Wednesday, August 31, 2005

My first day of classes

On my first day of classes, the washington post said that 53% of the American public dissaproved of Bush.

On my first day of classes, the mayor of one of the cities in the deep south hit by Katrina called the hurricane 'our tsunami'.

On my first day of classes, the news said that China would close 7,000 coal mines, that iraq was more expensive than vietnam, that Mikhail Khodorkovsky wants to stand for parliament, that India is the biggest buyer of arms among developing countries.

Of course its more expensive, idiot. Taxes, not to forget GNP.

On my first day of classes, a tree branch fell on a power cable and cut off power to this university for 3 hours. Professors cancelled classes, everything shut down, and the cafeteria started serving crushed ice in paper cups. Harsh winds and grey hippo-clouds ripped across campus, nicking skin with dead leaves and sweeping ciggarette buds into the middle of the street.

On my first day of classes, I got to meet my professors.

I need to introduce you to one especially, the professor who teaches creative writing 350.01, writers reading poetry.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Michael Gizzi.

Michael Gizzi writes poetry. He studied at Brown, taught in many places, was a tree doctor, and now teaches me. What? Am not quite sure. Blue eyes in tanned face looked whimsically out on a class that expected to be told his grading policy.

Instead, he asked everyone to say a few words about themselves.

Here, I must follow a tangent: Intros can kill. Some develop a verbal tag they lisp out whenever asked: like hard-boiled eggs and maggie noodles, they never go wrong.

Some say close to nothing: very little past a name.

Some tell you where they are from and what they have done.

Intros kill, and feel like your pants are too tight and there's a dog staring at your crotch, only because you are called to account for yourself. And whether in front of a creative writing professor, Anubis or St. Paul, it will forever be... a struggle.

I like it that way. God save me from name tags. Like those people on Hollywood Squares who say:

"Hi, My name is Jane, Im a certified life guard, I live in santa cruz and on weekends I take my kids to the park and teach them how to play frisbee".

Hold up. And then??

The agony lies in wondering whether you say too much, or too little.

Introduce yourself, he said. Do you like poetry? What have you read, he asked.

I sat there, within me welled up words of YES poetry, pough-hit-ree, poetry like a bird and a bee, damn yes fuck yeah I must and I will I feel therefore I am, Carlos speaking red wheelbarrow, Neruda speaking love. An albatross, a kingdom, a sonnet for a horse with no name that would run free into xanadu, free into snow lit only by green eyed thought sparkling behind glass, watching waiting, and oh yes Eliot ELIOT FOREVER down by riversides and balding patches and yes, I have felt sorry for myself and I dont dare, I dont dare to disturb anything and can you teach me this, can you teach me how to live and love and die even, if that was needed.

He looked at me in invitation and I said-

"Hi, Im priyanka. I come from India, which is far away. I already have a major in English Lit, and now am double majoring and minoring in poli sci. I love poetry because only poetry could make people write words in lyric, words about spring and apes that can write and put it inside buses in Portland for people to read. Portland, Oregon. Not Portland, Maine.I am passionate about poetry, as much as I am passionate about cheesecake. I read I write I love, btw, Eliot, Pound, Seaney, Plath, Hughes and much more. Yup. Thats about it".

I forgot about Neruda and Mcgough and Seth and Lorca.

But such is the way with intros. There's always something you dont say.

Gizzi is something I will watch. A poet who's a tree doctor. His new anthology, 'No Both', is reviewed here

And here's something he wrote that I felt felt its way in here, crouching against the walls:

"Only last night because I'm always growing a proboscis I said "Tomorrow I'll begin this new notebook with the words I surrender." Like I should have a scarlet brand on my lip in lieu of a moustache that reads "He begins on the morrow" or tattooed to my big toe "He died with his rue on." But even that's a scarlet ruse. No wonder I suffer such trapezoidal travel anxiety that to put it wildly I get this visual visceral hallucination that my chest extends six feet straight out like an amphetamine puffed mourning dove. Might have something to do with flight. What's that, Doctor Pancoat, my little fraidy cat flights from change?

I always have a sense of camaraderie whenever I hear women especially remark quite rightly "Men? -yes, they're terrified of change." And yet if I'm going to make a clean stab at the brisket of it the truth best be careful not to piss off the mark and traffic only in a bloodbath of my own shirttail shortcomings trailing a Roman nosebleed -them I know exceedingly well. After all I'm not the Desquamated Professor of Grey Torpor for nothing.

