Thursday, January 27, 2005

seen from a bus window

the bus screeches to a halt behind an elephant.
gentle warm sunshine, the elephant flaps it ears
seemingly unperturbed by all the smoke
being belched around it
by all the rather loud traffic.

she turns her attention (and her trunk)
to a man selling peanuts on the roadside.
the mahouts sitting atop lean down with a note
and the man with the peanuts reaches up with a packet.
the elephant, and its plaintive truck, are left out of the transaction.

the light changes.
the bus moves forward
overtaking the elephant
which looks really rather sad
despite its cheerful paint
at being denied the pleasures of a peanut.

but it's still good to see the elephants, and the mahouts back.
for the longest time they were denied entry onto city roads
and were stuck to the slums near the river, under the ITO bridge.

a city without the possibilities
of bumping into elephants on public thoroughfares
must be really rather boring.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

unlikely link magnets

among the last 10 people to land on my blog,
people landed while searching for -

zam zammah
malayali virgin girls
cervantes macho poem
hindi chudai ki story (story of hindi fucking)

i think i can finally die and got to heaven....

(yes there's been another round of babur-ian debauchery
in the middle of the afternoon to celebrate republic day
and yes, i have a week to go for the quixote-nasruddin paper...)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

the aesthetics of skip

5.15 a.m.
Snow laying all around
A collier cycles home
From his night shift underground
Past the silent pub
Primary school, workingmens club
On the road from the pithead
The churchyard packed
With mining dead

Then beneath the bridge
He comes to a giant car...

stop. whirr.
long pause as a low intensity laser struggles to read the infinitesimal little pits on a shimmering spinning polymer disc.

5.15 a.m.
Snow laying all around
A collier cycles home
From his night shift underground
Past the silent pub...

stop. whirr.

the banal miracle of digital sound reproduction made obvious, and fragile, by its malfunction.

mark knopfler's wry song story of exploitation and murder in a mining town comes out in fragments, hesitantly repeated, seldom completed, due to a technical glitch, the skipping of tracks on optical data storage devices.

the laser skips. the music in fragments.
oft repeating.
it's a new aesthetic of listening which i'm not particularly pissed off by, as whole pasages and words and turns of phrase drop out.

... Large perforations begin to appear in chronicles, calendars and maps, and even the minute agendas of individual lives, as stretches of time, tracts of land, ways of being and doing, and entire clusters of experience are are denied substance.

There are no histories of residue, no atlases of abandonment, no memoirs of what a person was but could not be...

Raqs Media Collective

Mark Knopfler would know. his song stories, documenting marginal lives, framed by glissading guitar phrases fit that spirit.

would he appreciate the aesthetics of skip that make his songs so much more poignant by shredding them incomplete?

would he, like gyan pandey once upon a very long time ago, speak up in defense of the fragment - the broken shards from which a history of violence is pieced together by a historian, whether or not s/he slings a guitar?


The light.
a shaft entering the bathroom is segmented by the blades of the exhaust fan, the solitary opening in the wall.
light and shade.
and the steam rises from the hot water i pour on my back
into the segmented shaft of light
my sweat, my skin, my dandruff
the memory of lying in grass
rise into the light
the carvaggio film noir light
in hesitant brownian wisps
appearing and disappearing.



read hari kunzru's transmission today. a novel, which along with william gibson's pattern recognition, (and the both are so complementary they should be sold in a boxed set) illuminate networked 'globalisation' in the post 9/11 world with such lucid artistry that i am left gasping for metaphors.

to quote -

In media dissections of the impact of the Leela variant viruses, the period when there was the most noise in the global sytem has come to be known as Greyday...
Leela's noise passed effotlessly out of the networks into the world of things...
We have records of events which have not taken place. Other events took place but left no record. All that can be said with honesty is that afterwards there were absences, gaps which have never been filled...


the aesthetics of skip...

