em.

The bonus wild-life sighting occurred outside the sanctuary. We were in search of a suitable picnic spot at which to eat the main meal of the expedition -- stuffed parathas provided by Amro's parental establishment -- when eagle-eyed E spotted an unusual cat skulking about in the tall grass beside a mustard field. It was most obliging, I must say, because it didn't immediately vanish out of sight, but remained in view long enough for all of us to see the stripes on its back legs and the end of its tail and also the fine ridge of black at the very tips of its ears. It was about the size of a large domesticated tom, its body sandy-gold in colour. As if that weren't thrilling enough, we saw it (or its buddy) as we were leaving the area too. This second sighting was quite generous, because the creature actually sat by the side of the road and posed for a few moments, staring not quite at us, but past us, in that way felines have, as if humans and all our baggage are really too gross to be worth actually looking at.

It was ALMOST small enough to be mistaken for a domestic cat, but ... there an apartness about it, a reserve, that proclaimed its freedom and its independence from the yoke of human companionship.

When we got home and looked it up in "Indian Wildlife", its identity was confirmed: a Jungle Cat.

Oh -- and yes, of course the parathas were excellent -- mooli, cauliflower and potato. And yes, we even had a minor almost-loss: E left his fleece jacket behind in the mustard field he visited briefly (while attempting to escape the photographic attentions of Amro!) and realized it only after we had left the place. But we returned and the jacket was recovered before anyone else captured it. Then back we went, back through the forest of fly-over support-struts that have sprouted all across the access routes into Delhirium, and into the grey, dusty, chaos of the traffic.

Finally -- in case you missed 'em -- there're a couple of new links in the column on the right. I don't like to keep too many links going, so alas I have removed two blog-links that were there before. But I find I hardly ever visit any blogs aside from the two that that have been there from the start -- lazy, that's moi! -- so any disappointment is regreted.

And here's one last link for the year -- the site of the Swiss artist who dreamt up the triple-jawed beastie that froze our popcorn to our numbed fingers when we saw the first of the ALIEN movies -- a little something to curdle your blood at the end of the year: R. GIGER rrrROWRRR! Audio ON, please ...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Recently Received Delight!

This graphic is a simplified version of a map that appears in a must-have book called THE ATLAS OF EXPERIENCE. It was given to me by our friends/hosts in Berkeley. They've given away dozens of copies to friends, they tell me. And no wonder: it's one of those books that you keep out in a place where many people can find it and smile over it.

It LOOKS like an atlas, but it READS like a witty, charming and thought-provoking deliberation upon life. The picture above is only a very general approximation of the complete map. Go check out the compleat version at World Of Experience. Enjoy!

Twelvth Bulletin -- Home Again!

.. that was ten days ago, actually, after a warm and friendly and very well-fed stay in London. I would have blogged about it while I was still there except for the shadow that fell over my clan-family: one of my elder cousins died, very suddenly, in his sleep, in his home in Budapest. He was just 54, so it was a dreadful shock for everyone, especially his two sisters, wife and two grown children. My uncle in London was as always wonderfully resilient and despite his own sense of deep bereavment(the cousin was my uncle's elder brother's son), organized the funeral. I wasn't there for it, having left the day before, but everyone says it was very moving and very fitting (I'm not mentioning names in order to keep this blog from popping up in the public tributes to my cousin who was a very well-regarded international banker and has been greatly mourned in banking circles).

So it was against this background that I had, despite it all, a very pleasant stay with my cousins, uncles and aunts in London. This visit was my first at the new home of K & S, the cousins with whom I always stay when I'm in -- why doesn't London have a pet-name, like New York? Something like the Big Apple? -- Old Londinium and it was absolutely fabulous. It's a renovated Georgian home, and S has out-done herself. She is an outstanding home-maker -- I should know, having stayed at FOUR of their houses -- and this one tops the lot. It's positively EDIBLE: I would say it has the flavour of heavy cream and raspberries; champagne and orchids; moussaka and hot french bread. Totally YUM.

The return to Delhirium was quite pleasant, all considered. Our flight got in at the very decent hour of just before 12 pm. The immigration queue was one hour long but really, aside from that, re-entry was wholly painless. Our outstanding domestic maitre d' was waiting for us with tea and toast and lunch -- and the house was clean and dusted. Later the same night, our friend Maude from Providence arrived (flying in from France, where she had spent a week or two), so it was all very convivial again. The speed of international really shrinks the globe, huh? It's hard to be aware of the vastness of the distance travelled when it takes a mere night to wake up on the other side of the world. Oh and -- Virgin Atlantic continues to get top marks from me. This time, instead of watching movies, I played their in-flight quiz games practically all the way from the UK. Very cool. But the flight was NOT packed, which is a bit worrying. I want the airline to do WELL! So that I don't have to choose the competition, the next time I fly.

Year-Ender Messages We Shall Never See

In reaction against the treacle-y Year Ender messages from friends and family around the world, I composed a small sampling of those we might like to see ... but WON'T:

Dear All --
Of course, we have had a wonderful year. Being True Believers, we ALWAYS have wonderful years, every year. The same is true of our entire Family -- which means all True Believers: a year of outstanding martyrdom and perfect joy. We are proud of every single one of you, both present and martyred. We expect the same of you next year and for all the years of glory ahead for all of us.

Isn't it wonderful to have no doubts, no fears, no tears? Glory! Glory! Forever! Forever! Your loving, O


Dear All,
It's been a great year. I went out and got eaten by a wolf -- who had previously eaten up old Gra'mum. Amazingly, we BOTH SURVIVED, because a woodsman came and cut open the wolf. Fortunately for G'mum and me, the wolf's digestive system was so very sluggish, we didn't suffer the SLIGHTEST acid burn. Even our clothes came through unscathed.

The wolf of course was TOTALLED. And the woodsman was hauled away by several animal rights agencies at once for having destroyed a unique specimen of wolf, that was both able to swallow two humans whole AND speak in English too! It's all very sad.

However, that was all some time ago. G'mum and I are entirely recovered. On the strength of my trauma, which is being seen as a specialized case of Child Abuse, I've got scholarships to Radcliffe, Brown and Yale. I plan to major in Survival Strategies for the Modern Girl Child.

G'mum has her own hugely popular reality show on TV called Surviving Grandchildren and Their Wolves -- of course I probably don't need to tell you any of this, since you're all probably glued to your sets every weeknight, waiting to see which grandparent gets swallowed next.

Mum and Dad are okay -- though of course I don't get to see them much, what with all the press attention following the attack. Sad thing about old parents, huh? They never entirely enjoy their kids' success. Can you believe -- they want me to STOP wearing my red riding hood! Huh! Considering that I've stopped wearing any OTHER clothes, taking off the cape might be a little ... ummm ... REVEALING, if you get my

Well that's it from me. Wishing y'all a similarly successful
twelvemonth! Your beloved Red.


Another dreadful year *sigh* Dunno what to do about THEM. Yuck. How I hate the pests. Yes, yes -- floods, droughts, plagues -- I'm trying! THEY just keep on reproducing, of course. I thought rabbits were prolific, but these simians? Ohhh gollygollygolly. NOTHING STOPS 'em.

But I've still got a few tricks up my sleeve. My virus programmers are a really creative bunch, for instance. And I can always pull off a well-positioned quake or two -- though I HATE to do it. So many of my beloved rocks and plants and beasts die too, in the chaos. THEY never seem to understand that if only there were fewer of them, there'd be fewer catastrophes too ...

Oh well. This is all very bad-tempered of me. I'll end this now. There are ever more nasty dams to worry about, and nuclear facilities and malls and motorways ... aaaarggh!

Whatever. Have a good one! Your ever-loving, G

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Eleventh Bulletin -- London Calling

A final round of dinners and lunches in Berkeley, stacks of oreo cookies, gallons of tea and a rainy last two days and -- we were off. Flew to Boston overnight from SF, a bleary, uncomfortable flight, with only apple juice to nourish us. Of course there was a choice of other fluids, but what I'm pointing to here is the changed circumstances in the skies above America -- the new brusque and food-free atmosphere, with all services stripped down to the dead minimum. No little baggie of goodies -- no flimsy eye-mask, no unusable knock-down toofbrush with miniature tube of chalky toofpaste, no little booties for the feet, no seat-back screens for the movies. Nope, it was back to the Jurassic era of air-travel, with those small bright monitors hanging in a row from the spine of the aircraft and 2$ headphones and no escape from the movie all night long.

