Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Learning about Nangla

Over the years, there's been one team of documentary film-makers who interacted with me for whom I have only praise: they call/called themselves RAQS Media Collective. I used to think of them as a three-person unit, but they are in fact (surprise!) three separate individuals, all three highly motivated, very bright, industrious and creative. Their names are Monica, Jeebesh and Shuddhabrata and amongst their several achievements is the establishment of the media resource centre and lab known as SARAI.

I'm posting below a message sent out by Monica about NANGLA MAACHI a community in transition/dislocation, in Delhi.

Dear friends,

Over last 35 years we have seen many an internal dislocation of habitations and life worlds within the city of Delhi. This is something that started with high intensity from the early 70s. Now the process of this internal dislocation has become intense and harder.

Nangla Maachi is a 30 year old habitation. It was made by its inhabitants over this period. It is along the river bank and next to Pragati Maidan (Progress Grounds). It has now become valuable real estate as it is prime land for new urban development fairly close to the centre of the city.

The process of its dislocation has, therefore, begun.

In Nangla Maachi Sarai/Ankur had set up a cybermohalla lab two years ago. Many practitioners have been through the lab.

Over these two years, diaries have been written by the lab practitioners and many of the entries have been about life in Nangla. These diary entries are also a way to stubbornly remind us all that Nangla was made into a
lively, heterogeneous habitation by countless people's efforts, and needs to be remembered for this creative act of making and finding ways of living together.

A recent entry reads - "Packing up and leaving from Nangla has begun." The diary is now a record of a contested terrain of the violence of dislocation.

We have set up a blog in both English and Hindi, to share with a wider public the various diary entries of the practitioners. Do visit it, read it, circulate it, share it and link it further. Your comments and stories will be very valuable.

English language blog

Hindi language blog

More posting from the practitioners will be made. A countdown to yet another disappearance of a self-organised urban space has begun.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Silly Joke Alert!

Okay, if ya hate silly jokes involving Persons of the Blonde Persuasion, read no further. There. I warned you ... This one's from my niece, M.

Blonde - Painting
A blonde wanting to earn some extra money decided to hire herself out
as a handyman-type and started canvassing in a wealthy neighborhood.
She went to the front door of the first house and asked the owner if
he had any jobs for her to do. "Well, you can paint my porch, how much
will you charge?" he replied. The blonde said "How about $50.00 ?" The
man agreed and told her that the paint and ladder were in the garage.

The man's wife inside the house, heard the conversation and said to
her husband, "Does she realize that the porch goes all the way around
the house?" The man replied, "She should, she was standing on the
porch." A short time later, the blonde came to the door to collect her
money. "You're finished already?" he asked. "Yes, the blonde answered
and I had paint left over, so I gave it two coats". Impressed, the man
reached in his pocket for the $50.00.

"And by the way," the blonde added, "that's not a Porch, it's a Ferrari".

Another joke ... ... not about blondes ... sent to me by cyber-bud Chuck.

A guy walks into a bar, notices a very large jar on the counter, and sees it's filled to the brim with $10 bills. He guesses there must be thousands of dollars in it.

He approaches the bartender and asks. "What's up with the jar?"

"Well, you pay $10 and if you pass three tests, you get all the money."

The man certainly isn't going to pass this up. "What are the three tests?"

"Pay first, those are the rules," says the bartender.

So the man gives him the $10 and the bartender drops it into the jar.

"OK," the bartender says. Here's what you need to do: First - You have to drink that entire gallon of pepper tequila, the whole thing, all at once...and you can't make a face while doing it. Second, there's a pit bull chained-up out back with a sore tooth. You have to remove the tooth with your bare hands. Third. - There's a 90-year old woman upstairs who has never reached orgasm during intercourse. You've gotta make things right for her."

The man is stunned. "I know I paid my $10, but I'm not an idiot! I won't do it! You have to be nuts to drink a gallon of pepper tequila, and then do those other things..."

"Your call," says the bartender, "but your money stays where it is."

As time goes on and the man has a few drinks, then a few more, he asks, "Where ez zat tequila?" He grabs the gallon with both hands and downs it with a big slurp. Tears streaming down both cheeks, but he doesn't make a face.

Next, he staggers out back where the pit bull is chained-up and soon the people inside the bar hear a huge, noisy, scuffle going on outside. They hear the pit bull barking, the guy screaming, the pit bull yelping and then silence. Just when they think the man surely must be dead, he staggers back into the bar, with his shirt ripped and large bloody scratches all over his body.

"Now," he says, "where's the old woman with the sore tooth?"

Thursday, March 16, 2006


COMMENT moderation rocks! I am having such a great time zapping the lice just at the point when they dangle their little suckers online. YOW! It's toooo much. I get so energized that I've even been enjoying backing into the archives to zap the resident spam-lice out of existence -- KA-CHOOOONG! Zowie! zappapapapapaZAP! Ka-BLOOOOIEEEEE!! Great sense of empowerment. Highly recommended.

Alas, I have also managed to lose one of the legitimate comments that was posted at the site. That's what happens when an over-ardent comment-moderator hits the zap-button too often. Sorry, and I'll be more careful da next time.

