January 27, 2019

The dilemma of an ageing fan

If Rafa wins today, he will inch to within 2 titles of Roger's record. Actually, make that one. (He may as well pick up the Musketeer's Cup right away).

If Djoker wins today, he will beat my idol Sampras' record. He will also gain more confidence and likely power through this year with at least one more Slam. And he has a few good years left on the circuit, so the chances of him beating Roger's record are quite high.

I like Rafa more than Djoker, but i don't particularly like either. But all said, I'd much rather Rafa beat Roger's record first than Djoker.

As an aside, can you go back to Nike, Roger? 

October 24, 2018

The Kids Are All Right: An Intergenerational Tale of Living and Loving YA Fiction

Published October 22, 2018 in Torchlight Magazine

Two libraries were a big part of my tween years. The first was tidy, organised, and strictly monitored. It was roomy and bright with short wooden bookshelves, many of which were kept locked due to the apparent inappropriateness of the books they held. I visited it once a week during Library period, and more often than not, got into trouble with the librarian at my convent school in Chennai for talking too loudly and having a good time. The second — Senthil Lending Library near my parent’s home — was quite different. A narrow dark room, it had tall open steel bookshelves flanked by many a swirling dust ball. The stacking of the books was chaotic at best, but the librarian knew his way around. He was a nice sort, never bothered by noise as long as the books were returned on or before the due date.
Despite the many spatial differences, the two libraries had one thing in common — the books in the young adults section.
Classics such as A Tale of Two CitiesThe Count of Monte CristoRebeccaLittle Women; detective stories of Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple and Poirot; mostly abridged but some original Shakespeare; Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys including the somewhat grown-up Case Files versions; and a host of Enid Blyton including Famous Fives and the various school series; Indian and imported comics such as TintinAsterixPhantomChandamamaTinkleAmar Chitra Katha, and my favourite at the time — Archie comics; and some Indian authors like Ruskin Bond and Rudyard Kipling, filled their open and closed shelves. These books were considered mainstream, and my friends and I had access to them all. We read the Classics in the order that our school curriculum demanded, Shakespeare unhappily, the Case Files often, Enid Blyton sparingly, and a Ruskin Bond or a Kipling story whenever we had access to them. The comics, predictably, were the most read as was evinced by their tattered condition.
While we tried to superimpose our own lives on to the larger themes in these books, it wasn’t easy. There was nothing day-to-day about them that would even serve as a conversation starter at home. ‘Can you pack me some tongue for my next picnic,’ I tried saying realising even then how silly it sounded. I didn’t even know what that was! And we always packed puliyogare and lime rice for family picnics, anyway. And the names—Julian, Frederick, Reginald, Georgina, Darrell, Big Moose (what’s a moose!)—felt as far away as the places they were located in. Chores and pocket money, hanging out at mom n’ pop shops drinking soda, going on dates, getting detention, having lockers—none of these themes were relatable, but I loved to read, and I read all that I found. Many of those books still have a place in my parent’s home. They haven’t been given away in case my almost teen daughter, Aditi, is interested in them.
Our bookshelves couldn’t be more different — visually and otherwise. While I type this, I’m telling myself, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,’ and yet, it’s an important element of the book selection process. All the colours in the rainbow and everything in between adorn her shelf —and those are just the spines! Add to that snappy titles, attractive fonts and beautifully designed covers — these factors have played huge parts in drawing out today’s young reader. But, let’s go back to the adage for a bit in the context of the ‘Young Adult’ genre, specifically, and how I began to re-engage with it.
Aditi, who’s loved books ever since she could hold onto one, stumbled into this genre at the age of 10. She breezed through the Harry Potter series and continued to read a smattering of authors, but appeared disengaged. I often found her re-reading a few books that had caught her interest, but more often than not, she seemed to be searching for something new and interesting and not finding them. The JustBooks library nearby us seemed to me a more modern version of my old Senthil Lending Library. Sure, it was easier to search for titles, but there weren’t too many new publishers and authors they stocked in this category. I found Aditi gravitating towards comics out of sheer boredom. Not having been in touch with this genre for a long time, I thought it best to ask for help to get us through her reader’s block.
A colleague at work who had worked in publishing introduced me to Duckbill. She specifically mentioned the title Talking of Muskaan and went on to tell me what it was about. I was hooked, but decided to read it first because of the themes it addressed—bullying, peer pressure, homosexuality and suicide. While parenting wisdom told me that she may be a bit young for it, my instinct told me otherwise. As usual, it was right.
