Category Archives: writing

The virtual alter-ego

Were we always like this? Precocious virtual conquerors. Facebook, WhatsApp groups are filling with so many of us seeking instant validation: each one a more concerned citizen than the next. It’s counter intuitive but, perhaps, this is how everything went wrong. Everyone a plastic activist, animal lover, tree planter, vegetarian or crusading meat eater. We should have changed the world for the better, except for the troubling evangelism of the unquestioning do-gooders—Us.

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Privilege envy or the loathing of dynasts

IMG_8111My country is rich with paradox, for instance, the patriarchs and the privileged loath dynasts. Anyone who was ever ‘heard’, or has a column, is privileged, right? They have the resources to be heard, they were born into castes that had access to higher education when the majority did not have those resources. They had the means to succeed and then feel sorry for themselves, where others did not. The loathing of dynasts seems somehow convenient, when the loathers are themselves dynasts. Perhaps they hate themselves, or are guilty of how they got what they have? But no, it’s not that either. Continue reading Privilege envy or the loathing of dynasts

The transcendent edge

Edgy folk are defined by their openness to experiment and novelty of all kinds. This openness to meta-physical and material evolution crosses over to permaculture in a popular, transcendence-inducing topic called the edge effect. Simply put an edge is a junctional area between two ecological zones, which attracts bio diversity as these borderlands combine the qualities and species of the two zones that meet here, often leading to the evolution of micro climates and new species.

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Bizarro world’s Arundhati Roy

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I must be bizarro world’s Arundhati Roy. Opening up the weekend paper a few days ago, there, spread across four pages was every minute detail of Roy’s new book, from how the cover got made to how many translations were in the works. It must have induced the green-eyed monster in me to open up its beady little jade eyes. Hence the following.

We only ever hear stories of success, also known as the survivorship bias, and never hear from those who failed. Well, I failed, and even if my story does not inspire anyone it could perhaps contain a kernel of value. My book did not get published. Although its manuscript was longlisted for the Man Asian Literary prize in 2009. Immediately after this announcement, a leading Indian literary critic wrote in a column that a manuscript longlisted for the Man Asian Literary prize does not mean much. Though she did not say so in these exact words, she more or less said only the shortlist that follows matters as it weeds out the chaff. After the shortlist came out, I realised I was human chaff. Ultimately, only getting published is of merit. But in India, perhaps elsewhere, getting published is about effective networking. This means that the writer either needs to market themselves, move in the right closed-publishing-group circles, know the right people, so that the powers-that-be will give you a reasonable hearing.

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The loneliness of dissent

It’s 1984.

But we will continue to insist it’s 2017 as we cannot ignore the calendar year, although we do consistently ignore what is going on around us. Loud, aggressive groupthink is spreading through the air waves and we have been subsumed. There are few left here to sound the voice of dissent or resistance. Even Bob Dylan has finally accepted his Nobel, that most establishment of awards.

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Throwback to patriarchy returns in new guise: Populism

A fleeting look crossed Hillary Clinton’s face. A sagging of expression when she stepped out of her car in off-white into the damp of the Trump inaugural. Then she braced as always for the questions that would come flying. A second before the figurative veil fell there it was, a weary pain damped down quickly in the face of the public. She is not the easiest person to like, a nerd and a woman in a world where butch populism has devoured ethics, family values and democracy.

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Gone is that pale blue dot

We have atavised. Once a globe, an earth. Now we are but a sum of our tribes. Vanished is that pale blue dot. Banished. Into the darkness.

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General Indian English: Much ado about an accent

Something very complicated happens when we speak. Vocal cord vibrations are modulated by the snaky movements of a little appendage called the tongue. Twisting around the mouth cavity, tapping on the roof or on teeth-backs up front, it shapes sounds before they exit the mouth’s mini echo chamber. The hewed-out sounds have travelled a long way from cords to eardrums and then brain. When these sounds at long last go through the brain’s transliteration engine other connotations are spliced in, en route to final meaning. The way we speak reveals a lot about us. Read the transcript or listen to Meghan Sumner, Associate Professor of Linguistics at Stanford University, speak in this Freakonomics podcast. The revelations that other people have about us can be biased. The accent of your speech may cause the person listening to reduce you to a stereotype.

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Chafing against comfort

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The Malayalam word for mother ‘amma’.

The act of sleeping seems to paralyse vocal cord functions. When fear grips me in the dark of the night I call out in my sleep. But no words come forth from my sleeping form. What comes out instead is a ghoulish primeval sound akin to the word for mother, a sound that goes back to the evolutionary origins of the human species.

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A wistful history of dust

IMG_3725Gravity piles it on top of itself, floating, then falling, adding layer on unabating layer, never stopping. The dust that envelops us all is almost Shakespearean in character. It’s minute and ephemeral, but can bury whole civilisations under its weight. When the sun lights it up in delicate animated motes, it is even beautiful.

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