But I desire a chair not a pitypot in perpetuity. I want a palpable hit. But I regress. I'm back kneeling on bitter rice in the coldstone circus church of misbehaving bent youth, slurring three-square Marys, faking a good Act of Conniption flush in front of the Light-a-Candle Concession, a terraced altar of carmine-colored jellyglasses flickering their translucent booboos of Jesus. Tongues of fire for hire? Drop the geetus in the leadbox and indulge your poor dead Pop with a night on the town in Limbo. A plaque on your house! Sister Tetchy scoring my penance ringside humphing siroccos through the bat wings on her Shroud of Turin.

"A beating a day keeps the titters away " peel the Bells of Saint Scary. Hang it all, Buster Brown, but we attended a condemned school. No wonder everyone I see points the fingers in their faces at me. Some can't accept a little hotsoup kitchen less it's been divined by their own dowsers, whence this Christer's scupper of cripes. You can imagine where this manic ringworm road goes. Flatline seems to be status quo and yet if you're a frantic mountaineer-like Mindanao diver you quiver wishbone in scabbard a being so bi-polar you either consign yourself to the blasted blame-box or turn your entirely flayed caul of pain on the world's largesse.

You know what the guy who ate the school said to me? "I thought it was Prince of Gluttony Day." A telltale sign of instability responsible for many memorable events. Why can't one have fun in his/her own home? But in our misty roses we forget."
-'Only last night' No Both, Gizzi.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

And the bad news is...

...that hurricane Katrina is ripping up the south-west coast, the magnitude of which yankville hasn't seen in over half a century.

Poor muggles. See how they run, float, drown and die.

It's an interesting thing about kali yuga: no longer is it just parts of the world coming under fire or getting doused n' soused. The nation most insensitive to world issues, particularly world issues relating to weather and pollution, is learning a heavy lesson.

As are the financial markets. Oil gurus are going into a tizzy, consumers whinny in fear as barrel prices rise to close to $80 a unit.

The good news is...

... that my roomie is not a serial killer, nor is she an obsessive follower of reality tv shows. She has a car, bought me tooth-paste, took me shopping, and... did I mention she has a car?

Hurricane Katrina hasn't reached this far north on the coast: however, it did spell grey hippo-like clouds that crushed the horizon and my roomie's car's windshield this afternoon, bringing rain and sweatshirts out under human eyes. A comfort after the heated humidity of the past few days.

I now am the proud owner of a plasma ball, a joyous creation that looks like this:

I also have my own table lamp, a morbidly--deliciously so-- black comforter and a laundry basket, wearing the same livery.

In short-- territory has been marked. Tribe members have been ascertained. And the hunt, with tomorrow's classes, will begin.

Got Bawls?

The guarana berry is native to the Amazonian forest, and is known for its potent caffeine levels. An American college student a while back wondered what it would be like to have an alternative to coffee and coke that still had that delicious caffeine kick , but none of those wussy associates, milk or sugar.

And then there was Bawls.

Bawls beats red bull and gatorade hollow, simply because of its subtle flavour and indubitably cool appearance.

Why I love Bawls? None of that sickening aftertaste that coffee and coke bring, no need to gulp h2o, and it doesnt zombie your breath.

Nothing beats Bawls. Unless its a closed room, lit with UV light, depeche mode playing with the bass kicked in full, and TWO ice-cold bottles of... yeah you guessed it:

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Back from limbo

The problem with the east coast is that its very different from the west coast. This is an issue if you're used to the latter, and expect everything to be that open and, to put it in the vernacular, "chilled out".

I have moved, my compadres, to a place named Roger Williams University: its a place where all the women [read girls] are blonde or streaked, wear cut off denim skirts and douse themselves in fruit scents and spray on sunscreen. Its a place where all the men [read boys]imagine themselves as sk8er bois or ex members of limp bizkit. Everyone listens to hip-hop. Everyone wants to drive.

This is the case of course, only because till date only the freshmen are on campus. The adults-- or bad imitations there of-- are yet to arrive.