Muskaan gently eased our family into becoming properly young adult in our day-to-day conversations. Not that much was off the table until then, but now, everything was kosher because such important themes had been articulated into a book written for her age group. My younger son, Yuv, who seemed to have some knowledge (hearsay, obviously) on some of these topics was part of these chats too, and I believe this has impacted my children’s book choices. The genres on their bookshelves (wooden and on the cloud) can be broadly classified into queer lit, detective stories, graphic non-fiction, science and music-related, history, biographies and comics. Harry Potter is a perpetual go-to, and never loses its place by their bedside.
We’ve read many other Young Adult fiction and non-fiction titles including Dear Mrs. Naiduby Young Zubaan,  Invisible People by Duckbill, Mostly Madly Mayil by Tulika, and Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land by Navayana. These books cut across themes including sexual harassment, privilege, caste distinction, and legal issues and rights, and frame discussions for teens in a non-didactic manner. I often wish that I had had access to such titles growing up. I would’ve loved to read books that spoke to the confusion in my mind from the half-baked conversations I had as a teen rather than moving straight up into the Pandora’s box that was adult fiction, or to the then mostly incomprehensible world of adult non-fiction. The young adult genre gently bridges the leap from children’s to adult’s books by introducing themes that might have been found under non-fiction earlier, but in a sensitive and accessible manner. In addition to making for good reading and more informed teens, I believe that they can influence important future decisions related to education and possibly work choices too.
Aditi is now compiling a young reader’s list for the public reference library at my workplace, the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) in Bengaluru. First on the list were a host of Duckbill titles, but many of the suggestions she has continued to make are based on her own interests which keep varying based on reading circle discussions with friends, internet wisdom, and book reviews she’s recently read. The internet has been a game changer in how we find new authors and publishers, especially international ones such as Haymarket Books and Verso Books. The randomness of retweeting ensures that tweets reach a larger circle of non-followers too. So not only do we find out about new books, but they also come with recommendations of a friend’s friend’s cousin’s relative (who may be a publisher, reviewer or anything else book-related). And of course, the best part about e-books is that there is no import duty and shipping cost, and they go on sale for a dollar at least once a year! So our kindle collection has continued to grow, although we still prefer holding a ‘real’ book for the most part.
On a recent holiday to the US, which included visits to many tourist traps, I was anxious about the possible damage to my wallet at Universal Studios. The 12 dollars spent on Hogwarts’s lapel pins wasn’t a patch on what we collectively spent at bookstores buying graphic non-fiction, Japanese manga, feminist literature for young adults, and biographies of certain musicians. We went to bookstores and discount book shops in every city that we visited, and the public libraries too. The children were wowed by the collections that were housed and the friendly and accessible manner of the librarians and staff. What amazed them the most, however, was that the libraries were spaces of public engagement, where the ‘quiet reading section’ was the only quiet part in the entire large space. There were ongoing exhibitions, planned activities, and throngs of people—many tourists, such as ourselves — who were just walking around, browsing freely and chatting animatedly.
As thrilled as I was with their reactions, I was equally troubled by something. They had never visited any public libraries in India. Although Bengaluru has a few, we had never been inside any other than the library at my workplace. We do go to children’s specific bookstores such as Lightroom for the occasional activity, and a host of others bookstores in Bengaluru such as Blossom Book House, Bookworm, Select Bookstore and Goobe Book Republic which serve as browsing spaces, libraries and more. I suppose having access to a variety of books across genres one floor above where I sit reduces my need to engage with a public library. And for those who don’t have access to a library at their workplace or near their homes, buying books is easier than ever these days, and not that expensive either.
If there is to be a cultural shift in how public libraries are viewed, it requires a shift in mindsets. They need to be seen as important spaces for dialogue and discussion, and equally for activities and classes—for everyone. In order for them to thrive, more people, and a diverse group of people need to use them. Since the access of children and teens is determined by adults, schools could come together to facilitate interactions at public libraries. Rather than ad hoc projects that are part of all curriculums, maybe we should think of unleashing our teens on these spaces so they can think up and design new ways of using them.
I haven’t visited my school library or Senthil Lending Library in nearly 25 years, but writing this piece has left me feeling curious about their current states. Maybe they haven’t changed much at all. Or maybe, just maybe, they have become vibrant spaces with teens hanging around, a wide variety of books, activities and classes, and engaged librarians. As Ron wisely said to Harry about Hermione in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, ‘When in doubt, go to the library.’
It’s my turn to go now.

