Friday, December 25, 2009

It's A Tehelka Festivus Miracle!!

4 comments
Are you one of the many people who have been thinking "Hey! I wonder if Shalini Umachandran and Jai Undurti have been kidnapped and are being held for ransom or maybe they are already dead!"

Think no more!

We have just received Proof of Life pics of these illustrious people, posing with the latest Tehelka issue opened exactly at the Anarch page! Yay! Let's take a look at them, shall we?




This is Shalini Umachandran. She is smiling and happy. Whoever kidnapped her must be supernice people. She is so happy and smiling that she is not able to hold the magazine properly. Still, this is a Festivus Miracle so we do not judge her.



This is Jai Undurti. He is not smiling and happy. He is so not smiling and happy that he is able to hold the magazine very effectively. Maybe he is still upset about the time he was so-close-yet-so-far-away from the infamous Delhi Haagen Dazs.

Big big tanks for sending these in, we are all sotremendously happy that you are alive, though we're not really sure where you are. A Real Festivus Miracle!!

k

Thursday, December 24, 2009

These Are The Daves I Know I Know- Jai Undurti

9 comments
Today's Dave is Jai Undurti who is part of the Hyderabad Graphic Novel Project. Jai offered the following bio- Jai is from Vizag and has been known to make things up. I'd like to add that he has also had dengue fever and he likes taking pictures of graveyards. He also claims to have been unbelievably close to the hallowed halls of Delhi's infamous Haagen Dazs but never made it inside, possibly because he did not have an international passport with him at the time.



km- These Are The Daves I Know I Know are supposed to be people I don’t know very well but I know them a little. I’m not sure if you qualify because I don’t know you at all. But I’m interviewing you anyway. Do you think this will hurt and betray the four people who read my blog?


ju- First off, I'd like to mention that this is the first time that I've ever been interviewed and I thank you for this opportunity to talk about our project.

I can sympathize with your constant readers, I picture them calling out each to each, "Friends, let us direct our faithful browsers to Third World Ghetto Vampire, that bastion of good taste in this vale of uproarious inequity, that site redolent with Kuzhali-goodness which we know and adore from the days of yore." And what happens when they get there? They see all this. And they will be much discomfited.

(km- you speak truly. I feel the only way to assuage their discomfitication would be to give me money which I believe would go a long way in making them feel a lot better.)




km- You are part of the Hyderabad Graphic Novel Project. What is it and why are you doing it?


ju- The Hyderabad Graphic Novel Project is a part of Yugantar (a Hyderabad-based NGO)'s Archive Hyderabad project. It all started in 2005-6 when my co-writer Jasraman and I scoured the streets of the Old City taking photographs of street livelihoods. People running small businesses like selling toys, crows (if you've been hit with a black magic spell, you transfer it to the crow and release it), professional flagellators, that sort of a thing. Over several months and visits, we could observe the physical fabric of the city being torn, old havelis being pulled down to make way for piles of concrete, neighborhoods being broken up for new development. We began thinking of the effect all this would have on the mental/spiritual fabric - what happens for example, when you can no longer tell a joke, when a joke ceases to be, when the cross-cultural references needed to understand the joke no longer exist. One idea I was obsessed with was the necropolis, an invisible city, the city beneath the city, that sort of a thing. We joked about starting a magazine called the "Necropolitan", a rag for the ghoul-about-town.

In 2007, we began working with Yugantar, a Hyderbad-based NGO, in an archive project - to interview elderly people whose childhoods were spent in the Hyderabad of the 1930s and 40s. We would encourage them to talk without trying to impose any structure - eventually we interviewed about 20-25 people with a total of 60-70 hours of footage. This was to be a pilot and the major IT company which was paying for it wanted to extend it, perhaps interviewing over 100 people. Well this major IT company got into some...ahem...major difficulties and funding dried up.

