Love & Labour

I wish it took a lot more from me to be able to cry. It doesn’t. I cry for everything and that’s why, when I say I cried while watching a scene in Queen Charlotte, nothing is actually said.

Even so, I am glad.

I cried while watching episode 3 because there is so much love in the space they’ve been able to make between two women, one white one black, to talk about intimacy – having it and not having it.

There is something deep about this attention/inattention to race that’s happening in this show. Reminds me of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower, which requires a whole other post so I will get to that some other day. Today is only and only about Queen Charlotte, Lady Danbury, and all the men and women in this show. It’s also a little about protecting your joys from people peeing all over it.

I was moved when Lady Danbury and her help hug and squeal when Lord Danbury dies. There is so much restraint, so much freedom. Questions about whether it ok to celebrate somebody’s death are best reserved for other people. I am so happy to say I can make the choice of not having these other people in my life or even caring about what they say.

I am happy that in that small moment, I was rewarded with this feeling of being moved, of remaining open to being moved.

Last week, I presented my research proposal on Dawn Powell. I stood in a room full of people and asked why we don’t talk about love when we talk about research. Isn’t it a gift to be able to begin research because you love somebody so much that you don’t want to see their name being forgotten? When I talked about Dawn, I felt blessed. It became even better when two girls doing research in Botany came up to me and said they were very happy to hear someone speak about love during a research presentation.

A few days ago, someone asked me what I wanted to do my PhD on. When I said Dawn Powell from Ohio who ran away from home to write; all they wanted to know was, ‘White Woman?’ and when I said yes, they said hmmm.

If I was irritated, I better be prepared for worse. It’s going to be a thing now.



One lockdown morning, after a fight with a friend whose mobile ran out of charge before either of us could, I took a long shower and assembled my hair. I imagined I was reassembling my life with every difficult strand I was able to bring to my palms. Thinking we were over, I went and played Ludo with my family. And thinking we were over, I continued to do various other things I didn’t know I’d have the strength to do.

The memory of playing lockdown Ludo with my family reminds me of love shamefully. I can only scare the shame away when I choose courage. Without courage, I am afraid that it’s too absurd a memory, playing as it does against the backdrop of Covid 19. Father, Mother, Sister, Brother were in bed. I was sitting in my father’s chair, head wrapped in a towel, my underpants wet from laughing at my father. In his lifelong half-kannada, half-konkani way, he said ‘marakagalla’ when I told my sister to ‘maar! maar! maar!’ (konkani for ‘hit him! hit him! hit him!’)

I played with the same sense of fun I always tend to have with family. I don’t know what that calm was but I was surprised by my own ability to muster it when I needed to.

In my 20s, I struggled with letting go. I didn’t know when to give up, whom to trust, and couldn’t resist giving in to the promise of company even against my best instincts. Today, my instincts have better control over my actions. I listen to the songs my intuitions sing for me just to see how much I can rely on them. Sometimes I worry that this whole instinct business makes me uptight but it’s the only thing I know to rely on in a world that is seeking supreme comfort from remaining Savarna.

There was a certain work ethic that the generation before mine had. They were able to give themselves to work so willingly and uncomplicatedly that it didn’t leave much room for caste to be a participant. They had/have a general all purpose collegiality, a niceness that showed itself simply by smiling and simply by asking how are you? A kind of steel resistance to gossip, bitterness, and the ever ambitious arm that reaches for you at work, grabs you out into the corridor where Brahminness can converse without interruption.

I think of MMB’s smiling face and her many bags – how despite tough times and tiredness – there is respect for work, food, conversation; and always a spirit of fight in her body. It’s her Happy Birthday today. Then I think of the bearded bro who gets zero in return for all that he gives.

Then I think of students. Mad ones like these. And other madder ones as well. Two days ago, a girl brought her fears of graduating to my table and we talked about why it’s exciting to be a student, what waits for her on the other side and just how much fun there is in imagining your days as if they are carry-bags from shopping with mother — filled with all the fun things that you cannot wait to get home for. My student smiled her toothy little student smile and I fell, picked myself up and remembered why I’m here.


There is such a thing as settling down for a film to begin that Romancham doesn’t allow its audience. It begins long before it actually does but teases you into believing that the film will start any moment now. This is not the film’s problem, this is the problem of us. That ‘we have forgotten how to watch films’ will offer the unnecessary consolation that once upon a time, we knew how to.

Instead, let’s quickly go to Romancham. The word settles comfortingly in Malayalam and all its sister languages because its invitation to you isn’t incumbent on your knowing its meaning but its feeling.

And what a feeling Romancham is. I don’t remember watching a film that does so much with so little. And by so little I mean the way stories were once imagined and had the balls to once be told.

Romancham activates that part of the childhood dream where all we wanted in life was to get away from adults, lock ourselves up in a room with friends and tell each other ghost stories. It’s perhaps why when the event we are trained to wait for in a comedy-horror film never fully arrives, we may not even notice it. Perhaps because it has already arrived or perhaps because it doesn’t have to.

