Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fellini's World

Federico Fellini, Giuliette Masina, Mario Mastroianni, Roberto Benigni, Claudia Cardinale in this wonderful Time Magazine photogallery, Ciao! Fellini

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Aruna Shanbhag

It has been 36 years since Aruna Shanbhag, a young KEM Hospital staff nurse, was raped and strangulated with a dog chain by a sweeper, Sohanlal Walmiki, and has been lying brain dead at the KEM Hospital.

On a plea from journalist and author Pinki Virani, the Supreme Court today issued notices to the KEM Hospital, the BMC, the Maharashtra Government and the Centre asking them to provide information about her condition.

Arun was 25 years old when the incident changed her life. She was in love with a doctor and was slated to marry him soon. She is now 61. She can't speak, hear, see or move. She is not on life support nor is she intravenously fed. Mashed food is put into her mouth by KEM nurses, and it gets swallowed. That has been keeping her alive all these years. Her relatives have stopped visiting the hospital The KEM nurses take care of her to ensure that she doesn't get bed sores. The doctors have not conducted any medical tests on her either for last 15 years.

Sohanlal Walmiki was convicted for seven years, (and that too not for sexual assault or unnatural sex), and walked a free man.

With Supreme Court taking cognisance of her case, will Aruna's Story finally have an end?
Should it end?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ami Vitale

picture courtesy:
Have you checked Ami Vitale's website in the "Some Interesting Websites" section on this blog. I have put it on top of the list because I happen to visit it couple of days ago, and saw that it has been redesigned. It was just by chance that I discovered Ami's website.

I first heard about Ami about six-seven years ago. Ami had come to India and based herself in Kashmir to cover the conflict. Later, she won a World Press Photo award for one of her Kashmir pictures.

That's when I searched and found her website. It was the simplicity of the website that struck a chord. Clean, minimalistic design, and focus firmly on the pictures she has made in different countries. She has also added other features to the website.

What differentiates Ami from the other global photographers is that she is not into "spot news" photography. She is into much deeper things than capturing the on-the-spot action pictures or the blood, gore and shock of world conflicts though to be fast enough to freeze the action in a moment is a skill of a different kind. What was striking about her work was her complete involvement with her subjects in which ever country she has travelled. Usually, foreign photographers see a country and its culture from outside-in perspective, but I thought Ami saw India from the inside-out perspective. So, her pictures are not about cows-walking-the-city-roads and snake-charmers.

We were in the middle of organising a national photocontest in 2005, and I was trying to invite her as a jury. But, she was busy travelling and shooting, and couldn’t make it. So, I persuaded her to write a piece about Kashmir that she covered, and despite her schedule, she managed to write and send her pictures for the photo-book that we published. Then she vanished again and now she has emerged in Miami, Florida! Some day I hope to get her to Mumbai to speak and participate in our activities.

I am posting couple of her interviews to give you a glimpse of Ami Vitale. More power to her!

Interview by James Robinson
Do check her pictures from Guinea Bissau at the end of this interview. Interview by Susan Markisz

Monday, December 14, 2009

RIP TS Satyan

Pic Courtesy:

A news ticker running on NDTV yesterday said "Mysore: Photographer TS Satyan dies at the age of 86", and it took me back to my brief interaction with the man. I had never heard of TS Satyan, veteran photojournalist, till I went for a preview of his photographs at the Piramal Gallery in South Mumbai around 1999-2000. I will never forget the incident. Creative people should never be treated in this manner.

I happened to visit the Piramal Gallery about an hour before the scheduled preview that day. I thought I will get some time to chat up Satyan. When I reached there, I saw that the gallery was completely empty. An aging Satyan was very lovingly putting up his pictures on the wall along with photojournalist and my friend Chirodeep Chaudhari. I got a chance to leisurely see his pictures, and have a chat with the man.

Like Satyan, his pictures were simple. Mostly black and white pictures shot in the old school style -- the emphasis firmly on the human expressions, and compositions. Like in this picture of Maharani Gayatri Devi. The picture captures the awe common people felt towards royalty those days. A lot of these pictures were clearly part of a visual history that very few Indian photographers may have captured.

Minutes went by, and it was time for the preview to start. All this while, there were just three of us in the gallery - Satyan, Chiro and me. And, there was no sign of anyone arriving either. Satyan was clearly upset. He never expected that he would be received in this manner by Mumbai's art loving junta. I felt at least the photojournalistic community should have been there to support. I called up a few photojournalists friends. Those who were free at that moment did troop in later. But, Satyan was clearly hurt. He said he will never exhibit in Mumbai again. I don't know if he ever did.

I was also shocked for another reason. Exactly seven days before this, I had come to the same gallery for a much-hyped preview of Prabuddha Dasgupta's exhibition on Ladakh. Before the preview could start, I was standing near the entrance of the gallery with my friend Neeraj Priyadarshi, now Indian Express photo-editor. A well-known socialite (whose name is better avoided) walked in, and obviously mistaking Neeraj for Prabuddha, started complimenting him in a manner mastered only by empty-headed socialites.

Both of us were taken aback, and we politely directed her to go to the first floor gallery. Quite obviously, it turned out to be a socialite gathering complete with wine-and-cheese. The place was buzzing with models, and people from the ad industry since Dasgupta (yes the man who shot Milind Soman-Madhu Sapre Tuff Shoes ad) is a celebrated ad photographer. TV cameras and photojournalists also came in large numbers to cover the event.

The memory of the stark contrast between these two photo exhibitions came back when I read about Satyan's death in Mysore. Undaunted by the response to his Mumbai exhibition, Satyan continued to take his old-world-gentility all around the country, and came up with several collections of his photographs.

Born in 1923 in Mysore, Satyan was one of the early pioneers in Indian photojournalism and shot pictures for publications like The Illustrated Weekly of India, Life, Time, Newsweek. He also shot special projects for Unicef which allowed him to travel widely and shoot rural life, especially the children, from a closer perspective. In 1979, Unicef organised an exhibition of Satyan's pictures of children at the UN headquarters in New York to mark the International Year of the Child. His books include Exploring Karnataka, German Vignettes, Hampi - The Fabled Capital of the Vijayanagar Empire, In Love with Life - A Journey through Life in Photographs, and in 2005 Penguin published his memoirs titled Alive and Clicking. Satyan was awarded the Padma Shri in 1977.

Do check more links on TS Satyan:
A Rediff report
Hindu article
Review of his show, A Long Exposure

Friday, December 11, 2009

RIP Dilip Chitre

Courtesy: Poetry International Poet
Dilip Chitre passed away in Pune yesterday. Today's journalism resembles the era in communist countries where people opposed to the ruling coterie were airbrushed out of history, out of collective memory. What is worse is unlike communist countries where it was done for political reasons, Indian newspapers are doing it for financial reasons. Why waste column centimetres on people dead and gone is the attitude increasingly in the newsrooms? Why not give that space to advertisers? So, the demise of Bina Rai, who would rank among the most beautiful heroines to emerge from Bollywood ever, was reduced to four paras in Mumbai's leading newspaper. I am grateful to them for at least carrying the news. Therefore, I was actually happy to see that most papers took note of Chitre's death. On the web, I found an interview given by Chitre to's Lindsay Pereira in 2007. It's titled Portrait of An Artist where Chitre speaks in detail about his journey. One day I was trying to find Arun Kolatkar's Jejuri on the web, and I stumbled upon Chitre's blog on msn in which he has written a long piece on Kolatkar, his close friend. There are a number of pictures of his family friends, and much to read that would bring one up close to the man. Writing his profile, Chitre has written this beautiful expression:
 the Self is the dancer: the inner Self the stage: the senses are the audience.

 Check Dilip Chitre blog I also found some of his original poems in Marathi, and their translated versions at Poetry International. Do check some of Chitre’s poems
 Rest in Peace Dilip Purushottam Chitre...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Striking opening lines

Like John Steinbeck's Cannery Row, I found some striking opening lines of novels. The first one hit me like a slap when I first read it. Camus brings you face to face with his character immediately. I haven't obviously read all of these, but the first lines promise much.

********** *************** *****************

Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know.
- Albert Camus, The Stranger.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
-Geroge Orwell, 1984

Lolita, the light of my life, the fire of my loins.
-Vladimir Nobokov, Lolita.

Erendira was bathing her grandmother when the wind of her misfortune began to blow. The enormous mansion of moonlike concrete lost in the solitude of the desert trembled down to its foundation with the first attack. But Erendira and her grandmother were used to the risks of the wild nature there, and in the bathroom decorated with a series of peacocks and childish mosaics of Roman baths they scarcely paid any attention to the caliber of the wind.
The grandmother, naked and huge in the marble tub, looked like a handsome whale. The grand-daughter had just turned 14 and was languid, soft-boned, and too meek for her age.
- Gabriel Gárcia Marquez, The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Erendira and Her Heartless Grandmother

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eight-four days now without taking a fish.
- Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea.

