Friday, March 24, 2006

"SISTERS"

I did not have fun at “Sisters” though I grit my teeth and pretended to.
There were no guys around other than the DJ and his crew, who were pretty much hidden behind a thick glass wall. The music was great. The moment we entered the floor, my feet began to itch for some vigorous movement. But it was not even eleven, not even a decent hour to start, so we hovered against the walls, nursing drinks and small talks. There were several others, smoking urgently and talking in shrill voices to be heard above the music. There were enough of us to fill that floor, but it was not even eleven, not even the right time to start dancing. A group of four girls danced stubbornly under the crazy disco lights though and I watched them with part envy, part curiosity. I was curious because one of them was Indian and I kept wondering if she would suddenly do a bhangra step, or do boob thrusts madhuri style (which, vulgar as it is suppose to be, is the most fun thing to do…especially if there are no boys watching anyway!), but she and the other four did little more than sway seductively, grind against one another, sit on their hunches and come back up and repeated the “steps”. I watched, amused, thinking the sexualized dance was rather interesting actually.
I thought of the sessions I would have with friends when still in college. Dance hours were my favorite hours then. We would do it all, be sexual, be tapori, be graceful, try out Michael Jackson steps, try out oldie styles, invent outrageous steps which would pretty much be the victory of the evening, do the thumkas…
Most girls in “Sisters” were not lesbians. They were, like me, here simply to be in a girl environment. I hit a conversation here and there and realized I was talking to girls with “serious” boyfriends. There were others with their partners. I was pleased, almost intellectually. So, we are here to kickass! I thought.
I did not have fun at “Sisters”. When it was finally 11 and it was tacitly agreed that the floor could now be hit, the music changed to more vigor, more fun. The DJ was great, to say the least. Several other things happened by the time time hit 11. My friends were “drunk enough to dance now”. Most of the girls were drunk enough “to dance now”. Under drowning music and colored lights that illuminated bits and parts of the floor like so many search beams, the hall collapsed into swaying, grinding groups. How, I wondered, was this different from the unisex clubs I had visited before. My eyes looked around for some “dancer” and actually found a few guys planted here and there in the crowd. These guys stood out because of the ease with which they moved. Even when they made sexual moves they were not sexualizing themselves. They were clearly having fun. I ended up dancing several numbers with a small, asian guy, who was pretty much the only one who believed in jumping when the song said “jump”. But I grew uncomfortable. Around me all girls took small, graceful steps and swayed their hips like snakes. “Steps” were rather universal amongst the girls present. The boys, however, retained very distinct traits. One, a hip-hop-ster did the things only hip-hop-sters can do. I watched with burning envy.
Why could we, the girls, not let go? Is the concept that we are attractive only as long as we are sexy so ingrained in our minds that we cannot be a-sexy? And in the US! Hadn’t I come here for the equality I had always heard so much about? Over and over my eyes flit to the one Indian girl, but all her thumkas, all the mithun moves, all jhatkas had been smoothened away and she stood on her spot, lifting her arms above her head, curving first this way then that. And slowly I found myself imitating her and everyone else in the room.
So, I thought, it is not true that we act one way in front of guys and another way when by ourselves. All my life I had lived a dual personality. Before the other sex I had worn a certain smile, talked with certain vocabularies either added or reduced from my speech, been just wild enough but not beyond that, played the cute role…I had in short advertised myself as shamelessly as any other girl. However, once protected by my own sex, I became me – rash, irresponsible even, intelligent, fun, adventurous, everything else. On the dance floor in “Sisters” I felt my sex being stripped away from me. On it I was somehow condemned to live the staged and practiced life forever and at all moments, irrespective of who my audience was. Somehow the actress in all of us had won and we did not even know. It seemed there were cameras not only around me but within me and if I was to appease whoever it was that watches the films I had to give up being the freer, happier me. And for the first time I fucking wanted the fucking dance to end and I fucking wanted to go fucking home.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The funny cartoons!

When I went to the office J was printing out multiple copies of the Danish cartoons. He said he was going to distribute it to his undergraduate composition class and have his students discuss “free speech”. It was a good idea, I thought, since “free speech”, “debate”, “composition”, “liberty” kind of all go together. Then A came in and J, A and I got into a sort of discussion over the picture. I say sort of because the discussion did not last more than a minute. It got over the moment I said the Danish newspaper was rather thick headed if it did not understand what sacred meant and if it did not understand the times we are living in. I think J mumbled something about “talks” and “peace” but I could be wrong. He only mumbled.