I, and the other designated PLUS scholarship students have arrived, though. Slotted as transfer students, we have been avoided and have been spoken slowly to. I don't lay the entire blame of the latter act only on pubescent RWU students and new england profs who've eaten fish for too long: its an American past-time, to speak slowly to those of obviously foreign origins.

The island-- smallest state in yankville, do note-- is..erm... small. Surrounded by water. Instead of crows, it has sea gulls: big white birds that crap paint bucket loads of white guano, and scream through the day and evening. Instead of hills and pine trees, it has flat land and scrub.

Since this university was founded in the fifties, all its buildings look like sad grey matchboxes that Waters and Gilmour would've written B-sides on.

The library......was distinctly built in the early 90's.

Yes. I am sniffy, and I am unhappy.

My room is painted the colour of the green bile that belongs in a junkie's gut. There is an airconditioning vent that was created with the malevolent intent to freeze every foreign student to death.

My professors seem goodish though: I will be double majoring, in creative writing and theatre, and minoring in poli sci with a concentration in international relations.

*huge grin*

its like your name tag when you were in kindergarden. You feel strangely proud of this new title. American kiddies take 4 years to do what Im going to be doing-- inshallah-- in two years.

So Im sure good things will happen. Theres to be a semester for theatre, in London, if the visa god allows such. There are to be summer courses, and winter holidays. There are to be movie screenings, papers, club nights, turning 21, a roomate I haven't met yet, trips to new york, and the usual magic bag of life.

I miss portland though. Nothing can take that away, yet. I miss hookah on the grass, professors I knew better than family members, trees I called by name, a library that made me feel I was in a place of learning worthy of me [you already know how presumptuous I am, so why the suprise?, and classrooms which carry hot chocolate stains and state-of-the-art energy saving design.

I miss cyrus partovi's foreign policy classes. I miss us cooking at 2:00am in the Akin kitchen. I miss midnight ciggarette walks. Sitting by the reflection pool. The Stones rocking out of Laura's room over her record player, through her windows.

Only 7 days of moping allowed though: one must choose life, with all its amusing dice-fixing.

Speaking of choosing life... how many of us have seen train-spotting? Found the screen play of it sometime today. A declared favourite: cuts, dialogue, metaphors... perfect slime. Perfect.

In the words of Renton, then--

"So why did I do it? I could offer a million answers, all false. The truth is that I'm a bad person, but that's going to change, I'm going to change. This is the last of this sort of thing. I'm cleaning up and I'm moving on, going straight and choosing life. I'm looking forward to it already. I'm going to be just like you: the job, the family, the fucking big television, the washing machine, the car, the compact disc and electrical tin opener, good health, low cholesterol, dental insurance, mortgage, starter home, leisurewear, luggage, three-piece suite, DIY, game shows, junk food, children, walks in the park, nine to five, good at golf, washing the car, choice of sweaters, family Christmas, indexed pension, tax exemption, clearing the gutters, getting by, looking ahead, to the day you die".

Monday, August 22, 2005

World according to S.K

“There can be no going away. No leaving.
Just you can take a walk”- S.K

There are airplanes overhead in every sky. Like there are remnants of old milk stains in every kitchen.

Japan, Romania, Reunion Island, Canada, Laos and even, yes even in this funny far away little country called U.S.A, people worry about whether their underwear is smelly, and whether their neighbor’s dog will come sniff their crotch and whine.

Feet belonging to everyone below 45, if wrapped in socks and shoes for more than 10 hours, will need washing before airing. Especially if you want to make a good impression on the person watching TV with you. Everyone knows this.

Everyone likes playing with a stick if they are alone. Some tie things to it, others break it, others drag it along the ground, drawing circles or lines. Some like throwing it and some like keeping it. S.K likes to find a stick with a v-formation at the end, and then tie grass around the tip of the v so that there is room, just enough, to hold a cigarette there.

Everyone clears their throat before talking to someone they want to impress. Smart ones do it in the elevator so they aren’t noticed.

Everyone, when cold, sticks both hands between their thighs when trying to sleep. The fat ones go to sleep easier.

Everyone touches the walls of the house they used to live in for a long time, when they return to see it after many years.

Everyone burps after their third sip of Pepsi.

Indians are smart because we dance in big groups, so no one can laugh at the way your legs move. Also, you can hug the person you want to and its hard for your aunt to see. Indians are smart about dancing, because the music is loud and happy, and that makes people loud and happy. Everyone should dance like an Indian.