In another sense, though, it was a sort of relief not to have to feel grateful for the utterly insincere "hospitality" airlines typically dish out. We ate a giant toasted sandwich just before emplaning and that was quite enough to last us the six-hour flight to Beantown. Got in to my niece's pleasant and cheerful home by around ... oooh ... 8.30? She was still there, but about to leave for work,so we said our helloooos and g'byes before ripping open all our luggage for the final pack-down before the flight out of the US. We had a breezy, enjoyable two nights and one day in Boston -- with the inevitable faint panic in the final hours, trying to decide which combination of hand- and cabin-luggage was best -- keeping in mind the ten day halt in London, E's side-trip to Helsinki, two lap-tops and ... well, you get the idea. Four months of suitcase living and accumulated bric a brac compressed into two strollies, one suitcase, one duffle-bag like a giant frankfurter stuffed with pure lead, two backpacks and one computer bag. *sigh*

The security team at the airport scolded me for being so dumb as to take my laptop out of the case (--good--) but then placing it on top of the case itself rather than in a separate bin (--bad--) and then forgetting to separate two bins (--criminally bad--) ... my stuff finally went through in five separate bins, shoes in one, heavy coat and light jacket in another, backpack in a third, computer case in a fourth and computer in the fifth. Ah well. At least I got through without being strip-searched. Which reminds me --in San Francisco I got random-screened with their new sniffer machines. I went through a separate channel and stood in a small glass chamber and several jets of air suddenly PAFFED around me -- painless but a bit startling -- after which I was released. *shrug* Whatever.

LONDON! Ah, London -- but a pause here before I go on to sing the praises of VIRGIN ATLANTIC. All ye travellers out there, poised to buy your tickets for destinations diverse, hear this and make your adjustments: VA is the best. It all comes down to seating. Any airline can offer duplex apartments to their first class passengers -- but it's the quality of the economy seats that defines a classy flight. And VA delivers. We were comfortable and cramp-free, breathed easy and felt well-loved. The food was pleasant and the movies were inexhaustible -- I'd have gone blind if I'd watched them all. Of the two I saw, one was perfect airline fare -- light but well-acted -- Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins -- set against the backdrop of the London Blitz and with naked beauties in the foreground. MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS -- go see it if you can -- if nothing else, to enjoy the surprising and refreshing lack of prudery about bare flesh. I don't know how VA gets away with it, or whether there's been a sudden loosening of moral corsets in the air (perhaps to offset the repressions on earth?) but at least two movies on this flight featured full frontal nudity -- just brief glimpses, to be sure, no lingering, no close-ups -- male and female, with neither any twinkling pixellation nor any steam-of-porn. It was Just Bits o' Bare Skin. And rather nice bits too. Anyway, so you get the idea, FLY VIRGIN. And no, I've not been paid to say this. I really and truthfully had a good flight.

My stays in London are always pleasant on account of being warmly and lovingly enfolded in the bosom of my family. This time is no different. I am always indulged to the hilt and eat too much and feel nostalgic for England's gigantic coins -- "small change" indeed, huh! -- can't be sure why nostalgic, exactly -- there must be some reason, but I can't hunt it down right now. Too sleepy.

Before I pip off for the moment, two excellent movies to report. I saw both in the US, but feel they both need wider exposure. They're both documentaries and since I'm not entirely compos mentis at the moment, I'll just make a dab at the title of the first one: "THE REAL DIRT about Farmer John" (I'll come back laterand correct it, if I need to) -- and you can find out more about it at: The Real Dirt. The second one's called "RIVERS AND TIDES" and is about the British artist Andy Goldsworthy.

THE REAL DIRT is the true story of John Peterson, who grew up on a farm and loved the land and during the sixties allowed his farm to become a place where agriculture and rock music came together to make a moment of art and beauty and craziness, then almost had to give everything up until finally returning once more to the land, to collective agriculture, to organic crops and people and soil and growing plants and the land, the land, the glorious land. It is a marvellous, witty, cleverly made and strangely moving story with a powerful message: FOLLOW YOUR DREAM. Just do it. Even if it sometimes results in running around wearing bee-costumes and singing funny songs with your girlfriend, in a corn field ...

RIVERS AND TIDES is inspiring and beautiful in an entirely different way. You can google Andy Goldsworthy's name to see his work, but the film is powerful because you can see him PRODUCE his work -- out of random bits of icicle, out of shards of rock, out of simple dandelions, out of sunlight, water, time and his love for the materials he works with. His work is often ephemeral: he might scratch a pattern onto the surfaces of a line of fresh green leaves, place them on a rock in order so that the pattern links up and becomes a jagged line, then watch them as the wind ruffles through his art and blows it all away. He might build a structure out of twigs, big enough to be a nest for a man-sized bird, then watch with an expression of tolerant amusement as the incoming tide swirls it all away.

By making art which doesn't last, it seems to me that he cuts deep towards the heart of what makes a thing a piece of art -- it remains ultimately indescribable of course -- but the pleasure he gets, which becomes visible in the simplicity and beauty of his creations, is surely what it's all about. The sense of doing something because it MUST be done -- not because of deadlines or being immortalized in stone or earning a living or putting food on the table -- yet also involving all of that, since he has four small children, and as for deadlines, even if he didn't have commissions of work to fulfil (which he does, as one of Britain's highly acclaimed contemporary artists), he has the tides and seasons to contend with -- the sense of being caught in a tide of his own art as surely as the leaves he places so reverently on the water ... THAT is powerful and inspirational.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Ten-and-a-Halfth Bulletin--A Must-Share Item

My friend Anvar Alikhan sent me this by e-mail.

Stay hungry

The address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation
Studios, at the Stanford University Commencement, June 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the
finest Universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth
be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation.
Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal.
Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed
around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So
why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed
college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She
felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so

rything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his
wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that
they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list,
got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby

Do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later
found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my
father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final
adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents
promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college
that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class
parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months,
I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my
life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here
I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So
I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was
pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I
ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes
that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the
floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy
food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to
get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much
of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out
to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy
instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label
on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped
out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a
calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif
typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter
combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful,
historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and
I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life.
But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer,
it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the
first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that
single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces
or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac,
it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never
dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class,
and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they
do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I
was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect
them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow
connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut,
destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and
it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started
Apple in my parents' garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10
years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion
company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest
creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then
I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple
grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company
with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our
visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling
out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was
out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult
life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let
the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the
baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob
Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public
failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But
something slowly began to dawn on me. I still loved what I did. The turn
of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected,
but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple
was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness
of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner
again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most
creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another
company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would
become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer
animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation
studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I
returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the
heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful
family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired
from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient
needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose
faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved
what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your
work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of
your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe
is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If
you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all
matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great
relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So
keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live
each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right."
It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have
looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the
last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?"
And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know
I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever
encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost
everything, all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment
or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what
is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I
know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are
already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in
the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even
know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a
type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer
than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my
affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to
try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10
years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything
is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means
to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy,
where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and
into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from
the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when
they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because
it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable
with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest
I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now
say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful
but purely intellectual concept: No one wants to die. Even people who want
to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the
destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it
should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of

It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the

Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will
gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic,
but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.
Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's
thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own
inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and
intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole
Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created
by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he
brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before
personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with
typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google
in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic,
and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog,
and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was
the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final
issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might
find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the
words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as
they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for
myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Tenth Bulletin -- Final Days in Berkeley

Yesterday (meaning November 22nd) ended on a giggly note: I spent the evening with four young staffers of the Centre for South Asian Studies, celebrating my brief stay in Berkeley, during which they hosted a show of my prints. I am not going to identify them in order to spare them undue exposure, but let's just say that three gourmet pizzas, one salad, one Scotch, four cocktails and two bottles of wine flowed. Oh and there were some rather smart snacks to go with the drinks, but I have almost forgotten what they were, because by the time they arrived, we had reached the Competitive Nose-Twitching stage of intimacy.

What IS Competitive Nose-Twitching some of you may ask? Well it's when two or more members of a group are able to control the movements of their nostrils to the extent that they can twitch them in one or more directions SEPARATELY. There are certain inevitable results of such competitions -- one is that other specialty movements of facial features are discovered -- Eye-Brow Raising for instance, and Ear-Lobe Flexing -- and the other is that I begin to giggle uncontrollably. A motor starts up inside me and it becomes progressively difficult for me to turn it off.

Actually, by earlier standards, last night's session was quite sedate. We didn't really go very far beyond the Nostril Competition -- in fact the only other real display was a rather splendid Trefoil Tongue-Fold during which I (a leading exponent) encountered another similarly skilled person for the first time in my life. I was hugely impressed. However I refrained from displaying my piece de resistance (sorry, no French accents -- don't know how to generate them in this window) -- the Tongue To Nose-Tip Flexion. Over the years I have come to realize that it really is rather gross in persons over the age of 10 years -- and I am 52(I realize, I should by now have got over the need to flaunt such talents. Alas, as must be clear, I have not).

