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At 112mm (the lens’s narrowest end), descending to Vijayawada.

The sun sets over buildings as the city wakes up. People look up from their evening commutes and soak their worries for a longlived moment in the amber light of the day before the third of the smaller lights turns green and then reset their paces. They reach home and open their windows and stand outside on the many amber-lit balconies and listen to Thamarai in peace. I doubt the Thamarai bit. The amber-lit evenings see windows open with and without overturned crosses up top. Lost in a sea of people and buildings and tall cars and short trees and longwinding streets bathed in amber, the opened windows and the thieving, adultering conversations that drop by with the wind find purchase in the folded-away curtains and dried laundry fluttering in the balconies. I hear traces of Visiri from the neighbours’ radio as the station gets stuck for a shortlived moment in a faraway frequency carried over over the laundry and the teacup left over the sill. There are no radios in the city. The windows remain shut and the ones with upturned crosses stay open for longer than they have any right to be. There are no conversations apart from the ones in one-way streets lined with packed supermarkets. Over the air, a dog-food advertisement layers itself over the one for superthin undergarments. People in cars don’t look up in fear of accidentally looking into the eyes of children selling plastic knickknacks and jasmine threaded into uncanny helices. The cellphones keep reminding them their choice of the fork in the road at this hour of commutes and street children and superthin undergarment adverts was indeed, pathetic. The sun sets over buildings as the city lulls itself into sleep.

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Caught Miss K sneaking in a sizeable nap as I was leaving for the studio.

Miss K was previously caught conversing with one of the seven sisters hanging on to a yellowed leaf on the areca palm by the window. (This was before the attempted assault on the squirrel-nest over the ventilation hole under the window in question. We think these incidents are connected, somewhat, definitely. Miss K pretends she can’t hear us speak of the event and switches to a pretend-race with some lizard off camera.) Miss K was trying to bump up the radius on a Gaussian Blur dialog box as I was distracted by a passing cyclist. Miss K was in the middle of trying to topple the small pile of books with Murakami on the bottom; Miss K hates non-Chip-Kidd covers of M’s work. The ‘South of the Border…’ cover now has added scratches next to where the spine meets the side of the bookshelf (it is laid sideways so as to not disturb the mass-market paperback covers in white). Miss K has a thing for blue Staedtlers; she leaves the yellow Kohinoors alone, even the ones right next to her lounging spot on the Wacom.

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Post the sunglassed and sunglazed and felt-longer-than-it-actually-was walk from the studio to Radha theatre, post daydreaming choosing a seat at random in an otherwise empty auditorium like the many golden old midnights of Gurgaon, post the closed-yet-open-for-pedestrians railway bridge where this lady was trying to remember what 127 Hours was called (she explained everything except the boulder in Malayalam as we crossed the bridge in a civilised single file), post all that and the slithering queue for the few not-yet-sold-out seats for ’96, this.

View From the Cheap Seats (Neil Gaiman), essays and speeches on people, places, word-things, world-things. Nooru Simhaasanangal (A Hundred Thrones, Jeyamohan), novel on people and their places in the world. Aanadoctor (Elephant-Doctor, Jeyamohan), novel on people-people, people-animals and animal-animals. Uravidangal (Sources, Jeyamohan), notes on a life well-lived. (It seems the Matrubhumi article ill-quotes a lot of truly beautiful stuff from this book. Now I know.) Kayar Murkukayaanu (The Noose Tightens, Kalpetta Narayanan Maash), similar to ‘Cheap Seats’ in its content; way more lyrical in its prose. Sons of Thunder: Writing from the Fast Lane: A Motorcycling Anthology (Editor: Neil Bradford), texts on motorcycles, etc. Killing Commendatore (Haruki Murakami), well, Murakami.

‘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