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

People’s History is turning out to be a gem. I am treating it like a template more than a definitive history textbook (apparently just the way Zinn prescribes it).

If there are necessary sacrifices to be made for human progress, is it not essential to hold to the principle that those to be sacrificed must make the decision themselves? We can all decide to give up something of ours, but do we have the right to throw into the pyre the children of others, or even our own children, for a progress which is not nearly as clear or present as sickness or health, life or death?

—  Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States

Such a beautiful lens to look at most pragati versus the people debates that end up in fruits of development checkmates.

Reading this in conjunction with Stallman’s Guardian column (A Radical Proposal to Keep Your Data Safe. See link. ) where he tells us how honouring people’s data is a trait to be built into systems with the power to abuse it:

The basic principle is that a system must be designed not to collect certain data, if its basic function can be carried out without that data.

It is the Blahg over at Rivendell that usually copy-pastes bare links into articles, letting readers choose to—painstakingly—copy-paste them back into address bars. The last few times I visited those links I was glad Mr. Petersen ignored basic usabilty wisdom to make such a low-noise statement on the virtue of effort(?).

 

My point is not to grieve for the victims and denounce the executioners. Those tears, that anger, cast into the past, deplete our moral energy for the present. And the lines are not always clear. In the long run, the oppressor is also a victim. In the short run (and so far, human history has consisted only of short runs), the victims, themselves desperate and tainted with the culture that oppresses them, turn on other victims.

— Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States

Jef Mallett’s Frazz (like Calvin and Hobbes, all grown up and riding bikes to work) at GoComics. Many gems in there.

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.

Chris Ware’s Last Saturday over at the Guardian. Three years new.

Living out in the village has its advantages; it’s already taken me more than a week to get to the final chapter of Rushdie’s delicious take on storytelling in Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty‑Eight Nights, with all the weeding-during-monsoons, rushed coconut-felling, felled-coconut-gathering, sorting, husking, marriage-attending, milk-buying, curry-leaf picking and slow wireless internet. Often, the story is too self-aware, balancing overt references to present-day dystopias and the author’s life, with crafty language gymnastics. Some sentences might even work well as triggers to long and interesting and weird tales. I was reminded of Neil Gaiman more than once (and then briefly leafed through Neverwhere again). Ashamed I never read Rushdie before. Worried this is going to be another spiral down Murakami lane.

Rushdie calls one of the characters Dunia, the world. One may think that is a slow descent to corniness but, so beautifully, it isn’t. (The rest of you can have your refunds at the Peristan gates.)

In other news, this guy has two book reviews up in The Hindu. He has the best nice words and too many ‘entire’-s that jumped the editors’ desks.