Monday, December 1, 2008

World Aids Day Magnum Photos' access to Life Project

Here is the link to the World Aids Day Magnum Photos' access to Life Project.

They all fitted in two/three categories: either extremely colorful and attractive in nature (so as not to use the word 'exotic' somehow); or faded black and whites that betrayed the feel of winter skies (with the cliched pictures of African children quite obviously, you cannot miss that ever); and a couple had exposed an overwhelming darkness on the verge of taking over the entire frame.

I wonder why is it that the agency dispatched journalists to the rest of the world to go and click pictures of HIV/AIDS infected populations. Wouldn't as interesting photographs be found anywhere in Europe or North-America or Australia? Don't people get infected there, or is it simply an aesthetic route to be able to take on a higher moral stand as to the status of AIDS as taking endemic proportions (in the rest of the world obviously)?

Last week, I had to teach a piece by Susan Sontag on photography to my students and one of the recurring questions that arose was about whether photographs render us sensitive to the situation around us, or have we been so saturated by now that such pictures of war or the so-called Third World for instance would leave us insensitive. Is a de-familiarizing alienation effect (to put it in Brecht's words) still possible when it comes to photographs?

That's the feeling that I had when I saw these pictures. It's all been said-and-done by now. Anything more concrete to follow? Will the world ever begin to genuinely care? That is my question.

P.S: An interesting point that Sontag has on photographers, particularly when it comes to war pictures, is that the photographer while taking the picture of the Vietnamese monk reaching out for a can of petrol to burn himself for instance, or while taking a picture of a child getting shot by a soldier, is in fact acting as an accomplice to the crime (and NOT a witness) by virtue of the fact that at this point, he/she is probably the only person who could stop the crime and save a life. But obviously, that would be at the cost of a sensational picture.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

He's Gone to Barcelona [poetry]

He says he's gone to Barcelona:
Took his brother along his traveling persona.
I find it cute that he took his 15 year old brother
So they could spend time with one another.
I would like to meet this brother of his
Reads Sartre at 15, that's quite a whiz!

He says they walk a lot in Barcelona:
He did a lot of that even in Poona;
Promenading around like a flaneur,
One that Baudelaire would glorify in myrrh,
Taking his comrade swinging around town,
Looking at Barcelona, together as they walk down...

I have never tasted the Spanish dust,
But I imagine him ambling in wanderlust,
Searching for alleys of discoveries,
Of Horchatas made by Spanish fairies;
His desire to see and unearth more
Feeding his nomad-thirst to explore.

I see gold hair against Mediterranean architecture,
An artistic mind making sense of modernist structure,
Fair skin, pale, surrounded by crepuscular Iberian men
Who swirl in his eyes, curdling his vertiginous blood when,
He stops and thinks all of a sudden:
"Will I meet my lover in London?"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Chagos Islanders [What the eff??]

These days, I have my nose, eyes, brains all deeply sunk into analyzes of spaces or should I say non-spaces that pertain to the nation, or to a state or to a nation-state (Judith Butler asks: What does that hyphen between the two words entail?)

So I have been looking at forced displaced populations, at slavery movements, at prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, at asylum seekers, war resistors, movements from rural to urban America etc. and in the process trying to develop a possible idea of queer spaces in relation to race, but as symptomatic of gender. Whatever it is, it all fascinates me, particularly trying to understand forced displacements and incarceration.

Now, Matthew (who is a most loving guy who is in the Canadian/Indigenous Studies Program here at Trent) sends me the link to this article this morning. I won't lie, before even reading it, I look at those pictures that suddenly take me to a "home" I have left for more than five years now. Then, I read the article.

I have been exposed and more-or-less sensitive to the Chagos issue since I was a teenager. It struck me as surprising while reading this article that I never thought of looking at the Chagos natives as "migrants" or as a "displaced population." Is it because it is too small a population? Is it because I think of Mauritius as a haven where life would be better for them in any case? Is it because I really wonder why would they want to be in a small fishing island lost in the middle of nowhere, while they could be in Mauritius? Or is it simply because I have been aware of their battle since I was kid, and I am now insensitive to their discourse?

When I come to think about it, though am sure I still need more thinking, I have a feeling that all Chagos Islanders who actually yearn for their "home" are the people who were born there, i.e. the first-hand generation, and they are the ones who want to go back; but then, they will all be dead in a couple of decades in any case, so why create such a belly-ache over the issue? Their children are all Mauritians and see themselves as such, and would not want to go to the Chagos, a place where they have never lived to start with.

Besides, the first generation and the second generation were all granted British citizenship some years back as a "compensation" for their displacement. As I looked at my TV screen and saw all of them going up to take their new British passports, I remember it infuriating me. I saw the entire political fight as a simple bet and cover for begging for British citizenship.

