Seven kilometers from Panaji, Goa’s capital city, as the moonlight hits the crashing waves at the rocky Dona Paula beach, an apparition rises, floating to the shores, crying in its anguish. She’s a lady, stately and elegant, wandering and lost, gliding on the rocky shores of the hammer-shaped headland that divides the Zuari and Mandovi estuaries, the two major rivers of Goa. She’s naked and wears nothing but a shiny pearl necklace that glitters around her neck. Her long hair whip and gasp, constantly in motion, like the waves she glides on. She walks up the steps, reaching the viewpoint so popular with tourists during the day, and cries out in pain, a silent scream that dissolves in the crashing of the sea.
Two whitewashed statues, ravaged by the salty air, stand by the bay. Even through the corroded marble, the two lovers look away, one to the east, one to the west. I imagine Paula to be a soft spoken, polite and cultured Portuguese. The official story says she was part of an extremely affluent family, the daughter of the Portuguese Viceroy of Jaffnapatnam, in Sri Lanka. Her family arrived in Goa in 1644 which is when she married Dom Antonio Souto Maior and became Paula Amaral Antonio de Souto Maior. She was a kind woman, who helped the villagers and worked for the betterment of the local peole. So much so that when she died, the fishermen renamed their village after her. Her tombstone, says the same version, lies in what is now the official residence of the Governor of Goa, at the westernmost tip of Dona Paula. In the Chapel at the Governor’s Palace at Raj Bhawan, she lies. There on her tombstone, is an inscription in Portuguese by her inconsolable husband, who begs those who might read it to pray for the salvation of her soul. Which makes me question. What would such a kind hearted, generous lady would’ve done to need the blessing of salvation from strangers till eternity? What crime has she committed that she hasn’t been able to find peace in more than three hundred years?
The plotlines of most action flicks, are all about the hero. The hero rocks the roads, chases goons, tots guns, fights for justice, sows wild oats with white girls, and then heads back to home, to his heroine. All this while, this heroine, the girl, pines away back at home or sits pretty in a café (usually alongside a swimming pool for some reason), waiting for her hero. The only time she’s outdoors, she’s either surrounded by other girls, or is with the hero, or is getting raped or attacked by the goons. The message is loud and clear: The streets are unsafe for an Indian woman: If you’re out there alone, you will be slaughtered, you little lamb.
As a girl who grew up in Delhi, I was fed this message by family, society, school, college and onwards. Every time I walked on the streets of the capital city, as a teenager, as a working woman in her 20s, I had to constantly fight butt slaps, boob pinches, stares and hoots and whistles from strangers. Every time a violent act happened, I was told to not walk alone on streets, to wear looser clothes, not stare back and scream, not confront, not act, but be passive. For that’s how a woman should behave. Wait for someone else, a hero, a guy, the government or the police to react to the aggression that happens to her, to save her. An Indian woman is supposed to be passive, silently take on violence if given by her husband or in-laws, or ask for help from the boyfriend or police or government when faced from an aggressive stranger. Most of all, a woman is supposed to protect herself from all of it, to keep indoors, to make friends carefully in case they turn out to be rapists.
With Anantya Tantrist, the tantrik detective of my latest novel, Cult of Chaos, I decided to take all of these years of imbibed and heard and oft-repeated Indian values of passivity, decorum, rules and ethics meant for women and flip them, turn them on their head. Just to see what happens to the society in the world if I do. For speculative fiction gives you that freedom, to extrapolate, to try and do things differently, make new rules and new societies, explore gender roles and beliefs about gender. And I took it.
Anantya as a result, became a complete opposite to the restrictive idea of an ideal Indian woman.
First of all, she is always in the middle of action, she speaks her mind, there’s no passivity when it comes to her, in fact passivity bores her. She is boisterous, angry, spews gaali, smokes beedi, drinks hard stuff like a fish, hangs out on the streets with all kinds of things and species, doesn’t come home till wee hours, has crud in her kitchen, can’t cook to save her life, but can wield a boneblade to save another’s. She has unapologetic one night stands with all kinds of supernatural species, wears chappals and goes to parties and doesn’t know what a ‘date’ is. Continue reading How creating Anantya helped me find my freedom
I’ve been researching on infographics and though I’m not usually a let’s simplify the-message-kinds, that is how it seems the world is going.
So it was a pleasure when I found this beautiful infographic created for South China Morning Post, on my timeline the other day. I shared it immediately, but wanted to keep it here, on my blog, to see, ponder on and know how languages travel through the world and through our heads and kind of change us in little ways. And how powerful that is.
