Monday, 19 October 2020

Poetry with Prakriti: a brand new avataar

Prakriti Foundation's Poetry with Prakriti festival is responding to travel and public gathering restrictions by reinventing itself as an online festival, with readings on Zoom, on the first three Saturdays of every month, starting October 2020 and running up to September next 2021 from 7 p.m. IST.

The poets featured will be a mix of well-loved names and emerging voices, in English and other languages, from India and abroad. The format is to have one poet on each evening, to read their poems for 15 minutes or thereabouts, followed by around 15 minutes of answering questions from the audience.

I’m helping out with the festival in a couple of ways: acting as moderator for the Q&A sessions that will follow each reading, and in outreach.

Here’s how you (and any poetry-loving folks you know and care to forward this to) can get notified of who is reading and when.
1. You can sign up for updates at (This is a one-way newsgroup. I.e., there will only be emails from the admins, who are Meera Krishnan of Prakriti Foundation and I, and no back-and-forth chatter. There will be three emails a month, approximately, telling you who the poet reading the following Saturday will be, and giving you the registration link.)
2. Or, email Meera at prakritifoundation at gmail and she’ll add you to their mailing list.
3. Or if you’d prefer your updates on WhatsApp, please contact Meera or me with your phone number, or email her at the same address.

On social media, you can follow Prakriti Foundation on
If you could amplify posts on those platforms, we would be very grateful.

And yes, please share this with friends whom you think might be interested.

Prakriti Foundation is an arts and culture NGO in Chennai (India), founded in 1998. In a city accustomed to a regular diet of classical performance, Prakriti has been the space where scholars, researchers, artists, critics, poets, and filmmakers have been able to present their work to those who engage with it on serious terms. One of its four annual festivals, Poetry with Prakriti, features eminent and emerging poets (from India and abroad), with each presenting four different readings of their poems to small, intimate audiences at several venues in the city: schools, colleges, cafes, galleries, boutiques, banks, IT parks, green public parks, and other commercial establishments.

Saturday, 18 July 2020

The Goa Project Sessions

Since May, I've been helping The Goa Project shape something we're calling the TGP Sessions.

Background: The Goa Project is an annual unconference that happens in Goa. Unconference? The attendees pitch sessions and vote for who gets stage time. (I wrote a piece about it back in 2017, much before I first volunteered, if you want a then-outsider's point of view.)

Image is a poster with the logotype 'The Goa Project Sessions' Below, the text says, 'Alternate Sundays. 5:30-6:30 PM, on Zoom.' In smaller type, below, the text says, 'The TGP Sessions aim to keep our community active, engaged, making new connections, collaborating. They are just like the TGP editions you are familiar with, except spread out over the year, for an hour at a time, and online. Attendance is free, but registration is required.'

The TGP Sessions is an idea we came up with as a way of keeping the community engaged in these lockdown times. (The community is people who have attended TGP editions in the past or contributed to them, or who participated in the first TGP Residency in 2018.) It's also a way to grow the community, since it's pretty clear that we won't be able to have a gathering in Goa any time in the near future.

We meet every alternate Sunday, between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., IST, on Zoom. Attendance is free, but you need to register.

The Sessions go like this.

There are up to three segments, or sessions within a Sessions.

Up to two of these are 10-minute presentations of interesting ideas, things people are creating that are aimed at making for a better world, debates, and so on. These are each followed by 10 minutes of Q&A and discussion. Some Sessions we've had so far: an overview of the evolution of money, from gold to cryptocurrencies; valuing labour in a time of unprecedented economic shifts; building platforms for collaborations and communities; communities that have arisen as a response to the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown; arts and culture in times of pandemics; mental health in quarantine; a case for cutting up the Supreme Court; technology creative people are using; how live storytelling can transition to digital; alternative sexual lifestyles in India; how improv trains your mind; how to do good podcast and live online interviews.

And we conclude with what we call the creative showcase (again, not more than two of these on a given weekend), which is for artists and performers to show us things they're making: art, plays, music, poetry, anything that can be done through a Zoom window. We've had a duo that makes music that fuses Carnatic music with other forms, and a Odissi dancer making the case for dance for both physical and mental health. Coming up, photo essays, interactive theatre, poetry, more music.

Want to check out the sessions? You'll need to register on Zoom and you'll get the meeting ID and a unique password. Once you've got the feel of it, you may want to pitch a session. You can use this form to pitch a session and this one for the creative showcase. And we have a mailing list you could subscribe to, which notifies members of TGP events (currently one mail a week, usually on Friday, with the coming Sunday's line-up).

We encourage people to attend sessions before pitching. And to continue to attend once they've done a session. The idea is to build a community after all, one with no stars who only come in to present, where everyone contributes and collaborates. (Important note: none of this is paid for in cash. TGP is all volunteers who do stuff because they think it's worth doing. The result has been a rather interesting collection of people over the years, folks well worth your time to get to know, and the kind of collaborations and relationships that result when interesting minds bump into each other.)

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Favourite schemes

Airdrops of roses and whiskers on Amit-kins
Light copper’s lathis for warm wooden kickings
All of the activists tied up with strings
These are a few of my favourite things

Yellow journalists and Arnab my poodle
Door bells at midnight and News TV bamboozle
Wild talk that flies out through WhatsAppian pings
These are a few of my favourite things

Girls in white mourning and communal clashes
Snowflakes with long noses get fifty lashes
Silver white cashflows from corporate kings
These are a few of my favourite things

When a pup dies
When I lose a state
When I'm feeling feels
I simply remember my PM CARES s̶c̶a̶m̶ scheme
And then I don't feel so bad

Friday, 3 April 2020

The doors of managing perception

You know that it would be untrue
You know that I would be a feku
If I was to say to you
I know exactly what to do

Come on baby, light my pyre
Come on baby, light my pyre
Try to get the light on hire

It's time to isolate it's true
The situations' really dire
You clapped and yet we're in the goo
Wait a minute, gotta sue The Wire

Come on baby, light my pyre
Come on baby, light my pyre
Try to get the light on hire, haanh?

We could take care of the poor
We could push testing rates higher
Help the farmers, okay, yes, sure
Wait a minute, gotta sue The Wire

Come on baby, light my pyre
Come on baby, light my pyre
Try to get the light on hire, haanh?

You know that it would be untrue
You know that I would be a feku
If I was to say to you
I know exactly what to do

Come on baby, light my pyre
Come on baby, light my pyre
Try to get the light on hire
Try to get the light on hire
Try to get the light on hire
Try to get the light on hire

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Covid-19 in India: donation drives you can support

You're not enjoying lockdown, but you know you are comparatively better off than many others. And you want to help people who do not have your privilege.

Here are a few suggestions.

• Of course, there's the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund

These are campaigns on fund-raising sites that aim to:
1. Help medical professionals with equipment (masks, etc.)
2. Assist daily wagers with basic sustainance, food grains, etc.
3. Support sanitation workers and others
4. Donate to provide soap, sanitizers, etc. to people
With most of these, the platforms are waiving their charges, so all money goes to the fundraisers.
One request: pay via net banking; a credit card means the platform pays credit card charges.

Give India's fundraiser to feed Covid-19-hit families and also this page.

Give India's fundraiser for hygiene kits

Ketto's dedicated Covid-19 page, where you can find multiple campaigns:

Milaap's dedicated Covid-19 page, where you can find multiple campaigns:

Buy masks for medical workers. PharmEasy will match your donations. (It's 200 rupees a mask.)

Some more

• Want to volunteer in your neighbourhood, please see this Facebook group set up to 'help people help people', Caremongers India

Campaign for daily-wage workers in Delhi on OurDemocracy

Uday Foundation's campaign on Ketto

Campaign to buy Ventilators & Medical Supplies For COVID-19 Ward At St. John's NAHS, Bangalore on Ketto

Support for Wastepickers in a time of COVID 19

• Habitat for Humanity India: Hygiene Kits to the underprivileged to fight against COVID-19

A few more I've found

• Sumanasa Foundation is seeking contributions to buy provisions for community kitchens run by the Greater Chennai Corporation. Indian rupee contributions to Axis Bank account 91101001257036, IFSC UTIB0000006. Source, this tweet by the musician TM Krishna, one of the trustees.

• RotiGhar is distributing freshly-cooked meals to security guards, labourers, rag-pickers and others in and around Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Bhiwandi. Contributions via Paytm / Gpay to +91-97691-81218 or UPI chinukwatra@okaxis. WhatsApp these numbers for details: +91-96993-96544, +91-96190-89050, +91-99877-30605, +91-75063-84025, +91-95946-09229, +91-72087-73650. Follow (on Twitter): RotiGharIndia and founder chinukofficial

Goonj's campaign (foreign passport holders can also contribute)

• Zomato's Feeding India campaign (tax deductions available: (more info)

SAFA Society's campaign collecting funds for relief packages in Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru (tax exemptions available)

Covid-19 Relief Fund for Daily Wage Workers of Chandigarh/Tricity on OurDemocracy

Sangama, which works with working class, non-English speaking gender/sexual minorities, sex workers and people living with HIV, is raising funds for family units of sex workers, and transpeople

• Apnalaya is reaching out to vulnerable households in M Ward. Follow their Twitter (@ApnalayaTweets) or support at

Coro India, which works on equality and justice in gender-related issues, is raising funds for food packages, masks, sanitisers and soap for daily-wage workers.

• Fit Brigade: Independent volunteers from Mumbai to help senior citizens who are living alone with delivery of essential items (groceries, medicines, fruits and vegetables) and cooked meals. Contacts: South Mumbai: 9821887707/ 9820391911; Central Railway suburbs: 9004670600/ 9833170665/9773706712; Western Railway suburbs: 9819236951/9821159710/9022420360

• AngelXpress Foundation, which enables volunteerism, primarily with teaching is now working on bringing relief to their student's families. Contact them or support via instamojo

Sparsha Charitable Trust which works in the Wadala area, is seeking support for getting supplies to vulnerable families there. Email info.sparshatrust at gmail dot com

YUVA (Youth for Unity And Voluntary Action) is raising funds for the urban poor.

• If you own a 3-D printer and would like to help doctors expand their ventilator capacity via 3D printing valves and splitters, see this page

• Gurgaon Nagrik Ekta Manch is collecting for Gurgaon's stranded daily wage labourers

• Ahmedabad based youth organisations (Elixir, Ahmedabad Global Shapers, Hearty Mart, Communicate Karo, Amdavad Rockets and HeyHi Foundation) have an #AhmedabadFightsCorona campaign

Project Mumbai has a free counselling facility for people in Mumbai, 8 am to 8 pm, across multiple languages, including Marathi Hindi English Gujarati Malayalam Punjabi and Kannada. More here on Twitter

Project Mumbai is also helping the Maharashtra govt provide N-95 masks to healthcare workers. is raising funds for sanitation workers in Pune, and Pimpri-Chinchwad

• Mercy Mission in Bangalore is a federation of NGOs coming together to #FightCoronaTogether. See their (work in progress) page on Facebook.

I'll be updating this post as often as I get new information, and also this Twitter thread and this Facebook post.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

We, the People of India

I think the preamble to the constitution is one of the most beautiful texts India has produced, putting in words what our best selves can be.

I asked a large number of friends if they would like to join in on a virtual group reading. Sveral jumped in. Here it is.

Video, Audio and Text


Arundhati Ghosh, arts professional, Bangalore
Dilip D'Souza, writer and journalist, Bombay
Jasmeen Patheja, Bangalore
Karen Donoghue, academic, Shillong
Kirtana Kumar, actor and director, Bangalore
Lalnunsanga Ralte, academic, Shillong
Mitali Saran, independent writer, Delhi
Peter Griffin, writer and journalist, New Bombay
Pervin Varma, development professional and musician, Bangalore
Rahul Ram, musician, Delhi
Rimi N, researcher, Bombay
Sampurna Chattarji, writer, Thane

The quality is rough and I will probably do another version. But I wanted to get this out in time for our seventieth Republic Day.

If you want to do this with your friends (I'd really like to see more versions, especially in other Indian languages) here's a how-to.

1. Record a 'pacing' track yourself.
Be clear, make word endings clean, don't do too much voice acting (because others may not be able to replicate your impressive interpretation; but don't be too robot-voice either). It may take several tries. You should wind up with a recording that's around 50 seconds long in English.

2. Send the audio to your friends. Ask them to listen to it a few times, then record their version.
Best way: listen on earphones on one device, and record on another. Getting the synch really, really close is critical. It can take hours to clean up otherwise.
You may also want to try a karaoke-ish style. That is, text on screen at the right pace. If you, like me, are an amateur at video editing, it can take a while. (I used GIMP to make the text, subtracting one word at a time and naming the files in reverse order, so the full text is 85.png, minus one word is 84.png and so on, until 00.png, which is a blank screen.) Then used GIMP to make an animated Gif. Then an online converter to turn the Gif into a video. There is probably an easier way to do this, but I don't have the skills. Ask a film-maker friend.
I have one version which is just my voice and the text, which I will post in the comments.

3. Mix the audio.
If your friends have been faithful to your pacing track, this is easy. But even the best intentions will produce lost of stuff you have to mess with. FOR EACH TRACK. THIS TAKES TIME!
I used Audacity for the audio editing.

4. You can release the track as an audio file, but you may want to also of a video version. This opens up lots more possibilities if you're proficient with a camera and a video editor.

I repeat, please, please do this in other Indian languages!