Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Permission to bring Hyde out of Hiding?

I have been reading books like my life depends on it. In the past 6 days I have read 4 novels. Maybe my life does depend on it. Sometimes, suddenly, out of the blue, I feel tired and my bones ache. They physically ache all the time anyway. But in some of those times I become hyper aware of the pain, every pulse of blood through the veins a throb. Chronic pain is pretty shitty. And my back has been really bad for at least the past 7 years, and it is getting worse, or maybe my pain tolerance is going down. The garden variety hypochondriac that I am, I obviously have a gloom and doom explanation of pain tolerance going down: undiagnosed mayofascial pain syndrome transforming itself into fibromyalgia. There, take that doctors with degrees.

I have no explanation for the demons sitting on my shoulders though. The ghost of the future past: all the things that could have been, perhaps should have been, come back to me with vividity especially when I need to sleep. Between the pain and the vengeful past, sleep is rare. It does not help that I cannot stare slackjawed at a screen for hours till I snooze onto the laptop. And it doesn't help that I am largely just feeding the cats and cleaning their poop: not playing with them wholeheartedly or petting them. They know, and they are attention hungry and taking out their frustrations as only cats can do. But I am cocooned in my fug, too lethargic to muster the energy to reach out.

It's difficult to reach out, as some have pointed out. And I am not even depressed, just a maladjusted, perennially anxious person, playing at being a fierce independent adult. Or so I'm telling myself. Maybe I am just a drama queen (I mean I am, I know but is there anything more to what ails me than that?) Everything that had been easy 8 years ago seem so difficult now, as if the taint is in my blood (dramaaaa!) Well, my oldest friends are here within an arm's length: I have been reading books like my life depends on it, maybe it does.

PS: I have challenged myself to read 50 books this year on goodreads (it's not real if it's not on social media, people) and have managed to read 12 so far as far as I can recall. Goodreads informs me I'm 12 behind schedule. I have started reading Hide and Seek by Rankin this evening. Apparently he originally wanted to name it Hyde and Seek. Do I hide my Hyde well, dear reader?

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Writing for the sake of writing: aka crazy cat bots

Somehow blogging gives me a lot of pleasure. Over the last few weeks I've been going over the reading list of blogs on the right hand side. Only one or two blog (v) with any regularity. But even rediscovering Kobindranath's dirty ditties from half a decade ago was much fun. Facebook has largely replaced our interactions on the blogosphere. And with it attention spans have shrunk. I was afraid I won't have enough to say: specialising in instantaneous clever/angry/sarcastic opinions on current events or weepy confessions does limit you (me). Though I'm increasingly seeing longer prose pieces akin to blogs on Facebook, and even more creative ways of journalling and sharing on instagram.

That is to say, I'm enjoying blogging just as I'm enjoying reading. And I'm not plagued by need to speak to an audience or agonising over the mediocrity of what I have to say and how I say it anymore. I might ache at joints and get acidity after every pint of beer, but aging does have its benefits.

Blogging is also an invitation to nostalgia of the college days. Somehow, I always need a powerful catalyst to reminisce and remember the times (like physically meeting friends: rare in these rarified times of international scatterings). Blogging was very much a college thing, reading each others blog, a social currency of sorts, as it perhaps can only be in a literature department obssessed with words and ways to express oneself.

Towards the end of MA many evolved into photo blogs with the access to Dslrs. I now wonder why I always took such dark photos with my point and shoot bought off Insiya once sge saved up and got her first Nikon dslr. Photos are/were also why Facebook became a preferred medium I think. In my case, it was also tactical use to politically mobilise. It is, indeed a big deal, before digital marketing and social media manipulation became a thing, to have formed communities of political affinity online. Before Tahrir Square or green revolution, even. The immense promise, no matter how naive or criticised, have turned to ashes and how.

Metaphorically speaking we are now living through the nuclear holocaust of internet and social media. The aftermath, I feel is yet to come. The sci-fi fan in me sort of fearfully hopes (if that is the correct word) that it will be a bot uprising. As long as Siri and Alexa become more like L3-37 we are all good. At least I hope they learn to take care of and love cats. Crazy cat bots will be quite something.

Friday, June 8, 2018


The Lost Bookshop run by an old Irish man with a penchant for winking has been the best find ever. Irish guy has been to Calcutta and the book fair and chatted amiably about it and recommended Scandi crime fiction to me. He also gave me a 130 baht discount. So far I have finished Shepherd's Crown, started My Brilliant Friend, and am halfway through Bryant and May Off the Rails.

