descriptive writing exercise: columbia university at dusk

Saturday, August 05, 2006
I sat in Columbia for an hour tonight. At eight pm on a Friday night, a steady stream of humanity trickles out of the buildings and onto the main promenade. Knots of people cluster in front of the library and pretty young things wander by like gusts of fluttering butterflies. The lights in the hall slowly make their presence felt, smoothing over the transition as the earth turns away.
A gibbous moon hangs in the sky, face shadowed behind gauzy painted whorls of clouds. The copper green roofs seem brighter, caught by the westering rays, arrayed across the quadrangle like sentinels on duty. Argus of a hundred eyes could not have more viewpoints than the combined windows of these stoic watchmen. The dark is slowly taking over; crickets set up their chirping in the bushes and a squirrel saunters out to look over its property. Halogen lamps extend their rays like cold stars come near and the golden glow of low wattage lights fills one side. In 25 minutes, the place has not become any less busy. Were all these hundreds hidden away in treasure houses all day?
As the noises of the day die down, a fountain chuckles into life, filling the air with susurrations of splashing water. I get up and join the ebbing tide. Night has fallen.

The master: discourse on loneliness

The master sat on the mountaintop and told his disciple.
"After much meditation, I desire some chicken and rice from Manhattan's 53rd and 6th street cart vendor." The disciple took his way down the mountain, across the plain and flew to New York City, where he found his master waiting in line in front of him.
The master said,"I got bored after you left."

Return from native

The train jolted to the rhythms of unseen tabla players. She opened her lunchbox; mounds of fresh steaming rice packed into blinding steel containers with sambhar and curd.
The creepy man sitting nearby remarked with a leer.
"Coming from native place?"
She replied, "From my husbands."
She cursed herself then for lying, and hated society.

This is the additional masala in the chatpati mix.

Just Gravy on your Mashed potatoes

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Dinner over; the children awaited their story. She swirled her glass of red wine.
"Midnight, overlooking the Hudson. Car radio playing."
"Si, I told her I dance the bachata!"
He got up from the table.
"Dance!" "Dance!" "Dance!"
The years rolled back as they danced.
"Kekkatadi avaruh, nee annu paraja vakkuh"
"Ai, mi indio lindo"

55 Friday came this Friday in all its multilingual glory.
"Kekkatadi avaruh, nee annu paraja vakkuh" -
Let them hear the words you said then.
"mi indio lindo" - my indian cutie

Outsourcing; starring Tom Friedman and Seema

Monday, July 03, 2006
Manjesh sent me this video that explores the repercussions of outsourcing on India's metropolitan middle class. This link is here because around the 22nd minute, Friedman goes to meet a local RSS leader in Bangalore and we get a glimpse of Seema, my former classmate who sits in on that interview. I'm not quite sure what she is doing there. Since that little tidbit is only of interest to those of us who know Seema, be assured that this video is fascinating without the star power at work.

Keep a look out for the deference shown to Friedman everywhere. While it isn't servile, there still is an element of reserve in everybody's conversations with him, and even though several people complain about respect for elders disappearing, I find it very apparent in all the encounters on tape.

There were interesting parallels betwen the argument made against Valentine's day by the RSS leaders and the ones made by a lot of mallu pentecostals.
Consider a quote from V.A. Gopala. "In India, all our traditions are kept intact because of all the rituals. So even though they leave their parents, they should keep all the family traditions."

There are a few mallus in the video. I picked them out by their names. Interesting moments in the video include a proposal for kama sutra day and some wonderfully ideological arguments on the amount of exposure allowable to villagers. There was a phrase thrown out, "its creating a dependence and creating a kind of vacuum in the natural organic fabric of our societies.", and I couldn't help wondering... how are societies, any of them, naturally organic? Is it the abundance of technology and metal use that makes a society inorganic somehow?
In marked contrast to the attitude adopted by Vimochana was the Shanthi Bhavan school, which encouraged instead exposure to technology and education in the hope that these children could become part of India's future. That right there was a sentence that should be in some indian newspaper. And on that depressing note, I end.

Thoughts in the office

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thoughts in the office
Originally uploaded by zimblymallu.
Let me introduce you to Its a great way to collaborate online to share visual ideas. My friend Naomi and I came up with this piece one afternoon as we both tried to keep sleep at bay. We call it "Thoughts in the office" Post modern structural criticism is totally up to you, but do let us know what you think of the tool we used.

Huttidare Kannada Nadalli Hutta Beku

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Huttidare Kannada Naadalli Huttabeku , Mettidare Kannada Manna Mettabeku, Badukidu Jataka Bandi....
If you had to be born, you should've been born in the land of Kannada, If you must be somewhere, it should be on the soil of the land of Kannada, life is like a bullock cart,...

Listen to the song by selecting the song Huttidare, Kannada Nadu

He was, and he lived and breathed and died in the land of Kannada. He passed away on April 12, 2006(13.45 IST) following a cardiac arrest on Wednesday afternoon in M S Ramaiah hospital, Bangalore.
After which people obligingly burned tires on roads, shut down businesses and generally declared mourning.