But now, years later, I realize that I have been too harsh on the Chagos Islanders. I thought all the while that they wanted easy-money simply to be compensated. However, I realise that none of them took advantage of their British citizenship for example. They all stayed back in Mauritius and kept fighting to be able to go back to Diego Garcia. So may be they actually did see the fact of receiving the British passport as the first step of a longer battle (and I was thoroughly unfair thinking this was the ends of their means.)

May be I should be more sensitive to the fate of the Chagos Islanders after all? Those people are yearning for a home and fighting to go back there with such fiery energy. This seems to be all they live for and to this extent, what would differentiate them from any other individual who was displaced by force, be it the Palestinian woman or the war prisoner?

BUT, I did not say WHAT PISSES ME OFF:

"The US state department had argued that the islands might be useful to terrorists."

That's what the article mentions, AND THAT FUCKING PISSES ME OFF!! What do you mean terrorists in four islands where only 5 houses can fit?!! What is it that won't be excused under the rubric of "terrorism" for hell's sake?!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tasteless or Shocking: Are We Looking at the Right Thing Here? [insight]

Well there's been a HUGE outcry over the Vogue photo-shoot that featured poor citizens ('Ethnic' may be? 'Exotic'? After all, they are not poor people, but simply 'ethnic' ones) of India carrying stylized, branded, luxury items.

Here is a link to one of those articles (and pictures) for those who do not know what I'm speaking about.

And here is a link to a response to it, as given by the Vogue India editor.

At this point, I have two questions:

1- It's been a month or so now since these pictures have been out: Does anyone speak about them anymore? Or is it that the shock simply faded and the distaste turned into indifference?

2- My second question is: Are we actually looking at the right thing here? [I don't want to vent my rage towards Priya Tanna's stupid comments (she's not blond, oh no, she is simply STUPID) on how fashion is not to be taken seriously and about how fashion has nothing political about it. I wonder how is it that it can not be political when so much of the world's money is being poured into such an industry? And what does it mean when she says that the new advertising campaign is not political while at the same time, she claims that this campaign is saying that there is no distinction between rich and poor and they they can all carry fashion beautifully?]

The question is not whether the pictures themselves are tasteless. If they have aesthetic value, I guess they are not tasteless in themselves. The question is not how the pictures can be shocking either-- I mean, come on, in an India where we drive our cars and shop for a shirt at 1200 INR and still do not see a child sleeping on the road in-front of the mall, how can the juxtaposition of rich and poor be so shocking?!

What I think nobody is looking at when it comes to these pictures is that the latter with all their aesthetic value (which I grant, they do have) and their shocking potential are getting circulated and put into the public sphere, to be seen, to have a degree of visibility in magazines as well as hoardings. The question thus is: WHAT IS THIS VISIBILITY DOING?

I think this visibility is simply increasing the outright insensitivity of the Indian population to what is happening around them. What shocked me the most, and still shocks me the most about the Indian population is how a minority of clearly capitalist owners ('This is MY shit. Nobody touches it.') simply decides not to see what is happening around them. The insensitivity is flagrant, to say the least. Nobody wants to see the poverty, nobody wants to see people sleeping on the road, for the simple reason that one has a car and a flat in a respected society (with a security guard at the gate): so one does not have to see the poverty around.

My question to Priya Tanna is: Are those pictures saying that both the rich and the poor can carry fashion trends beautifully, or are they simply saying, "it's okay if there are poor people around, just keep buying and remain insensitive."

I don't think the pictures are shocking in themselves, or tasteless (that would be taking a high moral stand only for the sake of doing it) but I definitely think their entrance into the public sphere (in terms of advertisement or otherwise) is questionable for what they are doing, more than what they are.

Friday, September 12, 2008

An Ode to Keats's Ode [insight, piece of prose, canada memories]

These days, I think of the Fall that's yet to come, or may be is it already on its way? As I cycle along the Otonabee river, I listen deep within to the fragments of Keatsean verse as they come my way like maple-leaves falling off a tree.

I have been watching the trees and the leaves every-day. I watch as they as they slowly tan themselves to hues of a different gradient: they suck in the orange of the sun, the pink of my sweater, the brown of my skin, the purple of the clouded sky... As I walk along the East-City Bridge, I listen to the cold whispers that amble between my hairs and glide the frigid dance of a passionless heart onto my skin.

Again I think of Keats and his Ode to Autumn. This famous Ode that spoke of the sounds of Autumn and the music of mellow fruitfulness. I have not read this poem for years now, and I did not know I even knew it; I did not know that his lines would someday resonate in my heart like a distant drum that speaks the sounds of hues changing and leaves falling.