Everyone should have a terrace from which they can see their neighbors and same-backwards, as S.K says. [S.K doesn't like saying “vice-versa”. Like “stuff” and “ok” he thinks “vice-versa” makes people lazy. He says English is for twisting like chapatti dough and nose boogers. So you can make shapes out of them.]
Yes. They should be able to see their neighbors and the same backwards, so that everyone knows about who has what disease, who fucked who’s cousin, and who wont marry who because of the same. They will know how much money the daddy is making, and what the mummy is doing to lose fat. [S.K never likes to say lose “weight”. He says if people lose “weight” they will start to fly and there will be more airplane accidents than those on train-tracks on the ground]
They will know what t.v shows their neighbour watches, and whether they like Maggie noodles for breakfast. In this way, S.K says 2 good things will happen:
1) they can be good witnesses in a court case concerning their neighbour
2) When they meet in the street or at parties, no one will pass secret messages about secret recipes and affairs, but all will sit and talk about t.v shows, politics and other such important day to day affairs.

Terraces are also good for sitting and thinking and walking and playing hop-squares. [S.K doesn’t call it hop-scotch. He says there is no scotch to drink and we are too young to drink anyway.] He does say terraces are good for kissing, also. There would be happier people and more peaceful people in the world today if only there was more kissing.
Everyone going to their terrace at 6:30pm, and kissing their neighbour, every neighbour—whether old, pimply, bearded, in a house coat or in pigtails.

Everyone should be happy. He said this sitting on the terrace wall, dangling his legs and throws bits of stick at the crows swinging on the loooooooooooooooooooooooooooong black cable t.v wire that stretched from my house to the house of a girl I know, 2 streets away. The crows called him names. He laughed at them, and they moved over, grumbling, towards the end of the wire far away from him. They sat there, black bits of lead against the setting-sun sky, bearded with the tops of trees.

S.K knows many things. He said he wants to live in a boat one day.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Of broken toenails and airports I deslike

There is something wrong with the fact of my posting now.

The time's off. So is the fact that Im in front of a computer, in Lewis & Clark.

The flight I was supposed to be on is well on its way to Providence, Rhode Island. And I can only ask myself what providence or ill karma it was that has been responsible for the past 12 hours.

The suitcases wouldnt close. One because it is temperamental, and the other because some wise people in NY decided to extract cds from my case without asking for the key first. Then?

Then, the combination was forgotten. New suitcases bought-- Old ones opened by rolling them down the stairs, a feat which brought that fleeting sense human victory over the elements, and a soft rain of toothbrushes, a copy of Hawking's brief history and fresh white unmentionables over the landing.

New cases packed... small toe nail unsurgically removed due to an evil bump against the leg of a bed from hell. Curses and medical solutions muttered... more clothes stuffed into waiting gaping holes.

Airport departed for at 4:15am. One km down the road, I realize I had left my ipod back in the dorm.

Shame of a mother for a forgotten toddler... Humayun [or was it jahangir?]'s Deccan albatross. The one material thing that accompanies me everywhere, forgotten? Another fellow passenger had an earlier flight which could be missed.

Thus note the irony: Us two wanderers travelling to Rhode Island checked in, and waited at the wrong point for said ipod to return on the second airport trip of the day. Sun rose, cold and chilly like a hostess who doesnt care for your choice of footwear for her soiree... Error rectified, our death-rattle moments before departure and thus-spelled closed gates were eaten by airport security.

They have a theory on domestic flights. If you have a state i.d, use it. Don't show them your passport, if you're not white and are from the 'Other' hemisphere. That means your bags will be checked.

Know what security check is like inside America?

myth: its the worst at Kennedy international airport, in NYC.

Shattering thereof: Bollocks. Kennedy airport staff do not pretend security check is a chapter in Mother Goose. They do their job, then move you on. And stop you only if you speak in an aggressively different language or if you come from country belonging to a list known for... excitement.

At security here, you take off your shoes, your jacket, your belt, your toupe. This has been done before.
You then wait while people address you with "buddy" or "honey" depending on your obvious physical preference and gender preference, whichever is the more obvious.

