Archive | Cups RSS feed for this section

Across These Miles

12 Sep

A few weeks ago my life burned to the ground. Or perhaps that happened a few months ago, time grows slippery when measured in hasty choices. This occurs, anyway, every few years: I lose my life and I find myself. Last time I ran all the way to New York to do it, before that I started chaosbogey, even before that I quit science. This is not something that simply happens to me, of course; for someone so suspicious of origin stories I certainly concoct a great many.  As someone recently reminded me, my infallible instinct for erasure is why I delete most of the words I write and can’t bear to keep old diaries. Perhaps, she suggested, I ought to consider what that means. All it means is that I’m an obedient citizen of late capital, but who likes admitting they are the most banal of humans?

It was while I was pondering that, my point is, that bogey (born as she was from an earlier conflagration) returned with customary flamboyance. How tedious it must be, she observed, to recall one’s existence in epochs. Chaosbogey, laughing at Din since 2010. A few weeks later, she said something else I doubt I’ll ever forget: when, Din, did you become such a white woman? Now there is a question worth pondering.

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Dying of a Light.

27 Jan

On 27th January 2010 I had just finished setting up my first apartment. I was 23, I was in love, the world awaited my storm. I had an independent study in which to be an Intellectual. I had a boyfriend who did the dishes. Nothing could stop me now, this was It. It was perhaps the last time in my life I would be incorrigibly optimistic.

That was the day Howard Zinn died. That was the day when, though I didn’t know it then, I set out to be a writer. Was that a fair trade on the universal balance? Probably not. But this is how I began. I restrained myself from tinkering too much with this elegy, and not only because I’d end up rewriting it entirely. It might be verbose and a little pompous, but it was written for love, and that is rare in this writing life. Besides, as it turns out, I did spend 2010 researching the Reformation and (in)direct democracy, and there is a lot to be said for beginning a new life with an act of mourning. In the darkest part of this silent Sunday morning, as Barthes might have said (but did not quite), I was vigilant. And all of him leaped before my eyes.

Zinn

An Encomium

Professor Howard Zinn died on 27th January 2010, a fortnight ago at the time of writing. Apart from the resigned rage one feels about the mortality of one’s heroes, my primary emotion was anticipation. I had recently procured, with some difficulty, a copy of Zinn’s Passionate Declarations. I now had good reason to ignore boring daily life and work my way through Zinn’s legacy, a project as inviting as it is daunting. After a month spent separated from my library, the prospect of a reading list soothed me.

In the fortnight since his death was announced, I have spent many nights listening to his lectures, mining his books, locating his prolific journalism. I spent even more time tracking Zinn within a maze of historiography: all great scholars spin a web around them that can prove as revelatory as dissecting the shape of the beast itself. I gave myself a week to “get a grip” on Zinn, and have never underestimated a task more.

It was not the sheer profligacy of his work, as I never expected to read all of it, but the amazing variety of subjects that his writing suggested that ultimately did me in. It’s difficult to chart matters in an organized fashion when a single book (Passionate Declarations) can make you want to research everything from the Reformation to direct democracy. When one ventures into the vast terrain of work inspired by or transformed by Zinn’s historiography the project looses all moorings in rationality. It becomes epic, spawning academic cottage industries.

I have no doubt such a fate lies in store for the late, great Professor Zinn. I suspect he would be amused by all the posthumous interest, considering he spent his lifetime languishing in academia’s back closet, but he wouldn’t be surprised. Genius is historically betrayed by the grave.

Continue reading

Conversations with Dead Folk.

10 Jan

Fellow twitterers will know there are multitudes within chaosbogey. What began one diary amidst many became the metadiary, a distillation of my (very dull) existence. Din would read for bogey, she’d think for me, then I’d write for someone else. It clarified my analysis, this messy divorce, yet its memory still stings and I remain hesitant about how well we succeeded. I do know why we fragmented into a halt. IRL, I rarely summon the energy to be this long-winded. or angry. or honest. or curious. or wise. IRL, I’m occasionally funny. Bogey’s peculiar personality is her own, and I’m almost convinced this is a good thing. In my apps to grad school, I call chaosbogey a palimpsest; pompous as it sounds, ’tis closest to the truth as I read it. It’s either that or insurrection/orgy/mutation, and to call her any of those would be an unkindness.

Sanya Glisic, Der Stuwwelpeter.

A hefty bit of bogey’s composite is an absent ally.  On behalf of every ghost within the works, his pledge for 2012 —

Listen carefully,

Neither the Vedas

Nor the Qur’an

Will teach you this:

Put the bit in its mouth,

The saddle on its back,

Your foot in the stirrup,

And ride your wild runaway mind

All the way to heaven.