Thursday, January 20, 2005

love and laziness in lodi gardens

stomach bug
take the day off
and lie in the sun
in lodi gardens
in the sky shade
of octavio paz's
beloved tombs

watch the grass
glow incandescent
when you lie face down
and sniff the faint traces of
lovers past and future
and dog pee

watch the dogs
chasing tennis balls
and each other

watch school children
disciplined on the concrete paths
come to see national heritage

hold hands
lie back
eyes closed together
warmed by love
and by the sun
and bless
the stomach bug

lodi gardens has been voted asia's best urban oasis by time magazine. could'nt agree more, though as usual, the dudes get their history all screwed up.

ocatvio paz, as the mexican ambassador to india, wrote some incandescently beautiful poetry about lodi gardens, like this small gem -

The black, pensive, dense,
Domes of the mausoleums
Suddenly shot birds
Into the unanimous blue

a park landscaped by lady willingdon in the thirties, around the tombs of fifteenth-sixteenth century afghan rulers, loved by a mexican poet, and by dilli's awaam...
an of course, by the many dogs of many international breeds, which come here to frisk around and fragrantly mark their territory...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

not quite sci-fi

when i wrote this in 2002, it seemed like (in)credible sci fi.
now it's so yesterday.

what price, progress?

the Shaheen as Cyborg-Falcon – the dystopic realisation of Iqbal’s vision

… a coincidence that passed unnoticed by historians studying South Asia in the late twentieth century… the symbolic presence of the poet Iqbal in the Indian space programme… the first two Indians in space, quoted to, and were quoted at, the Prime Minister(s) of India, lines by Iqbal…

... Sitaron ke aage jahaan aur bhi hain
Abhi ishq ke intihaan aur bhi hain

... Saare jahaan se achcha, Hindustan hamara

… Iqbal’s vision of the attainable superman, ideated through Nietschze, was metaphorized as a falcon … swifter and faster than all other avians (and more predatory)… the F-16 Fighting Falcon with its maximum ceiling of twenty kilometres, the last variants of which were phased out last year, no longer, obviously, serves as an appropriate metaphor…
… I posit that Iqbal’s perfect normative human being, a psychological norm achieved by a larger proportion of humanity than ever before, is best symbolised by the Russian Iltupmig Sokol(Falcon) which can circle the globe, at the equator, in 90 minutes, travel into deep space and go into geostationary orbit… Flesh falcons are nearly extinct, which adds some poignancy to the…

…We are all so remote from the lifeworld today that our view of it, expressed beautifully by old poetry which disguises its sheer terror, is
‘… As from his small window
The astronaut sees all he has sprung from,
The risen, aqueous, singular, lucent O
Like a magnified and buoyant ovum – ‘

- Seamus Heaney

… Communication, as Habermas envisioned it, is dead. Which is what makes us the solitary hunter falcons that we are. Hanging in a huge geostationary pack over the mental territories of the Middle-Earth of North America. But we are not mere flesh falcons now, but post-stratospheric Cyborg-Falcons, equipped with the strangest optics for looking down at the earth. The new ‘communicators’, the most obsolete models of which weigh only 250 grams, which 2 billion of us are equipped with, with which we can send and receive text, images, voice, LiveLink, all through the Net. Our communication with the lifeworld is down to the point of disappearing, and our awareness of the world is a constant distance from a single, somewhat distant globe, bound firmly by the optic fibres and wireless laser links of the Net, and no longer a diffuse, diverse, multifaceted, multicultural, living breathing bundle of a billion different experiences… Our communicators equip us with 8mm fisheyes, with what is close to us (the Middle-earth/America we hang above) relatively magnified, and everything else, the sphere that curves away from us, disproportionately smaller to the point of disappearing, almost the size of the stars which serve as an everpresent background to our imaginations, without the brightness. After all, there are yet more worlds beyond the stars …
…However, the fisheye glance, which casually incorporates the world in a larger framework of onward flight, can focus on any given point of the globe in terrific detail at a frightening speed, if the Net so chooses, like a falcon spotting prey. The ‘event’, the spectacular media catastrophe, makes our fisheye glance zoom in with a speed that increases every moment with technological advance till the event a thousand miles away is our only ‘reality’… resonances with the ancient Indian mythological story of the archer Arjun and the eye of the fish…

