Dec 21, 2011

As If ...

The only reading I’ve done this week is of tributes on and articles by Christopher Hitchens. One particular piece has stayed in mind. Almost everyone who knew Hitchens seems to unanimously nod their heads that the man was larger than life - everything about him vital, virile, articulate, bursting with energy, both pugnacious and kindly. That even esophageal cancer, one of the most painful forms of the disease, didn’t quite ‘do him in’ is a testament to the man and his almost God-like resilience. His literary output continued unabated, he attended parties (unless he was hospitalised) and till the end, he loved nothing more than a good conversation: "For me, to remember friendship is to recall those conversations that it seemed a sin to break off: the ones that made the sacrifice of the following day a trivial one." He also once said that smoking and drinking were stimulants in a conversation and he remained unapologetic till the end about both habits.

In one of his last columns Hitchens wrote, ‘Like health itself, the loss of such a thing can’t be imagined until it occurs.” Here he is talking about the loss of speech. When the radiation started, one day he discovered that his “voice suddenly rose to a childish (or perhaps piglet-like) piping squeak” and he was no longer “able to stop a New York cab at 30 paces” nor could it like before, “without the help of a microphone, reach the back row and gallery of a crowded debating hall.” Despite the casualness of his delivery, his words tear you.

I’ve been wondering, what made the man tick? Suddenly, two scenes came to mind: one from Polanski’s The Pianist and the other from Milos Foreman’s One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

One way of accepting life is to look upon it as a series of gains and losses: as Divine retribution and reward; sometimes deserved, often random. He didn’t really deserve to be kicked out of his job; she got what she deserved when she visited him; they really deserved to win the award - that kinda thing. What happens afterwards? What went on in Hitchens’ mind as the nurse left after injecting the last shot of the day, after the drapes had been pulled, and his last visitor left with hollow words of ‘let’s catch up soon’. How did he pull himself up, and fight his way to the table and struggle with the keypad to produce those glorious last articles? What stuff is man made of? I can’t presume what motivated him; such men are special. Genius always is. But for the rest, the antidote surely must be in a state of ‘As If’.

The people in the Kolkata hospital who went to get well and encountered a sickening reality, what must be going through the minds of their family? Life is not fair; that’s the single, indisputable reality of our lives. The world which we permeate has the power to shape us and unmake us. When this familiar, comforting world crumbles, all known edifices of honesty and kindness disappear. This is when it is important we create a state of As If: to believe that the number tattooed on your wrist, doesn’t make you any less human, any less an individual, than the German officer who looks at you coldly; to believe that the death of your child makes you no more responsible than God who didn’t listen to your prayers; to understand that irrespective of it being labeled a flower without roots, it did change you forever.

The two scenes below describe this state of As If. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve viewed these scenes over this year. Enjoy.






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Dec 16, 2011

One Last Breath - RIP Chris

When certain events unfold, they say Nature joins in the mourning. Flowers bend their heads, birds forget their music, and the musk deer loses her fragrance. I'm sure something like that happened today, for as i suddenly looked up from the computer screen, i was startled by the darkness outside. Rainfall in December in Mumbai? C'mon! Then my eye caught sight of the news. Everything fell into place. Why not? After all, 2011 didn't spare many.

While I didn't always agree with some of his views, I couldn't help but be dazzled by the clear, cold logic of his reasoning; his wit; his unequivocal support for the values he believed in, and his unflinching commitment to calling a spade a spade, diplomacy be damned!

He was often in the news for his controversial views on Islamofaschism, his support of the invasion of Iraq, and his disbelief in God. I'd like to believe, the man possessed a heart too large and an imagination too liberal  to accommodate our puny definitions of God. In his own way, he was a greater believer than either you or me.

If you haven't read him before, this would be a good place to start: where he knew the end had begun. And yes, do please read this too: a smack reply to all those who offer glib platitudes in the face of cosmic helplessness.

RIP
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Dec 3, 2011

Notes on Great House


I’ve never fought an impulse to abandon a book or film simply because it was wrapped in a brocade of endless gloom and grief. Nicole Krauss’ Great House is an aberration. I wanted to read this book when i learnt it was one of the finalist's in the 2010 National Book Awards, and also because her first work had swept me awayOf course, grief is as distinct from sadness as french fries from potato wedges. But Krauss’ Great House really tested my limits because despite the shining luminosity of her expressions, there were sections when I felt compelled to put my book down and move on to a James Patterson thriller! The reason I mention this at the onset  is because this is not a book most people will enjoy.
Does that mean I don’t recommend it? If you have an ear for music, if you don’t mind solitude, and if you are not impatient with those who couldn’t make it to the finishing line, read it. You will discover an author whose sheer mastery of emotions and language will leave you blinded. After Arundhati R0y’s God of Small Things, I have rarely come across such aplomb & aptness in language. Try this: "In life we sit at the table and refuse to eat, and in death we are eternally hungry."
Like its delightful predecessor, Great House also revolves around an inanimate object and reveals how the lives of separate people in diverse locations are tied together through this object. In the former novel it was a missing manuscript, here it is a mammoth desk: “an enormous, foreboding thing that bore down on the occupants of the room it inhabited, pretending to be inanimate but, like a Venus’ flytrap, ready to pounce on them and digest them via one of its many little terrible drawers.
The story is told by four narrators – Nadia in NY, Isabel in Oxford, Arthur in London & Aaron in Jerusalem.  
Nadia, a writer, begins the story by recounting how the desk came her way. She addresses her story to a silent witness who she calls ‘Your honour’ and whose identity is only revealed in the final pages. We learn that she was left the desk by a young Chilean poet named Daniel Varsky who was leaving for home and needed a place to store his furniture. Soon afterwards Daniel falls a victim to Pinochet’s murderous regime and the desk remains with Nadia. Despite its foreboding presence, she forms a strange attachment with it as she continues to write at the desk. She remains unmarried and detached from any real human connection, and the desk and her brief encounter with Varsky seem to be the only milestones in her emotional landscape - "I'm embarrassed to say that my eyes actually filled with tears, Your Honour, though as is so often the case, the tears sprang from older, more obscure regrets i had delayed thinking about, which the gift, or loan, of of a stranger's furniture had somehow unsettled."If there is no great exhilaration in her life, there is also no deep sorrow. Until the day Leah Weiz knocks on her door claiming to be Varsky’s daughter and requesting the desk back.

