Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cutting Kahwa : Of introductions, iconographies & I

This is the introduction of my first collection of short stories (yay!), part of a project I had to do for Contemporary Issues, where we were asked to compare and contrast Kashmir and Mumbai. I decided to write a collection of 6 stories, using allegories to depict both Kashmir and Mumbai.

Tea – whether its chai or Kahwa is inconsequential – has great power. It can be the bond between feuding families, between squabbling lovers, even between battling countries. Tea transcends all boundaries; it jumps over the class system, smiling beatifically. While the affluent drink tea in tea cups and saucers accompanied by biscuits, the less fortunate enjoy their tea with as much joy, in dirty glasses accompanied by pav or bread. Tea stamps every city, every country, every state, and every continent with an iconic imprint. Even Starbucks serves tea – and that’s saying something.

I used the great power of tea to bond all the characters in this book. While the Kashmiri will drink Kahwa, and the Mumbaikar will drink cutting, in every story, there is a ritual of tea, the purest and most beautiful bonding ritual in the world. What better way to bond Kashmir and Mumbai, than with tea?

While a part of me thought I should leave allegories to George Orwell, another (larger and more arrogant) part of me told me to take the plunge. Needless to say, I listened to my larger self, and each story laid out in this book, is an allegory. In most stories, there are only two characters, one being Kashmir, the other being Mumbai. Each story deals with a contemporary issue, respectively : work, migration, art, pollution, conflict and poverty. Six stories, six issues. From the contents page alone, it’s easy to understand which characters are Kashmir, and which are Mumbai. To get the know them however, you’ll have to go further than the contents page.

My favorite part of the book is obviously, the characters. Apart from the fact that they were the first I ever gave birth to, and I love them to pieces, they all have a story to tell. Kashmir is always more sensitive than Mumbai, Mumbai is more overbearing, more impulsive, and while I felt the best way to portray the differences of Kashmir & Mumbai was by people, I also feel a little background insight into my characters are in order. Would you go and meet someone you don’t know? I doubt it. Thus, before you meet the people you make this book alive, I’ll tell you something about them.

Asha, the first character of Kashmir, represents the great talent of Kashmir, which gets neglected instead of nurtured, due to the lack of work, the poor economy. Mehul, the first character of Mumbai, repesents the carefree, ruthlessly ambitious city. He always manages to get what he wants, due to his great passion, his bigger dreams.

Sangeeta, the second character of Kashmir, represents the silent desperation of people wanting to leave the conflicted state. People rarely go to Kashmir for work, to fulfill their dreams and reach their ultimate potential. Mumbai, on the other hand, who is Usman, is the city of dreams. People flock to the city in droves, waiting for an opportunity to make it big.

Hema, the third character of Kashmir, represents its art. She perseveres quietly for her art, never fully letting her carpets, her woodwork go. Maia, on the other hand, who is Mumbai, is full of ambition and talent, but after falling into the trap of poverty, leaves her talent far behind, seeking only survival.

Maan, the fourth character of Kashmir, represents its pollution. While Kashmir is not as polluted as Mumbai, especially when you take population in consideration, Kashmir still suffers with its pollution more. Its lack of resources, of infrastructure, causes far more greater decay that Mumbai. Mumbai on the other hand, while its daily dose of pollution is almost staggerring, still manages to make it through the day, the months, the years – polluted or not, its still the city of dreams. Behram, who is Mumbai depicts this clearly. He smokes and drinks, but is always more healthy than the frailer Maan.

Ira, the fifth character of Kashmir, represents the chaotic conflict of the state. She represents its disconnect, its deep pain – caused mainly at the hands of India. For this reason, she feels a strange and powerful resentment towards Arundhati who represents terror-stricken Mumbai. Arundhati represents the terror that Mumbai has faced over the years, as well the renowned Mumbai spirit that helps it up again.

