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INDIA

Ideas

Imagination

Dialectics

1st November 2012 `30

Book Stores Ocean The

AndThe

Authors and Poets resurrect fond memories of book spaces, now submerged in time.

Installation art by Mike Stilkey November 2012

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Contents

coverstory The Book Stores and the Ocean

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Volume 3 Issue 8

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Photo Essay: OneYear since Occupy Wall Street by Arko Datto

The Road to Iran by Priya Krishnamoorthy

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Ideas That Kindle Ayushmann Khurrana

The cult of Arvind Kejriwal by Amit Sengupta

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Prince Rahul’s Royal Picnic by Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal

Cricket Commentary Cliches by Shubham Nag

Illustrated by Sumit Das as a homage to Stilkey’s The Chandelier

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Jail Diary of Seema Azad by Ashtadhyayi

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Graphic Short Story: Everyday Story in a Book Store by: Jit Chowdhury

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KING

THE

CON

Amit Sengupta deconstructs the cult of Arvind Kejriwal this month. he irony about Arvind Kejriwal is that his propaganda adrenaline and ‘I am the only Prophet’ aphrodisiac are driven by panting television channels which are as ‘educated’ as this former Indian Revenue Service bureaucrat. There is almost a daily dose of comically simulated high drama animation on TV channels, especially in that cacophonic cartoon TV which claims to be ‘your channel’. Even some self confessed commodity ‘brands’ in the print media, either unilaterally driven by advertorials, or page 3 vicarious voyeurism or, by their self righteous, conservative Tam-Bram instincts, have been going gaga over Kejri – the King of Kong, in trade-mark half-shirt, his style statement. Even the cameras floated endlessly on the ‘I am Arvind’ caps, so uncritically replacing the ‘I am Anna’ caps which arrived as the Great God of the Great Indian Revolution that Failed.

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messiah of the masses,’ after a luxurious stint in a luxurious nature therapy centre in Bangalore run by a big business family with VHP links, has comfortably withdrawn to the de-addiction of Ralegan Siddhi where he once upon a time flogged or threatened to flog boozards, tied to a fascist pole.

Indeed, in trying to be one up in the competitive race on the pompous high morality brigade in the media, sometimes they publish not one, not two, even three pictures of the Kangaroo Court crusader, even while the ‘Gandhian

Like the paradox of compulsively celebrating the lowest common denominator of the stuttering Indian salvation, you take away the salivating, flattering, hectoring TV cameras, and the parody goes dud, and so does the King of

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So addictive is this new Harpic-induced soul-cleansing conditioner, that Kejriwal might actually start getting pathological stomach cramps if he chooses to stop his ritualistic bad mouth let loose in front of TV cameras, even as he chases the Limca Book of Records for the umpteenth number of press conferences held in the shortest era of Hobbesean India. After Magsaysay, and all the Ford Foundation etc., big money, this does not sound too bad, does it? No wonder everyone is singing that sexy cuddlydoodly-parody all over town: Kejri Kejri Kejri mujhe log bole… Hi Kejri, Hello Kejri kyo bolein…


OPINION

neocolonial power structures. As a result, during the Cold War, it rivaled Stalin/Lenin Peace Prize in ideological preferences. For instance, whereas in 1952, the Stalin Peace Prize went to a socialist Christian missionary James Gareth Endicott who arduously challenged the racist Korean war, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a venomously racist missionary Albert Schweitzer who called upon the “white men from anywhere in the world” to “never accept the Africans as equals or they will devour you.” Whereas Endicott called for an end to a racist war, Schweitzer expanded the scope of an ideology based on military-industrial complex of the West. Nobel Peace Prize committee carefully chose the latter. Seven decades on, criteria have remained the same. What European Union signifies is not a coalition of peaceful actors, but one whose otherwise warring factions share common economic aspirations. In the most violent continent on this planet, EU has emerged as the most powerful economic force successful at bringing the traditional foes together. As the last bastion of Eurocentrism, the Union has managed to make racism relevant, militarism omnipresent and capitalism the panacea for its recurrent crisis. In fact, owing to its money-lending practices as a legalised way to dictate sovereignty status for lesser countries, the European Union has validated the laws of imperialism in a ‘civilized’ manner, characteristically.

