‘മഴയീരം കൊണ്ടുവന്ത് എന്‍വീട്ടില്‍ കുടിവെയ്പേന്‍
തളിരില്ലാ എന്‍വീട്ടില്‍ വിതയെല്ലാം മുളയാതും’
(മഴയുടെ ഈര്‍പ്പം കൊണ്ടുവന്ന് എന്റെ വീട്ടില്‍ കുടിയിരുത്തണം,
തളിരില്ലാത്ത എന്റെ വീട്ടില്‍ വിത്തുകള്‍ എല്ലാം മുളച്ചുപൊന്തും)

Bring home the rain’s wetness and let my barren house sprout life. (Literal translation, lyrical disaster.)

1991 മാര്‍ച്ചിലെ ഒരു സായാഹ്നത്തില്‍ ദേവതാരുക്കള്‍ തണല്‍വിരിച്ച മധുര കാര്‍ഷിക കോളജിലെ ഇടവഴികളിലൂടെ ഇരുവരും നടന്നു. തിരികേ ധര്‍മപുരിയിലെത്തിയ ജയമോഹന്‍ അവള്‍ക്ക് പത്തു പേജ് നീണ്ട കത്തെഴുതി…
‘ഒരു പെണ്‍കുട്ടിക്കും ഇത് താങ്ങാന്‍ കഴിയുമെന്ന് ഞാന്‍ വിശ്വസിക്കുന്നില്ല… 54-ാം വയസ്സിലായിരുന്നു അമ്മയുടെ ആത്മഹത്യ. വാര്‍ധക്യത്തിലെ ആത്മഹത്യകള്‍ക്ക് പിന്നിലുള്ളത് ഒരുതരം ദര്‍ശനമായിരുന്നിരിക്കണം. 'ജയ ജയ' എന്ന അമ്മയുടെ വിളികള്‍ എന്നെ ഭ്രാന്തുപിടിപ്പിച്ചിരുന്നു. ആശ്വാസത്തിനായി ചാരായ ഷാപ്പിലെത്തിയപ്പോള്‍ കുടിക്കരുതെന്ന് അച്ഛന്റെ ഓര്‍മപ്പെടുത്തല്‍…
കുമ്പളയിലെ റെയില്‍വേ ട്രാക്കില്‍ ജീവിതം ഹോമിക്കാനായി കാത്തുനിന്നു. ഒടുക്കം അതുപേക്ഷിച്ച് ഏകാകിയായി യാത്ര തുടര്‍ന്നു. ഇന്ത്യ കണ്ടു. ഇപ്പോള്‍ എഴുത്തുകാരനായി, എന്റെ ജീവിതം എഴുത്താണ്, ഇതില്‍നിന്നും പണമോ പ്രശസ്തിയോ കിട്ടില്ല. ഞാന്‍ ഒരു ജീവിത പരാജയത്തിനാണ് ആക്കംകൂട്ടുന്നത്. ഇഷ്ടമുണ്ടെങ്കില്‍ ഒപ്പം കൂടുക.’

Arun P Gopi in conversation with Arunmozhi and Jeyamohan, Matrubhumi Weekend Supplement, 29 July 2018. On love, letters and love-letters. High-enough-resolution scan here. Online version (Malayalam), here. I’ve attempted a partial translation, on S’s request, here.

Do not misunderstand. I think that the computer is a marvelous instrument. I think the computer has nothing to do with creative work. You are not going to be a creative genius just because you have a computer. In fact the chances are you will be just the opposite. You just will be a computer operator. But the speed and the efficiency are simply incomparable. A comp in the old days consisted of type and artwork and color and Photostats and color prints. Can you imagine how long that took, and how much it cost to do? You do it in half an hour today; it used to take two weeks, literally two weeks. There is something wrong in that, too, because it does not give you time to be contemplative. You do not have time to sit and think about it, and it keeps kicking you in your rear end as you go along. You know it keeps kicking you. You cannot stop to think about it because it is just too damn fast.

Paul Rand, Conversations with Students (Michael Kroeger, Princeton Architectural Press, NY).

It is impossible to decide what to quote from the book full of gems. Wish I’d read it before the current courses I am helping the students with, started. (The Vijayawada Library is full of pleasant surprises.) I’ve been raving about the NID: Structure-Culture Document for weeks now, and the tail-end of Rand in Conversation is strangely reminiscent.

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I want to fall in love inside a bookshop and never leave. Hold my sambharam while I acknowledge the hopeless unoriginality and the likely impossibility of the whole situation. I have, in the recent and otherwise past, come very close to going down on my knees (not to look at an unloved pile of newsprint in the corner) and recovered as someone leaned too close to the usual suspects. Countless tomes* have filled bookshelves and spilled over (looking at you, Blossoms) trying to mix the carnal with the dustjacketed. I have fallen in love with books before. And I know people come to bookshops still. How hard can it be to put the two together?

*Miss K is definitely not one.

If an art form is marginalized it’s because it’s not speaking to people. One possible reason is that the people it’s speaking to have become too stupid to appreciate it. That seems a little easy to me.

– DFW, 1996. Link

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The Course Abstract from Typography-1. PDF here.