I watched Monty Python’s "Life of Brian" a few days back. For those who haven’t watched it, I recommend the movie. It is a HILARIOUS tale about Brian, Jesus’s contemporary. Brian was born the same day Jesus was under the same circumstances and lived and died a wonderfully similar life and death. Brian was a wise, kind, honest person who was crucified by Pilot. Brian pretty much died for the sins of his brethrens. Has beard, blah blah…pretty much looks like Jesus.
I read somewhere that Monty Python actually wanted to comment upon Christianity through the movie. He wanted to make a movie "Life of Jesus" but backed out because he thought Jesus was too religious and sacred a subject to be toyed with in such a manner. If Christianity had to be discussed it had to be discussed via a different medium.
Interesting. Wonder what happens to “free speech” here? Why not target Jesus? Why target a poor nobody Brian. How offensive! I mean, should Jesus be denied the privilege of ridicule?

There are lots of talks about how “fundamentalists” are using this situation for violence. Hmmm…well, that is true. Danish fundamentalists, Christian fundamentalists, Muslim fundamentalists…everybody just using the situation. Though of course, “fundamentalists” don’t really include Christians…wonder why.
I wonder if Bush, his army, his party, his views etc qualifies for fundamentalism. Maybe not. After all, using popular fear to bomb countries and keep alive a senseless war simply reinforces freedom of expression.
For those who are angry because America’s name has been dragged into this debate when it had nothing to do with the cartoons…well, America loves to do the “Right” thing. When countries like India and Pakistan did the “wrong” thing (testing nuclear bombs, for example) it promptly censored the nations and stopped providing them aids. Wonder how it will react towards the Danish. Another thing, J is an American.


Is making fun of religion funny? OF COURSE it is! Western movies are flooded with VERY funny allusions to the funnily sacred animal, the cow. Have you watched the innocuous, sweet, really talking about nothing movie, "The Bubble Boy"? It’s a so-so movie about nothing but it does a wonderful job of mocking Hinduism. Has a Shiva worshipping driver licking a phallus shaped ice-cream devastated by the death of a cow.
I am sure Bollywood is working to match the spoof. Half of Bollywood aspires to match Hollywood anyway. Bollywood can be brilliant at ripping off Hollywood tactics, Hollywood plots, Hollywood effects etc. Why not here?

Question: How would the Shiva worshipper translate on the Bollywood screen? Could it mull over the fact that it is IMPOSSIBLE for a virgin to have a son, for instance? Could it take a take on the Oedipus complex within the bible … after all no mention is EVER made in the bible about the love between Joseph and Jesus, in fact Joseph never speaks in the bible. He was not even present to witness his son’s death. Jesus finally puts Joseph in place by telling him Joseph was not really his father since his father was God. Well. However, his mother was Mary and he did love Mary.

The Point: The Quran, the Vedas…and I am sure many other religious texts and sentiments are offhandedly used by the Western media. The Danish cartoons rely on the about the Quran. They portend to have read and understood it when they make jokes about Muhammad and terrorism and oppression (and where the fuck is the joke in this anyway!). NO other media does this. Every other section of the world seems to understand the value of religion and knows how to respect it. There is much in the Bible that can be ridiculed and spoofed but that is not the point. The point is the Bible is a sacred text, one that is worshipped and held high by not only Christians but by everybody else too.
Maybe the Christians have to understand that just talking about ONE god does not win the battle, you have to believe in it too.

Monday, February 13, 2006

half stretched limbs

There is endless space. Its stretches for miles, grass after grass, tree after tree. On television there is the space outlined by an endless strip of street where strange mishaps take place – a murder, a love story, a trip which will finally step upon a dream, a ghost that will suddenly kill the young and optimist. The space that swallows and keeps secret all the twists in its straight layout. Stone after stone.

