Sunday, May 31, 2009

Blue Canvas

When the Mountain Ram met the Twin Fish,in a Blue Sky.

The painting Arsomniac made in MJ's hostel room!

However, a room lost is a painting lost is a truckload of memories gained MJ.

homecoming song

bad dream
was a very bad dream
was a very bad dream was a very bad dream.

its going to be ok.
our home is full of love.

you be there for me safe and sound.
i am coming home soon.

beat the bad dream
lets beat the bad dream
beat the bad bad dream beat it really really hard.

the nostalgia storehouse of malayalees

I who have lost
My way and beg now at stranger's doors to
Receive love, at least in small exchange?

Finally, you are dead my dear woman.
Now you don't have to listen to anything. Neither abuses which come out from the repressed sexual frustrations of the great middle class mallu nor the praises from the nostalgia freaks.

You are not a nostalgia storehouse for me. I do not understand the punnayoorkkulam or neermathalam of yours. I do not belong there. What draws me to you is the way you tell the tales, the magic you add to the words. When I read you, Kamla, I do not need to know whether 'My Story' is true or not. I do not have to know the truths or lies to love you. You cannot survive in Kerala unless you try to testify that the whole fiction was an outright lie. I get the point, woman.

You are our own woman. You cannot blame them for not loving you and leave the place as if they never loved you. They did. In every single abuse they wrote, some one had his little summit of pleasure. Voyeurs are after all lovers engaged in a 'one way traffic love' and abuse is yet another manifestation. Yes, Malayalees loved you. (When MJ told me about the voyeuristic obituaries, Oh, nothing else was expected at her death) Look at the obscene undertones of the obituaries they write for you which comes out through the various media tongues... Woman, they are still loving you.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

On Translating Sula

“I know what every colored woman in this country is doing. . . . Dying. Just like me. But the difference is they dying like a stump. Me, I'm going down like one of those redwoods. I sure did live in this world.” - Sula
These are the words of a strong woman whom I have met in my life; I was translating her to my tongue. Sula is one of those women who are often being exclaimed as “Whoa! What a Woman!” Having translated Toni Morrison's novel Sula into Malayalam, the second joy is that I do not have to go offline or stay invisible whenever I see my publisher online :-) The first joy is of course to get to know Sula better. Sula stands out in her uniqueness and Toni Morrison herself says, "I wanted certain kinds of books, and since they weren't available, I would write them. I wrote Sula so that I could read it when I got through."
The story in brief goes like this. The bottom, the abode of a black neighbourhood is situated in the hills, above the rich, white valley dwellers of Medallion. The bottom was a gift to a slave by his owner. He was promised a piece of valley land and his freedom in return to some hard labour. In the end, the master did not want to give valley land to the slave and gave him a stretch of hilly land, convincing him that the land was even more worthy than the valley since the hills are the valley of heaven.
After establishing the setting, the novel moves forward and tells the tales of two black women- Sula and Nel-from their growing up together in a small Ohio town, through their contrasting paths of womanhood, their ultimate confrontation and understanding. Nel chooses to stay in Bottom, to marry, to have a family and live in the black community. Sula rejects all that Nel has embraced. She goes to college, sinks in the city life, and returns as a rebel, a seductress. Both of them lives through the choices they made; both loving each other, yet conflicting with each other.
Once Sula returns, the town regards her as evil for her disregard of the societal norms. It started when they came to know that Sula slept with Nel’s husband afterwhich he left Nel, but the hatred intensified when they came to know that she sleeps with white men.
Sula problematizes the terms “good” and “evil” and at times one quality greys into another and there is an ambiguity maintained throughout the novel where it becomes difficult to assign complete goodness or complete badness to anything.
As a translator, while reading it a number of times and trying to think in such a way as to translate the heart of the work to a language which is culturally and linguistically miles apart from the original, I had a tough time. There were times when I was stuck with the work and could not move forward. Understanding and translating race to an Indian Language was difficult, especially with the poetically crafted grammatical errors of the spoken language of bottom people. Caste was in my mind throughout, when I was working on the novel. I believe that keeping the caste hierarchy in mind and think in terms of it when you read and reread is the only way to translate a writer like Toni Morrison to Malayalam. Even then I do not have the courage to claim that I have maintained 100 % faithfulness to the work. I somehow hope that I have done my best. I am glad that Sula was my first translation.
By the end of the work when I had walked every single step of the story with Toni Morrison, Sula, Nel, Hannah and Eva were etched in my mind for ever. They are different shades of womanhood and I felt that at one point or the other, I have behaved like all of them, women.
Toni Morrison, throughout this novel, questions the neat compartments of good and evil and war and peace. The simple surname of Sula, Peace plays ultimate importance in the times of Toni Morrison’s writing the novel as she has composed her novel in the heights of the Vietnam War. Toni Morrison herself says that “ Sula was begun in 1969... in a period of extraordinary political activity. Shadrack, who also acts as a central character in the novel is a war victim whose insanity is a response to the horrors of war and death. Morrison brings in the grimace of War when Eva is forced to kill her son Plum who is another war victim. In a surreal account Morrison describes how Shadrack “saw the face of a soldier near him fly off. Before he could register shock, the rest of the soldier’s head disappeared under the inverted soup bowl of his helmet. But stubbornly, taking no action from the brain, the body of the headless soldier ran on, with energy and grace, ignoring altogether the drip and slide of brain tissue down its back.”
The notions of good and bad are questioned when Sula tells Nel, “About who was good. How do you know it was you?” “What you mean?” “I mean may be it wasn’t you. May be it was me. And even after big indifferences creep in between them, both Nel and Sula misses each other and thinks about the other one constantly. In the end, Sula survives in Nel and a late realization comes from her, “All that time, all that time, I thought I was missing Jude.” And the loss pressed down on her chest and came up into her thought. “We was girls together,” she said as though explaining something.
Nel cries in the memory of Sula, and the final line of the novel goes like “ It was a fine cry- loud and long- ut it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow.”
Sula is a parable of life and death, love and hatred. It is a tale of female friendship.

