27 June 2012

Plot #18

Tonight, the electrical current flows onto Plot #18 ‘Santhoshi’, C.R.O. Colony, 2nd cross street, and then fades out, as if electricity were never here. Then again, all of a sudden, a sunrise on fast-forward replay generates and, once every two to three minutes, repeatedly eclipses itself, leaving only doubtful memory of its existence. Waves interrupt my navigation through this new space, Plot #18; single-minute long pauses pace my ambulating between rooms as I gingerly—elbows at seventy-degree angles, hands out; safety foremost in mind—stumble through doorways that, even soaked full-spectrum glory, appear approachable only in the same, unsure way, to shut off the lights in order to conserve back-up energy or, in the best of times, to turn on the fans.

“Power’s expensive in India,” appaṭinā solluvāṅga, ‘other people say it’s like this:’ As valuable as oiled, black-braided locks, some long & others short, pierced through with aged silver shackles descending from the rusted, mettled golden-brown crown like latches on luggage. Were the common contents of women, locked in cultural memory here, as ubiquitous as the progeny they nurture and protect, then the thinking people of this land may one day actually solve the world's philosophical problems; unlikely as we are to witness the world's end is translation alone likely to become the proper and sole action of humanity.

Until then, all sensitive souls must deal with these tremendously rusted-yet-retractable gates that guard many an entrance, like the one to my own apartment here in Madurai. You can see through it and all, just as well as you see the neighbors’ babies’ bottoms & dirty dishes, or laundry, and you plainly see that it opens onto an iron-ensconced terrace. My good-vibes rockin’ space, the apartment where I’m settlin’ hugs—on a slightly off East-West axis—this less-than-quaint space with eight rooms that I will describe in no apparent, successive order.

Despite the presence—immediately after entering, turning to face south—of another, more rusted who-knows-yet-if it opens ‘cause-I-haven’t-tried folding gate of the same ilk as the actual guard gate that comes after a smaller, less intimidating iron swing-gate just over a stone bridge that crosses a stagnant sewage moat, which adds something of a viscous olfactory texture to your first impression of the place as a lover of India, is a beige wooden door. It's locked.

Squarely opposite of what you may be thinkin' 'bout all these barricades, you're reading neither the prose of a known felon, writing from his prison palace, nor the ornate words of a rich man. This is the language of an addict. This is the shit you step in, sore, tired, and almost outta money & drugs, if you abuse ‘skrit, kids. Snort enough o’ that formerly ashenlivened, citronella smellin’ palm leaf and birch bark wizdom into your heartmind, and you, too, may end up in an eight-room flat above an elderly brāhman couple, about a twenty-minute, fifteen rupee bus ride away from the river Vaikai, Maduraile speakin’ Tamizh.

Due north from the second-that-I-take-as-first Lazer lock-bolted guard gate are three-quarter open-air, svastikā-embellished grate-iron doors. Locked & bolted closed. Still locked, the antechamber is only teasing your eyes.

At this point, with another beige wooden door identical to the one opposing the rusted, folding-guard iron gate, you still got six little, chiṉṉa keys plus one big, appā key to go until you’re free—home at last! Locked in securely (at least you feel that way inside… in the heart) and now at the mercy of the Indian criminal spirits’ courteous habit of not locking their victims in from the outside, even as a practical joke, not to mention aiding the accomplishment of crimes! It just doesn’t happen.

Six little keys, in all, is whatchyou got between yourself and Madurai village, folks, where ev-er-y-one knows your name and when you’re home and what you were wearin’ last time you left and expresses to you their curiosity about why you didn’t lock the first gate last night,
nettuki rāthiri, Rao, enna moṭal gate lock paṇuvillai? koi bhī uppar jā saktā thā!” in a generous cocktail of Tamil, English, and Hindi, ‘Why didn’t you lock the first gaṭe last night, Rao? Anybody at all coulda gone upstairs!’

“Ahh… Uh,” I grab for the crown of my head as I slowly unlatch the still-lock-free first iron gate, after I just crossed the bridge over the muck moat to let myself in. Only the sound of the latch clanks on the rusty metal gate, “nāṉ gatai lock… paṇuvillai? innuki rāthiri kaṇṭīpā lock paṇuvēṉ. ‘I didn’t lock the gaṭe-ā? Surely I’ll lock it tonight.”

“Ahh…,” he’s all smiles now, “cherry, sir,” thinking that that’s alright, “cāppitthīṅgaḷā? O.K., sir. Have you eaten?’”

