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.
So much of what we see today appears strange to the universal eye of the generalist beholder. We cannot for the life of us fathom why a lot of lay folk do not want to believe in expert prognostication, choosing instead to rely on their own strong beliefs, which belie all evidence.
Scientists and journalists have lost their cachet to the amateur online peddler of all matters requiring detailed attention. The more we insist on the evidence-based truthfulness of a concept, the more the lay side resorts to Colbert’s ‘truthiness’. At this point in these kinds of arguments after we have hit a wall, all communication ceases.
People lie all the time. For an intuitive reflex, a survival strategy, aided by something called unethical amnesia, it is irreparably damaging when the people around us indulge in disingenuousness. The truth; now that is a whole other quantity. A paradigm, a learned habit touching the boundaries of ideology, it helped secure civilisation against the delusions of tribalism. And we had it pedastaled, venerated as dear and sacred. Today as with all things sacred, the very idea of truth is under siege. So what is truth, and why is it so important? In the dawning age of post-truth, we feel the need now more than ever to try and outline the importance of being earnest.
When as children we were told repeatedly to speak the truth, what did we think it was? At that age all we could comprehend was that truth had an aura of righteousness and it was attached to that other abstract thing goodness. We didn’t examine anything too closely. For instance, were we telling the truth when we described an event as we experienced it? The problem is that everyone has a different impression of the same experience. Everyone has a different version. Truth will be nebulous if the actual mechanics of it escapes us even in adulthood.
It’s like this. I am stuck to the face of the earth, like a tack on a noticeboard, gravitating together with its rocky bits, not being slingshot into space, as the terranean ball holding us down slowly wobbles, rotates and surfs the Goldilocks zone around its sun.
There’s a Goldilocks zone in everything. Not just out in space between Mercury and Mars, not too hot or too cold, just right for a distinct brand of life that the oceans gave birth to, after they themselves spewed out of comets or asteroids in the late heavy bombardment. An alien liquid was cradled around our inner rocky sphere, in a ribbon of space that would not allow it to freeze nor vaporously boil away into space, as it would have in the tail of an outer-comet boomeranging around the sun on a return trajectory to its Kuiperian home world.
Symbolism hidden in every day functions can be like ghosts haunting us, whispering in our ears as we go about our lives. We sleep, wake, eat and we cook. As I go about the last of these every day activities, I sense a disturbance in the force. I have an absurd love-hate relationship with cooking. The symbology bound to it masks a focal point that should be called the feminine hearth.
Resonance; I wait for it as I dive into a text. But it doesn’t always happen.
I had watched many of Shakespeare’s plays dramatised for television, but I was a child and to me they were all somewhat alien. Years later, looking into the reedy shade of coconut trees swaying outside my window, I learned to read and understand the language of William Shakespeare. When understanding came, something wondrous occurred. It could only be likened to the physical property of resonance, as you suddenly become one with a text, a human tuning fork. Continue reading Heat, humidity and Shakespeare→
It’s morning. In one hand, a chalice of china cradles caffeine. The other, a couple of chocolate cookies clutched, is poised to dunk. I am arrested before a steel kitchen sink, pondering the intricacies of friendship. While out the window, a Pipal tree burgeons in the summer heat outwards, skyward. Seven stories high, it’s a giant, a million heart-shaped leaves sussurate hypnotically to me standing still inside, armoured with coffee and biscuit. These leaves, connected to each other through near and distant branches, twist in the wind in all directions, turning toward one another, then away. Continue reading A lapsed friend’s guide to friendship→
Old patterns in our working brains could use rewiring from time to time. A decade ago, pop science asked if we were left brained or right brained. Now that question has been tweaked to: is your brain conservative or liberal? Conservative ideas are connected to strong emotions and spring from deep inside the brain from the region of the amygdala. While in liberal brains, parts of the anterior cingulate cortex light up, as these areas are involved in reasoning out conflicted issues. It could be that such partitioning will always be imperfect like everything else in life. We could be conservative about some things and liberal about others.
Often I come across readers and commenters indignant when newer analyses or younger readers find older, beloved works of literature or art to be racist or sexist. The year-end Christmas special of Sherlock Holmes: The Abominable Bride was trying to make up for the original, which had mostly minor submissive female characters dedicated to the male universe of Sherlock Holmes. As a young child, I would curl up with Conan Doyle’s stories with nary a consciousness that my gender was being excluded in some way. With dawning adulthood, I realised my existence had been circumscribed by way of gender, and that I could never be a Holmes or a Watson without upsetting or upending the world in which I lived. My society had chosen for me the limited role of Mrs Hudson.
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.