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Origin Story

You can know someone all your life and only begin to discover who they are more fully after they are gone. The stories seem to flow more easily, less self-consciously, without the moderating physical presence, perhaps more detailed in the awareness that they cannot be challenged and the memory can retain its sanctity. Today is my parents’ anniversary, 62 years since their marriage that rainy day in Secunderabad when the monsoon used to arrive without fail on the 10th day of June. The family legend has it that it poured so heavily on the 9th (the evening of the nichyathartham or engagement ceremony) that water entered the storage room, soaking the provisions for the next day’s big meal, causing my maternal grandmother to faint. That turbulence however did not seem to affect the tenor of the marriage which, by all accounts and my own experience, was characterized by a calmness that suggested a harmony of purpose and personality.   Not that my parents are/were alike in all ways. T
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  What will we remember?   (written in spurts between 10 May and 30 November, 2020; revised 3/11 Jan 2021)   What will we remember? Will we have the perfect vision of twenty-twenty wisdom in hindsight and difficult lessons learned in this year of the pandemic?   It all depends on where you were --and where you are when memory strikes— sheltered in place with roof and walls paid for, your life and its paraphernalia  un-mortgaged, closets full of seasonal wear and cupboards neatly stocked; or leaning against the weak bamboo and flimsy tin listening to the blue plastic shiver because you did not have the strength or means to make a roof; fingering the notes, no longer crisp from the day’s labour—such as there is— counted out,  a measure of sweat and muscle; or left with only your memories and the fading noise of traffic on streets once meant for travel towards dreams, or dreams of work; or waiting, walking, wanting or forced to return to a place you once escaped its borders never a refuge

A round up of notable podcasts, 2020

This is a slightly expanded version of the column that appeared in The Hindu on 27 December, 2020, and includes links to all the podcasts mentioned. Any sort of round up must be prefaced by a disclaimer: what it includes is just a highly filtered slice of the whole, and it says a lot more about who is making the choices (and why) than it does about the quality of inclusions. So here goes... IF  2020 was the year when we discovered the delights, the challenges and for some, the near-impossibility of working from home, it was also the year podcasting went mainstream. Call it the pandemic effect, or just the maturation of a form that is just as accessible to the amateur in the bedroom closet as to the media conglomerate, but podcasting was one medium that saw advertising growth in the past year. Even before the pandemic, Deloitte had predicted that revenues in the podcasting business would rise by 30 percent in 2020, and while the numbers are a bit short of that, there’s no doubt that

Giving Thanks

Family time on WhatsApp

There’s a mood going around the social media space these days. Well, it’s always been there (think TBT) but the time granted to many of us under lockdown has caused it to pervade all social spaces, including that most insidious one of all—WhatsApp. Or maybe it’s just my own family, stemming mainly from a recently-retired spouse who has decided to turn family archeologist and dig into the photo archives, unearthing gems that some of us would have preferred lay buried, maybe to be discovered long after our own time. This tidal wave of nostalgia that’s breaking across all my family WhatsApp groups is partly driven by his daily morning photo uploads that have replaced the floral Good Morning messages that have fortunately become passé. So, there’s a train of chubby baby pictures (causing my own children to silently face-palm) and faded black-and-white wedding pictures of previous generations and numerous group photographs that unleash a volley of “who is...?” queries and responses

Women in the podverse

There's an orchestra of voices out there, female, non-conforming, trans, queer...and okay, yes, men too. But today we are--ritualistically--celebrating the gender that draws from Chromosome X, and the one that society has constructed in multiple marginalising ways, constructions that over decades we are dismantling, brick by brick, sometimes whole walls at a time. The podcasting universe has a ton of shows that are made by women, and some specifically focusing on the huge range of experiences of being women, so if you have a little time on your hands here are some to listen to. As I run through the list on my regular feed, I find some that I listen to routinely, others I dip into when the mood strikes, and yet others that I save for days when I really want to immerse myself in something deep. One that launched just two days ago (disclaimer: I am somewhat involved) is Pinjra Tod Kar , tells the stories that have shaped (and been shaped by) Shaheen, an organization founded by poet

A growing assembly of absence

--> It’s not supposed to be this way. But then, one way to look at it is--the way it is, is the way it’s supposed to be. Barbara Kingsolver, in what is one of my favourite books of all time, Poisonwood Bible , says (paraphrasing here) that if there is one thing that all cultures, everywhere wish, it is that the young should outlive the old. But we all know only too well that this is only a hope, and there is never any certainty about who departs first. This part week brought this home rudely, with two young people I knew passing away much, much before their time (and I wonder even as I write this, what is that hubris that suggests we know or understand what ‘their time’ might be?). One of the great joys and promises of working in a university is interacting with young minds that are full of ideas, plans and promise. While most of this engagement is transient, there are occasions where one forms connections that are more enduring, offering intellectual s