I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.
- Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

They're out there. Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them.
- Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

An ash-gray dog with a white blaze on its forehead burst on to the rought terrain of the market on the first Sunday in December, knocked down tables of fried food, overturned Indians stalls and lottery kiosks, and bit four people who happened to cross its path. Three of them were black slaves. The fourth, Sierva Maria de Todos los Angeles, the only child of Marquis de Casalduero, had come there with a mullata servant to buy a string of bells for the celebration of her twelfth birthday.
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Of Love and Other Demons

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two cities

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

- Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, General Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

- Gabriel Gárcia Marquez, 100 Years of Solitude

"Who is John Galt?"
- Ayn, Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way
- Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."
- JD Salinger, Catcher in the Rye

It was inevitable: The scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.
- Gabriel Gárcia Marquez, Love in the time of Cholera

"Yes, Sir. Certainly, it was I who found the body. This morning, as usual, I went to cut my daily quota of cedars, when I found the body in a grove in a hollow in the mountains."
- Ryūnosuke Akutagawa,In A Grove (made into Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

They say when trouble comes, close ranks and so the white people did.
- Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

Which of these do you find the most striking to open the book? If you know of more, do write in.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

T S Eliot’s Eeldrop and Appleplex

It is always interesting to explore the lesser known aspects of an artist/writer/poet/philosopher/film-maker/actor-actress. By that, I mean you generally discover some real gems when you explore lesser known works or something the person is not known for.

Existential philosopher Jean Paul Sartre wrote several books, essays, treatises expounding his ideas. His novel Nausea (with a wonderful cover of a Salvador Dali painting) was brilliant, but was extremely depressing to read. I didn't imagine that Sartre would also short stories apart from his profound existential theses. Then I came across his collection of short stories called Intimacy and Other Stories. All the stories were brilliant and Sartre reflects so differently in that work.

Similarly, Eight and Half or La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life) are easily Federico Fellini's most famous films. But, I was completely mesmerised by La Strada (The Road). Unlike the other Fellini narratives which cut back and forth in time, La Strada has a simple linear narrative with three outstanding performances. Anthony Quinn and Fellini's real life wife Guilette Masina play roles of a life time. I found the film similar to Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali (Song of the Road). Both films are extremely lyrical. Both have a brilliant theme music track that runs through the film. Both are extremely simply told, and both have superb performances.

My latest discovery is a short shory by poet laureate TS Eliot. I am yet to read it myself. Let's see how Eliot fares with prose. T S Eliot’s Eeldrop and Appleplex

Do tell me how you find it.

Rabindranath Tagore's The Victory

Google, most of the time, works like magic. Many times I google something and keep reading as the net takes me on a wonderful journey.

One day I was wandering on James Nachtwey's site when I spotted that the photo agency plans to organise a photography workshop near Chernobyl site and the ghost town of Pripyat. Some areas around the nuclear reactor continue to be out of bound for radiation fears. I googled and found more about Pripyat and what happened that fateful night. It makes very disturbing reading. I also found a Chernobyl victim and her poems, which I have posted for you all to read.

I don't know why I suddenly thought of googling for a beautiful short story by Rabindranath Tagore that was part of my final year BA Literature syllabus. And, I actually found it on a wonderful online book resource. It is called The Victory, and the original English translation is by the poet laureate himself. Here it is for those who want to read The Victory. What I like about the story is the simplicity of Tagore's language and the unmistakable classical, oriental imagery.

Do tell me how you liked it.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The attack on Pearl Harbour

183 Japanese fighter planes invaded the skies at Pearl Harbour in the Pacific one early morning. The surprise attack destroyed 347 vessels at the US base and US plunged into World War II. And ever since US has been fighting other people's wars!!! Some archival pictures on this Time mag photogallery

The Attack on Pearl Harbour

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Chernobyl poems

And this one will complete 25 years two years later - Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Lyubov Sirota and her son came to the balcony near the Chernobyl plant in the town of Pripyat for fresh air, and saw the flash of light emanating from the plant. The people of Pripyat were exposed to the radiation for 36 hours. Read on what exactly happened to chernobyl-and-pripyat Later, Sirota wrote The Chernobyl Poems. The poems are followed by Adolph Kharash who writes about the poetry and his meetings with Sirota...

Lyubov Sirota with her son Sasha before the disaster


We can neither expiate nor rectify
the mistakes and misery of that April.
The bowed shoulders of a conscience awakened
must bear the burden of torment for life.
It's impossible, believe me,
to overpower
or overhaul
our pain for the lost home.
Pain will endure in the beating hearts
stamped by the memory of fear.
surrounded by prickly bitterness,
our puzzled town asks:
since it loves us
and forgives everything,
why was it abandoned forever?

At night, of course, our town
though emptied forever, comes to life.
There, our dreams wander like clouds,
illuminate windows with moonlight.

There trees live by unwavering memories,
remember the touch of hands.
How bitter for them to know
there will be no one for their shade
to protect from the scorching heat!
At night their branches quietly rock
our inflamed dreams.
Stars thrust down
onto the pavement,
to stand guard until morning . . .
But the hour will pass . . .
Abandoned by dreams,
the orphaned houses
whose windows
have gone insane
will freeze and bid us farewell! . . .

We've stood over our ashes;
now what do we take on our long journey?
The secret fear that wherever we go
we are superfluous?
The sense of loss
that revealed the essence
of a strange and sudden kinlessness,
showed that our calamity is not
shared by those who might, one day,
themselves face annihilation?
. . . We are doomed to be left behind by the flock
in the harshest of winters . . .
You, fly away!
But when you fly off
don't forget us, grounded in the field!
And no matter to what joyful faraway lands
your happy wings bear you,
may our charred wings
protect you from carelessness.

Translated from the Russian by Leonid Levin and Elisavietta Ritchie

To Vasily Deomidovich Dubodel, who passed away in August 1988, and to all past and future victims of Chernobyl.

They did not register us
and our deaths
were not linked to the accident.
No processions laid wreaths,
no brass bands melted with grief.
They wrote us off as
lingering stress,
cunning genetic disorders . . .
But we--we are the payment for rapid progress,
mere victim (of someone else's sated afternoons.
It wouldn't have been so annoying for us to die
had we known
our death would help
to avoid more "fatal mistakes"
and halt replication of "reckless deeds"!
But thousands of "competent" functionaries
count our "souls" in percentages,
their own honesty, souls, long gone--
so we suffocate with despair.
They wrote us off.
They keep trying to write off
our ailing truths
with their sanctimonious lies.
But nothing will silence us!
Even after death,
from our graves
we will appeal to your Conscience
not to transform the Earth
into a sarcophagus!

* * *
Peace unto your remains,
unknown fellow-villager!
We'll all end up there sooner or later.
Like everyone, you wanted to live.
As it turned out,
you could not survive . . .

Your torment is done.
Our turn will come:
prepare us a roomier place over there.
Oh, if only our "mass departure"
could be a burning lump of truth
in duplicity's throat! . . .

May God not let anyone else
know our anguish!
May we be extinction's limit.
For this, you died.
Peace unto your remains,
my fellow-villager
from abandoned hamlets.

Translated from the Russian by Leonid Levin and Elisavietta Ritchie


How amazing
in my thirtieth year
not to live
but instead
stumble along--
all bygone years
both happy and deadly,
heavy, wet, like logs,
crowd in the soul
as if in a tomb!

The soul does not sing
but rather becomes mute;
rather than aches . . .
So it is harder to breathe.

I am not to fly!
Though the shallow edge
of heaven is over my porch.
Already the roads have tired me,
hobbled me so--
I can no longer soar!

Faces reflect in the heavens.
faces of those
to whom I have said farewell.
Not one can be forgotten!
No oblivion!

The soul, it seems--
is a difficult memory.
Nothing can be erased,
nothing subtracted,
nothing canceled,
nothing corrected! . . .

. . . Even so,--the burden is sacred,
the heavier
the dearer!

Translated from the Russian by Leonid Levin and Elisavietta Ritchie
Revised by Lyubov Sirota


Is this only--a fear of radiation?
Perhaps rather--a fear of wars?
Perhaps--the dread of betrayal,
cowardice, stupidity, lawlessness?
The time has come to sort out
what is--radiophobia.
It is--
when those who've gone through the Chernobyl drama
refuse to submit
to the truth meted out by government ministers
("Here, you swallow exactly this much today!")
We will not be resigned
to falsified ciphers,
base thoughts,
however you brand us!
We don't wish--and don't you suggest it!--
to view the world through bureaucratic glasses!
We're too suspicious!
And, understand, we remember
each victim just like a brother! . . .
Now we look out at a fragile Earth
through the panes of abandoned buildings.
These glasses no longer deceive us!--
These glasses show us more clearly--
believe me--
the shrinking rivers,
poisoned forests,
children born not to survive . . .
Mighty uncles, what have you dished out
beyond bravado on television?
How marvelously the children have absorbed
radiation, once believed so hazardous! . . .
(It's adults who suffer radiophobia--
for kids is it still adaptation?)
What has become of the world
if the most humane of professions
has also turned bureaucratic?
may you be omnipresent!
Not waiting until additional jolts,
new tragedies,
have transformed more thousands
who survived the inferno
into seers--
Radiophobia might cure
the world
of carelessness, satiety, greed,
bureaucratism and lack of spirituality,
so that we don't, through someone's good will
mutate into non-humankind.

