Monday, 16 May 2011

Arathi Menon's BLOG 

words, whiskey and other randomness 

v.k. arathi menon. mumbai. wordsmith. traveller. single malt lover. book devourer. humour seeker. sometimes humble pie eater. connect at


The weather in my heart
Is a sombre blue today
Where half-hearted clouds
Have drizzled butterfly wings
Drenching the ladybug’s
Tea party.
There’s a lazy, cosy feel
To this greyness, where a fog
Hangs, almost, thin and still
Awaiting steaming cups of tea
Spiked by battered ginger.


Deliciously spoiled and delicately imbalanced
You said, “We’ll always be together”
I raised a skeptical eyebrow
And slipped on my clothes.
You refused to get out of bed
With freshly fucked joy
You drawled, “See you in the evening”
I slipped on my shoes silently.
Before I could turn the door knob
I heard your gentle snores
I took one last look and knew
I’d never be back.
For amidst kisses, ear nibbles and ankle worship
I realized
You didn’t love me.
You just hated being single.


I am a toenail
Short and dead
At the tips of toes
I lie mostly forgotten
Unless it’s time
For my beheading.
Snip. Snap.
Sometimes an eye
Spots my ugliness
Then using file and nail
It fashions my squareness
Into little, round moons.
The eye even hates my colour
It picks up gaudy reds and greens and pinks
And with a single sweep of a brush
My cosmetic surgery is complete.
I have no girl friends, friends or lovers
I travel solo
Mostly in garbage bags
Sometimes, if lucky
A witch finds me
And then I make friends
With bat’s wings and lizard ends.
I am a toenail
My soul is a dead cell
But hundred of years from now
The living will perish
And I will remain immortal
Immortally dead.

Plan B

Garden. Kids. Work that’s meaningful. Beatle. Happiness. Social work. Ocean with real sand (Unlike Bombay shores). Fish fry every single (Can I say fucking?) day. Friends you don’t need ‘to make’. Dog. Cat. Dogs. Cats. Wooden bookshelves filled with well-thumbed books. Soulmate / Sexmate – the two-in-one not imported from Dubai. Food that makes you think of food. Parents at walking distance. Best friends a club away. A house in which you’d be happy to die in. Travel – random, undiscovered, continuous. People who get your jokes. Intersections with brilliance. Akshayapatra , the never ending source of …. single malt. Euthanasia – so the minute you have a terminal disease, everything is a celebration and when you can’t take it anymore, sweet morphine, thank you.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Anindita Sengupta

Anindita Sengupta is a poet and freelance writer in Bangalore, India. Her first collection "City of Water" was published by Sahitya Akademi in February 2010. Get in touch at anu.sengupta[at]

Anindita Sengupta's full-length collection of poems "City of Water" was published by Sahitya Akademi in February 2010. Her work has previously been published in several journals including Eclectica, NthPosition, Quay, Yellow Medicine Review, Origami Condom, Pratilipi, Cha: An Asian Journal, Kritya, and Muse India. It has also appeared in the anthologies Mosaic (Unisun, 2008), Not A Muse (Haven Books, 2009), and Poetry with Prakriti (Prakriti Foundation, 2010). In 2008, she received the Toto Funds the Arts Award for Creative Writing and in 2010, she received a writer's fellowship from the Charles Wallace India Trust for the University of Kent, England. She has contributed articles to The Guardian (UK), The Hindu, Outlook Traveler and Bangalore Mirror. She is also founder-editor of Ultra Violet, a site for contemporary feminism in India.

From the preface by Keki N. Daruwalla:
"City of Water is remarkable for its supple language and tensile strength. Her images are sharp and there is integrity about the core of feeling that propels the poem. One cannot spot any weak moments either in terms of emotion or language... Anindita Sengupta never lets a poem run away with her. Like all good poets, she is original both in her way with words and her personal angle of vision."

Friending nobody

There is a scene in The Social Network in which the young Mark Zuckerberg, jilted and drunk, invents a program called "Facemash" that allows boys to rate Harvard girls, two at a time. The program, conceived in a moment of rage and hate, is as malicious and misogynistic as one can imagine. This was the beginnings of "Facebook" and it reminded me of a "Facebook Application" called "Compare People" that retains quite the same flavour. It allows you to compare two friends at a time on the basis of various factors, including sexiness. When I first joined "Facebook", a lot of people including me were playing this. It seemed harmless. Except for the slight niggle that it made you look at people — and yourself — as if you were products on a supermarket shelf.

The "New Yorker" review of The Social Network says that the movie “suggests we now treat one another as packets of information”. Or attributes. A human being summed up easily. I was struck rather hard by this at the recent Hyderabad Literary Festival where people introduced themselves to each other, quickly adding, "we are facebook friends". I had one person claiming familiarity with me based on "I know her. I know her. From Facebook." In Sridala Swami’s "post on privacy", she points how Facebook’s “position on privacy is, if you have nothing to hide, you should have nothing to fear from having your data in the public domain”.
But the need for privacy is not necessarily the same as the need for secrecy. Privacy is also about safety. People share selectively based on comfort levels, perceived trustworthiness. It’s not always about having something to hide. It’s about not wanting the neighbourhood stalker to know your door number. It may be possible to unearth it but you hardly want to make it easy. As the movie shows, "Facebook" started off as an exclusive club. People had to know you. Or at least be part of the same educational institution, a supposed guarantee. What it has morphed into is something far less controlled. You get a friend request. In today’s network-happy world, you usually accept if the person is remotely in the same career, industry or interest area. I know that people interested in writing tend to accept friend requests from others who seem to be part of the field in any way.

