Books I Wish Somebody Would Write

June 28, 2007

William Dalrymple, I believe, would especially be suited to the following projects:

  1. A book which examined the silk supply chain in Roman times, during the reign of Genghis Khan, and today. So you compare the trade route through the Red and Mediterranean seas, on the overland Silk Route through Afghanistan and the Gobi desert, and as it exists today – from some factory in China, onto a container through Singapore, and then on to Varanasi or Italy. History plus travelogue. It would be awesome.
  2. Travel and history book again, this time as a tour through the ld Indian/ Hindu circles of influence in Indochina and South East Asia. A book to examine the spread of Hinduism through Malaysia and Kampuchea and Thailand, and ask why it flopped over there but continued to go so strong in India.

Anyhow, for the next week I have only Seeds of Change and Parthibendran’s Dream to finish. After that, I’ve got to head to Blossoms and pick myself up some Theroux.

Leave The Gun, Take the Meen Moily

June 22, 2007

Some arbit googling led to this wonderful page: a history of organized crime in the Indo-Canadian community.

Please note, that Indo-Canadian is somewhat misleading. It is very much Sardar-Canadian. And not just any Sardars but only Jatts. Even in Kaneda the Jatts have refused to let the Paapes join in the fun.

I read on Sepia Mutiny once that Vancouver is the only city outside India where the local organized crime syndicate is run by Indians. While the thought of the Sardar mafia running Vancouver is interesting in and of itself, what is far more interesting is the dog that didn’t bark: why is Vancouver the only city, and why are Jatts the only immigrant community to set up a mafia? One has to ask – what the hell are the Mallus doing?

Consider the facts. True, Sardars dominate migration to Canada. But the Mallus are even further ahead when it comes to migration to the Gulf. Why is there no Mallu mafia in Abu Dhabi? Why does a Google search for Malayali organized crime throw up no worthwhile results? Are all the Mallus law-abiding? Or is the truth more sinister: nobody dares to talk about the Mallu mafia.

I quite like the idea of a Mallu mafia. The Don would of course be one of those grave, portly Mallus, all moustache and gold bangles and black suit and sunglasses. He would be flanked by his enforcers, who would be muscular and lungi-clad and would go to Kerala to dance in paddy fields while surrounded by Mallu maidens on their breaks from beating up laundry owners. It is really quite pleasing to imagine.

On Indian Authors

June 22, 2007

When the Jagadguru’s Biggest Disciple tags you, you have no choice but to respond. So here goes.

The vast majority of Indian writing in English is self-indulgent wankery. But a few gems come to mind.

A Suitable Boy. I started reading this almost two weeks after my parents bought it. Considering I was in Class VI at the time, my mum was sleisha horrified. I had gotten up to Chapter 6 by the end of the Diwali vacations, when my mum realised I was reading it and firmly forbade me to touch it until the next vacations came up. Winter vacations came about and for the first time in my life I stayed up all night reading until I fell asleep – going through almost a third of the book in a night. Then I read it again in Class X and a lot more nuance became apparent. Much fun. I haven’t found any of Vikram Seth’s books since then worthwhile – An Equal Music was good, but nothing extraordinary, and I still haven’t been able to get through Two Lives.

A Writer’s Nightmare. The collection of essays by R K Narayan, which I’ve always liked much more than the novels. Somehow, his style seems more suited to a five hundred word essay than a ten thousand word book. The essays on coffee and umbrellas are my favourites.

Does William Dalrymple count as an Indian author? He ought to. City of Djinns is far better than anything I’ve ever read by an Indian historian, and White Mughals had my head spinning and imagining how cool it would be if someone wrote alternate histories about the French winning at Chandernagore, or imperialism surviving into the twenty first century.

Conversely, a dude who’s ethnically Indian but culturally completely removed is Pico Iyer. Most of the travelogues are winsome, but The Lady and the Monk is awesome.

Writing in Indian languages? I didn’t really start reading until a year ago, and since then I haven’t kept at it. I’ve found Ponniyin Selvan as awesome as Ravages’ raveouts about it indicate, and that’s the English translation. As for Sarat Chandra Chatterjee and Premchand, I wrote about them when I started them.

What I’m really waiting for is not the Great Indian Novel (I think A Suitable Boy has already managed that), but an Indian writer who really really excels at nonfiction.