“There are at least 7,102 known languages alive in the world today. Twenty-three of these languages are a mother tongue for more than 50 million people. The 23 languages make up the native tongue of 4.1 billion people. We represent each language within black borders and then provide the numbers of native speakers (in millions) by country. The colour of these countries shows how languages have taken root in many different regions”
See in detail, on the SCMP website
For those who might know me, know that I love gifting books as well as getting books as gifts. I also carry a dream within me, to create libraries for kids, places they can just come and sit and browse and wonder in the world. In schools, orphanages, communities, apartment complexes, everywhere, free libraries. So with all my heart, I would like to tell you about Pratham Book‘s lovely new initiative Donate-a-Book. (As they so well put it, drum roll please). In a blog on Pratham Books, the lovely team writes:
Hear their appeal, help them in the initiative! Donate to get a book in the hands of a child. Donate to make sure kids and adults continue to read books. Donate, now.
This was in the making for a while. I started off as a communication professional and I love devising angles and language for a brand. So when I came across an opportunity to work with a social organisation, how could I refuse? So I am so glad to tell you all that I’ll be working on a communication project with Buzz India, an NGO based in Bangalore, who go to villages and train rural women in managing their money and leading a more confident life. And they come with a beautiful team! Here’s them:
I’m setting up their social media, website and a future communication plan. Have ideas? Think you can help? We’re looking for volunteers to come with us to villages and record, take photos of the rural women. Contact me. Now!
Aaand it’s done. Polka Cafe, who’ve made a mark with listicles around books (read here, here and here), have included this one in a listicle of interesting comic geeks that live in Bangalore. Not only that. This is what they say about Cult of Chaos: Her novel ‘Cult Of Chaos’ is about a female tantrist, that has some great tones of feminism and underlying political tones, masked well by humour and imagination.
(Hops up and down with sheer glee).
And they call me non-pseudo intellectual. Oh man! This also reminds me how I fought Thejesh, a dear friend and all round tech/geek-support and coolaid, who was the first one to call me a ‘geek’.
‘Of course I’m not! They’re supposed to be like techie or something,’ I had cried all those years ago. I bow down to your infinite wisdom, T And here’s a photo of us in a Comic Con in Bangalore, on my first book launch ever: Krishna Defender of Dharma (he’s the one in black, extreme right).
Ahh, memories. Like scattered stars they are. And yes, I am a geek. (Eek).
There are some books that haunt you as soon as you see them. That’s what happened to me with Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? The title itself, a question, started to haunt me, giving me psychedelic images of possibilities, before I even picked the book up.
It’s written by amazingly creative Philip K Dick, an Amreekan author. It’s a classic now (it was written in an era long, long ago: 1968) and has been reprinted and republished and torrented billions of times.The book leaves you with many other questions. Questions on what’s real, what’s a droid, and how do you live in a world where both these boundaries are increasingly getting blurred. It’s a rather short novel, a mere 200 pages but it leaves a mark on you. I hogged through the book, hungrily lapping it up, saddened when it ended. My life emptied as if I’d just had a breakup. Like someone addicted, I found the Hollywood version, then read about fan posts on Reddit, or where ever. In other words, it took me months to get out of the hauntedness of the book. It’s title however, still sends me in a freeze, wondering about creative possibilities.
I still think about the bots around me, about their feelings, and about their dreams. I wonder what kind of images flash in their head when I’m not around, or when I’m abusing them by clicking, ticking, swiping, wiping, throwing them. What do cellphones and laptops, televisions and fitness bracelets dream of? And all this just because of the title. So when I came across this art project by Google Research, I was astounded. They’d visualised what I’d been imagining all this while. Their image recognition software, which can detect, analyze and auto-caption images, simulates the human brain. In a process they’re calling “inceptionism,” Google engineers went on to see what this fake brain dreams of. It’s happening, screamed my brain. (Read what Google Researchers are doing).
And then I came across another art project, inspired by the Google one on Twitch.tv, a site I’m getting increasingly addicted to. Made by a couple of PhD students from Ghent University in Belgium, this project livestreams what a AI hallucinates. You can tell it what to dream about by messaging on the forum (pineapple, dragons, throne, spider web, anything) and it shows in the stream in a bit. I spent a whole day with a window of this awesomeness open on my screen, spellbound, in love, gasping for breath, for possibilities. So I had to share some craziness with you all. Go on, sink your time. Be goggled.
Someday, I will write a science fiction about these dreams. Someday.