Bam. Suddenly your friend list is nearly a thousand people and you’re using the page to let people know about book releases, events and so on. Except that you also have family pictures, and you also use it to keep in touch with friends who live elsewhere. Boundaries blur. It may not be like strangers knowing your intimate secrets but it is like strangers leafing through your family albums, checking out who your close friends are, sizing up your relationships with mom, boss, boyfriend. Of course, it’s stupid to think you know someone because you know them on "Facebook". It’s a curious half-light. When you meet the same person socially, they’re unlikely to respond to your polite ‘how are you’ with a line from Rumi or Neruda hinting love trouble. Facebook ‘fraandship’ does not make a friendship. But try telling that to people who tend toward familiarity.
One can always set limits, prune the friend list, control what one publishes or use the privacy settings. Except a self-publishing, narcissistic tool is also addictive. Some people check "Facebook" as often as they check Email. At various times, in various moods, in various states of sobriety. Enough personal revelation seeps through. It seems like a lot of work to set up customized lists for each feature. A friend told me she recently removed all her photographs — it seemed safer and simpler.

What finally got me was the noise.

I’ve de-activated my account. For the moment. It’s curiously difficult, like an itch. Every now and then, I want to sign back in and they make it so easy. All I need to do is sign in once for my account to be reactivated. In other words, the Facebook page is perennially waiting. It glows blue. It’s there when nobody else is.
ps: I’ve quit FB but I am on Twitter, and now on Tumblr. So, I may have exchanged one kind of noise for another. I’m also available on Email.  :-)

(to grandfather)

A fuchsia scatter in the courtyard:
the bougainvillea dishevels.

Sheila and I squat on the back porch 
where the clothesline frays in the wind.
Elephant grass gnaws at cement
and a spider silks the windows shut.

‘Weeds have outgrown
mangoes this year,’ she says,
rubbing her sheared head
with one hand. I light a cigarette.

We drag quick and sharp,
as if you’ll still tap down
the garden path, find us there,
grown-up children,
shame us with a frown.

The house falls in flecks—
our clutch of childhood
now wasteland, warm dust,

I came to find the essence of it,
to taste on my tongue its whiteness
like sugar crystals.
I came for the blur and hurry,
the blurry hurl, the hurly-burly
of devastation.
I rattled up in a red jeep, battling  
eyes open against wind.
Past my window flew bits of paper,
tin cans, a shirt from a forgotten clothesline. 
I hunkered down, gripped the wheel,
and pressed my big toe
on the accelerator. (Speed was essential.
It would distract me from fear.) 
I came for the infinite moment.
I came to chill the tornado’s coil 
around me like a giant python.
I came to risk blood.
I came to inhale the un-breathable breath
and fill up like a balloon.
I came to burst or rise,
to dazzle through air like Dorothy,
to dissolve like stardust.
I came to find that one moment
when nothing mattered. Not sex
or sin or ache. Not even love.
There are things a storm can do to you, darling,
that you wouldn’t imagine.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Julie O'Yang



Julie O’Yang is a novelist and visual artist based in The Netherlands.

Born and brought up in China, she came to Europe in 1990s to study at the University of London. Then she read Japanese Language and Culture at the University of Leiden, Holland, and Nagasaki, Japan. Presently she works as a freelance writer/ journalist for English as well as Dutch media. 

Her first novel BUTTERFLY is set against the backdrop of the Sino-Japanese War (1931-1945). Embarking on an epic-like journey, it centres upon the fatal love between a married Chinese woman and a young Japanese soldier and takes a stab at sensitive historical and social issues.

Contact Author at:

Five titles I’ve been re-reading the past week



Nabokov, Lolita. What else?
Borges, anything. Best thing about him is that you can turn open a page and start to read.
 Zhuang Zi (4th century BC). “We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.”
Haiku as my lullaby, or
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk: “Yes, terrible things happen, but sometimes those terrible things- they save you.”

A rose is a rose by another name

(The China Diary)

[...] Of all my guests, H. was the one I was dying to meet.
Born in the poverty-stricken countryside, H. became a hairdresser in her twenties, dreaming to work one day in the city, which she did. She opened her own hair salon only to discover what kind of a dream the city had to offer. These hair shops serve as brothels, but when H. refused to confine herself to carnal service, wanting to make a living by cutting others’ hair, she was doomed. To top it all she got pregnant by a man she fell in love with but who turned out to be a swindler. Nine months later she gave birth to a daughter, her reputation hung by a thread. She was an unwed mom who deserves nothing but shame and humiliation. Then, one day in her absence, the conman came to her house to steal away her child.
‘Where is your daughter now?’ I enquired. If I could I would have turned off the camera so we can have a real one-to-one, heart to heart.        
‘I don’t know – Gone – ’ H. answered distractedly.
‘Gone where?!’
‘His family doesn’t want me to be near her, they took care of that.’
‘But you can’t just sit and wait, can you.’
‘No. In fact, that’s how I became a documentary maker.’
H. is one of the most celebrated independent filmmakers at the moment. Her visual diary she made about her daily life and those around her, in an upfront, even confronting style had won her appraisal from audience as well as professionals.
‘I was drifting from place to place, looking for my daughter. A friend gave me a camera. “Film everything you see,” was his instruction. For two years I lived like a vagrant, my camera was the only person I talked to – through my eyes.’
And she was born with eyes of a master!  
Brave, gutsy, true to life and not shunning its dark side, the documentaries were scrupulous portraits of China never before seen. Every family has a skeleton in the cupboard waiting to spill out, but hang dirty linen in public is not particularly a Chinese penchant. Perhaps this is why the films found a way to the heart of millions. Where the official journalism fails she is willing to touch the wounds – and there are so many wounds that I wondered how we Chinese endured. How is it possible that people have lived through that kind of pain?
‘The Chinese soul is like a volcano,’ my guest observed. The soul-talking again. ‘I like the Fuji, picturesque curves rising towards the snow-capped top. But I don’t trust prettiness you know. I want to explore the innermost darkness. Ever since a child I prefer night-time hours, with a firefly passing by, and I would make a secret wish  – ’
‘And your daughter? Any sign of her?’
‘Nope. But I will keep searching until I find the light little as a firefly – ’     
I felt like the worst kind of crap after the day I spent with H. I wanted to call it off, my little game and all that.  At this moment he phoned – as if he felt. We used to have such bond – We still do.
‘You are not going to break my heart again, are you?’ He sounded sad.
I had let him down, like I did everyone else. And yet it felt as if the game we played had its own logic, it was a way to remain true to myself.
I didn’t find the third flower as I should. After searching the 20 square metres thoroughly, I crawled on all fours to the bathroom to find it in the half-filled washbasin. The paper was soaked, from which I deciphered the blurred, inky veins: V. 
I stared for a second. I had a hunch.

[...] My last guest was a Dutch businessman living in Shanghai. M. is the founder of Tudou, meaning potato. Chinese Youtube, five times bigger.  
Either he’s from Alaska or Fiji or Tierra del Fuego, businessmen share one obsession: numbers. M. and I talked about the unfailing lure of growing in…zeros. The more zeros one adds the greater weight one counts. 
‘Foreigner and Chinese media, does that promise a happy marriage?’ I requested, solemnly.
‘No,’ was the succinct answer.
‘Then what’s your little secret?’ I didn’t say dirty, little secret since I knew the answer to be.
‘Our daily censor team is a proven success.’
‘What’s unacceptable?’
‘Politics and pornography.’
‘Why pornography?’ I asked with feigned naivety. ‘Pornography seems to me an unproven success in today’s China…’
Whatever his answer it didn’t matter anymore. My mind drifted. How long is the claw of a dragon. Yahoo and Google were among the first to contribute to the building of the “Great Chinese Firewall’. Not only did they help the authorities to clean “undesirable” information, the defenders of free word collaborated in tracing unwelcome voices. During my brief visit, I noted a selection of websites from inside as well as outside China had been blocked since ages. Glory to technology, hooray to millions of slippery gold-diggers, soon we will be welcoming the Chinese century!
Upset and feeling fooled, I took a cab straight to the hotel. I thought I would board the first flight and leave, forever. Gazing out of the shabby Honda threading through downtown traffic, I realized, with a start, that all this time I had been fooling myself too. I told myself it was a game, but the truth is: I wanted to see him. Is my heart still longing for something we have lost? Do I still believe in the message he has been trying so hard to make it heard?
I took a dash to my room and picked up the flower from the made bed, whose shy perfume brightened my comatose interior. Among the scented petals I uncovered the fourth letter: E.
I put them in a row. L.O.V.E. – which I knew was a place. I knew from the very beginning that this is a metaphor.
His face silhouetted against the sunset over the purple Forbidden City, rapturously beautiful. Once upon a time we had walked here, hand in hand, we believed we will be young at heart forever.
We had met during the summer camp of our high school. Both of us were selected for the diplomatic class of a special university – We were to become spies. After the summer I turned the offer down, whereas he opted for the charted career. Which explains how quickly he found me after we hadn’t long since heard from each other. I couldn’t quite put it behind me nevertheless, neither him.
He was one hotshot, a certain je ne sais quoi. We fell in love. In the evening we would sneak out, and he would take me through a secret passage that leads to the labyrinthine heart of the Forbidden City; the passage was used in ancient times by the emperor to visit his favourite concubine.
‘Hey, you found it,’ he greeted me, his eyes mute in the dusk.
He took my hand.
‘Let’s walk, like the old days.’
We disappeared in the shades of the purple wall, ever extending.
‘This is what China is famous for and what the Chinese are best at. Building walls. Wall separating people. Wall between you and me…’ He squeezed my hand quickly as he spoke. Heaving a sigh as though to lift the burden of thinking, he halted his pace abruptly, putting out one hand to chafe over weathered paint, baring four letters, one word:
We had carved those on a rainy day, the day summer began, two decades ago. It was my birthday. ‘It is not down in any map; true places never are,’ he had cited,  while his hand holding mine finished the last stroke we cut in ancient clay. I had told him it looked like a lost cuneiform chart. Inanna, he had said, the Sumerian goddess of love, she was also the goddess of war. The scar we had left there on the wall survived major renovations, the scar on me, us. Love.
‘The murder?’ I asked.
‘It’s over. ’
‘Where is the corpse?’
‘You are the corpse, J.!’ He paused briefly. ‘After we parted, I couldn’t get over you. I got married and became a father, you were there always.’ Past tense. ‘Today, for the first time, I tell myself that the girl I loved is dead. Thank you! La bĂȘte, mon amour…murderer  of love…’
‘We were children…’ Is he going to accuse me of parricide, the slaughterer of our fathers and mothers and the hallowed past?
‘You think you could just rattle your tongue and start to criticize everything, because of what? Your foreign passport? It’s so easy for you – ’
‘I say what I say because I really think what I think. But you are right. Perhaps I wouldn’t have had the courage if I were not an outsider – ’
‘Outsider does not exist. You think you could be free? An individual? When people look at you they see a Chinese woman. They won’t let you because that’s the way it is… Pursued by a past, we all are. Haunted!’
His eyes locked on mine. ‘Today is the day to say goodbye. Today I can forget and make a fresh start. China must forget so people could all make a fresh start! We were children. Now it’s time to grow up.’
He lowered to kiss me for the last time. In his eyes I caught something shiny and wet.

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Compulsive Confessor

Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan's Blog


Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan is (was) famous for her "Controversial" Blog", "The Compulsive Confessor", and has unveiled her much-awaited debut novel "You Are Here", published by "Penguin Books".

Meenakshi's Blog was an instant hit among the youth in and out of the country for its refreshing language and way of thinking.

Meenakshi is the daughter of the prominent Malayalam writer N.S. Madhavan and "Outlook" Magazine Book Editor Sheela Reddy.

