24.11.21

On the way to work today, I saw a pillion rider without helmet jump off the bike when he saw maama (cop, boss) at the Minerva circle signal. He ran to the footpath and maama didn’t notice him. After the traffic began to move, our rider friend waved at pillion escapee and asked to meet him on the other side of the road.

I took the regular left at Poornima theatre and went past Bishop Cotton Women’s Christian College and watched in awe as a man riding a bike began disposing rotten tomatoes. I couldn’t see where the tomatoes were being thrown from (a bag?). The tomatoes were squashed, tired of wanting to be red, and had settled for a greenish, unhappy orange.

At work, students carried the day, like they always do.

A sea of yellow girls squeezing smiles and songs.

To be a teacher on any other day is a blessing. To be a teacher on one’s birthday is a lesson in gratitude.

I hope that in the all years to come when I become 35, 42, 58, even 64 – I’ll still be a teacher.

And I hope that in all the lives to come, I’m still a woman – locking up her workplace before she’s the last one to leave and first to arrive the morning after where she is met with the smell of her own stale perfume from last night.

Ann Patchett

I am drowning in Ann Patchett. When I read her latest essays now, I catch a fleeting hello, a nodding glimpse to something she has mentioned in her older essays which I am also reading. It’s like I am stitching. She is making me re-arrive at the personal essay as a form of journalism. Many gods of journalism, who cannot stand that other people read and write will die about this. But what else is new? They die about something or the other every day. But read Ann Patchett – she is remaking journalism, both the ‘serious’ one and the chota bheem one.

Whiny muffins like me who cry about too much work should read her essay ‘Nonfiction, an introduction’ where she outlines the beginning of her journey as a freelance writer. She says she learnt how to swallow pride as she watched some of her best sentences get chopped up by editors who worked with knives. She learnt, she says, how to write better by anything and everything that came her way. One day she’d be writing about ballroom dancing, another day about boutique farming, and some other day, about a lip balm. She soaked in everything she wrote and didn’t complain. In the end, it would all come together as she returned home to write what she really wanted to write – fiction.

“Somewhere along the line I learned to experience only the smallest, most private stabbing sensation when I watched my best sentences cut from an article because they did not advance the story. Ultimately, this skill came to benefit my fiction as well. The conversations I had had so often with magazine editors were now internalized. I could read both parts of the script. Did I think that was a beautiful sentence I had written? Yes, I did. Did it further the cause of the novel? No, not really. Could I then delete it? It was already gone”

AM had once said that to be a writer, one has to become small. There was so much to carry in that sentence that it made me afraid to think that I’d never be able to do it. But it’s true. Becoming small is the only mark of a writer thirsty to learn, a journalist hungry to see.

Forbrydelsen: Seeing Sarah Lund

Watching detective Sarah Lund on screen is an absorbing activity. Like doing homework for a teacher you really like. She is the most intriguing person on TV. And I don’t only mean detective TV.

There are many ways of seeing Sarah Lund but they are not enough. I only know that I can tell when she sees something while solving a murder and it’s not because the soundtrack seems like it was made for her face or because the tingling sensation in my arms means that she has solved something. I can tell because even though I am dying to know what she has seen, I am more distracted by her eyes which open like mouths to swallow details that are meaningless without her.

I like that no one in the show or outside can tell what she’s thinking. Earlier this year, when I was watching Drishyam 2, there was this delicious realisation that the film’s premise is built on the discipline of not using more words than necessary. I wanted to count the number of words Georgekutty used between Drishyam 1 and 2 because I was convinced there were very very few with his family and fewer with outsiders. It’s a good practice, I thought. More words means more talking means more revealing. Less is always better, especially if there’s murder involved.

Sarah Lund ties her hair in a ponytail. She wears sweaters that later became the iconic Sarah Lund sweaters. She carries a brown hand bag which she is very mindful of. She chews on nicotine gums mindlessly, sometimes even while talking to suspects. But she removes the gum from packets very carefully. She falls in and out of love through the three seasons. She has a son who doesn’t like her but she cannot do anything about it. She doesn’t respond to people who bother her with too many questions. She isn’t available for any explanations – neither expecting any nor giving any.

There is thoroughness in the way Sarah Lund sees people as if they are not people but photographs, as if they are their own memory. All she has to do is look long enough for them to reveal themselves. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t but her eyes are open regardless. She is not always right even if it seems like she has every right to be. That there are consequences to the things she does, to the things she doesn’t say make her touchable, reachable, knowable.

I don’t care that she isn’t though. Everyone who falls in love with Sarah Lund must prepare themselves for an Ek Tarfa Pyar. This does not mean that she doesn’t know how to give love, it means that you don’t want her to. You just want to spend your days watching her solve crime using as few words as womanly possible.

Watch Forbrydelsen here.

Chimmi & Zadie

In love with this stunning partnership, the grace to compliment one another on stage so willfully and mean it, the curiosity about each other’s writing that doesn’t seem scripted for stage and the readiness with which they embrace each other’s work.

And most of all, absolutely delighted that Adichie says this about Zadie:

“How happy I am to share the stage with Zadie. I have admired and followed Zadie’s work from the very beginning, from The White Teeth. And I’ve also really admired that she is this brilliant woman who is also a hot babe. I think it’s really important that brilliant women step out there and be hot babes”

They discuss Americanah, race, racism, the importance of talking about hair, love, romance, writing, and sex. Adichie says that she based Americanah on the many Mills & Boon she read as a child. Such a slap on the faces of people who continue to propagate bullshit about high and low literature.

I like how happy they look. I like how they laugh and make the audience laugh. I like how they aren’t devoting any energy towards private and less private angers. Things white people, publishers, editors may have said but on this stage, they only have eyes and heart for writing.