When Mother Teresa was awarded the prize, she was not really projected as an anticommunist Albanian although it was clearly evident. Or the last time there were debates around the Peace Prize, Barack Obama had not yet unleashed his imperialistic tactics. In a way, Nobel Peace Prize committee had treaded a careful, diplomatic path.

The EU has been magnanimous towards Greece, but in lieu of silencing Syria and virtually owning Samaras’ priorities. Its influence is palpable in the way Alexis Tsipras fell out of favour with the Greeks after proposing his country would be better off without eurozone. Likewise Spain will remain indebted to the EU for its tumbled economy that can only be revived with loans from Brussels. And just as Greece, Spain too is led by a right-wing ideology today that has crushed the socialist politics of Zapatero into oblivion. European Union has earned its dues for successfully promoting pro-American leaders such as Mariano Rajoy to negotiate on behalf of Spain. A virulently anticommunist Rajoy has even frozen minimum wage and halted public sector works in Spain with an effort to glorify the viability of Euro. To circulate a tone of invincibility around the Euro, to emphasize a formidable future for capitalism and to reinvigorate Eurocentrism as a cultural hegemonic tool for the nostalgic master class may appear to be an impossible task. But for the European Union, it is the retention of this ideology that has earned for itself the grandest of prizes of our times. In a way, one illusion has harboured another. Although, it is difficult to articulate if the Nobel Peace Prize is protecting capitalism through its selective narrations of achievements, or capitalism is furthering the legacies of Nobel Peace Prize through conflating war with peace, recessions with free markets, and a dying theory of contradictions with a promise for economic prosperities. Either way, unsurprisingly then, both the Nobel and its awardees have enough shared values to meritoriously deserve each other. November 2012

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OCCUPY WALL STR A

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REET, YEAR LATER... By Arko Datto

Late were their protests, the Arabs led the way It is never too late, if you believe what they say. The Occupy Wall Street Movement was at its peak when I landed in NYC last year. Over seven hundred protesters had been arrested on Brooklyn Bridge, the day before. November 2012

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COVER STORY

Book Stores Ocean The

AndThe

Authors and Poets resurrect fond memories of book spaces, now submerged in time.

Kiran Nagarkar Sharanya Manivannan Jai Arjun Singh Mitra Phukan Nitasha Kaul Hartman De Souza

November 2012

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Illustrations by Sumit Das Once upon a time there was a cinema by the sea. It also nestled a bookstore, where a man in coat and tie sold books. Kiran Nagarkar narrates the tale of Mr. Shanbag.

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he copyright on quaint bookstores and their eccentric or idiosyncratic owners rests firmly with the Brits. There’s no end to the stories, of some reader wanting to know about a book which mentioned the only citing of a butterfly in 1787; some fan of Richard Burton (not the actor who also doubled off and on as Ms Elizabeth Taylor’s fourth and/ or sixth husband, but the daring explorer-cum-geographercum-orientalist and prolific writer who translated The Arabian Nights and wrote the extremely knowledgeable foot-notes on the esoteric and erotic practices of the Arabs) who is looking for the legendary paper that he’s supposed to have written about homosexuality in the Sind Province in the 19th century, or the extraordinarily formal yet intimate correspondence between some lady looking for a book and

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By the Sea a lonely and reserved bookshop keeper which gets turned into a play and then into a movie.