Now I'm not what you would call a fan of the man. I roll with Upendra's posse. But even I must stop for a minute and remember the moments of his life. There is the song that changed my whole image of the man, that goes along the lines of "Nan yejmandru..." I heard it only in bits and pieces, sung by Omkar while he was initiating us into the wonderful world of kannada music, but it made an indelible impression on me. Even now, I get the heebiejeebies, mind you, thats the heebiejeebies, remembering "nan yejmandru.....".
The next time I had a chance to get to hear about him was when Veerappan did my sister a favor by kidnapping him for more than 3 months. While Rajkumar might have been famous in Karnataka before that, this was the real showstopper that ensured he made it to the national stage, and all for going Survivor on Veerappan's team. The usual mayhem ensued in Bangalore, and spring break came again for all the kids as schools were closed for two weeks. Meanwhile, kannadigas took out processions and vilified tamilians and lit pyres in the streets with Veerappan effigies.

and that really was all he ever did for me, until I downloaded "Huttidare" While it's nowhere near the quality of "If You Come Today", it shows the pure versatility of the man as he makes an impassioned peal for us to fall in love with Karnataka all over again. Life truly is a bullock cart, so pour some gomuthra out for our beloved annavaru.

here's a video of the man in his prime.

and here are the lyrics

I've found a last interview with the mannina maga for you.

the midnight coffee run

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Originally uploaded by zimblymallu.
I drank my mocha espresso. She drank her chai latte. We both stole surreptitious glances at the next table.
"I think they're a cute couple."
"We'll see in a minute."
When he went to the little boys' room, she hugged herself as a smile escaped.
"Pay up lover boy. She just had a good date."
Friday came and went, and I showed up a little late to the party. But this fobby-san brought his kattan kaapi to the mix.

the spill of crumbled earth from a broken flowerpot

Thursday, March 23, 2006
Your photo, your face, your name. A brief splash of color pasted on the door of the neighborhood blimpie's. I've walked by the store so many times, always stopping at every other store in the strip mall. Never walking in. I'd see the people inside, beautiful young people, who looked like they had no care in the world, eating their sandwiches and drinking their fountain soda. It was a world of laughter, bright joie de vivre spilling from the doors, neighborhood friends gathered at the table.

Today when i walk by, an empty silence. The only illumination a backlight behind the counter, the only color the flowers on the door. Oh Amir Chalabi, my heart breaks for your family. Gathered to mourn your passing, they will tell each other stories of your bright smile and weep. Your mother will never look at another child without remembering you. Your father will look at other men and think of you. Time will bring its cold forgetful comfort, but you have lived, and brightened their days, and their memories. As for me, I only saw an image on a closed door, and the epitaphs your classmates left. A few flowers and scrawled words of comfort for your parents. And it near to broke my heart.

Dear child, I did not know you. I do not know your parents. I do not eat at the restaurant that was closed by your passing. But death has come and gone, and I would that it had not.

Better than disneyland

Monday, March 20, 2006

Originally uploaded by zimblymallu.
For those of us who like magic a little bigger than tinker bell, a river of gold with garuda headed swans. What secrets might lurk in those dark thickets on the mountainside.

And if you ever want to order from the restaurant, here's the menu.

Mr. Death and his pussycat

Wednesday, March 08, 2006
The master sat on the mountaintop. The woman waited patiently till the evening meditation was done and drew near. She smiled with longing and whispered,"Do you see me, o man of solitude?" The evening breeze carried his reply to her.

A cat caught a mouse for dinner and asked. "Tell me, would you want to know that I was going to kill you when I caught you or would you rather have death come without warning?" The mouse looked up and said,"Death comes to all of us. If you must, introduce us before we leave." Now you know why cats toy with their prey.

nan bandh bittay; caesar would say "veni"

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Surreal is an adjective that gets overused in the company I keep. I can't think of a better word to describe my first impressions of Bangalore. I hover at the exit from the airport, looking for a face I recognize, injunctions against thieves and errant taxi drivers and lowlife predators running through my head.

Dare I run that gauntlet of people without a guide? It is not so much the people as the noise level that strikes me as I move closer. The hubbub primes me for a great many people, while my eyes tell me a different story. Thankfully, as I shift my grips on my luggage and peer out into the night from the shelter of the cordoned area, I see a familiar face and relax. My first impression of Bangalore is one I cherish. I walk out into the parking lot, and the quiet descends. At first glance, I can't decide whether everything looks the same or not. The night surrounds us, but bright yellow sodium vapor lamps cast little spills of light in the distance. Why is there a dull patina of dust on the leaves i see?
I recognize all the roads that lead home, but its like a dream. Distances seem to stretch out forever, and then disappear behind me. Occassionally a passing "motorist" drives by and recognition sparks at the shape i see. All the concerns about traffic in Bangalore fade in the wee hours of the morning. We head for the one restaurant that is open at 2.30 in the morning, "Empire" and sit down for some kerala parota and butter paneer. I stick to bottled water and a little of the gravy. I'll take on the microbes a little at a time.

-01.02.06 Sitting at home, wide awake and unable to sleep at 6 in the morning IST. Jake sleeps in the next room. I've tossed and turned, unpacked, walked around the house, taken photos and watched early morning mist across the lane that runs in front of my house. The women draw their rangoli in the street. The milkman drops off his sachets of milk. I stand on the balcony and watch life stir as a cool breeze brings the whiff of another sunny day.

On the 6 train

Friday, February 24, 2006
"Why would i touch her titties?" My girl grinned as I turned around. He kept talking. "This fat black woman. I walk by her and she's all I know you tried to touch me. Honey, I'm gay. and trying to listen to Madonna." We play Madonna on our ipod. Anchal whispers,“This little piggy went to..."

Anna's back with her 55 on Sepia Mutiny and I couldn't resist the invitation. Here's my dose of nanofiction to start this weekend off.