The next part of the story is told by Aaron, the recently widowed father of Dov, who he addresses through his monologue. Aaron is in fact the single character in this book who seems intent to redeem himself, who is aware of his severed connection from his own blood and is desperate to find common ground again with Dov. His anguish, his fury, his sense of utter desolation that no matter how hard he tries, he cannot scale the impenetrable wall that Dov has built around him, comprise some of the most beautiful sections of this novel.
We next meet Arthur Bender, who has only recently discovered (while caring for his Alzheimer-afflicted wife Lotte Berg) the extent of the secrets she kept locked within her self during their long marriage. It is in fact Lotte, who’d given the desk to Varsky.  As these stories unravel, you realise neither Dov nor Lotte nor Nadia are ordinary people who look for and cherish concepts like stability, love or happiness. They are consumed by memories of a loss so immense that it makes it difficult to stand straight afterwards. Yet, what is truly painful is Krauss’ intuitive understanding of the unhappiness that falls upon those who are attached to these broken figures. As Arthur describes his long marriage, we realise the long periods of uncertainty, the endless doubts, and the effort required to silently accept the whims and silence of Lotte without ever voicing what it must’ve cost him to live like that. In many ways, Arthur reminds me of Tagore’s Nikhil from Ghare Baire.
The fourth narrator is Isabel, a student at Oxford who falls in love with Yoav Weisz, Leah Weisz’s brother. Like Arthur and Aaron, Isabel too soon discovers the pitfalls of caring deeply for someone whose entire life is in the thrall of something greater than himself – in this case the siblings’ unusual and disturbing closeness, and the presence of their domineering father George Weisz. George is a famous antiques dealer who specialises in restoring old pieces of furniture looted by the Nazi’s to their rightful owners. Needless to say, George wants the desk. As George explains his peculiar occupation to us, we seem to glimpse what lies beneath Krauss’ magnificent meditation on loss and grief.
George Weisz says, “Bend a people around the shape of what they have lost, and let everything mirror its absent form." His words are at complete odds with our commonplace understanding of grief and loss. We think (that’s what is taught and  that’s what we witness in most around us) that time and life are the greatest healers; that with time, it is possible to overcome, or at least noticeably ‘move on’ from the epicentre of one’s great loss. This may be true of most. But the reverse is also true – that there may be some who simply do not have this faculty of self healing; who stand rooted in the quicksand of their loss and defeated by time; there is a kind of soil which no matter how much you water or fertilise, will yield no fruit. And this brings us to, perhaps, the book’s great existential question – if such loss is a definite possibility in one’s life, how does anything really matter? How do we lend meaning to the concepts and constructs that are purportedly meant to make life meaningful?
According to Joan Didion the answer lies in writing: ‘you write your way through it’ she prescribes of crushing grief. Krauss is far cannier and offers nothing. There is no hope, no comfort, no light at the end of the novel: just shattered glass.
As I read Great House I found myself impatient to see how the 4 stories would come together. Readers who expect neat endings will probably be a little miffed at Krauss for the manner in which this is done. I think this is also a deliberate ploy on her part because to search for meanings and connections in a merciless existential universe is perhaps as futile as trying to comprehend God.

Dec 1, 2011

On the badminton court

His eyes focused on the black mole on her right foot - vivid, familiar, and enticing as always. Despite himself, he looked for the blisters which he knew had long healed. He daren’t look up for fear the others would see his eyes. He sat with his head bent, looking intently at the white hospital tiles, seemingly mesmerized by the pattern of 4 regular white squares interspersed with a lone brown; couldn’t wait for the entire ordeal to be over, and had it not been for her aging parents, the years that stretched between the two families, he doubted he’d be present.

It was strange but not once did he feel like touching her, that familiar pull to thread his hand through her thick hair & pull her close; or run his thumb over her lower lip with a slowness that’d made her gasp and look at him pleadingly. That there would ever be a time when he could resist reaching out and pulling her close, was something he’d never imagined. The touch was all they’d ever had; when the words had betrayed them, it was their skins that spoke eloquently; in her small cluttered apartment, on his terrace, in busy airports, and cramped changing rooms – they’d allowed the madness to overpower them and left traces of a love that had stopped breathing a long time ago. 
Yet here he was once again after a gap of seven years. Seven long years of  a furtive peace and thankfulness that he’d finally found someone else who didn’t make him feel haunted all the time; someone who didn’t always expect the world of him. Now, those seven years had come to an end – in a dirty hospital room where four patients struggled for an elusive peace and privacy.
 Suddenly he arose and went over to stand beside her. As he looked down at her sunken cheeks, the sharp nose that he’d loved to tease her about, he wondered at the stillness that emanated from her. It was difficult to remember her without her nervous tic of pulling at the ends of the shaggy bangs that framed her face, to see her lying still instead of pacing restlessly, fuelled by nervous energy as she puffed on one cigarette after another. In all the years that he’d known her, he’d never seen her still. Now her chest was still; all was quiet within. The stormy turbulence of 33 years had finally ceased. 
He sat down and couldn’t help his eyes travelling over the familiar mole once again. Her toes were unpainted – a sight as alien as her lying on the bed without trying to cram all her thoughts into a babel of incoherence. She had abhorred make-up, but nail polish had been her single vanity.  Crimson, orange, pewter grey, and green – he’d reserved his usual scorn for them, but had secretly smiled at her exuberance.  
Almost immediately his mind jumped to a particular evening they’d spent in a small hotel in Rishikesh. They’d travelled all the way from Hardwar where she’d had much fun floating the diya and flower baskets in Hadki Paori in the Ganges. Her squeals, her radiant smile, her childish excitement, the glow from the hundreds of diyas floating in the water, it was one of those rare moments when everything came together and was perfect. Later at Rishikesh, she’d taught him how to paint her toes. Despite his complete disinterest in the beginning, he’d soon come to enjoy it. It was in keeping with so many other things he did because his initial reluctance would soon be overcome by her enthusiasm. None of the other women he’d known, and there had been quite a few, had come so unfettered, so free. He still remembered the evening they’d first had sex.
 