I must admit, my interactions with CSAS have far exceeded normal expectations. The Art Show, which was inaugurated just over a week ago, has been a wholly pleasurable experience. From the effort of getting the prints matted in preparation for the show to getting them positioned on the walls of the CSAS office, it has been a smooth, happy and stress-free interaction -- no, I would go further: anyone seeking a break from the dreary routines of their lives, might consider approaching the CSAS to have a show of their artwork. Of course it probably helps if one has some art to show, and if the Powers That Be at the department are adequately happy with the work ... I am very glad that I was able to meet both these criteria. My prints look right at home on the walls of the cheery little office. Anyone wishing to see them or to find out more about the exhibition should stop by at: YES ("YES" being the name of the show). It will remain up through January 2006.

Meanwhile, back at the theatre department, sorrow reigns.

It didn't have to be that way. After all: six shows were sold out; three hundred-odd visitors per show were treated to a two-and-a-half-hour extravaganza of music, dance and comedy; many appear to have been well-satisfied with their exposure to what they believed was Authentic South-Asian Culture.

Normally, this would be enough to satisfy the average drama crew. But apparently it rankles that I, who happen to have written the play, was not properly grateful about the ways in which my work had been altered. The main source of displeasure seems to be that I blogged my opinions in a thoughtless and forthright fashion and that too, on the second night of the six-night run. But blogs are custom-built to be sites for venting steams of every sort! I would have to be a very peculiar person indeed if I said nothing at all about the distortion wrought upon my play -- and what would be the point of saying it AFTER it had ceased to be current? It is even possible that my unfeelingly blunt remarks were a source of publicity for the show. *sigh*

As to the distortions: it seems to me there's a rather odd misunderstanding about what a playwright can expect from a production. It's not true that once a play has been written and published it is automatically "out there" for the world to do with it what it likes -- which seems to be what some of the visitors to this blog believe. So long as the playwright is still alive, it is considered quite normal for him/her to exercise some control over how the work is performed.

If a production doesn't match the playwright's expectations and if his/her script is significantly altered, then he/she has a right to object and to insist that it be done differently. I didn't do that. It's not because I don't know what I want but because I have learnt to recognize the signs of a production that has set off down the wrong path. Once that has happened, short of shutting the production down altogether, one has just got to grit one's teeth and let the thing run. It isn't possible to enjoy the results -- but so far, I have believed that it's kinder to permit the show to go on, because so many people have already invested so much time and effort in it.

It comes down to this: some directors believe in allowing a play to breathe on its own, while others try to force their own breath into it. The first variety is wonderful to work with -- and I have no difficulty accepting the minor cuts and/or additions such directors might request. I've had four pleasant experiences -- the Greek stage production of HARVEST, the UK and Australian readings and the BBC World Service version (on radio). In each of these cases, I did almost nothing to affect the form of the finished version. The directors interpreted my script in a straightforward manner and didn't add any unexpected flourishes to the existing text. The result was cool, austere and true to my intention; a happy place for all concerned to be in.

[a pause here to mention the Swarthmore production: it had a lot going for it, but bad things had happened in the early days of its rehearsal process. The end result was that everyone left the show feeling wrung out and there were noticeable glitches during the performance -- Jeetu's head, for instance, didn't register on the video in the last scene. Of course, the cast and crew for that show were all professionals, so it isn't surprising that their performance was polished]

It is hard therefore, for me to understand the need for me to specify what I want from a production. I already know, from past experience, that some directors succeed in interpreting the script appropriately. It isn't unnatural for me to assume that all directors can succeed to the same extent. So ... why don't they?

I don't know. I believe it's because they don't allow the text to breathe. When they're performing familiar, classic plays, it doesn't matter because the audience already knows what the original is like. The problem arises when they approach new work. In such situations, what they produce can appear to be what the playwright intended. Only the handful of people who have read the script will know that what's happening onstage is not the way it was written and they may not remember the original accurately in any case. The result is deeply embarrassing/unpalatable to anyone who cares about his/her work. It doesn't matter who adores it and how many people appreciate it -- being praised for something you haven't done is the same as not being praised at all.

I feel very sad that the cast bore the brunt of my critique. I genuinely thought the actors were very gifted; it isn't their fault that they were encouraged to over-act recklessly. I realized from the time of the first rehearsal I attended that this interaction was going to end sadly because I knew that sometime or another I was going to have to be honest about my response to the production. I realize the cast cannot at this moment distance itself from its version of the play. I can only hope that sometime in the future, perhaps as soon as early next year, some glimmer will appear of what the performance COULD have been.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Ninth Bulletin -- Berkeley, Post-Show

It really is a shame that I don't manage to keep this blog up-dated more frequently. For instance: between this post and the last one, I've been to Irvine and back, having spent a wonderful weekend with a buddy from Bombay days -- but already the current of events has carried me far enough beyond that visit and into the next excitment, i.e., the Berkeley production of HARVEST.

Irvine was fun. I and my friend K have been planning to catch up with one another for ... ohhh ... maybe 10 years? 15 years? She's a molecular biologist and has been living in southern California for a longish while, but things took a dramatic turn in her life two years ago, when she had twins. I had never met any other members of her family before -- so this visit was a sudden immersion, a warm and very happy one, into all kinds of new dimensions: husband, mother-in-law, children, wow! And all extremely and unusually interesting, charming, great to be with. It turned out that the weekend that suited K best was the one on which the twins' second birthday was being celebrated. So the day after I got there we -- K and her mother-in-law A, visiting from India and me bringing up the rear -- got into gear for the party. It is SO astonishing to be in the presence of very small children -- the sense of so much potential packed into a small, mobile unit which can talk a certain amount and is recording everything and yet ... is not quite of this world, is still faintly mystical with newly-arrived otherness.

Before leaving me at the airport K, A and I went for a stroll along the sea-front, enjoyed a balmy sun-lit view of the great blue vastness of the Pacific. Then it was time for me to leave. John Wayne Airport with the great hero striding towards an impossible horizon, twice-life-size, in bronze. Peanut snacks and apple cider on board the flight. Arrival in Berkeley, where E collected me in the car we have rented for the remainder of our stay in California, during a sudden drizzling down-wash of rain.

Back in Berkeley -- just four days later, but so much change! The night before I flew out, we -- meaning E, our hosts Laura and Kiran and myself -- shifted out of one charming residence and into the next, also supremely attractive, but just a bit further north and up a hillside, in Kensington. The new home is constructed such that guests (we are the first!) get a little cottage all to themselves, complete with kitchenette and a great view. At the time I left, only survival furniture had been moved from one residence to the next. When I got back, civilization was well-entrenched: chairs, bedside lamp, floor rugs, the works ... I was amused to notice what kinds of items, normally unnoticed, were the ones we missed most at the time of the first move: teaspoons, kitchen towels, garbage bins and mugs! The basics for drinking a hot cup of tea, so vital for keeping morale high during times of stress.

And so ... to the play. Well, last night (Friday, 11th November) was the opening night and I finally saw it with all the tech in place. For those of you who attended the unfortunate performance in Delhi and have been interested ever since in the play's history, let me say this: it was better than Delhi. HOWEVER ... but I need to backtrack here in order to be coherent.

I saw two rehearsals before last night's performance (that was about three weeks ago, when I first arrived in Berkeley). Both times, I will frankly confess, I was deeply disturbed. The play was -- alas! Yet again! -- NOT what I'd like it to be. However, one great relief for me was that I was able to express my views to Sudipto; and he took it very well -- because I had also, at the same moment that I told him what I thought, also decided that I would NOT interfere with his interpretation. I told him that too.

He has added at least an hour of performance time to the play, including lines, movements and moods that are in no way part of the original. For instance, he has permitted his actors to use a number of Hindi-isms such as "arre", "beta" etc -- which I find very hard to accept because (a) I am not a Hindi-speaker and specifically resisted falling back on ethnic touches of that sort while writing the play (b) the use of Hindi is a reminder that the family would never normally be speaking English and besides the actual words and terms are cliches, utterly colourless in themselves. I far prefer the play to inhabit a language-neutral space by remaining in ONE language, rather than attempting to balance uneasily between two.

Yet, for all that I disliked -- and it was/is a real dislike -- I recognized that this production, being fuelled by students and their youthful energy, had a kind of vulgar logic. The four principal characters were played by South Asians [-- I've deleted a portion here at the request of a visitor --] and it seemed very important to them to explore the specific ethnic identities of their characters. It's hard for me to express what I want clearly, but it's something like this: since I don't feel the need to underline the fact that I'm Indian/SouthAsian, it is utterly unimportant -- no, more than unimportant, actually UNATTRACTIVE -- for me to make a big deal about that identity. I want to go the other way -- I want to universalize the experience of being whatever -- Asian/Indian/whatever -- and to explore the notion of sameness-in-otherness. Whereas for this production, what seems to have overwhelmed the tone is the heavy spice of Indianness.

