dance me to the end of 2004

behenji's posts have petered off into lalaland. a barrage of bad weather and good people prevent me from writing. would it help if i said i was ruminating all this time? where did this year go? and what a way for it to end--mother nature decides to show us her stuff...and now tsunami is a household word for most of us. limbs of wood and flesh floating in water, coasts slapped across the face by sheer force. and all those faces that once walked the beach, rode on cycles, watched sunsets and sunrises--gone. jettisoned into the afterworld.

on a lighter note, i recently discovered madeleine peyroux's velvety voice and acquired her latest album, careless love, via itunes. dance me to the end of love, with peyroux's voice and leonard cohen's words, make a song that is simply a slice of heaven.

the words:

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Happy New Year everyone!!!


do you have duende?

a few weeks back, i was doing some research on my favorite Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. I stumbled upon his brilliant lecture 'theory and play of the duende' and was giddy with excitement after reading it.

Here is an excerpt from the lecture:

The duende…Where is the duende? Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odour of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things

When Lorca brought the dark creative force he called Duende into the open, he articulated what many of us, who committed to making words our daily, lifelong pursuit, ironically have no words for. Duende is what Lorca calls ‘a power and not a behaviour…a struggle and not a concept… of blood, of ancient culture, of creative action.’ It is that elusive, often erratic pulse that I want to capture in my poetry and which I feel artists go insane chasing after.


football shootball

today my son, who is almost 3 and a half, wanted to eat kidney beans (rajma) and rice. since he couldn't remember the name, he told me he wanted the beans that looked like a football. isn't that so cute?


hark, who goes there? behenji is that you?

its been awhile and i have so many excuses...so let's not go there. but i so miss blogging. lots to write. so much flurry and activity in matters literary and otherwise. for starters behenji is acting in a play. after many years of her costumes and various persona gathering dust, behenji is brushing off her wigs and boots and coming out of the closet straight into the spotlight. shakespeare, eat your heart out. the world is a fucking beautiful stage! yes, behenji uses the 'f' word when the occasion calls for it. behenji donned the hat of playwright as well and wrote a small 10 minute play, which was recieved without sniggers.
what else, what else....my fellow bloggers have been burning the midnight oil and making my blog look like an empty shelf at a grocery store that no one wants to restock. here are some things which caught behenji's eye:

an article in the christian science monitor on ee cummings' biography . I have always loved ee cummings disregard for punctuation. in some ways he reminds me of gertrude stein except cummings focussed on meaning more than sound. his play of words is just enough so that his poems are playful and yet powerful. amardeep singh mentions him in his blog as well, along with a link to a lovely anti-war poem which i wish i had written.

speaking of bloggers, my friend Soniah, a talented writer who has a book coming out with penguin in 2005, has a blog of her own called Incidently Speaking, Soniah which is definitely an asset to the literary blog world. go visit her and tell her behenji sent you;) her mommy post rings so true for me. try writing with one little bohemian hanging from your boob and another refusing to let go of your leg. the husband ain't much help either, being two continents away. but c'est la vie, as they say in paris!

hurree babu has brought to light the term 'curry covers' in his blog with photos. how many south asian writers have sarees on the covers of their books?: apparently monica ali, rupa bajwa (but understandably so. after all her book is called 'the sari shop.'), and others too like cb divakaruni. well, i think sarees are beautiful and can represent mystery and sensuality in a woman. but it is about time that south asian writers started breaking 'far from the mango crowd,' if i may so butcher the title of Mr. Thomas Hardy's book.

have much more to say about the mango crowd but will have to wait till dinner is cooked and served


behenji blows...her nose

cough. sputter. haaaaachooo! the little bohemians are down too. cough cough.


vasudhaiv kutumbakam-the whole world is one family

little cultural amazements, nostalgic twangs of home in this sultry suburb of california. the other day after dropping the kids at school, i was walking home and chanced upon two old indian men waiting at the bus stop. as they were chatting, i heard strains of Omkarnath Thakur and looked around to see where it was coming from. There in one man's hand was a tape recorder. both gentlemen were nodding and smiling and talking while a beautiful raaga became the background score for life in America, for this small bustop next to the railroad tracks. i realized then how home is a state of mind that you can carry with you everywhere.

then this morning, a stone's throw from the bus stop, a man was wheeling in his garbage can after trash collection, whistling a very catchy 'tujhe dekha to yeh jaana sanam.' without realizing it, i started humming the song and couldn't stop.

why do these little things touch me so much? why do they comfort me? and yet i feel this is what life boils down to. where all the answers can be found. this is what i want to capture in my words, my verse. this joy for all things simple. finding love in living, in all living things. from rotten peaches hanging to unripe lemons and apples, to the stray brown cat that sits in front of our house every evening, and to the humming birds that eat our figs.

i think it is neccesary to be humbled by nature, to realize/feel greater forces at work and most of all to feel the world is one big family.


proof of poetry

yes, i am actually going to post a poem. proof that behenji churns out poems, gets hand cramps from spinning the wheel.

poetry poachers beware: you can call the words yours, but you can't steal the mind they came from! enjoy!


In one hand
angry violets
And in the other
a Kukri knife
glowing green
of fresh floral kill

the flowers are for myself
my pleasure, my eyes
you say, holding them
a little too tight
and now your hands
smell faintly
of death
as you hold our faces
kiss us goodbye


two men and a tree

walking home this afternoon after picking up my son from pre-school, i came upon two chinese men perched on the sidewalk. i could tell they were gardeners from their wide brim hats and the pickup parked at the curb with garden tools jutting out. they had a bucket of some sort and i thought they were pulling weeds with their hands. as i came closer i saw it was a plastic cooler. on top of the cooler were two porcelain bowls and in the gardeners' grass stained hands chopsticks. the two looked so tranquil under the shade of a tree: eating, smiling, talking...and so at home while far away from home. i felt like i was watching a poem go by.


and the nobel prize in literature goes to...

a woman!!!!! yay!!! women rock!!! and because women aren't recognized enough in awards. no, i am not a thong burning feminist. but there is a certain amount of inequality that goes unacknowledged. anyway, cheers to this very worthy Austrian author.

and the sky went rattapallax

rattapallax made me do a doubletake: for the word itself, which is is Wallace Steven’s onomatopoeia for “thunder” and for the magazine/website/press published by Ram Devineni, which is doing/has done some wonderful work, especially in honor of Pablo Neruda's 1ooth birthday-a book, a documentary, and a pilgrimage of sorts to isla negra.

Behenji was inspired to pen a few words after reading about the trip to isla negra:


yesterday, a third of a century after
did you imagine they would circle
your house

like Hindus circling
a temple


but seriously, behenji wants to write a novel!

i do. i do. full of music, rebellion and realization. from the cold frost of the midwest to the edge of the ganges. behenji has been ruminating big time. in the process i have also decided to arm myself with the write oops right tools:
pencils-for chewing on
scratched laptop (made to resemble old tattered notebook)
loud ticking alarm clock-to throw when experiencing writer's block
two noisy children-excuse for not being able to finish above mentioned novel.

behenji dares you: 50,000 words in a month

national novel writing month is november...or atleast it is for the folks at http://www.nanowrimo.org/ every year they ask pen wielding, plotting, peoples like myself to experience the joys of actually finishing a novel. behenji is so tempted...


how do you write?

i saw this postcard advertising an online workshop:

computer required, clothing optional
yeah, like that's really going to happen.
but it got behenji thinking...do writers really have writing habits that are that varied?
i know vikram seth writes in bed and i believe hemingway only wrote standing up. i write sitting at my kitchen table, which i believe many others do too. but before i come to the table, my house has to be clean. dishes must be in place, each sock must be folded. all papers must be filed alphabetically and so that is why, dear friends, i am still on page one of my first novel.
so how do you write? what are your quirks? behenji wants to know...


an exercise in narcism

googled behenji and found the following (which i have paraphrased for more pleasure):

wah behenji! (the title of a new comedy on zee tv?)
behenji: the bane of brahmins (i love this, especially since i am one! behenji as caste rebel?)
the last behenji standing (behenji joins the wwf)
the behenji and the bitch (a twisted tale of behenji and lassie)
to behenji with love (behenji retires as a teacher after 30 years. no sequel i promise)
behenji brigade indo-asian news service (apparently it exists)
behenji's boys bristle (what can i say? )

and in the end: The behenji is modern (BIM) now but not ashamed of her Indianness...

more grist for the blogging mill

how blogs are changing the way we read. me thinks we need new glasses and a more back-friendly chair after all the cyber-voyeurism! an excerpt:

It's way premature to say that literary blogs have supplanted the established media (just as it would be to say Drudge is a better news source than the networks' websites). But it's reasonable to call them old media's stealth competitors, because they draw a young and educated demographic that advertisers desire. Their audiences are not immense, but established blogs like Bookslut claim a respectable 3,000 hits a day.

I think this is amazing. I just dived into blogging/blog reading a month or so ago and am amazed at the energy, intelligence and ideas that are out there. and all from the comfort of your keyboard. i won't be surprized to hear a song down the line called 'bloggers killed the nyt book review.' (if you don't get it, its ok. its from an old 80s song.)

more from the same article:
Will literary bloggers eventually trump the traditional book reviewer? I think everyone spends far too much time fretting about the various media and their influences. Clearly, each has its own strengths and weaknesses. And in all cases, certain personalities emerge with more influence than others. In radio, it's the curmudgeon Don Imus who has the power to send books up the bestseller list. On television, it's the all-embracing Oprah. In newspapers, it is the cover of the New York Times Book Review that is said to influence book sales. The Internet surely will also eventually produce its own version of Imus, Oprah, and the NYTBR -- without necessarily diminishing the other media book-promoting stars.I, for one, am cheering on the literary bloggers. Books need all the support they can get.

this bookish bohemian couldn't agree more!


a luminous kinda gal

the pull of domesticity has kept behenji away from blogging--but not from ruminating. aww hell, the dishes can wait a bit. there have been some very interesting discussions on another subcontinent on the luminousity of poets and the need to innovate more in Indian poetry in English. To me the Asian subcontinent is so lush in its day to day life, yet I feel our poetry doesn't aptly reflect this. I have always encountered spirituality, mysticism or a certain abstractness in general in english poets writing from India. those that do immigrate to the west get trapped between the folds of two different worlds and are often found beating their chest in hopes that their true identity will pop out. somehow it all seems contained. no one wants to leap off the page.

i hope this changes. maybe poetry doesn't seem important enough for most purveyors of literature and for people in general. the asian subcontinent has such a beautiful tradition of poetry and its evolution should continue...as far as poetry is concerned i think we need to keep reinventing the wheel.


hooked by the book: and the nominees are...

yes friends, the list has arrived. behenji has never heard of these writers but is willing to bet they are all good. drum roll please:

Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor
The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Master by Colm Toibin
I'll Go to Bed at Noon by Gerard Woodward

behenji is reading michael ondaatje right now, the english patient, recipient of the booker prize in 1992, and has come to the following conclusion: he is one of the most gifted writers of the english language. more in my next post.


maroon5: infectious pop

my daugher and i were watching the world music awards when maroon5 came on. behenji was suddenly transported back into the 80s longing to be a teenager again. a little billy joel, a little stevie wonder and jamiroqoi rolled into one. a funky backstreet boys? maybe. but i like them.


literary blogging: too elitist?

yesterday, mr.sochvichar (www.sochvichar.blogspot.com) said i should use my writing skills for the greatest good of the greatest number. this can also be read as :'i don't understand your poetry' and 'you use very big words.' the poem in question : i'm sir vidia's teacup!

'but i enjoy writing about literature.' i told him. 'and then what about your blog?' i counteracted. 'i mean what in the name of yahweh is 'user centric focus' and 'institutional management.' i would rather peel off wallpaper or lick stamps than read about that;)

anyway, the question of art as activism or writing as a political act has always been there. i'm of the school that writing is a political act, if for no other reason than you are capturing/reinterpreting/representing/translating an experience of some sort, real or imagined.

amardeep singh has an interesting blog (http://www.lehigh.edu/~amsp/blog.html september 11, 2004) on academic blogging.

i mean how seriously should/shouldn't we take blogging? i think it goes beyond that. for some its an online diary, for others its a veritable cyber playground for one's thoughts. i think for voyeurs of arts & letters, its license to peep through peoples windows and then introduce yourself saying, 'oh, so that's how you look naked! wanna see how i look?'

anyway, behenji is committed to the arts, and in doing so, i try to be as altruistic as possible. for now, that's my greatest good for the greatest number.


i'm sir vidia's teacup

the title of this post is inspired by the image of sir vidia at home in the wiltshires, drinking darjeeling as nadira goads him lovingly with her wit and wisdom. i think they make a wonderful couple. at least that's what comes across in this article (click on post title behenjis & bhaisahibs!).

for your reading pleasure, an exercise in excruciatingly bad rhyme (read with a whince and grimace at your own risk):

if i were sir vidia's teacup
what would i be?
white bone?

if i were sir vidia's teacup
how would i feel?
scalding ?

would i be half empty?
would i be half full?
would earl grey
get shunted
by darjeeling's pull?

would crumbs from a scone
sink to the bottom?
would brandy be added
to combat the autumn?
would nadira's lipstick
be on the rim?
would i be thrown against
the wall on a whim?

would i be relished
like a thirsty beggar?
would i be jilted
like a one night lover?
would i be knighted
sir of cups?
or used for
sugar up?

i am sir vidia's tea cup
and this is what i say:

have you had your tea today?


Queen of Dreams lulls behenji to sleep

i recieved Divakaruni's latest novel in the mail last week and decided to bite the bullet and read it. While i think Chitra is a wonderful person and a very conscientious writer, I just can't seem to like her novels. In fact, what pleased me most after reading Queen of Dreams was the hope that I too have a shot as a novelist.

the seed of the story: rakhi, a divorced artist living in Berkeley California, with a young daughter, whose mother reads and interprets dreams, learns to negotiate her relationships with her past and present. throw in a cool DJ ex-hubby, an alcoholic dad who turns around, a sardaarni best friend and a rebellious young child torn between two parents and two catastrophic events: mother's demise and 9/11. oh, and cameo appearances from a elusive, yoga practicing, fast car driving, spirit/muse called emit maerd. 1 mississippi 2 mississippi 3 mississippi... did you guess it yet? emit maerd=dream time. we did stuff like this in grade school, but to see it in a novel that is supposed to be serious, for an audience of adults, was a real let down.

the book is vey wordy, with long descriptive sentances. there are some pure shots of poetry inbetween though, which if taken out of the book, would stand on their own beautifully.

It's evening, the blue hour of gathering shadows.

why, oh why, chitra, did you stop writing poetry????

did emit maerd just say money? fame?

To me queen of dreams read like notes of that novel that divakaruni will write. yes, there are notes in it, in the form of a dream journal, that verge on interesting but then somehow become dense:

first, follow this man, for he is either a spirit guide or a demon. in either case, trick him into speaking to you. that is how you establish power over him. ask him the question foremost in your mind. his answer may transform your life. but most importantly, do not lose him. more instructions will be given to you next year, when you have learned enough to understand such subtleties.

subtlety, as you can see is not behenji's strong point. behenji would have passed with third division marks at dream school.

behenji wants to say more but has to tend to a growling stomach. but what to do with the hungry mind? somebody somewhere better be writing a novel that will make behenji weep and sing.


v.s. nightfall:)

was googling west indian poet derek walcott when my eagle eye spotted this from an article in the guardian:

Even the poet Derek Walcott, who took the Nobel Prize in 1992 and who expressed a widespread West Indian hostility towards his fellow-writer in the character of 'VS Nightfall', has conceded that he is 'our finest writer of the English sentence.

boom kaboom noises in the dead of night

while panditji snored softly in Minnesota, behenji was rudely awakened in california at 3:32 am by a loud thud. our house is old and since it's a rental, it's not exactly updated, if you know what i mean. i hear sqeaks from doors and windows, the floor groans on ocassion, tiles do crack under behenji's heavy feet but that's not all...when we flush the toilet, it sounds as if a jet is about to take off...no exaggeration.

well last night it was none of those things. i got up muttering to myself why PJ had to be out of town when stuff like this happened, heard the loud ticking of the wind-up alarm clock which panditji would like to throw in the pacific ocean, looked at conan o brian laughing at me through the telly and waited for a thief to rob our threadbare house.

when that didn't happen i dozed off only to be rudely awakened by the alarm clock which i wanted to now throw into the pacific. the tv, which i kept on whole night, reported a small earthquake literally next door.

i looked outside and saw my daughter's bike lying on its side and put two and two together (yes behenji does that occasionally).

earthquakes are an everyday reality here. at school, my daughter and her classmates all have disaster relief kits in their classrooms with bottled water, power bars, an insulated blanket and flares. parents are advised that in the case of an earthquake we should not rush to the school premises to find our child.

thankfully, the tremors are usually small, but they are a daily occurence in california. one which only seismologists pay attention too. no one reads that corner of the paper (at least i don't) where the quakes are listed in all its scaley glory.

the first time we came to california, we were having dinner at a friend's place when the windows started rattling. knock, knock, we are the spirits of mission san jose. then the dining table shook as if our dinner were a seance. for a second we all froze with fear. and then we all matter-o-factly said 'its just an earthquake.' Much in the same manner a Minnesotan says, 'oh it's only 12 inches of snow or it's only minus five out there, now bundle up.'

was behenji scared? not after she recited the hanuman chalisa;)


pixel not so perfect: microsoft goes to geography school

from an article on c/net:

When coloring in 800,000 pixels on a map of India, Microsoft colored eight of them a different shade of green to represent the disputed Kashmiri territory. The difference in greens meant Kashmir was shown as non-Indian, and the product was promptly banned in India. Microsoft was left to recall all 200,000 copies of the offending Windows 95 operating system software to try and heal the diplomatic wounds.

but that's not all:

The software giant managed to further offend the Saudis by creating another game in which Muslim warriors turned churches into mosques. That game was also withdrawn.

and then:

Microsoft has also managed to upset women and entire countries. A Spanish-language version of Windows XP, destined for Latin American markets, asked users to select their gender between "not specified," "male" or "bitch," because of an unfortunate error in translation.

talk about lost in translation;)

what's in a name? a lot!!!

two big south asian american writers have new books out with names that sound so bland it makes me want to puke. Bharti Mukherjee's latest book is called The Tree Bride and Chitra Divakaruni's new book is called Queen of Dreams. i understand that there are limitations to titles in regards to length, marketability, etc. but if you want to convince me to read your book with the promise of something remotely creative, start with the title! Book titles I have liked:

The God of Small Things
The Last Jet Engine Laugh
The Blue Bedspread
Salt and Saffron
To Kill a Mockingbird


new york state of mind

yesterday, as we made our way to half moon bay, with nary a cloud in the sky, panditji slipped in the best of billy joel. and as the california sun scorched us through our car windows, we were transported to NY via joel's soulful words and voice.

lately NYC has crept into our vocabulary and psyche. while PJ's love affair with NYC sparked from work, my relationship with NYC has been a largely imagined one, thrown in with a few touristy visits and one semi-professional trip. what do I remember out of it all is the glittering hudson, the snake-like winding traffic from bridge to bridge, oranges stacked outside a grocery store in tribeca, a man selling rings off a small cart in little italy and steam billowing from giant grates past midnight.

and then there is little bohemia, behenji's imagined peninsula of paradise. NYC has long been a mecca for artists, writers, actors & musicians. behenji has always envisioned herself with them. almost every other day my e-mails entice me with poetry readings, plays, writers groups, all located in NYC. behenji vows to visit the bowery one day and hopefully read some work of her own!

while suburbia has its bucolic charm and rhythmic predictabilty (and good schools and less taxes), it bores me to the bones. will the benevolent city Gods please shine their city light on us? no, we don't mind the sirens, horns and smog. and we will take the hipeccentric oath that all New Yorker's must. and no, we will not defect to 'joisy.'


experimental poetry in your inbox

someone out there is writing better poetry than me and offering it up as junk mail. all you language poets out there move over. your competition has arrived via spam defectors. You can order your prescription half price and read a poem that rivals Hannah Weiner. Hannah who you say?

For your reading pleasure:

diatomic gingham amulet bangladesh reach bowman mercury st stronghold weierstrass throughput melvin evidential filled lumpy penal sancho barricade paregoric synge goren cerium nun anybody'd able juicy contemporaneous password ibex trichrome viola bellatrix collaborate presumption expensive adkins decorum endgame sedentary aeronautic durward wainscot champlain conductor cancelling shuck kalamazoo debauch downtown structure sell weatherstrip tycoon audacity authoritarian ret emmanuel perfume challenge post sown mollusk congener organismic solvate gazelle ascension countryside breed zealand cabaret smash circuitous anyhow workmen aficionado compacter battlefront inveigh acyclic dispersible coercion laconic pigroot benthic ms apartheid homebuilder commendation anastomosis schema trastevere grepmalaviya: castigate epistemology rug milestone thirteen cruise infest mess caret bush follicle rebuttal remission common depressor nitpick workday fireproof decipher supply indiscriminate aster anise indomitable nicotinamide cesium silkworm axes decomposition cryostat bolster psychoanalysis theology addenda ceremonious freshwater travertine shafer asher explode colicky celanese pheasant towhee horology grandfather prussia align tycoon participle antiphonal johnston prelude claire affectionate minstrel symptom depot ronnie potatoes flannel mcelroy teamster algenib amethyst alkali conquer stigmata immobility expanse defensive afoul room intonate dodecahedra singular snagging deprecatory admittance prothonotary hernandez toothpaste borosilicate sigh aforesaid supersede therefor citroen unchristian hindpmalaviya: solvate gazelle ascension countryside breed zealand cabaret smash circuitous anyhow workmen aficionado compacter battlefront inveigh acyclic dispersible coercion laconic pigroot benthic ms apartheid homebuilder commendation anastomosis schema trastevere greed attitudinal didactic junketeer anatole circumflex dairy conquer alfred patrolling help groundsel thrombosis dyspeptic cloak durer dey ergodic bodyguard ambrose ! imperceptible subjunctive reversal offensive hawthorn bundoora ama artichoke upswing diva raoul puddly enigma conferring checkpoint castigate epistemology rug milestone thirteen cruise infest mess caret bush follicle rebuttal remission common depressor nitpick workday fireproof decipher supply indiscriminate aster anise indomitable nicotinamide cesium silkworm axes decomposit

literary doping & late night bumming around

an interesting article, but not more interesting than our after midnite special verbal buffet:
3@night and we are playing find the states on my son's LeapPad, making up names of law firms such as mishra, pandey and tiwari and talking about the dirty work of swamis. does life get any better? i hope so!

fact: did you know that before mata amritanandamayi
kisses you, your cheek is swabbed with dettol. devotees stand in a line getting their apples disinfected. hehe. and then mata showers her love on you. bacteria free. hope she swabs her lips.

i'm not even going to talk about the RNC. panditji was in NYC yesterday and managed to get a photo of arnie in front of planet hollywood, our charismatic governor who conducts business from a tent in front of the state capitol with a humidor. when i figure out how to post photos i'll
be sure to share with my audience of two.

and then there is zell 'hell' miller. what was he on? challenging chris matthews to a duel? hehehe.
i would love to see a verbal duel between the donkeys and the elephants. hell, why not a physical one? if they can get their jousting gear on properly, they'll have won half the battle.

sleep, you say? yes, i'm going...


food for thought and for the pot;)

when i want to relax i usually watch tv. the food network makes me forget the zillions of things i have to do. some of the shows i like are barefoot contessa, 30 minute meals, and that show hosted by alton brown in which he adds zaniness to the science of food. he reminds me of thomas dolby, both in looks and 'he blinded me with science.' i also like nigella lawson and wonder what happened to her. the sensuousness she brings to cooking would make almost any man want to don an apron (panditji, are you reading this;) anyway, the recipe which i want to put down is orzo with roasted vegetables:

from the barefoot contessa's anniversary episode:

This recipe is a slight variation of a wonderful summer dish invented by Sarah Leah Chase in her book, The Open House Cookbook.

1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4-inch diced 1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced 1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced 1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced 2 garlic cloves, minced 1/3 cup good olive oil 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/2 pound orzo or rice-shaped pasta

For the dressing: 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons) 1/3 cup good olive oil 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To assemble: 4 scallions, minced (white and green parts) 1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts), toasted 3/4 pound good feta, 1/2-inch diced (not crumbled) 15 fresh basil leaves, cut into julienne
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large sheet pan. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.
Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pignolis, feta, and basil. Check the seasonings, and serve at room temperature.


the future dictionary of america

got a kick out of the review of this book. here's an excerpt (someone should do a dictionary like this for India):

More off-kilter, if no less needed and well-imagined, are entries like Sarah Vowell's "garden for disappointed politicians," which, named after Alexander Hamilton's belief that a garden is a helpful refuge for a disappointed politician, would see the creation of a farmable plot "'outside the Beltway' -- way outside -- in Portland, Oregon."Here, failed politicians could do something "useful and contemplative," including the monthly mailing of a box of seasonal produce to "his or her frazzled former opponent," occasioning a "newfound understanding of the composting process and its metaphorical applications on Capitol Hill." (And perhaps it is these politicans who, during the less fecund growing seasons, could organize and administrate Paul Collins' "Zzzunday," a national holiday featuring 24 hours of uninterrupted sleep.)


the many gods of many things

yes, in the hindu pantheon, we worship many gods, all with different qualities. but what about the living ones? here are the members of my personal 21rst century altar, from which i draw inspiration:

Ravi Shankar, sitar player extraordinaire-George Harrison called him 'the godfather of world music.' and rightly so. "God has been kind to me. The spiritual journey through music is the only thing I feel has been important in my life"

MF Hussain, artist extraordinaire. India's Matisse- "I prefer to express myself through a woman rather than a man, because a woman, I feel, is an unending source of energy, she is shakti." and he's been barefoot for over 40 years!

Mahaswheta Devi-"Language is a weapon, it's not for shaving your armpits." what can one add to that?

in the dearly departed part of my altar:

Kishore Kumar
Frederico Garcia Lorca
Pablo Neruda
Henri Matisse
John Coltrane
Pt. Kumar Gandharva

this is a partial list;)


exorcising the muse

yesterday i visited this site, which features video of meena alexander reading her poems and must say that i felt very strange after seeing/hearing alexander read. there was a caricature-like quality to things-from facial expressions to accent. alexander comes across very different on the page than in person. her accent was reminiscent of my english teachers in India, who i imagined, imagining themselves in the victorian age, hair tied up in a bun, corsetted in a light colored tafetta gown sipping tea from rose embellished tea cups with guilded edges.

anyway, i respect MA as a writer/academic and feel that she can do so much more, expand her ideas so much further. i really am curiuos to see how she has evolved as a poet in raw silk.

in context of MA and her muse, i just came across a wonderful book called 'black lightening' which looks at poetry in progress of asian writers, among them, MA. in it, her muse is discussed, a white saree clad woman from the old country (kerala) whose legs have been severed. alexander talks about this muse coming to her as a ghost and about how she wrestled with this muse.

now i have come across the muse as a woman ghost in maxine hong kingston's writing too and find it fascinating how ghosts represent our past and how metaphorically they symbolize memory, etc..
but in the case of alexander the muse is hyperreal. in the essay in black lightening, MA describes her muse in a personal journal entry: "what does she have, this ghost to give me? perhaps when i see the dance performance tonight; of indian dance in the hunter playhouse, what she is will clarify. perhaps the dancer will come close to me with something in her hand."

i found this quite intriguing. it brings up the question of what a muse is and what expectations one can have from a muse. to me it really seems as if alexander expects her muse to come through in the dance she will attend that night and give her something tangible.

In this essay, alexander also talks about how she dreamt of the muse often and that the muse didn't approve of he/what she was doing. what the heck does this mean?

i alwasys looked at the muse as something intangible and feel that we force it into shape and form. yes, we go looking for it and haunting people is probably the muse's favorite past time, but for it to enter our existance as some sort of hyperreality scares me, because once it enters a person's writing and starts leaving its stamp, it's like a form of 'possesion.' if we are to believe that the muse is real yet ghost like, then we have to entertain the threat of it inhabiting the writer's body and using the writer for its own purposes. ok, i think i'm getting carried away;) and i am now going to enjoy the summer by eating some watermelon.

you know i'll be back;)


the never-ending shock of arrival: some thoughts on meena alexander

excerpted from a discussion at another subcontinent (www.anothersubcontinent.com):

my experience in regards to alexander's work has been a very strange one, to say the least. i wonder whether anyone else has had a similar one. if so, i would love to hear from you. i first came across alexander's work as an undergraduate majoring in creative writing but only started to seriously read her as a graduate student in creative writing. in fact, she was one of my inspirations. what i liked most about her (and still do) is how she combined theory and the creative, packing a powerful punch in volatile issues of identity, language, origins, gender, etc. 'shock of arrival,' a book that combined both poetry and prose was wonderful to read. it was like a sock in the stomach that opened up my eyes to issues of language and poetry i had never thought about. but...without getting into specifics now (alas, time constraint), suffice it to say, the more alexander I read, a certain weariness descended on me, from reading about the same things/same images over and over again: a woman, confused, multiple identities, so many languages, yet silence. frozen tongue, the urge to find a voice among the cacaphony. all of this presented itself in a way in which it became a sort of grating, like nails being dragged across a chalkboard. It was as if alexander the poet, alexander the academic and alexander the immigrant were battling each other in the wrestling ring and the match wouldn't end. my disappointment peaked after reading Manhatten Music, a novel, which meandered and meandered and meandered....the point is that i really wanted to 'like' her. I hoped that 'illiterate heart' would be different, have more depth, but was disappointed with that too. i considered the fact that perhaps i read it wrong or that i didn't get it. but as a south asian writer with a somewhat similar background, i found it strange that i could not connect. then i started to wonder about issues of pandering to the west. by this i don't mean an explicit attempt to please the western reader, but a sort of literary academic trickle down, a 'manufacturing of literary consent' that is shaped by being a part of american academia for a long time. the need to feed the 'other.' the pressure of being the voice of the 'other.' could alexander possibly be a victim of this?

on further discussion:

i think all of you have hit on reasons why i have reacted to Alexander in the way that i have. i am glad to know i am not the only one that feels this way. arnab asked:

do you mean that her creative work seems to be providing the "evidence" for her theoretical interests?

in a sense yes. i think maureen said it well when she said:

the divides between theory and creative writing and autobiography are arbitrary and often illusory.

by examining her life as an immigrant in her writing, alexander has made the conscious decision to make her life a part of her work. in order to sustain her work, she draws from her own and others lives, although her own life seems to be the most dominant. self-indulgent (as sasainkudi mentioned in her reply)? you betcha! that's what bothers me as well. i think i believe maureen, knowing alexander better than most of us, that alexander is being honest in her writing, but i don't think she is being honest enough. and i think alexander knows this. perhaps that is alexander's biggest struggle/confusion as a writer and that is why we/I see so much of that self-consciousness. Clearly she is caught in a viscious cycle, but at the same time seems to enjoy/draw inspiration from the turmoil within that cycle. But like poorvi said:

it has a lot to do with where I am. There was a time when this was new to me, when I was hungry for it, but since then I have grown away from those themes.

i think that really explains why i initially loved alexander's work but then became disappointed. there aren't many diasporic writers out there who represent those who have moved on. by 'moved on,' i am thinking of someone who writes with maturity, humor and an awareness that comes with experience as well as an aerial observation of things. someone who can juggle with finesse;) maureen also used the term 'mimic woman' which i think is quite apt. as long as the mimic women and men are around, there will always be this sense of the 'manufactured.'

behenji basks in blog land

yes i am really enjoying this alter ego thing. there is strength in anonymity and (cackling loudly like a maniacal mad scientist) ...power. its like dancing naked in the wind. just check to make sure there isn't a swarm of bees behind;) no matter how hard i try, i always seem to weigh my words carefully, if my given/real life name is attached, even if i know no one is reading what i'm writing.

so here's to anonymity in blog land and nudism of the word! and notoriety of the good sort;)