… The first of these ‘event zooms’ on September 11, 2001…

Monday, January 17, 2005

the hand of fatima

once upon a time,
on an occasion barely three weeks after 9/11
(somehow the gestation period is important for a lot of my creativity, my response to what was unfolding around me)
i wrote a poem
in which the hands of fatima were a central motif.
friends (especially women) who are muslim, or have an islamicate cultural reference, have been really moved by it in the past.
i like to think, wishfully, wistfully that what communicates to them is something beyond the death of the author; that the exact moods of heatbreak and renunciation; of horror, and yet getting by that informed the writing of the poem resonate perfectly across space and time to reach those who have the appropriate cultural software embedded to decode it....

i will always be thankful to kaustubh, for coming back from spain with pictures of the hand of fatima on the doorway of a church, especially for me...


And since I always say too much
The words will have to be someone else’s
As usual –
‘Who’s to say where the wind will take you
Who’s to say what it is will break you
I don’t know
Which way the wind will blow’
But I do know that the most beautiful hands
In the world are Fatima’s, and she was the Prophet’s daughter
But that’s not your name

Ali could not be Ali without Fatima
And since (because of her)
He was such a good man
Hussein had to die at Karbala (and seventy one dead and one wounded)
And since Hussein set such a precedent
People would rather die (and kill)
A few thousand at a time
Than suffer injustice

That is so not the story
For once, when the world went wrong around us
And you held my hands in yours
I knew that I could not be Ali and set examples (and the world to rights)
And that I would not be Hussein and sacrifice all that I held dear
But your hands were still Fatima’s
And they knew when to let go

So I have learnt the pleasures of drifting
On the winds that cool the desert nights of the City
And though your hands are Fatima’s -
Hey, it’s been nice knowing you.

Note – ‘the City’ is a literal translation of the Arabic, ‘al Madina’

Friday, January 14, 2005

the blue mug, and much beer

night before last, i was drinking with monica and amit at dv8, one of my favorite, well, beer-ing holes.
great evening.
and then i sudenly see that the whole cast and crew of the blue mug is sitting there, having many post show beers.

what do i say about the blue mug?

based on doctor oliver sack's books on neurological disorders, the man who mistook his wife for a hat, the play is...
structured in a dizzyingly simple manner, but whic constantly juxtaposes everyday neuroses with more tragic disorders to the point where it's hard to tell them apart, but towards the end there is a sudden lurch (no other words to describe it, not twist, not conclusion) and you come out of the theatre examining your own life, your own neuroses, and your own past.

i came out sobbing, but somehow redeemed. after bellyaching laughter througout the play.

humour as pathos.

among those who gave the play its power were the actors ranvir and vinay, who once upon a time used to be channel V VJs. they also do great comedy sketches on something called the great indian comedy show - including a curry western in which the cowboys speak thet punjabi, and the red indians speak english, with very broad south indian accents. (wanted dead or alive. reward - panj hazaar butter chicken oye!)

i love them for the that they can do both. 'serious' theatre, and commercial tv, and bring their own peculair sense of humour to both; making humour a truly serious business.

more power to them.
of course, many beers later i went and did true fan behavour by going upto them and congratulating them etc. etc.
for once, i felt completely unembarassed about doing something like that...
and when they said, you don't know how much this means to us, i seriously hope they weren't funning me!

'i am the law'

does anyone remember the awful movie 'judge dredd', in which a heavily armoured sylvester stallone moved around the city beating up people and yelling lopjawed, 'I am the law'?
well, don't.
it's not worth the rememberance.
but -

two nights ago i flagged down an auto to go home. a guy who'd been running frantically and waving at the same auto joined me, to hitch a short ride...
turned out that he was a trafic policeman, going towards the intersection that was his beat for the night.
he kept asking the auto wallah to jump lights.
and obviously, the auto was pulled over by cops.
when he leaned out of the auto and said, Let him go, I asked him to do it, I am of the 'staff'...

