Delicate Cages

The Monday Poem:

TAKING THE HANDS
by Robert Bly

Taking the hands of someone you love,
You see they are delicate cages . . .
Tiny birds are singing
In the secluded prairies
And in the deep valleys of the hand.

Sex With The Doors Open

Surely by now you have read all about Anil Thakraney’s interview of Pahlaj Nihalani, the chief of the censor board:

Speaking of Spectre, surely Bond would kiss beautiful women he encounters, he isn’t going to say Namaste to them.

So why didn’t people object to the earlier Bond films? There was not a single kiss shown in Skyfall. That time no one thought of the sanskaari thing? We have passed the kiss! We only asked them to reduce the duration by 20 seconds.

I don’t get this logic. A kiss is a kiss. Ten seconds or one minute.

(Gets angry). This means you want to do sex in your house with your door open. And show to people the way you are doing sex.

Nihalani is a buffoon, but that is not the point. Nor is it the point whether the censor board has been more ‘liberal’ under the previous government or under this one. The point simply is that the censor board should not exist at all. The existence of the board is a violation of free speech. Period. Protesting against or making fun of Nihalani is besides the point. Even if the most cultured and intelligent and pro-free-speech people on the planet headed the censor board, they would be as deserving of my contempt as Nihalani is.

Forget the man; examine the principle.

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And oh, by and by, wtf is ‘do sex’?

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Update: In an otherwise excellent column, Mitali Saran writes: ‘It is time to have an adult at the head of the CBFC.’

No it isn’t. It’s time to do away with the CBFC. Individuals aren’t the problem; systems are.

What If I Hadn’t Phoned?

The Monday Poem:

MARRIAGE
by Lawrence Raab

Years later they find themselves talking
about chances, moments when their lives
might have swerved off
for the smallest reason.
What if
I hadn’t phoned, he says, that morning?
What if you’d been out,
as you were when I tried three times
the night before?
Then she tells him a secret.
She’d been there all evening, and she knew
he was the one calling, which was why
she hadn’t answered.
Because she felt-
because she was certain-her life would change
if she picked up the phone, said hello,
said, I was just thinking
of you.
I was afraid,
she tells him. And in the morning
I also knew it was you, but I just
answered the phone
the way anyone
answers a phone when it starts to ring,
not thinking you have a choice.

Six Cheerful Couplets on Death

The Monday Poem:

SIX CHEERFUL COUPLETS ON DEATH
by Michael Blumenthal

Most things won’t happen, Larkin said,
But this one will: We will be dead.

The saddest thing, in each context,
Is knowing that we could be next.

Some take the bus, some take the train,
Some die in sleep, the rest in pain

But of one thing we can be sure:
All die imperfect, each impure

Some wishing that they had been better,
Others worse, but no one deader.

Shoes left, like Buddhists, at the door:
Those won’t be needed anymore.

Long Distance II

The Monday Poem:

LONG DISTANCE II
by Tony Harrison

Though my mother was already two years dead
Dad kept her slippers warming by the gas,
put hot water bottles her side of the bed
and still went to renew her transport pass.

You couldn’t just drop in.  You had to phone.
He’d put you off an hour to give him time
to clear away her things and look alone
as though his still raw love were such a crime.

He couldn’t risk my blight of disbelief
though sure that very soon he’d hear her key
scrape in the rusted lock and end his grief.
He knew she’d just popped out to get the tea.

I believe life ends with death, and that is all.
You haven’t both gone shopping; just the same,
in my new black leather phone book there’s your name
and the disconnected number I still call.

Exhibit A

Dibakar Banerjee may have made a bit of a fool of himself by returning an award that wasn’t his to return, but he’s absolutely right that Anupam Kher “has every right to be unhappy.” Kher, the hypocrite who once headed the censor board of India, is not when he says:

Nobody has the right to call India intolerant.

I can’t imagine where his concepts of rights arises from. Everybody has the right to call India anything they damn well please—and he has the right to disagree, as Banerjee pointed out. It is incredibly ironic that his riposte to those complaining about rising intolerance in India actually proves their point. The elite and supposedly cultured Anupam Kher is Exhibit A.

True Love

From a fine essay on Vladmir’s Nabokov’s love for Véra Evseevna Slonim :

He could not write a word without hearing it in her pronunciation.

He also called her “his kittykin, his poochums, his mousikins, goosikins, monkeykins, sparrowling, kidlet […] his skunky, his bird of paradise, his mothling, kitty-cat, roosterkin, mousie, tigercubkin.” He eventually married her; they were together for half a century.

The amazing Maria Popova of Brain Pickings also wrote a great post on this once.

An Old Woman Grabs Hold Of Your Sleeve

For a couple of years, every Monday I’ve been posting a poem on Facebook, with the intent of demonstrating that good poetry is something that can speak to everyone, and need not be abstruse, self-indulgent writing that only a chosen few can engage with. Starting this week, I’m shifting this tradition to India Uncut. Here’s the Monday Poem for today:

THE OLD WOMAN
by Arun Kolatkar

An old woman grabs
hold of your sleeve
and tags along.

She wants a fifty paise coin.
She says she will take you
to the horseshoe shrine.

You’ve seen it already.
She hobbles along anyway
and tightens her grip on your shirt.

She won’t let you go.
You know how old women are.
They stick to you like a burr.

You turn around and face her
with an air of finality.
You want to end the farce.

When you hear her say,
‘What else can an old woman do
on hills as wretched as these?’

You look right at the sky.
Clear through the bullet holes
she has for her eyes.

And as you look on
the cracks that begin around her eyes
spread beyond her skin.

And the hills crack.
And the temples crack.
And the sky falls

with a plateglass clatter
around the shatter proof crone
who stands alone.

And you are reduced
to so much small change
in her hand.

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This poem was from Kolatkar’s 1976 masterpiece, Jejuri. The entire book is brilliant, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Ban on the Menu Card

Rediff reports:

The Modi government, under fire for rising intolerance and violence related to eating beef, has allegedly disallowed permission for the airing of a documentary on beef-eating practices made by students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

The film titled “Caste on the Menu Card”, about the beef eating practices in Maharashtra, was to be screened on Saturday at the Jeevika Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival 2015, in Delhi. However, the makers of the movie say that they were informed by the organisers that they would need a censor certificate.

Firstly, you should note that this is not a protest by some ‘fringe elements’ within the RSS fold, but a decision by the government. So that whole approach of saying ‘Hey, we’re focusing on development, these are fringe elements, nothing to do with us’ won’t work here.

Secondly, you should also note that it was a Congress government that first introduced censorship in India, and over the years have been quite happy to ban books, films, plays and even music albums. So the fault really lies with us. We’ve been tolerating these assaults on free speech for way too long.

It’s never too late to start being intolerant of intolerance.

Oh, and here’s the trailer of the film in question. I don’t know if watching the full film will make me angry, but it is guaranteed to make me hungry.

Trailer: Caste on the Menu Card

Dispensing Stories

On the face of it, this is a great idea:

To elaborate:

A number of the machines have been installed in the city of Grenoble already and are distributing original stories to anyone who wants one for free.

Each story is printed on paper similar to a receipt and people can choose if they want a story that will take one, three or five minutes to read.

Why do I think it’s a great idea? Because it’s a new way of looking at literature, and of pushing it to people with short attention spans. Why do I nevertheless have reservations? Two reasons. One, since these stories are free, there’ll be quality-control issues. Two, they’re printed on paper, which misses the point, because they could just as easily be delivered on an app to the phone of the intended reader, which would be more convenient for that person.

In the long run, no one will read physical books. As I’ve argued before, a book is just the words an author writes, and the rest is packaging. Those of us who are attached to physical books are just attached to a particular form of packaging we are used to, and because we associate it with the joy of reading. That will end in a couple of generations. And there’s nothing sad about that. What matters is that people read, and not the device they use to do that reading.

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You might well ask me at this point what I think of Juggernaut, Chiki Sarkar’s new phone-publishing venture. Well, I think it’s brave and visionary—but I worry that it might be ahead of its time. There is that old saw about how those who look into the future often overestimate the short term and underestimate the long term. I think that might be happening here. Juggernaut’s vision is fundamentally correct, but their pockets have to be deep enough, and their investors patient enough, for them to last long enough to actually succeed as a company.