Meenakshi has launched another blog called "Deepest Darkest Confessions" in which you can post your confessions and she will choose your "Deepest Darkest Confessions". For this you should email your posts to The five best entries will then win a signed copy of "You Are Here". Deepest Darkest Confessions (

Email address of Meenakshi Reddy -

The Compulsive Confessor: Okay, here goes: twenty-something, single, female, writer, with large groups of friends and who goes out for drinks pretty regularly. That’s my life and that’s what I write about. Okay? Okay.
There was a "post" at the "Telegraph News Website" with some more information:
She writes everything about her including sex and dating on this blog and there are tons of visitors and friends. This blog was started in 2004 and updated even on this day. In breezy postings, the 25-year-old girl-about-town – India’s answer to Bridget Jones – told thousands of readers of her partying, smoking and binge drinking, along with candid musings about sexual techniques and escapades. Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan writes her Sex and the City-style blog under the pseudonym “EM”, aware that although her material would not seem outrageous to a British audience, in India sex remains a taboo and anti-obscenity laws are strict.


Interview with Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan

EM’ as an abbreviation has a lot of meanings to it, but EM in the Indian Blogosphere has a different meaning altogether. EM is one of the early adopters of blogging in India. Her blog continues to have all the Masala and Spice which she is known for. It is now time to explore EM aka Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan’s world which is still unknown to many. She is here at your Adda for an interview where she shares all about her life, spice and the wise.

Q: When and why did you start blogging?
A: I started blogging in the summer of 2004. I don’t think I had a particular reason, just that I was a bored trainee journalist with too much time on my hands, and my office computer had the fastest Internet I had ever experienced. (It’s probably not a surprise that I didn’t last long in journalism!) Anyway, so I had been reading a couple of these new fangled things called “blogs” online for a bit, and of course, I thought I could do one too, so I googled the word ‘blog’, found Blogger, set myself up and I was ready to go.

Q: What topics do you generally blog about?
A: It really varies. Mostly it’s just the stuff that’s in my head wanting to get out, and that I feel is too much for a Facebook status update or a tweet. Sometimes it’s when I go somewhere and feel the need to chronicle for other people who want to go there too–like a bar or a place. Sometimes it’s just like two in the morning and the need to write is greater because of a glass of wine and some nice music on, so really, it’s pretty much anything.

Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? What do you do then?
I start by thinking what I can write about for that week, and then listing in my head the stuff that should go down.
A: Not really. I start by thinking what I can write about for that week, and then listing in my head the stuff that should go down. I have a couple of half finished drafts that never got done, but those were probably never meant to be anyway.

Q: Do you promote your blog? What promotional techniques work best for you and why?
A: Not actively promote, no. When you’ve been around for a bit, you sort of know who your readers are and where they’re coming from. What I HAVE done recently is install the Wibiya toolbar, which lets people tweet and Facebook right from the home page. I also tweet each time I put up a new post and sometimes put it on my Facebook fan page too.

Q: How important is it for the blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?
I do love getting feedback–even from the meanies.
A: Wow, I really should respond to all comments! But I do have an email address up, and often I reply to those. Mostly, I’m pretty rubbish though, at all communications, even my friends have to remind me a couple of times to return their calls, but I do love getting feedback–even from the meanies.

Q: Your pseudonym ‘eM’ is ‘Me’ when read backwards. Your blog has 124 posts where ‘being me’ factor clearly reflects. Would you describe this as self obsession or a reflection of a strong woman? Why?
All writers are essentially self obsessed. Why else would we bother to tell our stories
A: All writers are essentially self obsessed. Why else would we bother to tell our stories, convinced that ours is the most important story that can be told? I’m definitely narcissistic, but I like to think I limit it to my writing, which you could choose not to read if you were bored with my going on and on and on about my life.

Q: Not many know that you have recently started a "Photo Blog". Has photography always interested you or is it a new found interest? What are your other interests?
I also really like reading and collecting weird things (hotel ashtrays, piggy banks, random animals, kitsch)
A: Photography is a brand new hobby. I picked it up year before last with a small point and shoot camera, and last October, I got a “proper” big camera which I have absolutely loved using. There’s something about not talking and just seeing, the whole visual medium thing that really appeals to me. I also really like reading and collecting weird things (hotel ashtrays, piggy banks, random animals, kitsch).

Q: Preferences change with growing age. Few years ago you were addicted to coffee, cigarettes, potatoes, cell phones, the Internet and lifestyle. Also which are the things you want to get addicted to but have not been able to? How would you differentiate between passion and addiction? What is your latest addiction? 

A: I’d like to get addicted to exercise. That’s a habit that I’m finding a bit hard to form! For me, the basic difference between passion and addiction is that one constantly makes you want to do better and the other, well, it’s just an enabler.

Q: We loved reading the desi version of We Didn’t Start The Fire. We would love to have another exclusive desi version of a song of your choice for our addaites.
A: I’ve been thinking about it, but couldn’t come up with anything! I think that was a one-off bit of inspiration for me. But I promise when or if it strikes again, you guys will be the first to know.

Q: You are very open about the number of relationships you have been in, sex life, guys & things alike. What have you learned/regretted/wished from all of these? Have your family members, peers or readers objected against it, especially after being publicly asked about it in NDTV’s We The People? How did you handle the family’s response?
What was okay at 23 doesn’t seem so okay at 29
A: Wellllll… as you get older, there are some things in your life you choose not to talk about anymore. No doubt, long time readers of my blog are a bit disappointed by the less sexy nature of my posts these days, but I think the beauty of having an ongoing project is that it evolves with you. What was okay at 23 doesn’t seem so okay at 29, just like I’d be trying too hard. I do still write about any relationships I might have, but since my blog is now more known than it was in the past, I have to be sure and respect other people’s privacy. My family has always been incredibly supportive though, no matter what I’ve been doing.

Q: Do you think a relationship has a positive/negative effect on one’s career? How fragile are relationships in recent times, according to you? What are your tips for a successful relationship?
I guess a successful relationship is all about trust, respect and kindness.
A: I can tell you that in my last very emotionally fraught year I got little to no writing done, and in a way, I’m a little relieved to be relationship-less at the moment, because I am deep into my third book and want to focus on that. I guess a successful relationship is all about trust, respect and kindness. You have to be kind to people you love.

