Mrs Valencia

Q:Who was Mrs Valencia?

A:Mrs Valencia was the most magical teacher I ever had during what could have been the worst years of my school-life. She was Maltese and in her mid-thirties. She would sit in the smoker's section of the staffroom between mountains of papers/books and behind whorls of pure magical marlboro smoke. Her favourite outfit was a black sleevless tube mini or a black halter with swirling mangoprint skirts. i suspect she never wore a slip, but you'll see why this didn't matter one bit to me. On worse days, she looked beseiged and could have passed for a drug peddler on a roman side alley.

I don't remember what she taught us really - something like English Language, Geography and sometimes even Religion. She'd arrive in class like a dump dragging her feet in her flats and tumbling her bag on the table. And sitting in front, I would take in a deep breath of her fresh signature smoke scent and listen with
new understanding, comprehending everything she said in a special way. That's how everyone like me felt. With a rheumy eye, i'd always spy her marlboros winking out of her bag, and sometimes whole packs tumbled out.

Sometimes she'd tell us stories of Malta but taught us what she had to. Her special husky voice whispered its own stories in overtones, above the official one we were meant to hear. In every class we badly vied for being sent to the staffroom by any teacher who wanted to get something they'd forgotten. on the few times i was ordained i shook harder with every step I took closer to the hallowed flush door of the staffden. Falling in, we'd be hit by what we had come for: the spinning odor of smouldering coffee and sacred cigarette smoke. None of the teachers liked student intrusion but the smoker table, which was kept closest to the exit, never had a problem. In a wise stupor, they almost considered us equals.

Mrs Valencia taught Sports. and she made me something: she made me captain of the most electric netball team in history. It could have been anyone. but the quiet inconsistent inconstrue among branded portugese philipino spanish students? the one who would miraculously find herself left out of every concert, even the horrific ones?

That year me and 2 other underdogs even managed to get left out of some organic show where we were ironically meant to perform - 'i'm a lonely little piranha in an onion patch' (yellow submarine was for earlier forms). What students were doing singing that at 13 was the least of my concerns, but even that was a second division performance put up only to accomodate those who hadnt made it to the main billing - 'snow white and the 7 frigging dwarves'. i ocassionally ogled at the boys as they practised their ogling dwarves role to a bitch snow white. But to get back to the point, these 3 leftouts posed something of a logistical problemo in a school that could never leave their charges without supervision, but would do so anyway when the problem was this small (3).
And this was where Mrs Valenica did the most remarkable thing which really made her the greatest and most magical teacher only we 3 would ever know ...

To those who look out for these things for comfort, she was quite ravaged by her smoking, with bags under her eyes, stained teeth, drymouth and stained fingers, but I could only see how beautiful she was. I have a photograph of her where the flash covers up everything and you only see her as she was to me everyday. A devellish angel who gave me a shot. I'm not grateful to her for the time she took out for me and some sun dazers that day and a few times after. Because she spent that time as she made it, entirely as she willed. She taught me to listen for multiple polymorphic messy evrywhichway narratives, forms that built and then negated themselves, free play, empty spaces and full time. Magic out of nothing.

To be certain, when they weren't ruining the lives of their students, the conservatives were grinding their teeth in their corner of the staffroom and hatching every way to get the errant and unfailingly exciting smoking set banned. There were even the snitchy students who lived to rat on something that was open. A year later in final school, there was this silly show put up for NoSmoking day. It cut no ice with me and made me very angry for the insult to mrs. Valencia and some of the other special ones in the set, who it was ensured, were present. I saw the hand of the small nefarious censorious selfrighteous lobby (populated mainly by vapid Indian teachers) who advised management on the bad danger of such teachers to students.

I want to meet Mrs Valencia again. Inspite of my chronic allergy to the block, I'll be sending mails to that school to find out what became of her. Mrs Valencia, if bad health or accident hasnt taken her away, would receive with cigarettes and without expectations and be proud of whatever we had become away from a distressed club primed for shine.


How to write about Africa

This article is hilarious and addresses almost every crap construct about africa. Binyavanga Wainaina (pic) has done a great job. He is the founding editor of the literary magazine, Kwani? and won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002. A little:

Make sure you show how Africans have music and rhythm deep in their souls, and eat things no other humans eat. Do not mention rice and beef and wheat; monkey-brain is an African's cuisine of choice, along with goat, snake, worms and grubs and all manner of game meat. Make sure you show that you are able to eat such food without flinching, and describe how you learn to enjoy it—because you care.