I believe it doesn't help the play at all, because the language and ideas don't support it but ... and here's why I didn't interfere ... I wanted to see whether or not I would be alone in my belief, and whether Sudipto's conviction that the play has a context (meaning, an INDIANNESS) that I, its creator, want to deny, would prevail.

OKAY! So back to yesterday's performance. Seeing the play with all its technical effects in place was definitely a plus. There was an interesting take on the GINNI scenes: instead of being shown any views of Her Blondeness, we only heard her voice -- and four different girls read GINNI's part, adding a curious layered effect, so that it was unclear how many people were speaking -- while the Prakash family members looked up at the bright light which represented her presence. Because this permitted them to face the audience, we had a stronger sense of their reaction than is usually the case with the GINNI scenes in other productions of the play AND -- a great bonus -- the audio was delivered live, from backstage, so the annoying tension of pre-taped video was avoided. The final scene, between JAYA and VIRGIL was unusually powerful -- better than most that I've seen -- and VIRGIL's voice was also live, a gravelly male voice, strangely wistful, I thought and quite effective.

It still irks me, of course, that the play is (a) soooo long (b) soooo ethnic. That's not what I wrote and it certainly isn't what I like to see. It becomes an ordeal at this length, like one of those interminable dance-dramas I used to hate so much as a child. Whereas HARVEST's ideal run-time is about one and a half hours, this is almost THREE! By mid-play, I found myself wanting to drown the whole, whining, screaming, wailing, whimpering family of four grotesques -- that's what they had all become, human gargoyles -- it seemed to me no-one could possibly care about what fate lay in store for such creatures. But ...

At this moment, I don't know if I am alone in my dislike or not. I have realized, from listening to a couple of others talking about the play, that the desire to see a production drenched in ethnic context is apparently very great. Enough to overturn other aesthetic considerations ... maybe? I don't know.

At this moment, the second night's performance is still going on ... and I am sitting in the director's office, tapping out these notes, feeling slightly naughty as I do this, feeling pleased to finally be able to get these views off my conscience and out onto the net. I've been suppressing my opinions until opening night, because of course I didn't want to presume upon the performance until I'd SEEN it, complete. And once the performance is over -- there's another hour and a half to go -- I and Sudipto will engage in a talk-back on-stage with those of the audience members who choose to remain. E is in the audience again, and this time Laura, Maya and Becky are all present too ...

Much to look forward to -- and much left to report upon! In just another few hours.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Eighth Bulletin -- An Old Queen in a New Museum

On Thursday I went with a friend to check out San Francisco's newly re-opened de Young Museum -- I could quote miles of statistics about how many pounds of copper (950,000) were used to create the bizarrely wonderful perforated and embossed "skin" of the building, etc etc -- but on the other hand, I could just as well suggest visiting the de Young website for that information.

It was an outstanding experience. I am not a great museum goer (though most people imagine I must be -- "Oh you're an artist!" they say, "-- you probably ADORE going to museums!!" No, I don't. I detest going out in GENERAL. I would much rather stay home and sleep, eat, play computer games and pet cats) but this one was worth every moment spent there -- the building was as much an exhibit as any of the huge number of items inside it. The special exhibition currently on view is about Egypt's only female Pharaoh, HATSHEPSUT.

Now I imagine that all of you are just as clued in on the lady as I ... was NOT: for instance, I had no idea that she was styled as a KING, despite rather obviously being a woman. I can just imagine the grammatical nightmare posed by the information cards accompanying the exhibits! There were many uncomfortable compromises involving such constructions as: "The King sits on HER throne ... " etc (that's not an actual quote, just an example of the type of thing available). Nevertheless, it caused a powerful ripple of sympathy and what Doris Lessing calls "with-feeling" to imagine the weight of responisbility resting on the distant lady's narrow shoulders, being the one and only recorded female Pharaoh. She ruled 10 centuries after the pyramids were built (again, I'm only quoting something I read there three days ago, not verbatim) so she represents an odd hiccup in the system. After her death, her nephew Thutmose III did what he could to erase her cartouche (i.e. the hieroglyphic symbol representing her) from the inscriptions on statues, but he did not succeed, it seems, from erasing her from our knowledge.

How strange it is, then, to gaze upon that serene and smooth-skinned face, with its delicate eyebrows and false-beard and try to imagine the thoughts that animated its living owner. Ha -- and not in English of course! Nothing so simple. I can see speech bubbles in hieroglyphs ... incomprehensible thoughts ... the gulf of time almost too vast to contemplate and yet, and yet: she looks so contemporary, so much like you or I (give or take the decorative cobras and "simple three-wig hair-do")! There was, perhaps, an edge of politics in the choice of such an exhibit to open the de Young's new building to the public -- was I the only one who noticed a curious resemblance between the faint, cat-like smirk on Hatshepsut's carved representations and the almost identical one that typically adorns Hillary Clinton's face? Oh the first and only phemale Pharaoh! Yes.

There was much, much more to engross and distract our attention, but I will mention here only the wonderful vista, staring up from the entrance coutryard to the museum's main building. It is enclosed in such a way that, looking up, we see an elongated pentagonal shape which perfectly frames the sky -- the sky itself becomes an art-work, framed and ever-moving for our delectation! Breathtaking.

And -- a moment of only-in-Berkeley Zen: returning from the museum, I got off at BART's downtown Berkeley station and stopped at Andronico's to pick up a few groceries on my way home. At the checkout counter, the checkout clerk noticed the TINY sticker -- barely an inch square -- which announced that I had been a visitor at the de Young Hatshepsut exhibition -- and he stopped what he was doing to chat with me about it -- the CHECKOUT CLERK!! -- and said how much he was looking forward to visiting the museum himself, soon.

Ah, California.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


It's been over a week since we got to Berkeley and I've not posted a word coz ... I'm wholly preoccupied in pleasurable pursuits such as: cat-petting; eating; going for walks; eating; decorating porcelain bowls; eating; meeting with the director and cast of the Berkeley production of HARVEST; cat-petting; chatting over wine and great food with our friends and hosts, Laura & Kiran; inevitably, eating; cat-petting; meeting the team at the Centre for South Asian Studies over at the U, in preparation for the small art-exhibition they have kindly agreed to host in mid-November; cat-petting; going to San Francisco for a day trip to meet a cyber-buddy of EIGHT YEARS' ACQUAINTANCE for the FIRST TIME; walking around a little more; getting bitten by cat fleas; eating; sleeping.

Right -- and now that you're up-to-date with my affairs, I can get on with the serious business of posting a list of Premium Blonde Jokes:

Seven Degrees of Blondes
A married couple were asleep when the phone rang at 2 in the
morning. The wife (undoubtedly blonde), picked up the phone, listened a
moment and said, "How should I know, that's 200 miles from here!" and
hung up.

The husband said, "Who was that?"

The wife said, "I don't know, some woman wanting to know if the
coast is clear."
Two blondes are walking down the street. One notices a compact on
the sidewalk and leans down to pick it up. She opens it, looks in the
mirror and says, "Hmm, this person looks familiar."

The second blonde says, "Here, let me see!"

So the first blonde hands her the compact.

The second one looks in the mirror and says, "You dummy, it's

A blonde suspects her boyfriend of cheating on her, so she goes
out and  buys a gun. She goes to his apartment unexpectedly and when she
opens the door she finds him in the arms of a redhead.

Well, the blonde is really angry. She opens her purse to take out the gun, and as she
does so, she is overcome with grief. She takes the gun an puts it to her head.

The boyfriend yells, "No, honey, don't do it!!!"

The blonde replies, "Shut up, you're next!"
A blonde was bragging about her knowledge of state capitals. She
proudly says, "Go ahead, ask me, I know all of them."

A friend says, "OK, what's the capital of Wisconsin?"

The blonde replies, "Oh, that's easy: W."
What did the blonde ask her doctor when he told her she was

"Is it mine?"
Bambi, a blonde in her fourth year as a UCLA freshman, sat in her
US government class. The professor asked Bambi if she knew what Roe
vs. Wade was about.

Bambi pondered the question then finally said, "That was the
decision George Washington had to make before he crossed the Delaware."
Returning home from work, a blonde was shocked to find her house
ransacked and burglarized. She telephoned the police at once and
reported the crime.

The police dispatcher broadcast the call on the radio, and a K-9
unit, patrolling nearby was the first to respond. As the K-9 officer
approached the house with his dog on a leash, the blonde ran out
on the porch, shuddered at the sight of the cop and his dog, then sat
down on the steps.