Reading Shepherd's Crown was bittersweet. Afterword from Pratchett's agent says he hadn't finished tweaking the book and that, among other things, he had been planning a second installment of Maurice, this time aboard a ship. Geoffrey and Mephisto have so much potential, they should have had a series to themselves. Now for slowly re-reading the entire Discworld, especially the ones not very well remembered. The first one I ever read from Srin was Soul Music and possibly Wyrd Sisters.

The Mankell I bought isn't a Wallander mystery: I am a little scared of buying a Wallander and finding it had been part of the first series that I watched (the Swedish one not the Kenneth Branagh one). Incidentally I fell asleep during the climax of Murder on the Orient Express, even though I hadn't fully remembered it: it was that boring.

I was reading In the Light of What We Know (Zia Haidar Rahman) earlier but found it a but dry and never finished it. So the last book I read (with gusto) was Left Hand of Darkness. Wish I had read Ursula Le Guin more when she was alive. The first ever sci-fi story that I consciously remember, read out by Baba from a collection of translated sci-fi from around the world (mostly USA), was Daddy's Big Girl by Le Guin (Jewel Anne in translation).

The same day I discovered the second hand bookshop, I also found a very touristy place near Sunday Walking Street Market which served local craft beer. What the Pug Citrus Bomb is a rather hoppy pale ale from Cambodia: really quite nice. The absence of feni and urrak has nearly rendered me a teetotaler and I am only getting back in the beer game slowly. Acquired tastes can also become lost in just about 2-3 years it seems. Next is getting back into whiskey. Thing is feni is the only thing that's so easy on the stomach--even good whiskey unsettles my stomach. Old age, hah.

The point of the post is a supposed joyful return to reading: but wait and watch we must. It's true that I cannot binge watch TV anymore, and most series, no matter how well-crafted, seem insipid and annoying (case in point: Westworld S2, Legion S2 and Elementary S6). I have started and abandoned a bunch of Korean and Japanese tv shows (all quite good: Aggretsuko, Craving, Midnight Diner). Hell I haven't even finished watching End of the Fucking World (which is pretty fucking good, and exactly my kind of show). I feel no urge to watch the many movies saved in the hard drive. I only watch Hollywood blockbusters in theatres now. Going to watch Jurrassic World today.

Meanwhile I have even stopped exploring, photographing and feel no urge to. It seems like a chore. Reading though, I am looking forward to with joyful anticipation. Maybe I should carpe moment and read as much as I can with broken attention span. The large bundle of books, and reading 2 at once reminds me of post Bookfair haze of happiness from oh-so-long-ago. Books, are you here to stay in my life and occupy the central position you had before internet and smartphones? I certainly hope so because apparently it's one of the best anxiety combatant activities: possibly why I always sleep better when I ditch the phone an hour or two before bed and read. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

I wandered aimless as a lonely cloud...in the vales of cyberspace

I don't know if I have anything to say right now but I wandered here after getting bored by tv series. (Westworld season 2 is crap. Or maybe my attention-span is even more diminished.)

So here's a bunch of unrelated facts:
-I didn't recognise Great Gatsby from the opening quotes the other day. (shame)
-My father weighs only 5 kilos more than me. (should I lose weight?)
-One of my cats is now nearly 8 kilos. (oof, it's a task lifting him with the brokin back)
-I haven't read any books (fully) since finishing Left Hand of Darkness.
-I got a pedicure in a very girly pinky-lilacy colour.
-I have not bought any books since the Joan Aiken I picked up from the second hand bookstore in February.
-I am back on quizzup but having unlinked facebook must start anew (a fall from level 65+ on Harry Potter)
-I bought a lot of spices from Georgetown. (truth is I rather miss South Asian flavours, and have proven myself to be deeply parochial inasmuchas taste buds go)
-One of my cats is an air con addict (but sneezes if allowed to sleep overnight in ac, just like me)
-I didn't know what Carmen was all about but recognised it from the red dress the ice skater wore (I was never good at quizzing: just lucky at guessing)
-Solo is a crap movie. L3-37 is awesome.
-Want to watch Avengers (still playing) Dino movie (will be crap) Oceans's 8 (avec grrlz) Incredibles (alone, probably) Isle of Dogs (also probably alone).
-Killing Eve is great.
-1st Training was bad on my back but good for everyone else (I think)

Reviewing the above, I conclude:
-I need more scandi crime fiction in my life.

Monday, May 21, 2018



I recently read Somak Ghoshal's ode to the Calcutta afternoons and loadsheddings of childhood. It brought back memories.