Roy, the final character of Kashmir, represents its poverty. While he is poor, he still has a home to live in, unlike Imran, being Mumbai, struggles to find both job and home. When he is unable to find either, he resorts to drink as his savior. Roy depicts the quiet strength of Kashmir, to deal with hardship that comes its way. Imran, depicts the great confidence of the glittering city of Mumbai, and what happens when that confidence is shattered repeatedly.

I loved every part of writing this book. I got tired sometimes, sometimes I got jaded, but then I’d remember everything I had loved about Kashmir, and everything about Kashmir that had worried me, had made me cringe. I would remember everything I love about Mumbai, everything about the city that makes me want to scream in frustration. And my characters would just become more alive after every bout of exhaustion.

There was a lot more I wanted to do with this book, and a lot more I will do to this book. There were many facets that got ignored due to time constraints, and these are facets I will pay especial attention to as soon as the opportunity to devote myself single-mindedly to this book comes along. A revised edition would include Kashmir’s Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, the corrupt politics of Mumbai among other things.

For now, I suggest you make yourself a cup of tea (because you will be a part of this book so much more), turn the page and meet beautiful Kashmir and spirited Mumbai.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


For my Creative Writing Paper, we had to write two haiku's. One on "metal" and the other on "sunset" After the paper was over, I realised I was supposed to write on "metal" in the musical sense, but oh well. Here are the haikus I wrote.

Bangles & Sound
Cold metal on her skin
speaks volumes
Jangling her exuberance
and her pain.

Sunset on the Floor
An orange sari drapes
my bare windows
Washing the floor in
eternal sunset.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Adventures of Little Ms Pout - A Prologue

Ive always been fascinated by children's literature, and have never had many problems devouring it. Recently, I started working on a children's book of my own. Here it goes.
It all begins, as it should, with a little house covered in ivy. There was a little pale green door with a shiny brass knocker and polka dot curtains at the windows. When it snowed, the top of the house was covered in soft white frosting, and it looked like it was a house right out of Candy Land.
The dear little house belonged to little Ms Pout. Ms Pout was a dainty little lady with soft brown curls, a sunny smile and a nose she hated but which fit her face just right. Her forehead scrunched up into little criss-crosses when she was tired and her face beamed bright and shiny in the presence of happy things.
Now, Ive probably made you all believe that little Ms Pout is perfect. And oh no, she’s not! Ms Pout makes mistakes just like the rest of us. She forgets to feed her dogs sometimes. And sometimes she’s forgotten she’s already fed them, and she feeds them again! She’s prone to burning batches and batches of cookies, she’s broken her sister’s umbrella more than once and so it goes. But there was something about little Ms Pout that wasn’t quite like the rest of us.
I know Ms Pout, you see. Ive sat in her dear little house and we’ve had long talks over cookies and tea. The things Ive seen and heard with little Ms Pout, made my eyes get rounder and rounder, and larger and larger. I asked her if I could share her magical worlds and stories with people, and with her apple-like cheeks getting a little pink, she said “Yes”. And so, here it is. One of the many adventures of little Ms Pout.
That's all I have so far, Im still in the process of sketching her out. She's based on my original Ms Pout.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mappings Meets His Professional Self

People possess different selves. A witty self, a despondent self. A self that mocks, a self that appreciates. A personal self, a professional self. When Mappings was born in 2006, he also gave birth to my personal selves, raw and revealed. My pain, my passion. Or better said, in the words of Vikram Seth, he gave birth to "my pulse, my vagrant selves, my poetry"

Three years have passed since the birth of Mappings, and while he grows stronger and braver, he also learns to be acquainted with another self, which has recently been born - his professional self. Mappings must learn to support himself in a world hat steadily grows harsher and more competitive, and this is his first step. While his personal self is devoted solely to virgin and naked thoughts, his professional self is devoted to showcasing his work, his art, his opinions, his politics, his bread. From 9 to 5, Mappings will don a suit and be a brave, bright soldier on his working way.

Good luck, my Mappings.