Keats's Ode has always been 'read' to me, but for the first time, his Ode is being 'sung' to me. I can hear the conspiracy between the maturing sun and the season of mists as they conspire to bless me with the music of a Fall that is new to me.

It's a new temperament that I am discovering, and for the first time in my life, I felt that a piece of art could come alive, more alive than Keats's own Grecian Urn, and that it could speak and narrate a story where the two lovers kiss. May be we got it all wrong finally: may be Keats 's Odes are not meant to be read, but to be surprised by and lived? May be art together with life, can blend into making one piece of beauty?


For those who, like me, haven't read it in years, here it is:

Ode to Autumn by John Keats

SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees, 5
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease; 10
For Summer has o'erbrimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; 15
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook; 20
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barrèd clouds bloom the soft-dying day 25
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river-sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 30
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

[From Palgrave, Francis T. The Golden Treasury. London: Macmillan, 1875.] ISBN:1-58734-038-0

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fun Home- A Family Tragicomic [a book i enjoyed reading]

Akshara gave me a graphic novel Fun Home- A Family Tragicomic. A graphic novel, something I haven’t read for years, and I completed it in two days. Well, it’s a graphic novel, so if you actually sit and read it at a stretch, it should take you just about a couple of hours or slightly more.

The book is by Alison Bechdel (cartoonist, writer and archivist of her own life) and is highly autobiographical in nature. Quite interestingly, she does not even change any of the names of the characters. The book is about her entire life and her interaction with her father. More than her own coming to terms with being a lesbian, the book portrays an Alison who has to come to terms with various events in her life that culminate into a re-examination of all those proceedings when she finds out that her father has had relationships with young men throughout his life. The narrative threads through her father’s death (a suicide?) and keeps going back and forth into her past and she reviews her family life in the light of her father’s death and his (homo)sexuality.

The tone is funny, light, comic, and insightful, with regular references to Proust, Joyce, Camus and Colette amongst many others. With constant allusions to a wide range of authors, philosophers and with contemporary events of her youth as well, Bechdel actually goes back to the journal she’s been keeping since she was ten. Her memoir thus offers a graphic narrative of rare richness, psychological complexity and depth and literary resonance. The graphics and the narrative merge beautifully to allow enjoyment as well as deeper understanding of various nuances.

Quite interestingly, Alison Bechdel chronicles a comic strip named Dykes to Watch Out For!! (

Monday, July 28, 2008

About Celebrities and Their Coming Out [queer news]

I woke up this morning reading about how US talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres is to marry her ‘partner’, actress Portia de Rossi. California’s Supreme Court has finally lifted the ban on same-sex marriages declaring that “the right to form a family relationship” applied to all Californians, regardless of their sexuality. So far, so good…

Our cultural and political agenda seems to be guided by notions of representation of the queer (and the black, and the Hispanic, and the fat woman etc.), the need for a “re”-presentation as it is, the need to find a voice, to develop a new form of epistemology that takes into account the (in)existence of minorities (subalterns?), an attempt to revolutionize cultural representations, retrieve lost histories and demonstrate that knowledge (social, political, and even philosophical) is not as universal as it claims to be. The problematization I’m looking at here occurs at the following levels:

1- What is the role of celebrities in the ‘queer’?

It is a great feeling to see that the good old Californian State has finally granted the right to form a family to all its citizens (though opponents still claim that they will seek amendment to this constitution in order to overrule it), and it is all the more heartening to see that Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, both ‘out’, will be amongst the first ones to take the vow. The question is, simply in terms of representation (and here see, the real, existing celebrity with a power of her/his own, and a possibility of political propaganda that has much more potential that it may seem to have) what is the role of celebrities in notions of the queer, or as an extension when it simply comes to any community on the margins? Do celebrities qualify as stronger agents capable of change if the lines between their public and private life seems to be rather blurred? Do they face the same forms of discrimination that a common wo/man may face? Should celebrities see it as a duty (and here I accentuate the word duty in its largest Kantian implications) to represent themselves and their ‘peripheral’ origins? In the case of the queer celebrity, should s/he see it as her/his duty to come out and assert her/himself?

Those questions nonetheless have wider implications that can’t be overlooked but need to be underlined here. As I mentioned before, the sphere of the public and the private for a celebrity differs from that of the common wo/man. We can define as public sphere, a part of the celebrity’s life that belongs to the rest of the world with the latter having a claim to it. Thus, thrown into an open agenda may be the art, political take, physical performance etc. of the celebrity as well as (let’s face it) her/his private space that seems to belong to a wider range of people. While the common wo/man claims the intimacy of her/his room for her/his own, this may not be the case for a celebrity, as reflected in the over-exposed private lives of be it Bill Clinton or David Beckham for instance.