('staff' is a great social institution in delhi, which allows impecunious, (or just plain aggro) students in delhi to not pay for bus tickets by pretending (or prtending to pretend) to be the drivers/staff of other buses...

when we reached his crossing, a red light again, he got off and told the autowallah to go.
- but now you're no longer in the auto, i will have to pay a fine.
the policeman said, with exasperated benevolence, that he was only handling this particular crossing, so what was the auto wallah worried about?

nexttime you want to run a red light, just have a cop sitting in your car.
not only will that prevent legal trouble, he will actively encourage the breaking of the law...

judge dredd, here we, um, went-ed...

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

a night in the life of delhi air traffic control

It is that flat and spectral non-hour, awash in limbic tides, brainstem stirring fitfully, flashing inappropriate reptilian demands for sex, food, sedation, all of the above, and none really an option now…
William Gibson, Pattern Recognition.

At two in the morning, at Air Traffic Control in Delhi, Gibson couldn’t be more appropriate.
It is at this flat and spectral non-hour that SC Badola sits in front of a radar scope, looking at forty International flights over flying Indian territory simultaneously, and babying them across the sky between Banaras and Lahore.
- Singapore can you increase your speed 5 knots?
- Karachi estimate Alpha 4547…
- Air France 147 Radar climb to 572…

All time is GMT, all those different accents of the Sky Captains are speaking a peculiar coded babel that sounds like English but isn’t quite. My vision is blurring with sleep and the magnitude of all I have taken in the past three hours, while Mr. Badola is alive, zoned in, clued in, talking to the alphanumeric blips on his radar scope, guiding them down VHF radio highways in the sky, keeping planes the mandatory eight miles apart, longitudinally, and a thousand feet apart, vertically. I can’t even count all the blips on his screens, as he reads the short statistics that travel the screen with each airplane, and does complex vector geometry in his head, telling them the speed, height and direction they need to maintain…

- We’re in the business of avoiding collisions.

It’s like playing chess, long distance, with live explosives. The second most stressful job in the world after precision surgery. That’s what they tell me. All the people in that long wide room lined with terminals and backlit maps of cities and flight paths. They’re handling four hundred and fifty ‘movements’ (landings and take offs) a day, a movement every two minutes on an average, and over two hundred over flights. Which seems strange, because they are the calmest and most collected people group of people I’ve hung around some time now. Especially Mr. RK Singh, the chairman of the ATC guild, who’s showing us around the place. I came in expecting ‘Pushing Tin’ pyrotechnics. Instead, the drab room buzzes with a low level hum of, um, Zen. But the job is so nerve wracking that its mandatory to leave your post every two hours to rest, as the next controller takes over. During peak time takeoffs and landings, the controllers change every hour. ‘Jet lag’ is completely redefined. And here’s why -

Air Traffic Control is a six hour a day, seven day a week job. No Sundays off, no vacations. Because of a shortage of a staff, they continually rotate shifts, so that the circadian rhythm has no hope in hell of settling in.

A controller needs to build a complex three dimensional picture of aerospace and the aircraft flying through it. With upto forty to fifty aircraft at a time, the only parallel is doing fifty trigonometric calculations. Simultaneously. With aircraft, full of people, approaching at their slowest, at two seventy kilometres per hour. The controller listens to one aircraft, listens to another, and yet another, thinks what to do, while watching the screen, entering data on the keyboard, replying to one, formulating a reply for the other, and yet another. All within ten to fifteen seconds. Its not uncommon to go ‘down the pipes’; the mental hologram breaking down, suddenly being clueless with what to make of all those blips frantically blinking on screen, drifting dangerously close…

- What do you do then?
- The controller is taught to volunteer to get out of the situation, says Mr. RK Singh in his incongruously slow, relaxed way. And Area holds off releasing to Approach.