Calvin horror dream!!!

If ever I have a son, according to the weird dream I had quite early today, he will be a child philosopher when he is 6 years old. Yes, my dear people... I dreamed about Calvin and saw myself as his mother...horror! horror! I think I should die before that happens! Apparently, one day calvin asked his mom that is me, "Mom, are you vicariously living through me in the hope that my accomplishments will validate your mediocre life and in some way compensate for all of the opportunities you botched?" OMFG!!!!!

For really wonderful calvin quotes, go here, for 25 great calvin and hobbes strips, go here, and for a whole website go here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

what a change!

That tree is also gone now. We will replace those trees with metal and concrete installations next year. Be ready for the change!!!

round and round, the wheel of construction goes...

Where trees die for more rooms, more and more rooms...

When I took this picture last December, I never had the faintest thought that the trees will be chopped down and the courtyard would become a shithole of a place. But, it happened, and now I think the dust particles in this picture( yes, it is DUST)which gave the pic a sunshine sort of beauty was in fact a sign, a sign of the doom which was coming.Actually, the tree-killing fever had started long back in campus.
Now, I stopped going to my old room completely, I hardly come out of my makeshift room in the new hostel, and even if I do, I try not to go to the old hostel. I some how have this feeling that if you stop looking at the bad picture, you will stop feeling bad about it.However, that is evidently not true. Since then I have been constantly thinking about the shade, the trees... It was a Jamun tree which brought back lovely memories of my ma's home whenever I came out of the room. I used to talk over the phone for hours, sitting under the tree... Only when I left the place, I realize the attachment I had with the tree. I was always a tree person. From the Jamun, to the Rubber Trees of kottayam, to the gulmohurs of CMS, to the treelessness of SH,to the Jamun here. It was just a week before that Cholapandian climbed the Jamun and picked bunches of fruits. Sharanya gave a handful to me and I was standing there infront of my ma's house, four years old and waiting for Martin Chettan to bring us kids the Jamun bunches. The tongues went black that day.

Yes, this is a lament. The tree was gone after a week, that day.