2- Does the queer celebrity differ from the common queer person?

In order to grasp the full impact of the queer celebrity onto the socio-empirical sphere, it would be of utmost importance to consider whether celebrity lives differ from common lives. This question has to be tackled only in relation with the private. Whereas the public as a space differs radically when it comes to the two population categories, the private space is still one that demands attention as I have already pointed above.

3- What are the Stakes in the Process?

What is at stake for the eighteen year old boy who comes out to his family or his friends as opposed to the twenty year old actor who comes out to the world. Sure, in the process, the singer or actor is also facing a coming out to his family and friends (if this had not already been done before) and a coming out that not only him but his entire family should come to terms with, for how does it feel for a parent to know that ones son is exposing his sexual life to the entire world? But the real question I want to raise here is in the nature of the support that the two persons receive. Is the celebrity likely to receive more support? I admit that having celebrities coming out can be of significant help to the rest of the population in feeling that one is not alone, that there are other people who are the same as we are etc.

But then when I was fifteen may be, I remember Stephen Gately (one of the former singers of the band Boyzone) coming out, after which he was sent flowers by Elton John. The question is: why wasn’t I sent flowers by Elton John when I came out?!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Once Knew a Man Called Raju Chacha [portrait of another weird creature]

I once you a man named Raju Chacha. Well I do wonder whether he was actually a man at all, for he had no balls. Well some men have no balls I guess. Raju Chacha, or Dr Raju Chacha (as he called himself), or Dr Raju Chacha the (in)famous writer, professor and activist (as he liked people to call him), was a being of the peculiar sorts.

It seems he took birth in the year of P, on a DO note, and his ancestors were from SEU, such that he wrongly combined the ingredients of life and became a PSEUDO. The year of P seemed to guide his entire life though, for he called himself Professor, Politically inclined, Passionate, Precious etc., but other people called him Pussy, Prat, Preposterous, Poker-faced, or simply Pseudo.

He was a thin tall man- so thin and so tall that he looked like (just ‘looked like’, he was not) one of those dried up trees in the midst of a desert; the kind of rebel trees that allow themselves to take root amidst sand dunes, and grow up with dried rigid dark branches and a solid trunk, and thus spend their life, without ever breaking, and without ever shedding a single leaf, like they would want to defy the laws of nature. But don’t think too nobly of Dr Raju Chacha, for he was not so much of an unconventional tree. It may have looked so on the outside, that he was the kinds that would not break, but the real reason behind it (and that few people knew) is that he bent like a blade of grass to the wind and to the forces of his life, and this is the only reason why he did not break!

People who knew him better thus called him pseudo, the farce, the projection of a fantasy thrice (or was it four times?) removed from the reality of being an unconventional tree (or anything unconventional for that matter) that wouldn’t bend (or break) to the wind.

I Once Knew A White Persian Bull [portrait of a weird creature]

I once knew a Persian bull… He was as white as a blank sheet of paper and his brain was as blank as that same white sheet. It was a weird bull, a strange creature that landed in my life out of the blue. Pop! It was just there, suddenly, without warning or notice, sitting on its vast cubical 3ft x 3ft carton-box behind (I said it was a strange creature), smiling stupidly to himself as if seeing me had provided him with a glimpse of the nirvana (may be it did!); and all I was doing was quietly having my chai, so I didn’t see the danger coming (tragic flaw that led to my downfall).

It seems the creature had obtained a two way ticket from Hell to come into my life -and a few other people’s- so as to act as a Prophet on a two-year contract. Well that’s what he said, though am rather convinced the Hellians (inhabitants of Hell) could not take the non-stop hmmmm-I-mean-hmmm-I-hmmm-bla-bla-bla-ing that sprouted through his vocal folds like greenish-maroon shit out of the behind of a grazing bull; and they decided to kick him out of Hell, which was a good thing for he would at a later point meet his soul mate, the man, the false-god whose monstrous ego he would feed but not tame, Dr Raju Chacha also known as “Dr-I-speak-a-lot-but-say-nothing-at-all”. But I shouldn’t jump from the bull to Raju Chacha for the latter has a chapter of his own fully devoted to his over-bloated ego: I Once Knew A Man Called Raju Chacha.