You’re losing weight! are you fine? 
Hey..hi…I am good. 
No, I am good is no good. It is I am fine or I am ok. 
Oh, I forget, you’re the English major. 
It’s not that, at all. I am good sounds pompous. Let others decide if you’re good or bad. Smile
Silence
You’ve known me since you were a kid. Am I good or bad? 
I think you’re very good. You’re the best. Shy smile
Slow, lazy smile. Silence. Pinches her cheek.
Do you want me to pick you after college tomorrow? We could go pick up those goldfish for your bowl. I spoke to a guy at Manish market and we could check him out. 
Flushed. You did? !! Of course I’d like to go tomorrow. Does he have the Indian variety or the Turkish? I have read that the Turkish ones learn to emote with you orer a period of time while the Indians are just dumb. I want the Turkish ones. Buuuutt, wont it be rather far for you to come all the way to college? I could meet you at the park? 
Look, I just said we will check out what he has. I have no idea if they come from Turkey or Syria! And, if I said I can come, it means it’s no problem. Unless you have a problem with me picking you up? 
I was only thinking about you. Why do you get so easily irritated with whatever I say? 
I don’t. You imagine it. 
Silence
Why are you so silent? You want me to leave? 
No baby. Stay. Just some things on my mind. Thinking. 
Tentative. Have you been thinking about me? 
Yeah. 
Silence
Do you want me? 
More than you know. 
Silence. 
If I were to take you home now, you know it’d lead to hanky panky? 
Laughing aloud. Yeah? And then what? You know I can’t give you anything. That works for you? 
It does. 
I don’t understand you….really I don’t at all. How can it work for you? How can you be so flippant? Voice rising now. 
I am neither deaf nor flippant. You don't  understand me, how can you even begin to understand my love? It doesn't matter.

 
And that’d been it. Not a word was exchanged & after a while, she’d beckoned to the waiter, paid the bill, gently taken his hand and brought him to her tiny apartment. He was in a daze, it was as if he was looking at her from amid dense fog.  She’d caught him completely by surprise and the pleasure of her hands as they worked their way across his body, was a feeling he had never forgotten. 
Yet, that was not when he felt protective about her. That had come much before. 
She’d been three when their family moved to the quarters below in the steel township managed by the company their fathers worked in. Their fathers were colleagues and she’d soon become his sister’s best friend. The 12 years that separated them ensured she was never anything more than a pesky nuisance, a precocious girl with stubborn ways who always borrowed his cassettes without seeking his permission. He’d hated that about her. Later when they were married briefly, she’d raid his clothes.  He pretended to be angry and smiled at her mockingly, but deep down he was always oddly touched. In the end, she’d been the one who protected him, not the other way around. Though, all he’d ever wanted was to shield her. 
Ever since the incident on the badminton court. 
During the summer holidays, the badminton court became a beehive of activity. Boys and girls of different age groups congregated there since 7 in the morning to make the most of the outdoors before the heat became unbearable after midday. While the older children played their game, their younger sibling sat on the clubhouse steps under the shade, enthusiastically cheering and clapping for their older siblings. She’d always be there with his sister. 
He must’ve been around 16 then when the incident took place. He’ was engrossed in the game and was startled to hear a loud wailing. He looked around to find her rooted to the middle of the sun-baked cement court on her bare feet, wailing loudly as the heat scalded the tender insides of her bare soles. She’d sauntered over to him to tell him she wanted to go home and had forgotten to wear her sandals. Instinctively, several of them had rushed to pick her up, but by then blisters had covered her tiny pink feet. As he carried her inside, he’d been aware for the first time in his life, of a feeling of absolute terror, terror that he was solely responsible for something infinitely precious to him. Mingled with this terror was the awareness that he would do anything to protect the little girl in his arms. Never again had he experienced that same tenderness, that same terror for anybody else again in his life. 
It had always seemed odd to him that she had no memory of an incident that was so deeply etched in his consciousness. Often when he worked late, he’d stand quietly for a few seconds in front of the bedroom door, at daybreak, or after a night when he’d promised to be at home with her; he’d stand there with a sore conscience knowing she had finally fallen asleep with disappointment in her heart. He couldn’t even begin to count the times. At last his tired feet would remind him that he had to go inside and he’d press the door handle which he knew would creak halfway down. And she would wake up, look at him with sleepy eyes, more angry than hurt, until he slipped under the duvet, snuggled up to her body and felt its stiff resistance melt. But she wouldn’t give in. She’d quietly turn he back to him. And then he would stroke her more, kiss and nibble at her, be her servant until she was sitting on him, no longer the queen in her slumbers, but purring and moaning, wanton and offended at the same time. 
Later, lying beside each other in the darkened bedroom, he’d often recount the day on the badminton court. The script never changed and she’d fall asleep in his arms almost immediately afterwards. Now, he wasn’t so sure how much of what he remembered of that incident and used to tell her was actually true, and how much he’d made up to please her. Like she always assured him, it didn’t matter. 

Nov 26, 2011

Red

A colleague in Denmark who recently quit the company and relocated to Germany wrote me a mail describing the new workplace, travel involved, search for a house, etc. He mentioned, "I can feel this move will change me in several unknown, unseen ways but I guess it'll all be for the good in the end. I try and remain stoic but the prospect of all those dialysis machines leaves me wondering what good is life about anyway."

Dumb me jumped to conclusions and dashed off a mail immediately remarking that i wasn't aware he was relocating for health purposes and commiserating with his misfortune, et all. PL replied later explaining that the 'dialysis' reference was solely due to the fact that the Communications department of this huge hospital was located on the same floor as the nephrology section and he passed them daily on his way to his office. He thanked me for my 'kind mail' but assured me that he was in perfectly fine health.

If stupidity can kill, i would be playing the harp in heaven now. Aaaaargh! 

Nov 20, 2011

Notes On Rockstar


Some friends call me a movie snob, an assumption I don’t bother to correct. If not liking hits like Hera Pheri, Dabaang and Khatron Ke Khiladi makes me guilty of such transgression, I accept the charge. But frankly, none of these films make me see red – I don’t enjoy them, but I see that they remain true and committed to their vision of ‘masala’ entertainment. There is no clash in values or vision that I perceive in these films. But films like Rockstar, Dil Kya Kare and Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna really upset me because they deal with issues which are compelling and close to my heart, in a frivolous manner; it’s like you pick the best canapés and then shallow fry them and the end result is a half-cooked, soggy mess.