(Aswathy and Renu, Studying in the hostel courtyard, January evening,2009)

Friday, May 22, 2009

The very bad sheep

While thinking about Religious Fundamentalism in India, one would always think about either Hindu Fundamentalists or Muslim Fundamentalists. Christians, in popular understandings were considered to be always the good lot, portrayed mostly in "White", and always associated with good things like Educational Institutions, Hospitals and the like. But these days, when I closely watch the Christian Spirituality Hysterias in You tube, I feel that there are even worse Fanatics and Fundamentalists in Christianity. Wait a minute, was that guy's name Jesus who was talking something long back about being a good Samaritan? And was that the same guy who said something like "'Love your neighbor as yourself." May be I should go back to my scriptures and see whether he has added a clause at the end which went unnoticed by me. Something like, " Love your neighbor as yourself...only when he baptizes himself as a Christian."

You can watch this link as a comedy video as well, but the character in the post is not fictitious. He is a 100% original Pastor from Kerala. Look how dangerous his depictions are. All those who cannot understand Malayalam can read the translation of his words below.

"...An Indian is the one who has light inside him. Now let us look at our national flag. On the top, we can see Saffron, bottom Green, and in the middle, White. What is this saffron? It denotes braveness and courage. Which means the saffron guys can beat, stamp or murder people. But the green is a different thing. It denotes the prosperity of our Indian Nation. Which means, the guys in green are the ones who have lots of money with them. But the white in the middle,you know, is us! Halleluiah! Have you all understood? I am praising the lord for all those who have understood this. I am praising the lord to bring White right in the Middle. Glory to the lord who has brought white to the middle of the National Flag. Its not over. Do you know the Chakra? Ashoka Chakra? The symbol of power? It is on White! God did not give it neither to Green nor to White. God gave it only to White! Glory!!! Do you want to hear more? It is called A-shoka Chakra. Shokam means Sadness/Suffering. A-Shokam means your suffering will end. So if you want your suffering to end, you should come to White. Even if you are Green or Saffron, if you want your sufferings to end, you should come to White. Halleluiah!!! I am praising the lord for those who have understood this thing... Tonight you should come to White, which means you should come to Jesus Christ. Without coming to Jesus, you wont get the Light! Praise the lord!! Amen!!!"

Who on earth found Religions? It was such a bad idea!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nalla Koyikkodan Halwa!!!

I was browsing through the pictures in my laptop and this was discovered. It was a sudden flashback to the day when Aruakka's friend came from Kerala with really yummy Halwa from Kozhikkode. Kozhikkode is famous for the different varieties of halwa you can buy from the halwa bazaar. The friend's friend who came with the halwa was not really remembered since then, but this picture brought sudden flashes of ecstasy to the taste buds and the taste will be religiously remembered.

Derrida on Love and Being...

Today morning I was listening to the video of Derrida speaking about love and being and I thought that it would be a nice idea to post it here. For all those who want to hear it from the horse mouth can go here. For others, his opinion about love is like this, of the first questions one could the question of the difference between the who and the what. Is love the love of someone or the love of something? Okay, supposing I loved someone.Do I love someone for the absolute singularity of who they are? I love you because you are you. Or do I love the qualities, your beauty, your intelligence? Does one love someone, or does one love something about someone? The difference between the who and the what at the heart of love, separates the heart. It is often said that love is the movement of the heart. Does my heart move because I love someone who is an absolute singularity,or because I love the way that someone is? Often love starts with some type of seduction. One is attracted because the other is like this or like that. Inversely, love is disappointed and dies when one comes to realize the other person doesn't merit our love.The other person isn't like this or that. So at the death of love, it appears that one stops loving another not because of who they are but because they are such and such. That is to say, the history of love, the heart of love, is divided between the who and what. The question of being, to return to philosophy, because the first question of philosophy is: What is it to be? What is "being"? The question of being is itself always already divided between who and what. Is "Being" someone or something? I speak of it abstractly, but I think that whoever starts to love, is in love or stops loving, is caught between this division of the who and the what. One wants to be true to someone- singularly,irreplacably,and one perceives that this someone isn't x or y. They didn't have the properties, the images, that I thought I'd loved. So fidelity is threatened by the difference between the who and the what.