You walk through an x-ray boothand then are told to stand on the outline of two footprints, watching some security pig go through the... erm.. white unmentionables. Hands parallel to floor, palms facing upwards. Electro-magnetic device used to discover all the rivets on my jeans.

Of course this is common to the country. But what bugged me was the sesame street facade, the "how are ya? hands up straight please" bit.

Dont act like you're giving me a lollipop, bub. You just made me miss my plane. Made Zubeida miss it too. And you dont apologize: you feel justified in this ordering of the sheep ranks.

PDX is a great airport till security. Gift shopping, food... Charles de Gaulle has no atmosphere at all: there, escalators dont work, the huge glass walls make sure the inside feels as freezy as the outside. Grey paint peels of the celing, and the walls are the white of a sanotorium.In the midst of this stark sparsness, there is the cheese and wine boutique... christian dior...Saint Laurent. There are people, eating walking laughing taling. There are lines, and certain people are asked to take their shoes off.

Im not sure I like airport atmosphere.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Paparazzi pigeons caught the blue goblin at what she does every full moon night. (Adobe, today 2005) Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Alternate and Lovin' It

Two new links up on the right-

Websites of Tool and A perfect Circle. Whats common to both is Maynard being dual frontman. And also, good graphic work.

Especially on the Perfect Circle website: go there, and keep clicking on the perfect circle logo right on top: the poster on the front page keeps changing. Made in the style of the 'Uncle Sam wants you' posters of the late 1800's uptil the 1960's, these pieces of pop-art are almost as tongue-in-cheek as Maynard's lyrics.

In short-- Guys, check 'em out.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Gotta love them Danes.

Before I tell you about cali-for-nai-aye, since collecting the saga and the pictures together is still underway.... let me tell you 'bout the day a few of us girls decided to invade the college cafeteria's kitchen, and make dinner for about 15 people.

The dinner was Indian. Why?

One, 'cause Ben and I missed that shameless extravagance of flavour and oil, and two-- Because we'd made friends with a wonderful Mr. Kumar who runs an Indian grocery store down on Hawthorne, and who had convinced us to buy those wonderful inventions: the foiled-n'-boxed instant curry mixes.

Dinner was great. We had lahori style fish fry [ha, bet those pacific north-western Cod didn't know what hit 'em].. shahi chicken gravy, a potato gravy that was more Jordanian than Indian [hey, Adla makes it well, and it went with the chappatis, okay?? sheesh]panneer butter masala, chappatis [courtesy Ben], gulab jamuns [courtesy Haldirams] and a decadent pulao that looked like this:

Our fellow international students loved the food. A few of the people who work at the Bon [short for Bon Appetit, the catering company that runs the cafeteria] ate as well, and said it was the best Indian food they had eaten in a long time. Hurrah for packed masalas.

Was worth it though, working in a kitchen that's built to cook for 1,500 people at one time. Ask the guy for a cup of mushrooms, and I get 3 kgs. Whooo. Whatta rush.

In short, it was great-- And here's our smiley, shiney faces to prove it.

Friday, August 12, 2005

And so it goes...

The end was near, it came and now receeds, slowly.

Our summer session at Lewis & Clark college, Portland Oregon is done with. And we even have certificates and t-shirts to prove it.

There was a picnic to mark the event. The hamburgers were the best part... don't think we're not loving every minute of it based on this picture:

It's just that Bilal, Laura and I happen to be camera-shy around meal times. Fear of there being a record, and such.

Our professors also invited our "friendship families" to munch with us. Now, Im still not quite sure about this concept. See, I understand it if you're an international student trying to make it on your own in an alien land, with no program to act as a safety net. But so be it-- we were all assigned families who were supposed to be..erm.. friendly, and take us out on cultural experience-type thinggies.


Since most of them were old and church-going, it is easy to see how we cultural experienced without their reverential companionship. But it was nice of them to show up. Here we all are, in a picture that I find ludicrous, and pathos-tinged at the same time.

Why? Only because we will never see them ever again, and you will never know their names and thats ok. Also, they weren't really a family to any of us, though they did quite kindly ask how many languages we spoke and whether we liked yank food. Some were really nice though.

My family didn't show up.

Ah, you smirk.

But believe me, I did nothing to frighten the benevolent couple. It didn't matter a bit though. I was grateful for the extra food.

See, the thing is-- we already were a family.

