Thursday, 31 March 2011
Monday, 28 March 2011
"So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say."*
A young woman's life can be divided into two stages; her life before and her life after she has read 'A Room of One's Own'. More so if she has vague illusions about being a writer. Also if she doesn't mind being branded a highbrow (which is just another word for uncool) by 21st Century society, where Sex and the City shows how far we have come as women. And free speech is the most prized possession of those who have nothing to say. Those who are afraid to speak their mind.
In a letter to her friend G. Lowes Dickinson, Virginia Woolf explained the reasons for 'A Room of One's Own': ''I wanted to encourage the young women - they seem to get fearfully depressed.''** That was 1929. It still works in 2011.
70 years ago on this day Virginia Woolf took her own life. She lives not just in her books but in our minds.
PS I always have one of her books or essays on my bedside table. For some it is P. G. Wodehouse for others, Virginia Woolf. That's the way it is. I often walked the streets of London waiting to come upon a scene from Street Haunting. Sometimes when I am alone I read some random paragraph wishing I was accompanied by Tom Waits. Or Patti Smith. Often when life seems disgusting I am rescued by the beauty of flowers, the antics of birds, or a perfectly constructed sentence by Virginia Woolf. Not necessarily in that order. I don't keep a picture of hers. Roddy Doyle's rule number one (from ten rules of writing) works well: "Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide". And in over two years I have mentioned her only five times. This being the sixth.
These are random facts. Somewhat interesting. But is it the truth? If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.*
* from A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf.
**from an introduction to A Room of One's Own by Mary Gordon.
Sunday, 20 March 2011
The house sparrow is the first bird that every child encounters. In India the special relationship that we share with house sparrows is reflected in the Hindi name for the bird- chidiya*, which is also the Hindi word for bird.
20th March is now celebrated as the World House Sparrow Day because house sparrow numbers are declining across the globe. As I watched the sparrows become comfortable in the few square feet that was the balcony of our home in Bombay it seemed unthinkable to imagine a time when no sparrows will visit our houses. What a sad world that would be.
*the other Hindi name for house sparrows is gauraiya.
Tuesday, 15 March 2011
Illusion is the first of all pleasures - Voltaire
If you live in the “first world”, drive around in a SUV, shop in the malls and try your best to be as Roman (or American or British) as the average Roman then naturally when you go back home (to India) you’ll be amazed. Amazed by the full time servant or as the politically correct will say “help”* (24x7xnearly 365 days a years for peanuts compared to what you’d pay in the other world for someone who comes maybe twice a month), who probably is a migrant from some remote corner that you can’t even spell the name of, let alone point out on a map. Amazed by the “fresh” fruits and vegetables (lets not mention the 67 banned pesticides being freely used in India) available round the corner or coming straight to your house via the sabziwallah, who probably is also a migrant from some place where they took his land and livelihood so that you can get electricity for your air conditioners. But you have to, no need to, be amazed.
Amazed by how along with all these great things you can continue to drive a SUV, shop in malls, send your kids to “International” schools and when it gets too much hop onto a flight and go away for a few days to where you came back home from– that illusionary place that you are trying to recreate, even better. Though right now you can’t see it.
But you know what you are actually doing? Simply perpetuating clichés– tired and well-worn ones. Spitting on and polishing a myth, a pathetic illusion. Kipling in 1889 put an end to such clichés (and cliché makers) forever:
Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet;
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!**
So be strong for a change. Try to live without a car in the ‘first world’ or without domestic workers in India. I guarantee you’ll never pen another clichéd image of the West or the East; you’ll renounce clichés forever. Chances are that the insights and pleasures you get will be worth savoring (even worth sharing). Though at the moment they might seem improbable, and somewhat illusionary.
* Start calling them domestic workers, for only when you will acknowledge that they are doing the work that you are incapable of doing yourself, will you truly appreciate their help. Otherwise they are nothing more than overworked, underpaid slaves.
** The Ballad of East and West by Rudyard Kipling
Monday, 14 March 2011
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Thursday, 3 March 2011
The first in what will be a series of posts on the young ones of birds that I have photographed at some point in time. With a life span which is a fraction of time that humans and trees spend on this planet, I suppose, the little blue tit on the feeder mimicking another from a generation ago must have paused to think:
Behind Me — dips Eternity —
Before Me — Immortality —
Myself — the Term between —*
*Behind Me – dips Eternity – by Emily Dickinson