I should say a few words about Hell though. Hell is a country found somewhere in a mountainous icy desert it seems, and the Hellians are slowly spreading over the rest of the world so as to take over. Quite sadly they built their first international quarters in Pune, the city where I am presently living, which explains how the deadly curse of the white Persian bull fell on me. There are a lot of controversial rumors about Hell, all of which are true: Hell is a country where you do not have a bath in days: the more you stink the more patriotic you are; the unmarried women of Hell are all certified virgins (at least so say the certificates accredited to them by doctors before their wedding); the major industry in Hell is make-up, women are expected to hide themselves behind layers of make-up instead of a veil (that’s what I call emancipation); queer people are simply hanged in Hell, or their sex is forcefully changed by the Hellian Government who subsidies the operation (Does that mean Hell is a welfare state?); but the major peculiarity of Hell lies in its people. They are all weird creatures in their own way: you may think they are demons out of your most terrible night-mares, those that remain hidden in closets that you never dare open, creatures manufactured by the disintegration of humanity and the fornication between brothers and sisters, human beings and animals, but NO! That is not the case. WE (you and me, provided you are not from Hell) represent the disintegrative corruption of humanity, the Hellians are the pure beings, the very first race, the unbroken line started by the first powerful unadulterated beings and the line is still unsullied till now, or so they say. But again, as mentioned earlier, all the rumors about Hell are true.

Back to the white Persian bull. Strangest of all creatures I must say… It did not have horns to start with (Gosh! No horns and no brains, what a combo!) but a balding head instead. A round ball full of air- some said full of sultry liquids whereas others argued it was full of empty words- on the top of which were small cropping of black hair, trying hard to come out of the empty skull of his… but well, I guess where there is no fertility, nothing (except bad grass may be) will grow.

What a creature it was! Its white features were most remarkable and from all angles (one did not have to pay much attention to notice) it spelled only one word: S.T.U.P.I.D.I.T.Y. His bushy eyebrows formed only one S-snake-like line, going from the top on one eye, descending on his nose. The Bull’s nose looked like a reversed T, straight at the top with a split down where his two nostrils parted in hatred for each other and fiery hairs expelled themselves out of those nasal holes, terrified of the shit that may spurt at any point of time, for the bull did not only speak shit, he also breathed out shit. And the notorious eyebrow descended from the top of one eye like a sledge down to his nose and went on to the top of the other eye and merged with his hair at this point. I must mention here that the single bushy eyebrow of this rather strange bull is of further interest for it seemed at times to slither from the left eye down to the nose and up to the right eye, and at other times it seemed to do so from the right to the left. I’ve deduced based on pure empirical observation (I should have been a biologist) that the hairy snake moves from left to right when in awe of actual stupidity and bullshit which he mistakes for divine appearance or charisma (often the ‘charisma’ of Raju Chacha argues the bull); and the right to left movement happens when he actually faces anything coherently intellectual and mentally challenging.

I would rather not describe the other features that were characteristic of the bull’s facial physiognomy and spelled out loud and slow ‘stupidity’ for each time I attempt to do so, I have a very strong feeling of nausea, and I once even puked while trying. So my own sanity and for yours as well, I should retain myself from doing so.

Oh white bull! White bull with rosy lips! White bull with rosy lips that had never been kissed, without any surprise, since there was always huge amounts of shit-words that perennially came out of those lips. At times the shit entered people’s ears and deposited itself in their memory, the recall of which would cause them to wake up in the middle of the night drowning in the sweat of insignificant words of shit, and sometimes people puked as well (I am not the only one). Well the lips may not have kissed, but the tongue did lick, and where it distributed and deposited its saliva was in the ego-box of Raju Chacha, his alter-ego whom he felt the amorous compulsion to suck up to.

May be its high time for me to explain why I call the creature a bull. May be the creature is not a bull after all, may be it’s a machine, a shit converter that converts shit into words, or may be it’s a word generator that just generates bla-bla-blas non-stop. But I decided to call it a white bull, a white bull without horns, without brains and without balls either (can one’s life get more tragic than that?).

Oh yeah, I just remembered! The day I realized he was a bull was when I noticed how his love for Raju Chacha took over his entire being in an orgasmic manner, like an alpha particle in an electromagnetic field, he would charge upon him; a bull with fiery eyes in the face of a young matador provoking him with a red drape. And thus was the rage of the bull. It would speed up and knock everything and everybody down till it actually reached its savior, Raju Chacha, and there it would suddenly turn into a sheep gifting its wool (and its meat) to its new master.

Should I have called this piece the white Persian sheep instead?

Monday, June 2, 2008

My Mind Strings a Note [poetry]

The moon invalidates her light,
Stars gambol: butterflies in flight;
Colors fade in re-materialization,
Images blur in a new constellation.