And though that will fade [not the picture, thanks to online kodak prints, but the bond...sigh. Slow today, yes?]... its ok. We be real, ornery, and international. Nothing makes for a better family picture.

Going Camp

Pictures from that trip I grumbled about, a while back. Beautiful, ethereal place, the Oregonian coast. Cold, with pine trees along salt water: A thing that Im not used to. Which ended up causing most of us to congregate around this:

Nice, warm fire though. I learnt the art of balancing kindling, and toasting marshmellows thanks to it.

Inspite of the cold however, I can't regret the experience. The place was just so serenely unlike any beach I had ever seen... the water came in murmuring and gentle, no noisy crashing on the shore. Cold, and gently merciless-- we were numb in under a minute-- it came in, swishing like tentacles and hands... here's rama and adla walking through it:

The last morning saw me happy to leave though:

Ahem. But that's only because there are parts of me that still hold onto physical comfort as if life depended on it. Which, if you are as much of a softie as I am in most cases, DOES depend on it.

Had my moments of going beyond physical being and creating personal stories I will tell young 'uns who are innocent enough and children-enough, to ask about... like me realizing what was in King Canut's mind when he dared the waves:

... I also stayed away from climbing the pier with the others [so I get anti-social. Talk to my lawyer, geez], and thus got to experience the exact weather change that occurs on north-western beaches on this continent...

Yes, that is me. Look hard enough, and you can see the red mop.

The sun set like a lazy beautiful fat woman nestling down for the night... But when she slept, all that was left was the kind of cold greyness that Osiris died in. No, really. All changed... except the waters icyness. No welcoming hands of an irish sea goddess... all that was left was the fog, and the reminder of the hour at which mortals should return to their fires..

...and their tents. Ours looked like this:

Yes, the ever faithful Ben came with the tent.

Cold and boot camp-like... I still struggle to describe some of the beauty there...

Cold is the beach of Oregon. Beautiful is the beach of Oregon.

You should go see it some time.

Winged Seed

There is this book by that *points to the title* name, written by a young man named Li Young Lee. It found me when I was in the 7th grade... a long time ago, and a strange time to read this remarkably lyrical and plotless work.

The title stuck with me though... the image being as powerful as it is. A single grain-like seed, suspended by the finest of strands, held thrown carried loved and discarded by the wind. Whether it germinates into something more-- palpable, I think is the word-- or not, depends on nothing at all. It could happen, it could not. All that really "is" about a winged seed is the fact that it has that flight, that no earthy apple or tamarind seed could have.

Winged seeds are a common sight here... diaphanous, lit-by-the-sun tendrils, wafting over the light breeze, just missing your fingers, tumbling over grass.

I just returned from California, on a road-trip that just begs blogging. 25 hours of cities and lights across Tupac's state in a bus that is wrongly named "grey hound". Grey, yes. Hound's the misnomer though. In my mind, aided by the Baskervilles tale, I imagine a lean-limbed, fast-moving even lethal, dog. This bus was anything but the above. Well, maybe lethal. But that's only because my fellow passengers, especially on the Oakland-Sacremento-San Jose stretch looked like those who were on parole for something I wouldn't tell mum about. Anyway.

My point is, I returned a few hours ago to the cool, grey, welcoming arms of this city I love, imagining the comfort of my room with a certain tender joy.

Only to realize that today was the day that I vacate, so that my room can be spring-cleaned and un-priyankaed for some preppie kid to use, since the Fall semester begins in a few days, and my summer session ended a week ago.

It took hours to leave. Not because there was that much packing to do. Heart-wrenching, taking down the Woolf poster, moving the suitcases, hauling the Mac down the hallway to Ben's room, where I will be bunking this last week in Portland. Heart-wrenching, seeing a room as bare as I first saw it.

Of course this was not permanent. Of course I knew I'd leave in three months time. Just that no one told me how attached I'd get to this campus, and to this room, or how fast those 3 months would pass.

Boxed and cleaned out, I left the dorm an hour ago to walk the ultramarine blues away. Accompanied by the faithful Camels and my ipod.

It was still good to be back, because anything is better than a grey elephant... erm.. hound.

Isn't the same though. Whether I like it or not, I cannot ignore the fact that now is not the time to find roots, slip on chappals and wander out onto the lawn for ages, and drowsily wonder whether I should carve my name in the stone wall by the reflecting pool.