Q: Belhi-ite is how you describe yourself,  which is a combination of Delhi & Bombay. If you had to choose any one city to spend your future years which one would you choose & why? Delhi, being where you have grown up & Mumbai being the city you can take a rickshaw alone at 4 am! Would you choose the roots or the freedom & independence?
I’ll be this tennis ball for the rest of my life, back and forth between two cities
A: Oh god, this is the dilemma that has been bugging me for ages! I’m not sure actually. At the moment, I’m LOVING being back in Delhi but then, I also miss Bombay with a passion, so maybe I’ll be this tennis ball for the rest of my life, back and forth between two cities.

Q: Your father, N.S. Madhavan is a famous Malyalam writer and IAS officer and your mother Shiela Reddy is a journalist. Do they review your writing very often? Whom would you say your biggest critics are?
A: I think my biggest critics are either me (because I can be quite exacting, and if something doesn’t meet my standards in my head I am merciless to myself) or people who have been reading the blog for ages and are all like, “Oh you can do so much better!” My parents, like I said before, are very supportive people, they do read most things I’ve written, and usually think I’m awesome. Isn’t that the nice thing about parents?

Q: You have written two books, You Are Here & Confessions of a Listmaniac. While, ‘You Are Here’ revolves around the life of a 25 year old Arshi, the latter talks about a 17 year old Layla. What kind of criticism did you face? What were your learnings from it? What’s up your sleeve for the next book?
A: A lot of people preferred Layla’s story to Arshi’s, as for me, both marked a sort of evolution for me as a writer. I aim to get better with each book. I think I’ll always love You Are Here the most because it was the first book I wrote and it changed my life in so many ways. Also, it’s on its third reprint, so I’m guessing other people are reading it too!  The next book is a bit hush-hush at the moment, when I’m further in, all will be revealed.

Q: What tips would you give to bloggers, aspiring writers & also to the single women staying in big cities?
Bloggers and writers: be true to yourselves at all times and at no point write something just to please other people.
A: Bloggers and writers: be true to yourselves at all times and at no point write something just to please other people. Single women: I think the same thing applies, oddly enough!

Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?
A: Definitely getting instant response from readers.

Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.
A: I feel that blogging, thanks to Twitter, Facebook and so on, is beginning to be a bit of a dying art. I’ve linked to most blogs I read on the sidebar of my blog and I delete people off that list if they don’t update often enough or if their content no longer appeals to me.

Q: Do you earn revenue through your blog? How does one go about it?
A: I earn absolutely nothing. I think once Google sent me a cheque for about $100 but then it got lost in the mail or something. I’m terrible with ad revenues, so you could say I do it for love, not money.

Q: Let’s conclude off with a few favorites.

Color: Purple

Movie: Oooh.. tough question! I’d have to say Love, Actually is a movie I keep returning to. (I know, I know, I’m quite sappy like that.)

TV Show: Glee. And Modern Family. And Community. And Episodes. And.. how many more choices do I have?

Book: "The Catcher In The Rye" changed my life and made me want to be a writer at the tender age of twelve and a half, so I’m putting that in.

Friday, 18 March 2011

"Art Limited"


Arrow About

Art Limited is for artists, critics and models who propose creative, personal and original high quality work which is recognized and appreciated.

It was designed to bring a personal vision of Art presentation over the Internet media. The idea was to propose something well designed, really fast and simple to display, with a lot of features to help artists to promote their work and share their passion and knowledge to other members. New technologies and amazing effects are interesting for games and shows, but a web gallery should help a work of art to be exhibited in the best possible way, and seen by as many people as possible. Many wonderful communities exists over the Internet and each one has its specificity, its public and fans. No one can pretend to be the best as human tastes are - still - personal.

Our vision and concept is to bring a emotive dialog between creators and visitors, helping them within advanced features to meet each other.

Arrow Community

Anyway, Art Limited being a community, any member can participate in advanced sharing, such as requesting comments, public or private, appreciations, working for a contest or manage his or her own projects other members can belong to. If someone is lost the community will help him, in private or via the forums, or directly during a picture specific discussion. All members are here to observe the works of art, but not necessarily for the same reasons. It is important to respect everyone's creations. Please take time to write a message, and re-read it, in order to be as clear in meaning as you would like others' messages to be about your own work .

Arrow Participating

Anyone who has something to share can join the Art Limited community. If you just want to share without exhibiting your work, the OBSERVER subscription is for you. If you only want to submit pictures to learn more and share opinions, then the BASIC account should fit your needs. In case of you being an advanced artist, you will choose the PREMIUM with the full community functionnalities. For professional, you will appreciate the PRO membership with powerful features, giving you all the possibilities to promote your work with success. Check out the registration page to learn more details about them.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Words Without Borders


"Words without Borders" translates, publishes, and promotes the finest contemporary International Literature. Our publications and programs open doors for readers of English around the world to the multiplicity of viewpoints, richness of experience, and literary perspective on world events offered by writers in other Languages. We seek to connect international writers to the general public, to students and educators, and to print and other media and to serve as a primary Online Location for a global Literary Conversation.
Every month, on our "Online Magazine", we publish eight to ten new works by International Writers. We have published works by Nobel Prize winner J.M.G. Le Clezio, Herta Muller, Mahmoud Darwish, Etgar Keret, Per Petterson, Fadhil Al-Azzawi, W.G. Sebald, and Ma Jian, as well as many new and rising International Writers. To date, we have published well over a thousand pieces from 114 Countries and Eighty Languages.