It Should Be Straight Enough to Read

June 22, 2007

A month ago, Garuda’s mall escalators were advertising Levi’s straight jeans (they’ve switched to advertising Miss Lee Slim Jeans now). Anyhow the ads show a gay/ lesbian couple (must… resist… temptation… to… say… ‘Not that there’s anything wrong with that.’) with the tagline ‘Not Everything is as Straight’.

The trouble is that when it came to sticking the ads onto the escalator bottoms, Garuda Mall didn’t do it straight. Here, these photos explain. This is the down escalator:

Straight Jeans - The Down Escalator

See, you just stand on the escalator and look at the ad as you go down.

But here’s the up escalator:

Straight Jeans - The Up Escalator

See, you’re turned away from the ad. The only way to see it is if you’re traveling on the escalator backwards. And even then you end up reading it from bottom to top.

Zionist Propaganda Are Everywhere!

June 22, 2007

Shock! Horror! As if controlling the US government, Hollywood, and drinking the blood of Muslim babies wasn’t bad enough, the Zionists have now infiltrated the last bastion of culture: comics!


(From Fables #50)

Someone expressed an opinion that doesn’t sympathise with the poor, picked-upon Palestinians? He must be under the control of the Israelis.

India Today Gets It Backwards

June 20, 2007

India Today has become so pathetic that I don’t even have to read what’s inside the magazine. The cover’s enough to make me puke.

From manicures to hair styling, laser surgery and even breast implants, today

RJ Maalveekaa

June 20, 2007

(That’s what her name sounds like on the Radio Indigo promos for The Big Couch. I have no idea how it’s actually spelt.)

I realised today that her enthusiasm for happy happy songs and Justin Timberlake and Ronan Keating is quite alarming. She projects a sort of bubbly and gurgling enthusiasm that is fine when received over radio, but would probably be horrifying up close.

Belt Tightening Are There

June 19, 2007

Starting this week, I’m putting in five kilorupees a month on a Nifty index fund, and five kilorupees a month in a growth mutual fund. This is over and above the ten kilorupees a month of ELSS I’m already doing.

That’s for my PhD fund. For my Thailand vacation fund, I’ll be starting a recurring deposit of ten kilorupees a month from now until November.

Looks like I’ll have to stop eating out.

The Criminal Underclass of the Avian World

June 19, 2007

Aishwarya has discovered the video for March of the Sinister Ducks, and asks if these ducks are left-wing.

She doesn’t know the half of it. Left-wingers at least pretend to be all about the compassion. When Naxals kill people, they do it in the name of class war. But ducks are openly criminal and vile.

Check out this flickr thread, about rapist ducks:

 today i witnessed a very disturbing incident at a duck pond in duke gardens. a group of male mallards, roughly about 9-11 of them were stocking/pestering this female duck. they surrounded her and began stacking themselves on top of her. she was completely underneath the water. she was drowning. they were pecking at her head. the first thing that came to my head was gang rape. they were very violent with her. her head was bleeding. this went on for over a half hour. they were just taking their turns, it looked like 2 at a time.

Gangrape is not the only crime these webfooted villains indulge in. They commit interspecies extortion also:

bread is to ducks like “crack” is to people. I’ve seen them go absolutely wild and attack kids at ponds for bread.

And interspecies gang wars:

Not only do they attack the children, they also attack each other in their fight for bread. If all that wasn’t bad enough, you reminded me of something else. Feeding wild ducks encourages them to live on the same ponds as swans, which ordinarily they would not do. This causes the swans to defend their territory, which they achieve in the breeding season by drowning ducklings.

I’m going to end this post here, before I succumb to the temptation of making a ‘foul/ fowl’ pun.

I’m Back

June 19, 2007

I’m not thrilled about this. Over the next few weeks I will suffer withdrawal pangs for a number of things: pretty girls, being flirted at, having my laundry done by professionals, and laksa and sushi.

In the past couple of weeks, I have asked myself uncomfortable questions, been out drinking with a bunch of foreign policy wonks (this is much more fun than it sounds), wandered around Fort Canning Park and Chinatown, and lost an inch on my waist despite all the eating. Now I will get back to a life of dealing with recalcitrant customers.

Oh well. Bugger all that. Time to get on with life.

The spoils from the trip include a new phone, a portable hard disk, a litre of Absolut, a litre of Absolut Mandrin, and a spray can of ironing starch. I rather suspect that it’s the starch which will being the greatest joy in the long term. Starch! In a can! Which you can just spray on while you’re ironing! Is it not beautiful?

Ahem. Got a little carried away. Anyhow. Regular programming now resumes.