Translated from the Russian by Leonid Levin and Elisavietta Ritchie


A century of universal decay.
In cyclotrons nuclei are split;
souls are split,
sounds are split

While behind a quiet fence
on a bench in someone's garden
Doom weighs
a century of separation
on the scales.

And her eyes are ancient,
and her palms are taut with nerves,
and her words clutch
in her throat . . .

Nearby and cynical, death
brandishes a hasty spade.
Here, whispers are worse than curses,
offer no consolation.

Yet out on the festive streets
the mixed chorus
of pedestrians and cars
never stops.

The stoplight
winks with greed,
gobbles the fates of those it meets
in the underground passageways
of eternity.

How long
the bureaucrats
babbled on
like crows
about universal good . . .
Yet somehow
that universal good
seeps away.
Have we slipped up?

In the suburbs, choke-cherries
came out with white flowers
like gamma fluorescence.
What is this--a plot by mysterious powers?
Are these intrigues?
We have slipped up!

Choke-cherries are minor.
They are not vegetables . . .
Here, tomatoes ripened too early:
someone just ate one--the ambulance
had to be called in a rush.
We have slipped up.

We came to the sea--
the eternal source of healing . . .
And--we were stunned.
The sea is an enormous waste dump.
What happened?
Have we slipped up?

How masterfully
the blind promoters
of gigantic plans
manipulated us so far!
Now the bitter payment
for what we so easily
overlooked yesterday..

Has day died?
Or is this the end of the world?
Morbid dew on pallid leaves.
By now it's unimportant
whose the fault,
what the reason,
the sky is boiling only with crows . . .
And now--no sounds, no smells.
And no more peace in this world.
Here, we loved . . .
Now, eternal separation
reigns on the burnt out Earth . . .

These dreams are dreamed
ever more often.
Ever more often I am sad for no reason,
when flocks of crows
circle over the city
in skies, smoky, alarmed . . .

Translated from the Russian
by Leonid Levin and Elisavietta Ritchie

Original Russian version of this poem.

I am working--
as if with my final strength,
as if from my final days
I look at eternity.
The moment of farewell
has made my head spin . . .
I adore you--
random passersby!
To me--you are no one,
but you give me the plot,
the smile,
the glance laced with bitterness . . .
Your astonished looks follow me, surprised
I-love you for no reason.
Yet maybe
I can see more clearly
from the silence,
bareness of abandoned hamlets--
nothing more absurd than feuds,
nothing more splendid than confession,
how petty are success and luck,
how lowly the yearning for riches.
Like last year's snow, you can't buy
at any price the sense
of brotherhood.
What happiness--
to come home,
to repay debts to friends and kin,
without thinking
your last duty is
to bow over your smoldering home!

I accept
this world!
I embrace
this air!
I am happy
it is not simple
for me
to become
your happiness . . .

I am working--
as if with my final strength,
as if from my final days
I look at eternity.
But only with you
is the hour of daybreak kind.
And only with you
is every evening splendid.
Indeed can it be
I have only a handful of days
left to live--
to be burnt up in one short month?
when I can love so much,
when my world is so majestic and bright!
Life went up in smoke from somebody's campfire
(this world has inquisitors to spare!).
Everything burned,
burned up.
Even the ashes
were not always left behind . . .
But the stubborn soul still lives
yet again resurrected from ashes!
I live with abandon!
I live, breathing you!
And for you, I am ready to go
into the inferno again!
But with merciful hands you extinguish
the fatal fire under me.
My beloved,
may God protect you!
May the flame of the redeemed soul shield you!

Translated from the Russian by Leonid Levin and Elisavietta Ritchie

Your glance will trip on my shadow
and the shadow
will thrust itself
into the leafy shade.
The pale sun will shine over us,
a lantern
scorched by the burning question . . .
Caught by the gravity of the light,
breathing is choked, lips are pressed,
and there is no answer,
no answer
to this light in the violent night.
But freed from gravity our shadows
shook the jasmine bush,
they will drift apart,
breathe night haze at our backs.
And the yellow leaf will fall exhausted,
it will take unbearably long to inhale.
As if the wisdom of autumn
were to catch us by surprise . . .

Translated from the Russian by Leonid Levin and Elisavietta Ritchie

April 26, 1986

A Voice from Dead Pripyat
by Adolph Kharash
Science Director, Moscow State University

I first met Lyubov Sirota late in January 1988 in Kiev, in an area of the city called Troeshchino where, in November of 1986, there settled a group of people evacuated from Pripyat, the satellite city of the Chernobyl nuclear plant. They warmly greeted our group of students and professors from Moscow University in the Zemliaki club , where the children from the deserted city were taking classes in dance and drawing, and adults were meeting to recall what had been and plan what would come.

People from Pripyat very much appreciated any kind of attention. It was no joke that for almost two months after the catastrophe not a single word about Pripyat was in the central press or tv or radio--nothing about the fate of the city which was in an hour forever deserted by more than 50,000 inhabitants. Even some knew of its existence (the town was designated "special purpose" or "Secret"), nobody knew that this was the nearest city to the Chernobyl nuclear plant, only three kilometers away. I learned about the existence of this city only in June, 1986, when I went to the site. The inhabitants of Pripyat knew nothing of the explosion. They suspected nothing, took no precautions, and were exposed to the fallout from the Chernobyl catastrophe for thirty-six hours.

The City of Ghosts is how the city was called in the poems of another acquaintance from Troeshchino, Vladimir Shovkoshitny, a friend of Liubov Sirota; he had formerly worked in the Chernobyl nuclear plant and was one of the first volunteers for the cleanup of the aftermath.

Lyubov Sirota and her little son lived in the neighborhood of Pripyat closest to the nuclear plant. The night of the April 25th was very warm and clear. Lyubov couldn't sleep. She went outside to breathe the fresh, fragrant spring air. She was one of the first--one of the few--people in Pripyat to see above the Chernobyl plant the evil flash of light, the star Wormwood (in Russian, Chernobyl ), which two thousand years ago was prophesied in the Book of Revelation, and which that night abruptly incinerated people's hopes and plans. If she had only known then that she should have closed her eyes and run, not looking back, away from this dawn glow, from this air rich with spring blossoms.

"Nobody knew anything."

This is how I see Lyubov; even today, though I have often met with her after that remarkable evening in Troeshchino She was the embodiment of defenselessness, and of limitless baffled anger.

"Nobody knew anything."

She was the first to try to explain to us, the uninitiated, who came from well-protected, undisturbed Moscow, what had actually happened in Pripyat that night and in the following thirty-six hours of anxious waiting. Now, three years after we met in Troeshchino I can see the Pripyat of that time in the light of my endless pondering and in the pain in the voice of Lyubov Sirota in the poem "At the Crossing.²;

Has day died?
Or is this the end of the world?
Morbid dew on pallid leaves.
By now it's unimportant
whose the fault,
what the reason,
the sky is boiling only with crows . . .
And now--no sounds, no smells.
And no more peace in this world.
Here, we loved . . .
Now, eternal separation
reigns on the burnt out Earth . . .

The destruction of Pripyat is the destruction of the promised land; it is a metaphor of universal destruction, a prophecy and sign of the Apocalypse. For the latter inevitable and universal catastrophe there will be in reality no one who can be called guilty. Any merely human cause is utterly petty, trifling, not worth mentioning. But for earthly tragedies earthly beings must pay the price. The perishable flesh prevents the spirit from freeing itself from earthly cares and soaring into cosmic space. Flesh drags the spirit down to the deserted hearth, forces it to grieve unconsolably for the fate of relatives and neighbors, to look into the eyes of children in which an unchildish despair is fixed.

Again and again, we torture ourselves with the living pictures of that summery April day, when the people--unsuspecting--opened the windows of their apartments, strolled about in the streets, sunbathed on the river beaches, celebrated weddings, picnicked in the nearby forests, eating ice cream which was sold in the street, the children frolicking, thrusting their bare arms up to the elbows into the foaming streams of radioactive water streaming profusely through the city streets. Again and again one seeks in torment the guilty and laments for the victims. This is why Lyubov Sirota's apocalyptic insights are not for an instant abstract or passionless, even prophesying as they do the end of the world. These insights are deeply personal and quite mortal. They are penetrated by physical pain and inscribed with the grief for the casualities and concern for the lives and fates of mortal, living people and also by angry accusations against other people--also very much alive and mortal--who did not rush to help, did not warn of the danger, did not prevent the fatal outcome.

In one of the films of Rolan Sergienko, who created a cycle of films on the Chernobyl catastrophe, fact is uniquely combined with artistic expressiveness. Lyubov Sirota participated in making one of the films, Threshold. One scene, shot in Pripyat April 26, 1986 by a young local cameraman named Nazarenko, shows a sunlit street filled with people in the midst of their festive Saturday holiday, women strolling carelessly, wearing light, loose dresses, infants in their strollers, bareheaded men relieved of their workday burdens. Suddenly two strange and gloomy figures appear, looking like characters from a science fiction film about an invasion from another planet: two militiamen in shiny protective clothing fully covering their bodies, wearing gloves, hoods, and tightly-sealed military respirators. A passerby who meets them stands still as if petrified, looking at this fantastic vision, not trusting his own eyes, as if he had seen them in a dream. Or perhaps this is what our terrifying reality is: a dream.