The bus is crowded by blacks and latinoes. I am often the only Indian seated on the blue seat. I am often the only one trying to fight the space. There is space in eyes. There is space between words. Within the quarantine of the bus there is space between people. Every new passenger scans the seats. The new passengers want to sit by themself. They prefer window seats so they can stare out. Those of the happier world pull out their cell phones and talk into it till they reach their destination. Those too worried about phone bills (I cannot imagine anyone without a cell phone) gape through all objects into their own lives. Some sit with their mouths open. Some sit with their eyes glazed. The lucky ones rest on the wall of the bus and fall asleep.

The private sinks like lead before the public, the public floats like soft dust over the private. In the public the question “what do you feel?” is scandalous, in the private “what do you do?” can be thought incorrect.

Jayanti, a daughter of the staunch south Indian Brahmin married a muslim after she had known him only for three months. Her classmate thought it was too rash. Her classmate thought it was not right to marry the first person she had loved. How would she know if there was someone else more perfect for her? How would she know if she did not try out some more?

A fellow passenger said to me, “I wasted my life, now I wish I had done something. But you know what, I have loved life and life has loved me in return.” He was old. He asked, “Why are you not married?” and because I wanted to show off I said, “I am.” He said, “I wonder sometimes if I should try marriage again. Eh, what do you think?”
I smiled. “Maybe,” I said.
“But I hate the nagging! I hate the nagging! And there are opportunities. And there are whores available all the time.”
I was glad I had lied and called myself married. I said, “But marriage is not about having whores, you know.”
He laughed, amused by my earnestness. “Of course not, my dear,” and he patted my arms because he felt sorry for me.

In the endless space limbs are stretched tentatively. Words are spoken carefully. The vacuum between glazes the words with an attractive politeness that reveals nothing. People transform when they are drunk. Drunk people shatter the vacuum. One must drink to dance, drink to sing loudly, drink to unabashedly appreciate, drink to celebrate a weekend, drink to wind down after class, drink perhaps to remember oneself. There is endless space perhaps within bones and muscles and nerves. One must drink perhaps to bring them together.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

cauldron

Mormons are not Methodists.

Suburbians look down upon city dwellers. City dwellers are condescending.
City dwellers think suburbians are snobbish.
There is an attitude to community college students.
Private college students have an air.
There are neighborhoods one should not enter.
Different societies in colleges : * Indian Student Association, African Student Association, Jewish Forum, Hispanic…
Indians love fair skins. They dislike Africans.
A major part of the African population is uneducated. They cannot stand the snobbish air these ultra educated Indians wear.
WASP
Red Necks.

Liberals watch Fox News.
Republics watch…I don’t know what. Philadelphia is heavily Liberal.
Liberals and Republics never watch each other’s television networks or listen to one another’s radio.
It is impossible for the liberal and the republic to have a real conversation

One half of the population is pretty much a wall for the other half of the population.

A liberal and republic debate in an interesting talk show. They never answer each other’s questions. They only answer and counter answer themselves.

One half of the population has no idea what the other means.

My fiction teacher thinks the poetry department is stupid.
I don’t know what the poetry department thinks. I don’t hang out with the poetry department, not really.
Fiction and poetry do not really mix.

USA is a cauldron where nothing mixes.

Go to China Town. There are only Chinese there.

Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, the Jewish Christian Church, the Orthodox Church, Baptist Church, St John the Evangelist Church, African Methodist Church, Lutheran Church, Quaker Church – Churches, their names, their people. I have entered only two Churches, one the Lutheran Church to which my landlady belongs and which is plush with beauty. They sing choirs. They have an orchestra. They have an organ that blew my tiny mind. I feel rather tiny before its elegance. The other church, one to which my friend’s mother belongs (my friend does not belong to any church) is a simpler affair. It has no choir, no orchestra, no grand organs. It caters to poorer folks and comes forward in a poorer garb.
People, like liquids of different densities, do not mix. The poor do not enter the exemplified style of rich churches. The rich are not usually seen in poor people’s space of worship. The black stay confined to black churches. The Quakers don’t believe in the Catholics. The Lutherans will tell you what is wrong with the Quakers.
They are all Christians and united in Christianity.
The Athiests too.

You work. Work is worship.

If you like a girl, ask her out.
Rules of dating. # 1 – don’t call her for at least a week after you have told her you like her. If you can help it, don’t call her for two weeks. Don’t let her know you like her. Don’t let her suspect you want to share your precious space with her.