Monday, May 18, 2009

thinking about a no-utopia love

Yesterday, when it was un-sun in Hyderabad, I sat on one of the empty chairs in front of Sagar Stores outside the University Library. I was sitting with a double coffee; in a happy mood, after my few months of illness and a few weeks of travel, revived to know myself and my other self better. I was all fresh, full of love and peace. Everything was positive. The evening air, the cool breeze, a lonely me; pure romantic setting! Sitting with the open book in my lap, I was lost in the new Murakami I gathered from the various Murakami lovers of the University.
Tell you the truth, she's not that good-looking. She doesn't stand out in any way. Her clothes are nothing special. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn't young, either - must be near thirty, not even close to a "girl," properly speaking. But still, I know from fifty yards away: She's the 100% perfect girl for me. The moment I see her, there's a rumbling in my chest, and my mouth is as dry as a desert.
I suddenly felt that, may be, and may be this is what every woman or every man wants to find out in life. The 100% perfect one. And once you are there, you are not there forever. The 100% perfect one cannot stay perfect forever.I think what holds people together is the emotional interdependence you share with the other which in common language we call "intimacy". And that is something which you can never, ever fake, or so I feel. You can never be detached in love,nor be dispassionate. It is always an attachment, a passion and above all a deep rooted peace one feels with the other. Peace needn't necessarily be a silent and perfect way of being. Peace is there even in the most troubled relationships. The more complex the emotional interdependence is, the more pleasurable each other's presence will be. There will be times when you tend to confuse between your self and the self of the person whom you love. And along with the pleasures, there will be frustrations, anger and even hurt.Love transforms people, molds people in relation to the other person's identity, and as far as it is a mutual process, it is a real good thing to happen. No body is perfect and if you can undo certain things and add certain new things with the influence of the other and vice versa, eventually there will be two really nice human beings together, growing(glowing too) in love.
I think you should love, fight, shout, bully, console and again repeat all of these throughout to make it 100% forever. It is like refilling the glass again before it is empty. Oh, what is peace without War, honey? What is 100% without 99%? I think my mad self is back.I think I can talk endless rubbish when it comes to love. I think I should stop. I think I have loads of work to do. I think I have signed out.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Tailoring my life

From the early teenage of my life, I was interested in clothes, even though I never had many those days. Shoot! I am not going to write my plain Jane diaries here.
I learned tailoring when I was fifteen. It was my summer romance with clothes.
Clothes always mesmerised me. The different textures, the different colours, the different patterns of cutting the cloth and stitching them back to a pretty dress; It was pure art. A little stitch here, a little hem there, and phew, what a dress! I used to look (even stare) at people’s clothes when I was a kid.Even now I do; but I learned the tricks of not making it too obvious. Stitching little useful things from scrap pieces of cloth is such fun. I still remember the day and the joy I felt that day when I made a kitty pouch for my best friend to hold her cell phone and other knick knacks out of a shiny little black cloth. All my clothes were stitched by me, some out of my mother’s saris, some out of my dad’s cotton lungis, I even remember taking patches from my brother’s old pair of jeans and making a top out of it. It was such fun.
When I sit and wonder why I got into all these, I don’t have an answer.
But sometimes, I try to remember my grandfather. My mother’s father. I do not have any strong memories of him. He was dead before I had known him as a grandfather. The only memory I have about him is a pillow, a tiny green pillow he had made for me when I was a baby. Ma always talks about him, and says that, “mole, your grandpa made this one for you; it must be the last thing he had made with his hands.”
He was a tailor. He started sewing before the sewing machine came to Kerala. He used to make figure perfect dresses for men and women. Ma used to say that women came from far off places to get their chatta (traditional Christian women’s dress in Kerala) stitched by him. He used to be really popular those days. He had a tailoring shop named Martin Tailors; St Martin was his favourite saint. There was a huge picture of Saint Martin against the blue flaked walls of my Ma’s home. One of my cousins is named after Saint Martin. Grandpa sewed and sewed and made a family of seven. Out of the five children he had, my mother was the youngest.
He might have had no idea about what “Industrial Revolution” was. Yet he was threatened by the arrival of the sewing machine. There were rumours that this monstrous machine will take away jobs of tailors. Grandpa learned to use the sewing machine and started using it. He might have found out that it made his job much easier. It did take away their jobs in the long run, when production shifted from small time tailor shops like our Martin Tailors to the production lines of large machine controlled tailoring units of readymade clothing. My Uncle who inherited the shop could not survive the pressure and finally it closed down. However, my grandfather did not live to see the end of the shop he established with his sweat; breaking his backbone, sewing, sewing and sewing.
My grandfather is a person who had handcrafted the modern man in a small town of Kerala. He learned to cut and stitch Shirts and Trousers. He might have stitched thousands of them in his lifetime. He had stitched wedding suits for hundreds of young men. The last thing he stitched was a little pillow for his granddaughter. And she is now half fashion enthusiast who always have an eye for what suits whom, half research scholar who finds it profound to read the Roland Barthes book “The Fashion System”. It is not coincidence. It must be my destiny.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The little owner of Ali Tea Stall