I started going to a montessory at age 2.5. Both my parents were working and afternoons back home would be mostly spent with my grandmother. She would tell me the tale of Sindbad: the one where they camp on an island only to discover it's a sleeping whale. Everyday I'd listen in fascinated horror as she described its size:

- As big as this room?
- This room, that room and that!

But sooner or later she'd slip into siesta. I would tip toe down from the bed and sit on the stairs near the window, in a world of my own. Sometimes I'd climb all the way down and hang from railings of the ground floor balcony, singing made up songs in nonsense.

This was, of course, before I learnt to read on my own. The first book that was borrowed from the library for me was Sailen Ghosh's Mitul Name Putul-ti. Adults soon tired of reading out loud to me. Ma said I should try to read on  my own after several such books. I started reading Raja Bappa Hu Hur Dari. It was incredible to find that I could read. Of course I hadn't yet learnt juktakkhors so when I encountered words I didn't know I'd make up some pronunciation. So it came to pass that I didn't know till I reached 17 that I'd been prounouncing "আকষ্মিক" wrong all my life (ashommik, I still say in my head when I see the word).

Soon I was so addicted to reading my parents started worrying about my health and my lack of physical activities (you never win with Bengali parents). They had to physically drag me away from books come dinner time. My world was populated by Russian fairytales and folk tales, and bengali children's literature with a sprinkling of lady bird series and Enid Blyton. One day I chanced upon a copy of Subarnalata. I must have been around 7, and started reading it. My grandmother ineffectually grumbled by my side about this being adult reading. I continued to read till my father came home. He took away the book and put it on a high shelf away from my reach. I had memories of the book for a long time, especially the bit where Subarnlata tiptoes to the chilekotha with her anklets pushed up her calves so they didn't make any noise.

When I was 7 my parents moved away from the joint family to two tiny rooms on top of a roof near the Tollygunge studios. Summer afternoons were spent looking at the incredible blue of skies and learning cloud names and shapes punctuated by the cries of cheel. I learnt to fly kites and played cricket with the para boys (when I wasn't reading).

I miss reading, and my complete absorption into alien worlds created by words. I can barely watch hour-long tv series now. Distractions plague me everywhere.


I was sitting by the beach in Penang after a particularly satisfying meal of crabs and clam and prawns. Drinking beer, taking an occasional puff of cigarette from my colleagues. I felt an intense nostalgia for Morjim. The days and afternoons in Morjim were mostly spent by myself, either walking at sunset or drinking and smoking while reading at a shack. The last time I visited was possibly November. It was my one surefire escape from feeling sad or lonely or angry. Observing dogs and people and the relentless waves, feeling the salty breeze in mymhair and the punishing daytime sun on my bare skin--it never failed to take the blues away. It was much more of a home--if home is somewhere you find peace and rest--than any of the houses I occupied during my 2 years in Goa.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Procrastination, while hungry

I had just come out of the office the other day. It must have been after six. A cool breeze was blowing accompanied by darkish clouds. It had been a hot day. As I walked along the heated asphalt I could feel the heat rising around my ankles just as the cool gusts played with my uncut-in-4-months hair. Strange sensation, contrary, like me.

Contrariness is not something appreciated in women. The contrarian Mary, Queen of Scots, was relieved of her head.

The most satisfying part of living alone (with cats, but cats don't concern themselves with such mundane matters, although they occasionally are startled by the resounding reports) is being able to fart loudly whenever I so wish. Arundhati Roy only wrote about the "joys of underwater farting" and Marquez about the stony farts of the colonel no one ever wrote to. I think a treatise on joys of expelling air with gusto is in order.

Today my grouse about this city is centred round the relative demerits of foodpanda in comparison to swiggy, zomato and your local biryani joints' generous free deliveries. Biryaniiiii (avec bhagarer mangsho) is muchly missed. Fingers crossed that the tandoori chicken and kaali daal will satisfy some cravings.

My one wish these days would be for restful nice dreams: maybe of flying over some exotic locales. All I am dreaming about are missed flights and wrong ticketed itineraries. Also nowadays I've become a massive homebody and such a recluse. I'm always pleasantly surprised at enjoying myself on my once-in-two-months dinners outside.  But because of my stay at home, I've really learnt the extent to which cats can and actually do sleep. I wish I were a cat.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

O my enemy. (Do I Terrify?)

When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month or your year, you can always eat cake

And pretend the crunchy bits are your enemies' innards *laughter a la Ursula*