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I’m really, really glad I agreed to talk letters for four agonising (I presumed), exciting (I still hope) and terrifying (so very true) weeks. The students, a decade younger, are already teaching me so much in so few words I come home to the unnecessary luxury of a double bed (wrapped in shades of baby blue, wrapped in eerily perfect, wrinkle-free solitude) and crash face-down for tens of minutes of ignorant bliss before V calls out with the day’s menu. It sounds all the more boring to listen to a list starting with chapaathi and always managing to segue its way into daal after a day of counter-spaces and anti-counter-spaces and minor introspections on the nature of form. It is Gurgaon all over again, sans the smiling people on the billboards and no signs of Miss K. The flat-builder’s misplaced sense of irony finds a moment of relief as I realise how sharp and depressingly ordinary all the longing these walls flush out come morning after smoky morning. We live in a building named after pine trees. There are others named after trees named after themselves. It rains on most mornings, except when I can’t be bothered to go out for a run.

The class is an amorphous being and refuses-outright and with more than a hint of absolute contempt-my pathetic attempts at well-worn jokes. Some students pour their heart and sufficient midnight oil out into sheets of straight lines after not-so-straight lines. Some of the faces fill my head with questions. Questions I would like them to ask (me, each other) and they never will, questions I should’ve asked someone long ago and never gathered the innards to and never did, questions to ask later to never be remembered off context.

As always, DFW drives the point home in slow, well-chosen words and well-placed shrugs. (Link)

I stare at a K drama all the way through the kisses and catch myself counting sheep. I do feel like a child.

In Saat Sakkam Trechalis, Kiran Nagarkar sets fire to the pages. Each paragraph tentacles into the middle of the next one, foreshadowing, bathed in spoilers left open like wounds.

And further down, there are rocks and crabs and the tetrapods. Those tetrapods that saw me drown. Exam time in Poona. Past midnight, when I switched off the light and went to bed. Into the sticky green sea of words and sentences from the book on politics I had been reading. So sticky and thick that no waves moved over it. And I, up to my neck in it. Not far from the shore but far enough for my feet to be off the ground. Struggling desperately to escape the glutinous green that stretched as far as the horizon. The sea would neither swallow me nor let me breathe. And the leviathan tetrapods watched.

And after a few more lines (or maybe just one) I omit for fear of copy-pasting the entire paragraph.

The place where you're born, the town, the village, means a thousand things to you. Every spot, every corner holds a memory. Here you stamped your feet, banged your head and cried, there you threw stones to bring down the mangoes. You played doctor behind the schoolhouse, sat for your school leaving exams a few yards away. Learnt to swim in the Mahatma Gandhi pool, got married at the Town Hall. Every event, every memory is a dialogue between you and the place where you have lived. And although your city, town, or village may never play a leading, or even a secondary part in your life, the fact that it is always present makes it the fourth dimension of your consciousness. My memory holds a lot of Bombays. But the Bombay of the tetrapods is not one of them. That Bombay exists separately, and has an independent life.

From 7643

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If things were to go to plan, the eenth wouldn't have offered us this view of things. Not this easily, anyway. Things went way off plan and when it rained, the rain forgot the pauses in between when the couples and the not-couples and the retail-cigarettes-seller and the two kids who got their bicycles out just as the first drops came down, could move on to the next unloved roadside busstop. During the night, the adequately bass-ey crash betrayed something bigger than a wannabe coconut falling on something that we didn't want coconuts of significant sizes to fall. We hoped ourselves back to sleep; maybe it was another overripe jackfruit left for the squirrels to finish off and in their haste they started to gnaw off from the stalk down.

The twin cycads share their elevated cuboid of yellow-red earth off to a side of the courtyard. Unwilling to stand each other, parting ways centimeters off the ground, one leaned on the kitchen terrace as it bore fruit, the other missed the stay-wire and the odd areca palm leaf hanging on to the thrill of being airborne, till the time it gave up and met the ground again like an awkward ex-lover.

In the morning the courtyard had an isosceles triangle stealing a kiss from the newly transferred passion-fruit pot, leaving the pot in one piece and putting the hungry young shoots in their place. We figured the tree (shy of a couple of hundred of years, at least, going by the marks old leaves left) must have soaked through as the wind finished it off, bending it where an enterprising hornbill had many party congresses ago claimed shelter. We call the tree-feller for advice after we cut the leaves out and sort them for a possible stint at decoration and nod to each other as he says the geometry is best left untouched for a while and the chainsaw is too delicate for wood like this.

The palms are good places for a cat to find some purchase. Miss K runs up the leaning one after a few scratches to its base and runs off into the overgrown kitchen terrace garden. She then sneaks off the roof down the palm as I climb up to see if the naughty, silent tom isn't waiting for a chance at showing off. Today, she looks up at the fallen one, is not happy as I lift her up to the wreck and spends a moment examining her dominion as the slope leads nowhere.

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The new leaves take us by surprise. The neighbours, passing, ask for a sapling for after the rains. It rained overnight and the sprouting leaves hold onto the memory of what came down as if the sky isn't going to break all day. It is a pauseworthy sight as the morning sunlight erupts into a million (definitely fewer) little pieces through the new leaves and leaves tiny copies of an upside-down sun all over the passion-fruit. Then the rain comes back looking for places it left dry and washes off the beauty along with the dust.