Straight lines twist in a gyre,
My crystal eyes turn into mire.
The sound of a guitar reaches my ear,
My mind strings a note that’s rather queer.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Day I Met a Man [fiction]

This was the day I met a man:

I had my life in a sway, sizzling on a dance-floor made of ivory with clouds bestowing pearl drops upon which I’d shoot and slide.

At times, it all turned into black marble, a dark room; and I would welcome that new handicap, that blindness that allowed me to feel with my body, to mould my clay, to eavesdrop on heart-beats in my blood stream. I’d be a sculpture, then another, yet another, a fleeting shape and a new one further. This blindness would sometimes look down on me kindly, and gift me those fleeting lights, like thousands of shooting stars upon a night-sea. They would take flight from the sky (but that I didn’t see), sometimes under the sheen of the moon, and then take a jolt into the waves. Oh! These shining stars! Yellow! Blue! They would swim in the black-ink sea, wet their celestial bodies, amorphous like the twilight and go back to their place of origin…

Thus did I deploy my body, indulging in the beauty of clay and the wonder of lights.

Then that day I saw a man for the first time. He wasn’t sizzling unlike me, for he did not know the tune of my promenade. But that man…

…That man was still made of something… something… a different kind of sculpture whose substance I could not identify.

It was one of the ivory-stage days, of a pure white with pearls falling from a blanched sky that I could not even see.

There was the man, a piece frozen in time: beautiful, I thought (broad shoulders framed in a rectangular physique, blue jeans fading into a grey texture, un-ironed t-shirt, hair straight out of a pillow fight, stubble of black pepper flanked his cheeks, angular jaws like they were drawn by a cubist painter…). He however did look like a sculpture to me. Not a like the fleeting clay sculpture that I was, but one of those concrete chocolate sculptures; the kinds that do not melt but remain always, even after they have been eaten.

His brown flower-bud eyes seem to speak a language, I language I did not know.

Till then, the only language I knew was the one of clay, the one of corporality, of a body that expresses itself through sculptures in accordance with various rhythms and shades; a body that on the way enters glimpses of lights and flash-bubbles and sizzles on a dance-floor.

This man rose to me, like a mango that, overnight, crops out of a tree. A deep dusky voice told me: “I want to learn your language”.

I wondered… how?

And then he touched me. Fleeting fingers on my hand, like the discreet glimpse of a beggar beseeching a coin of pity.

That touch, warm yet icy, concrete yet fleeting, solid yet liquid. I thought, “the man is made of clay”. May be together, we could make a new sculpture, one of darkness and light, of day and night, of earth, of the wind, the water, the fire: a new language and a new body taking shape. So I accepted.

Thus did I start teaching my language: the language of clay.

We merged, we sizzled, we died and lived again, we lost our individuality in the search for a new one... I liked that game: the new dance I was learning and the redemption that lays in giving up the sculptures that were me.

This was the day I met a man.

A man of flesh (for he was not of clay), for that I learnt... too late!

The day I met a man, I taught him how to dance. I pumped new rhythms into his veins, changed him into a monster: half flesh and half clay.

As for me, who was clay, I imbibed new perspectives: I saw sweat, I saw blood, I saw flesh, and I saw pain and suffering, but above all I saw beauty. Beauty in a man.

I lost my selfdom, but found a new parentage. While giving, I also received. That was the day I met a man who cleansed myself from impurities, and added pulse to the clay of my body. I changed shape, over and over again, and soon I changed substance as well.

I continued sizzling, I swam in my dance-floor always, yet I was not longer clay. I decided to become a man.

That was the day I met a man.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Fantasia Report Two [anecdote]


Day-3 and Day-4 of the Pune tour were definitely less stressful than the first two days. After all the hassles and worries of Saturday (the first Fantasia performance), things fell into place more easily and more smoothly; may be due to our growing experience in handling such kinds of crunches, or may be simply, (and this is my contention) it was just the magic of the performance and the smiles on the children's faces that smoothed it all for us...


Sunday was a fun-day! For everybody! The children began their day by playing in the park in Sindh Society, and after lunch, we all set out to Shaniwar Wada to visit the famous fort. The afternoon turned out to be an enjoyable one, where everybody could finally relax a little bit (except Tanu who spent the whole day on the phone- ekdum call centre type!- trying to get everything fixed for the next day's performance) and enjoy a beautiful sunny Sunday in Pune. Games were played, jokes cracked, legs pulled, and the history of the fort was told as well.

On the way back, the children went back to the Sindh Society park to enjoy themselves... In the meantime the famous "surprise" was being prepared! The children on their way back had dinner and were immediately ushered to bed by 8pm since they had to be up by 5am the next day (so we told them) to be fresh for their performance.