So we had all this material and didn't know where to go. One approach would be to cut it into some kind of documentary, probably centred around the single most disruptive event in the city's history - the "police action" of 1948. For that we would have to shoot plenty of extra material, to relieve the tedium of just having talking heads. Then, more importantly, all of these people were talking about a city that was, and we would need to recreate it, either through sets or CGI. Then we thought perhaps the best medium, in fact the only medium which could convey this lost city was comics. We were fortunate in finding a talented and experienced artist from Calcutta - Harsho Mohan Chattoraj.



As we worked on the concept, we decided we could expand the scope, spanning over 400 years of the city's history. In a nutshell, Hyderabad was built by the Persians as a model of Paradise, when paradise meant gardens and a fountain, the charbagh, which itself was a model of Eden. Today the idea of paradise is a mall with multiplex. Essentially, the comic looks at these two ideas of paradise and everything in-between.

(km- ‘what happens for example, when you can no longer tell a joke, when a joke ceases to be, when the cross-cultural references needed to understand the joke no longer exist.’ That’s a really, really good point.)




km- Why do you think Hyderabad is good graphic novel material?

ju- Hyderabad is many cities in one, like heaped carpets over one another. Every now and there, the badly worn fabric of one carpet shows its predecessor beneath. From the markets of the anterun which have a very Central Asian flavour it is only a short drive to the glass and concrete towers of the new city. The people have a ready, fantastic wit - we hope to reproduce it as faithfully as possibly.



Our story will start with the original builders – the Persians. Incidentally, the word paradise originates from Old Persian – pairi meaning around and diz meaning wall, i.e. a walled-in compound denoting garden.

The Persians who built Naavi-i-Isfahan (New Isfahan), the original name of Hyderabad, were driven to recreate heaven on earth itself, or rather, the gardens of Eden, from which man had been thrust out from. The four flowing channels of Charbagh reflect the four rivers of Eden. The ambitions of the primeval builders can be seen in the fact that at the time of Hyderabad’s founding, Isfahan was one of the largest cities in the world, indeed a popular saying would have it, “Esfahān nesf-e jahān ast” (To see Isfahan is to see half the world).



A hint of the feast of wonders that the city contains:

• Hyderabad was a base of the so-called "Thuggees", who much exercised the colonial imagination and have continued to do so ever since.

(km- Hyde = OG thug. word.)

• The Hyderabad police had an official exorcist who was deployed in cases of possession.

• Hyderabad was a Freemason hub with the Nizam, himself a Brother, donating one of his palaces to serve as their lodge.

• Golkonda was India's largest diamond mine at a time when all known diamond mines were in India. The mines were later closed, allegedly due to demonic infestation.

(km- why didn’t they didn’t call in the official exorcist?)

• There used to be Poet's tables in cafes, you had to pay just to sit at the table and listen to them. The poets got free tea. Also, "special tea" sometimes meant tea which was served without the waiter dipping his fingers in them.

(km- you know, it’s not so bad when they dip their fingers in the tea because you can convince yourself that the heat of the tea will somehow kill waiterfinger germs. It’s when they put their fingers in the drinking water that all is really and truly lost.)




km- I understand you once made a documentary on kolams. Why did you do this and what unexpected things did you learn about kolams?


ju- This was way back when I was an infant. It was part of a misguided attempt to enroll in a film-making course abroad. As they needed a portfolio, (and no, my numerous photographs of graveyards did not suffice) I had to make a short film. I travelled around Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, shooting with borrowed cameras from friends en route, entirely innocent of formats - it was shot in Mini-DV, VHS, Betacam etc. It was eventually edited in a marriage video studio.

I was interested, because muggulu (as they are called in Telugu) were always a part of the life around you, yet most people didn't have much of an idea about them, except that they have been around forever, one of the "givens" that you accept when you come into the world.