“Oh! Yes. āmāṅg. nallā cāppittēn. ‘Yes. Yes. I ate well,” I reply, “pāppom. ‘See you!’” and I turn to climb the bank of stairs up along the east-side of the house to my flat at Plot #18 ‘Santhoshi’.

A bay of windows 18” X 40” and 15.5” X 40” are ensconced in some wall space of the  first, dimensionless room—to the West the room opens to the outside. More iron grate, less svastikā and an unfortunately ill-hung clothes line jams the third-least conspicuous, beige wooden door mid-outward swing, and you can’t open it fully. The nail, too, yeah—it doesn’t budge.

We’ll skip the kitchen. Truly, it’s unremarkable. Tonight only I stocked the second highest of four inbuilt, concrete shelves with sanitizer, bleach, soap, whiskey, roach poison, and chocolate chip cookies. 

Buckets weren’t on sale tonight. For a bucket I had to buy a too-big bag of Tide; settling for the right size bag, I recused myself from bucket deal eligibility for the first time in one night.
That’s right, for the first time. And there were at least three times as many plastic buckets in at least two patterned varieties of at least four sizes in more than, I’d say, seven colors. But I wasn’t gonna argue

I mean, at first I just went for a jog to the gym.

But the manager at the gym has yet to determine a membership rate, so only tours are available during the daytime, before three o’clock. And the manager had just stepped outside as I was being sent away, which is why he approached me, fumbling to offer me his card with a cigarette in his right hand, his mouth mostly full, salivating on something, his chin ever-so-slightly pointed upward, preventing drool, with eyes peering out and almost downward, he managed to exchange his cigarette with one hand to give me his card.

“Oh! Herrro! Uh, I am miṣhṭer Kuldeep,” struggling only insofar as his mouth was full. 

He offered me his card while, now with his right hand, he replaced the cigarette in his lips, and went in for the handshake.

This is when I decided that I need to buy a bucket...

10 June 2012

Takin' a dip in Departures / Please, One Carrion per Passenger

I don't intend to go away so much as a predatory departures sneak up on me. That despite what I recognize since yesterday as the 'extreme crazy factor' involved in a move to India!
Now people see me; now they don't. And then again, in reverse, a few months later.
In its worst moments, it’s a comedy of errors; but I’m awash in better scenes, many consisting of a flo’-row ticket at a fire-side chat with long-beard characters, whose black & grey ashen locks are lit as a night-skyward gaze roll into bees’ nest turned upside-down on the head top perched for long-term comfortability—buckle in for a long-haul conversation—‘cause this is gonna be a trip, ‘cause
here slows down and there 
where lots changes and a lot's changed, 
who's to match the slow
from the slower with the fast
from the faster how?
I don't intend to go on & away makin’ no sense so much as I gotta bait a prayer to prey on me. What better Revs. believers' compassionable engines ‘an first-hand witness, or even second-hand testifyin’ than travel in India?! Yoga moms and ‘skrit kids, hear this! But…uh, dear… yeah, you, don’t strain. Don’tchyou worry, I’m prayin’ you up, I’m prayin’ you up,
even in the midst of so much misery, I’m prayin’ you up so you jus’ enjoy yourself in this precious space for written word. We ain’t lookin’ for solutions here for problems there; but we I to detail below or above in fancy-type script with numbers and numbers and likely more numbers, lettering the pages so to forget me not that word is flesh and splendour of the holy isn't, indeed, misery; but misery it could be you experiencin’, if I started to share in this precious space from memory of this first week I spent arriving to India, when I mostly slept in Bangalore.
Mind you, I did manage to vicariously enjoy the fruits of a botanist who grows more variety of mangoes & jackfruits than you’d care to know about. Not that I’m sayin’ science is misery! This one, Dr. Sivan Paneer Menon, outside the exquisite glass house at Lal Bhag gardens in Bangalore, ensured I took notes for the reward he (now I know) intended to give to me. I was tired!
I’s still luggin’ all my luggage from Whiteland through Dehli and onto Bangalore to stop at Lal Bhag, where it was arranged I’d meet a diplomat friend on assignment to just chill in the park with this prospect (me), but then Dr. Menon caught me outside the glass house—it’d have been exquisite for a fruit exhibition--exquisite but not-to-be-used; set up outside, please.
Nonetheless, Dr. Menon insists me to jot down notes, “X variety of mango; that Y variety of jackfruit…gene sequence Q spliced with T chromosome and grafted onto an apple tree…” and at the end Menon sir hands to me this fruitbag. Seriously! A bag full of delicious, delicious fruit.
Taste of the fruit, you ask? Taste of Andhra aam mango is unlike any mango other than the common Andhra mango, which, of course, you’ve tasted before? Well, I mean, I’ve had some great mangoes in the U.S…?
Here & now I introduce you to one side of a possible misery, and to teach you how you avoid it on your travels for tasting the Andhra aam mango. Alright then. Imagine yourself in situ, Whiteland circa 2012. You’re engaging a mango-enjoyment process: Step first, “I’d like a mango.” So great a difference in the experience exists already here, already at this inescapable stage of the process, let alone what’s about to happen ahead—peel the skin, but not too close to the fruit; laterally cut only just firmly enough to continue through the husky, inner-fruit layer—already we’re in different mango worlds.