Ali tea stall is the only shop up there outside Maula Ali Darga. It took a lot of time and drama to make this cute little shop owner to give me a smile. The chocolate flavored tea and the cool breeze is terrific combination.Go hyderabad, climb those 400 steps just for the tea. Its worth it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Monologues of a Beef Eater

I love animals; especially in a nice gravy!

So dear all, the trip to Maula Ali was planned in the honour of Kay, Vee’s girlfriend who came to EFLU on a brief visit. Maula Ali is a hillful of awesomeness, especially in the evening. I personally would suggest to anybody who visits Hyderabad, that Ramoji Film city is not really the only must see ingredient. This old darga must probably be omitted from the usual conducted city tours which rush through Charminar, Chowmohalla palace, Salarjung Museum, Ramoji Film city and stuff. So, if you have ever been to Hyderabad and missed the huff puff through the four hundred steps and enjoy the view at dusk, you just missed it; that’s all. For all those who want tourist map information can go here.
We were six people, and after hours of bargaining with auto people, we found two autos who surprisingly agreed to run their meters too with the auto. Kay, Vee and the Kebab mein haddi (supposed to be me!!) got into one auto. The autowallah agreed to take us to Maula Ali darga, and we were happily sitting and chatting. Auto seemed to be a moving hindu shrine with all sorts of popular religious art stickers hung in that typical mango leaf pattern. The driver had a big red tilak on his forehead. These are the things I recollect now when I think about the whole situation. Then it was just an auto, just a man. We were just travelling. Who is bothered about religio-socio-politico-culturo-whatevero backgrounds of “selves” when you are taking somebody’s girl friend on a city tour? I am Christian, the other three including the driver are Hindu. Kay had a red bindi which was at least suggestive of her non-muslim identity. The conversation went on through different topics and stayed for a while on a possible beef biriani we might endeavour in for dinner environs maula ali. Was the driver becoming uncomfortable? I really did not notice since we were indulged in small talk and were not at all interested in looking at the driver as a case study material for our Religion, Secularism and Modernity Course.
However, since going to Maula Ali was not our everyday business, we were not quite sure about the hundreds of pocket roads which will all look similar to a stranger. Besides we were supposedly entrusted in the safe hands of an auto driver. To put it simple, we missed the way. The other friends had already reached the darga and we are still roaming in some strange place. Finally we asked him if he knows the darga and he said in a disinterested tone that there are so many dargas, masjids and all in that area. Hello!!! Atleast according to my very brief knowledge of Hyderabad, there is just one famous darga named Maula Ali in the whole of Hyderabad. Then, what are you saying? Are you trying to say that a local auto driver doesn’t know a famous tourist site nearby? Let me put it as a tourist site, because all of us who went were tourists, not believers. It is when we started noticing the ‘rath’ we travelled inside a religious identity.
The horror was yet to happen. We started discussing the issue in Malayalam, a regional tongue which the driver would never understand. After a while the driver stopped at one small junction and asked for directions to a muslim guy. He pointed to the left. All three of us saw this non verbal action with our non-cataract infected eyes. The driver came back and started to take us in the opposite direction. The opposite direction, my lord! Now that is outrageous. Finally we ended up giving more money than our other three friends spent for the auto they got into.
After a nice time spent in the darga, we moved out to look for a hotel to get beef biriyani. Hyderabadi Biriyani itself is good. But who ever has tasted the beef biriyani from the small muslim hotels in Hyderabad would say that it is the best. In the group, four of us were Malloos and as malloos we have a special emotional attachment with beef. In Kerala, as far as I know, you don’t have to lower your voice while talking about beef. I grew up as a Christian girl who eats hot beef curry with coconut pieces every Sunday and pack beef fry to school almost every day. Beef is just a normal thing, it is available in all non veg serving places in all possible forms. Beef freaks, check this out. Those who do not eat beef usually do mind their own plates and go ahead. No hallabols atleast in the dining table there. Even in comic versions of critiquing malayali male identity, ordering a plate of beef fry is important. Beef is blended in kerala cuisine. Oh my, I miss my place, atleast for beef if not for anything else.
But everywhere outside kerala, I lower my voice whenever I talk about beef. One of my best beef moments was cooking beef with mj at Jay’s place, Delhi. There was this hindu kid who was the best friend of Jay’s daughter. Both of them were playing in and around the house. It was our chance to cook beef in authentic central Travancore style. Mj being a real great cook, I had to just assist. But once the beef was hot and steamy, the debate was to whether give food to the other child too. How will all of us eat this divine delicacy without sharing it with a fellow human being? What if we give the kid some beef? What will happen if the kid’s orthodox non beef eater parents come to know that these horrid beef eaters cooked the sacred cow and put it in their offspring’s mouth? Finally the discussion ended and the kid was strategically manipulated to go back to her home and eat lunch there.