Another thing which attracted me was their transience, something which took so much effort to draw the previous night, usually was smudged beyond recognition as people left for the day's work - in fact crossing the muggu is supposed to be good luck. Incidentally, the idea behind the kolam is that of the labyrinth, a labyrinth where evil is supposed to lose its way. So, by being on the threshold it performs an important task, policing the frontier so to speak.

(km- that's kind of awesome)

Generally, observing the whole ritual, washing the threshold, the smell of that powder, it tells everyone that all is well in the world. In fact, one of the stories I've heard is that - you don't draw it when there has been a death in the family - during the Kurukshetra war - people in a neighborhood would know when someone had died in the war when there was no kolam outside. Knowing the absolute level of casualties in that war, you would slowly, day after day, see the kolams wink out as news from the battlefront would trickle in.

And kolams have been around for a long, long time. You can see such designs in Iceland, in Micronesia, in Cornwall. The omphalos, the navel of the world, of the ancient Greeks, had similar designs on them.

One of the highlights of the experience was filming a giant kolam drawing competition in Mylapore around the Kapaleeshwara Temple. It was organized by Mr Vincent D'Souza's "Myalapore Times". Imagine hundreds of mamis (is that the word?) with different approaches - some going for size, others making the designs as intricate as possible, some were very abstract reminiscent of Islamic art, some had incorporated text, poems within the designs, and you had the usual Disney motifs too, Goofy and Mickey et al.

The contestants were allocated patches of ground on the street, and soon the organizers had their hands full. Obviously as the drawings proceeded apace there were instances of "encroachments" - as rival kolams began overrunning each other - furious border disputes broke out - some women decided for a kind of "line of control" approach while others altered their edges and got the kolams to "flow" together. Equally wonderful was how some contestants had to incorporate existing conditions - potholes, telephone poles, rubble, etc into the designs.

Incidentally there was only one man who was participating and by the time the contest got over he was quite the media star, as all the TV and press people wanted to get their "bites" and his kolam was always surrounded by kibitzers.

To answer your question on unexpected things, it would be the relation between kolams and fractals. Kolams exhibit many of the features of fractal curves, the self-similar nature of the designs is quite obvious. A lot of work has been done in Madras - especially looking at kolams as a form of picture language.

(km- I love fractals! One of the things I liked in 2009!)


I believe that the mathematicians have divided kolams into three categories: the Regular Matrix Kolam, the Finite Matrix Kolam and the Context-free Regular Array Kolam!

(km- and there is a Matrix movie trilogy. Coincidence? I think not.)



km- I’ve come across this argument that the graphic novel is really just a marketing gimmick. How do you respond to that and what do you think makes the graphic novel unique from comics, what sets them apart?

ju- I am perfectly okay with comics. Graphic novels - well its just a toff way of saying it, if it allows more people to be seen reading them, that's fine.




km- I think the song ‘If You Come Today’ speaks differently to different people. In the end, I think we all take our own meanings from it and that’s what makes it such a superduper special song. What does the song 'If You Come Today' mean to you?

ju- The song, to me, really is about quantum indeterminacy. The seeming paradox of the lyrics is the paradox which can be heard throughout the universe like the beat of a mighty heart.

In ideal mechanics, a particle (point mass) follows a classical trajectory, which means that at every instant of time its position and momentum can be simultaneously and precisely determined in principle and in practice.

A quantum particle however always has some indeterminacy, for you can never determine its position and momentum simultaneously - if you know the position then the momentum is completely indeterminate and vice versa. It is this indeterminacy, this impreciseness that Dr Rajkumar returns to again and again with those hypnotic lines.

Dr Rajkumar also is not above subtle in-jokes. Quarks, for example, the fundamental particles of matter, are found in "flavours", up, down, charm, strange, top and bottom. You will agree that Dr Rajkumar's activities in the video of the song encompass all these flavours.

The song is a diamond rocket into that whirling void which is within us, without us. The jazzy syncopation cannot hide the destruction of the Newtonian cosmos. The revolving chandeliers cannot distract us from the ambivalent universe.