Traveller, wanderer I am. And there have been many before me, ones that have even raised that identity to a level of glory.

I always wanted to be marco polo. Hsüan Tsang seemed the coolest monk in the word in history class.

But at some point, these guys pulled off their boots, sighed and sipped their soup, murmuring "home sweet home" in italian and chinese respectively.

I suppose its not my time yet.

Ben and I-- my dearest Sancho Panza. How I will miss her. Some, yes. True that all in life moves on and suffers short-term memory but... some, yes-- were talking about it before I came to this darkened, almost-closing computer lab. And came to about the same conclusion.

Its interesting how this scholarship pulled people together who at some level felt the same: the fact that there can be no rooted-shooted comfort right now. Not at this time in life.

Seeds on the wind, flying god knows where. Damn, it was hot in Cali. Things grew, nonetheless, squinting against the sun and dryness.

Next stop, Rhode Island. And from there on, even during the two years, even that Laughing, Blue-eyed, Lounging being above and around me does not know where the wind will blow.

If it must be that way, then--

Here's to rambling on, and singing my song.
And by whichever god there is, they all better listen good, coz bloody hell...this flying solo can get grit in not just your eye, sometimes.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

1 liter (L) = 1000 milliliters (mL) = 1 kg water

As I have been trying to explain to my dyslexic mind over the past 4 days. Here in Oregon, my ability to assess volume seems to have further disintegrated.

I have been trying to comprehend the amount of water in and around mumbai. Everyone's been covering it, if you look hard enough.
And while this personal struggle with numbers carries on, I also find myself constantly asking myself two questions:

1) How are the people faring?

2)Why is so little being done towards containing the destruction by those responsible?

I then realize the problems associated with the phrase, "those responsible". Its mumbai, yaar. Who IS responsible?

I have a staunch belief in the power of the people. This belief was upheld by news I received of bloggers in mumbai and those concerned who had gotten together and set up help-blogs to share information, and tell people the stories that apparently aren't newsworthy enough to be printed so that aid can be redirected sooner. Cloudburst Mumbai is one of the blogs I refer to. The other can be found at Mumbai Help.

As I said, my staunch belief has been vindicated. And not just by these blogs, but by news of forwards and smses, and of people reaching out and helping each other in this city of dreams and dirt. The above article appeared in the BBC online edition and tells the tale of Anjali Krishnan, an advertising exec, who was caught in the rainstorm:

"... We crossed dark homes, and shops and police stations. We met a lot of friendly firemen trying to keep order, but not a single policeman on the way.Soon, it became a long, happy, wet trek as can only happen in Mumbai. Our fellow-travellers, boys and girls, men and women, young and old, chanted hymns, sang songs, cracked jokes...
Others cracked the night's best silly jokes - whenever they would come across a car floating in the middle of the road, they would shout: "No parking! No parking please! This is a traffic offence!"...
"Don't feel ashamed, madam. Hold my hand. Bindaas pakro (Hold me coolly)," said a young man in the queue lending a helping hand to a girl...I saw another man walking with a 70-year-old father perched on his shoulders. My rain girls sorority had now expanded to a few hundred people wading through the street.
In the middle, one of them actually met her husband wading through the night, and joined him happily... The trek was an eye-opener, a testimony to the indomitable spirit of the city's people.
Mumbaites have stopped expecting anything from the politicians who have never cared for them.
So when the city turned into a dangerous waterworld, they turned to each other and helped them out of the crisis..."

Read the full article here

Aye, am moved. Inspite of the death toll, inspite of the industry being hit, call-centres doused, Bollywood left unromantically rain-drenched and the fact that though the armed forces have finally been given the green signal to go in and start work on the clean-up, that go-ahead could've come sooner... inspite of all this-- I have hope.


Hope of what, that mumbai will pull through?

Hell yeah. This is after all, not the first time that rains have lashed the city and taken lives and belongings in its path down to the sea. In July 2000, 60 lives were lost in the city-- The report also states that thousands were evacuated. The area affected was a mumbai suburb along the Vakola and the Mithi rivers. Of course, it was a slum area. People dried their hands off on a towel, threw out the trash, and life resumed, as it always does.