Putting her face in her hands, she moaned, "I come home to find
all my possessions stolen. I call the police for help, and what do they
do? They send me a BLIND policeman!"
Ok. Now forward this to someone else who needs a laugh today!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Sixth Bulletin (still in New Yawk)

Two days left before I hit the road again, time to publish another post. So here I am. Yes, I know -- my last post ended on a highly energetic note, but that's because I was at an outstanding computer-station at the home of friends in Long Island (translation: they have broadband and are upgraded as of the most recent twitch in the MicroSoft spectrum) and everything was working perfectly. By contrast, the computer I'm currently at doesn't like Blogger and doesn't so much as allow me to read "Comments" -- I only get to know who's said what when I go to Yahoo and read the incoming mail.(an aside to Amro: this is why I haven't answered!). So I've not been able to load pix from Vermont and was too discouraged thereby to write up my further adventures.

My stay in NYC has been excellent, meanwhile. Amongst various thrills: on Friday (7th Oct) my friends K & N came over to do a first reading of my current work-in-progress, a short play that is currently titled EVOLUTION. N is an artist -- a sculptor and potter -- and the same afternoon, I visited her studio at Hunter College and saw the piece she was exhibiting downstairs: it was composed of a large (forty?) collection of buckets and pitchers and containers arranged on the floor of a large room; inside the receptacles are objects wrapped in wire and drowned in water. It's like walking in on the scene of a renovation of some sort, where the work-men have left their equipment in water and then wandered away, perhaps for too long. Intriguing! And rather cool. I liked it.

Back at the flat, N had brought all the necessary items for making Sangria -- so we did -- and when K arrived, he had excellent snack material in the form of pita bread and spicy hummus -- so we nourished our bodies before diving into the reading. I thought it went VERY well -- I will not describe the play just yet because it's still in development -- but when I say it went well, what I mean is that we were able to get all the way through it without much pain or pausing.

I hadn't printed it out -- I've been working on it ever since I got to New York (well, it was a quarter-written before that -- I began it about six months ago and stopped after 10 pages) and only tapped out the final bits in the afternoon just before I left for Hunter College! So we read it straight out of the computer -- I was on my laptop, while K & N sat at this computer, the house computer, which is a desk-top -- and it wasn't too uncomfortable, I thought.

It's a great privilege to hear something out loud,in other voices. It immediately, for instance, establishes those bits of dialogue that sound quite normal on paper but are unintelligible in audio. My real concern was whether the concept was too slight to be worth writing about -- and it was good to be able to get someone else's opinion. K is a very good critic because he doesn't flinch from saying negative things (without being nasty) -- which is what I desperately needed at this stage. For N, this was the first time she was assisting with a reading. She offered interesting counterpoints. All in all: I believe it MAY be a worthwhile project, but it still has a distance to go(I would say it's about three-quarters done, now). I have an idea of how I can improve what's already here and as to whether it's worth further work well ... I'll do the work first and then decide!

On Sunday evening, I attended a performance of an excellent double-monologue called IN THE CONTINUUM. Written and performed by two women, Danai Gariri and Nikkole Salter, it was an exploration through multiple characters of the stories of two victims of HIV, at the moment that they realize they've been infected. As stories there was nothing we haven't already heard/read in the newspapers but as performances, they were OUTSTANDING.

Gariri played a respectable Zimbabwean woman, married and the mother of a seven-year-old boy and Nikkole plays a New York teenager still trying to claw her way out of the slums she grew up in. Each woman played several roles, as the main characters interacted with the other people in their lives. Each actress was so skilful in making the various transitions that one barely noticed that they were alone on-stage, with no visible interlocuters. At one point, Nikkole, playing the part of the mother of the infected girl, bouncing a newborn baby on her shoulder -- and the "baby" was only a bit of cloth that she patted and petted tenderly -- was able to intersperse the sound of the baby's whimpering cries with her own speech so expertly that the tiny form of the child bloomed to life in front of our wondering eyes. Like I said, outstanding.

And last night, I went out into the thin mist and rain to see WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT -- stop-action animation, in clay, by the incomparable Nick Parks. Recommendable to the max! Including the short-feature that precedes the main movie, starring the penguins from Pixar's MADAGASCAR ... I'm still snickering!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Fifth Bulletin ...

It'd probably be more honest if I referred to these posts as "bi-monthly statements" rather than bulletins, huh? I can't seem to scrape together the energy to write an account of recent events until long after they're over. For instance, my stay in Vermont was so full of activity that it seemed to me it would be INDECENT to post accounts immediately afterwards. A bit like the first time I encountered home video -- it was at the home of a friend's relatives, at a family gathering to celebrate Thanksgiving in Chicago, about 15 years ago -- and they kept filming the dinner in progress then watching the results on their monitor. It was surreal -- like being a flower watching its own time-lapse photography -- a recipe for terminal self-conscious.


So I'm now back in New York, currently at the home of friends in Long Island (alert readers of this blog will recognize that I was here some weeks ago too, attending the birthday party of the local grandchild ...) and looking back over the past few weeks. I have pictures to post too, but I'll do that later. I arrived in the city last week, on Friday from Boston, where I spent a night after arriving from Vermont.

The first two days/nights in NYC were taken up with helping (? not that I am ever of any practical assistance -- OBSERVING is probably the operative term) my friends K and A get ready for their departure to India. Believe me, I have received a massive education in how to be cool: they went about their packing, their preparation and departure as if they were merely sauntering out to do their laundry -- they were SO CALM AND COLLECTED. Whoa. K is Indian, A is Madagascaran (-ese? Don't know!) and they own a tasty little curio shop on 77th st between Amsterdam and Broadway -- it's a small shop with BIG atmosphere -- a bit like stepping through a portal straight into the sixties. The incense is REAL, if you see what I mean.

Now that they've left, I am knocking about in their apartment all on my own, and thrilled to have that luxury -- I've been maintaining a small column for Kai Friese's CITY LIMITS magazine, about being a hermit -- and the funny thing is, it's all true, what I write in the column: I REALLY ADORE being alone. Maybe it's because I so rarely am? Maybe it's because New York is a great city in which to be alone, because in an apartment -- unlike in space -- EVERYONE can hear you scream?* (*ref to the sub-title for the first ALIEN movie) Whatever. It's a great little apartment, on the upper west side, totally IMMERSED in eateries and little shops and a walking museum of PEOPLE -- whooooaaaaa -- what types, what amazements! Every person who walks past is a character of some sort -- even their DOGS are characters of some sort -- and the super-rich are in short supply: it's relatively ordinary people in the upper west-side -- with a strong accent on RELATIVELY.

Vermont, however was a whole other trip. I'm only going to offer high-lights here -- one of which, DEFINITELY, was the afternoon that E and I were on our own at home and the cow got loose. Now I have to pause the movie here to explain (a) that there is a big paddock -- by which I mean, about two acres of lush green, sloping land, bordered by conifers on the eastern boundary, and the driveway of the house along the western boundary. (b) The cow is a young brown creature, of the sort I would call a Jersey, but probably isn't (I did ask Suzanna, but have now forgotten what she said. I'm pretty sure it WASN'T a Jersey, but for some reason that's the name my brain supplies when it sees a short brown bovine), and has not yet been bred (hence -- for you city slickers who are inclined to say, "Oh? You mean cows are just like women?" And in case some of you are sneering, let me assure you, this remark is a QUOTE -- I have actually heard someone say this -- it has not yet started producing milk) but is currently on heat (c) she has a companion in the form of a young (and still quite small) steer -- he is rather interestingly vari-coloured and Steve has told me that he belongs to a rare local breed, with a dark stripe along his back.

There is a final point I need to add: I am afraid of bovines. This is a rather painful admission to make, since I normally reside in a country RENOWNED for the herds of holy bovines roaming the streets -- of course, this may well explain why I don't especially LIKE residing in that country ...

Right. Got that? E and I were alone on the farm, with a feisty young cow running around loose on the driveway, no doubt searching desperately for a hot date. The steer, as I hope all you slickers, city-bred or otherwise, will realize was useless in the hot-date department. In fact, I was the one who noticed that she had got loose because I heard the steer bellowing -- and when I went out to see what the matter was (at a discreet distance, of course, not wanting any intimate encounters) I saw that he was upset because the cow was out of the paddock, while he was still stuck behind the thin orange wire which delivers a mild electric shock to keep them both in.

To begin with E tried to run after the cow, while she scampered this way and that, with the goats in their pen watching GOGGLE-EYED, like annoying bystanders watching a road-side brawl. Chickens scattered underfoot. The dogs would have loved to get involved but fortunately, I had locked them up inside. At one point, E did manage to actually grab the cow's neck chain but she raced off with him hanging on, so he let her go -- there wasn't really all that much choice -- it was either that or to become like one of those cartoon figures, flying sideways in the air, alongside a bolting brown blur.