(km- epic props for connecting this song with quantum indeterminacy. Your last line in particular is very poignant and moves me to write a poem, using the bad poetry generator.

The revolving chandeliers cannot distract us from the ambivalent universe
Blister fish death wish cancer sticks
Let us now ride in a hearse.
filtering through smoke from candlewicks

Ep. Ick. Re. Sult)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Story in Tehelka's Fiction Issue

4 comments



The Second Annual Tehelka Fiction Issue is up and in keeping with its theme of Injury, I am posting this frog* whose stomach seems to have come undone right at the buttons to reveal an assorted range of punctured eggs. Ouchie.

I am very pleased to have my story Anarch included in this issue. Extra very pleased that the word 'fuck' was not written as 'f**k' and that the unEnglish words were not italicized so they could stand proud and unatrophied like their soEnglish counterparts.

Big tanks to Nisha Susan and the rest of Team Tehelka.

k

*detail from The Fall of the Rebel Angels (1562) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c. 1525–1569), Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels. Photo: Lefevre

Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009- The Year That Was and Never Will Be Again

18 comments



Things I Liked In 2009- Some of these things I may have actually liked in 2008. Anyway.

Eleanor Wachtel’s Interview with Lynda Barry

I Never Liked You by Chester Brown- There is a lot I liked about this graphic novel. One thing was that it reminded me of a really good piece of flash fiction which looks deceptively sparse and simple but carries a lot of layers.

The Bad Rhyme Generator

on seeing the 100% perfect girl one beautiful april morning by Haruki Murakami

Laurie Lipton

Elephantiasis Pills- The thought behind them touched me most of all. It was like the government was really worried that I would get elephantiasis and they really wanted me to be ok so they sent people to come all the way to my house to give me these free pills to take so I wouldn’t get elephantiasis and I would be ok.

The Enormous Space by JG Ballard- Amazing short story.

Daisy Owl- Telephone Baby


The Barn Owl's Wondrous Capers by Sarnath Banerjee- Sometimes the text seemed to be telling a different story from the visual and you had to pay attention to both because both were relevant to the overall piece. One of the many reasons I thought this book was awesome.

This song from Bhuvana Oru Kelvikuri

Fractals

The Most Unwanted Song - Promote special interests – sugar! Beef! Bananas! Pork Bellies! Pork barrels! Lumber! Coca-cola! The information superhighway! Three thousand years of oppression! Who enslaved humans of color? Who invaded the Caribbean? Who murdered all the innocent children?! You did! You! You!

Jay Smooth
- There are many, many, many reasons to love Jay Smooth.

Times New Roman & Countrymen

Good Time Girl by Shilpa Ray


Ianto Jones- There are many, many, many reasons to love Torchwood and they are all called Ianto Jones.

If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso by Gertrude Stein


Tropical Ice-land by The Fiery Furnaces


Locus Novus - I love this magazine. Love. If this magazine was Ianto Jones I would marry it. See this and this.

Goodnight Nurse’s Cover of Milkshake




Things I Shouldn’t Have Liked In 2009 But I Did

The Beechnut Tobacco song-

Girls in bars, girls in pants
A man just don't stand a chance
But there's still ways to show 'em who's who
You treat your dogs with respect
You keep your traps oiled and checked
And Beechnut's the tobacco you chew

Janice Dickinson in Finland Yelling at Models- Specifically ‘my leg isn’t working’ and ‘do something, you stupid models!'

The “Pakistani” version of Papi Chulo- Special props to the dancers who shattered the restrictive confines of synchronized choreography to creatively interpret the song in their own varied and unique ways. Also shart burger, pant pizza, chaal disco Mona Lisa.


The Wow I Must Be Really High Experience of 2009- The sixth season of The L Word, which was a lot like being on drugs without actually being on drugs and then the swimming pool kills somebody.


