Shillong

Is it so wrong to want to be a freedom fighter? I met one 3 weeks ago. Well, maybe not a freedom fighter exactly, but he represented the Federation of 25 Khasi States. Where are the Khasi states, you ask? Welcome to Meghalaya and India’s northeast. Continue reading →

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Pamuk’s Anger

The winner of any prize in the arts, be it awarded by a committee of members voting in a democratic fashion or by a solo blogger, will have to manage in his/her own way the automatic skepticism (and sometimes outrage) of those who disagree with the decision. I’ve read one novel by Orhan Pamuk, and have avoided reading a second (though it sits on my shelf) because I recall too vividly how mentally taxing it was reading My Name is Red. I want to read more, I just need to steel myself. Continue reading →

Objets de rien

Most of our belongings arrived two days ago and are sitting scattered about the apartment (waiting for Q’ul to utilize them in his quest to single-handedly increase the entropy of flat 4B).  I’ve been here before.  Staring at boxes.  Preoccupied with whether I like that shirt, does it even fit anymore, and when did I purchase that?  It’s like re-living memories except that I just re-lived them about 3 months ago while packing.  The word culling (along with a vision of weak sheep being weeded out of the herd) comes to mind, and I apply the same logic to these mounds of material goods.  The Kolkata Kid becomes the Kolkata Kuller. Continue reading →

A Sense of Place

How long does a person have to live in a city to know it?  Thanks to blogs and summary emails, we’ve all become travel writers.  But while it’s obvious that travel writing in most cases isn’t a substitution for traditional fiction or non-fiction writing, it does a disservice to the locales we live in not to improve how we write about them.  I’ve noticed in my own thinking about Kolkata lately that mere description of a new neighborhood visited or a particular day’s itinerary reveals very little about the city or the citizens.

In a career where 2-3 years is the maximum normal tenure in any one place, and where the job places you in a flexible bubble of security that requires reacting to demands from on high, the difficulty of “knowing” increases.  The solution may be to interact rather than observe.  By interacting you run headlong into immediate barriers — language, class, culture — and it becomes easy to retreat into your comfort zones.  Watching little Kool – Q’ul discover the world around him is a lesson in how to do it — touch as many objects as possible, engage as many of the senses, and throw things to the floor to see how they break apart.