In controller-ese, the airspace is divided into three zones, often imagined as concentric cylinders, decreasing in both height and radius. There is Area Control, a 400 mile radius with heights upto forty six thousand feet, where the over flights are controlled. There is Approach control, a sixty mile radius, with heights up to twenty thousand feet, where flights coming in to land at Delhi are directed into a pattern to land in sequence. Once they line up to land, they are under Surface Area control, a radius of ten miles from the airport, and heights upto five thousand five hundred feet. Control of aircraft is transferred from one Control to the other, as they take care of Area, Approach or Surface Movement. When things get too hot in aerospace, with too many planes, and nerves fraying much faster than approach speeds, planes are held off in ‘orbit’ – aimlessly circling the perimeters of Approach Space, as you wake up from your comfy nap and wonder why you haven’t landed in Delhi half an hour ago. Sometimes there’s a medical emergency on board, and all other aircraft hold off in orbit, as that plane is given priority.

But the worst nightmare is weather. When Delhi’s infamous fog starts rolling in between four and five in the morning, barely half an hour before the rush of morning departures starts from five thirty, then there is complete and utter chaos, as the queue of planes waiting for takeoffs lengthens interminably, and the planes coming in to land are circling as thick as buzzards over a garbage dump. Delhi’s (ILS) Instrument Landing System is Category 3A (the highest is 3C), but that’s not enough when pilots can’t see the runway from ‘decision height’, when they have to pull out of the landing pattern. To reach Category 3C, the airport will need massive structural modifications, and large areas around will need to be cleared, like Shankar Vihar. Till/if that happens, planes will continue to be stacked in orbit, and controllers will have to deal with berserk radar screens. And ulcers.

But it’s not just about stress and radio frequencies and instant maths. In the tower, which controls landing and takeoffs ,the high windows give you a beautiful view of the runway, the road running parallel, and the sky all around.
The radio crackles. A Lufthansa flight is coming in, a 747.
Cleared to land, it’s a small dot, just visible in the sky, ‘Between Saket and the Qutub Minar’.
Soon you can see the wing lights flashing.
The pilot asks for the centre line lights of the runway to be turned on, to increase visibility. And suddenly, as if by magic, a beautiful brilliant emerald necklace adorns the night out of nowhere.
And the 747, getting bigger by the second, all speed and streamlined grace lines up with the lights and touches down smoothly, in what has to be the most beautiful sight in the world.

Welcome to Delhi.

some version of this story will be out in Outlook Traveller, February 2005.
buy it!

Monday, January 10, 2005

chapati sci fi

An eventful week just passed, and left no time to blog.
and now that there is some, however little, time on hand, i don't know what to write about.
Much interesting time spent with Brian Larkin.
A night in the life of Delhi Air Traffic Control. (soon up)
Three days of an eventful conference on contested commons, trespassing publics.(linked to in the last post) a kickass finale to that, an impassioned, thought provoking, cosmic connection making stand up comedy public lecture by Peter Linebaugh. (Monty Python and DD Kosambi would both have been proud, not to mention EP Thompson.)
And last night, a two and a half hour adaptation of Premchand's Rangbhoomi, on stage at NSD, which served as a fade out to the conference, being about the enclosure of common lands, and the resistance to that, in a nineteenth century Indian village.

however, apart from the commisioned atc story, there is nothing i feel i can comprehend enough to write about right now.
so im returning to some old faded stories - in the genre of alternative history.
something i started writing in 2001, three weeks after 9/11.
in this alternate history, too close for comfort, and hence abandoned, i imagine what the 150th anniversary of the sepoys entering delhi might be like.
the presumption of the alternate history was this. that instead of, as they did, being overconfident of a victory and hence calling elections early, the bjp government in power in 2004 knew that they were going to lose the elections, and declared a state of national emergency before the elections... from where we lead on to 11 May 2007, also the anniversary of India's nuclear tests... and a day which strikingly parallels with the events of Delhi, 1857.

sepoy, methinks you would have liked the novel if it had ever been completed... the first of the genre of chapati sci fi... unfortunately abandoned halfway, when the iraq war made all dystopic sci fi redundant.
meanwhile, the first two parts of the novel exist as word documents on a shared computer... and i'm glad that this particular alternate reality seems a very remote possibility noew, if only in this part of the world...

11 May 2007

No speed of wind or water rushing by
But you have speed far greater. You can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the stream of time...

If only it could be that simple. The Red Fort passes on our left, three electrified wire mesh fences strung across blasted, barren rubble strewn earth protecting it from the passing traffic, represented by our solitary car. Uniformed soldiers stand behind sandbagged gun emplacements in the graffiti scarred marble pavilions where lovers of Mughal princesses were once boiled to death in heated bath water, scented with roses. Down the long black barrels of anti-aircraft guns they track us, their guns swiveling in the classic ‘pan’ of good camera technique. The only things preventing our car from becoming a classic exploding fireball photo-op is a white flag fluttering in the slipstream, and a PRESS sign painted in lurid red lipstick diagonally across the white roof.

The road is where the river used to be. Before the river went away, disgusted by the events of 1857, it used to flow down through the canyon formed between the Red Fort and the then island of Salimgarh down all along the length of what became the Ring Road all the way till Humayun’s Tomb and beyond. And so, Frost inspired metaphors. The river of history has changed its course here, and we are going upstream the ghost of a river. And Frost didn’t mention anything at all about the speed being that of a news corporation’s car.

All this means something I’m sure, but I don’t even want to think what it could be. It’s bad enough that the planes are back.

Helicopter gunships, actually. The bleached white, dirt streaked sky of burning May is abuzz with them. The racket of blades chopping air for locomotion, machines flying low over the battlements of the Fort, the fragile glass bubbles of the dragonfly Cheetahs, obsolete, but that’s never stopped the IAF from flying anything. Ponderous, tenacious bulldog, how the hell do they stay aloft Mil bureau Hunds, with death-spitting rocket pods attached to their stub-wings. The strange elongated, reptilian shapes of USAF Cobras and Apaches, their anti-glint canopies dead to the sun. Brief exciting thoughts of ‘Breaking News’ before I wonder which of them is really real.

None, of course. There are anti-aircraft guns in the Old City. A whole dozen of Pinaka multi-barreled SAM launchers. And, according to the Defense Ministry, about twenty Stingers. Nothing’s gonna fly over Shahjahanabad for a while yet, except the carrier pigeons. Things just haven’t been the same since they shot that Stealth over Kosovo.

Shit, I have to quit this job. The planes will turn to Baghdad my Kabul-ed fucking mind. Or vice versa. We’ve looped a long way round the walls since the Fort. To where the concrete pillars of the elevated railway nearly touch and totally dwarf the stone walls of Shahjahanabad. Where shell holes and rising smoke and the burnt carcasses of buses seem strewn at random over the grimy cement acreage of the Inter State Bus Terminal. Where Brits dynamited their way back into the city in 1857. Where more sandbags and more soldiers are packed into the ‘Tourist Camp’ and the leafy paths and shaded arcades of the Qudsia (or is it Maharana Pratap?) gardens, across road from the battlements again defended by guns after a hundred and fifty years.

My head vibrates as the ‘Newsflash’ buzz goes and I look at the world through black text across my eyes. ‘ BA Flight ___ Delhi-London shot down over Israel. Suspected terrorist aboard.’

Angel’s kiss this morning lingers. A brief, cool brushing of lips. At four thirty in the morning. At the airport where I’d gone to see her off.

The helicopters buzz overhead. Flak puffs into the sky.


Friday, January 07, 2005

a brief hiatus

currently busy with being a very small part of the organising, and of course,attending of an ip conference.
posting on the blog should start again from next week.
with a brief description of air traffic control in delhi...

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

plugging the pphp cd.

so far in this blog, references to my work (as in what i do for a living) have been extremely scant, and if present, then tangential.

Today I am posting a large chunk of 'work' work. I work at an organisation called Sarai (it takes its name from the generic for a wayfarer's inn, of sorts, a safe enclosure where travellers met/meet), on a project called PPHP - People's and Practises in the History of The Present.

Here is the introduction to a CD we produced out of our work recently. (like, two days ago.) A cd we're all very proud of. (I wrote whatever isn't in italics. )

The idea of this intro is to whet your appetite for the CD, and for the work we do. The CD is under a creative commons license. For copies, contact me.