...Taboo subjects: ordinary domestic scenes, love between Africans (unless a death is involved), references to African writers or intellectuals, mention of school-going children who are not suffering from yaws or Ebola fever or female genital mutilation.

...Your African characters may include naked warriors, loyal servants, diviners and seers, ancient wise men living in hermitic splendour. Or corrupt politicians, inept polygamous travel-guides, and prostitutes you have slept with. The Loyal Servant always behaves like a seven-year-old and needs a firm hand; he is scared of snakes, good with children, and always involving you in his complex domestic dramas.

Animals, on the other hand, must be treated as well rounded, complex characters. They speak (or grunt while tossing their manes proudly) and have names, ambitions and desires. They also have family values: see how lions teach their children? Elephants are caring, and are good feminists or dignified patriarchs. So are gorillas. Big cats have public-school accents. Hyenas are fair game and have vaguely Middle Eastern accents. Any short Africans who live in the jungle or desert may be portrayed with good humour (unless they are in conflict with an elephant or chimpanzee or gorilla, in which case they are pure evil).

...Always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care.

Wild Pansies

Replying back to jps comments in comments, I realised while referencing other opinions, that so many had problems with the insipid racism in Pirates of the Caribbean 2. Did you know there was a call for boycott of the flick? Read this representative piece by ljournal user Sabonasi and the debate. he and many others also feel strongly about the representation of Tia Dalma. I thought I couldn't agree entirely on that but actually i realised thats because she did such a spirited and atmospheric job. "her sexuality was also treated as a joke. The film made it perfectly clear that there was no way that Jack nor Will would actually be romantically interested in her. A Black woman thinking she is sexually/romantically desirable?" As I see it, Naomie got back in a way the disney boys never intended. She put a spell while playing her part.

To jellicles - because she loves my poms

in the crumbling blue cafe
the saddest laughed loudest
and the waiters stared hardest.
Some stood up and looked
for their faces in the mirror.
But no-one could find a teacup.


At 12:00, she had everything to say
At 12:00, she had nothing to say
Her love was timeless. but
the truth was fugitive.
i'm glad i understand your particular requirements, she said,
but your distruth makes me stink.


This lady saved Pirates

The weekend viewing of the pirates was nervy. because I was hoping it would please my friend who hadnt exactly come for that movie. so i felt liek the movie was my thesis i was trying hard to impress a prof with. now that depp's made it commercially, i think i dont fancy him anymo. admittedly he took the risk of vouching for his faith in the anti-hero with transvestic theatrics to disney jewboys. but i wouldnt call his show award material; just a fancy departure that can be easily overdone and did go overboard.
To me, one performance did stand out and absolutely bewitch: tia dalma, the jamaican witch, played by naomie harris. in her short moments on screen she built a defnite intrigue and i wished she had a lot more to do. some reviews are even saying, she stole the thunder from right under depp.
meanwhile the pratfalls and slapstick were all hackneyed and overbearing and there was a huge other disappointment too, a far greater one. The representation of the island native - caricaturized and reduced - to the onetrack cannibal. and since depp's sparrow does 'interact' with them the most, i don't believe the lack of depth in the representaion didnt suggest an alternative to him to wave at to directors. Ok, forget depp, noone else had an issue? anthropolgy; rousseau, claude levi? depp - french connxn? forget it then. depp, for all his apparent withdrawn disaffection for the mainstream, a posture that created his cult, is a keen strategeist and shrewd networker. just a pity that the themes dont matter to him anymore.
keira knightley was an unmitigated pain. i winced everytime she yakked and moved. Supremely wan and exceptionally vapid, only rivalled by bloom. Who are these people, what is their calling, who calls them actors? This is the theme for another movie. To conclude, I regret i didnt get tickets to the naseeudhin shah movie and wail at then proceding to pick pirates over the hedge. maybe next time, but i'm overunning my leisure account.
Ok - i plan to make it to the Hindu Metro Plus Theatre Fest, in Chennai, Aug 4-14. And so should any of you if youre interested tho i cant help with accomodation since even i dont know where i'll be staying. One thing however may stop me and it takes the form of a baby. BigSis baby is due around that time or earlier, so feel obligated to ferry necessities and baby forms. That reminds me, everytime i've placed my hands on her football stummy to feel the furtive feral nudges of the kid, it oneups and freezes as if its giving this frigid onceover and doesnt want to entertain me. finally on the last visit, i felt this ludge nudge like he was getting into a comfortable position. how did it feel for me? well the tenderest ive ever felt is when i've held a tiny squirrel/bird, the warmth and frantic heartbeat disintegrates emotional resistance leaving a dualist liek me with only 2 options: kill it, or let it free. what i'm trying to say is: i'd put the baby nudge somewhere along with the holding small animal experience, but a little lower down. Right now just thought of Lady Macbeth and the wideness of feelings:

I have given suck, and know
How tender 'tis to love the
babe that milks me;
I would, while it was
smiling in my face,
Have pluck'd my nipple from
his boneless gums,
And dash'd the brains out,
had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.
(Macbeth, I.vii. 54-59)


Antoni Gaudi

It's not suprising that for a long time I carried the impression that this architect of the Casa Mila apartment was a Catalonian monk. Some people would rather introduce Gaudi as the architect of the unfinished Sagrada Famiglia but ive deliberately ducked that cos it's one of those constructions thats outstanding tho overdone in its detail, but perfectly horrendous at a distance; akin to a termite hill with all its attendant technical merit. I can understand somehow why citizens of barcelona were wary of him being granted greater license over the skyline. It appears that he worked best when he was tempered, regimented and limited in a sense as we see with the sineous organic pleasant wonder of Casa Mila. I'd like to introduce other examples of biomorphic archi, but here's casa mila, charming isnt it? and those granite protrusions you see on the roof are chimmney stacks. fully functional.
Meanwhile I'm pisd and riled having to judder up to the library everyday to update my blog and see other blogs, i'm forced to go up to delhi and organise something with the blog guys there. Intelligence bureau we're supposed to protest in front of i'm told. what the bullocks. So i'm having whiskies today evning whether anyones joining me or not in the unwomanly act. ppl with pretensions to clean dignified womanhood arent required.
The one thing I like about dogs is the very basic:
When you call them, they come.
There's no point giving a cat a name, other than habit. Their inscrutability is not something i crave. So a dog it shall be for me; who will come when he/she is cawlled; who will appeal every relegation, who will make no bones about having an open agenda of food and free frienship; who will hang around wantonly even when it's going to look stupid. Above all, who will come when called. And so I picked up the phone and called Poornima. Even before I had finished punching the last digits, I heard her airy trot round the bend of the concrete lane in front of my room. She looked a little frivolous and a little shaggy which is all she could manage for a pre-empted cawl. She extended her smile a little more and asked the usual 'wassup' with her eyes.
'we're hitting town' i said.
'it's been a while' she said knowingly, 'what have you got for me?'


I am presently spying an unsuspecting brahminy kite perched still and fine like god on the bough of a tree. this is heaven and orgasm.
This is strange. Someone for whose writing I had a manic excited eye out for a very long time just disppeared for a very long time. I wonder where he is. Read a redoubtable art book review that Hans Varghese Mathews did for the Frontline. way back in 2000 i regret.
That just reminds me - some authors should just stay clear from giving interviews; they do their market standing no favour, and give away the brief depth of their work. Ramu Katakam's interview to promote his book Glimpses of Architecture in Kerala : Temples and Palaces gives me that feeling. But I got that feeling long before anyway. At every bookshop ive been to, each volume is shrinkwrapped in plastic which means you're not absolutely encouraged to get the plastic off unless you're ready to tackle some insidious expectation. Suspect Jogninder Singh's photography does most of the job. I think it wouldn't be a very easy job for a woman to cover the subject, but I find it the theme facinating.
I think I made a little mistake about this blog thing and will be bringing the old isthmus back - while figuring out how to focus on the new Ideas blog. What is Finny doign these days? Finny can't give you the whole deal right now, but just look at the things on her bed: Her bedsheet, drool, pillow, and these things:
Beethovens Anvil (Music in mind and culture) William Benzon
New Scientist - Origin of Time
Saturday Ian McEwan
The rest of the day is spent with a pleasurable but challenging AK Ramanujan, Basavanna, and the Bldg Blog.
And then there's a re-reading of Muriel Spark in her prime with Miss Jean Brodie. I don't know much, but I dont't know another writer like her. Her economy and perfection were deliberate, distinctive and hard to copy. I would be happy to live like her. but her life before any success was bare to even starvation with an occassional bottle of wine from Graham Greene 'to take the cold edge off charity' (he helped her a bit with money).
Meanwhile an accidental but inevitable encounter with Marx made me sit up straight in bed at 2 am. He spoke to me, every word. I've been using the words 'lack of ownership' everytime i've been asked to account for my latest job ditch. And as we read in his seminal work in dialectical materialism, this is what you will inevitably feel when the means of production are taken out of your hands; i'll explain all this later. but in the development of philosophy, what a leap from the speculative to the actual and existenital. yes, it was the time for pure action.

More next.
Hold on for the blog sort out.


new avatar in while