Also highly recommended, Bembo Zoo, sent to me by my friend Anvar -- if your eyes have been starved for candy, this site offers a feast of clever dainties. Please note, that's BEMBO, as in the typeface, and not BIMBO as in a species of nubile human.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The New Racism

An Indian friend reports that he's been facing discrimination while on a house hunt. He works for a well-heeled Australian multinational company and has recently been looking for a place to stay. The landlords to whom he speaks on the phone sound very enthusiastic. When he goes over to meet them and they see that he's Indian, they turn him down without a blush. He's been told in so many words, "We don't rent to Indians."

And where is this happening? In our glorious capital city, New Delhi.

So the next time you hear some recently returned NRI complaining about Westerners being so racist, help them wake up to the realities of their motherland by telling them this story. Me, I believe Indians can out-racist anyone, when we put our five-thousand-years-of-civilization-selves to the task. Sure I get "raced" at when I am abroad -- but it's hardly very different to the various forms of discrimination I am exposed to right here, in Delhirium. Reading the International Women's Day posts at Zigzackly's place in reference to so-called "Eve-Teasing" I am reminded of the years for which merely being a woman resulted in virulent gender discrimination.

I don't face that stuff any more, but on the rare occasions I go walking to the local market, I feel uncomfortable just because I can sense that for the street elements, I am "different". It's no longer anything very specific -- I'm not a bimbette, I'm not obviously rich, I'm not a foreigner -- but my hair's very short and I don't dress in the manner expected of middle-aged middle-class women. This is enuff to cause the local fauna to react in subtle ways -- it's nothing very obvious, just a slight flinching and clearing of throats, often accompanied by a release of spit, a bit like dogs scent-marking territory. It's not racism, so much as an instinctive dislike of anyone who doesn't conform to received notions of "normal".

By contrast, when I am away from these fabled streets, I am merely a brown-skinned "other", who is accorded a neutral space, neither fond nor unfond. Most of the time, I pass unnoticed and am often, I believe, mistaken for Latino. I find this neutrality very comfortable to live with. Sometimes I can see a clear-cut race-based reaction. On such occasions, I just remind myself of what it's like back in the motherland and feel ... well ... the familiar DIScomforts of home!

Meanwhile, on the COMMENTS front, I am enjoying the relief from spam. I hadn't realized how annoying it was until I turned it off. Like having an infestation cyber-lice. Yech. I am also finally getting around to clearing the unwanted posts out of the various little pockets into which they've inserted themselves. I am going to experiment with turning comment "moderation" on now.

Friday, March 10, 2006


COMMENTS are off for the moment -- and maybe forever -- on account of spam. There was TOO much building up. Also I've been slowly turning over in my mind, my response to the blogging experience in general. The other day, when some young journalist called up to ask questions about "celebrity blogging" these thoughts came to the fore. One of the questions she asked was, "What do you feel about exposing your personal information to the whole wide web?" Of course I had to laugh: my experience has shown me that there's about as much real exposure on a blog as standing naked alone in a desert.

On the few occasions when there IS high traffic, it is nearly always of low consequence. For instance, there was a surge of visits during the performance of my play in California last year. But the calibre of responses consisted almost entirely of emotional garbage that no-one really needed to either read or write. If I'd turned off comments then, the results would certainly have been cooler all around: maybe a few people would have e-mailed me with their furious remarks and I could have chosen which ones to present or not. But the high temperatures that suddenly flared up at the time would simply not have had the easy outlet that they did, and we'd all have had more time to spend on pleasanter pursuits.

Of course it's sad (now, in this commentless atmosphere) not to hear from the few regulars whose responses I welcome here (like Amro and gt, f'rinstance). But the irritants are in greater abundance. The only other time when it was really fun to have a blog was when the SUDOCRITTERS game was in progress. That was cool! And I can see from the traffic stats that SudoCritter continues to be a powerful magnet for one particular search engine in Europe. There is a continuous speckling of hits from France and Holland, every day. However that also means that the relentless spam-parasites (spamasites?) target those posts and fill 'em up with rubbish. I haven't been bothering to remove them, coz it's too much effort. I know about them only because they show up as e-mail.

So ... why do I blog at all? Because it continues to be worthwhile to put out a trickle of news about my patch of turf. It's a bit like sending out a newsletter -- without having to send it out. I know that friends and family visit here in order to confirm that I'm (a) still apparently alive (b) still have the use of my hands and am at least solvent enough to have access to the internet.

I also get to share my most recent amusements. For instance: this mindless-fun game, which I got from Dave Barry's Blog. And one more site, for those who are interested in serial killers ... (sent to me by e-mail by my ComputerVine buddy Chuck aka Slipshod).

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Neem News

Last week my mother (who lives in Madras) had a close call with diabetes -- she went into a low-sugar coma just before lunch. She was shifted to the nearby hospital by ambulance and revived in the ICU the moment she was given a drip, and seemed in good cheer when I spoke to her on the phone that evening. The reason I'm sharing this news is that the substance that apparently triggered her brief coma was half a glass of neem-leaf infusion. She'd been told it was a well-known Ayurvedic method of reducing high-sugar levels in diabetics. Maybe her blood-sugar was already normal or perhaps unknown to her it had dipped lower than usual. But the point is: if neem leaves boiled in water can result in a coma-inducing drop of blood-sugar in my mother it sounds like something worth checking out as a low-cost alternative to the normal treatments and drugs that diabetics use. Of course, when you consider the night my mother spent in the ICU, that made it an unusually EXPENSIVE treatment ...

Meanwhile, a friend sent me the following link to an article about the opening up of a new frontier in outsourcing. Reminds me of a certain play I wrote ...