Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Leningrad Cemetery, Winter of 1941"

That winter, the dead could not be buried.
The ground was frozen, the gravediggers weak from hunger,
the coffin wood used for fuel. So they were covered with something
and taken on a child's sled to the cemetery
in the sub-zero air. They lay on the soil,
some of them wrapped in dark cloth
bound with rope like the tree's ball of roots
when it waits to be planted; others wound in sheets,
their pale, gauze, tapered shapes
stiff as cocoons that will split down the center
when the new life inside is prepared;
but most lay like corpses, their coverings
coming undone, naked calves
hard as corded wood spilling
from under a cloak, a hand reaching out
with no sign of peace, wanting to come back
even to the bread made of glue and sawdust,
even to the icy winter, and the siege.
~Sharon Olds

What a terrible poem to come across at this time in my life. I wish with all my soul that the last few lines are...not true. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Readings 2013

2013 has, for a variety of reasons, not been a very 'booky' year. Distractions abounded, and surprisingly enough, reading fell victim. Anyhow, there were a few books I wanted to remember as being the ones that stood out during the year. In no particular order:
  • The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels
  • Postcards by Annie Proulx
  • The Pianist by Władysław Szpilman
  • Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides
  • A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi
  • The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
  • Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander
  • Troubles by JG Farrell
  • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Honorable mentions:
  • One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
  • The Line of Beauty by Allan Hollinghurst
  • He, She and It by Marge Piercy
  • Three Junes by Julia Glass
  • The Cuckoo's Calling by JK Rowling

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Language and other animals

Friend has always been a source of some rather hilarious mangling of our 'national' language...stoutly Dravidian and proud of it, he always pooh-poohed our admittedly militant insistence that all Indians be able to converse in it.

A few years ago he came across a signboard across a sweet shop that said "XYZ Mithai Bhandar." And what did he conclude? That the shop was advertising itself as a purveyor of sweet monkeys! I ask you! 

So naturally, yesterday when perusing the recent Delhi election results, I was not surprised when he messaged me. "Tell me, why shouldn't Aam Aadmi translate into Mango Man? Isn't aam mango? Don't want this turning into another sweet monkey."
I gallantly cleared the air: "'Aam is also 'common' or ordinary', you sweet monkey."

Friend: 'Ha. But you see, I've got a point there. I know the common man angle, but it is also the party for mango farmers.'
Long may you live, friend. Life is too short to not mangle language for the purpose of amusement. Sometimes that's the best part about the day. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I feel like a letter left out all night in the rain. What were once words, what gave it a meaning, have all been washed away. The paper is now a translucent and terrible shell of its former self. 
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