Wednesday, June 23, 2004

synchronicites - And how it all began with salam pax....

synchroni-cities… delhi/elsewhere

For one there’s the soundtrack of ‘Love in Tokyo’ playing in M’s room as I sit and write this – among my first blogs…

And there’s that blurb from the back of ‘The Shadow Lines’ – to paraphrase, ‘evocation of home darkened by an intimacy with elsewhere’.

Not that there’s much of an elsewhere I’m intimate with, personally. The only city outside of India the mental map of which I carry is Lahore – and when one lives in Delhi, 2004 – Lahore is likely to seem more like homecoming than otherness…

So elsewhere I haven’t been – except learning to be comfortable with the astonishing diversities and contradictions and babel that usually people a day in my life. Or that of most people living in India, for that matter.

But elsewhere has been here. Entered my life not through the often superficial reportage and anecdotes of travel books and TV, newspapers and magazines, but through email and weblogs.

I first became aware of Salam Pax, in Baghdad, through a friend then in Oxford, soon after the pent up war broke last year.

It was through her that I became aware of the amazing anti-war movement in England – and how people all over the world were ready to come out onto the streets of the world to protest an unjust war. Last February, I wasn’t just a distant spectator to the events unfolding in Europe. Through her emails and forwards, I was pretty much there – among the hopes and joys and enthusiasm and the sheer joyful, exuberant defiance of it all….

… and the sadness when it all seemed to come to naught. When the bombs fell on Baghdad.
Especially, when on the fifth day of the offensive, American warplanes totalled the phone exchange, and one of the most unique voices coming out of Iraq became silent. For all anyone knew then, forever.

Atishi was heartbroken. And she wrote to me, not knowing whether Salam Pax was dead or alive. She had regularly reading the guy the world had come to know as the Baghdad Blogger, who wrote in his own funny, sad, abrasive, ironic angry way of the Iraq that he saw.
A living breathing world that I discovered on his blog archives, only after his silence. A world which I lived, through Salam Pax, and whose imminent, unjust destruction was like a personal blow.

That’s when I wrote ‘Synchronicities’, originally a letter to my friend Atishi, which tried to explore the linkages forged between lives in Oxford, Baghdad and Delhi – the other side of globalisation, as the stories of everyday people, and their lives, became accessible to other , ‘ordinary’ people, on opposite sides of the world.
Stories that were strangely, inextricably, inevitably entwined if you cared to look for the pattern – and hence, Synchroni-cities, a play on the Jungian theory, and the particular interpretation of it by The Police (as in the band) on their song ‘Synchronicity 2’

Link -

Later, with some (as in not very much) hesitation, I published “Synchronicities” in a copyleft collection, “Sarai Reader 04: Crisis/Media.”

Link –

The hesitation was only because I knew that when Atishi found out, she’d be hurt. Because she is a deeply private person… and sharing a deeply private and heartfelt communication between the two of us with a rather large audience of strangers and acquaintances (whoever picked up the book, whoever accessed the website) would be considered a breach of trust.
Knowing all of this, I didn’t actually tell her about it, until after the book was published. For I wanted it to be published and out in the public debate. not (only) for reasons of fame and agrrandizement, but becuase I genuinely believed that what we'd thought and felty, and what I'd ended up writing becuase of it, was important and valuable, and people would respond to it....

She was slightly upset. And still is, sometimes, because I function with a growing disregard for the distinctions between ‘private’ and ‘public’. It’s a debate that is on between us - the sanctity of personal space, versus the free for all (literally) of the public domain…

That’s part of the reason, along with prompting from another friend, Roshan, that this blog is now on. So that I can write about the city/cities that I see/inhabit, my life, and those of the people around me – for if it is not our everydays that make up ‘history’, and all stories worthy of being told, then what is?

Link –
(see Thesis III on this page...

For too long have our ‘personal’ lives been guarded zealously, cut off from the larger political – so that you fail to see the connections between your life and the politics that surrounds you. For too long have only novelists had the license to turn our sordid, mundane lives into art that we consume… For too long, in preserving the exclusivity and hierarchy of ‘best’ friends versus the not so privileged, does knowledge of the personal become the currency of power in relationships. For too long have we spun webs of secrets and lies to trap the ones we ‘love’. (Like George Bush and the WMDs to bring democracy to his beloved Iraqi people?)

On this blog I will tell stories. Stories that people may not necessarily be comfortable with my telling.

The words of a seminal work of pop-pulp-philosophy are all I have to offer –

‘Live never to be ashamed if anything you do or say is published around the world.
Even if what is published is not true.’
- Richard Bach, 'Illusions, the adventures of a reluctant messiah'....
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