If you like a boy wait till he asks you out. It’s not cool to ask a guy out.

There is sexual equality in America. There are dating sites.

It sucks to be lonely so date. Date date date till you find your partner.
Don’t live with your parents. It’s not cool.

Be cultured. Like art, like poetry.
Be cool.

Monday, February 06, 2006

MAYA (short story---perhaps)

Once off the curb the boy began to count the houses. “House house house house house.” He pointed at each house as he said “house”. Maya watched every house the boy pointed
at.
“House house house house house,” her mind echoed. Because they passed so slowly, it was like watching the houses through the windows of a centipede.
The boy had soft, butter textured hands, now slightly pink with cold. He kept one hand inside his bubble jacket pocket. Maya held the other in her own both to keep it warm and because he was a child. It would be ridiculous to let the boy walk on his own. Maya stopped before the traffic light because the boy was tugging at her. “You walk too fast,” he was complaining. “You cross roads when the light is red. You don’t pay attention”
How light headed the morning was. How drunk almost. It was making her forget people, first Sid, now the little boy. Even though she counted house house house house after him Maya had forgotten she held his hand. She had forgotten he sometimes skipped, sometimes walked by her side. She had forgotten him so much she had to stare a while at him to hear him. The boy had a small, pretty face, like most American children do. He had petal pink lips. He had large brown serious eyes that seemed to be solving complex mathematical equations. He was a little boy with a scientist’s eyes. What did the scientist think of her walking so fast? The scientist must be very judgmental. The scientist must be very logical.
“I have longer legs than you, you know,” she said and tried moving on but the child held her back.
“The light is red, don’t you see?” He asked, his brown eyes beginning to frown.
So she had to stop. She had to sit down on the side walk and pluck at the boy’s sleeves till he sat down too. She had to notice that his eyes seemed to do intense algebra when they looked at her. “How come you don’t die?” He asked. “The way you walk you should be dead. You never see anything.”
Maya laughed. Against the fresh, cold morning her voice was crystalline. “You are full of mad talk,” she said and ruffled his hair. Then because she felt she needed to add something more she asked, “Will you tell your mother I don’t know how to walk? She won’t let me baby sit you if you tell her.”
The boy picked up a dry leaf from the road and twirled it between his fingers. On the road the leaf had been dark and unattractive, but in his fingers, held against the light, the leaf glowed orange, like a soft fire. How fast it was already autumn, Maya thought. How fast it all changed. The trees had burnt flamingo just a week ago and now they were spiderly against the sky – like densely painted Japanese landscape. The boy pushed his feet against a non-existent rubble, but perhaps, Maya thought, he saw something she did not see. He had such large eyes. Her own eyes could definitely not see the things he did.
“Do you baby sit me because you have no money?” The boy asked.
Maya was surprised. Was that a question coming from a hurt child? He did not seem particularly attached to her. His parents were busy and every now and then he was baby sit by a couple other women.
“Partly,” Maya answered. The boy continued to play with the atoms only his eyes could see. “And partly because you are the best boy I have met.”
“If it is money you need, you should baby sit more often. I will tell as many parents I can you are a good baby sitter. They will send their children to you then.” Then he said, “The light is green. Let’s go.”
She stayed alert for red lights after that. She was afraid of disturbing the boys renewed count. House house house house house. She thought she was holding a little genius in her palms, a little mathematician. She was walking a prophet home. She was delivering a little angel to safety. Everything else could wait until then. She could grow careless once she had seen him into his house. Once his mother shut the door to her face, Maya could stand in the middle of the street and let blind vehicles brush the sides of her body. Once the boy left she could forget her name, her country, her home. Once he left she could discoordinate her mind and her feet. After the boy was gone she could live as she pleased, but till then she had to be careful.
“Should we have taken the bus?” She asked. “Are you cold?”
“No. I am all right. Are you too cold?”
Maya shook her head. How, she wondered, did a five year old boy know to ask her if she was too cold? Did he not know his privileges in the adult world? As a child Maya had done nothing but be a child. She had stood at the edge of muddy India rice fields and counted the boxes in trains as the trains chuck-chucked past her. One two three, she had said. Forty seven, forty eight, forty nine! Later she and her friends would pick smoothened pebbles from the railway tracks and played goti. It was only when she had grown up that she had started listening to stories about trains -- The number of people in India commuting via trains each day is equal to the population of Australia. India boasts the largest railway infrastructure in the world. A lose screw on the rail track kills -- blah blah -- the population of Philadelphia?
How did children in America not want to count train boxes?
The boy said, “Maybe we should not tell mother we walked right now. She might think it is too cold, even though it is not.”
“All right,” Maya answered and felt like a thief.
It was a brusque, off hand morning, very unlike the soggy and waterlogged mornings of the past week. There were a few errands Maya had to run after she dropped the boy home. She had to meet a friend for lunch in a nearby bar. She had to dust and clean her apartment. She had to decide if she wanted to go school or find a real job. She had to figure out how else to fill her days.
Without Sid her house was hollow, not that Sid had ever lived in her house with her, but still. Now she tried to occupy herself with baby-sitting. She was oddly good with children. She sang to children who liked being sung to and she played video games with the video gamers. She had no preferences. Sometimes if she had more than one child to baby sit she told them ghost stories so they would remain together and not try to run off alone.
When Sid and her were together, Maya had lived with Sid in his house. When still with Sid, Maya would say to him, “Sid, we will buy a single storied house with rock walls. It will have a garden. Cats because you love cats and a little dog because I love dogs.” She would talk about India and say to him, “Back home it is mandatory to leave three feet space around your house. So there is always a six feet space between two houses. Your window pane cannot touch your neighbor’s land. Your tree branches cannot loom over your neighbor’s flower bed. Privacy, you know. You need to know you own yourself. What? Isn’t America supposed to be the great land of individualism? This is twisted, I tell you.” Sid knew she was not living in indistinguishable row houses where your wall was also someone else’s wall, where if someone else’s house caught fire you would burn too, where your destiny became indelibly attached with someone else’s
India seemed like a piece of land floating away from her. She could swim behind it but never touch it again.
Now, with the morning crisp as lemonade, sweet and citrusy, clean clean morning, Maya thought of Sid again. His bulging eyes, his long lashes (camel lashes, she called them), his mouth with perfectly shaped teeth, his teasing voice.
Maya let her feet glide off the sidewalk onto the street. A car rattled past them as the boy hopped by her side, one clumsy thump and Maya held his hand tight. She did not want him slipping.
She wondered if the loose light-switch in her bedroom was dangerous. She had to keep the switch in mind. Dangling electricity could be dangerous. She wondered if her clothes would dissolve in the chill of the morning, if her skin would slip away, and finally become the morning itself. It wasn’t a Whitman-ian desire to be one with everything. It was simply the acceptance that now would be the perfect time to never be again.
“You know,” she said to the boy, “trains in India are the same color as row houses here. Rust red. Like these houses, trains in India are endless too. They stand like an endless wall before you. I don’t like row houses because I can never guess what the road behind them might look like.”
“But the roads look all the same.”
“No. You might be walking on the street after which the streets change but the row houses never let you see them.”
They were crossing the cobble street. It was an old street. Historical. When Maya and Sid were still together he would tell her little facts. These stones, he would say, looking at the dark, textured road, were freight stones. They were used to balance ships. When Maya and Sid were still together she would tell him she wanted to die like Rajiv Gandhi. One bomb and blown to inanimate splinters. When Maya and Sid were together Sid would take her in his large arms and kiss her lips like his heart was breaking.
“Hey!” the boy pulled her and another fuzzy car whizzed past her. “What is wrong with you?”
“I am sorry,” she smiled brightly. “Nothing is wrong with me. I am just thinking this and that.” She was guilty she had let the mathematician down. He was such colorful little thing in his blue pants and bright red jacket. American children were always so colorful. “I am sorry.” She said again.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