In addition to producing the magazine, we partner with publishing houses to release print anthologies. To date, we have released Words without Borders: The World through the Eyes of Writers (Anchor Books), Literature from the “Axis of Evil”: Writing from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Other Enemy Nations (The New Press), The Wall in My Head: Words and Images from the Fall of the Iron Curtain (Open Letter). 2010 will see the release of The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry and Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes of the Middle East, edited by Reza Aslan and published by W.W. Norton.
Finally, "Words without Borders" is building an education program in order to expose students at both the high school and college levels to a broader spectrum of contemporary international literature. Our goal is to provide content and resources fostering the use of Contemporary Literature in the classroom. We hope that in reaching out to students we can create a passion for International Literature, a curiosity about other cultures, and help cultivate "true world citizens".

"Desert Lights"
Murathan Mungan

The wind chisels out of sand
its own statues, its hours
hot crystals
splintered definition of light
set in ambush
a mirage aflame
coming toward a roundabout
the confidence of murders
summer fades, the sand, the heat
What matters in opportune moments
Is a steady aim, not to miss time
Poems written for the survivors
Distances that must be taken into account
Where the desert ends a plateau
where it does not end
your life's rhythm
going toward chaos
The confidence of your persona
the unraveling ambush,
the wind's exhaustion in the sand,
the cooling mirage
the meaning (that eludes you)
of the days you lived
a life redeemed
with false receipts
final expenditure
Before winter arrives you must
hire a handsome assassin

Murathan Mungan (b. 1955) holds a degree in drama from Ankara University. He has worked for the State Theatre as a dramaturge. His poetry collections include Osmanliya Dair Hikayat (Stories on the Ottomans, 1980), Kum Saati (The Hourglass, 1984), Eski 45'likler (Old 45's, 1989), Yaz SinemalariMirildandiklarim (My Mutterings, 1990), Oyunlar Intiharlar Sarkilar (Games Suicides Songs, 1997), and Baskalarinin Gecesi (The Night of Others, 1997). Among his short story collections are Son Istanbul (The Last Istanbul, 1985), Cenk Hikayeleri Combat Stories, 1986), Kirk OdaLal Masallar (Mute Fairy Tales, 1989), and Uc Aynali Kirk Oda (Forty Rooms with Three Mirrors, 1999). His published plays include Mahmut ile Yezida (Mahmut and Yezida, 1980), TaziyeMezopotamya Uclemesi (The Mesopotamian Trilogy, 1992). (Summer Cinemas, 1989), (Forty Rooms, 1987), (Condolences, 1982), and Mezopotamya Uclemesi (The Mesopotamian Trilogy, 1992).


From “23”
Shams Langeroody

The airplane
has landed.
White smoke-loaded smile:
what a cargo
of sorrow.

A silent rain
surrounds the airport.
A tattered wet wind
chases black pigeons.
White smoke-loaded smile:
what a cargo
of sorrow.

Bodies came back on ice.
Corroded hopes
falling off piece by piece.

Handless shadows,
directionless clocks.
who against the storm
bow their heads to inner ground
turn to ashes.
who know not
to what punishment they were born.

The airplane
has landed.
Wounded soldiers
shelter in each others arms,
frostbitten birds in the sleet.

White smoke-loaded smile:
what a cargo
of sorrow.

a bird has split in two.
The sky is torn in shreds, and song and light
             gush from its heart.
Rain and wind, a phrase of taps, a branch of bitter orange
             gush from its heart.

let’s gather the fragments of birds
             and make a little song,
             and hide in its delicate shelter.
 There’s nothing
             to hang on to              
                          in this fiery whirling wind.

A thimble
has made room for two pale lakes
to drown me.
A drought year
is hiding in the plumbing
to swallow me.
The mud-colored wardrobe
is a crucifix on the hilltop
of my scattered clothes.

There’s nothing
              to hang on to              
                           in this fiery whirling wind.

The airplane
has landed.
A headless commander
shouts orders
at burnt corpses.

Dogs bark
among metallic stars
and red and yellow
a skull
on command
stands at attention.

Shams Langeroody is one of the most prominent literary figures of contemporary Iran. He was born in 1951, in Langrood, a coastal town edging on the Caspian Sea. Langeroody moved to Rasht, a large Northern city in Iran, and entered the school of finance, receiving a BA in economics in 1974. In 1977, Langeroody published his first collection of poetry, entitled The Manner of Thirst.

In 1981, he was arrested as a political activist and served a six-month sentence. One of Shams Langeroody's major contributions to Persian Literature besides his poetry and prose is his four-volume Analytic History of the Modern Poetry of Iran published in Persian. Langeroodi's poems have been translated into many languages and his book of poetry entitled Fifty-Three Love Songs has been translated into Kurdish and Arabic.

You’re Where You’ve Always Been
Azra Abbas

earlier touching my lips
now floats in the Thames
Does the river know
the feel of such a touch?
Touches are never forgotten.
In the midst of chilly, gusting winds
standing before a poster of Marilyn Monroe
Unbidden I salute her beauty.
Beauty mustn’t die.
Beauty must abide for all time.
But no—
I see the young man coming along
Eyes slip away from the poster
to behold beauty in motion.
Time hadn’t propelled me so far forward
I would have kissed you.
I light a cigarette
and drop it in the Thames
so the river might extinguish it.
The last of the cigarette-gone-dead bobs
as though smiling at me saying:
You’re where you’ve always been.
Look! it stands behind you.

Azra Abbas was born in 1948 in Karachi. She earned her Master’s Degree in Urdu from Kara­chi University and went on to teach Urdu Literature at a Government College in Karachi. Eventually, she and her husband, the Ppoet and Novelist, Anwar Sen Rai (who works for the BBC), moved to England, where she currently resides. In 1981, her first work was published, comprising a long "feminist" prose-poem in the "stream-of-consciousness form". She has produced three collections of poems and one of short stories, along with an autobiographical narrative. She has also com­pleted a novel.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

/Library of Babel/ {in the process of “being built”}

/Library of Babel/ BLOG is ~ A Digital or Virtual "LIBRARY" comprising of more than 2,000 RARE & VITAL "eBooks", comprising of various and numerous "subjects" such as FICTION ~ "AUTEUR" Films ~ Poetry ~ Arts & Literature ~ Literary Criticism/ History & Studies ~ Film Criticism/ History & Studies ~ Theatre/ History & Studies ~ Philosophy ~ Psychology ~ Neuro-Science ~ Music/ History & Studies ~ Dance/ History & Studies ~ Architecture ~ Photography ~ Science ~ Culture etc.