For starters, I have no idea why Imitiaz Ali named his film Rockstar, it might as easily be a film about a genius techie, a maverick investment banker or just some bloke who tries too hard to impress. Early on in the film we are told that JJ (Ranbir Kapoor) dreams of being the next Jim Morrison ( the only rockstar allusion in the film!). He is advised by his college mentor Khattarbhai (Kumud Mishra) that the one thing common to all great artists is their experience of intense pain and the ability to infuse that pain into their art. I don’t know if Ali is going wink-wink here, but I do agree that there’s a problem with the way we Indians define a rockstar. We are still so preoccupied with Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury that we cannot think of an alternate prototype – one who isn’t necessarily self destructive, one who doesn’t do drugs, one who turns up for his recordings on time, and doesn’t throw tantrums. We can’t acknowledge that artists like Zakir Hussain, A.R. Rehman and Shankar Mahadevan are rockstars too! Thus, I really found JJ’s naïve understanding of who’s a rockstar quite authentic in the context of India. In fact throughout Ali’s film, you’ll come across many such moments of resonance where he seems to be trying to delve into or reflect upon something that is of consequence in our lives. Yet sadly, he doesn’t bother to really stir the broth once the lid has been lifted. He’s simply content to let you catch a whiff of the aroma and then seal the lid back into place.

It takes a certain sensibility and imagination to make great love stories. When you really think about it, all love stories are the same. Boy & girl start from the starting line amidst much sunshine and cheering, later, clouds come in the way, and only one of them makes it to the finishing line. But the love story takes place only after the clouds darken the sky and therein the beauty. Casablanca, Dr Zhivago, QSQT, Walk the Line, Eternal sunshine of the Spotless Mind, & perhaps even Sholay – look at any of them and you’ll see what I’m talking about. That’s why these are the greatest love stories ever filmed. The saddest thing about Rockstar is that it’s neither about an eccentric musical genius nor a great love story. It compromises on both ideals because Indian film makers are wary of showcasing their heroes as absolute assholes. We make excuses for these jerks, we are a nation obsessed with explaining away our negatives. The only exception is probably someone like SRK who dared to make films like Anjaan and Darr.

Anyway, to return to the limpid love story, Ali shows imagination but again doesn’t pursue his vision through till the end. His JJ is more a retard (middle finger to political correctness) than eccentric or endearing. Though Ranbir tries hard to ape his grandfather Raj Kapoor, what he doesn’t quite possess is the innocence, naivete and endearing charm of Kapoor Sr. Frankly, I felt like delivering a tight smack across his face every time he opened his mouth or grinned.

About Nargis Fuckri's Heer, all I can say is that she elevates Katrina Kaif to the levels of Smita Patil in comparison. Every time she came onscreen, the audience broke out in loud guffaws! And I was like - was Ali doped when he signed her? Every time I raged and wanted to walk out, A gripped my hand and told me, “She’s the only Indian actress I’ve seen who has Peneolpe Cruz’s mouth’. As if that alone is enough. Grrr….

Perhaps the greatest disappointment is Rehman’s music. Forget the fact that this film is apparently about an unrefined musical genius, ‘ek bahut bada janwar’, who’s passionate about making music. This film cannot even be about an artist like Himesh Reshammiya! A.R. Rehman has always been God for me, and it breaks my heart to have to admit that his muse has probably deserted him forever. The fire is gone and it is we who are the poorer for it.

Is there anything I liked about the film? Tough one that. As stated earlier, there are 2-3 conceits that Ali employs which are an absolute must in a love story, but they all fall flat. The idea of the body not being able to keep up and breaking down eventually when separated from ones beloved because the heart has broken, and then miraculously reviving again, is something so magical, so fragile, that it cannot & shouldn’t be expressed in terms of increased blood count. No way! There are those who will laugh at this and dismiss it, and others who will nod with unshed tears in their eyes. That’s ok. But it definitely isn’t something you can explain in terms of reports and tests and walking down stairs as Ali does.

Again, the entire camaraderie between the two lovers comes across as completely make-believe. At no point do you sense that Heer feels JJ is an organic extension of her. That’s what the greatest love stories are about – about healing our fractured selves. The scene where they meet in Prague after several years could have been done so poignantly with an actress like Rekha or Kareena but with Nargis F, it is turned into mockery!

I liked Ali’s Ahista Ahista, Jab We Met, and I thought Love Aaj Kal had elements of a great love story. I still believe he’s a sensitive and intelligent director. But he doesn’t possess the soul of a lover – a lover of films. To be so, you have to throw caution to the winds, stop explaining and annotating emotions, stop playing to the gallery, and must learn to walk on coals. He still hasn’t done that. 

Nov 9, 2011

Notes on The Sense of an Ending


I read 2 magnificent novels recently – this year’s Booker winner The Sense of An Ending and Nicole Krauss’ Great House. I’ve never felt more intrigued or taxed as I did while trying to join the dots and weave the threads in these novels and arrive at a satisfactory ending. Even now I’m unsure whether what I understood and interpreted is really what happened. This ambiguity is part of being alive, as also part of the narrative tradition, of hearing and reading about other people’s lives, of history, and of recalling the past.  Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending is about these ambiguities - the impossibility of ever arriving at the truth about certain pivotal matters in our life because the truth has long ago been distorted and destroyed.  As one character puts it early on in the novel, “History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation". That is why this novel possesses that rare punch to change the way one has been interpreting one’s life or going about it. That alone should quieten all those murmurs which ask whether it was a deserving winner or not.

The novel is narrated by Tony Webster, a 60-year-old retiree, who recalls the events of his life, only to discover that what he remembers and what actually happened don’t always concur: “What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.”  As Tony works his way towards an epiphany, we realize that, even at the end, one cann whot be sure that what Tony now understands, is the penultimate truth. I think that’s why this is one of the most befitting titles I’ve come across – it hints and mocks and alludes to a veil, to a mirage, that upon closer examination will cease to be and reveal a darker truth. Very few of us have the courage to actually seek an ‘ending’ to our affairs; instead, most of us are satisfied with the ‘sense of an ending’ that matters have been peacefully resolved, mortgage payments met, P/L accounts closed, children settled, and daily vitamins taken.

The narrative is prompted by Tony’s sudden receipt of a lawyer’s letter informing him that the mother of his ex-girlfriend, Veronica, (whom he hasn’t met in more than 40 years) has left him £500 and a diary.  The diary belongs to Adrian Finn, a brooding intellectual schoolmate-cum-hero of Tony’s and his 3 friends who later went to study at Cambridge and shortly afterwards committed suicide at the age of 22. At that time he was married to Veronica who started dating him soon after she split with Tony. She now has the diary and though she meets him after a lot of persuasion, she refuses to give him the diary. As he probes and pushes, what he gradually discovers upsets the cart of his peaceful existence and challenges the substance of his memories.

The first part of this thin novel outlines Tony and his friends’ days at school, the simultaneously repressed and restless energy in a typical 60’s boys school, the advent of Adrian in their midst and his unique and logical way of looking at things, Tony’s brief affair with Veronica and the ill-fated weekend at her place with her family, her mother’s odd gesture under the window and even odder warning to not let Veronica get the better of him, the eventual break-up with Veronica and later knowledge that Adrian was now dating her. As he recounts these sections, he continuously retracts and casts doubt on whether he remembers things correctly and raises doubts in our minds about his reliability as a narrator. For instance, was he really snubbed and looked down upon during that long-ago weekend at Veronica’s house or did he simply project his own feelings of inadequacy onto others? Was Veronica’s mother really kind or could her behavior be ascribed to something darker? Most importantly, what role did Tony play in Adrian’s eventual suicide and the larger tragedy that unfolds in the last pages? As the novel develops, these questions haunt Tony and he seeks Veronica, who now has her husband’s diary, to find some degree of understanding and closure.

Not only this, he is forced to re-examine and reinterpret his vision of Adrian – the school chum whose intellect had always enthralled Tony. He’d earlier romanticized Adrian’s suicide as the truest manner in which one can exercise his choice in life; later, as he uncovers facts, he is forced to consider whether Adrian’s death was nothing more than a cowardly act, an inability to face up to the truth about one’s moral decrepitude.

As we veer towards the end, it does seem that the ‘ending’ is a tad contrived and one can’t be faulted for imagining that Tony’s final reading of his own role in the grand tragedy that has enfolded all their lives, is perhaps a little far-fetched. I know readers will quibble with this. I’d like to imagine that Barnes shapes his ending in this manner precisely because he wants to sow the doubt – does Tony really ‘get’ things in the end? Did things really happen the way he imagines them in the end? There’s no way of knowing and Veronica’s single stubborn accusation throughout the novel - ‘You just don’t get it’ – continues to resonate in our ears.

Perhaps the best thing about reading a writer like Barnes is the complete lack of sentimentality, and his dry and mordant wit that pervades even the most poignant sections. Notice the characteristic brusque way in which he captures the essence of what it meant to be a school boy in the ‘60s, “We were book hungry, sex-hungry, meritocratic, anarchic.” One can’t help laughing as he describes the dating scene thus, “This is what used to happen: you met a girl, you were attracted to her, you tried to ingratiate yourself, you would invite her to a couple of social events - for instance, the pub - then ask her out on her own, then again, and after a good-night kiss of variable heat, you were somehow officially ‘going out’ with her. Only when you were semi-publicly committed did you discover what her sexual policy might be. And sometimes this meant her body would be as tightly guarded as a fisheries exclusion zone.

But always beneath the wit and even tone of his prose, you come across passages which enthrall as when he writes towards the end, “And no, it wasn’t shame I now felt, or guilt, but something rarer in my life and stronger than both: remorse. A feeling which is more complicated, curdled, and primeval. Whose chief characteristic is that nothing can be done about it: too much time has passed, too much damage has been done, for amends to be made.” To me, this along with another passage is perhaps the key to the novel – the distinction between guilt and remorse and regret. A distinction we forget too easily. 

Tony is a kind of Everyman – just one of us. In the beginning he tells us, “I had not wanted life to bother me too much.” He’s the kind of person who, like you may, claims, “I recycle; I clean and decorate my flat to keep up its value. I’ve made my will; and my dealings with my daughter, son-in-law, grandchildren and ex-wife are, if less than perfect, at least settled.” Sounds familiar?


Yet, it is this very man who says in the end, “You get towards the end of life: the end of any likelihood of change in that life. You are allowed a long moment of pause, time enough to ask the question: what else have i done wrong.” Ever since i read the novel almost 2 months ago, i’ve revisited this passage not less than 17 times and it never fails to bring the tears despite my resolve. There’s such immense empathy for mankind in his assured ‘what else’ and not ‘what have i done wrong’, that it cannot but shake you. The very idea that we are all aware of our mistakes, that we try and make amends, and yet there’s so much that we are blind to, is the keenest reminder of our frailties. This novel serves that reminder. 

Oct 25, 2011

Notes on A Serious Man


I’ve always believed that the good things in life come to us at particular moments when we most need them or are most ready for them. The best books, the best music, the best people – none of it is random; it has a sacred significance which perhaps reveals itself much later when you’re able to connect the dots. With these thoughts it’s a lil difficult to write about a film that is basically about randomness; about a hapless soul’s search for meaning in a universe that will do anything to strip every object, every individual, every event of meaning. To search for meaning in such an existential, absurd universe is akin to the endless wait for Godot. 
A Serious Man tells the story of physics professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), whose world is slowly disintegrating. His wife Judith (Sari Lennick) is leaving him for a someone who is little more than a lecherous pontificating creep; to add insult to injury she wants Sy to move in and Larry to stay at the Jolly Roger; his overweight, mentally-challenged brother Albert (Richard Kind) sits on the couch all day and attracts the attention of the local police; his son Danny is doing drugs and owes money, while his daughter wants a nose job. Typical cozy picture of dysfunctional American suburbia, huh?

Every scene is treated with the Cohen brothers’ trademark irreverence and humour. Be it Danny’s bar mitzvah, or the encounters between Larry and the rabbis who he meets to try and understand why he’s being singled out for such treatment. The thing abt the Cohen brothers is that they, apart from Woody Allen in parts, are the only guys who can show you a film abt a man losing everything or a bizarre murderous psychopath and yet make you laugh. Sure, it’s an uncomfortable laughter, one which is accompanied by the feather-touch awareness along your spine that you wouldn’t want to inhabit the universe he’s describing, but the laughter is there. You laugh even as you feel sorry for Larry. I could particularly empathise with Larry’s puzzlement when a long & circuitous conversation with a senior rabbi ends with the devastating words, “We can’t know everything.” No wonder he retorts, “Sounds like you don’t know anything.”

Though this film was made after their Oscar winner No Country for Old Men (NCFOM), I’d like to see this as a prelude to that story of relentless, needless violence where the flip of a coin decides a man’s fate (the coin flip scene in NCFOM is one of the best scenes in film history ever.) The usual rules, promises and tokens are rendered hollow and ludicrous in these films. Why so many people die in NCFOM while the sheriff survives in that other great Cohen brothers’ film - Fargo - can all be attributed to their singular vision of this existential universe where everything is accidental.