While everybody was forced into silence and custody upstairs, the preparations for the "surprise" were going on full swing downstairs. Fairy lights were put up all over the hall, music system set, drapes cavorted the walls, windows and fans, and the table received within it's grip chocolate cakes, chips and drinks!


Doubts, frowns, worries on foreheads, scare in eyes...

"What Tanu Didi? Some of us did not wash our pla...?"


And thus did they all come down, in a line of silence... The lights downstairs were off, till they all came in and the lights and the music were put on screaming "SURPRISE" with all their glee! The children could not believe it! Here it was: THEIR party!!

The music and dance went on till 10:30pm or so (interrupted by the security agents who came thinking it was an indecent teenagers' party going on inside!!) and then it was time to go to bed, for the next performance was awaiting the next day.

Conclusion of Day-3: We all went to bed with smiles on our faces, rhythms in our hearts, and our bodies still moved to the music of the day while sleep dawned on us. As for Tanu, she slept rather soundly I suppose for the "mandap" had been put up, the sound system was on the ground, and the electricity issues had already been sorted out.


Day-4 began very early for all of us. Quick break-fast, and we all rushed to the ground, which was barely 200 metres down the house. In no time, all the preparations started, while the sun was shooing away the left-over cold from the previous night. Soon the children were applying their make-up, getting their stilts fastened, and getting into their costumes, while the ground was slowly filling up with hundreds and hundreds of school children and a rather thick bundle of friends and guests.

By 9:30 it all fell into place, and we were ready to start! The performance went off beautifully! The energy levels of our fantastic performers were not as high as they were on the first performance (well, it was 9am!!), but they were still fantastic on the whole. Pandu really "rocked" the show by giving the best of himself despite the fact that he was sick and exhausted.

On the side of the audience, we saw smiles, faces glaring agape, mouths opened in disbelief of the beauty they were witnessing, claps resounded on the grounds at regular intervals, and by the end of the performance, everybody seemed to go back with a semblance of a dream, a dream that had shades of reality to it...

The second show was over, and it all went off beautifully! The children had again managed to put all of us under a magic spell.

I would like here to thank all the people who made the Pune journey possible: I won't mention any names, so that I don't forget any, but in short, ALL of you who were there, for being there, for believing and making it possible! Thank you for the love, the support and the smiles... :-)

The kids were again ushered onto the bus, heading Goa-wards... And then came the last surprise of the trip: Before heading to Goa, the bus stopped at E-Square on the way, and we all watched "Om Shanti Om", before the bus actually found the Pune-Bangalore highway in the early evening!

For all of us, the past three days have been an intense mix of a variety of emotions. But if there is something we retained, it is to SMILE always... to bring that smile on our faces, and others' faces!

To the troupe: Pune misses you already...

[For more please do check and also check the short docu-video by G. D'Souza on ]

Fantasia Report One [anecdote]


It's been two days since the team came down to Pune. Standing at the main-gate of Sindh society, it was quite a sight to see a white bus with a Goa plate emerge from Baner Road, packed with its 25 children, the 3 drivers, the 3 accompanying staff of El Shaddai and the 7 pillars of Teatro Per Caso without whom Fantsia wouldn't be.


Tanu and Lally, despite their rounds all over the city, the thousands of phone calls, the right people met (at times they met the wrong ones as well!), and despite the help they received from the other passers-by in this journey, were as tensed as over-charged electric wires. Still, seeing all those happy faces peering through the windows of the bus, with curiosity in their eyes, a slight tinge of anxiety on their forehead, and above all, smiles on their lips, made us all forget our worries and stresses. It seems to me that the children have now scientifically proven that smiles are contagious: it's with smiles that we welcomed the whole troupe to the house.

It was rather strange for me, since I had not met the children previously, to see them looking at me in a rather alien way, and I am sure, I must have done the same. After they all had lunch however (Oh! They were famished after the journey!) things changed. I came to realise that Pune had in the midst of its city a wonderful group of youngsters, talented, fresh, energetic, and to my surprise, with a great sense of maturity.

It barely took me 30 minutes to talk to all of them, get to know them, what they do, what they like, how they said that Pune is beautiful and the list goes on.

Tanushree on her side was making her best to handle it all: more rounds around the city, more phone calls, more frowns and sighs, but without a single short-circuit! She was as good as a juggler with electric wires! A real artist!

As for me, I was just there, mostly for the sake of being there: to be with the troupe on the one side, and on the other to fill up those blanks of doing the small things that I could take off Tanu's shoulders. In short I tried my best to take care of the "minor" stresses, like fixing the bulbs missing in the house, making sure everybody eats properly, fixing the lines to dry the clothes etc!