"Nobody knew anything,' repeats Lyubov Sirota, but this does not apply to everybody--not to those who in one way or another knew about the April tragedy. The citizens of Pripyat, who should have been informed in the first place so that they could immediately take care of their own safety, knew nothing about it,. But those who made decisions knew everything about the catastrophe--or almost everything. As can be seen from the posthumously published notes of academician Legasov prove that by four o'clock A.M. of April 26, 1986, in the Kremlin, a thousand kilometers from carefree and defenseless Pripyat, they already had sufficient information about all elements of that night's catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Those authorities took care to have the militiamen dressed in special protective clothing; the unsuspecting citizens were given only counseling. The official declaration by the important bureaucrats from the Ministry of Health was that the evacuation was carried out in time, and that none of the city's inhabitants had suffered any harm. Their fears and concerns were declared unnecessary, groundless, labelled with the sinister psychiatric term "radiophobia.'

The event in Chernobyl inspired special documentary films such as Rolan Sergienko's movies and also the writings of the poets from Pripyat. Works in this genre are difficult to understand if you do not consider their factual basis. The poem "Radiophobia," which stands out in the poetic work of Lyubov Sirota, belongs to this genre.

"Don't promote this terrible word radiophobia!"

This was the first request made to us that evening in Troeshchino by the citizens of Pripyat. For those who were at the epicenter of the Chernobyl cataclysm this word is a grievous insult. It treats the normal impulse to self-protection, natural to everything living, your moral suffering, your anguish and your concern about the fate of your children, relatives and friends, and your own physical suffering and sickness as a result of delirium, of pathological perversion. This term deprives those who became Chernobyl's victims of hope for a better future because it dismisses as unfounded all their claims concerning physical health, adequate medical care, food, decent living conditions, and just material compensation. It causes an irreparable moral harm, inflicting a sense of abandonment and social deprivation that is inevitable in people who have gone through such a catastrophe.

Does the term "radiophobia" console anyone? Yes, of course. First, it calms public opinion , suggesting that only a handful of victims of Chernobyl ecxists. And what are tens or hundreds of thousands of people, or even several million, in such a large country, or measured against all of humanity? A handful of super-sensitive individuals who gave in to panic. Most important, the term excuses the authorities from worrying, relieves them of responsibility for the destructive effects of the Chernobyl catastrophe on human organisms, and helps them to "conserve&" huge material resources.

That meeting in Troeshchino went on late into the long winter night. "Look, he's fallen asleep," said Liubov" Sirota, looking at her son as he napped in a corner. "He's tired. Before the war he sat in front of the TV until long after midnight." [These words have a special meaning: "before the catastrophe" as they are used by those who happened to be in the area contaminated by radioactive rain of cesium, plutonium, and strontium. People call that period in history, which began for them on the night of April 25th, 1986 and which stretches into the present-- "the war."]

"My apartment is not in order,' she apologized when I unexpectedly visited Lybov Sirota one week later in her small two-room apartment in Kiev's Kharkov district. She added bitterly, "I'm still young, a little over thirty, but have no energy to clean the floors properly, no energy.' This is also the voice motherly anxieties, the voice of physical exhaustion which came Unbidden. The fate of children and adults burned by the invisible fire of Chernobyl became a very heavy burden.

This is how we live.
The body is heavier and heavier,
the spirit is subtler and narrower.
It can enter the deserted house;
it circles like a bird above Pripyat in the night . . .
and you often wish that it would leave the inept body
and not days but years flow away
and numberless are the losses.
But one has to live,
and for the sake of the children,
accumulate anger,
to efface the old age in children's eyes
with the hope for a cure.

These lines are not printed in the copy of the collection Lyubov gave me. She wrote these lines by hand on the last page as a personal gift from the poet. But one has to live.

In her poems Lyuba entrusts her soul to other people. She believes that people will carry on this burden and help her, as she herself is ready to help everyone who lives on earth. The source of her faith is a crystal-clear spring of love, friendship, comradeship, mutual understanding, which penetrates her lyrics from the beginning to the end.

We are with you, dear reader; while people live on earth, hope is alive, hope for a better future, and this is what the poet wrote on my copy of Burden.From dead Pripyat comes the voice of living suffering, of a living soul, living hope. This hope is the underlying current of the creative impulse that inspires the poetry of Lyubov Sirota, the sacred meaning of her lyrics. I am enormously happy that this voice will sound for thousands of readers whose friendly help will no doubt ease the uneasy burden one poet. Perhaps this is also a small foreshadowing of the message about the better future for which Lyubov Sirota hopes.

Translated by Arkady Rovner, with Paul Brians, Birgitta Ingemanson, and Elizavietta Ritchie.

Bhopal 25 Years Later

Its another anniversary of a tragedy today. The Bhopal Gas tragedy completes 25 years today. Union carbide has got away. Bhopal's warriors are still fighting the battle. And there is absolutely no guarantee that another Bhopal Gas won't happen in this country. hmmmm... Do check this Time magazine photogallery Bhopal 25 Years Later

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Samiti Nemliy, Vichar Chalu Aahe...

The classic Indian "chalta-hain" attitude is aptly demonstrated by appointment of a commission of inquiry. A probe is on. so the government can always says the case is subjudice till it is on. Once the report findings come, the government still has the powers to reject its findings, like the Shiv Sena-BJP government did to Justice Shrikrishna Commission report on inquiry into the 1992-93 Mumbai riots. For years, successive governments irrespective of the ideology have done this, and as people, we are never outraged. "Samiti Nemliy, Vichar Chalu Ahe" (commission appointed, we are thinking", a classic line in Marathi says.
For whatever it is worth, here is a link to the Liberhan Commission report tabled by the government in Parliament today along with an Action Taken Report. I have never understood what purpose this Action Taken Report ever serves. Because action has never been taken - whether Mumbai riots, Gujarat riots, or Sikh riots.
Report of Liberhan Commission of Inquiry into Babri Masjid demolition

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The first cricket Test in India

This is an unpublished story I wrote for The Telegraph on the first ever cricket Test match on the Indian soil.

On a winter morning in December 1933, two giants of the game walked onto the turf of a British-formed gymkhana in Mumbai at 10.25 am. The toss that captain Col CK Nayudu won started Indian cricket's historic journey in India.

At 10.30am, the English side lead by wily Douglas Jardine, who had returned from the infamous Bodyline series in Australia a few months ago, did warm up exercises for 15 minutes. At 11 am, umpires Frank Tarrant and JW Hitch stepped on to the open ground at Bombay Gymkhana.

English fast bowler MS Nichols, who eventually picked up 108-8 in the match, sent down the first ball to the opening Indian pair of S Wazir Ali and JG Navle. India lost the match and the series 2-0, but began a journey that has eventually made it into the financial nerve centre of world cricket.

Memories of this historic match and 75 years of Indian cricket will be revived by the Bombay Gymkhana through year-long celebrations that began today. Former India captain Nari Contractor unveiled a specially designed logo at the 132-year-old gymkhana at Azad Maidan in the presence of former Test players like Jayanti Lal, Yajuvendra Singh. Vijay Nayudu, the grandson of India's first cricket captain Col Nayudu was also present on the occasion.

The first Test on Indian soil was part of a fortnight-long cricket festival. The visitors led by Jardine played four trial games during the period culminating in the four-day Test played between Dec 15-18, 1933.
Indian first innings folded up on 219, as English bowlers Nichols, H Verity and J Langridge each picked up three wickets. Jardine's team then piled on 438 with the experienced captain and CG Walters contributing 60 and 78 each, and debutant BH Valentine scoring 136.

In the second innings, India was reduced to 21-2, with EW Clark removing both the Indian openers. Then came together debutant Lala Amarnath, and Col Nayudu, and took India to 207, just 12 short of the first-innings deficit of 219 runs. Amarnath, who hit 118 in his debut test, was caught by Nichols at fine-leg off Clark. Nayudu bravely battled on and scored 67. But, India slid to 258 all out, with England needing just 40 runs for a win. Batting legend Vijay Merchant also made his debut in that Test.

The trial games before the Test had created an excitement about the England tour. "Thousands of spectators were turned away. Yet 20,000 managed to watch the match in the shamianas erected here. The tradition of fans rushing into a cricket ground and garlanding their heroes started with two fans who ran in when Lala Amarnath completed his century." said Yajuvendra Singh Bilkha, a former Test player who holds the Indian record of five catches in an innings and seven in a match.

Two other highlights of the first Test on Indian soil were the lavish praise bestowed on fast bowler Amar Singh by Jardine, and Mohammed Nissar's five-wicket burst in the England first innings. Nissar, who died recently in Pakistan, took 90-5. "Jardine praised Amar Singh stating he had not seen a better bowler than him," Bilkha said.

Nari Contractor credited Col Nayudu for making him the Indian opener. Recalling a dressing room chat with Nayudu, who was a selector for a university team in 1952, Contractor said, "He asked me why I don't open the innings. I said I have always been a no 3 or no 4 batsman. `Won't you have to open the innings if the bowler gets first two wickets in two balls?' he asked" Years later, regular opener Vinoo Mankad was unavailable for the second Test against New Zealand, and Polly Umrigar asked Contractor if he would like to open. "I remembered what the Colonel had told me. I said yes, and that's how I became an opening batsman," said Contractor laughing.