John Abraham in Yellow Trunks Moment or the Unexpectedly Delightful in An Otherwise Giant Clusterfuck Experience of 2009- Javier Bardem in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. A movie I thought was not just bad but zomgwtf bad, made so much worse by the fact that it had Scarlett Johansson in it. And yet I watched it all the way to the end solely because of Javier Bardem. Totally worth it.


Doordarshan Superfly Flashback of 2009- Something called James Bond 2007, which involved a very thin man wearing sunglasses running around a mofussil bus stop and then up some stairs carrying a plastic gun which, in true Doordarshan style, abruptly ended right at crucial moment when keyboard background music began to really bust out and shudder.

okbai.

k

Friday, December 11, 2009

What Is Blaftatronic Halwa?

0 comments
Blaftatronic Halwa is

1) Stale, bus-stand halwa which causes stomach problems exactly 15 minutes into your 7 hour bus journey

2) Halwa that has something in it that is either soft, moldy cashews or partially fossilized raisins and when you eat it (which you do, because you are stupid), it tastes like french fries.

3) Halwa made from broken motherboards and battery acid.

4) The halwa you tried to make once that not only solidified into something much harder than granite, it swallowed up the frying pan, a small spoon and three casual acquaintances who were standing too close to the stove at the time.

5) The brand new blog from Blaft Publications

If you answered 2, that's really gross and possibly reflects badly on your eating habits and diminishes your worth as a person. But if you answered 5, YOU'RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!! The Blaft Blog has finally arrived and we all of us together are so much looking forward to the blaftastic things they will spark and sparkle the internetz with.

First post is an interview with Myself. Here is excerpt:-

they see me just walking through the fields that are all droughted and stuff and they’re like oh my god you have to play for our team, you’re so awesome and I’m like no and I’m sad and emaciated but I can speak really good English so they’re like oh no please you have to, you speak good English and I’m like no but then I say yes and then we go for the tournament and the other team are like playing dirty and they have black hair and they keep glaring at us in slow motion but we persevere and we win because we are awesome and unconventional and it starts to rain and I say oh my village needs this rain and I am here in this rain and my village is over there and it’s not in the rain and everyone cries but I don’t because I am awesome and unconventional.

Click to read the rest. Go on, you know you want to.

k

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Five Particular Things In No Particular Order

5 comments
1. Song I Didn’t Want To Like But I Do
I really, really did not want to like Mutya Buena’s cover of Fast Car. For one thing, it's Fast Car and for one another thing, she was a Sugababe. But I like it. I think it is a good cover and she has a great voice. And the reason why it's not like the Tracy Chapman version is because the Tracy Chapman version is like the Tracy Chapman version.

2. Song I Thought I Would Like But I Don’t
I was totally ready to like this one. If this song had been on Facebook, I was ready to hit the Like button and add a comment that said LIKE!!!! This was not to be. I thought Coal War by Joshua James was catchy but the lyrics…

I ain't cutting my hair till the good lord comes
Arrive upon the mountain just to see what we have done,
I ain't cutting my hair, cutting till the good lord comes.


I originally thought he was saying ain’t cutting my hair till the girl don’t come, which I think is way better. He also says he ain't open his eyes 'til we all walk free and he ain't pickin' up a paper 'til the wild wind blows. Which is just as well, it would probably be hard to read the paper if you aren't into opening your eyes.

3. Journal Interestingness
Rakesh Khanna put me on to Words without Borders, specifically this story that was translated from Náhuatl. Now they have a new issue that features International Science Fiction with work from Stanisław Lem, Tomasz Kołodziejczak, Olga Slavnikova, Zoran Živković, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Machado de Assis, Liu Cixin, Pablo A. Castro, and Muhammad Husain Jah.


4. Speaking of Science Fiction

From a Blaft tweet- 'Convicted pornographer Dr. L Prakash has written a science fiction "graphic novel" from jail. ZOMG.' ZOMG indeed! Who knew that the Indian penal system was conducive to writing science fiction graphic novels! I foresee a lot of press linking his porno past to the word 'graphic'. I also foresee many people trying to get a hold of this book in the hopes of seeing boobies.