Apart from these "subjects", a "VAST" Collection of "Computer Science" eBooks are also available.

Kindly "VISIT" /Library of Babel/ and "choose" from over 2,000 RARE & PRECIOUS "eBooks". Contact for the "Delivery Details", "Price Info" etc. "eBooks" from the /Library of Babel/ are very "Minimally Priced". You could "cross-check" the /Library of Babel/ "price" with that of Amazon, FlipKart etc. "eBooks" comprising of 500 pages are here; and "eBooks" comprising of 50,000 pages (5,000 pages in 10 Volumes) are also here. You won't ever "get hold of" these "eBooks" just by Google-ing. This "VIRTUAL TREASURE" was "compiled" over a period of more than 2 years. This LIBRARY was "compiled" using TORRENT APPLICATIONS, FILE CONVERTERS etc.

You could "buy" particular "eBooks" (in High-Res 'pdf format'); further, "Life-Time Membership" of the BLOG is also solicited. "Life-Time Members" could DOWNLOAD all the "eBooks" hitherto UPLOADED there in the BLOG; they could also DOWNLOAD all the "eBooks" that would be UPLOADED in the FUTURE too.


Translated by Maureen Freely / Alfred A. Knopf / 2009 / 328 pp

Nobel laureate Pamuk's latest novel is a soaring, detailed and laborious mausoleum of love. During Istanbul's tumultuous 1970s, Kemal Bey, 30-year-old son of an upper-class family, walks readers through a lengthy catalogue of trivial objects, which, though seeming mundane, hold memories of his life's most intimate, irretrievable moments. The main focus of Kemal's peculiar collection of earrings, ticket stubs and drinking glasses is beloved Fusun, his onetime paramour and longtime unrequited love. An 18-year-old virginal beauty, modest shop-girl and poor distant relation, Fusun enters Kemal's successful life just as he is engaged to Sibel, a very special, very charming, very lovely girl. Though levelheaded Sibel provides Kemal compassionate relief from their social strata's rising tensions, it is the fleeting moments with fiery, childlike Fusun that grant conflicted Kemal his deepest peace. The poignant truth behind Kemal's obsession is that his museum provides a closeness with Fusun he'll never regain. Though its incantatory middle suffers from too many indistinguishable quotidian encounters, this is a masterful work.


Vintage Books / Translated by: Jay Rubin / 1997 / 364 pp

Bad things come in threes for Toru Okada. He loses his job, his cat disappears, and then his wife fails to return from work. His search for his wife (and his cat) introduces him to a bizarre collection of characters, including two psychic sisters, a possibly unbalanced teenager, an old soldier who witnessed the massacres on the Chinese mainland at the beginning of the Second World War, and a very shady politician. Haruki Murakami is a master of subtly disturbing prose. Mundane events throb with menace, while the bizarre is accepted without comment. Meaning always seems to be just out of reach, for the reader as well as for the characters, yet one is drawn inexorably into a mystery that may have no solution. "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" is an extended meditation on themes that appear throughout Murakami's earlier work. The tropes of popular culture, movies, music, detective stories, combine to create a work that explores both the surface and the hidden depths of Japanese society at the end of the 20th century. If it were possible to isolate one theme in "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle", that theme would be "responsibility". The atrocities committed by the Japanese army in China keep rising to the surface like a repressed memory, and Toru Okada himself is compelled by events to take responsibility for his actions and struggle with his essentially passive nature. If Toru is supposed to be a Japanese Everyman, steeped as he is in Western popular culture, and ignorant of the secret history of his own nation, this novel paints a bleak picture. Like the winding-up of the titular bird, Murakami slowly twists the gossamer threads of his story into something of considerable weight.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Curvature

Book Review:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot

by Cara

There’s a photo on my wall of a woman I’ve never met, its left corner torn and patched together with tape. She looks straight into the camera and smiles, hands on hips, dress suit neatly pressed, lips painted deep red. It’s the late 1940s and she hasn’t yet reached the age of thirty. Her light brown skin is smooth, her eyes still young and playful, oblivious to the tumor growing inside her — a tumor that would leave her five children motherless and change the future of medicine. Beneath the photo, a caption says her name is “Henrietta Lacks, Helen Lane or Helen Larson.”
No one knows who took that picture, but it’s appeared hundreds of times in magazines and science textbooks, on blogs and laboratory walls. She’s usually identified as Helen Lane, but often she has no name at all. She’s simply called HeLa, the code name given to the world’s first immortal human cells — her cells, cut from her cervix just months before she died.
 Her real name is Henrietta Lacks.

– The opening words of  "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot:

Henrietta Lacks was a poor black woman, a tobacco farmer. She knew that something was wrong when she went to seek health care at the free “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was diagnosed with a highly aggressive cervical cancer, and during her treatment — without her consent or knowledge — they cut out a piece of her. The cancer cells they cut are still alive today, are growing as I write this, are growing as you read it, are being bought, being sold, and being used for so many different kinds of research, I doubt there’s anyone who could name them all.

Henrietta Lacks died an excruciatingly painful death in 1951. And her cells have helped to develop seemingly endless medical advancements since then, and continue to develop them now. But just like Henrietta Lacks was never told that they cut out a piece of her cervix, her family was never told that here cells were still alive. The Lacks family only learned through a long series of events over 20 years later. Though those cells have made billions of dollars for various companies — both directly through the selling of HeLa to researchers, and indirectly through the selling of medicines and treatments HeLa has been integral in developing — they have not made a cent for the Lacks family. Indeed, at the time the book was written, many of Henrietta’s children and grandchildren continued to struggle financially, and several did not have health insurance to access the care that only exists because their mother and grandmother died.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, written by Rebecca Skloot and released in 2010, is about all of this.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a piece of creative non-fiction, which  means that while it is entirely fact, the author heavily relies on narrative to get those facts to the reader. 

The narrative of the book alternates between the scientific history of the HeLa cells and the personal story of the Lacks family, particularly Henrietta’s youngest daughter Deborah, who was desperate to learn more about her mother and see her get the recognition that she deserves. The book is not a “feminist book” in the sense that it does not offer a feminist or otherwise gendered analysis of the events it describes — though some relatively small race and class analysis is included. But I imagine that few who have even a passing understanding of the ways that gender, race, and class intersect and operate in U.S. society could manage to read this book non-politically.

Indeed, what was done to Henrietta Lacks and her body is as impossible to divorce from her gender as it is to divorce from her race and her class. It’s impossible to separate the violation and violence of removing a part of a woman’s body — a part of her cervix, no less — while she is unconscious, and without even bothering to ask, from the continued sense of public ownership over women’s bodies and reproductive lives, black women’s especially. It’s impossible to divorce that violation from the ongoing history of sexual violence against women, and sexual violence against black women by white men in positions of authority specifically. It is as impossible to divorce her treatment from her gender in the same way that it is impossible to divorce it from the history of non-consensual scientific experimentation on African Americans or the history of slavery or the context of segregated hospital wards. It is as impossible to render her gender irrelevant just as it is impossible to render irrelevant the notion that doctors felt poor patients owed the “donation” of their bodies for scientific research as a form of payment for their care.

The point is not that they would not have stolen from Henrietta Lacks’ body if she had been a man, or if she had been white. The book presents evidence, in fact, that they likely would have. The point is that context matters, especially when at stake are not only individual senses of trust and safety, but lives. Violations don’t occur in a vacuum. This violation was committed against the backdrop of racism, classism, and misogyny, as did the ongoing violations committed against her family.

At no point is this made more clear than through the story of Elsie. Elsie was Henrietta’s second child and oldest daughter. Elsie had both cognitive and physical disabilities, and required a full-time caretaker. Henrietta was the only one available to act as her caretaker, but she had four other children, including two babies — so after years of resisting, she did what doctors told her was best and sent her to the Hospital for the Negro Insane. She visited Elsie every week until she got sick, and then no one visited her. Elsie died a few years after Henrietta.

Elsie’s story is not told within the context of the devastation that Henrietta felt at relinquishing her daughter, but rather what was done to Elsie after she was committed. It is eventually revealed that she not only lived in horrific conditions marked by abuse, and died a horrific death, but also that she was the subject of abhorrent, non-consensual human experimentation because of her disabilities and institutionalization. They drained the fluid surrounding her brain and pumped air into her skull. They inserted metal probes into her brain. She would have suffered extraordinarily. These things were done to her because she was black and disabled. Because no one ever thought that she or her family might have a right to say no. Because no one cared.

What was done to Elsie matters simply because it does. It matters because she matters. But it matters within the context of the Lacks story for the way it illuminates the climate of abuse and brutality that the violations against Henrietta Lacks were committed. These violations were far from isolated. And they were also far from extreme by the standards of the day. What was done to Henrietta and what was done to Elsie existed at two ends of a spectrum, but they were both a part of the same racist, dehumanizing system.

The cruel irony is that Henrietta’s cells, too, have been used to do highly unethical testing on unknowing patients, largely those with disabilities. Though paling in comparison to the literal torture committed against Elsie, HeLa cells were injected into unknowing, non-consenting individuals — mostly those with disabilities or serious illnesses — in order to see if they would develop the same cancer that Henrietta had. Henrietta was not just violated at the hands of this system; her violation was also used as a means to further its abuses.

Without being pedantic or even particularly explicit, Skloot beautifully weaves together these two “separate” historical stories. Overwhelmingly, the point of telling the stories of the Lacks family’s many misfortunes is not to show what evils HeLa cells brought on their lives. Though the Lackses did experience trauma as a result of their connection to the cells, it is not the direct cause of most of their problems. Rather, their story serves to reveal that a great deal of their problems did stem from Henrietta Lacks’ death — and to remind us that it was only because a woman got extremely sick and died that so many of us have had access to treatments and vaccinations that have kept us alive. It’s to remind us that while Henrietta did not donate her cells, they were stolen from her, she and her family did make an unchosen sacrifice. It’s to remind us that researchers didn’t just take a part of her — they took the part that killed her. And she, and her family, are real people. Real people whose lives matter, too.

But they have been treated repeatedly as if their lives mean nothing. As if Henrietta’s life was not worth anything. As though the horrors those cells have imposed on their lives do not matter in the face of the medical advancements. As if their mother and grandmother did not have a right to her own body, and they do not, as her descendants, have a right to it on her behalf. As though their bodies mean nothing, too — and they do not, with their frequent lack of health insurance, have the right to access the care that only exists because their mother or grandmother died.

It’s long past time that Henrietta Lack’s story was told, that her family’s story was told. For the fact that it accomplishes that vital justice, and for the eloquence and sincerity with which Skloot tells the story not only of Lacks by the history of ethics in biomedical research, I couldn’t recommend The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks more strongly. This is a story that needed to be told, and that needs to be read.

Sadly, it is also long past time where things could ever truly be made right. Years cannot be undone, dead family members cannot be brought back to life. But the remaining Lackses do still deserve that which has always been rightfully theirs, as well as our gratitude, though it seems that those who most owe it to them are not going to be the ones to provide it.

As promised to Deborah Lacks while she assisted in writing the book, Rebecca Skloot has set up the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, which provides funding for education and health care to the descendants of Henrietta Lacks. Again, while billions have ultimately been made from Henrietta Lacks’ stolen cells, her family has never seen a single cent from their use, and family members are often without health insurance, and without access to the funds needed to access higher education.