Reading the Hindu is nostalgic. Too. Often there are phrases and mellow puns—the kind we filled composition books with before we knew irony paired well with an F91W and flannel. Saddened to see them (The Hindu) miss an opportunity to whip out ‘consider the lobster’ for an article on the Swiss mandating stunning them (the lobsters) before boiling them (the stunned lobsters) alive. Maybe their style book doesn’t say ‘what would a 12-year-old you title it?’ in exactly the same words. It is nice (on the verge—not quite—of thirty) to have the morning newspaper put you in canvas shoes whitened with government-issue-toothpaste.
Brands ought to be their own advertisement with the work they do. When a client comes in with a marketing budget (or a request for us to sit with their marketing team) I see red flags. Uttering ‘Social Media Strategy’ before we get into why they think they need to exist, it is a local committee meeting of the communists, sans the confidence. Stretched out on frames allover our city I see people who don’t believe enough; not enough in what they do, not enough in the intelligence of others.
I don’t enjoy looking at the billboards anymore. (Used to be the only people smiling at me were the billboard models. I was in Gurgaon and there all that honking timed my heartbeats.) The good ones (tolerable typography, proper punctuation, oldstyle numerals where they ought to be) are sandwiched among the fairly insecure. The gaudy ones are everywhere. The good ones give way to the absurd too soon. I don’t even enjoy the window-seat on my commute that much anymore.
The Green Beautiful explores the idea of an utopia holding a fine mirror to our broken reality. The film is silly and self-aware. Down from the Mountains is the tale of a family separated by mountains and money. A mother in Verte quips ‘but they don’t have lipstick’ in a moment that refuses to linger with delusions of grandeur. In Mountains, the mother of six holds banknotes against the light as she double-checks the sum she is paid for peppercorns and wonders if it wouldn’t be great if she didn’t have to.
Just Ride is a painfully (!) practical guide to cycling without the gear obsession and adding things to the bike while hoping to shave off milligrams. This, as I am burning bandwidth looking for a positively eyelet-infested tour-ready frame.
Tim Crabbe’s Rider and Robert Penn’s It’s All About the Bike are excellent reads too, to help put you in the mood for a long ride. It is Gironimo next.
Chabter after enchanting, dark, pin-prickly self aware Chabter, Deepak Unnikrishnan’s Temporary People consumes the reader in whole, like the countless Pravasis and suitcases sprouting limbs littered allover its stories. The writing’s self-awareness stops just short of being too sweet to swallow, the bitterness too heady to spit. I read it like I used to read Stephen King back in highschool (during the run through Dreamcatcher, our motherly librarian was concerned). I was moved to tears many inappropriate times in state transport buses and sprawled atop awkward couch layouts during afternoon indulgences in the studio.
He writes as if he knows—exactly, down to the quirky typographic detail—how someone is going to read not the lines but the inbetweens. You could see, with eyes half-closed, all the revisions the text must have been through, lighting pages up like Christmas trees in heat. For example (despite attempts, there are no stone-set rules in how Malayalam words ought to be anglicised*) he transliterates vegetable into Pucchakkari. A belittling† piece on the platter. In an Arundhati Roy book, this would’ve read like kulcha bait. Not in Unnikrishnan’s Chabters. Here, their visa out of linguistic self-harm is a knowing nod from the author, from behind the printed page. That is to say, I maybe imagining things. Pucchakkari and Kadakkaran blend in, with no (apologetic, italicised) footnote in view.
There is a Kiran Nagarkaresque rhythm to the sentences—the wordplay is effortless, long sentences bookended by short, punchy ones. The blessings of a coconut oiled tongue, alien but comfortably so, shines through. The more out-of-the-ordinary parts and the magically realist parts read like there were carefully measured, quality-controlled substances involved. Even then, the prose is grounded, the wackiness hitting you in ways least expected. Sentences deliver aftershocks way beyond their designated periods. Some don’t even wait to grow up to adult-sized sentences to drive home the despair. A two page Chabter (Google ‘Pucchakari’ and look at the Books result) on Gulf Malayalee nouns turns sinister word-sized-sentence after word-sized-sentence.‡
The type treatments and typesetting complement the content too; the blacked out words aren’t gimmicky, the illustrations aren’t afterthoughts. My only gripe with the design department is a misplaced diacritic late into the book. The Rodrigo-Corral cover tops the package off nicely, equal parts architectural plan and slice of the temporary, replaceable lives inside.
* A user-friendly version would say Pachchakkari, but that sounds pedestrian. Think Poppadoms over Pappatams.
† Puccham is denigration. Pachcha is green. Kari is a lady who trades in precedents.
‡ As I was reading this, I was mentally putting the terms in a spreadsheet, trying to find method to sort the madness into something as effective as the one in the book.