5. Upcoming Excitementness
All full excitements for Blaft's new blog, which should be honoring us with its mellifluous presence sometime in the near future. In the meantime, you can kindly enjoy this fast binding blaftness.

okbai.

k

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Two New Pieces Up At Hobart

1 comments
One involves plastination

And the other is about Minty-Fresh Export-Quality Aadi Velli Special Non-Cola Colas in the Tropicool Icy Land Urban Indian Slum

this is how my name looks in Tamil. Isn't it pretty?

குழலி மாணிக்கவேல்

Saturday, November 28, 2009

These Are The Daves I Know I Know

12 comments
Hai everybody!! Welcome to my blog!! Yay!!

First, a big thanks to everyone who helped/gave input on putting this together.

I would like to dedicate my very first blog post to something I hope to do on a somewhat regular basis- These Are The Daves I Know I Know. Inspired by a song from my youth, Daves are people I don’t know very well but I know them a little and I think they’re neat. So I ask them questions and they answer, sometimes they lie but what can you do.

Our very first Dave is Rashmi Devadasan. Along with Rakesh Khanna, who is her husband and Kaveri Lalchand who is not her husband, they run the publishing company known as Blaft. Rashmi is neat because she makes movies and her middle name is Ruth. She has worked in the Tamil movie industry for 35040 days and is part of the Podimaas Kavarchi Pachai Killis, an army/band of wandering poets who will work on poems on any subject for cash down payment, one installment only. They also do ninja style stalking on alternate Mondays and leap years, in case anyone is interested.


km- Why Blaft? Why couldn’t you name your publishing company something more Indian like Verdant Monsoon Tales from Under the Coconut Tree or Indus Elephant Press?

rd- They were already taken! We had considered "Blushing Crimson Brocade", or was it "Blushing Crimson Barcode"? And another option was "Fresh Indo Tumeric Press" and oh yeah, "Fragrant Saffron Routes Ink". We were sitting by the Kathipara junction nursing a flat tyre, when we heard this sound vibrating through the monsoon laden dusk. The sound became a word, and the word was, er, Blaft.



km- Do you like the song Don’t Touch My Ghaghariya Rangarasiya? Don’t tell lies.

rd- We love and embrace all music and all songs. Though Naaka Mukka has been the ruler of all things musical for some time now.

(km- Don’t Touch My Ghaghariya Rangarasiya!!! I love this song. I can't tell you how much I love this song because I love it so much.)



km- What are the things you don’t like about Indian writing today?

rd- System Alert-sorry we are unable to access the data, shutting down ...blip

(km- sorry, that was a very suicidal question.)



km- Where do you think the term ‘sidey’ comes from?

rd- From Chennai, but today it is a pan-urban Indian English adjective most commonly used to describe a certain set of males, sometimes females also.

(km- I heard it was a term used to describe the ‘side’ dancers in movies who always looked very unhealthy and sad like they just wanted to go home and die)



km- I think it’s neat that in some parts of our beloved country, the term ‘fully without’ means completely naked. I used it in this story. This is not a question, it’s just a plug for my story. This is also a plug for Rashmi's stop motion clip which you can see here (it's in Tamil but it's pretty to look at because it has large talking chicken leg and a salt shaker walking through beautiful night forest dotted with fiber optic treelets that look like electric blue broccoli under shiny paper moonlight which makes the heart feel somewhat. Also they repeatedly refer to Juliet as Soolee and there is a plastic pink unicorn type thing and some gender switching happens later on I think.)



km- Will the Great Indian Vampire movie only be made if it is about poor vampires? Why do so many Indian books/movies that are marketed to the rest of the world seem to be somewhat fetishized representations of our poor and if someone brings this up, why do people say ‘oh my god, you’re so mean to poor people’?

rd- Maybe, from a purely marketing pint of view, that is what sells. The West is comfortable with these images and this kind of content, because that is what has been selling for all this time: history, exotica, erotica, middle–class angst, sagas of immigration to the West, the hardships of cultural adjustment, second generation immigrant identity, and no-holds-barred abject poverty. If we ask why, we are accused of wanting to cover up Indian reality, gloss it over, as these are the topics that represent the true nature of the country.