The seven friends in the film haven’t succumbed to having a lot to do with the little time they have, they aren’t pumping their days up with the luxury of being absorbed in phones or much else —either because of poverty or because they have one another in the way we used to have friends.

A familiar boredom and the sharp annoyance of being left out of throwball leads one of the friends to become a fake ouija board expert. The incoming ghost is barely the point of interest here because after that, each of their 7 faces explode into an individual drama in this house full of commodes. And the commodes, man. At no point in the film are we told why there are so many commodes in boxes lying around the house but we believe in them, like we believe in their thoughtfulness when they gift one of the commodes to a friend getting married.

Their daily transactions with each other lend themselves to everything from how organizedly they sleep in a line below a kannada fillum poster — to ensuring that the friend who has an incessant cough problem gets his 2 bottles of cough syrup every month. This intimacy is a childhood dream coming true with all of adult life problems intact: money is an issue, and so is the threat of being left out for not knowing how to play throwball, as also – the following desire to puncture said throw ball.

Romancham’s writing is skeletal in a most visible way. It is touchable, holdable and not hiding behind grandiosity. And I am not saying there is no grandiosity just because it is a story of seven men sharing one shabby bathroom, one sink.

I am saying no grandiosity because even if the film is based on real life incidents; in its narration— the only lurking joy is coming from seeing what happens if seven mostly unemployed Malayali bachelors are thrown in a Bangalore house full of commodes.

The charm of this commode house is that it is still largely Bengaluru despite being haunted by Malayali men and even a Malayali ghost. It’s a house left to fend for itself much like the few houses in Jakkur were before the airport flyover plundered its grassy emptiness.

The Romancham house is sometimes modern in its capacity to allow all kinds of non-brahmin things to happen inside it — storing rice in commodes, doing things to piss off gods in all religions — making one wonder if the owners are not Brahmin or live far away or dead or just don’t care – all four of which are super rare to find in Bengloor, whether in 2007 or 2023.

The house’s other Bangalore ability is to be surrounded by the bigness and loudness of landscape and to remain still small in front of neither fully yellow nor green street lights. Its anglala with a rope-swing, the accumulating commode boxes, and broken two-wheelers all contribute to this.

Zizek said in Pervert’s Guide to Cinema that waiting for a film to begin in a dark theatre, staring at the blank screen is like staring into the toilet bowl, waiting for your worst nightmare to come true – for shit to reappear. ‘We are basically watching shit’, he says. I don’t know if it’s the commode or the general naughtiness of the film- shit or not, it’s a mad, sexy film and I want to watch it again.


After weeks of assaulting my nose to dig up dry blood and booger, I’m pleased to finally be phlegm-free. I am in equal parts grateful for and terrified of that inner plumbing which ensures that I never have to pay attention to my own breathing.

Read Annie Dillard’s Total Eclipse today and felt pangs of sunlight spreading across my body. Now reading Lynn Nottage. Ciao.


I like the word firm. It imitates its meaning almost teasingly, as if by standing sincerely next to other casually thrown words, it is holding on to last minute dignity but still dignity. I first registered the word when I was reading a story in which a man moves his hands inside a woman’s blouse while they are kissing. Her breasts were firm, it said.

I’ve never quite figured out that way of understanding breasts. But I grew more attracted to ‘firm’ after I began noticing its use in the way people held back opinion, thought, action. There is an extremely desirable edge to it when people refuse to give in and perform the unsavoury act of withholding. I have never been a fan of withholding. It reminds me too much of first-rank brahmin girls from school.

But that is not the firmness we are thinking about today. This is the kind of firmness that comes from having been bitten twice, thrice. The kind that is not sure of itself but only knows that it must do what it is doing because it doesn’t know any other way. A firmness in the way of thinking like slow-walking, of talking like mindful-chewing, of decisions to not give in to gossip even when it is tempting, of refusing invitations kindly: a weak back bone that is bending but also standing.

After all this, I only want to know if I have it today or not.

Postcard from today VII (dedicated to Naziti)

  1. Loving this SRK reel where he talks about Saroj Khan whacking his head for complaining that there was too much work. She told him that as an artist he shouldn’t complain when there is work because not having work is a bigger and more real problem.
  2. The ability to breathe well is everything.
  3. Silence is a reasonable response to women who perform male supremacy. Pointing it out is exhausting.
  4. For my sister’s wedding, I wore a red chikankari kurta, the grandest set I own. Guests kept asking me when I was going to get ready.
  5. I want to watch Farzi everyday.
  6. Law is sexy. Reading it as literature is sexier.
  7. I vaguely wondered if I would be taken seriously if I combed my hair more often. Then I told myself to fuck off so I stopped wondering.
  8. Wondering is a reliable word.
  9. Thinking about long and lazy lunches with women I adore makes me less bitter.
  10. Poetry has all the answers.
  11. This kept me up last night: