behenji on men

its raining and behenji has some time to ruminate as she listens to water slip, slide and gurgle.

so what is it about men and words? i mean men in terms of emotion and writing down their feelings. while men can be emotional in person and promise you different parts of the universe (the stars, the moon, one of saturn's rings) try getting something in print (electronic or otherwise). and if you are one of those unlucky men that do commit your feelings to paper, your sexuality is questioned.

i guess i'm recalling a discussion on an online literary group regarding michael ondaatje and his poem the cinammon peeler. i post it here for your reading pleasure:

The Cinnamon Peeler

If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
you could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under the rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbour to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler's wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
- your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers...

When we swam once
I touched you in the water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
You climbed the bank and said

this is how you touch other women
the grass cutter's wife, the lime burner's daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume

and knew

what good is it
to be the lime burner's daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in the act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler's wife. Smell me.

this is one of my favorite poems, for many reasons-the sensuality, the language, the awakening of our olfactory senses through ondaatje's images. one is almost envious of the cinnamon peeler's wife.

but how did some south asian men react to this? questions such as 'is ondaatje gay?' comments such as 'this prose is too flowery to be written by a straight man.'

behenji asks you this: can a straight man not feel passion like this and articulate it? or is it fear? of confronting one's own feelings? is there such a thing as a male ego? and if so, how does that affect a man's writing?

behenji needs a cup of chai now;)

no more juicy, juicy mangoes please!

happy happy, joy joy. 2005 is here. a little older, a little bolder, may the new year bring us a little kick in our coffee, a little more whiskey in our bailey's;) its raining here in the bay and i feel like belting out 'barkha ritu aaiee.'

anyway, behenji has had it up to here (hand right under my nose), with 'easy exotic' south asian literature. they either roll out the magical realism carpet, trying to imitate the two great R's (Roy & Rushdie) or else the characters and plots are crazily convoluted to up the cool quotient. its been a long time since a South Asian book has come into the scene quietly and gently swept me (and probably others) off my feet. or made me fall off my chair, jump out of bed, or sit on the toilet for hours for that matter. where are the experimentors of language? the outlaws of plot ? the genre benders? someone who is being touted as the literary offspring of R&R and the god child of Kundera is Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi . while I haven't read the book, I have heard mostly negative comments from other South Asians along the lines of 'not original,' ' language too flowery,' 'magical realism copycat' or else 'Siddharth who?'. Which really does make me wonder what is going on? I went to Shanghvi's website and was suprised by the pink in it, the glorious peacock on the left of the page, and this photo of the author. what I wanted was an excerpt of the book, a flavor of this much touted author's prose that could not be had through peacocks, turbans or that killer silver necklace around Shanghvi's neck! a summary of the book can be found here. somehow, a line from The Beatles' song 'Baby You're a Rich Man' comes to mind:

How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?