Also it seems like when people say ‘the rest of the world’ in this debate they're always talking about the US and the UK. In other Asian countries, in African cities with a large Indian diaspora, I think people are more clued in and aware of the different facets of this country.



km- Living in Singara Chennai, you are well aware of the nasal clusterfuck known as the Cooum River, which I like to think of as a good friend whose body is decomposing and also spewing out toxic rotten eggs at the same time. Some years ago I vaguely remember some kind of harmful waste (nuclear? toxic? exotic?) was accidentally dropped into the Cooum and then they pulled it out again and then they dropped it in again and then they pulled it out. The Cooum is apparently the city’s biggest sewer and 80% more polluted than treated sewage, which is pretty special. And coupled with the fact that there was nuclear-toxic-exotic-waste in it at some point, I think there are mutant things growing down there. What do you think is at the bottom of the Cooum?

rd- Madras Mutant Virgin Maidens, who, a hundred years ago, jumped to their watery graves for love, defying arranged marriages. These daring dead lasses lie preserved by the chemical soup of the last century, entombed in sludge-covered pods made from matted, solidified hair and the bodies of the river shrimp that live and breed in the slimy, glutinous riverbed.

The maidens will arise in the year 2012 in the month of Margazhi, on the night of a full moon. The Cooum will boil like a boiling pot and the pods will shoot up like stones from a hundred demon-possessed catapults. They will burst open in mid-air and the MMVMs will take to the sky hissing and steaming like a battalion of Diwali-Offer Prestige pressure cookers. These unearthly maidens, it is told, will be terrifying to gaze upon, yet they will be curvaceous, clad in sand-caked pattu saris, and bedecked in temple jewellery from their crowns to their toes. Their fingernails will shoot bolts of current and if they are angered, their breath will create hurricanes.

The only thing they fear are keerai vadais.

(km- I am also very scared of keerai vadais)

** Rakesh Khanna also wanted to answer this question.

I used to live in Nungambakkam really close to the Cooum. I would walk on a bridge over the Cooum several times every day to a pottikadai on the other side to get a coffee and a cigarette. I was on this kick of reading a lot of evolutionary biology back then, too, Dawkins and Ernst Mayr and Stephen Jay Gould and E.O.Wilson and stuff, so I actually spent a lot of time thinking about the mutant things growing in the river.

It’s pretty amazing how much stuff actually survives there. It’s very green. There are a lot of plants and snails and dragonflies and bats. I saw a water snake once. People let their buffalos wade in it. Of course, it’s also clogged with plastic and human shit and weird chemicals and it smells horrible. Once I saw a big pile of circuit boards and wiring sticking out of the mud.

There was this big debate a while ago in evolutionary biology about “punctuated equilibrium”, which is the theory that evolution proceeds in fits and starts, rather than steady gradual change. Human civilization is really recent and sudden, in evolutionary time, and I don’t think anybody understands very well how our drastic changes to the environment will play out in the grand scheme. It’s generally agreed that we are causing a mass extinction event, but no one’s very sure whether it’ll show up in the fossil record 100 million years from now as a little minor blip or a catastrophic Permian-Triassic style wipeout. I guess a lot depends on what happens in the next few centuries; the human population of the earth has gone from 3 billion to 7 billion in my lifetime, and if that rate keeps up, I suppose life is pretty fucked. Anyway, I think places like the Cooum River—and Buckingham Canal near my new place in Neelankarai, which is even more polluted and disgusting—are probably right now acting as cradles for the evolution of new species that may eventually replace the ones we’re destroying.

