Tag Archives: India

why I sing my blues

27 May

Is the title of an article I wrote for Global Comment. It was about Saas-Bahu soaps, and I tried to be amusing rather than acidic.  I might have failed.  Go judge for yourselves?  Yes, the title was inspired by a BB King song. I like him. A lot. No one’s perfect, so deal with it, ok?

It has been a while, though, since we had a pilfered poetry post on this here bogey, so I figured I would indulge us all and keep silent. A few words in credit: all the poetry that follows is from Annie Zaidi’s book Crush, which has helped me through many an unrequited time. I have imposed my own order on the verse, as I do each time I read this deft little book. I have read it backwards, forwards, sideways and with every random pattern I can generate and every single time it has found for me a story. I love that her language is simple and swift, that all the genius is in the way words are used, that if you don’t listen closely you might miss something until the next time you visit the lines. In the first verse below, for instance, how much she captures with such a basic pun!  But I am not a poetry critic and shall never attempt such a rarified art.  I love Crush almost more than I loved Known Turf. #‘nuffsaid

(More ‘Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens’ illustrations at BibliOdyssey, here)

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Pulp History

1 May

in which bogey attends an awards function.

Happy May Day, all. This year, being a somewhat socialist/somewhat liberal, I decided to celebrate by recalling other ditherers in Indian history. Thus, the Romantic Revolutionary

 M.N. Roy straddles both ‘internal’ challenges to liberalism in the last century: socialism and nationalism. He used each to challenge the orthodoxies of the other, constructing an elegant (if neglected) analysis of self-determination movements along the way. Roy took upon himself the unenviable task of having faith but no obedience, and the price he paid for it was being right in obscurity.

No longer, etc. Bogey to the rescue!

In other news,

This post restores the original title of my Himal essay on Indian graphic novels, and was written to acknowledge a range of people. The good folk at mylaw allow me the freedom to chronicle my obsessions. One went from sniping about Kari to adoring Kavalier & Clay (Luna Moth is my inner superhero) to prophecies of interstitial living.

 I owe a great debt of thanks, further, to Bidisha Basu (of Leaping Windows) for putting me in touch with Alok Sharma. My gratitude to Alok is, I hope, well reflected in the essay, for he put me in touch with worlds I would had no hope of grasping without him. His documentary, once it comes out, looks to be a trove of info for comics nerds, especially those who would delve deeper than more Marvel this and DC that. I also owe Sarnath Banerjee, not so much because he helped my essay along- though he did- but because he redeemed my faith in human conversation.

Roberto Paez, illustrating Don Quixote

I was supposed to ask him questions about the ‘scene’ and industry finance and such, but our conversation soon drifted off into nerdy image/text deliberations and I abandoned all my Serious Relevant questions.

We discussed, in order: Luna Moth and the naming of Phantomville; psuedo-science; vicco vajradanti; Joe Sacco, ‘his abominable Gaza book’, and sexy locations in graphics journalism; empathy in writing; Imelda Marcos’ shoe collection; King Leopold of Belgium; Lewis Carroll; relative merits of the Scott Pilgrim and Ghostworld movies; Marshall McLuhan; the accurate pronunciation of Alain Robbet-Grillet and the mysterious tendency people have of acquiring accents after six hours at the Dubai airport.

 Things we didn’t talk about (but I wish we had) are Superman’s recent rhetoric about American foreign policy and the Swamp Thing cognition experiment. If you know you aren’t ‘alive’, but retain every memory of being human, what does that make you?  Do superheroes teach us a manichean ethic of malevolence/benevolence; do they ‘sublimate a culture of victimhood to manufacture one of enterprise and liberty’?  Do they foster a blind arrogance in human capacity? In human generosity? The American Dream is sold to us across millions of panels and genres: whether you read Archie or Flaming Arrow.  (Ok, so I made that last up. But she would be a neat superhero, non?).

For all the randomness of our conversation, it was not nearly as entertaining as the one the divine Kuzhali Manickavel had with a member of the Hyderabad Graphic Novel Project. They discuss kolams and fractals, speculate on furtive inspirations behind the Matrix trilogy, and decide that the classic song ‘If you come today’  is all about quantum indeterminacy.

VT Thomas, "Toms"

Playing Cassandra.

28 Dec

A Year in Reverse, Part II.

(Part I was Deluded Democracy, about elections around the world.)