The evening turned out to be a rather eventful one where I guess the whole "Pune team" was on the verge of tears. We took the children to Shaniwarwada to watch the lights and sound show, where we previously had a confirmation that said "yeah, please get the children on Friday evening". I was rather nervous at having my first BIG responsibility for I, alone, was to take the whole El-Shaddai team and the drivers to the famous fort.

However, reaching there we saw a gate to which we did not have the secret code, and a web of phone calls brought to our notice that the show was in fact cancelled. Well in Pune, there is only a very thin translucent line that divides confirmations and cancellations, and that line often tends to get blurred. I was really surprised at the children's maturity though- they all understood the fact that the show was cancelled, and they kept smiling despite the shadow of disappointment that crossed their faces for a few seconds or so. But on the whole, they were thrilled to be out in the bus at night discovering Pune with its congested roads, fly-overs, malls and the bike-culture!

We then arranged for a TV and a DVD player so that the children could watch "Le Cirque du Soleil", and by the time the food reached, we witnessed the whole bunker of dal that within an eye-blink simply fell off and spread all over the ground like a tsunami attacking the shores of the house. There was barely anything we could salvage, those things happen, we told ourselves, and we would sort it out. I took that as a sign of my second BIG responsibility for Erica and I were the only ones around. We finally let
the children eat the Kichidi, salad and the sweet dish that were there, while (thanks for even more phone calls!) Tanu said she was on her way with more dal but just to realise on reaching that every-body had eaten already!!

Conclusion of day-1, we all went to bed with a smile on our face! For me, it was a great day, a day that I had been anticipating for long now, and what I retained from that day was simply the beauty of it all! Life is beautiful when you take time to smile!


Day-2 was one that was loaded with the minor and major stresses! But day-2 was also the day of the first performance in Pune!!

An hour before the show, we still had doubts as to whether the show would be happening or not. Well, while the "minors" of the morning were about too much food, and not enough food, and no water, and geyser to be fixed, and clothes that were washed the previous day washed again, the afternoon saw sound problem, electricity problem and crowd problem.

Hopefully and quite surprisingly, the promised help from the Philanthropist, that till now had been only "talk talk and talk" turned into something more concrete. We managed to settle all the technicalities an hour late, and here I must say hats-off to Tanu for handling so much pressure! And by the time the philanthropist had finished his interminable speech, the show started.

The children in the meantime were all very calm backstage, and if they did feel nervous, the nervousness did not even see its way till their faces. The show started! The 100 odd people who were there watching turned into 500 or so within minutes of the beginning.

Fantasia had settled in! From all the balconies, windows, from all the places possible, including the porch of the temple across the roads (where prayers were being recited at the same moment), there were just faces peering. People looking out for the beauty of a dream, the beauty of a smile that would come true.

The children gave the best of themselves! Sonia said it was their best performance ever. Yesterday was also Sonia's birthday, and the children had all decided that the performance today would be for her, a gift to her! In the process, it was also a gift to the hundreds of people who had come to watch.

I could not believe the talent I saw. In simply 10 days' work, what they produced was beauty and energy in their purest form! It was unbelievable how so naturally they seem to surpass themselves, become magicians of smiles, and spread so much joy around. It was subliminal! (As an aside, I would like to mention that I felt small drops running down my eyes at three points of time during the show, and I am not the kinds who cry easily!)

It was with beauty that the performance started and it was with beauty that it ended. Many of the people present came to backstage after the show, to specifically congratulate the Teatro Per Caso and the children for the wonderful performance, and many of them were extremely overwhelmed...

As for the evening after the show, it turned out to be a "fun" evening! I guess the whole group needed it after such a hard day. The children knew there would be a surprise for them, but they could not figure out what it would be! Then, I did a Kathak performance for them, and Preetal and I also performed a piece of contemporary dance that begun with a candle dance! The children received it really well! They clapped and asked for an encore, so Preetal and I thus improvised another piece that was to be Sonia's birthday gift!

We had a wonderful time performing for the children, reversing the performer-audience order, till the order was reversed again when the children started parodying us!! They again surprised me by their talent! Not being content with having enjoyed watching us, they observed and were capable of turning us to ridicule! Again they brought so much smile to all our faces!
Today is Sunday, and its a day's rest for the children. Right now they are at the Park in Sindh Society, and later this afternoon we are taking them to see Shaniwar Wada, after which we have another surprise for them to-nite! But that will have to wait for the next article! Tomorrow's performance will be in Sindh Society and we expect an audience of 1200 children! Am excited already! But till then, I have a whole afternoon of smiles ahead... :)

[For more please do check and also check the short docu-video by G. D'Souza on ]