Another place I’m really interested in is the Pacific Trash Vortex, which is an area in the Pacific Ocean roughly the size of South India that’s full of floating plastic. It all winds up there because of ocean currents, this thing called the North Pacific Gyre. I keep wondering if some organism will evolve there that can eat polyethylene or polyvinyl chloride. I guess there are people trying to build organisms like that, too, but I think it would be far cooler if something could evolve on its own in the Trash Vortex or Buckingham Canal or the Cooum. Maybe a plastophagic life form will arise from the bottom of the Cooum that can somehow use the discarded circuitry and e-waste to become superintelligent and then slowly take over the planet and enslave humanity and force us to live in grimy underground work camps producing polymers for it to eat. That would be awesome Darwinian karma.

(km- well that's something to look forward to.)



km- If you were to recommend five books to someone who wasn’t familiar with Indian writing in English, which books would you recommend and why?

rd- 1) Swami and Friends by R.K.Naryanan- why ? because it is simply pure, without any gyaan, pretense, natural and you can relate to it no matter what age you are or where you are from.

2) Jalebi Curls by Niveditha Subramaniam, illustrated by Kavita Singh Kale- a wonderful children's story about a Maharajah who likes ...

(km- who likes what, dots?)

3) Nagraj: Skin Shedder (Raj Comics)- a great home spun super Hero he is simply the best better than all the rest...he has super serpentine killer cool powers

4) Nagraj: Alter Ego (Raj Comics) same as above for 'why'?

5) Your book- Insects Are Just Like You and Me Except Some of Them Have Wings because it is a great collection of stories of people that you have met/ could have met /are going to meet who talk and think in everyday normal spoken Indian English and who are in situations that are both real and sometimes magically altered states of that reality. In a nut shell - the writing is quite Dhool!

(km- aw……)



km- What are the things you miss most about Old Skool India? And by Old Skool I mean the days when there was only one television channel, people drank Gold Spot and ice cream usually meant pista or tyootee-frootee.

rd- TV serials like' Nukkad', shows like 'Oliyam Oliyam' but is it still on though on DD? I do not have TV so cannot confirm, miss Barbapapa. In Chennai, the pre-flyover parts of the city. Also miss the sight of little girls from the age of 6 to 12 in frilly hauckoba and hand-embroidered dresses.Today lots of well meaning parents dress their 3-year-olds in the clothes Ash wore in 'Dhoom 2' or maybe I am fashion dinosaur. And as hard core lover of eatables I miss the days when restaurants in Chennai did not have to claim that their menu represents 'fusion food', by the by is there any 'fission food'? Or is that the next episode, I guess I am also a foodie dinosaur. But honestly 'Manuchurian Prawns Masala Dosai with mildly spiced date and lemon grass chutney'????? (yes I committed a chinna hyperbole, but not far from the truth ya not far from the truth)

(km- I miss watching Sharon Prabhakar sing English songs on DD. One time I watched her singing I Hate Myself For Loving You and she was running around in a circle on the "stage", pumping her fists in the air, round and round and round Sharon Prabhakar went. I miss that. I also miss Superhit Muqabla)



km- You make movies and that is very awesome. Let us consider this scenario. I sell off my eggs, my blood, my skin and all my internal organs and give you all the money. This doesn’t amount to much but luckily you also find 100 million American dollars lying in the middle of the road one day. With all this money and the nine rupees forty seven paisa you get from my consolidated body parts, what kind of movie would you make?

rd-
‘Madras Mutant Virgin Maidens’ and ‘Rise of the Madras Mutant Virgin Maidens’, two bilingual epics. And I would make ‘Aatha Naan Pass Aiyata’ a comedy that starts in Tuticorin and ends in Jo-burg.

(km- I thought you'd at least thank me for the body parts and money and stuff but whatever.)
 

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