September 9, 2018

serena, you're not the only mom in the world who's had to get back to work after time off!

didn't watch serena's match last night, but have read various perspectives and watched replays. my instinct is that she behaved poorly, as she's done in the past while not playing her best. it irks me that she brought up the fact that she's a mom into the conversation with the umpire. she's not the only mom to go back to work after time off--everyone else too has to fight to get back to where they were.

it's unfortunate that all incidents in the past (including the recent french open outfit issue) are being pulled into this thread of the world against serena. the defence should stick to the facts of this match.

and enough already about mc enroe. he was an asshole. women's standards DON'T have to be that. if she's fighting for women as she says she is, then don't fight like a man. we'll all be the better for it.

September 6, 2018


rainbows in the sky
so many after so long
bright. bold. beautiful.

November 8, 2017

circular logic

don't stop growing up
because it means that you are
somewhere, still a child

October 24, 2017

October 23, 2017

hanging together

pastel shades, and nude and neon
tiger stripes and polka dots
pitch black, pure white
logos, letters, hearts
ankle length, knee length and somewhere in between
padded and not, maybe an underwire
bikini, boy shorts, boxers,
all fluttering about gently in the breeze
content in their little spaces
but often nudging one another
swaying to the sound of the birds
intertwining briefly
as if playing Chinese Whispers
giggling at the gaffes, teasing, mocking
smelling more like rain as they dry out
hanging together
enjoying their time out in the sun

such a pretty sight
the clothes line

October 4, 2017

that right shade of grey

i wish i could draw
and colour and paint
the pictures i see so clearly in my head
because sometimes, words fail me

pictures of you, me, them, and others

in different postures of agony and upset
and happiness, too, at times

set in different shades of blue from aquamarine to navy
and yellows from lemon to ochre

climbing tall, rocky mountains
and relaxing in calm, serene valleys

listening to mozart, at times
and then to linkin park

i see the faces, the expressions, the body language
but i can't write them down so well
because my words appear to show two ends of the spectrum
creating a dichotomy, splitting inherent connects
and only showing black and white

yes, i wish i could draw
and colour and paint
because black and white blend so well
on a palette, but not on paper

and that right shade of grey is all i need sometimes
to make sense of my life

September 17, 2017

a fine balance

what happens
when two rocks that have borne each other's weight
by gently adjusting positions
through rain, waves and storms
are battered and about to give way?

will they
equally split the pressure
so that both are only weathered
or will one take the entire load
and end up being completely beaten?

which is
the better option?
the immediate or the imminent?
the sudden or the gradual?

will there
be another rock
that will some day squeeze into that space
and balance things once again?

would it
know where to sit
and when to move?
or would it just pretend?

but, did that even matter?

September 13, 2017

the circus

ah, the circus
with the funny clowns,
and the flexi acrobats,
the crazy trapeze artists
and the whip-snapping ringmaster

so much noise
so much drama
so much excitement
in the ring and outside
what a fun, action-packed place the circus seems

except when it's your life
and you're stuck
juggling all of it and more
day in and out
oh what a bloody bore!