Vijay Nayudu, grandson of Col Nayudu, said the first Indian captain made his debut at the Bombay Gymkhana in 1916, and personally cherished the first official match at the gymkhana in 1926 between the Hindus and the MCC. The three-day match saw JF Earl scoring 130 runs for the MCC with 8 sixes and 9 fours, and a befitting reply from the Hindus who scored more than 300 runs. "Col Nayudu hit 11 sixes, and 14 fours in his 155 made in just 90 minutes. That match was somehow closer to his heart," Nayudu said.

So impressed were the MCC players by Nayudu's spectacular knock that they presented an autographed silver-coated bat to him. Contractor and Bombay Gymkhana president Narendra Bubna displayed the bat while unveiling the logo. "The knock is also believed to have played an
instrumental role in India winning the Test status ahead of Ceylon and other countries. India was soon invited to play the first test at Lords in 1932," Bilkha said.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Top 10 world cinema films

British magazine Sight and Sound has its place in the history of cinema. The magazine had the most authoritative critics contributing to it in its hey days. It had beautiful layouts, and some of these volumes are in Prabhat Chitra Mandal's library for any of you to read. The magazine still exists, and every 10 years, it asks a panel of film critics to select the top ten films of all time. The last top ten survey was done in 2002. I checked the list, and was disappointed not to find Bicycle Thieves, Rashomon, or La Strada in the list. Then I checked what the directors voted as the top ten and was pleasantly surprised at least two of them. Both lists have placed Citizen Kane on the top. Do you agree?

Check both the surveys. Interesting preferences between critics and directors.

Critics' Top Ten Poll
1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
Dazzlingly inventive, technically breathtaking, Citizen Kane reinvented the way stories could be told in the cinema, and set a standard generations of film-makers have since aspired to. An absorbing account of a newspaper tycoon's rise to power, Orson Welles' debut film feels as fresh as tomorrow's headlines. And he was only 26 when he made it.

2. Vertigo (Hitchcock)
A gripping detective story or a delirious investigation into desire, grief and jealousy? Hitchcock had a genius for transforming genre pieces into vehicles for his own dark obsessions, and this 1958 masterpiece shows the director at his mesmerising best. And for James Stewart fans, it also boasts the star's most compelling performance.

3. La Règle du jeu (Renoir)
Tragedy and comedy effortlessly combine in Renoir's country house ensemble drama. A group of aristocrats gather for some rural relaxation, a shooting party is arranged, downstairs the servants bicker about a new employee, while all the time husbands, wives, mistresses and lovers sweetly deceive one another and swap declarations of love like name cards at a dinner party.

4. The Godfather and The Godfather part II (Coppola)
Few films have portrayed the US immigrant experience quite so vividly as Coppola's Godfather films, or exposed the contradictions of the American Dream quite so ruthlessly. And what a cast, formidable talent firing all cylinders: Brando, De Niro, Pacino, Keaton, Duvall, Caan. Now that's an offer you can't refuse.

5. Tokyo Story (Ozu)
A poignant story of family relations and loss, Ozu's subtle mood piece portrays the trip an elderly couple make to Tokyo to visit their grown-up children. The shooting style is elegantly minimal and formally reticent, and the film's devastating emotional impact is drawn as much from what is unsaid and unshown as from what is revealed.

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
One of the most ambitious Hollywood movies ever made, 2001 crams into its two-hour plus running time a story that spans the prehistoric age to the beginning of the third millennium, and features some of the most hypnotically beautiful special effects work ever committed to film. After seeing this, you can never listen to Strauss' Blue Danube without thinking space crafts waltzing against starry backdrops.

7. Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
Eisenstein's recreation of a mutiny by sailors of the battleship Potemkin in 1905 works as daring formal experiment - which pushed the expressive potential of film editing to its limit - and rousing propaganda for the masses. The Odessa Steps sequence remains one of the most memorable set-pieces in cinema.

8. Sunrise (Murnau)
Having left his native Germany for the US, F.W. Murnau had all the resources of a major Hollywood studio at his disposal for this, his American debut. What he produced was a visually stunning film romance that ranks as one of the last hurrahs of the silent period.

9. 8 1/2 (Fellini)
Wonderfully freefloating, gleefully confusing reality and fantasy, 8 1/2 provides a ringside seat into the ever active imaginative life of its director protagonist Guido, played by Fellini's on-screen alter-ego Marcello Mastroianni. The definitive film about film-making - as much about the agonies of the creative process as the ecstasies - it's no wonder the movie is so popular with directors.

10. Singin' In the Rain (Kelly, Donen)
Impossible to watch without a smile on your face, this affectionate tribute to the glory days of Hollywood in the 1920s is pleasure distilled into 102 minutes. With Gene Kelly dance sequences that take your breath away and a great score by Brown and Freed, this is the film musical at its best.


Directors' Top Ten Poll
1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
Dazzlingly inventive, technically breathtaking, Citizen Kane reinvented the way stories could be told in the cinema, and set a standard generations of film-makers have since aspired to. An absorbing account of a newspaper tycoon's rise to power, Orson Welles' debut film feels as fresh as tomorrow's headlines. And he was only 26 when he made it.

2. The Godfather and The Godfather part II (Coppola)
Few films have portrayed the US immigrant experience quite so vividly as Coppola's Godfather films, or exposed the contradictions of the American Dream quite so ruthlessly. And what a cast, formidable talent firing all cylinders: Brando, De Niro, Pacino, Keaton, Duvall, Caan. Now that's an offer you can't refuse.

3. 8 1/2 (Fellini)
Wonderfully freefloating, gleefully confusing reality and fantasy, 8 1/2 provides a ringside seat into the ever active imaginative life of its director protagonist Guido, played by Fellini's on-screen alter-ego Marcello Mastroianni. The definitive film about film-making - as much about the agonies of the creative process as the ecstasies - it's no wonder the movie is so popular with directors.

4. Lawrence of Arabia (Lean)
Filmed in the desert in lavish widescreen and rich colours, Lawrence of Arabia is David Lean at his most epic and expansive. You can almost feel the waves of heat glowing from the cinema screen.

5. Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick)
A black comedy about impending nuclear annihilation that was made at the height of the cold war, Dr. Strangelove is perhaps Kubrick's most audacious movie and certainly his funniest. Peter Sellers has never been better, and provides good value playing three roles.

6. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)
Mixing melodrama, documentary and social commentary, De Sica follows an impoverished father and son treading the streets of post-war Rome, desperately seeking their stolen bicycle. Deeply compassionate, this poignant film is one of the outstanding examples of Italian neorealism.

7. Raging Bull (Scorsese)
An unblinkingly honest biopic of Jake La Motta - a great prizefighter but a deeply flawed human being - this catches Scorsese in fighting fit form. The boxing sequence are both brutal and beautiful, and De Niro, who famously put on weight to play the middle-aged La Motta, gives one of the performances of modern cinema.

8. Vertigo (Hitchcock)
A gripping detective story or a delirious investigation into desire, grief and jealousy? Hitchcock had a genius for transforming genre pieces into vehicles for his own dark obsessions, and this 1958 masterpiece shows the director at his mesmerising best. And for James Stewart fans, it also boasts the star's most compelling performance.

9. Rashomon (Kurosawa)
Offering four differing accounts of a rape and murder, all told in flashbacks, Kurosawa's 1951 film is a complex meditation on the distortive nature of memory and a gripping study of human behaviour at its most base. Mifune Toshiro is magnetic as the bandit Tajomaru.

10. La Règle du jeu (Renoir)
Tragedy and comedy effortlessly combine in Renoir's country house ensemble drama. A group of aristocrats gather for some rural relaxation, a shooting party is arranged, downstairs the servants bicker about a new employee, while all the time husbands, wives, mistresses and lovers sweetly deceive one another and swap declarations of love like name cards at a dinner party.

A Few Good Men

Sachin Tendulkar's 45th hundred was a delight to watch, and the master showed the same aggression and brilliance of his younger days that appears to be showing up increasingly rarely these days. So, when he was playing, I was hooked to the TV till his dismissal. His two sixes to spinner Nathan Hauritz were simply sublime to watch.

But there was absolutely no need to play the stupid shot that got him out with India just 19 runs away from victory. Knowing the fragile temperament of Indian lower order in crunch situation -- do you remember the Eden Garden collapse when Vinod Kambli went back to pavilion weeping? -- Tendulkar should have clearly avoided that shot. It is easier said than done obviously, but how many times do we see a brilliant innings from the master, and then players start behaving like little children running helter-skelter, which is actually quite comic to watch. They just can't think straight.

I thought Brian Lara had a phenomenal focus during "fightback" matches. Statsguru, a brilliant application on cricinfo, threw up a comparison between Tendulkar, Lara, Steve Waugh - that great stubborn Aussie - and Ponting. There cannot be a fair compairson because Tendulkar just towers over all of them in the sheer number of matches and hundreds he has hit. So, it is a bit unfair to do comparative percentages.