But why, if Mumbai has a history of easily-filled water reservoirs and bad drainage systems, has nothing been done all this time to prevent such chaos from occuring?

UNICEF has pledged aid in the form of ORS and chlorine tablets to start the process of cleaning the drinking water. The WHO are helping out with the coordination of rehabillitation. As earlier mentioned, the armef forces have finally moved in. The mumbai police are holding a food and medical supply distribution camp tomorrow. The Red Cross and good old Aid Indiahave kicked in at high gear, doing what they do best: coordination and distribution.

Work has begun, but it looks like its going to take one god-almighty mother of a mop to clean this leak up.

Tiny Q though-- Where's the state government, the municipal authorities, the politicos?

I must admit-- I didn't know much about Vilasrao Deshmukh or his cronies. So I ran a little background check. Pretty portfolios, but he's being quoted on major news sites saying that there has been a "delay" in relief work.

In short, the poor bugger's been caught unprepared. Apparently he talked to the other day-

""Please understand this is a natural calamity," he said. "Who would have expected such rain?"

He's fighting off the hornets. And being faithfully quoted by the BBC:

"We will look into the urban development issue, but this is not the time to do it. Our priority now is rescue, relief and rehabilitation"

Those stiff upper-lipped boys, not content with that, go and find Mr. Prahlad Khakkar(oye bubbly!!) and give him the same treatment:

"We just about manage to keep our noses ahead of disaster every year because the authorities build just about the bare minimum infrastructure"

Touche, with an accent on the last e.

No one could've forseen the volume of water, Mr. Deshmukh says. Hmm. But Mr. CM, the piece of land you have been given responsibility over is...


how can I put this delicately? See, here are the issues people: Mumbai is a tiny island, with 100 year old storm water drains, in absentia mangrove forests [because someone decided to trim the hedges, just a bit] and landfills that only serve to weaken the soil, making land-slides even more dangerous. But don't base all of this on just my word: ask Debi Goenka & Chandrashekhar Prabhu, as the BBC did.

Got the picture? Okay then. If the situation is so grave, how come no one foresaw the risk that rain could bring? or did the state government assume that a few slum deaths every year didn't really matter, that mumbaikkers would pull together, as Deshmukh has been constantly chirping whenever there's a reporter listening?

Poor little bugger. Even his own party has been denouncing his gang's inability to take immediate action.

Someone tell politicians that apart from bribery and vote-garnering, they also need to take evening classes in disaster management.

No surprise though. Everyone knows how chicken-with-its-head-cut-off politicians can be. In fact, Kalpana Sharma even voiced a growing opinion, that maybe Mumbai should be self-governed. Her claim is that during the calamity of the past 4 days, there was no one to call, no one to ask help from.

Mr. Prime Minister, if I were you and reading this article, I would have my chaddis in a twist. Of course its a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic. Of course you will allay the people's fears, and scramble to make some structural changes that can be used to batter down murmurs of displeasure and insurrection.

But this is mumbai se aaye mera dost-- Its not a little village in Andhra Pradesh. Do something quick, before your sovereign republic falls apart, the tears of frustration washing away the rotting maze of bad civic planning that all our metropolitan cities have been built on.

There have been some strange reactions though, that have taken away some of the glitter from bombay's dreams. One has been the obsession with the well-being of the movie industry. The other has been Realist shaking of heads over the hubris of this shaky, water-logged city that seeks to rival other water-logged metropolitan cities of the world, like Shanghai and Hong Kong. Yet another has been to cry out for Reliance blood over the cutting of electricity.

My friend Anshu [may his tribe increase] pulled out another interesting aspect of the strange human sadness-- It had to do with the response of certain members of the media. Of one paper in particular, that "Grand Old Lady", the Times of India, and one article that appeared in it:

Uma Mahadevan Dasgupta wrote this, and I applaud her. Nice clean upper cut.

At least Rediff is doing the right thing by its readers, by giving them the space and place to speak their story.

The show must go on, ladies and gentlemen-- But can we cut the clowning bits out? It seems in incredibly bad taste.

My biggest concern at the moment? Not that the film city will lose the stuff that poets and sunday-morning journos sing about...

... I fear about the spread of disease. I fear about patch-work measures that wont hold against the next cloud burst. I fear for the homeless, for whom drifting has been given a whole new cruel meaning.

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