The first of these.. snippets is a dismembered essay I wrote for popmatters back in February. That essay makes less sense every time I read it, and I’m hoping the remnants of it will fare better. Another essay that would’ve made it into this series is Of Nativity, where my allegiance to Frantz Fanon was recorded for posterity to note. It has already found its way onto this blog, however, and that’s that as far as introduction goes.

Playing Cassandra.

Barbara Ehrenreich is a woman of demonstrably diverse talents. If she should want to find conventional employment, one would assume it would be a fairly easy process. Bait and Switch is a detailed exposition into why one would be wrong. In it, she goes undercover again, as she did in Nickel and Dimed, this time in the very white collar world of PR and marketing. Excluding the publishing world, she starts the book applying and searching for marketing/PR positions promiscuously, sans moral qualm and geography. Her single string is income level, yet she spends the rest of the book upgrading herself in vain. 

I read this book amazed at the ‘transition’ industry unemployment in America has spawned, converting desperation into dollars. By synthesizing selfishness with self-help, Corporate America seems to have learnt how to systemically shed people while simultaneously convincing them it’s their own fault they’re out of a job.

Ehrenreich describes her steady line of career coaches offering contradictory advice on the basis of loopy personality tests, one of whom hilariously advises her to work on her writing skills. She negotiates the catch-22 of “appropriate” attire for corporate women (simultaneously professional and feminine, without being either threatening or provocative), encounters the evangelical Right, and discovers the new workforce makes the people it retains as miserable as the ones it fires. Several of the people she networks with are employed, but desperate to find alternate employment: either because they are underemployed and dissatisfied, or because they are stretched far too thin compensating for fired colleagues. Apart from time and energy, she ultimately spends $6,000 on her job search: money spent on coaches, resume-checkers, job sites, networking “clubs” and “events”, bootcamp (essentially group therapy), a wardrobe consultant, a “professional development seminar” until, finally (and fittingly), she is offered the chance to pay someone to employ her.

Mervyn Peake, Mad Hatters.

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Deluded Democracy

23 Dec

A Year in Reverse, Part One.

Over the next week, I shall be putting up collections of things I wrote this year that haven’t made it to this blog yet. Pre-bogey readers, all ten of you, will remember I blogged for Himal SouthAsian earlier in 2010, and these were mostly written to that end. They are ‘political’ reportage, if you will be generous with your definition. Mostly, I talk about news I find interesting. This year that happened more often than is usual, as Chaosbogey’s Politics will tell you. Here is me covering other elections from the year.

The second part of the reversal was Playing Cassandra.

Antique Wine in an Antique Bottle.

June, 2010

The recent demolition of the West Bengal CPI (M) in Calcutta municipality elections brokered many fates. In a country where some form of election is a daily occurrence, municipal elections inevitably get the short shrift. Not so here.  Newspapers and pundits portend that it marks a turned tide, that 2011 assembly elections shall see the party in the bay rather than in Bengal. Writers’ Building (in Calcutta, even administration must have a booksy air) might finally see new occupation: Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress.

Writers Building

The party in present form is evidently just the Lady, a few trusted deputies, and her unwavering agenda of uprooting the CPI (M). One wonders how this party will cope with the delegation of government. To the facile observer, Banerjee’s Didi might echo that other formidable and self-reliant Lady CM: Mayawati’s Behenji (even their honorifics collide). An important difference remains. Mayawati has had spells of power to considerably enrich herself, while Mamata is that rare mystery: an impecunious politico. She is currently Union Railway Minister, an easy route to padded bank accounts. Perhaps her restraint was just prudence: what is a ministry compared to the treasury of an entire state? Will she stay uncorrupted by power once her crusade is accomplished? It is a wager Bengal appears willing to take.

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Robbing Women and Robing Brides

31 Jul

I was miserably sick this past week, for those of you who noticed the blog silence. Antibiotics are being consumed, the appetite is yet to revive, but migraines and blistered eyes no longer conspire to keep the laptop and I at odds. I even read a book last night and it wasn’t shady bed reading. Ok, so that lasted only for an hour before I abandoned it for the pleasures of Diana Wynne Jones, but one of the few joys of sickness is the amount of slush one is permitted to consume.

This is a tentative step back into the daily grind of political comment (however tangential) because I could no longer bear the whine of my stats chart as it plummeted to numbers it hadn’t seen since the early days of june . A friend forwarded me this excellent article, and it reminded me of another essay I was once called upon to present in class. Yet another nostalgia post, this one.

The Robing of the Bride, Max Ernst.

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