But, it is interesting to play the numbers game. I searched for Sachin's hundreds, and in how many did India win. Stats showed that he hit 45 hundreds in 435 matches, and India won 32 of them. Lara played 299 matches, hit 19 hundreds of them, and West Indies won 16 times. Steve Waugh played 325 matches, hit hundreds in three of them, and Australia won twice. (For Waugh, we will have to calculate how many times his captaincy and some of those 45 50s won matches for Aus.) Ponting has played 329 matches, hit 28 hundreds, and Australia won 24 times.

Another side stats this search revealed was that Sachin took almost four years to hit his first ODI ton, Lara took three, Waugh took ten (!) and Ponting was the fastest hitting a ton a year after his 1995 debut.

As I write this, India has lost the seven-match ODI series against Australia. That shot was too costly Sachin.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Raat Aadhi...

If you are a Bachchan fan, and not heard it, I strongly recommend the album, Bachchan Recites Bachchan. Many compare these recitations with the dialogues of Silsila, but when you listen, you have to remember that these are not dialogues, but poetry written in chaste Hindi of Harivanshrai Bachchan.

I have several favourites in the album, but Raat Aadhi is beautiful. Though this album is produced in 1970s, Bachchan, despite the fever, weaved magic when he recited these poems under that huge dome of National Gallery of Modern Art. It was an unforgettable evening for those who witnessed it.

Raat aadhi
kheench kar meri hatheli,
ek ungli se likha tha...pyaar

faasla tha kuch hamare bistaron mein
aur charo aur duniya so rahi thi
tareekain hee gagan ki jaanti hain
jo dasha dil kee tumhare ho rahi thi...

main tumhare paas ho kar door tumse,
main tumhare paas ho kar door tumse
adh jaga sa aur adh soya hua sa

Raat aadhi
kheench kar meri hatheli,
ek ungli se likha tha...pyaar

ek bijli choo gayee sehsa jaga mein
ek bijli choo gayee sehsa jaga mein
krishna pakshi chand nikla tha gagan mein
is tarah karvat padi thi tum ke aansoo
beh rahe they is nayan se us nayan mein
main laga doon aag us sansar mein
hain pyaar jismein is tarah asamarth kaatar
jaanti ho kya us samay kya kar guzarne ke liye
tha kar diya tayyar tumne

Raat aadhi
kheench kar meri hatheli,
ek ungli se likha tha...pyaar

praat hee kee aur ko hain raat chalti
praat hee kee aur ko hain raat chalti
aur ujale mein andhera doob jaata
manch hee poora badalta kaun aise
khoobiyo ke saath parde ko uthata
ek chehra sa laga tumne liya tha
aur maine tha utara ek chehra
woh nisha ka swapna mera tha kee apne par
gazab ka tha kiya adhikar tumne

Raat aadhi
kheench kar meri hatheli,
ek ungli se likha tha...pyaar

aur utne faasle par aaj tak sau yatna karke bhi na aaye phir kabhi hum
aur utne faasle par aaj tak sau yatna karke bhi na aaye phir kabhi hum
phir na aaya waqt vaisa, phir na mauka us tarah ka, phir na lauta chaand nirmam...
aur apni vedna main kya batau?
kya nahi yeh panktiya khud bolti hain
bujh nahi paaya abhi tak
us samay rakh diya tha haath par angaar tumne...

Raat aadhi
kheench kar meri hatheli,
ek ungli se likha tha...pyaar

The Mask of Big B

Amitabh Bachchan's new "bald" look in the R Balkrishnan's new film, Paa, is in the news. You can't recognise Big B quickly except for his tall frame. At least in the promos on air. I am not sure if I want to watch this avatar of Bachchan, but the transformation of the Bollywood star is interesting to watch.

I personally like films in which Amitabh played the angry, hurt poet than the dishoom-dishoom angry young man. I like his roles in Kabhie Kabhie or in Faraar or Babumoshay in Anand or in Guddi. I can still watch them again and again, dialogue for dialogue.

I wish I had met him during the days of his superstardom, but I saw him closely for the first time around 1998-99. Bachchan's films had started flopping miserably, and age was clearly showing on his clean-shaven face. That's when Krantiveer-fame Mehul Kumar cast Bachchan in Mrityudata and Kohram. The second one with Nana Patekar. I remember covering a launch function where Bachchan and Patekar were present together. Bachchan looked a bit jaded. I kept observing him, and I felt that he was weighed down by the heavy crown of superstardom on his head. Given a choice, he would escape this prison of his "image" and throw away the mask that he has to wear all the time.

My next interaction with him was at his bungalow Prateeksha around 1999-2000. The British Council had brought a wonderful, comprehensive exhibition titled Enduring Image to the National Gallery of Modern Art, and they had invited Bachchan to recite poems from Madhushala, Harivanshrai's evergreen poetry volume. I had already heard Bachchan's recitations in an 1971 audio tape called Bachchan Recites Bachchan, and was a fan of both the voice and the words. So, on the eve of the poetry reading, I got a chance to interview him. Though Bachchan had fever, he graciously agreed to give me 15 minutes after Bombay Times editor Malvika Sanghvi spoke to him.

In the interview, he spoke passionately about the poetry gatherings in Allahabad and Lucknow when thousands of people would listen to poems of his father. He said he missed those times when poets were so respected, and large crowds stayed all night to listen to poetry. Later, he brought Babuji on a wheelchair for the photo-shoot.

After the photo-shoot, something amazing happened. Bachchan led us - Photo editor Pradeep Chandra and I - to the huge gate of Prateeksha. It was a Sunday evening around 6 pm. As we entered the courtyard of the bungalow to go to the maingate, Bachchan's baritone boomed -- "Haan Khol Do Bhaiyya". It was aimed at the security guards, who slowly opened the gate about two-three feet wide. As we watched, that opened space was full of hundreds of fans standing outside for their favourite star's darshan. Bachchan did a namaskar, and waved to the fans for precisely a minute. The crowd was delirious. He asked if we shot the pictures. The whole thing took us by complete surprise, and Pradeep Chandra had, unfortunately, finished his roll during the interview.

Bachchan said, "No problem. Come again to shoot this, and come on a Sunday evening." By the time, we stepped out the crowd outside had melted. They knew the exact time of this whole "darshan" excercise, and I wondered how many years has Bachchan been doing this. Almost three decades?!!!

Cut to Year 2000 when Kaun Banega Crorepati was launched. KBC allowed the superstar to be human, and interact with the audience that adores him. Strangers telling him how they love him, watch his films both on and off air. The popularity of KBC not only offset Bachchan's debts, but perpetuated the French beard on his face which somehow looked better than his clean-shaven face.

After KBC became the superhit, I covered two functions where I got a chance to observe him. The first was an art exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art, and the other was the launch of a French perfume named after him. At both the functions, his fans interacted with him closely, asked him curious questions, and I saw the star interacting with them at a human level. He looked more happy to be that way. He graciously signed all autographs, and even posed for keepsake pictures with anyone who requested.

After that point in time, Bachchan has never looked back. He has been boldly experimenting with roles. Black, The Last Lear, Cheeni Kum, Bunty Aur Babli, Sarkar, Nishabd, Laksh, Virudha and so on. I would love to see Bachchan doing what Gene Hackman, Sean Connery, or Clint Eastwood do in Hollywood.

During this period, Bachchan did another important thing for Indian cinema. He very seriously pursued the globalisation of Hindi cinema as the brand ambassador of IIFA awards, and helped it reach out to a larger canvas.

He could have been wiser than signing Ram Gopal Varma ke Sholay, but I am glad that Bachchan has shed his iron mask. Forever.

Monday, November 02, 2009

How the Right to Info battle was won

In a historic decision, the Supreme Court Of India has today uploaded the assets and liabilities of 21 Supreme Court sitting judges including the Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan on its website. It is another huge step for the Right to Information Act revolution in the country.

Take a look at how the RTI battle was won, blow by blow over a two-year period:

Nov 11 2007: Right To Information Act activist Subhash C Aggarwal files petition before the Supreme Court seeking information about the judges assets.

Nov 2007: Information is denied to him.

Dec 2007: Agarwal files an appeal before SC's registry.

Jan 2008: SC's registry dismisses the appeal.

Mar 2008: Aggarwal approaches the Chief Information Commissioner (CIC)

Jan 2009: CIC asks SC to disclose information stating that Chief Justice’s office comes under the purview of the RTI Act.

Jan 2009: SC moves Delhi High Court against CIC order.

Jan 19, 2009: Delhi HC stays CIC order and asks constitutional expert Fali S Nariman to help it decide the legal issue. Nariman refuses to assist the court stating that he could not be impartial in the case as he firmly believed that judges should declare their assets voluntarily.

Feb 26, 2009: SC says judges cannot reveal personal information like assets under the RTI Act to the Chief Justice of India

Mar 17, 2009: SC says its judges are not averse to declaring their assets and suggests that the Parliament could enact a law regarding such a declaration and that it should not be misused by the executive.

May 1, 2009: Delhi High Court Bar Association moves plea in HC stating that judges should voluntarily declare their assets.

May 2009: SC warns that such transparency could affect its independence.

Aug 28, 2009: Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan says judges have agreed to declare their assets voluntarily, and the information would be put on apex court website.

