Monday 29 December 2008

Back in the workforce, and looking for writers

After many lazy years working in grungy shorts and torn ganji, we had an offer we could not refuse.

We have pulled out our respectable work clothes and have joined Digital 18 Media Pvt Ltd (part of the Network 18 group) as Editor - Special Features of the Forbes - Network 18 magazine project. The mag has a great team, and we have always had a weakness for start-ups. The goal is attractive too: to create an international quality business magazine with local relevance.


We (as in me, but also as in the magazine) have started commissioning articles, and we want you to let us know if you'd like to write for us. We (as in me, again - unless otherwise specified, it's always me, me, me in this space) are not talking the typical business feature here. The hard-core business stuff will be taken care of by folks far better qualified than we are. (If you want to write the heavy duty biz stuff, we'll put you on to them. Send us links - preferably - or a writing portfolio, and I'll pass them on.) Those are the parts of the magazine focussed on helping the reader make more money. The section we're handling is the part dedicated to helping her or him to put that affluence to good use, to, if you will, live better.

Stories could be anything from half-page quick guides (written by domain experts for intelligent readers who just don't happen to share that area of expertise) to several thousand words of rigorously researched, in-depth copy that looks at every side of the issue and has a point of view.

What about? Well, anything really. Make it interesting! Broadly, we want to help the intelligent reader expand his/her knowledge of issues, experiences and trends. No matter what the area, we will first want this question answered: why should our reader care, or need to know about this? And second, can your writing kick serious butt?

We can't go into details of sections and so forth, for that will mean the F-N18 team will take us out at dawn and shoot us (and you know how we hate getting up early), so, instead, just to give you an idea of the things we like, we went a bunch of stuff we have mailed to friends (there's an archive here, which you're welcome to go through) and pulled out a few.

We'd do a Sachin Tendulkar piece if we could get someone to write with as much style and substance as Federer as Religious Experience - David Foster Wallace in NYT
A nice fitness story: An Enduring Measure of Fitness: The Simple Push-Up - New York Times

Understanding Carbon Emissions Big Foot - New Yorker

The history of the web: How the Web Was Won

Travel and Books - The Guardian - Part One, Part Two

If we were doing a story on popular TV, we'd want something like It's Saturday Night!

Education? Give us an IIT / IIM story like The American Scholar - The Disadvantages of an Elite Education - By William Deresiewicz

Or how about this piece on Late Bloomers - Malcolm Gladwell - New Yorker

Great writing, great research, fascinating story: Mercenary - Esquire

A gimmick, yes, but what style, what depth! Pearls Before Swine - Washington Post - Gene Weingarten

Pico Iyer: On Travel and Travel Writing:1, 2, 3

The Greatest Mystery: Making a Best Seller - New York Times

Great popular culture / trends piece: Kids, the Internet, and the End of Privacy: The Greatest Generation Gap Since Rock and Roll -- New York Magazine

A cut-the-BS tech piece: Breaking the Myth of Megapixels - New York Times

Lit debate? The New York Inquirer: Against Literary Readings (and Especially Q & A's)

Anyone up for a 50 most important Indian web influencers piece? The 50 Most Important People on the Web - PC World

Behaviour and technology and pop culture: Downloading Is a Packrat's Dream

Complete whimsy. But what a nice read. Nick Tosches: Autumn and the Plot Against Me:

A novel year-ender: 50 Things We Know Now (That We Didn't Know This Time Last Year) 2006 Edition

Travel, the economy: Russian Airports - The Economist

Advertising Steven Pearlstein - What Happened To Creative Advertising? -
Or The Future of Web Ads Is in Britain - New York Times

Health, pharma: Eternal Sunshine

On Crit: Giving It All Away - New York Times
And while on the topic: Harry Potter and the Death of Reading -

How children lost the right to roam in four generations | Mail Online

Science, a rant: The new age of ignorance | Science | The Observer (: Click through at the end of the article for the celeb quiz. See if you can do better. :)

Friday 26 December 2008

Barack Modi

Saw this on the magazine rack in a bookstore. ("G2" stands for "Global Gujarati," to save you the click.) Lost for words.

(Oh, and the text above the dude in the suit is a pointer to a New Year's article, which is about "Whiskies to serve between midnight to morning." The global Gujju, one gathers, does not hold with prohibition and suchlike.)

Sunday 30 November 2008

Now that there's time to read and introspect

Suketu Mehta in the NYT

Dilip D'souza in the Washinton Post

Naresh Fernandes in The New Republic (See also his piece on Jews in Bombay)

And these pieces, on their blogs, by Amit Varma, Sonia Faleiro and Rahul Bhatia.

And these by Prem Panicker: 1, 2 & 3 (the latter two link to some other excellent pieces as well).

And this, by Ingrid Srinath (read also Priyanka Joseph's comment on that post).

And while we're about it, let us also say that we count all these names among our friends. Except for Mr Mehta; but then we have drunk his booze in Jai Hind the night he won the Crossword Book Award, so perhaps we can claim him too. At any rate, Mr M, in the unlikely event that you're reading this, when you're next in the city, maybe I can buy you a drink? A cheaper one, though.

Saturday 29 November 2008

Abide with me

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

Come not in terrors, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings,
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea—
Come, Friend of sinners, and thus bide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

I'm not religious. Haven't been since my teens. But this hymn can make me cry. It was the favourite of one of my grandmothers. Also a favourite of Gandhi's (which us why you'll hear it at events associated with him), and just about the only thing my nana had in common with the Mahatma, who she didn't like very much. And it was sung at my mother's funeral last year.

Sunday 31 August 2008

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - 13

Good poetry, I say, is never hard,
Oh so easy, just look at me!
Dante did struggle, as did the Bard
And other writers of poetry,
When compared to good ol' me,
Faded hacks trail by many a yard.
(Ulysses wishes that I had been free —
Look what he got with that Tennyson laird.)

So come, gather round, kick off your shoes!
On our pedestal come rest your weary heads.
Now watch as we perform, we do party tricks!
No sweat, we could do this without getting out of bed.
Even two-in-one deals, you can't lose!
(This poem is also an acrostic.)

Saturday 30 August 2008

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - 12

In which we do keh-mukarni His pulse is racing, heart a-flutter, Into the night,, he pines, he's tense Does he expect a love letter? No, cupcake, he waits for blog comments And anthadi How do I love thee, let me count the ways. The ways in which I love thee, I shall enumerate this day. A summer's days I shall compare thee to. To find another line to steal too. Stole my heart away you did. Didn't you? And I forgot to rhyme that bit. Bits an pieces make sense here. Here I am, half-asleep in frog pajamas. Pajamas, Bahamas, I love the Lama's Llamas. Llamas are found in Peru. Guavas are found in my garden. Gardens are nice places to end poems. Except I need to bring this back to an ending that locks with the beginning. How?

Goddawful Poetry Fortnight - Guest Post 3

Another anonymous submission, from the bashful poet who wrote this one.

Day before I thought I found my calling
With my first godawful poet penned
So I sit today to write another
To this all my faculties I lend

And then I realize that no words flow
I write cruddy muck and backspace and delete
What I write sounds too awful to be godawful
And yet I feel no conceit

My poem is too bad to be good-bad poetry
And yet not so craptacular that its good
It is poetic when it should not be
And yet too odious to be withstood

What does one do when she can’t write good rhyme
And can’t write bad rhyme either?
Does she write prose then?
Or from composing take a breather?

What can be worse that not be able to not write;
Not be able to write sucky enough?
Especially when you can’t even write things well
Can life give you a better rebuff?

The godawful poet relinquishes her throne
She decides to call it a day
And maybe its just in time too
Because doesn’t the fornight end tomorrow?

Goddawful Poetry Fortnight - Guest Post 2

by Annie M Mathews

I slouched at my computer disconsolate
My inbox empty as it was wont to be
When suddenly there came a spate
Of mail I greeted with much glee
Viagra, meds, ten-inch you-know-whats
Everything to hit the ‘other’ spots

Messages in English and Spanish too
Inviting me to visit their page
My heart to point of bursting grew
When offered work with plentiful wage
I skimmed, perused, mulled and soared
To be thus wanted had me floored

I little knew what worlds there lay
With a little link that led elsewhere
So very many with so much to say
The few of words had much to bare
And now when on my comp I slouch
Mail I will receive, for this I vouch

Go find more: or search Google

Thursday 28 August 2008

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - 11

The admiring masses have, no doubt, noted the variety of forms we, in our verse-a-tility (ooh, he puns too!) have showcased. This next one's in blank verse.

Blank. Geddit? Geddit?

Goddawful Poetry Fortnight - Guest Post 1

From a friend who prefers to remain anonymous. We wonder why.

I have never been much of a poet, not I
But this noble cause made me try
For even if poems make me nod
-off to sleep, godawful poetry strikes a chord

Is it the whole wretchedness of it
That wrings my heart to complete grit?
Just like pity for the hungry tramp
Is it the abjectness that makes my eyes damp?

Is it the brave face godawful poets don
Under assault of classic poetry they hold in scorn?
And attack it back with absolute tripe
That looks like it appeared spontaneously on an asswipe?

As I write these words at night
I see the end-of-the-tunnel light
Could it be that godawful rhyme
Holds the key to the heavens sublime?

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - 10

Saved this in drafts and forgot to post it. Apologies, oh ye teeming masses.

Many words worth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
With acid rain and no antacid pills,
When all at once I belched aloud
It was like several textile mills.
Around me several old ladies
Fell, coughing, to their knees.

It had shades of turpentine
And gutters on a summers day,
And bits of tripe — i.e. intestine —
And rotting fish in a stagnant bay.
Ten thousand slew I with that burp
Top that, Kid Billy, and Wyatt Earp!

Poison gasses kill, sure, but they
Are nothing to that awesome burst
Agent Orange had a nice bouquet
Compared to the smell that we produced.
I breathed deep but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

Oft, when on my commode I sit
Indigestion having driven me there,
Summoning up a good old .. never-mind,
And the sound and vapours fill the air;
The odours we produce are solid, tangible, big!
But that eructation that day was in a different league.

We have outdone ourselves, no?

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - 9

Poetic forms are many today, like the ghazal
Many poets I know, they say they like the ghazal

I too tried many times to write one,
They never come out close, nay, not like a ghazal

Other poets write them easily, I see:
My friend Jeet can write and recite from memory, on the mic, a gazill-

-ion of them before breakfast, the swine,
Me, I am still struggling to write a wee tyke of a ghazal

I tried writing them sitting down, standing up,
lying down, walking, even on my bike. No ghazal.

My words leap, bound, run, sprint, jink,
Like they're running from a sher, and like I'm a gazelle.

So we wind up seeking solace in wine;
Zig, he much prefers *hic* to have a guzzle.

Monday 25 August 2008

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - 8

I have always wanted to write a villanelle,
Just five tercets and one quatrain;
But it's way too complicated to do it well

Many have done it, so I hear tell,
So I've tried until it drove me insane.
I so badly want to write a villanelle.

If I give up, I will languish in poetic hell,
To notice me, real poets will never deign.
But it's way too complicated to do it well.

I juggle the words, but they never jell,
I turn them all sideways and upright again,
I have always wanted to write a villanelle.

The performance anxiety I just cannot quell
I'm in realio trulio physical pain
But it's way too complicated to do it well.

I scream And I shout and I weep and I yell
Until they can hear me in the next lane,
I have always wanted to write a villanelle.
But it's way too complicated to do it well.

Sunday 24 August 2008

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - 7

Mary had a little lamb
Its fleece was white as baraf
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb went ussi taraf
It followed her to school one day
Which was niyamo ke khilaaf
It made the children laugh and play
Poem ends. Gustakhi maaf

Notes: the first half is an old college joke, origins lost in the mists of time. The second is all our fault. No, wait, we tell a lie. Poonam and Manisha helped us. Our Hindi is way too pathetic to manage on our own.

Saturday 23 August 2008

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - 6

doopity doopity doo
the mouse ran out of the loo
having done what he went in to do
doopity doopity doo

Inspired by a certain status message.

Friday 22 August 2008

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - 5

Got to tell you about my crush!
Words come out in a rush!
Like Usain Bolt's 100 metre dash!
Like the Mithi in flood they gush!
Do not interrupt! No! Hush!
Have another dose of mush!
See my emotions, naked and lush!
Kabhi gam and kabhi khush!
My labour's easy, I just push!
Sit here, comfy, on my tush!
Sipping my vodka orange juish!
Are you enjoying my nash

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - 4

They gave my my poetic license -
Then they took it back
For rhyming under the influence.

They called me a dirty hack -
A nuisance
But, like Ahnuld, I'll be Bach.

Footnote: That should have been "They gave me my poetic license" but then one of the basic principles of bad poetry is to have typos which one then justifies. So, er, ah, um, "my my" was poetic repetition. So there.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - 3

Instant poetry

Add hot water
No filters please
Our powerful feelings
Are overflowing

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - 2

Haiku inspiration strikes -
Alas, Zig is liberal arts major;
Syllable count goes BLAM!

For M.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - 1

Inkle, binkle Ringo Starr,
How I wonder where you are.
John died, George too, and poor ol' Paul,
The Mills of God grind very small.

Monday 18 August 2008

Godawful Poetry Fortnight - 19th - 31st August

Bad Poetry Day (18th August), according to Holiday Insights, is an idea that originated with who "have created a number of special days and have actually copyrighted them so they can profit by it." Wellcat's page is here. Well okay, sure, we won't infringe anyone's copyright. We can't afford the legal fees. But we hereby patent, copyright, and release into the public domain Godawful Poetry Fortnight (on the rather shaky grounds that "fortnight" sounds more poetic than "week," but mostly because it gives us more time and scope for idiocy). Godawful Poetry Fortnight (GPF for short), we solemnly proclaim, starts on the 19th August and ends on the 31st August. "Aha!" You say, "That's thirteen days, not fourteen!" To which we say, like all bad poets, "Poetic license!" Godawful Poetry Fortnight has a patron saint: William Wordsworth. And he gets this signal honour for saying that poetry "is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." Way too many aspiring poets have rallied behind that banner, too few going so far as recollecting those emotions in tranquillity, let alone reading the rest of the preface to Lyrical Ballads (which can be found on Bartleby, for those interested). To participate, simply post a godawful poem on your blog* along with a brief note about GPF, and, if you like, a bit about what godawful poetry means to you. You don't have to link to this post, but we would love it if you did. Naah. Who are we kidding? Link here or your fillings will fall out! You can post as often as you like during the Fortnight. Get it all out of your system. And you must pester your friends to post too. And once GPF is done, you will go and write good poetry for the rest of the year, yes? (: Until GPF rolls around again next year. :) Please use this Technorati tag on your post: . Here's the HTML for the tag: <a href="" rel="tag">Godawful Poetry Fortnight</a> * If you're one of the last seven people on earth who don't have blogs, you're welcome to use the comment space here. Clarification: The godawful poem you post must be your own work. No picking on earnest innocents you might know. Update 2: Here's a challenge for the really talented among you. Post thirteen godawful poems, one on each day of the Fortnight. .

Saturday 16 August 2008

Quick Tales

We're delighted to be able to tell you about this contest we have just got up and running. We're presenting it in partnership with LiveJournal, one of the oldest, most respected names in the community blogging world.

It's a pretty simple challenge we have here, one that will particularly appeal to all the fiction writers among you, but not too intimidating for those of you who like other forms of writing to give it a bash.

