Postcard from today VI

Yesterday I took a class on Ambedkar’s Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development. Was in a partly sucky mood before beginning prep for class. Reading that essay always puts me in a more sensible, back to who I am kind of mood. I read it every year because I can’t teach this paper on memory. I remember a few things that I am thrilled to mention in class but nothing more. Having to learn the paper every year to be able to teach it well is on a goal list of sorts.

Thought of Ambedkar all the way to class in the PG Block. Thought about the hours he put in at the library to write in Columbia. In Waiting For Visa, I’d read that he was often tempted to join his room mates and floor mates for parties but the thought of what he’d left behind to be where he is made him stuff cotton in his ears and continue studying. Even if the romance of imagining somebody reading in the library seems unreachable, what makes the reality of it all closest to me is the temptation he resisted to stop reading and how well he resisted it. After all, reading is the strongest resistance. Most of all, it is a big resistance to oneself – especially that part of us that we don’t trust.

Watched Area Bois in the afternoon and died giggly deaths. After a long time, I am watching a film that is in equal parts both delightful and relieving for the simple joys it brings as also for the deliberate revisiting of the words area, bois, and area bois. I am going to watch it again today to write about it. It’s not everyday that we get to watch a film that teaches us how much of the city lives in us, how much we don’t notice, and how little we do with the things we notice everyday.

Spent the evening looking at old department videos and laughing till eyes were teary and small. A folder full of odd, mad students reading in the dept corridor since 2013, madder teachers playing kabbadi and badminton after work, launching paper missiles at each other from their tables, willingly accepting dares to put kinetic hondas on centre stands and spraining hands instead. Some of us were still giggling when we locked the department door behind us and headed home. I giggled all the way home.

Throwing Chalk: English nimappan mane aasthi alla

Transl = English/Theatre/Journalism isn’t your father’s property.

…is at the crux of what I actually wanted to say here – Hiding Behind Language, my second column for The Third Eye.

And this glorious illustration by Priyanka Paul.

Art by Priyanka Paul (


“I have come to realize that excellence is achieved through devotion. My devotion does not mean retiring to a forest & meditating there. My idea of devotion implies extreme power of enduring suffering, and extreme power of working” – Dr. B.R Ambedkar

It’s somewhat of a relief that you aren’t around to see what these people would have done with this quote. They would have called your work ethic toxic and you, elite Dalit. There’s no limit to how many words we can use everyday. Not that that would have made us more careful. But a girl can hope no? It is rare to find people who have discipline with words and work, like you did.

Tomorrow is independence day it seems. I have a few wishes – I want to learn how to work, like you did. I want to learn how not to tolerate fools, like you did. I want to sustain a discipline with words, work, people, and myself, like you did. Please teach me how.

Stay well.

Love & hugses


Early morning Madurai Calling

I woke up at 3:55 with a strong feeling that I was in Madurai, in my hotel room with its three huge windows, twin beds, and one Kiruba Devi. Kiruba Devi who laughs like water following the rhythm of an old Tamizh song my father used to hum while fiddling with the remote control to put udaya news.

On stage, in front of Pa Ranjith, we were like little children – giggling, nervous, stomach churning but held despite this all by the affection he was throwing at us with his smile from the first row. When we felt like we were going to combust and die, we took turns to steal glances at each other, and then at him.

I was talking in English to an audience that understood it in Tamizh and only she could’ve taken my words and translated them with more love than I’d put in. The previous night, we were all squeezed into a tiny room where a lot of orange juice was consumed and many more tamizh songs were sung.

When I woke early that morning and looked outside, I felt a stab. Madurai was still there, looking like a dream. It’s probably why it’s called Thoonga nagaram – it doesn’t need sleep to dream. If I ever get a chance at life again, I want to be Madurai.