I’m sure we are all disturbed by randomness, by chance, by events unfolding one way or the other because a coin flip changed the direction of our lives. We’ve always been led to believe that this isn’t so – that we shape our destinies, that no wrong ever goes unpunished, blah blah. It is to the Cohen brothers’ credit that their nihilism is appealing. I can even say I find it oddly comforting sometimes – just fuck the universe and do what needs to be done.

But while Larry is a victim, there is something profoundly moving about the manner in which he struggles to lead his life even as it’s coming apart at the seams. He just does what needs to be done, doesn’t crib or moan, seeks wisdom from those he supposes can help him and goes abt his way. And when all fails, he claims quietly, “I’ve tried to be a serious man, I’ve tried to do right.”

A Serious Man begins with a prologue in which a married woman stabs an elderly man whom she believes to be a dybbuk (malicious spirit who enters a living person and controls their life.) The story bears no relation to the main story which follows. To look for a connection is as absurd as Larry’s attempts to rationalise his predicament. That’s the singular beauty of this film: nothing is ever proved, nothing confirmed and no solace offered. There’s no way of knowing: the film is full of characters who talk about Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, whether or not actions have consequences, and the need to “accept the mystery”. And so we go on about our sorry lives – naïve, unsuspecting, unprepared, fearful.

In the end I was left with just one thought – we are angry when we can’t find the reasons, but perchance we found the reasons, would grief have been any less?

Oct 1, 2011

On the canyon

Los Angeles is much like Mumbai, a city of contrasts, where showbiz and glamour exist alongside illegal mexican  workers, where the seediness of the city's underbelly is only matched by that found inside the homes of big stars and studio executives. To find a house in this urban jungle that one could look forward to returning to at the end of a long day, was a prize fit for the kings.

The house was a simple split structure, with creme exteriors and dark pinewood. The living room, kitchen and study covered the bottom floor, while the top floor housed the 2 bedrooms and a hanging patio. It's beauty was its location. To come to it, you'd have to take the  long, winding road that hugged Mullholland drive, its  narrow streets curving along a world of corvettes and mustangs and people who sunbathed in the Bahamas. The road eventually gave way to a deep gorge that stood like a huge bowl amid the gorgeous mountains of LA.

It was a small house that stood on the lip of the canyon which he shared with the red-tailed eagles, coyotes, deer, skunks, possums and rattlesnakes. Frankly, he minded the skunk far more than the rattlesnake. More rural than possible in LA, coming home always felt like healing, a place of refuge where he could forget for a few hours the unnaturalness, the sickness that marked his daily life.

His favourite place in the house was the deck - he had invested nearly as much in it as people did in the best master bedrooms. It had a Braun barbecue grill, the floor a deep reddish wood which was 100% stain free, the best Yamo sound-deck was fitted over the small bamboo cane chair that hung on the western side of the deck. To stand at the deck and watch the sun going down behind the mountains, was a sight to die for; to stand by it at night and hear the animals in the canyon below perk up for their nocturnal activities, was to understand habit and ritual; to practice his yoga on its polished wooden surface as the sun broke out at 7 am in the summers, made it easier to bear the loneliness that was now his life.

Today was not an easy day. To even imagine that he'd made such a big error which had led to the tragedy, was a nightmare that he wouldn't wish on anyone. He took a bottle of Budweiser out of the fridge and stood sipping it at the deck. A coyote cried out into the distance and something rustled in the shrubs below. Must be dinner time. His stomach rumbled and he remembered he'd not eaten anything since breakfast. He was still standing at the deck listening to the winds rustling the tree tops when the phone rang, and her quiet voice came on the speaker phone from 2000 miles away.

He immediately felt better, felt at peace.

Is this my favourite policeman?

Hi, how're you doing?

I know you're not doing so fine. Talk to me. Sunny called.

Sunny called you?

He said you could use some kick-ass conversation.

Silence.

Now will you tell me about the victims or will you?

There wasn't much he could deny her anyway; he told her the whole sordid story.

Listen to me. Are you listening?

Yes.

Even if the worst is true, what happened is not your fault. You acted on the evidence, you were only doing your job. And no one does it better than you. ok? If this terrible thing is true, do you know what you will do?

He nodded but didn't answer.

You will man up and do what needs to be done now. You will get to the bottom of this. I will personally fly out and hold you? Dyu hear me?

You're holding me now, baby.

I'm not finished. Have you been drinking?

I miss you.

Shuttup and listen. I want you to listen to me.

I'm listening.
He was hanging on to her every word.

Now, gimme an Adam Sandler dialogue.

C'mon! Not now.

She raised her voice.
Say something funny!

Something funny.

Bad one. Try again.
She snorted.

I love you.

Only as a friend. ok?

Can't I see you?
He prayed silently.

We've been over this before. I will always be your best friend. I need to run now. Call me.

Call you what?

She smiled, he knew from 2000 miles away that she was smiling. Then her voice came on again - as soft and gentle as always.

You are the best. Dont you ever forget that. Dont you ever let me down. Bye.

****

Sep 28, 2011

Thoughts on the Booker Shortlist


He sang ‘The more I know, the less I understand’. That seems to be my story as well. So many issues/matters I find myself sitting on the fence, unable to make up my mind. There’s a mini controversy brewing over the choice of the Booker shortlist for this year & once again, I find myself unable to take sides with any real conviction.

Ever since the judges of this year’s Booker committee announced the shortlist on Sep 6 with those fateful words, “We are looking for enjoyable books. I think they are readable books”, a sort of literary outrage has engulfed readers and book enthusiasts across the world. Most are unhappy with the shortlist, perplexed by the exclusion of such authors as Edward St Aubyn, Hollinghurst, and Anne Enright from this year’s shortlist. Of the 6 shortlisted entries -  Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending, AD Miller's Snowdrops, Carol Birch's Jamrach’s Menagerie, Esi Edugyan's Half Blood Blues, Patrick De Witt's The Sisters Brothers and Stephen Kelman's Pigeon English - I’ve read only two (no. 1 & 5). I definitely don’t think this is Barnes’ best and while the De Witt novel is hugely entertaining and well crafted, I am unsure I’d like to get back to it after a few years, dust it and read it again. Both are good books; I’m afraid they are not great.

