Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I sent this cartoon to the Letters page of a news magazine about ten days ago but it's not appeared yet so I'm guessing it won't. Ever since the war-talk began, bare moments after the terror-attack on Bombay ended, this image has been pushing its way forward.
I lived in Pakistan as a child, for three years. At the end of that time, the single startling revelation I had when we returned to India (by train) was that there was virtually no difference between the two countries.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Here's a link to TEHELKA's year end SHORT STORY ISSUE -- I think this is their inaugural edition, but they hope to make it an annual feature. I have a story called FEAST in the issue. Go read! I think I was grinning all the way through writing it, about two months ago. But the whole issue looks inviting -- you'll see thumbnails of the illustrations to each story when you click on the first link and they all seem ripe with promise.

Also: I've changed the font size -- anyone noticed?? -- because one potential reader complained that he (I mistakenly assumed the "she") found it too tiny to read. It now looks all-in-bold for me and there's no in-between option (yes, yes, I can go to the HTML view and change the percentages with each post but ... I'm not going to, coz I'm lazy). However, I'll leave it like this for a while. Or maybe forever. Whichever ends first.
As for the picture ... a blast from the past! Sent to me by SASHI PAZHOOR, it's a clipping he made of a published interview with me, in the late '80s. I cannot remember ever looking as glossy-pages-glamourous this, having always thought of myself as the family hunchback! It's certainly a reminder that good looks are entirely a function of youth
LINK to MyBangalore interview
... and, as further evidence of my brief but enjoyable visit to Bangalore/Bengaluru
here's a link to the MyBangalore piece by Sunanda Pati.

Monday, December 15, 2008


ESCAPE cover

Last reading, this time in BOMBAY.

Here are the details:

AT: CROSSWORD, Kemps Corner, Mumbai.
ON: Thursday, 18th December 2008
AT: 7.00 pm.

Author and journalist AMIT VARMA will be in conversation with me at the event.

And here's one of the several pieces that appeared recently -- this one has a photograph taken by my sister G, at my prompting, and is a rare example of a picture of me in which I look almost human. It appeared in the New Indian Express and was an interview by Asha Menon. In the newspaper, the feature appears as a very generous spread across the middle page of the magazine section and the photograph is hard-to-miss huge. Several friends and rellies called to say they saw it, from as far afield as Kerala!
AmitVarma & Me at Crossword Books, Kemps Corner, Bombay

FRIDAY, 19th morning, post event
And ... a merry time was had by all! Or so I felt. Despite monstah traffic, high-spirited shoppers at the bookstore and a competing launch hosted by Zubaan elsewhere in the city, the event went very well indeed. Amit Varma of INDIA UNCUT made a suave and well-prepared introducer/discussionist and the audience -- composed mostly of friends and one relative -- were most cooperative, patient (esp about the noise in the store) and attentive.

Jerry Pinto, author, journalist and all-time winner of the Mr Outrageous Award, excelled himself at asking the kinds of questions that other journalists do not even whisper quietly to themselves, alone in a cloakroom("How do the men in your book -- living in a land without women -- get off?").

CROSSWORD provided an excellent space (despite the howls issuing from their coffeeshop MOSHE, on the mezzanine level)(Kiran Nagarkar, friend and author, in an e-message from Berlin, warned me about Moshe, saying that it was beyond deafening HOWEVER I had not realized at the time that this was the name of a restaurant. So I imagined he meant there was a floor-manager who was routinely out of control and screamed continuously from an upper floor, during book readings!)and their compere Algan da Costa -- whose name I have almost certainly misspelt -- was not merely good at his job but managed to absorb the entire book with one glance at the back-cover blurb, enough to ask good questions too!

And after the event eight of us strolled down towards Chowpatty, to SOAM, a restaurant serving Gujarati food for dinner. To my amazement, we were met there by the superbly omniscient SRIRAM (God Emperor of the Crossword chain of books, but no longer part of the concern) who had been sworn to attend the Zubaan event many weeks ago and therefore could not come to mine, found this wonderful method of making up. The reason I was amazed was that our team had NOT decided in advance where we'd go for dinner, so it was truly astonishing to find him not only waiting there, but thoughtful enough to have booked a table for the party, in advance. And at the end of the meal, while the rest of us were tugging out our wallets and counting out change, he had quietly settled the bill.

This was the last of the launches, and I can now look back and say that they've all been good fun, and I had the good fortune of recruiting two excellent author-friends to officiate as introducers. Now to sit back and luxuriate in the aftermath of What To Do Next!

Sunday, December 14, 2008


SO much has been happening in the past three days, I feel as if I've been white-water rafting -- except that instead of water and rivers, I was in or on a river of people and events!

I don't have time here and now for anything more than just a quick gasp or two: on Friday morning, I left for Bangalore on the Shatabdi Express, from Madras Central -- got there at 11 a.m. and after a couple of minor adventures involving getting lost en route to the Tata Guest House and then again from the Guest House to M.G. Road, met Anjum Hasan and Zac O'Yeah for lunch at Koshy's. The reading (for which I'd gone to Bangalore) was at Landmark, at The Forum (Koramangala -- sp? Not sure) -- where the highlights, for me were (a) Anjum Hasan's extremely warm and well-prepared introductory speech about my book and me, followed by the conversation the two of us had together, on stage, immediately after I'd finished reading a chapter from the book. Everything about the interaction was good -- it was lively, interesting (for me! And I hope for the audience too) and informative -- and at the end of it I felt the whole evening had been worth the effort of going to Bangalore. (b) I was delighted that the author Usha K.R. -- her novel A GIRL AND A RIVER won this year's Crossword Award -- and her husband were present. Also, Sumana, who reviewed my book in the Hindu ... (pls see previous post)

There was much more to be delighted with in Bangalore but I must move on very quickly to the next day -- i.e., Saturday, when I returned to Madras, and immediately plunged into the maelstrom of a family celebration in progress. Actually, it wasn't much of maelstrom at all, because we were all so superbly well-prepared. My sister Su and her daughter Divya had flown in from the US on Friday morning, my niece Meenakshi, and her daughter and husband, Maitreyi and Ranjit had travelled by train from Madurai on Saturday, my nephew Vikram had arrived earlier in the week from Bombay -- and on Saturday, between all of us, including of Geeta and Girish and the team of domestic ladies, we pulled together a wonderful celebration to commemmorate my mother's NINETY YEARS of life-on-earth, today, Sunday the 14th. Actually, her birthday is on the 16th, but in view of logistical realities, we held it on a Sunday, so that her friends and other family would not have to struggle through weekday traffic to reach our house for a tea-time feast (i.e., between 4 pm and 7 pm).

I will get around to posting photographs and I HOPE I will manage to post longer descriptions of both events. But for now, this will have to do. Oh! And several more news items about the book have appeared but I absolutely CANNOT chase up the links just now. A particularly nice one, however, appeared in today's New Indian Express Sunday magazine section, by Asha Menon.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


How nice, and what relief, a GOOD review -- not merely because it is positive towards the book, but because it allows me to feel that a dialogue has been established: A Humanist Plea, by Sumana Mukherjee, appearing in THE HINDU's excellent monthly supplement, The Literary Review. Given the extremely stepmotherly treatment meted out to literary pages in other leading newspapers, THE HINDU is to be warmly commended for its generous allotment of space.

In the same issue, but in the magazine section Ranvir Shah's interview with me appears with the title Streams of Subversiveness -- he very modestly omits to mention that the book launch to which he refers took place courtesy HIS foundation, Prakriti, at The Park's discotheque, PASHA (ref. my post of a few days ago). He asked the kind of questions that were fun to answer. There's also a photograph of me which makes me look like a friendly gargoyle -- ordinarily, I look like an UNfriendly one, right? -- which is no surprise because the photographer stood practically two inches away from the underside of my chin as he clicked away industriously. I keep wondering why no-one has informed the news-reporters of the world that in case they want to sell more copies of their newspapers, what they need is ATTRACTIVE pictures, and that even if their subjects are middle-aged grizzly bears such as me, it is far preferable to shoot from slightly above, rather than straight up the nostril. Maybe they need to carry around a pair of stilts? Or maybe I should just get the underside of my chin -- or chins, is perhaps what I should say -- tattooed with something too obscene to print in the newspapers? That'd show 'em! Hah.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Dancing With Demons

Suki & Demon
Just for a change from The Book, here's a link to the text of the keynote address I delivered at the Cartoon Congress in Nepal. This version, as it appears in Himal Southasian's December issue, is a good deal more coherent than what I said at the Congress!

Monday, December 01, 2008

The reading at PASHA

The event was a GREAT success, I would say -- all thanks to Ranvir Shah, V.R.Devika and PRAKRITI Foundation, organizers of the event. The venue was absolutely ideal, in Pasha, the discotheque of the Park Hotel. The glittering accents in walls and ceiling and the pop-opulence of the decor perfectly suited the ethos of my book, set as it is in a decadent dystopia a couple of decades into the future. There were at least 60 people present and good questions were asked and the stack of books supplied by Landmark bookstore was almost halved (this is a guess. I wasn't counting) by the end of the evening.

What do people think of the book? My guess is they're puzzled by it. I often (e.e., not just for ESCAPE) encounter an expression on the faces of would-be readers of: Why? Why has she chosen to write about THIS? Whereas for me the question is always the other way around -- How can anyone afford NOT to be thinking of these issues? And Better get this book written and published before someone else has the exact same idea (okay, so that's my paranoia speaking)! But answering the "why" is always difficult, practically impossible when young, anxious-looking journalists ask it.

I realize, too, that there's an unspoken notion about what subjects are concerned acceptable for people writing from within the Southasian context. I may be overstating the case, but it's as if we're "allowed" to describe our world and of the world outside when viewed from our perspective but larger contexts are tacitly considered to be off-limits to us. So if I do not specifically nationalize my characters that is considered bizarre and perhaps presumptuous -- even though I know, when I read Western science fiction, quite often the characters are considered to be representative of all humans. When they're not, their nationality or racial type is explicitly characterized as other-than.

The "permission" is not simply offered or denied from outside -- it's our own audience which feels uncomfortable if one of us makes statements outside our prescribed domain. Is it because there's no actual curiosity about the worlds outside our world? Or is it because there are no markets for publishing our opinions about outside-worlds? A combination of both is what it must be: few publishers can afford to produce books for which there are no known readers.

Ah well.

Two more to go, in Bangalore and Bombay! Then I guess I'm done for the moment.