The new globalisation has transformed media networks in Delhi. At the
level of the everyday, the old prohibition and regulation on the social
life of commodities have proved ineffective, urban residents are now
assaulted with a deluge of cultural products, cassettes, CD's, MP3s,
VCD's, cable television, grey markets computers, cheap chinese audio and
video players, thousands of cheap print flyers, and signage everywhere.
What is remarkable here is the preponderance of these products comes
from the grey or informal sector, outside the effective regulation of
the state or large capital. India today has the world's second largest
music market, a large film industry with global dreams, a majority grey
computer market, hundreds of tiny thousands of phone and word processing
shops and cybercafes. And as if from the ruins of urban planning new
media bazaars, which supply these networks have emerged, existing in the
cusp of legality and illegality. Everyday a guerilla war is raging,
between new intellectual property raiders, the police and unceasing
neighbourhood demand for grey ware.

- Ravi Sundaram

Journeys in the History of the Present (and absent...)

As researchers of the PPHP program, we constantly traverse zones of
legality and illegality, passing through markets, cinemas, corporate
offices, music companies, film distribution offices, detective agencies,
law courts, police stations, government archives and factories. We meet
shopkeepers, software pirates, porn merchants, architects, singers,
accountants, laborers, lawyers, officials and policemen – all of whom
constitute the fraught fabric of the Media City, the intertwining networks
of curtailment and circulation.

In enforcement, there is an increasing link between property and
propriety. The Economic Offences Wing conducts raids for Obscene Material,
and of course, Copyright Violations, and these are Locally made video
satires, a new variation on a long existing tradition, have to go
underground to prevent the ‘spread of communalism’. A plethora of laws are
being used, or sought to be used, to discipline pirate networks and their
free, untrammeled, circulation. Copyright, obscenity, communalism, the
cinematograph act…

At the same time, laws and regulations are being changed to privilege
large capital; and a sanitized, globalised imagination of the city. The
boom in malls has been fuelled by the repeal of the Urban Land Ceiling
Act. Multiplexes act as drivers for Malls, and have become possible
because of changes in MCD regulations on land use.

Forms of Sharing Research

In the PPHP program, as we bear witness to the rapidly transforming city,
we try to knit our diverse experiences into a picture of larger processes
and transformations by posting field-notes (largely experiential) on a
common list and archive(, a space for sharing information,
for collaborative research, for creative interventions. Newspaper
clippings and other print and audio visual material are also collected and
digitized. There is a commitment to making the research public, and in
this endeavour, we engage with a variety of forms of presenting research -
staccato fieldnotes, news clippings, more ‘poetic’, evocative texts,
archival resources, other ‘intermediate’ forms of writing not yet polished
into an essay or scholarly article; these modes of writing are put out
into the public domain via new forms – the broadsheet, the spiral bound
volume, the hyperlinked CD.

The form of this CD is not different from the research it presents. The
hyperlinks which enable you to pick and follow threads reflect how the
researchers move through diverse spaces. Following leads, and threading
through the quotidian flux and constant change that characterise the Media
City. A city that cannot be navigated through the cartographic grid, or
the practices of mapping. Think rather of the labyrinth of legend.
Unmapped, unmappable. Think of Theseus, who navigates through the
labyrinth with a ball of thread, slowly unravelling. We feel it is an apt
picture to describe our re-search. The threads we draw/follow through the
city may not 'map' the city in any traditional sense, but following these
diverse threads will give you the warp and weft, a feel of the fabric of
the everday.

Threads and networks. There are workshops and presentations where we
engage with people in the other projects at Sarai, and with the larger
community of researchers. Notable are the networks built with the
Alternative Law Forum, and the Centre for Emerging Urbanism, in
Bangalore. Every six months, the PPHP programme has an internal review, in
which the researchers evaluate the directions that their research is
taking them in, and the directions that they should take in the future. We
like to think of ourselves as being at the core of a dynamic,evolving,
networked research community.

