Saturday, January 30, 2021

of english and tamil

I have thought for a great deal of life, from the large powerful voices of common knowledge that language is called the mother tongue, because mother spoke it when you were inside of her, and taught it to you first. After 40 years on Earth and 20 years in TikTok land, I am convinced there's a deeper more atavistic meaning for it. I am (insert weasel words here) sure that mother refers to mother earth more closely than mother mine, and language, its the single largest influencer of a person's psyche. Its simultaneously the most precious thing we never want to forget, from what we have and what we lost. 

And I start by emptying the vessel. I am, I am, a fire demon, born in the land of fire, to a language among the oldest, and im convinced, quite one of the most original. Fire runs in my veins and in my memories, and when I am completely still, it is the roaring in my ears without a pause. 

Tamil is my mother tongue, and of a protective necessity, the numbest to description. But I try, because we are running out of time. I dont know if it is a tongue that will make it to the next 100 years. I desperately want it to, having the years of memory and the indivisible I. Tamil is the language of metal, and you can taste the metal in the waters of Chennai, a constant iron, an endless rust. But metal, you argue, is a nice pali-syno-drone for Tamil, coincidence of a rusty memory, not inevitable. But the sounds of the language are unmistakeably metallic - the clangs, the thrrrumms, the gongs. 

If you lived in Chennai, for many years, you might feel it, an inevitable reaction to the constant endless heat and wet wind, burning and melting, all the time, every minute of every day, for years and years. You become. Metal or Rubber. It congeals in your nose and your brain. To this day, I fondly remember my hometown whenever I have a fever, a cold or a migraine. 

English, is one of my first loves. I learned it at age 5, apparently with no instruction whatsoever, although I do remember my father reading stories to me. My father, who has always been nearly invisible to me, for a very many bloody and imagined reasons, took the helm in two distinct decisions for language. He read English to me when I was a baby, and insisted on pain of over his dead body, that I learn advanced Hindi as a second language in school, NOT Sanskrit, NOT Tamil. 

So English. All Indian kids learn English, usually starting at school. Probably a systemic nod to the British rule, but most likely because science expresses itself so easily in English. We are fanatical about science and math for children in India, something that unites all the squabbling tribes. I think of English as the language of wood and wind. Endlessly morphing, creative and the most powerful connector in the world today. And yet, schizophrenically, also the biggest debtor. When I saw the first Harry Potter movie, it finally clicked for me, that the language, it was, quite impossibly exact. 

Till today, I can feel my forehead rising, my ears jamming, and my tongue sharpening to a scalpel, when I switch from Tamil to English. And Tamil is plenty sharp, as it is. But running the whole world on a few languages, is devastatingly stupid. Its a civilizational duh, anyone born in the damn rainforest knows that. Who has also travelled. And maybe had a pet panda?

If pens were swords, Tamil would be the heat seeking missile, and English would be the gunshot. Neither has any real notion of forgiveness or takesie backsie, and both present endless opportunities for humor, nihilism and cynicism. To me though, Tamil is the language of power. English tends to the deafeningly concrete in its definition and expression, whereas Tamilians express power in the fluent abstract. And English is the language of love, every other linguistic representation of it seems to me banal or overdone.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

the death of woman

this time im sure

im watching from across

the last million times

ive been quite sure

its not forgettable

the times I was the one

raising the flag

rolling down the stairs

arms akimbo

they always figure it out

many many too lates later

life is not a negotiable instrument

you will miss me

the void will grow forever

burn the bridges

cut the ropes

cry the rivers of tears

clattering with coins

heavy with soiled paper

that poor rabbit never knew

when it stopped growing, or why

heavy ash where the bridges were

she is the other half of life itself

the baby machine

fire up the drones

lets find a healthy few

and make it work

Tuesday, January 12, 2021


inside red hot stakes

crumbling in ashes

engulfed in flames

but I will rise tomorrow

a phoenix in chains

or you will, a toss up

a rift in the darkness

no clocks in the game

remember remember

remember my dear

before you give, everyone away

life is long, life is short

life is everything we've got

ashes to ashes,

dust to dusk

comfort and cookies

some laughter, some hay

some love is plenty, and just enough

to celebrate

Saturday, November 14, 2020

the seventh sense

for our sixth is now taken

by the sway of internet winds

of still humans 

on popular science

and as we reach for a seventh

its vital to diversify

now right now now

and wear a mask

you dam fool

Monday, October 12, 2020

save the trees

 Repost from 2010
When I was in India, I was a grand paper-waster. One of those sinners who will use an entire box of tissues for a morning of sniffles (I also produce phenomenal quantities of phlegm so its public service really). But in the US, even I am shocked by how much is wasted. In cafeterias, restaurants, kitchens, bathrooms, there is a complete lack of respect for paper. In India though, an earnest movement to save paper exists, purely for cost. Someday if I have my own home, it will be a minimum paper place. There will be big fluffy towels everywhere, there will be murals on the wall made of terry cotton, they will be beautiful but you can use them too. The key to making this concept work is quantity, and style. Also dedicated washing and towel rotation timetables. A big investment in beautiful towels. Egyptian cotton with color, form and imagination. Towels will be placed around all water bodies in the house like oases, they will wrap around skins and peek into ears, they will pour from the walls and whip around top speed inside washers. As a bonus, I can change the decor around the home whenever I get bored, which is thrice a day, it will keep me out of trouble. Of course there will be logistics. The flappy will catch earrings and hooks and handles and sharp anythings. The heavy will need lots of support and get worse with water and fall down walls and whiplash passersby on windy days. The lazy inside will ignore morose towels who need TLC, and result in depression. Depressed towels are hard :(. The hygiene will demand paper in the bathroom at least. With a little design and a lot of planning and labor, them towels can be squeezed to drop a rupee into the earthbank