I am sure some of you have realized what was soon to happen: E informed me that the only way to get the cow back in the paddock was for ME -- white-knuckled-with-fear-of-bovines-ME -- to hold the steer in the barn, while he shooed the cow back behind the electric wire. We'd worry about how she got loose later -- for now the important thing was to get her back before the steer got loose and we had TWO large herbivores on the loose.

Well, I can tell you I was bellowing almost as loudly as the steer. E said I was making a ridiculous fuss and that there was NOTHING TO IT -- and of course he was right. First he shooed the steer (his name, btw, is SITTING BULL) into the hay barn and then he gave me a stick and said, "Just poke him on the nose and tell him to STAY IN THE BARN -- and don't be a goose!!!" YOW! YOW! YOW! This was my worst nightmare come to life*(*no it wasn't actually -- the worst nightmare involved huge BLACK BULLS chasing me around the universe -- but close enough)!!!

But ... it really was that simple. I poked the young creature in his flank a couple of times and said, in a loud, quavery voice, "NO! STOP THAT! SITTING BULL GO BACK!!" And he DID. And E shooed the cow back behind the fence. And I flung down the stick and scrambled through the gate. And we checked the fence wire and realized it had mysteriously (we have no idea why) been turned off. And we turned it back on. And that was the end of that.

Totally fun, huh? And now I've got to stop, but I WILL RETURN, like the Terminator, to finish this tale of Vermont later today and add pictures too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Yes, yes -- I KNOW I've been remiss. But I've had a tempestuous two weeks. It would have been very entertaining (I suppose) if I'd chosen to write reports on all the events taking place in the course of the week I spent in Swarthmore but ... there was too much going on and now, almost a week after the show went onstage in Swarthmore, I reckon it'll be indiscreet to actually tell all. So much has happened, and so much now REMAINS to happen. People have been hurt. People have survived. Some people will come through this intact. And some ... may not.

Okay! I won't go on being mysterious. I left my sister's home for Swarthmore on Tuesday morning. My niece and her partner gave me a very friendly send-off at the Greyhound bus-station in Binghamton, a place that has become extremely familiar to me over the years, as I have so often used it as a transit point to and from my sister's home in Sayre, which is about an hour away, driving. The bus took about five hours to get to Philadelphia. Erin, the director of the play in Swarthmore, had given me directions for getting to Swarthmore -- cross the street from the bus terminal, get to the train station, buy a ticket, board the R3 to Swarthmore Station. She had warned me that she'd probably be at a lecture at the time I arrived, around 5.15, but not to panic, she would meet me between 5.30 and 6.00, at the closest little restaurant to the train station. And that I had her cell number so we'd always be in touch.

I guess those of you who have cell phones know what happened: I got to the little corner restaurant across the road from the station, waited till 5.30 to call Erin, and ... of course her phone was off. No panic. I ordered a sandwich and a coffee, sat down in the cafe, looked around, saw a nice old man who seemed to be circulating about in the shop, showing a couple of small paintings to some interested-looking customers. He smiled at me, I smiled at him, we got to talking, I bought him a coffee -- and when he found out I was waiting to be collected by someone who had not yet arrived, he offered to wait with me. He told me his life story -- he was an Israeli, been living in the US for 20 years, he drove a bus for a school for disabled children, he was a landscape painter in his spare time.

Meanwhile I called Erin another couple of times. No response. I left messages and also called the stage manager, Zhen. No response and also Zhen's phone mailbox was filled up and wouldn't accept messages. The nice Israeli artist, whose name is Joseph, offered to drive me to wherever I needed to go. It was now 6.30. The restaurant had closed for the day. We were sitting on the chairs outside. I finally acccepted his offer to help me find the place where I'd been told I was staying, a student guest house called Ashton House. WELL ... he didn't know where that was, so finally we got directions from the Public Library, we arrived at Ashton House -- but when I got to the door of the place, I discovered it was one of those self-service jobs, with no human being on hand to open doors or respond to doorbells -- so of course I could not get in, even though I was sure it was the right place! Hmmm. Night was falling. Our heroine was trying not to worry about needing the loo, the charming Israeli knight was offering a place to stay if all failed and in general the portents were uncool.

Oh -- of COURSE -- nothing went wrong! But it was a bit of a bummer, and by the time Erin called at 7.30, I was feeling rather sorry for myself. She told me to leave my stuff in the little space between the outer and inner doors of the guest house and to come to where she was, at the college theatre.

Here I have to pause to say that Swarthmore has the most beautiful campus -- grassy knolls, tall gracious nodding trees, a gracefull bell tower ... all the works.

The first two days of rehearsal that I attended were so highly embattled that there seemed no hope at all that the play would ever go onstage on Friday night. But on Thursday, a miracle occurred: the actors went under the lights and delivered two near-flawless performances, one after the other. They would tell me later that they had never yet had one complete run through. On Friday, the night of their first performance, after yet another good performance during the day, they came through with a strong, lively, characterful show and I was so relieved, I was practically beside myself. Present at the show was the charismatic director of the production company that was responsible for the show, East Coast Artist's Richard Schechner. It was wonderful for me to meet him, because I had already known of him and his work from an UNFORGETTABLE performance of Brecht's Mother Courage in Bombay some thirty years ago.

I met a number of extremely nice and friendly people: Allen Kuhovsky, who heads the Dept of Theatre at Swarthmore; Jean Tierno, who helped me with my paperwork; Mimi, Oana and Arnulfo, the design team for the play; Christine and Zhen, of ECA, the New York production company, who were responsible for seeing that the play went on the boards as scheduled.

I don't want to go into all the reasons that the rehearsal process was so riven with unhappiness, but let's just say that on the Monday of that week, i.e., on the 5th of September, the cast staged a walk-out. Later that day, they were cajoled into completing their performance, but only on the condition that their director could not address them directly, but instead must only communicate through Zhen or Christine. It was only by this means that the play, which seemed doomed to disaster, actually made it onstage four days later, on the evening of the 9th!

Ah-mazing. On the 10th, once more, after a pleasant day of lolling about -- I and the cast wandered around the sleepy streets of the nearby town of Media, eating icecream and getting food-poisoned on an unhealthy portion of lobster bisque (one of the actors! Not me) they delivered a good, strong and memorable performance. My friend Paul Knox came up from New York to see it and afterwards we all -- meaning, Paul, his friend Rana, members of the cast and two friendly cast-cousins -- went out for dinner, laughed, relaxed and enjoyed ourselves in the pleasant aftermath of what had been a bizarrely harrowing three final pre-show weeks.

On Sunday five of us, plus the stage manager Zhen motored up to NYC in the company van, I got dropped off at Penn Station and caught a train to Boston. There my niece and consort collected me from the South Station terminal and a pleasant evening was had by all. That was Sunday night. Two very pleasant nights in Boston later -- including a highly invigorating visit to the Mt Auburn Cemetery in the company of Paul Knox's extremely erudite and charming friend John Matthew -- this morning, Wednesday the 14th, my friend Maude -- artist and superlative human-being-at-large -- drove up from Providence, collected me from my niece's apartment and brought me to her wonderful home in a made-over textile mill building. We have spent the day talking nonstop, going to the mall to have a meal, walking around a wonderful, lyrical lake and ending the day with cheese, crackers, wine and avocados.

Major bliss!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Third Bulletin

This morning I caught up with a very friendly review of SUKI that appeared in this week's Sunday Magazine section of The Hindu (I imagine it appeared only in Madras, but I could be wrong). Naturally, I can't help thinking very warmly of the reviewer, whom I don't know -- if she's reading this, THANKS! Reviews like that makes it all worthwhile -- "it" being defined as all the sleepless nights and cut-and-paste days that went into putting the book together and all the years of wondering why I ever bothered to produce a strip that hardly anyone read.

Meanwhile, here in Sayre, we received several showers and even a bit of thunder, courtesty Katrina yesterday and the day before. But the sun's out now and the trees are murmuring and the birds busy at their feeding pavilion in the backgarden. My sister's home is one of the prettiest ones at which I regularly stay and I LOVE being here. Aside from being immersed in the STAR WARS saga (I have not yet finished ploughing through the mass of background detail -- I have learnt, to my surprise, that the first movie, that brilliant, unforgettable first introduction to a new way of looking at the galaxy, was embattled all the way to the theatres. It gives one hope -- however wan it may be -- that even the most astounding successes have had to struggle massively before they get the recognition they deserve. Amazing also to see the young George Lucas! A terminal-case nerd! Despite which ...) the three of us in this household spend our final waking hours watching the first season of "24" on DVD. I've only ever caught odd episodes of the second season, so it's very cool to watch the whole thing in excruciating realtime, with NO COMMERCIALS. We watch three episodes at a time (so ... yes ... three hours) and get to bed feeling drained. Totally cool.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

First Bulletin from NYC

The sun is slanting in through the salmon pink venetian blinds and a tree (of unspecified race and gender) nodding outside the window of my New York buddies Kiran & Andre's upper-West-side apartment. It is a canonically beautiful mid-summer day here and even though the sun is, for me, NOT a friendly entity (I have an on-again off-again sun-allergy), I can appreciate it here much more than I can in Dilli the Grilli.

I am recovering sloooowly from my cold, have had my first re-acquaintance with the NYC subway system and yesterday saw my first rehearsal of HARVEST at NYU's TISH (sp? Not sure) Centre. Erin B Mee, the director is like a high tension wire in human form -- she crackles with positive energy. Her team is warming up to their task: it is a strange thing for me, watching the play YET AGAIN -- seeing all the familiar moments, recognizing them in yet another interpretation, trying to disengage my last impressions from the newest ones ... all that stuff. Three of the principle characters are Indian, the mother is Philipino and the primary guard is Greek.

The set has been designed to be extremely cramped, to provide a visual reference to the constraints under which the family lives. I like that.
One of the earliest ideas I had for a set design was a cage constructed out of iron struts, with the family boxed in and visible from all sides.

And Amro, as for walking off the fuel-intake -- basically, forget it, okay? Obviously you have the metabolism of a five year old child. I, on the other hand, have the metabolism of a camel. I was apparently built to survive in desert conditions for months without food or water, without feeling much distress because I DO walk around and I do sweat/feel tired etc but I DO NOT lose weight!! So the only alternative, other than becoming a blimp, is to avoid eating anything I don't absolutely HAVE to. It is SO annoying. *ANGRY SIGH*

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Penguins on Ice

The first leg of the trip -- i.e., arrival in Boston -- is successfully completed, *phew*. Though I DID pick up a cold germ along the way and am only just surfacing from the suicidal depression that overtakes me from the moment I feel the first sniffles coming on. Guh. Whoever invented old rhinovirus was NOT a compassionate and all-knowing deity! But I have plugged myself up with drugs and two days later am feeling vaguely human again (which means, in my terms, not really normal at all).

I and E got in to Bos on Friday evening, where my niece & her consort were waiting for us at the airport. We've been enjoying the home comforts of my niece's very pretty little apartment since then. Last night the four of us went to see a documentary film called The March of The Penguins which could easily double as a promotional film for Heroic Fatherhood. As most of you probably know, the male Emperor Penguin stands out on the antarctic ice for at least two whole months, in the dead of winter, balancing an egg on his toes and starving, waiting for the tiny, black-and-white fluffy-toy chick to hatch. Not for the faint-of-heart, penguin parenthood! Through fearsome blizzards and the cheerless dark of the sunless polar winter, lit only by the fitful magic of the Aurora Australis, the birds stand and guard their single eggs. In time the females, who have gone off to feed, return plump and sleek, ready to take over from their mates. The whole routine is so doomed to failure, that it is wholly miraculous that the creature survives at all. Beautiful photography. We can only image what tortures the camera crew had to endure to remain at their post, filming away through storm and -80 temperatures. Rather like penguin fathers, come to think of it ...
And so to close. Today, (Sunday) my trip is about to shift its next gear: I and E both leave my niece's home, going first to Providence(Rhode Island) with our friend MAUDE, an artist and also Bhopal-friendly activist. Later today I'll peel off to NYC, while E stays on in Providence and then goes to the West Coast.
Amro, I am sorry to disappoint you, but the best I can do in the way of food-reportage is to speak of the number of items I have successfully RESISTED eating. Currently, for instance, as I write this, there is a container (unopened) of small, toothsome-looking oatmeal cookies on top of the fridge. I can hear their plaintive voices calling to me: Eat us! Eat us! But I have turned a deaf ear to them, thinking only of 2% milk and low-carb cereal. *sigh*

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Yow! The Virgin Flight Approacheth!

Two days left to go -- no, no, wait ... make that ONE DAY!! Eeek. As may be obvious, I am not a calm and placid traveller. I fret and sweat and lose sleep then fret some more. I think the reason I do it is that I believe it calms the spirits of misadventure which have been my close companions through most of my life. It puts them to sleep, confident that one of their charges is having a seriously awful time chewing off her own toe-nails.

I think I had best stop writing about (them) in case (they) learn to read blogs and get onto my case.

Okay -- aside from dwindling resources of placidity -- not much has happened. Or to put it differently, the things that have happened are just the usual ones: I have FINALLY finished the Tulika book -- well, upto the artwork level. The text still needs to be inserted, but that's not going to happen till I return, in late November -- and scanned in all the artwork and sent 17 pages away. And there is now a completed poster artwork for the Philadelphia/NYC production of HARVEST -- I hope to post it here tomorrow. And there may even be a cover artwork for ... uh-oh. Better not mention it till it's made it past the proof-stage. In my experience, anything that gets discussed in advance of being printed never gets printed. So there. Yes, I am superstitious. Not in silly ways of course, only in deadly serious ways, such as this, in reference to printed work.

In other news, I met Arnab Chakladar (CEO, Grand Chancellor, Supreme Webblorium etc., etc. of Another Subcontinent, the excellent web-site whose link is featured in the column to the right) and his Korean lady, at my restaurant-du-moment, PLOOF. It was a fun lunch, even though the food was ... somehow unmemorable. Ah well. Can't have good company AND good food, I s'pose. One or the other is bound to suffer for lack of attention.

And in blog-news, let it be known that I have FINALLY up-dated the game-board of my long-neglected SudoCritters Game, featured a little further down on this page. I do not, alas, have the energy to count up points. I suspect that Minal has won. And perhaps Pramod too. The only certainty is that I have NOT. This reminds me of those birthday parties where the birthday-child's family is boringly fair-minded and does NOT insist that only the birthday-child can win at the games at his/her own party. *sigh* You can guess which species of family I belong to. Well go on then, Minal and/or Pramod! I have a move or two to make but you can start your victory parades. Thanks for being patient ... for playing along ... for ... ummm ... winnning? Okay! For winning too. That was super fun.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Yes, I will fry in one of the nastier regions of Hell for using up precious last moments before departure NEXT WEEK *YOW* to post links to sites about kitties but ... I guess my place in Hell has been reserved for so long I might as well use up all my badness privileges to the hilt. Okay, so here are four funny sites in reference to Our Favourite Animal -- taken from an article published in the New York Times entitled How the Oh-So-Domestic Feline Became the Internet's Best Friend, by Sarah Boxer (rather an ironic name, don't you s'pose, for someone reporting on cats?). A good piece, but the best bits are the linx (or do I mean LYNX?)(sorry)(ghastly pun). There's RatherGood which shows cats catterwauling;MyCatHatesYou that features a gallery of fearsome beasties; InfiniteCat wherein you can see what happens when cats get to watch cats watching cats watching cats ... and finally, best of all (in my opinion) is LitterBoxCam in which ... oh, just go there yourself! Why should I be the only one wasting my time staring at a static picture of two kitty-litter boxes??

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Back in Nude Elly

Returned on Monday (1st Aug) night, but hit the ground running -- my trip to the US is less than three weeks away and there are towering stacks of work to be finished before take-off. Some part of the work involves getting ready for the trip -- such as doing a poster for the production of HARVEST that will be staged in Philadelphia in mid-September. I'll post an image of it here once it's complete ... I consider it a mixed blessing to be asked to do graphics for my own written work -- on the one hand, it means I can't blame anyone else if the results are terrible, but on the other hand, it means there's only my own vision framing my stuff. I am always looking out for that cover/poster/whatever by someone ELSE which might give me an insight into how my work is viewed by other people (-- not merely critics and reviewers, but PEOPLE, if you get my point) and/or might augment my work by presenting a different perspective. But it's usually much easier to just leap up and do it myself anyway.

I haven't been posting impressions of my trip in Madras because ... it was SO PLEASANT. There are two reasons it was pleasant. One was that my niece's new baby has caused the family to experience a general cease-fire in all hostilities -- everyone seems to have mellowed in the presence of extreme youth! What a relief. The other factor was that my mother's domestic help team has changed finally and for the better this time. The result is a profound reduction in psychic stress in the house -- that atmosphere of distrust and crisis-pre-emption that has scarred the past four years had entirely dissipated. I believe I could write a thesis on the effects of demonic domestic help upon a household, but alas it would take more time than I have. It was just a very peaceful, comfortable 8 days in the company of my Mum and other family members.