Reading forms one of my earliest memories but I still don’t know how I’d define a great book. Perhaps a good book changes something changes something intrinsic about you, and it is a book you gravitate towards over and over again as the years take their toll. Dunno.

Now, coming to the debate: the purists are disturbed because ‘readability’ seems to have scored over literary merit. Thing is, while The God of Small Things or Wolf Hall might carry huge literary merit, not too many people would be willing to traverse its arduous pages. I almost gave up Hillary Mantel halfway through! This means poor book sales for the author and losses for the publisher.

The judges have a choice: either to encourage people to buy, read and enjoy a slightly wider selection of books than they normally would, or to go entirely for what they believe are the most worthy books, even if not too many people are willing to invest in those books. And we all know what happens when we pick up a first book by an author and don’t like it. Enjoyment may seem like a obscene word in literature but it does affect marketability.

Having said that, there is something to be said about the level of literary maturity, taste and personal leanings of a society that cannot be bothered to look beyond ‘enjoyment’, that refuses to engage in a book unless it offers immediate gratification, that rejects books simply because they challenge the mind and the intellect and push the frontiers of the imagination. It is sad for the authors of such books no doubt, but it’s sadder still for society.

As I said earlier, I can’t decide which parameter should hold water. I am a rabid anti-marketing person so can’t really trust my instincts. Nevertheless, a memory lingers – I just couldn’t get through Faulkner’s ‘Sound and the Fury’ the first 2 times I tried. For those of you who haven’t read the novel, the first few chapters don’t  make sense because they are being narrated in first person by Benjy, an adult male who has the mind of a retard. It was a critical text in my optional American Literature paper in MA. Once I’d trudged through the opening chapters, I discovered a dysfunctional world where the basest motives survived alongside the noblest emotions, where beauty and ugliness were woven inseparably. It is one of my favourite novels.



p.s. Formatting nightmare above. Blogger has gone berserk :(

Sep 16, 2011

The Rose that Grew From Concrete

I've been putting in really long hours of late. Sometimes the endless tasks, meetings and finger pointing, gets too much. What i usually do on such occasions is sneak away for 10 mins or so and find a corner or my regular rock boundary, and quickly read a few favourite poems. It seemed only appropriate that i read some of his poetry today. After all, this week marks the 15th anniversary of his untimely death.

People swear by rappers like Emimen , Dr Dre or Snoop Dog. What most (outside the US) dont know is that he's hailed as the father of rap. He was also an acclaimed poet, crack junkie and part of an LA street gang. I cant say i love all of his poetry or that it's very refined. But he is the voice of a militant black consciousness that seems to challenge mainstream American racist complacency and complicity. I love some of his poems where he seems to be prophecying his early demise (Letter to my unborn, Upon my demise) or where he seems to have realised the difficulty of staying clean in the midst of muck, or the oddity of finding beauty in the midst of ugliness and mayhem.

Two of the my favourite poems by Tupac Shakur follow. The second is one he wrote for Jada Pinkett Smith, one of his closest friends and whom he considered his soulmate. Enjoy.


The rose that grew from concrete

Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature's law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping it's dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared

Jada

u r the omega of my heart
the foundation of my conception of love
when i think of what a black woman should be
its u that i first think of

u will never fully understand
how deeply my heart feels 4 u
i worry that we'll grow apart
and i'll end up losing u

u bring me 2 climax without sex
and u do it all with regal grace
u r my heart in human form
a friend i could never replace



p.s. Even as i write this i am aware that i prefer my heroes to be imperfect - Randy the Ram, Milton's Satan, Faust, Uxbal, Henchard, Charles Strickland, are just some names that occur. I am always inspired and moved by the endless striving to be better, to improve, and do it all with a simple faith. These are the heroes who prove 'nature's law is wrong.'

Sep 14, 2011

Improbable

When you knocked me over
For serving the burnt crust,
When we dated and you
returned to find the tyre’d burst.
When your house was flooded,
And you cursed the rain and my stormy passion.
When wishes made on eyelashes didn’t come true,
But reprimanding me seemed the latest fashion.
When the milk turned rancid,
And the puppy went missing,
While the garden turned barren,
Long nights you spent tossing,
Cursing my rotten deed.
It strikes me as odd,
Not once did you think,
I could be harmless.

Sep 7, 2011

Rolling Eyes & an Ode to Manhattan


A lot of people don’t get it when I say ‘rolling eyes’. Is it an expression of disdain? Humor? Disbelief? I guess I can’t quite explain what it implies. But Woody Allen does. And man, how brilliantly he does it!


Manhattan is my favourite Woody Allen film - a film I haven’t written about before not because it didn’t dwell on my mind. Rather, because I was afraid I would be unable to adequately express everything that I experience every time I watch it.  When I first watched it way back in college, things stirred inside and I knew I’d been privy to something that would resonate at different moments in my life.

Manhattan is Allen’s meditation on the nature of adult relationships, and also on what it means to be an adult. Is innocence the antithesis of adulthood? Is it possible to be wise and retain innocence at the same time? Is innocence an invitation to people to walk all over you or simply the inability to give up faith despite being walked on? Manhattan asks you all this and more.

Manhattan is the story of 4 people -  Issac (Allen), a successful 33-yr old writer of television comedies, Tracy, his 17-yr old high school gf, Miles, his best friend who is having an affair with Julia (Diane Keaton), a sophisticated writer much better suited to Issac than young Tracy. From the beginning you sense that while Issac is fond of Tracy, he hasn’t completely bought into the idea that he might be sharing something precious with her; life has jaded him & taught him too much and he knows that there can’t be much in common between a cynical 33-yr old man and a slightly overweight high school kid. As a result, the relationship is always something of an amusing distraction, a ‘time-pass’, so to speak. Instead he pines for his best friend’s alluring gf Julia and when fate provides an opportunity, he doesn’t waste any time in dumping Tracy and rushing to Julia. Appropriately enough he breaks the news to Tracy at a soda fountain and as she wipes a lonely tear and says, “I don’t feel much good’, you know that this is a line this kid will have to repeat many more times before it ceases to matter anymore. Like it has for the 3 adults in the film.