While readers from major Indian cities are bound to have stories of old and second-hand bookshops where they found extraordinary books and ran into wonderful book-lovers, I’m afraid on the whole, Bombay is a desert when it comes to great bookstores. But until amazon.com or flipkart.com turned up, we managed with what we had. In the good old days when the whole family got dressed in their Sunday best to go to a movie, there was a cinema house at the southern end of Bombay called Strand.(I looked up ‘strand’ years later and discovered that it signified the shore of a sea, lake or a river.)The aptly named local Strand was a


COVER STORY

Illustrated by Shuvam De Sarkar

The Memory of Trees

Do books only tell stories bound within the covers? What about the spaces where they are found or the journeys they undertake from one owner to the next? The woods, the libraries, the shops, the lipstick marks... each inscribe a new tale on the book. Listens Sharanya Manivannan

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y first paid job was at an independent bookstore in Kuala Lumpur’s fashionable Telawi neighbourhood. It was the summer before I turned 16. I had just finished school, and under circumstances I can only explain as combustion of family dysfunction and personal callowness, neither plans nor ambitions existed regarding my future. I spent just over a month at that job. I could not get the hang of the cash register, and the entire situation— circumstantially and emotionally— was a little bizarre, but those weeks turned out to be pivotal.

The seeming lack of direction in my life was a blessing in disguise; heading nowhere, I fell heart-first into the artistic subculture where my career began, thanks to friends made at the time. I spent that month reading, reading, reading. I read Nabokov. I read Kundera. I read Kerouac. I read the classics so I could avoid them later. I read all the dead white men I would spend the next several years uninterested in, because after that first job at Silverfish Books, I found and fell into a compulsive affair with Payless – a chain that stocked books November 2012

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Illustrated by Shuvam De Sarkar

A Question Unasked... The grit has settled on the ďŹ lm glossies with pictures of Bengali matinee idols...the grit has settled on the Enid Blytons, the books from across borders, the Assamese titles, the informal conversations about families over cups of milky tea and sandesh... Mitra Phukan dusts such and many other moments and relives frozen time. 38 | KINDLE INDIA

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Illustrated by Shuvam De Sarkar

COVER STORY

@ Manney’s

It was almost a game of one upmanship. He would roll the names of authors and titles while the owner would gleefully produce the books. But as with many other creative spaces, Manney’s has shut shop. It will probably become a clothes shop. Hartman De Souza pens a piece of anger and longing for a world lost. November 2012

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UNLETTERED

November 2012

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PLATTER POLITICS

This month Thomas Crowley stirs up a simmering concoction of meat, veggies, caste, philosophy and politics. pork and beef festival most emphatically did not happen at Jawaharlal Nehru University ( JNU) on September 28, 2012. Such a festival was being planned by a student group called the New Materialists, until just about everyone in Delhi stepped in to stop them. Right-wing Hindu groups led the charge (predictably), claiming it would hurt their religious sentiments. They got support from the Delhi High Court, which ordered JNU to ensure that no such festival happened. The university administration was happy to oblige, and even went above and beyond their court-ordered duties by suspending one of the organisers.

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dairy. In its stereotypical guise, there is a punk rebel aspect to veganism; no wonder there’s even a movement called veganarchism (yes, you guessed it: anarchists who bloody hate the meat and dairy industries).

This JNU non-event prompted a furious debate on an email forum I belong to, pitting anti-caste activists against environmentalists. Of course, the battle lines were not so clear, with many trying to bridge the gap between the sides (and, of course, no one identifying themselves as ‘procaste’ or ‘anti-environment’). But, to vastly oversimplify: the anti-caste camp was arguing that restrictions on eating meat— especially beef and pork— are essential means of maintaining Brahmin hegemony. To that, the environmentalists said: well yes, casteism is bad, but does that really excuse butchering animals?

While beef was the strongest symbol, all meat was somehow co-opted into this culture war: the ‘purest’ Hindus were the pure veg ones. Non-veg, even if not strictly prohibited, seemed frowned upon, put into the same vaguely immoral category as alcohol. (I very soon noticed that it was quite difficult to get a beer at ‘pure veg’ restaurants.)

Food culture in India, especially the veg/non-veg divide, has always fascinated me, especially because it’s so starkly different from food culture in the United States. In my home country, it’s the vegetarians who are progressive. They are the ones fighting hegemony and questioning cultural norms. And on the cutting-edge of this movement are the vegans, who abstain from all animal products, including 58 | KINDLE INDIA

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When I first came to India in 2008, my immediate impression was that everything was upside-down, foodwise. Here, non-vegetarians were the progressive ones, fighting against casteist dietary restrictions that inserted insidious norms of ‘purity’ and ‘pollution’ into food practices. The one who made leather from the holy cow or ate its flesh was, supposedly, impure. Proudly eating beef was defying this logic.

Even the nomenclature of Indian meat-eating suggested something markedly different from the United States. Growing up, I would never have thought to use the term ‘non-vegetarian.’ Everyone eats meat; that’s the default! Only if you’re strange and different do you need a label for your food preferences: vegetarian, vegan. In India, on the other hand, vegetarian was the default; if one wanted to serve a “safe” meal to a group of guests, it would definitely be veg. Here, the non-veg folks were the ones needing to label themselves. And many of my Indian friends were happy to embrace this


FEATURE

partying, no dancing, and no holding hands. That does not stop them from grooving to Bappida’s tunes and Mithunda’ moves from Disco Dancer, perhaps in the privacy of their homes or minds. The older generation, we discovered, wasn’t far behind. We were strolling along the paved streets of the Kandovan, a remote tourist village, tucked away in the north western corner of Iran, when we were accosted by a bearded man in his 40’s. He thrust his mobile phone at us and started rambling away, pointing at it. There was a faint tune playing – a familiar one. After a few unsuccessful attempts at trying to guess the tune, the Iranian, in frustration thrust the phone closer and said, “Lata Mangeshkar...!” Of course, we recognised the tune! Encouraged, he went on, “Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhonsle…” Then pointing at himself, he said, “Bombay… Bollywood!” While Iranians love Hindi movies, they seem to be stuck in a time warp. Blissfully unaware of the newer lot, the latest blockbusters, they are happy living in times of the angry young man. At Tabriz, the fifth largest city in Iran and one of the country’s historic centres, we discovered that Bollywood is big business. At the Tabriz Historic Bazaar Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we came across many shops peddling the famous Iranian rugs. In many such hole-in-thewall outfits, we noticed our Hindi movie actors – Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Divya Bharti - immortalized on two by two feet rugs.

Two young women from Hindh sounded like perfect customers and warranted an impassioned sales pitch, “India nice country… You take this (rug) home? Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai… Sridevi… I give you good price.” We took pictures but declined politely. We hopped different shops but the pitch remained the same. However, something didn’t stick. They all referred to Divya Bharti, an actress long dead and gone, as Sridevi. Sure, she was known as Sridevi’s look-alike in the early 90’s. But she also made headlines for her mysterious death at a very young age. At one shop, I couldn’t help myself. When the young man warmed up, “Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai.. Sridevi...” I stopped him and pointed out, “That’s not Sridevi. That’s Divya Bharti.” His smile didn’t slip but confusion clouded his eyes. “No Sridevi… very famous actress.” I wasn’t backing down, “No. This is not Sridevi. It’s Divya Bharti. She is dead, no more.” Bewildered, he looked around for help but didn’t back down. “Sridevi.” He insisted. “Divya Bharti,” I shook my head. Crestfallen, he finally gave in and asked, “This is not Sridevi?” Priya Krishnamoorthy is a compulsive traveller, designjunkie, ideaholic and a passable journalist (in hindsight) who has worked with companies like CNN-IBN and Bloomberg UTV. She has also dabbled in creating promos for a Hindi movie channel - UTV Movies and now works as a freelance filmmaker, photographer, writer and general dogsbody. November 2012

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RNI NO. WBENG/2010/36111 Regd. No. KOL RMS/429/2011-2013

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