Can you tell a quicker, snappier story than anyone else? Would you care to pit your story-telling abilities against those of your peers?

Quick Tales, the LiveJournal - Caferati Flash Fiction contest, asks you to tell us a story in 500 words or less. On offer: delicious cash prizes (top prize: Rs 19,999), global visibility and the chance to be part of a book.

You probably know what Flash Fiction is all about - we have run Flash Fic contests for the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival for the last three years, and FF tags and memes have been floating around the blogosphere for ages - but, just in case you do need a few starting tips, see this page.

The contest is open to residents of India who are members of LiveJournal's India Writing community. (If you're not an LJ member, joining is free. Click the "Create a LiveJournal Account" link at the top of any LJ page.) The theme is "Journal," and your deadline is 7th September.

Prizes? The top 5 winning entries take home cash prizes of Rs 19,999, Rs 16,000, Rs 12,000, Rs 8,000 and Rs 4,000, respectively. And the rest of the top ten get paid accounts on LJ for one year. Each of the top 100 entries will also be highlighted on LJ's India Writing community for the world to see. (Short-listed stories may also be included in a book that LiveJournal plans to publish at a later date.)

Go straight through to our Quick Tales microsite for all the details, and don't forget to join India Writing, which is the place where all the updates will be happening. Live Journal has more plans for writers in all languages in India, and that community will be HQ.

We'd also be very, very grateful if you chose to tell your friends about it, and, if you have a blog or personal site, or are a member of other writing communities, to link to the site as well.

Good luck, and we hope to see your entry soon!

Thursday 24 July 2008

Friday 27 June 2008

Thursday 26 June 2008


A word that came to us as we were watching a group of young males from a city that we used to live in. Does it need explanation?

Added, 27th June: Well, maybe one small explanation. In parts of South India, "macha" is used by males to address other males of their acquaintance. Kind of like "yaar" in the North, or "pal," "buddy," or (for the fossils and Wodehouse fans), "old chap," "old bean" and other such male bonding terms.


Let's say you crack a really bad PJ. Your listener / reader goes 'argh.' Which is what you were aiming for. It was good for you, no? Because you just had an arghasm.

P.S. And when you have multiple interlocutors?* You then have multiple arghasms.

* Like on this blog.**

** Theoretically.

Friday 20 June 2008

How to quit smoking

1. Have a heart attack.

Preferably a serious one. This will mean hospitalisation, and very probably sedation of some kind. This will take you over the worst stages of the chemical withdrawal symptoms. Because you're very unlikely to get any cigarettes in the ICCU.

Better still, don't start.

Seriously though.

1. Stop fooling yourself about the addiction.

That's the really big one; or at least it was for me. Nicotine is ferociously addictive. Period. You're a junkie. And addiction of any kind fucks with your mind. A junkie will always find reasons to continue. Plausible, perfectly respectable reasons. That is, from your point of view. They will look silly from the outside. Or the other side. Trust me on this. I see now that one of the reasons I avoided air-conditioning was that most ACed places don't let you smoke. And I mean avoiding ACs even in a Delhi summer.

There's an old Dave Barry piece about smoking that makes the point beautifully. I quote:
I mean, surely the government has better things to spend its money on. Surely the government could could have used those research funds to buy a better military toilet seat, and just asked us former smokers about nicotine vs. heroin addiction. We could have simply pointed out that, when a commercial airliner takes off, the instant the wheels leave the ground, the pilot, who you think would be busy steering or something, tells the smokers that they may light up. He does not tell the heroin addicts that they may stick their needles in themselves, does he? No he doesn't, because heroin addicts have enough self-control to survive a couple of heroin-free hours. But the pilot knows that if he doesn't let the cigarette smokers get some nicotine into themselves immediately, they will sneak off to smoke in the bathroom, possibly setting it on fire, or, if already occupied by other smokers, they will try to get out on the wing.

2. Avoid the company of smokers.

At least in the beginning. Or your addiction, revived by the siren wisps of second-hand smoke, will play silly buggers with you. You will want desperately to have that one drag, that one cigarette. Maybe you'll be able to do "just one" after a while. I wouldn't count on it.

3. Deal with it one pang at a time.

The urge to smoke doesn't usually last more than a few minutes. 15 minutes at most. Find something to do with your hands for those 15 minutes. It helps. Or just recognise the pang, acknowledge it, and deliberately think about something else. Your mind will take over and do the job for you. All hail low attention spans.

4. Plan to smoke again.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out.

Each time you pass a cigarette shop, or get side-swiped by someone else's smoke, tell yourself that you'll buy a cigarette at the next shop. By the time you get there, the urge would have faded.

There's a variation on this, on the other end of the length-of-time spectrum, relayed to me by pal Pervin, about her dad. He told his family he'd start smoking again (he'd quit because he'd had a heart attack) once the kids had grown up and were self-sufficient.

Another addict friend gave me another variation; she tells herself she will drink again. In 2079.

My version: I will smoke again when my kids are grown up. (I don't have any. (That I know of. (Yet.))) Sounds weird, I know, but it works. Maybe it's the grin you grin to yourself, maybe the brain really is a gullible old thing, I dunno, but it works.

5. Read up about the bad effects of smoking.

Yep, all those articles you quickly flipped past over the years. Read them now. Go find more; the web is your friend. These will help you keep going, strengthen your resolve.

6. Commit yourself publicly.

Announce it to friends, the kind who you'd rather die than back down in front of.

Or blog it. :)

Note to people who know people who are in the throes of quitting.

Don't bring up the topic. Unless the quitter brings it up, don't brightly ask how the quit is going or how the pangs are being dealt with. Chances are that the very asking will cause huge, I mean fugging monstrous, gigantic, vice-like pangs. Maybe those will be the first real pangs of the day. The week even. Maybe it will stress the smoker out. maybe it will send the smoker sneaking off to smoke one and he'll feel like shit afterwards and have to claw back up yards and yards of distance lost. Or at least that's what happened to me once. So don't ask me, okay? Unless I'm all full of it, in which case let me go on for a little bit and then steer the conversation elsewhere. The steering's easy. I'm feeble-minded: I used to smoke, remember?

(Oh, and I hereby silently apologise to all the ex-smoker-now-anti-smoking-evangelist folks I've ever silently sneered at in the past. Y'know how it is: you look at this person who once bummed your smokes, who smoked everywhere, regardless of who was around (unlike virtuous you, who didn't smoke around children, old people and non-smokers in general), and who was now getting all sanctimonious about the habit. I know where you're coming from. And thank you for trying, but dudes, seriously, no one who still smokes will get it.)

I'm going to come back to this post with more about my quitting journey, maybe more tips. Or perhaps I'll make it a series. Let's see. Meanwhile, perhaps you, if you have successfully quit, want to leave some tips behind for me and posterity?

Tuesday 17 June 2008

More from the ICU

Ward boys wake me up. Sponge, they say. They sit me up. Take off my hospital-issue pajama top. Run a wet towel over me. I'm shivering. They start to pull off my pants. I snarl at them: I'm cold; put the bleeping shirt on. They do. They finish the sponge.

I doze.

To be woken up again. Bed tea. I ask for coffee, Without sugar.

I doze.

The coffee come in. I am woken to drink it. Where's breakfast? Oh, an hour from now. Fugh.

I doze.

Breakfast. It's stuff I'm not used to. Fried things that aren't eggs. Yugh. May I have some bread? Would I like cornflakes, they ask. Yes please, I say. Fried-things-that-are-not-eggs are taken away.

I doze.

I sense someone is around. Open eyes. Manisha. I whine about the breakfast. The cornflakes arrive. In hot milk. WTF, I say. Which idjut dunks cornflakes in hot milk? Manisha clucks. The offending cornflakes are removed. She chats for a bit. The cornflakes come back. The same cornflakes. Which had been left somewhere to cool down (and get soggy). Manisha goes off to grumble on my behalf. But I'm whipped by now. I eat the bloody thing. Manisha says if I'm complaining about the food, I must be okay.