We hope that the articles and postings presented in this CD, culled from
the PPHP archives and from our various publications, give you a sense not
just of the changing fabric of the media city, but of the diverse ways we
seek to engage with these changes; of new modes of bearing witness.

Monday, January 03, 2005

(not so) lucid dreaming

so the new year has come with fog and mist and the surrealism that thick yellow fog swirling into a third floor flat through the balcony can bring - when the park and the houses beyond are obscured behind your own shadow floating solidly on shifting mists...

so woke up this morning, switched of the alarm, and went into what i can only think of as a lucid dream, except that there was nothing particuarly lucid, or intelligent about it - just, the halllucinogenic, slightly brain dead clarity of scripted Hollywood Technicolour. (i could hear the violins soar in the background....)

my, ahem, dream, was some form of a biopic of the Rock band, u2. now i can, with a little stretch of the imagination, be described as a fan, even though i am yet to hear their latest album, but this, even by my standards, is truly ridiculous....
(what is even more ridiculous is that i actually remember the drivel. most dreams just leave a magic mushroom aftertaste...)

one of u2's early, unsuccesful singles is an esoteric homage to an esoteric irish poet who thinks he's an ancient greek philosopher. the dreams pans over the lyrics, written by yeats. in the dream, 'edward', rather than wb. (i remember being surprised by this even as i dreamt... )
the dream unspools to show the memebers of u2 meeting the loopy, snowy haired yeats, and then goes on to...

Canberra. Australia. Olympics. (Forget visiting, I haven't even seen a picture of Canberra, and notice change of scene, country, halfway across the world... )
u2 are doing some form of local hero/theme song singing and hanging out role here...
bono is sitting at a swimming pool where athletes are hanging out. (i even remember the shirt he is wearing, white, with pale blue and pink flowers)
one athlete (white) challenges another athlete (chinese?) to jump into the deep end. the other athlete refuses, saying he' s a runner, not a swimmer.
bono says, softly, that the guy seems like a bigger coward than the members of u2.
the chinese athlete jumps into the pool. and drowns.
cut to church. crowds gathering. dream camera tracks into perforated screen outside church porch, where bright red roses are being poked into the perforations.
enter sudden darkness of church, to see people lounging around for memorial service, but in distinctly woodstock fashion.
some long haired, blond, ugly guy beats ponytailed bono up a bit for making the athlete jup.
bono goes backstage, or rather, back-altar, burning with remorse.
hectic negotiations with officiating priest.
i know that he's about to come back and sing one moving sog which will become a instant hit, and u2 will be made for life.
monica's phone alarm goes off and i wake up...

why the amazing clarity, and wildly inventive detail?
why the complete disconnect from my everyday life?
any interpretations?
and if, as if the saying goes, morning dreams always come true (subah ka sapna hamesha sach hota hai), then for the scary possibilites of the transformative powers of lucid dreams, read Ursula K. Le Guin's, 'The Lathe of Heaven'.
and be a little scared...

Saturday, January 01, 2005

this new year is yours

one of the nicest mails i have recieved in the glut that welcomes in the year is this one from srirupa -

This new year, compatriot, is yours.
It was born of you more than of time. Choose
the best of your life and surrender it to combat.

This year that has fallen like a corpse in its tomb
cannot rest with love and with fear.
This expired year is a year of sorrows that accuse.
And in the hour of festivity, in the night,
when its bitter roots break away and fall
and another ignored crystal rises to the void
of a year that your life will gradually fill,
give it the dignity required by my country
and yours, this narrowness of volcanoes and wines.

-- Pablo Neruda, "You Will Struggle"

this year that has fallen like a corpse in its tomb....

any resolutions for the new year?
only the usual -
- be more organised with life/work.
- not to forget to brush teeth at night.
- get into shape to cycle from kabul to kolkata, come november.
(don't know whether i'll stick to the other two, but this one i am so working on!)


only the double whammy that used to be at the bottom of every mail i sent out as bulleh shah...

Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons because you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.
- Dilbert

Only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious.
- Walter Benjamin
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