Sep 2009: HC rules that Chief Justice’s office falls under the ambit of RTI Act and details of assets could be made public.

Oct 2009: SC challenges HC's order before a division bench.

Nov 2, 2009: SC registry put on its website details of assets of CJI and 20 other judges including a retired judge.

Balakrishnan, by the way, owns a Santro car, has no fixed deposits, and does not hold any investment in shares, according to the document on the website.

You can now access the assets list on Supreme Court website

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Three tragic events complete 25 years -- Indira Gandhi's assassination, the consequent Sikh massacre, and the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.

25 years on, the Sikh community is still in search of justice. I am posting a small note Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) have sent which I think captures the horror of 25 years. The CJP is also fighting a long legal battle to get justice for the 2002 Gujarat riot victims. If India's secular party led by a Sikh Prime Minister failed to dispense justice to a votebank it nurtures, what to expect from BJP's Narendra Modi...


CJP Sabrang Commemorate Years of Sikh Massacre, Demand Justice for the Victims
Twenty-five years ago Delhi, India’s capital, burned and no Sikh was safe. Eminent writer Khushwant Singh sought shelter at the Swedish embassy in Delhi, Justice SS Chadha of the Delhi high court had to move to the high court complex. His residence was not safe. Even General JS Arora, the hero of the Bangladesh war, had to flee for safety.
It is a shocking tale of impunity and non-deliverance of justice that there has been no punishment of the guilty. When the Indian Parliament met in 1985, it condemned the tragic and condemnable assassination of the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. But alas it has to pass a resolution condemning the massacre.
Though the official death toll in Delhi was 2,733, victims’ lawyers submitted a list to the officially appointed Ranganath Misra Commission recording that 3,870 Sikh persons had been killed. Of the 26 persons arrested on November 1 and 2 by the police, all were Sikhs!! Only nine cases have led to convictions so far. In all, 20 of the accused have been convicted in 25 years, a conviction rate of less than one per cent.
The culture of impunity against politicians of the ruling party and policemen displayed during the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre has perpetrated a culture of impunity that was evident in the post-Babri Masjid violence in Bombay and again in Gujarat in 2002.

Teesta Setalvad
Javed Anand
M.K. Raina
Rajan Prasad
Ram Rehman
N.K. Sharma
P.K. Shukla

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Awesome Ansel Adams

Photographer Ansel Adams dedicated all his life to landscape photography, and captured some amazing pictures. Largely he worked in black and white, and was sceptical of colour photography which arrived later.
Time magazine has put up a nice gallery on his colour work captured in a new book. Do check Ansel's pictures

Time magazine also put greying Ansel on its cover in 1979. You can see
Time Cover

The magazine paid its tribute to the master in an obit in 1984

To see Adam's black and white work, do check this slideslow

To know more about how and what shaped Adam's love for landscape photography, read his biography

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Media sell out during polls

Once you have a Medianet, then you can only have comparisons with it.

While eyebrows were raised about Medianet, and advertising masquerading as news, the role media has been played during the just-concluded assembly elections is currently being debated in Mumbai.
Marathi newspaper Loksatta wrote about the phenomenon of newspapers and tv channels rolling out "packages" on the candidates in the fray, and openly doling out the advertorial space masquerading as `news' to anybody who paid. Loksatta carried scathing articles on this including a piece by its editor Komar Ketkar last week.

Senior journalist P Sainath has also raised the issue on the Opinion page of the Hindu in an article titled: The medium, message and the money

In rural areas, election is the ultimate opportunity for smaller newspapers to make money. In Nandgaon constituency in Nasik where Chhagan Bhujbal's son Pankaj contested and won, an estimated 200 newspapers exist according to a local media watcher. In some Edit page articles, I found even the mobile number of the writer was published. Perhaps for instant access to those who want to plug.

Some of the news items also had a striking similarity with each other. They were reports about campaign meetings, and after two or three paras, the newsitem listed a long list of names who were present at the meeting. "When you see the list, you know its paid," remarked someone who pointed the trend to me.

Commenting on the state of affairs, a former journalist remarked that Medianet was much better compared to this!

Three poems

Three of my favourite poems by Kamala Das...The cover of her collection, The Old Playhouse and Other Poems, is beautiful, but my "picture upload" option is not working and hence I can't upload it. But it can be seen with a simple google search.

The Looking Glass
Getting a man to love you is easy
Only be honest about your wants as
Woman. Stand nude before the glass with him
So that he sees himself the stronger one
And believes it so, and you so much more
Softer, younger, lovelier. Admit your
Admiration. Notice the perfection
Of his limbs, his eyes reddening under
The shower, the shy walk across the bathroom floor,
Dropping towels, and the jerky way he
Urinates. All the fond details that make
Him male and your only man. Gift him all,
Gift him what makes you woman, the scent of
Long hair, the musk of sweat between the breasts,
The warm shock of menstrual blood, and all your
Endless female hungers. Oh yes, getting
A man to love is easy, but living
Without him afterwards may have to be
Faced. A living without life when you move
Around, meeting strangers, with your eyes that
Gave up their search, with ears that hear only
His last voice calling out your name and your
Body which once under his touch had gleamed
Like burnished brass, now drab and destitute.


Until I found you,
I wrote verse, drew pictures,
And, went out with friends
For walks…
Now that I love you,
Curled like an old mongrel
My life lies, content,
In you…


The Freaks

He talks, turning a sun stained
Cheek to me, his mouth, a dark
Cavern, where stalacities of
Uneven teeth gleam, his right
Hand on my knee, while our minds
Are willed to race towards love;
But they only wander, tripping
Idly over puddles of
Desire……can this man with
Nimble finger-tips unleash
Nothing more alive than the
Skin’s lazy hungers? Who can
Help us who have lived so long
And have failed in love? The heart,
An empty cistern, waiting
Through long hours, fills itself
With coiling snakes of silence……
I am a freak. It’s only
To save my face, I flaunt, at
Times, a grand, flamboyant lust

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The tunnels of Gaza Strip

A few years ago, there was a stunning picture that won the World Press Photo of the Year, and captured the Israel-Palestine conflict and the mutual mistrust in one single frozen moment. The picture showed an Israeli armed soldier, and a Palestinian man facing each other eye-ball to eye-ball, defying each other with extreme hatred in their eyes.

Similarly stunning was a documentary on how Reuters Israel-Palestine photo bureau works. The bureau had Israeli and Palestinian photographers capturing both the regions of the divide under the leadership of Reinhard Krause. Whatever their individual political opinions, they covered the conflict bravely and with great objectivity. "Calling the Shots" is the name of the docu. Incidentally, Krause is now in India as the India head of Reuters pictures.

Time magazine's new photogallery throws another perspective on this bloody conflict that has been going on for so long. It shows how Palestinians survive the Israeli blockade of goods, and find innovative and desperate ways to smuggle in goods from Egypt through dozens of manually dug
tunnels in Gaza strip.

Friday, October 23, 2009

How to change the statusquo?

Another election over in Maharashtra. People voted to power a government which cared little about the farmers dying in the cotton belt of Vidarbha, most of its representatives were in their Malabar Hill bungalows the night Mumbaikars battled the unprecedented cloudburst of July 2005, who did little before and after the July 11 2006 serial train blasts, and the Nov 26 terror attacks.
When the farmer suicides peaked in Vidarbha,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travelled to the region guided by senior journalist P Sainath, who had been consistently writing about the issue when much of the English media wasn't. Singh announced a Rs 3750 crore package, but didn't give in to the primary demands of the cotton farmers - a complete loan waiver, better minimum support price for cotton. From Aug 2006, the suicides increased to over a 100 per month.
The demand for a complete loan waiver was rejected by the government. Nothing happened on the increasing the MSP for cotton - assured price by the government for cotton price. 2007 passed. With Lok Sabha elections due in May 2009, the government got into action, and inked the Rs 70,000 crore loan waiver in March 2008 budget. The package was implemented from July 2008. I am not denying that the waiver helped farmers, but the timing of the waiver showed that it was aimed more at getting the UPA voted back to power. In May 2009, UPA formed the government on its own.
Much has been written about the state government's role in the other three emergencies the city and its people faced. As the Oct assembly elections began nearing, the Maharashtra government got into an overdrive. It partially released the findings of the Ram Pradhan Committee probe report into Nov 26 terror attacks. It doled out sops worth Rs 20,000 crores in a series of cabinet meetings. It showcased the Bandra-Worli Sea Link Project and touted it as its achievements. That it was in the making for years and it cost almost four times of Rs 400 crore originally allocated didn't matter.
In 2003, the government promised it would set up new power projects and by 2009, it would make Maharashtra loadshedding free. In 2009 manifesto, it makes the same promise but extends the date to 2012! Large rural hinterlands get power switch offs upto 12 hours. Children there have to study during the day or in candle light at night. Even Thane on the outskirts of Mumbai has four hours of loadshedding. The autos, which run in CNG, have to queue up for upto three to four hours to fill up the gas because the petrol pumps can't function due to loadshedding.
People are just fed up of voting. A close friend's father, who has been a regular voter, and a loyal Shiv Sena voter, skipped voting this time. He was unhappy with the whole process of electoral politics which, he feels, is an eyewash. He said politicians are just bothered about the power and wealth the profession brings, and has no connection whatsoever with their primary role as people's representatives who should work for the people. Quoting Greek philosopher Polybius who wrote that monarchy turns into tyranny soon, and democracy grows into a mob rule.
I found another example of a young 22 year old voter who, equally disenchanted with the sham, atually went to the booth to cast a protest vote. But, the poll officer in charge himself did not know the "protest vote" process, and drove him away.
What is the way out of this? If you are not voting, then can you really complain that the system does not change? What is the use of such complaining? And if we all don't speak and actually give this proces the time and energy it demands from us, then how will change happen? A government that did not perform well gets voted in for a third term is really disturbing.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Online campaign against Shivaji Statue

Usually Bollywood is quick to bow down to the political leaders/parties because they don't want to take panga, stand up for their rights.

But, music director Vishal Dadlani has decided to take on the government for trying to erect a Rs 350 crore statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji at Marine Drive.
The statue would be taller than New York's Statue of Liberty, and be created on an island opposite the three gymkahanas - Police, Willingdon CLub, Parsi Gymkhana on the Marine Drive waterfront.

Dadlani says he means no disrepsect for the Maratha warrior, but strongly opposes the politics of statues and wastage of public money on such monuments which serve a specific votebank, not the people. He says Rs 350 crore could be utilised for lots of other essential things like improving Mumbai's infrastructure, educating children, or any other worthy cause.

Dadlani launched Small after the Nov 26 terror attacks, and filed a PIL in the Bombay High COurt. He plans to do the same against the Shivaji statue, and is currently collecting signatures on this portal. He says he will file a PIL once 25,000 people sign and oppose the project.

Do visit the website and have your say. So far, 19555 people have signed in.

You could also read my story

A blog of letters

A visit to the Blogs of Note always reveals an interesting blog. Thats where I discovered the French Toast Girl listed in the favourite websites list. Another interesting one, Letters of Note, sources interesting letters written by people - famous and not so famous and compiles them in different categories.
Beethoven's letter to his brothers is on the homepage. Also click on categories. I clicked on love, and found a love letter by a mother to her new born child. Another by painter Frida Kahlo to her husband Diego Rivera, and Winston Churchill writing to his wife Clementine.

Do check the blog

Obama's other awards

Obama's Nobel prize has become a joke ofcourse. Time Magazine has put together a hilarious gallery photoshopping the US President at other possible award ceremonies that he could attend if the world adopted the Nobel's standards for winning.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When Dear Octavio came to Mumbai

Found this fascinating excerpt written by Octavio Paz on It is part of "In Light of India", a collection of essays Paz wrote during his travels in India. He visits The Gateway of India, and The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai and meets WH Auden's brother there

Read on:

We arrived in Bombay on an early morning in November 1951. I remember the intensity of the light despite the early hour, and my impatience at the sluggishness with which the boat crossed the quiet bay. An enormous mass of liquid mercury, barely undulating; vague hills in the distance; flocks of birds; a pale sky and scraps of pink clouds. As the boat moved forward, the excitement of the passengers grew. Little by little the white-and-blue architecture of the city sprouted up, a stream of smoke from a chimney, the ocher and green stains of a distant garden. An arch of stone appeared, planted on a dock and crowned with four little towers in the shape of pine trees. Someone leaning on the railing beside me exclaimed, "The Gateway of India!" He was an Englishman, a geologist bound for Calcutta. We had met two days before, and I had discovered that he was W. H. Auden's brother. He explained that the arch was a monument erected to commemorate the visit of King George V and his wife, Queen Mary, in 1911. It seemed to me a fantasy version of the Roman arches; later I learned it was inspired by an architectural style that had flourished in Gujarat, an Indian state, in the sixteenth century. Behind the monument, floating in the warm air, was the silhouette of the Taj Mahal Hotel, an enormous cake, a delirium of the fin-de-siècle Orient fallen like a gigantic bubble, not of soap but of stone, on Bombay's lap. I rubbed my eyes: was the hotel getting closer or farther away? Seeing my surprise, Auden explained to me that the hotel's strange appearance was due to a mistake: the builders could not read the plans that the architect had sent from Paris, and they built it backward, its front facing the city, its back turned to the sea. The mistake seemed to me a deliberate one that revealed an unconscious negation of Europe and the desire to confine the building forever in India. A symbolic gesture, much like that of Cortés burning the boats so that his men could not leave. How often have we experienced similar temptations?

Once on land, surrounded by crowds shouting at us in English and various native languages, we walked fifty meters along the filthy dock and entered the ramshackle customs building, an enormous shed. The heat was unbearable and the chaos indescribable. I found, not easily, my few pieces of luggage, and subjected myself to a tedious interrogation by a customs official. Free at last, I left the building and found myself on the street, in the middle of an uproar of porters, guides, and drivers. I managed to find a taxi, and it took me on a crazed drive to my hotel, the Taj Mahal.

If this book were a memoir and not an essay, I would devote pages to that hotel. It is real and chimerical, ostentatious and comfortable, vulgar and sublime. It is the English dream of India at the beginning of the century, an India populated by dark men with pointed mustaches and scimitars at their waists, by women with amber-colored skin, hair and eyebrows as black as crows' wings, and the huge eyes of lionesses in heat. Its elaborately ornamented archways, its unexpected nooks, its patios, terraces, and gardens are both enchanting and dizzying. It is a literary architecture, a serialized novel. Its passageways are the corridors of a lavish, sinister, and endless dream. A setting for a sentimental tale or a chronicle of depravity. But that Taj Mahal no longer exists: it has been modernized and degraded, as though it were a motel for tourists from the Midwest ... A bellboy in a turban and an immaculate white jacket took me to my room. It was tiny but agreeable. I put my things in the closet, bathed quickly, and put on a white shirt. I ran down the stairs and plunged into the streets. There, awaiting me, was an unimagined reality:

waves of heat; huge grey and red buildings, a Victorian London growing among palm trees and banyans like a recurrent nightmare, leprous walls, wide and beautiful avenues, huge unfamiliar trees, stinking alleyways,

torrents of cars, people coming and going, skeletal cows with no owners, beggars, creaking carts drawn by enervated oxen, rivers of bicycles,

a survivor of the British Raj, in a meticulous and threadbare white suit, with a black umbrella,

another beggar, four half-naked would-be saints daubed with paint, red betel stains on the sidewalk,

horn battles between a taxi and a dusty bus, more bicycles, more cows, another half-naked saint,

turning the corner, the apparition of a girl like a half-opened flower,

gusts of stench, decomposing matter, whiffs of pure and fresh perfumes,

stalls selling coconuts and slices of pineapple, ragged vagrants with no job and no luck, a gang of adolescents like an escaping herd of deer,

women in red, blue, yellow, deliriously colored saris, some solar, some nocturnal, dark-haired women with bracelets on their ankles and sandals made not for the burning asphalt but for fields,

public gardens overwhelmed by the heat, monkeys in cornices of the buildings, shit and jasmine, homeless boys,

a banyan, image of the rain as the cactus is the emblem of aridity, and, leaning against a wall, a stone daubed with red paint, at its feet a few faded flowers: the silhouette of the monkey god,

the laughter of a young girl, slender as a lily stalk, a leper sitting under the statue of an eminent Parsi,

in the doorway of a shack, watching everyone with indifference, an old man with a noble face,

a magnificent eucalyptus in the desolation of a garbage dump, an enormous billboard in an empty lot with a picture of a movie star: full moon over the sultan's terrace,

more decrepit walls, whitewashed walls covered with political slogans written in red and black letters I couldn't read,

the gold and black grillwork of a luxurious villa with a contemptuous inscription: EASY MONEY; more grilles even more luxurious, which allowed a glimpse of an exuberant garden; on the door, an inscription in gold on the black marble,

in the violently blue sky, in zigzags or in circles, the flights of seagulls or vultures, crows, crows, crows ...

As night fell, I returned to my hotel, exhausted. I had dinner in my room, but my curiosity was greater than my fatigue: after another bath, I went out again into the city. I found many white bundles lying on the sidewalks: men and women who had no home. I took a taxi and drove through deserted districts and lively neighborhoods, streets animated by the twin fevers of vice and money. I saw monsters and was blinded by flashes of beauty. I strolled through infamous alleyways and stared at the bordellos and little shops: painted prostitutes and transvestites with glass beads and loud skirts. I wandered toward Malabar Hill and its serene gardens. I walked down a quiet street to its end and found a dizzying vision: there, below, the black sea beat against the rocks of the coast and covered them with a rippling shawl of foam. I took another taxi back to my hotel, but I did not go in. The night lured me on, and I decided to take another walk along the great avenue that ran beside the docks. It was a zone of calm. In the sky the stars burned silently. I sat at the foot of a huge tree, a statue of the night, and tried to make an inventory of all I had seen, heard, smelled, and felt: dizziness, horror, stupor, astonishment, joy, enthusiasm, nausea, inescapable attraction. What had attracted me? It was difficult to say: Human kind cannot bear much reality. Yes, the excess of reality had become an unreality, but that unreality had turned suddenly into a balcony from which I peered into -- what? Into that which is beyond and still has no name ...

Translated by Eliot Weinberger