Of the several interesting/silly things seen and discussed, I'd like to refer only to one -- Dan Brown's ANGELS AND DEMONS -- under the category of "things too ridiculous to be mentioned in polite company". I never did get around to reading The Da Wiggly Code but entered A & D on account of a recommendation from Someone (who shall remained unidentified) who said, "The writing's terrible, of course, but there are some fascinating ideas in there --" Well, I guess my fascination-threshold is too low for the book to do anything for me. I am now reading it to give myself horror-disgust thrills -- yes, I know that best-sellers are almost guaranteed to be trash, but this is ridiculous! I can only suppose that the author has recognized that his average reader is barely out of Moron Kindergarten, as a result of which he/she will never have heard of, eg., CERN or perhaps even the whole of Switzerland ... My guess is that this approach allows his readers to think they are really smart, UNLIKE the protagonists, who appear to be so ignorant and under-intuitive that every event is for them a megaton shock and/or an impossibly rare, unexpected fragment of knowledge. Guh. I am so glad not to be human.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Deluge, Bombay Style

The first I heard of it was from my niece -- I am currently in Madras, and she lives down the road from where my Mother and sister live -- around 10 pm, by SMS. About her brother (my neph) being stranded at the Bombay Gym because of the rain. It's not entirely unusual for the rains to flood the streets in B/bay during the monsoon but this sounded like some sort of catastrophe. I immediately SMSed Govind Nihalani (a long-time bud and also well-known film-maker) -- and he radioed back that he'd been stuck in his car at the top of a flyover seven minutes from home -- for SIX HOURS!!! Not long after, an SMS came in from Zig (of ZIGZACKLY -- see blog-list on the right) to say that the living-room of his home was ankle-deep with water. And I heard from another friend who trekked 10 Km home, in mostly waist-high water, but in one place CHIN-HIGH!! But he got home and SMSed when he was dry and safe.

No power, no transport. Hundreds of thousands of commuters stranded miles from home.

That was Tuesday night. Today, a day and a half later, reports have been trickling in of how people coped. Zig will probably post his account at his blog. Amar sent me a long account of his 10 Km trek and if he allows me, I'll upload it here. Govind got home at one a.m., after wading in waist high water. No power or food at home. Reports have come in of good Samaritans who have been active all day, feeding and assisting hungry, tired and thirsty commuters -- the lack of food and potable water in the city have been part of the crisis. Another report from a friend of my niece is an indication of the range and level of horrors: because of the power outage, a death in the friend's family could not be accommodated at the electric crematorium and the morgue had no storage facilities -- so they had to cart the body home with them in their car!

To all the brave, hard-working and indomitable people of Bombay -- a big, heartfelt hug.

And here, with the inimitable Amrobilia's permission, is his account of his ordeal (very lightly edited Amro, for your asides to P!)

I was shooting in Powai that day (day b'fore) when the deluge started at 2pm. The studio started flooding at 3pm and the shoot was packed up (cancelled). I tore towards home in the Tavera, encountering rivers of water over the road, and four kms. later, came to a grinding halt. Over the next four hours, the car moved about half a KM. I was surrounded by sheets of rain, a deluge of humanity under umbrellas and otherwise and bumber-to-bumper traffic. I was preparing myself for a night in the car, when the intensity and "immensity" of the rainfall (more like a continuous cloudburst) convinced me to abandon the car and head home. I reasoned I could be stuck in the car for more than just 24 hours (that turned out to be correct) food, little water, sleeplessness...

Unwilling to abandon my loved new car 'just like that' I somehow managed a U-turn, found a parking space on the side of the road on a slight rise, waterproofed my iPod, cellfone, audiodeck and wallet stuffed them in my beltpouch and headed home on foot with a bottle of water and a coke I'd purchased a little earlier at the roadside.Home, I knew, was exactly 10 kms away. I use this route regularly and knew the 10km mark 'by heart' - I was right there. It was 8pm so I thought I'd be home by 10, doing 5km/hour. I was told there was waist-high water up ahead for a stretch, but after that I thought it'd be pretty flood-less.

After dismissing a young fellow at the start of the flooded area who told me "yeh aapke bus ka nahin hai - aap ki umar bahut jyaada hai*"(*roughly translated: you won't make it, you're too old), and handing him one of the half-dozen bananas I'd just picked up to fortify myself - off I went. It was a cinch, really...walked and walked and walked till I got to Juhu gulli - 4+km from home, when I saw a sea ahead of me...I'd have to walk waist deep in water till the Juhu circle, I was told - about 1+ km ahead - and then it's 'fine'. As it turned out, it was waist deep all the way to 4 bungalows crossing, and then calf deep all the way home from there. A particular stretch in the four bung area, that everyone else was avoiding (there were tens of people wading away) but thriough which I decided to wade, becuz it was a short cut, had water coming up to my collar-bones! It was an effort to keep the pouch above my head and the bottle of water which still had a bit left, in the other hand. There was also my umbrella!!!...the coke I'd consumed.

Well, got home at midnight and awarded myself the Gold Medal!!! Drove the car home today - it was all on its own all of yesterday and 2 nights. Started first we're stocked up with milk, bread, sugar, veg available since ystrday still littered on the roads...abandoned for now, being pushed, mechanics n owners peering into their hoods... That's it!

Except for a little back trouble, I'm fit as a fiddle!

[Thanks Amro, for letting me post this]

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Happy Potterday!

Received, Read and Reviewed -- by 7.15 p.m. today! Phew. I feel like I've been riding bareback on a centaur -- wheeehoooo! The review should appear in tomorrow (Sunday 17th July)'s Times of India Weekend.

Here's what I wrote:

We enter the seething cauldron of sixteen-year-old Harry Potter's spell-bound life with a crackle of green fire, in the office of a nameless British Prime Minister. Yes! Magic has begun to seep out of Hogwarts, the school for young wizards and into the world of unsuspecting Muggles. That's you and me, in case you haven't already been seduced by the first five books of the internationally best-selling series by British author J.K.Rowling.

The scene soon shifts to Hogwarts and remains there for most of the six-hundred pages of the book. Gone are the burlesque scenes of Harry's adoptive Muggle family the dismal Dursleys. No more do we tryst with giants in distant forests or learn the correct technique for subduing Hippogriffs. Even the various budding romances remain, thankfully, minor tendrils compared to the heavy breathing of the previous book. In this, the penultimate volume of the series, the shape that the final confrontation will take is clearly stated: Harry will need to find and destroy the separate fragments into which his nemesis, Lord You-Know-Who Voldemort, has splintered his soul. How Harry comes by this knowledge and what he needs to find out about himself before he can embark upon this difficult and dangerous task is what occupies the current book.

It is an altogether quieter story, despite the usual quota of soul-rotting curses, unforgiveable villainy, despicable betrayals, corpses, deaths … none of the books is anything less than a bullet-train of plot! This time around, the headmaster of the school, white-bearded Dumbledore works closely with Harry to uncover the secrets of the boy's destiny. He is one year older and less volatile than when we last saw him, less spontaneous, more distant. Slowly but surely, like a train drawing away from a platform, he is leaving the station of his youth behind. There are apparently going to be no stops now: when the next book ends, he will be a man.

There are several moments of hilarity, of course, such as Harry's first use of the Levicorpus spell that throws all the sleeping boys in the dorm around him soaring up into the air at daybreak; there is Hagrid and his rough humour; there are the snog-wars of teenage couples. But the overwhelming agenda of the book is grim rather than amusing. We are never very far from the brink of extreme doom and even when small victories are won, they are always against the backdrop of dastardly murders and hell-brewed schemes.

If we clear away all the distraction of spells and potions, characters and caricatures, though, we find one all-engrossing theme: identity. Who is or was the Half-Blood Prince? Was he Voldemort? Was he a she? Or was he some as-yet unknown, but unusually gifted wizard who left behind handy crib-notes for Harry to use in his borrowed copy of Advanced Potion-Making? Come to think of it, the search for identity is what animates all the Potter books. Each one is about discovering the true nature of the characters who appear in various guises, whose back stories fill the shop-windows of their lives. Is this, perhaps, a clue to the global popularity of the book? Because it is certainly true that in this alphabet soup of cultures that we live in world-wide, understanding who we are has become the overwhelming goal. Once we know that, we can decide what we eat and where we'll shop; who we'll marry and where we'll live; when to wear our head-scarves and whether or not to strap on a belt of explosives that will blow up a train-load of passengers.

Identity is the raw material of the human cultural machine. The Greek myths used the gods to pepper their stories with half-divine heroes while we use the word "magic" in the place of "divine", but the stories remain much the same: seek the source of power, ponder its meaning and struggle to use its burden wisely. No surprise, in today's desk-bound reality, that our hero is a geeky-looking boy with glasses, dark-hair and a spindly frame - and no! I'm not going to tell you who dies. I didn't read six-hundred pages in six hours just to give the plot away!