After a brief affair with Issac, Julia realises that she still loves Miles and goes back to him. Rejected and lonely, we see Issac spread on his couch trying to recall the 10 things that make life worth living - Groucho Marx, Willie Mays, the second movement of the Jupiter Symphony, Louis Armstrong,  Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Flaubert’s Sentimental Education, Cezanne’s painting, the crabs at Sam Wo’s. And Tracy's face. He adds that almost as an afterthought and then realises something and runs to meet her.  What happens next is perhaps the most beautiful scene I've ever seen in the movies.

I don’t know if his return to Tracy at the film’s close is to be construed as a too-late realisation of what he has lost. Issac is the epitome of a successful adult - someone like you, dear reader -  popular, witty, incredibly smart, and though geeky, he possesses something that endears him to most women. So, no, I am not sure he has or will ever learn to value someone as rare, as unadorned, as Tracy. But there is something that happens in the last scene and it is the zenith of Allen’s vision as a director as well as his range as an actor that he shows us what is happening to the adult inside Issac.

If you see the video below, you’ll note that he rolls his eyes upwards – a clear unuttered ‘Oh c’mon! How naïve can you be!’expression on his face. At the same time, something softens inside him, and his eyes start to smile and then his whole face undergoes a change and it seems as if he is aware that this is the last time he’s seeing her and all he wants to do is capture forever her youth, the radiance and hope and innocence that makes Tracy who she is. As Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue breaks out and the end credits roll, you experience a bittersweet heartache.

And what exactly is Tracy? In a film where every character is seeking love in relationships, she is the embodiment of that love. But it is an embodiment that doesn’t really concur with our adult version of what love should be like, hence, Issac keeps dismissing it throughout the film.

Every time I watch ‘Manhattan’, I’m left wondering at the end – do they meet again? What will happen if they do? Is Tracy changed so irrevocably that she can’t share herself with Issac anymore? Then I remember: Tracy will always be one of the ‘innocent’s abroad’ because her capacity to mumble embarrassedly, ‘Not everyone gets corrupted. Sometimes you got to have a little faith in people’, doesn’t stem from blindness or naivete but simply a nature that makes her different from others. It is neither stupidity nor dumbness. Though we may roll our eyes.



Aug 30, 2011

Why Write?

A.L Kennedy is that type of writer who always leaves me feeling drained. She enjoys a certain critical acclaim, but isn't really a literary heavyweight in the sense of a Martin Amis or Ian McEwan. There's barely much plot in her stories. Her's are stories exploring the sad inevitability of everyday life.

Anyway, was reading a few of her columns in the Guardian today where she explores the reasons why a writer writes. Really, despite the loneliness, the doubts, the turmoil of repeated rejections, why does one write? While the fears plaguing all writers may be similar, I'd like to think there are hundreds out there who never taste success at the end of this painful process. What about them? Do they stop writing? How do you stop doing something after you have been repeatedly rejected  when you haven't figured out how to stop doing it? That's the question she explores here. It's a question all of us face.

Writing a book is supposed to be simultaneously traumatic as well as cathartic. In the end it's worth it. Here's what she says in another piece:
And yet: you're a writer. You have written. There's a book out there with your name on it. Imagine that. You did imagine that. Every word of that. And in the moments when you're undistracted, you can feel that the other books are waiting, the ideas that will come to you to be expressed. This is a vocation – it called to you and you answered and now it calls in you. If you are quiet enough to hear, it always will. You have that and you are lucky, beyond lucky. Which is – I often have to remind myself – nothing to complain about. Onwards.

  

Aug 26, 2011

Justice

Despite my love for mush and poetry, I’m a tough nut and nothing fazes me much these days. So it was a wonder of sorts when I was badly rattled by the way the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair ended. Of course, it was unthinkable at any point that DSK would face rigorous imprisonment but I did believe that he would pay – right through his fat fucking French nose. Out of court settlements are known to have set up victims for life and I thought at least it would entitle Nafissatou Diallo and her daughter to a lifetime of security and comfort.
For a woman who is an immigrant housekeeper in a NY hotel and one who’d escaped from a life of gruesome poverty, civil war and genital mutilation, you couldn’t ask for more. But it was not to be. And no, I don’t think Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is at fault in this case. Vance is absolutely right in dropping the charges when he knows they would be difficult (more likely impossible) to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in front of a jury. Nowhere has he stated that Diallo was not the victim of a wrongful sexual assault; no, he’s simply saying that certain omissions and lies in her past behavior would unduly influence a jury’s decision and make it impossible for them to convict DSK.

So, who the hell am I mad at, you may ask? Certainly not DSK who was seen smiling as he emerged with his wife and daughter after dinner on Wednesday. He is a predator and acted according to his nature – prey upon those who are most likely to keep silent. Nothing out of the ordinary, if you ask me. I am mad, indeed exhausted, at the truth Vance points at – the jury’s verdict, the truth about us. The jury is made up of people like you and me, people who demand that a victim of rape have an impeccable history, who demand that a victim of rape should be a model citizen, who think a victim of rape is sure to be lying if she has lived with multiple partners, who swap a person’s past with her living present. Because dear reader, when you think about it, that’s what Vance’s decision is saying. He writes that she lied on her application for asylum in the US. Ok, so she made up a story of having been raped by the militia in Somalia. How many of us would consider fleeing to an alien land, whose language we don’t speak, unless there are compelling circumstances? And if the circumstances are compelling, wouldn’t all of us lie? Hell, we lie even when it is not required! How could her lie be any greater than ours?

The second blot against Diallo is her association with Amara Tarawally, an illegal immigrant now behind bars on drug charges. I am sure, given a choice, the poor woman would no doubt have preferred lighting cigars for the likes of Bill Clinton but choice is not something that’s the prerogative of a penniless, black, immigrant single mother.  Whew! As I was writing this I became aware of the number of things Diallo was actually guilty of: 5 counts to be precise. Poor/Colored/Immigrant/Single/Woman. How could any jury on earth have believed her story?

Justice has been done. 

Aug 25, 2011

Click the Shutter

To be a good writer,


you must never be satisfied loving only those who loved you in return,
you must learn to paint beyond red and sing beyond the seventh note,
you must learn to balance hopeless fatalism and fragile hope as you burn,
you must click the shutter when people reveal themselves,
you must be ready to grant forgiveness when the wounds turn scabrous,
you must learn to stand tall in the midst of lies and dead leaves,
you must enjoy the power you wield,
to quicken the pulse as Cinderella returns,
to wipe unshed tears as Othello learns, 
to unshackle dystopian myths,
to teach them that we are the breakers of our own hearts,
to help them find words for all the things they left unsaid.