Kabir

(trans. Arvind Krishna Mehrotra)

In the final year of college, as my friends went about the business of ambition, I spent my nights adapting The Coast Of Utopia for the NLS playfest. Stoppard credits Isaiah Berlin as an inspiration, and so I started Russian Thinkers. Here my theatrical pretensions quickly quailed, for Berlin was my window into a tradition far removed from everything an Indian legal education teaches you about the world. He showed me the ‘tangled undergrowth’ of modern history, enticing me into an alien universe populated by folk my textbooks only accorded footnotes to. Three years later, I documented the journey in the first mystic myna column.

Continue reading

Lately Said.

4 Dec

My favourite new book this year was Manan Ahmed’s Where the Wild Frontiers Are. A review of the book and another (infinitely worse) book is part of the Sunday Guardian’s cover package today. It was what initiated all the suicidal gloom I inflicted you with last week, and why I began reading Said below. Writing this review was very glee makin’, which has been relatively rare this year, and if it weren’t terribly rude I’d crosspost in a jiffy.

We shall have to settle for essay(s) on Said instead, both published in early November. I compare Manan to him in my review (v. grandiloquent, agreed, I hope he forgives me) and it might be amusing to read them together? ‘Tis a good excuse to put it up, anyway, and an updating bogey needs little else.

The Late Edward Said

November offers caramels of granite.

Unpredictable!

Like world history

Laughing at the wrong place.

Tomas Tranströrmer, November in the Former DDR

 “November is a mournful month in the history of Palestine” begins Edward Said’s obituary for the venerable Isaiah Berlin.   November, he continues, frames the Palestinian tragedy.  The Balfour Declaration began the British policy of “demographic transformation” within mandate Palestine on November 2, 1917. The U.N. partitioned Palestine in November 1947; the Yom Kippur war ruined Palestine forever by November 1973.  In less than sixty years, four million people became refugees, both at home and in exile.  Edward Said, emblem of this diaspora, was born in Jerusalem eighteen years after Balfour began eroding his country.

 Edward Said’s life was devoted to dispelling cobwebs. He was destined to be a stranger in many strange lands, growing up a Christian in Cairo and dying an Arab in America. This eclectic heritage fashioned a thinker willing to probe every truth, and skepticism was the cornerstone of his advice to aspiring intellectuals.  Be alert, he warns descendants, to the threat of seizure.  Never allow your conscience to be subsumed in service to illusions.  He elaborates upon this duty in Representations of the Intellectual:

“That this involves a steady realism, an almost athletic rational energy, and a complicated struggle to balance the problems of one’s own selfhood against the demands of publishing and speaking out in the public sphere is what makes it an everlasting effort, constitutively unfinished and necessarily imperfect.”

We are a wound, Said is saying, a wound that fights.

Continue reading

Of Nativity

20 Jul

I, too, am a native.

Saying this aloud, a mere whisper lost to the the deep night, is terrifying. The quick phrase feels like the slow stripping of all agency, a rape of my right to speak of the world and its concerns, forced to leave them to ‘better men’. To be native is to be blind and have one’s tongue cut off and limbs turned automaton. It was easier when I cut off my balls (rhetorically, you understand) and identified with femininity, however jaggedly and doggedly I fight the helplessness assumed of that affinity. Writers like Frantz Fanon give me the strength to remember that I would, nonetheless, prefer to be Injun over cowboy. Equally, he reminds me that as an urban mongrel with no ‘native village’ to speak of (wait, do university campuses count?), I am as much settler as native. Our homes shift upon residence.

Fanon

Two worlds: that makes two bewitchings; they dance all night and at dawn they crowd into the churches to hear mass; each day the split widens. Our enemy betrays his brothers and becomes our accomplice; his brothers do the same thing. The status of native is a nervous condition introduced and maintained by the setter among colonised people with their consent (sic)

I am rereading The Wretched of the Earth in memory of Frantz Fanon, who would have been 85 today.  So far I have made it past the preface and am already flooded by excerpts (as above).

The rest of this post is thus from memory and fourth year squiggles. Let me begin by conceding said memory is heavily reconstructed from aforementioned preface. In defence, you try jumping off the freaking Sartre-wagon. There is also a birthday rhyme to give Fanon’s bones a good bouncing about their grave. Besides, I strive to inject great guffaws into all your days, and disdain is small price for a grin.  If you feel the urge to chant Dryjhna! Dryjhna! Dryjhna! after the closing excerpt of post, please do tell. I will be gratified not to feel alone in all this wide world. If you continue to chant sporadically for the better part of a night, maybe there is something to be said for lunacy being a social hobby.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: