Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"Fragments are the only forms I trust"

December 25, 2013

Yesterday somebody asked me how would I describe my job as a folklorist. I replied quite spontaneously without much thinking that my job as folklorist is to bear honourable witness to human creativity. These are not my words but I must have heard them either from A.K.Ramanujan or Henrie Glassie. I do not remember who exactly I heard those words from hmm

December 25, 2013

If you were to be afflicted by some unnamable fever for more than two weeks- like I have been ever since my return from South Korea- and if you were to be confined to your bed with paper books I would highly recommend that you have a copy of Nateszhda Mandelstam's "Hope against hope" on the top your medicine chest. Nateszhda,- not an accomplished writer or a poet like Osip Mandelstam, her husband-was the only chronicler who remembered his poems. Osip composes his poems while walking, mulls over them over a period of time before committing them to writing. He has to summon his inner voice of protest and freedom to compose every one of his line. Under the strict surveillance of Stalin he wrote the poem 'Kremlin's mountaineer' which Pasternak called a suicide note. Writing about Osip's disappearance Natezhda says" “And after his death - or even before it, perhaps - he lived on in camp legend as a demented old man of seventy who had once written poetry in the outside world and was therefore nicknamed The Poet. And another old man - or was it the same one? - lived in the transit camp of Vtoraya Rechka, waiting to be shipped to Kolyma, and was thought by many people to be Osip Mandelstam - which, for all I know, he may have been. That is all I have been able to find out about the last days, illness and death of Mandelstam. Others know very much less about the death of their dear ones."

December 25, 2013


Lazy and sleepy Christmas day it was, I spent the day playing with my energetic sons. Yet another day I could not spend even a few minutes on my writing desk. Shuffling through the manuscripts that I need to type I found Aljandra Pizarnik, an Argentine poetess I am always in love with and her poem "Road From the Mirror". I kept this poem as a reference for an essay I was writing quite sometime back. It begins with a beautiful line "And above all else look with innocence. As though nothing is happening, which is true" and ends with a haunting passage "Unfolding the day, yellow birds in the morning. One hand undoes darkness, one hand drags by the hair a downed woman who will never stop passing through the mirror. Returning to the memory of the body, I have returned to my grieving bones, I have to understand what my voice has to say"

Do I dare to look with innocence? Do I dare, do I dare? That question will remain my little secret Christmas gift today. Merry Christmas!

December 28, 2013

I am afraid that the modernist tone of complaint and remorse on the death of god is returning to my writing rather compulsively. But then it is hard to recognize Mephistopheles these days to happily traffic your soul in exchange for power, knowledge, and women. The loss of Mephistopheles' innocent ugliness is gradual argues Umberto Eco in his provocative study on ugliness. In Marlowe's Dr Faustus what I think is Mephisto's charm Eco terms it as visible and recognizable ugliness. Eco thinks Goethe made our poor Mephisto go through transformations of being a black dog, hippopotamus and finally a wandering scholar and an acclaimed intellectual. Doestoevsky, of all people, is one of the Gang of Four ( I forget the other three Eco credits) who portrayed Mephisto with nasty petit bourgeois habits and in a way reduced the possibility of recognizing him in your street corner. In Haruki Murakami' s IQ89 I think I had a fleeting glimpse of Mephistopheles in a paid assassin who quotes Shakespeare when he puts a plastic bag around a victim's head. Adopting the modernist's tone and tenor is less risky or rather less cumbersome than selling your soul for profit.

December 29, 2013


It is not rare for the wives of famous writers to pummel and if I may add an Indian expression, to pulverise their husbands occasionally but to read in the new biography of Jack London (by Earle Labor “An American Life”) that in a regular boxing session with his second wife Charmian Kitteredge she pressed him so ferociously against the door that the redwood panel was cracked- was something to savour for a Sunday morning. The Londons should have been running into huge interior decoration bills regularly. Jack London was a favourite author for -genius Tamil short story writer- Puthumaipithan and through his Tamil translation of London’s short stories I had an image of Jack London as a great adventurer. That London worked as an oyster pirate and went to search for gold in the Klondike rush- filled my adolescent years with fantasies for my own career. Now London’s biographer does not tell us whether he enjoyed or squealed being crushed by Kitteredge I mark it as an incomplete biography.

December 30, 2013

Did not Nietzsche exclaim in his ‘Twilight of the idols’ that no philosopher had yet spoken with reverence or gratitude about nose, one of the magnificent instruments of observation we possess in our senses? Recently when I could smell the stale and whithering jasmine in an air-conditioned mall miles away I resisted going inside and saved myself from the delirium and in gratitude I wrote an aphorism on nasal congestion. It goes like this: Nasal congestion is an epistemic radical aid for becoming an accidental Buddhist .

December 31, 2013

The epiphanic moment created by the repeated utterances of the sentence “Fragments are the only forms I trust” in Donald Barthelme’s short story “See the Moon?” in a collection ironically titled “Unspeakable Practices” is adamantly persistent. Perhaps that explains why the more I hear about Facebook and Twitter being fragmentary inferior spaces for artistic expressions all the more I am tempted to honour them.


January 1, 2014
Mimicry, even when it approximates the standards of the original, does not merit our attention and appreciation as an enterprise of artistic importance. Mimicry, on the other hand, when it distorts, ridicules, and subverts the original, awakens our artistic pulses to the passage of Time and its present form. Passage of time, in a way, is understood, grasped and acted upon only through artistic acts of mimetic subversion. For those who claim to mimic and live by the Original, Time is frozen like an unattended candy in a refrigerator. Happy New Year!


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