It is really sad to see that some among us cannot taste this wonderful, sacred gastronomic wonder. However, that’s not my headache. My only concern is, and demand is that I want to eat beef everywhere in India.And I do not want to lower my voice while I talk about something so dear to me as the sacred sacred BEEF. I was born as a beef eater; I want to die as a beef eater. Not even once will I think about defaming beef. I will never indulge in sacrilege against beef. In all my life, I will be your faithful admirer. In beef, we trust. Amen.

Love towards animals and eating their meat for survival is not a contradiction but a dialectical process. The essence of this process has been that human life is more important than animal life... A political party or a government cannot suspend food rights of people simply because the leadership of a ruling party does not like the taste of a particular food, or because it considers some animals sacred. --- Kancha Ilaiah in Beef, BJP and Food rights of people published in Economic and Political Weekly, June 5, 1996.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Train to the moonbeam

So you see, Today Annie too left. Like you. If you had gone to the humid, wetness of Kerala to bring back to me scents of fresh mud, She has gone to Mizoram and probably she will bring me back the chill in a glass jar. She would any ways bring me the mizo lungi she has promised. I feel like running away too, away from the heat. More than the heat, appa wanted me to be home. I wonder why I get into backlogs of work all the time. There used to be a girl who was more than a perfectionist to finish every work on time. She is dead. Sounds like the confessions of an old time good student, huh? I am glad she has gone.
It’s all a balancing act now. Deadlines crossing over another, but if I do not get lost in something else, I might just be meeting deadlines, dead ends. So I splurge, but not in lethargy as you may fear. I readreadreadread like crazy. All sorts of things. My afternoon siestas, well you cannot practically think about anything else in this weather, then my movie doses. My endless midnight strolls to stare at the moon beam, the chai outside the reading room at 2 in the morning, again going back to the books. Oh, there was somebody I knew who used to sleep at nine and drank only coffee. Well, I can’t afford to sleep even though the floor is beckoning. You heard it right, who can sleep on a bed these days?
Annie slept early tonight in a happy go lucky upper berth. Her good night missed call was quite early today. My last memories of a train journey is with Terry Eagleton and Marxist Literary Criticism, a blue bottle of water and memories of a thousand journeys. Who went back to write a letter? Spaces in the wall for generations to scribble their dreams.