in a mood

First i thought it was something in me that made taxi drivers start and sustain long conversations. it was flattering. Then hair dressers always remembered to ask how school was going.
Now i know better. Waiters don't have that kind of time or else they would grow a friendship too and pet me into giving larger tips. Cunning creatures these...haha.
----
Ravi would have teased me no end if only i had gotten a hair cut. Gigi cut my hair too short. i suspect i look like a mouse. Thankfully, the handsome barber (he was handsome, i tell you. something of an arabic and an african with a jamaican hairdo!) cut his hair too short too.
Now we only giggle at each other but keep verbal mirth tightly controlled...
But there are other areas where i laugh liberally. He bites into the bread and says, i had heard of french toast but never eaten one.
i say, What!!! and cannot stop laughing.
that is why men should learn to cook.
----
There is always a crazy looking woman in the bus who will absently smile at you and say, 'how are you today, m'dear.' wonder why those kinds look crazy.
there are some sophisticated ones too who will nod that particular nod. i only nod back if i am in a bitchy mood and feel one with them.
----
the indians on the street never look at each other. it can be disturbing in the beginning. then later indian students aquire a vague, ghostlike quality. if you somehow manage to talk to them they will tell you they miss "home" but it is a difficult thing to say. after all, when they had left home they had not been ghosts.

Monday, January 30, 2006

random shoots

There was a shooting in front of the apartment the other day. The bullet came in through his window and sat happily stayed on the floor. His father almost pee-ed in his pants but he told the father that it was no big deal. His father looked for the news everyday in newspapers but it never came. His father thought maybe it was not a bullet after all but there were still blood marks on the walk way.
He told his father that Philadelphia was only being Philadelphia. Here, if you watch out or listen to talks you will hear of bullets that shatter windows and leave blood marks.
If you read newspapers, like did his father, you will think Philadelphia is a peaceful city to live in.
It is just that Black blood is easily forgettable.

Eating Apples

A group of people have decided not to be in support of vehicles. Vehicles, they argue provide too great a loophole for crimes. Even bicycles can be used by people with “bad” intentions for “accidents”.
“Why” they ask, “should there be vehicles in the world just because they make life easier? Is it not enough that God has given us life? Why must we try to rise above God’s gifts etc.”
The argument has caused serious turmoil not only among vehicle users but also among those who aspired to use vehicles. Funds have been radically cut from vehicle industries thus retarding the growth of wheels.
It has however been noted that the dependence on legs as opposed to wheels has actually brought humanity closer to God. There is now a distinct resemblance between people who are no longer seen on buses and God who was never seen in it anyway (Joan Osbourne’s pretty but useless song “what if god was one of us, just a stranger in a bus” can now be rendered an over the top science fiction).
The same group of people running the “Vehicles are Evil” campaign have also decided not to support Stem Cell research for the same reasons. Like vehicles, Stem Cell research provides mega loops for murder and life improvement and takes humanity away from godliness. A greedy doctor might kill embryos to extract stem cells from them, they argue. They are also worried that farmers who are now involved in injecting hormones into week old chicks so the chicks can lay eggs bigger than their heads before dying a very untimely death, might switch to farming embryos. Since hens are not made in God’s image and embryos are, the harvest of embryos, which will be through cloning, is obviously blasphemous and sacrilegious.
A pitifully small sector of Paralyzed, Cancer-ed, Hurt Heart-ed, and Eye-Blind-ed people are however trying to argue in favor of Stem Cell research. Their rather exasperating slogan is “We Want to be Healed!” However, their plea cannot be taken seriously since they are individually, physically and emotionally (IPE) invested in the research. It has been accepted that only those who are untouched by IPE can make statements about Stem Cells. Besides, it is Christ who heals, not Stem Cells. “Can we replace Christ with Stem Cells?” made the headline in the New York Times last Tuesday.

( When Mr. Blah Blah Waggily Wag Tongue complained by saying “America has a quarter of a million people who are paralyzed. One of these is my son, Roman Reed, paralyzed in a college football accident 11 years ago… let no man or political party think that they have the right to stop research that might heal my son” he was promptly taken to Church and made to swear he would reduce his love for his son. Wag Tongue’s love for his son was causing serious obstructions in his love for the Son of God.)

The campaigners of “Vehicles are Evil” have also sanctioned the “Guns’ Law”. Since Free Will was God’s first creation after Man fell(only Man, even though it was Woman who ate the apple), the campaigners are in full agreement that every citizen, whether he be with “bad” intention or not should be able to acquire arms without license or reason. Only with equipping humanity with AK 47s and whatever else can human Free Will be tested.

As a symbol of Free Will eating apples remains perfectly legal and is considered healthy by all.

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