I sleep.

5am sponge bath. 6 am 'bed tea.' WTF is this with the bed tea? I'm in the fugging ICU. I'm not exactly going to leap up to have a brisk fugging shower and then slip into my fugging dressing gown and stroll out to the fugging patio for breakfast afterwards, am I? Then somewhere between 7am and 8am, breakfast. One is supposed to be resting. But the hospital wakes you up every hour just so you, who are basically half-dead, can accommodate their routines and sucks to you if it means that you get disturbed every hour in the process as long as they can make little check marks in the little boxes on their lists. Bah.

Monday 16 June 2008

One month ago today..

..I got a bonus life.

I have no business being here, actually. Providence, sheer dumb luck, call it what you will, fact is that if one was going to have a 95% blocked artery leading to a massive heart attack that left one, for a while, with a heart functioning at about 45% efficiency, the only way one could have planned it better would have been to go check into the ICCU, get tucked under the blankets and then let 'er rip.

Even so, I pulled through this only thanks to enormous amounts of help of various kinds from not just close friends but even from folks I don't really know all that well, some that I've never met in the flesh.

Many friends want to know exactly what happened, and how I am now, and so on. This post ^These posts^ attempts to answer some of those questions.

16th May 2008

Don't really remember how I brought the day in. There was some nonsense verse. Some email. A bit of faff. Nothing out of the way.

I knew that Dr K was to make his monthly visit to check on my brother, John, who has a congenital heart defect, aside from a bunch of other chronic problems. When Dr K (a physician with a special interest in cardiology, by the way) came in, around 2pm, I ducked into my room to grab a smoke and check on mail.

I started feeling uncomfortable — a bit of sudden and acute acidity, it felt like. I went to the living room to get myself an antacid and drink some water. Went back to my room to finish the cigarette. The acidity got worse. I could feel a weird part-numb (yes, I could feel the numbness), part-tingly sensation from my left shoulder to the ring and little fingers of my left hand. I started to get a bit worried. Recollected that the doctor was in the house. Went out; he was wrapping up his visit. Told him of my symptoms. Which now included a sort of heaviness on my chest. Like a rectangular piece of metal had been placed on the left lung. And the uneasy feeling had deepened. It felt now like some serious shit is about to happen. Have you ever had bad news? Really bad news? Y'know, someone cheating on you; a death, that kind of thing. That hollow, gutted feeling you get? This similar. With a larger physical dimension. (A feeling of "impending doom" is what many heart attack survivors describe feeling, as more recent reading has shown me.) He told me that I could get an injection for the acidity, but did I want to get an ECG done to be safe? (Later, someone told me that he had also caught Dad's eye over my shoulder indicating that I was in trouble.) I was sweating by then , and uncomfy enough to agree.

I went back to my room. Put off computer. Got out of grungy shorts, took out clean underwear, trousers, changed into those. (And for some weird reason, I neglected to change out of the equally grungy T-shirt I had been wearing since the previous afternoon.) Pick up phone, wallet; realise I had maybe a thousand rupees on me. Suspected I'd need more. Asked Dad for some cash on the way out. Bharat (who is the lad who we have come in to look after John during the day) was ready to come with me. We walked down the lane to Dr K's car. I remember concentrating on breathing slow and deep. And I was belching every few seconds. And sweating.

We drove down to Sterling Hospital, an old Vashi landmark, newly renovated and spruced up and now rechristened the Wockhardt Sterling Hospital. It's a short drive, less than five minutes, door to door. We walked straight to Emergency, where a training session was on. Dr K got someone to come run the ECG machine. The grungy shirt off, and I remember feeling the cold glue being slapped on to my chest. In a few seconds, the tech and Dr K exchanged glances, and Dr K told me I would have to be admitted, and he went out to make arrangements. On the narrow bed in the ECG room, I'm started to zone out.

I pulled myself back. Called out to Bharat. Told him to get my phone. My brain is still working, sort of.

I try to think.. Dad has John to look after. We have had a a hard enough time the previous year through Mum's hospitalisation with Dad and I fit. With one of us out of action, it would be impossible. Breathe slow. Breathe deep. I hear Dr K on the phone. He is speaking to Dad, I can figure out. I strike that call off my mental list. Think, think, think. Who do I call? Breathe slow. Breathe deep. Who has a car? Who is independent — or senior enough in their work place to be able to drop things and just get here? Who has plastic? Vivek's in Goa. Hashim is in Kihim. Albert. Prakash. I pull up the number. Feeling too tired to talk. Or that I need to save energy. Tell Bharat to speak. Breathe slow. Breathe deep. After the calls, I give him my wallet and the phone and tell him to go to Dad for instructions.

I am strapped into a wheelchair. It gets hazy from here.

I think: I'm going to die. And, weird, I'm not scared. Just very, very, very tired. One truly understands the word 'fatalism' suddenly. Breathe slow. Breathe deep. Will I meet mum, I wonder. The lift. The ICU. It's bigger, more spacious, than any I've been in as a visitor. I get into the bed. Breathe slow. Breathe deep. Someone helps me take the shirt off. Cold glue slapped on. Electrodes stuck onto various parts of my chest, my wrists, my ankles. Something's clipped onto my finger. Something's strapped around my other arm. An injection. A handful of tablets. A canula is put into the back of my hand. An IV drip is connected. A voice tells me I've had a heart attack. 'But you'll be okay now. Don't be scared.' Breathe slow. Breathe deep. Haze. Voices. Someones looking at a a monitor next to me. It's connected, I surmise, to the scanner that's being moved around my chest. They — several of them I think — cluck. I think they said something about the heart attack still going on. Haze.

Evening, I think. Or is it night? Dunno. Prakash is at the head of the bed. Haze.

Albert is there. He tells me he's manning my phone. He has sent out a few SMSes to names he recognised from my address book, and to mutual friends. Thing is, though he and I have known each other since we were 12, I have very disparate groups of friends, large chunks of whom don't know each other. Some that do know each other but don't particularly like each other. Anyway, he wants to know who else I want called. What they are listed as on my phone. (I list various people, frequently-called close friends, by just the initial letters of their names.) I tell him. He scribbles as I try and get my mind to focus through the haze. M. A. V. N S R. D D. L. Ha. Mehru. Firoz. Manisha. Between them and the people he's already called, they should be able to pass the word around reasonably efficiently. Money , I say. I don't have very much, how am I gonna pay for this. Chill, he says, as the beep-beep of the machine next to me speeds up a bit, chill, your heart rate is going up, chill, it's being taken care of; some folks have swiped credit cards. Oh, he says, gimme your bank account number and ATM PIN. I do that. Oh, I say. Call Pervin. Tell her I can't make it to the meeting on Saturday. Call Sveta or Charles at the TOI, and tell 'em I can't do column. Fuck, he says, I think they'll understand, dude. Haze.

Susan. Julianna. Haze. Someone tells me that there is a relay of people outside keeping vigil so Dad can stay home; there's a note book with messages and a 'duty roster.' Calls have been coming in from all over. That I have a lot of pals who are very worried. Haze.

A nurse telling me I have a fever. A young doctor telling me that I had been in serious trouble but now I was going to be okay. Haze.

(I'll continue this later. Need to consult my notes.)

Tuesday 27 May 2008

Thank you..

Thank you for the prayers, the wishes, the good vibrations, the healing energies, the concern and warmth that so many people sent my way.

Thank you also for all the phone calls, SMSes, PMs, and emails that friends received on my behalf, and which I hope to reply to personally soon.

There's a lot else I have to be thankful for. And believe you me, I know that I am a very, very lucky chap in very, very many ways.

I'll come back to tell you about that soon, I hope. First, I must concentrate on making sure all those good wishes don't come to naught. By getting better, stronger, fitter, maybe, if the stars are right, just a leetle bit more sensible.

Don't hold your breath about the last bit.


Monday 19 May 2008

Zig's not well


This is Annie guest-posting here, under very difficult circumstances.

Zigzackly had a serious heart attack about 3 days ago. He was in the ICU, being monitored for 72 hours, and has now been moved to a regular room. He'll probably have to undergo an angioplasty soon.

Friends who are in Bombay with him have sent messages saying that he now seems relaxed and chatty, albeit pretty weak, and cribbing much about hospital food.

I do not have many details since I'm in Delhi, but those who wish to could write to me: zaidiannie at gmail dot com: and I will send updates as I get them.

Thursday 24 April 2008


Built into the knees are a pair of crotch rocking speakers, around the back you have the added convenience of a back pocket for your “mouse”,
And, ahem,
for you gamers, there is a joystick controller located just behind the front zipper.

Join in the chorus

[Courtesy Ashwan]

Thursday 17 April 2008

Bisy Backsun

We'll be at Manipal this weekend, a guest of the Manipal Institute of Communications, basking in the reflected glow from a bunch of luminaries. We're not exactly sure what we're speaking about, but we will, hopefully, find out before the convention.

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Name this?

In various parts of India, this is called a pakkad, a sanasi / saansi, patkaru, and heaven knows what else. Question is, is there an English word for them things? No, not tongs. Pan-grip is one option, but the ones we've seen are hugely over-engineered in comparison.

(Oh. And the caption to the first picture, on the site from where we lifted the image, says that these are, from left to right (we assume), the Plain, Goti and Disco models.)



From a New York Times piece on 'Googlegängers':
Maureen Johnson, a writer of young adult fiction in New York, acknowledges on her Web site several Googlegängers, including a self-taught marine biologist known to some as “the Crab Lady of Cape Cod.” But for a while Ms. Johnson was “very annoyed” that another Googlegänger, a real estate agent, owned the domain name MaureenJohnson. Now, however, she’s just exasperated by the stream of “Rentheads” who send e-mail messages asking if she has anything to do with Maureen Johnson, the provocative performance artist character in the musical “Rent.” Children wonder if in fact she is the “Rent” character.
Which, perhaps, is why we still haven't watched any Family Guy.

Oh, and while on the subject, see Dave Gorman's piece on his Are You Dave Gorman>

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Wednesday 2 April 2008

The winner!

Better than the Virgil or Custom Time gags, we thought. What say ye?

p.s. More links here.

Wednesday 26 March 2008

Gon Out Backson*

We're off to Kanpur, where we're a guest at Alfaaz. We shall meet old friends like Urvashi Butalia and Mita Kapur, perhaps get to know a few more who we've had a nodding acquaintance with. We shall also be visiting Lucknow, where we intend to eat kababs and meet up with Caferati folks there. And then we detour to Delhi, where we shall eat pie, read books and faff for a few days.


Friday 21 March 2008


Thanks to the Daily Mail's poll on the greatest fashion invention ever (the push-up bra won; Hello Boys!), and some information from a lady we know, we now know what a chicken fillet is.

Hint: Only some of these can be found at your local cold storage. The others, ladies and transvestites, you can find here, among other places.

Peace be unto you

Image from Wikimedia.
The Beeb tells us that the peace symbol just turned fifty.
It started life as the emblem of the British anti-nuclear movement but it has become an international sign for peace, and arguably the most widely used protest symbol in the world. It has also been adapted, attacked and commercialised.
The logic behind the design was news to us. The designer, Gerald Holtom,
considered using a Christian cross motif but, instead, settled on using letters from the semaphore - or flag-signalling - alphabet, super-imposing N (uclear) on D (isarmament) and placing them within a circle symbolising Earth.
Holtom later explained that the design was "to mean a human being in despair" with arms outstretched downwards.
American pacifist Ken Kolsbun, who corresponded with Mr Holtom until his death in 1985, says the designer came to regret the connotation of despair and had wanted the sign inverted.

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Goodbye, Arthur C. Clarke

The Associated Press: Writer Arthur C. Clarke Dies at 90.
"Sometimes I am asked how I would like to be remembered," Clarke said recently. "I have had a diverse career as a writer, underwater explorer and space promoter. Of all these I would like to be remembered as a writer."

Monday 17 March 2008

More Indra

Sandhya of Sepia Mutiny has an excellent interview up.
Our own effort palls in comparison. We can only claim, in our defence, that we had very limited interview slots. Wish we had managed to tape Indra's informal sessions with Caferati members in Bombay and Delhi, or his excellent chat with Nilanjana at Kala Ghoda. Great stuff.

Sunday 16 March 2008


2. If you really have no choice in the matter, and have to go it alone, then seek attention blatantly, with loads of make-up and attitude, and outrageous clothes, declaring that you are alone because most people bore you, and it’s so mediocre to hang around in mobs. Be sure to carry expensive accessories, a designer handbag and the latest cell phone. Don’t wander down to the corner chai wallah with the hordes, but buy the ridiculously expensive coffee inside the multiplex as that is all you drink. In short, do everything you possibly can to underline how exclusive you are.
Go read Banno's guide to surviving film festivals.

Old Love*

The joint suicide of André Gorz, the French philosopher and founder of the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, and his British-born wife Dorine, who was suffering from a fatal disease, has turned the love letter that he wrote to her into a surprise bestseller.

Gorz, 84, a friend of Jean-Paul Sartre, and Dorine, 83, committed suicide by lethal injection at their home in the village of Vosnon, east of Paris, on September 22. Two days later a friend found them lying side-by-side in their bedroom.

Gorz’s 75-page Lettre à D. Histoire d’un Amour (Letter to D. Story of a Love), published a year earlier, was a tribute to his wife. One French critic described the work, which won him a wider audience than his essays on ecology and anti-capitalism, as his “intellectual and emotional testament”.

The couple met by chance at a card game in 1947 and married in 1949. “You will soon be 82. You have shrunk six centimetres and you weigh just 45 kilos and you are still beautiful, gracious and desirable,” the book starts. “It is now 58 years that we have lived together and I love you more than ever.”


Link from Darpana Athale via email.

* That's the name of a short story by Jeffery Archer, one of our favourite short stories ever. Yeah, yeah, it's not cool to like Archer's writing. Sue us.

Portrait of a Bureaucrat Playing With Himself

Thursday 13 March 2008


Did an interview with Indra Sinha last month. Wound up editing it into two pieces, one of which appeared in the Times of India last month, the other in this month's Outlook Traveller. This is the unedited transcript.

PG: You left India as a young man, and made a life for yourself in the UK. Do you have any fond memories of travel around India as a child and as a youth?
IS: Lots. The beauty of the western ghats in the monsoon, visiting the lake palace in Udaipur before it was a hotel, rowing across the lake to the other palace, where Shah Jehan had stayed, to find its empty dome full of pigeons, I miss my grandfather's village in UP near the Nepal border, smells of straw, woodsmoke, an old travelling cinema kept in a hay barn . . .

PG: How often have you visited India after you moved?
IS: Regularly since my association with the Bhopal survivors began in the mid nineties, but before that there was a 15 year gap when I didn't visit. The children were young and money was short. I love being in India. The pace of change is amazing, but I love to see things I remember still from the old days, like an old fashioned bullock cart trundling along, and it was good to see that the forest is still thick on the ghats in places along the Goa road. If there is anything I can do, any organisation I can join or support to help protect the Western ghats, I would like to do it.

PG: How often have your travelled around India? Could you tell us about your most memorable experiences?
IS: Arriving by air from Kathmandu, with Vickie, daughter Tara then aged 2 and a lot of suitcases, to a tiny airstrip on the Nepalese side of the border. We had gone to Kathmandu airport to find that our flight didn't appear. On enquiring about its status we were told it had been cancelled. "When was it cancelled?" I asked, "there's been no announcement." The man scrutinised our Royal Nepalese Airline tickets, bought in London. "Two years ago!" Two days later we boarded a tiny plane that whirred into the air like a metal grasshopper. As it rose higher, the high Himalayas rose up behind the foothills, white and shining, hundreds of miles on view at once. We flew to Nepalganj in a series of large hops and at each stop, a few passengers departed. When we got to Nepalganj we were the only passengers left. Nepalganj airport was a grass field — the terminal was a hut that had two doors, one saying IN and the other OUT. Being conventional people we went through the IN door to find that both doors actually opened into the same space, which was completely empty. Nor was there a fence at either side of the hut, so you could actually have just walked past it. There was no one in sight. A small road ran past the place and vanished into fields of sugar cane, but there were no vehicles in sight, much less the taxi I had promised Vickie. After a while I noticed a boy with a bicycle. He leant it against a tree, came forward shyly and said, "Are you Indra? I am Shobha. Grandfather sent me to fetch you home?" "With a bicycle??!!!" But Shobha flagged down a bullock cart that had hove into view and negotiated passage to the border. The luggage was piled onto the cart, Vickie sat on it and Tara on Vickie. Shobha sat on his bike and held onto the tail of the cart and I walked alongside. In this way we passed through the thick sugar cane fields (into which Nana Saheb and his defeated army had vanished 125 years earlier) and came to the border, marked by two square brick buildings. The Nepalese side was empty and shut up, but on the Indian side stood an amazed customs officer. "Who are you and where are you going?" he asked, adding that ours were the first overseas passports he had seen in six months. "We are going to my grandfather's in Nanpara." On hearing my grandfather's name he said, "But I know him!" He went inside and telephoned Nanpara PO telling them to send a boy to run and tell Iqbal Bahadur sahib that his family had come and were safe. Then chairs were set in the shade outside the customs building, tea appeared, as did a photo album of the offier's family. We passed a pleasant hour before the bus came and took us all away to grandfather and new adventures. I want to tell this story properly one day in a book of travel writings.

PG: Two of your books are set in India—well, four, to count Tantra and your Kama Sutra translation. Written, as they were, in Europe, did the distance aid perspective, or did it get in the way? How did you do your research?
IS: I write, I am in my imagination. It neither helps nor hinders to be in the place I am writing about, however I like to know the places about which I will write, even though the imagination transforms them. One tries to catch a reality, a feeling, that lies just beneath the skin. Lawrence Durrell was a genius at doing this. He was a favourite and formative influence when I was young.

Indra Sinha near his home in France. Picture by Dan Sinha.PG: Did a busy advertising career, and the strong online addiction you describe in The Cybergypsies, leave you much time—or inclination—for travel? Or, to put this another way, where does a British advertising star take his time off?
IS: We never had much money for travel when the children were young, but I guess over the years we've seen quite a bit of Europe and of course the dear old UK. I loved living in England and love living in France. Our best family holiday was a six week tour of France, Switzerland and Italy ending with two weeks in the Lot, where we now live. In fact it is directly because of that holiday that we are now there.

PG: As someone born in India but living elsewhere, and a writer to boot, do you find yourself expected to be the font of all information on the country? And while on the topic, how much of what friends and associates in Europe think and know about India is true? How much is elephants on the street?
IS: I used to be expected to be Encylopaedia Indica, but that is less true nowadays. People's knowledge of India varies enormously. Many people have been here and many more have some family connection. I think people's ideas are formed largely by the television. Don't forget there is also a huge Indian population in the UK, so Indian culture, Bollywood, "Indian" restaurants, are all pretty much part of everyday life.

PG: You've just been wandering around the typical western tourist's favourite destinations in India: Rajasthan and Goa. You were born here, though, and your books show knowledge of many of the other facets of the country despite your many years abroad. What's your take on those two states, arguably the most 'touristy' destinations one could find in India?
Could you tell us a bit about the places you saw on the trip?
IS: A lot of people I know in Rajasthan are turning their houses into heritage hotels and there is a sort of build-your-own-haveli emporium where you can buy ancient carved doors, jharokas, silver furniture, rugs and hangings, basically everything you need for instant Rajasthan. The Jaipur festival was Rajputana Disneyworld style complete with elephants, fire-eaters. The old Rajputana would have been dancing girls and opium. Goa is wonderful, when you get used to it, but walk along the strip from Candolim to Calangute and you are offered the same tourist tack as in Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaipur etc. All that's missing is Goa. However the old Goa is still there, but an outsider has to work a little to discover and get into it. Having loved John Berendt's books about Savannah and Venice (and loved being with John too and learning how he came to write them) I keep thinking there is something to be done either on Rajasthan or Goa. Or both. But I have a number of novels to write, so I don't know when I might get time for travel writing.

PG: When you visit India now, after long absences, how much change do you see? Do these changes surprise you? Are they good or bad changes?
IS: pace of change is huge and the wealth in the country is enormous. What is sad and in fact sickening is that the well off seem to have closed their eyes to the vast majority of the population, who do not benefit from globalisation the booming stock market, etc. The long term result of this can only be fascism and repression, it will be the only way to preserve the continuing luxury of the wealthy at the continuing expense of those who have nothing. Writers have a duty to speak out about this and Arundhati has recently written an excellent article on this very point.

PG: Have you seen any great writing from India? And travel writing in particular.
IS: I haven't seen any travel writing. I loved Siddharth Dhanwant Shangvi's The Last Song of Dusk, it was arch, amusng, knowing, entertaining - and underneath ran a tale of deep sorrow. The writing about sex is some of the finest I have read.

PG: And what about great writing—travel included—about India?
IS: I am rather sick of books about India. I would rather read books about Brazil, or Cuba, or the Congo, or somewhere I'd like to visit.

BarCamp and BlogCamp Mumbai - 29th March

This just in from Netra Parikh
BarCamp returns to Mumbai again - Third Edition – 29 March at IIT Bombay

BarCamp Mumbai 2 was a big hit with over 200 attendees and a day full of discussions on many interesting topics and ideas. BarCamp Mumbai 3 is now on the cards for 29th March at School of Management at IIT Mumbai. In the true spirit of BarCamp it's an open platform which anyone can make her own. Anyone can participate, anyone can speak, agenda is drawn collectively at the start and any topic is welcome as long as you have others interested as well.

This time the infrastructure has been extended in view of the overwhelming participation last time. The venue can accommodate around 400 people. In addition, the open spaces within the building will have mattresses which can be used by groups of people to discuss or to just take a break.

This edition will also host a BlogCamp which will have people talk about all things blog and also other aspects of social media and marketing. There is also FireTalk where you can talk about your idea and exhort like minded people to join you – it can be a cool app or a full scale business plan. The people gathered thus prepare a broader blueprint offline and then present it to larger audience later in the day.

Come and make this your own BarCamp. Over a 100 people have already registered.

Register your participation for free at the wiki:

Register your topic at the wiki:

Thursday 6 March 2008

So, you didn't come to our last reading either, right?

At the Bombay launch of 50 Poets 50 Poems, attendance was low; Priya Sarukkai Chabria says there were more press than audience members there, I counted a dozen people, aside from the eight people on stage, the young man who was helping sell the books, and the chai lad.

The principals in this discussion have agreed to put this up on the Caferati blog and invite a larger discussion. We're hoping that you folks could bring in your take on the topic; your opinions, your perspectives from different events in different cities. Feel free to comment, or to mail any or all of us.

Go read: Priya Chabria's original mail, Annie Zaidi's reply, a short reply from Priya C, in which your correspondent drones on and on and on, Sampurna Chattarji's take, some more thoughts from Annie, Vivek Narayanan's view. (All links will open in new windows or tabs.)

Wednesday 20 February 2008

An open Kitab

(See updates and links at the end of the post.)

Two nights ago we got an email. Several emails, actually, one of them directly from the signatories, the others forwarded by friends.

We had a debate with ourself before passing it on. Of course we can't vouch for the veracity of all the contents, but we've met, chatted often with, and like Kavita, one of the signatories. And we can vouch for the very different treatment of the Brits as compared to the Indians, having seen it first hand. Don't take our word for it; it was also written about in the media.

And hey, you're all adults, so sift the evidence and make up your own minds. We finally decided that this view should get its day in court.
We, the organisers of Kitab 2007, write to you in order to inform of the unprofessional practices of our employer, the owner of Liberatum, organizer of Kitab, Pablo Ganguli. We write to register our protest against his actions, to demand that he resolve his outstanding dues, and to urge you to all to consider these factors before lending support to Kitab 2008.

Some of our main concerns are listed below

1. Kitab 2008 is poised to take place next week, yet we are still owed thousands of pounds in salary and expenses from the last event. We have been communicating with Pablo for the past 12 months, requesting our full salaries, to no avail. We also paid for expenses out of our pocket, and to date have not received all this money back.

2. In emails and draft programmes sent to staff, invitees, and potential sponsors, Pablo was misleading about those participating in the festival. This indirectly compromised the integrity of those working on the project, who passed on false information to potential guests and sponsors.

3. The bias that he showed towards the British guests over the Indian guests made it difficult for us to hold an inclusive and relevant festival, and to give all our participants the respect they deserved. British guests were given top priority for all VIP events. Indian guests who were not already based in Bombay were discouraged from being invited. Transport and accommodation was offered to guests from the UK, whereas guests flying in from other parts of India were not offered the same facilities. This bias was also noted and pointed out by many of the invitees and participants.

4. Pablo's frequent unavailability, both physical and via telephone, notably in the week preceding the festival, during the event itself, and afterwards. A refusal to take responsibility for problems often left us to pick up the pieces. An example of this being taking a holiday in Goa immediately after the festival without informing any of the staff. We were left to make outstanding payments out of our own pockets, as Pablo's reassigning of allocated funds without consultation led to sponsorship money falling short.

5. Overt emphasis on self PR over interest in the content, ideology or logistics of the festival. Evidenced further by the fact that Pablo Ganguli referred to himself as a Cultural Impressario in the media and gave the impression that the festival was a one man show. The disproportionate emphasis on PR hindered the progress of an already severely understaffed team by not allowing staff to work as a team.

6. Despite requests to the contrary, Pablo maintained secrecy, discouraged cooperation, and encouraged a segregation of duties amongst us, including the separation of Indian and UK participants, so we had to trust him, at the helm, to keep us abreast of relevant information. He completely failed to do this. There was also unfounded vilification of staff's hard work.

7. We were initially told that we would be given accommodation in Bombay in the months leading up to the festival (since none of us were based there). However, we were unable even to visit the city that the festival was taking place in, unless it was on our own expense, to the detriment of the event.

To sum up, we feel that we were misled by Pablo Ganguli and are very disappointed by his behaviour prior to, during, and subsequent to the festival. We urge you to express your disapproval for this unjust behaviour; to email Pablo on the address above and not to lend your support to Kitab 2008.

Lastly, we would like to apologise to all the participants who were also left inconvenienced and disappointed by Kitab 2007 - those who were cancelled on at the last minute, those that were misled, and those who were given lower priorities than their British counterparts - and we assure you that we expressed our concerns about all these factors throughout.


Kavita Bhanot
Ayesha Siddiqi
Shazia Nizam

We got several replies, which we won't reproduce here, except this one from the poet Dilip Chitre, who addressed his mail to "Dear Kavita, Dear Peter, Dear All," which we guess is public enough. Here you are:
Yes, the last KitabFest in Mumbai has left an unsavoury trail of memories and impressions.

I was promised my fare from Pune and back. I had to put some pressure to get it a month after the Fest. It was actually a cheque from a friend of Kavita Bhanot that paid me my out of pocket expenses. No, accomodation and local conveyance in Mumbai wasn't paid at all.

The Brits---may their souls rest in peace----seemed to have been treated better. But even this could be an illusion.

I met Pablo Ganguli just once as he was stepping out of a private car at Prithvi Theatre, Juhu. He just said "hello!" and vanished.

This year, too, I have a vague invitation from him to attend. It doesn't tell me what to at the Fest or even give me any schedule of events. The last time, it was Amit Chaudhuri who invited me and I accepted it because I know him and his wife Rosinka.

This year, I would simply ignore the Fest.


Dilip Chitre

Then, John Mathew, who earlier told Caferati Bombay, "I am co-ordinating the Kitab Festival with Pablo Ganguli and all Caferati members are welcome to attend. I may also read.." sent us this, which fair play demands that we post this as well.
Hi Peter,

There is always another side to a story. Here is the one given by Pablo:
1. Kitab funds were all transfered to Shazia Nizam's company account last year and only she had access to the money. Shazia was a business partner in the festival in charge of the finances. Shazia and Kavita spoke regularly and both knew exactly how much funds were there and what the costs were. Shazia Nizam was in charge of raising funds, yet she didn't raise a penny. It was Shazia's responsibility to manage the funds and make payments. Every sponsor will tell you they transferred sponsorship money to Ms Nizam.

2. I was the person with the vision behind Kitab and yes, I do take responsiblity for working with a team who were given specific roles. Ms Bhanot's role was to manage the festival in India and be responsible for direction locally. It is interesting that I am being called unprofessional and that I am being accused of running a mismanaged festival whereas she was the person running/managing it in India. Yes, I didn't do the perfect job as the creator but nothing is ever perfect in life. Kitab 2007 was spread all across the city and there were many venues. In a city like Mumbai, it is no surprise that running a festival like this can be rather nightmarish with the traffic and other obvious issues concerned. Ms Bhanot and I chose hotel rooms together for guests and it is baffling that she herself is accusing me of giving British guests preferential treatments. I would like them to elaborate on this. How did I do that?

3. I went to Goa after the festival for a few days after having worked on KITAB every month since December 2005 - which is when I first started working on it. Yes. My father invited me to to so. How does that have any connection with Kavita Bhanot or Kitab funding? She disappeared with her colleagues after Kitab and I did try to get in touch with them several times.

4. Kavita Bhanot says I have misled everybody about programming and guest names. Again, I would like her to elaborate. Misled how? Is it due to the fact that some guests couldn't turn up in the end? This happens with every event and festival in the world and even private dinner parties!

5. I was concerned about having guests from other parts of India at KITAB last year as I knew we had a very tight budget. So I wanted to have most guests from Mumbai. But Kavita insisted we needed to bring out Indian guests from other cities and as a result we didnt have enough funding to look after their transport.

6. Kavita Bhanot, Shazia Nizam and Ayesha Siddiqi have done their bit to damage the reputation of the festival and jeopardise our efforts to create a successful KITAB 2008.

7. Shazia Nizam tried to put money from an international company into her own bank account who wanted to sponsor our festival without even telling us about it after she resigned from our festival.

Pablo Ganguli

I am not taking sides because I wasn't there for the festival last year. But
am reproducing it here so that both sides get a hearing.

Oh, and the Duck, who was one of the people we sent the rejoinder to, made this offer, which we gleefully reproduce without his permission:
fisticuffs at dawn, victory by pinfall or submission, fully captured on video and up on youtube within ten minutes. it's really the answer. i'm willing to be the referee if all participants are clad in yellow swimsuits.

And just a few minutes ago, we got this from Ayesha Siddiqi:
Thanks for your email, in the interest of 'fair play', would be grateful if you passed on a third perspective

Ayesha Siddiqi

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: amit chaudhuri
Date: Feb 20, 2008 5:44 AM
Subject: letter: kitab festival

Obviously we, the writers and guests – especially the "privileged" British ones - of the Kitab festival cannot confirm everything that is said about Pablo Ganguli and what went on behind the scenes, in the accompanying email. But, from our experience, this sounds plausible and convincing.
We would like to express our unanimous support for the authors of the attached email. We urge all writers to boycott all Ganguli-related projects until he makes good his obligations to the people who worked for him on Kitab 2007 and provides evidence that such practices will not be repeated in the future.
Amit Chaudhuri
Geoff Dyer
Esther Freud
Philip Hensher
Jackie Kay
Ian Jack
Toby Litt
Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
Deborah Moggach
Blake Morrison
Kamila Shamsie
Helen Simpson

Update (23rd Feb 2008):

There's a lively discussion on at The Spaniard in the Works. Space Bar also points to Sharanya Manivannan's post, and sent us a link to John Mathew's eulogy. NDTV has a slightly half-arsed ("But with some of the big names conspicously missing from this year's list, it only fuels the myth that Mumbai is a city that lacks artistic sensibilities." Aink?) report up here, CNN-IBN chips in too, oone of HT's pieces (we hear there were more) is here, and we know there was a piece in the TOI on Friday, but damned if we can find it online.

And also excerpts from a note from Indra Sinha, who has been most perturbed by all this, and who, in his gentlemanly way, offered a possible solution (he refers to it below).
I explained to Kavita that I would not pull out because I don't want to take sides, but at the same time would devote my Kitab event to the benefit of the Bhopalis. Mahesh feels the same.

FYI, I offered a way to get the girls paid, to launch an appeal to all the sponsors, writers and others who took part in all Kitabs to have a whip round. Would have put in a couple of hundred pounds myself to kick it off and hope thus to raise the money to get them paid. The girls were against this, [..] and Pablo was against it too.

I also told Kavita that I would not join in, support or in any way be a party to a media-lynching of Pablo or anyone else. We simply don't have all the available facts.

I have had some pressure from other people to pull out of my event because "of the damage to your reputation", but I do not feel that my reputation is so fragile that it will be damaged, nor so precious that for its sake I would walk away from a friend in trouble.

I wish [Pablo] and the girls had accepted my proposal, publicly buried the hachet and collectively reaffirmed their faith in the power of literature to right wrongs and be a sword for justice — something good could yet have come out of all this. Maybe it is not yet too late. It's something I wanted to discuss with you and see if you could use your influence to make it happen,



PS: Please feel free to share the relevant bits of this email with others, including on your blog if you feel it may be helpful.

Wednesday 13 February 2008

Walking to Tibet

This via Menka Shivdasani, who said:
..Tenzin is a poet - and a very good one - who was part of the Poetry Circle. He was the one who got arrested when he tried to climb the Oberoi Hotel walls to draw attention to his cause when Chinese authorities were visiting (It was front page news at the time.)

Tenzin is one of the bravest and most committed people I know

He would like the message spread.

The Tibetan cause is close to our heart. We have read up a lot on the Tibetan cause ever since we took our first solo holiday back in the early nineties, and quite by fluke, chose McLeodganj. We have blissful memories of the place, and still carry around a little bag of Tibetan design that we bought on the street there. We chatted with a member of the Government in Exile, and visited the library and the government buildings briefly and ate lots of momos and Tibetan bread and drank Tibetan tea every morning before going out on our long walks. We didn't get an audience with the Dalai Lama—he wasn't in residence at that time—but, quite by chance, on a visit to St John's in the Wilderness, met the editor of an autobiography of His Holiness and he signed our copy.

All those conversations, all those hopes..

We wish we could go walk with him (see below), but at least we can pass this around.

Here you go:

From: Tenzin Tsundue
Date: Feb 12, 2008 12:07 PM
Subject: am walking to Tibet again!

Dear Friend,

The time has come for me to go to Tibet again. Last time when I went to Tibet in 1997 - after my graduation - I was arrested by the Chinese authorities, beaten up, interrogated, starved and finally thrown out of Tibet after keeping me in their jails for three months in Lhasa and Ngari. I walked to Tibet, on my own, alone, across the Himalayan Mountains from the Ladakh.

Eleven years later, I am walking to Tibet again; this time too, without permission. I am returning home; why should I bother about papers from Chinese colonial regime who have not only occupied Tibet, but also is running a military rule there; making our people in Tibet live in tyranny and brutal suppression day after day, everyday for fifty years.

The Year 2008 is a huge opportunity for the Tibet movement to present the injustices the Tibetans have been subjected to, when China is going to attract international media attention. I am taking part in the return march from Dharamsala to Tibet, that is being organized as a part of the "Tibetan People's Uprising Movement", a united effort put together by five major Tibetan NGOs: Tibetan Youth Congress, Tibetan Women's Association, Gu-Chu-Sum Movement of Tibet (an association of former political prisoners), National Democratic Party of Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet, India.

The march will start on 10 March 2008, from Dharamsala, the capital of Tibetan exiles and will pass through Delhi and then head towards Tibet. Walking for six months, we might reach the Tibet border around the time China opens the Beijing 2008 Olympics (August 14-25). Presently it's too early to approximate at which border point we would be crossing; Tibet and India share a border that runs 4,075 Km along the length of the Himalayas. We might choose any point, or even multiple points. We'll see the situation.

I know there had been similar attempts in the past, but this is 2008, and I have seen the organizers working extra hard with strategic planning, taking care of every minute detail, and the best thing is that we have all the NGOs working unitedly for the common goal. This unity is our strength! I do not know where we would end up, that's why I am giving away the little collection of books (my only possession in life) to a library at is being setup in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala. My friends: Lobsang and Nyingje (who served in the Indian army as part of the Tibetan battalion) are also giving away their personal belongings; committing themselves for the march.

Of course the Indian police will do their duty; the Chinese army at the Tibet border would be overtly enthusiastic. Since we are leading a peaceful march, with absolute commitment to non-violence, I do not think anyone - either from Indian authority or Chinese - would impose themselves on us. Inspired by Gandhi's Salt March, even if they did try to stop us, we are not stopping. For how many days can they jail us for just walking peacefully? And why should the Indian government stop Tibetan refugees voluntarily returning home on foot?

In the past I have climbed buildings to shout for freedom, thrown myself at the Chinese embassy gate in New Delhi, spent months in jails, got beaten up police, fought court cases, but I never lost the dignity of the struggle: my believe in Non-violence. The March to Tibet will be non-violent; it is a sadhana, a spiritual tribute to the truth and justice that we are fighting for. This is our Long March to freedom.

And on our journey home, we will cook and camp in tents on the roadside, there will be the marchers and the support marchers, the kitchen team, logistics, media and the medical team. There will be dancing and singing, and theatre and film shows on the road as we take this long journey home.

Dear friend,

Here is an opportunity to join a historic non-violent freedom struggle, a people's effort to win freedom for a country that remains subjugated even in 2008. I request you to join us, support us in whatever ways possible. We need people to know about it, so spread the word. You can walk with us, as we walk for six months, maybe you can join us for a day along the path, even one hour, or for a week, months as a supporter. Schools, colleges and even whole town can walk with us. We need volunteers, media people, writers, photographers, bloggers can help us. We need nurses, cooks, technicians and your prayers.

Ever since the march was announced on 4th January 2008, Tibetans have been talking about it; it's a major discussion in the refugee camps. Recently the organizers launched the entry form. And I heard people are slowly getting themselves registered. You too can register your volunteer online.

For more information please visit: TibetanUprising. For enquiries email the coordinators: Lobsang Yeshi or Sherab Woser.

Join us.

Tenzin Tsundue