We’re in different mango worlds! But what, like a person’s name a subject, shapes the mango? Is it just a name? Is there magic, too?
I don’t know about magic, but I’d be miserable if I wanted to taste an Andhra aam mango in White Foods, or any other high-quality Whiteland grocery market. I’d be miserable because of expectation and possibility. A linear slope defined as a real number at expectation may meet a hot possibility function of all possible values at the precise force-point of habit. And it can be quite messy to reconcile the two; ‘reconcile’ itself is too nice a word, for it indicates something ‘ameliorable’, when, in fact, it’s more like fucking without genes in jeans a potsherd, or any broken piece of ceramic material, esp. one found on an archaeological site. It’d just give you a headache, and there’d be no relief in sight. None. Nowhere. At least not walkable distance.
And nonetheless after years I land, a metempsychotic turtle out to sea, to walk around, to encircle a home for my Self on ne'er so far an oceans’ shores of yore in bark & in palm cartographed, on playback to hear through what Ear left from the horn (Indian English mein, this word should be understood plural) or to imagine as a peaceful shanty kingdom come. But the kingdom’s, I think, come; and the kingdom’s gone. In attendance at this fascinating wake imperial louts and pillage capitalists from stage northwest and more northwest still. "'ear right! 'ear right!
No funeral 'ere! No pyre to see!" 
at this the longest wake in history.
Letters and books, 
of kośa moopht sāgara—
didn't think words came out like that there, eh?
well neither’s supposed to spinach—
but one's got the looks & the brains
young lass & young lad, when
in tie & starin’ at grampy's suit plaid
you thought, “I got it bad,”
no wonder they’re sad!
Plaid?! A fucking suit?!
Try a white sheet on for size,
like the one you sleep with.
Roll out of bed, roll it
into your dowsers
and walk away. Just walk away.
There’re Andhra aam mangoes waiting outside.
A pretty lady sells them.
She’ll peel the skin better than you could. Closer ‘an Ever
to the inner-fruity husk
Unless you sold mangoes, too,
outside of your house,
as a different person, which,
is possible only here in India,
Incredible India!

16 May 2012

a note on language pedagogy and instruction

In the end, language is as mundane sound; it is also the symbolic representation of sound. Similarly, knowing a language is as mundane as experience; knowledge of a language is also a communion of experience with other persons knowledgeable of the language.
There are, in my opinion of language study and pedagogy, two general approaches: 1.) Language as a language; 2.) Language as a subject. You may ask, "What does that mean?"
Language is entirely constitutive of a subject like literature, but literature is not entirely constitutive of language. Especially in the linguistic context of classical languages, the second approach (language as a subject) tends to be overemphasized; because the classical study of India (i.e., Orientalism) still tremendously influences the study of Indian languages, the language pedagogy of even modern Indian languages is still overwhelmingly influenced by this second approach. That is changing for the better, specifically with regard to Hindi, due to the Hindi-Urdu Flagship program at UT Austin, where a comprehensive pedagogy akin to Spanish or French language instruction is being developed.
This is not to say that one cannot learn a classical language as a language; nor is it to say that such a pedagogy is altogether better than learning a language as a subject. In my experience, these are two general approaches that are complimentary and best incorporated synergistically into any language study.
The second-order methodological approach to Indian language study that I appreciate incorporates four aspects of linguistic experience conjoined with the two broad approaches described above. That is, I aim to equally emphasize listening (aural), speaking (oral), writing, and reading in concert. Each of these mutually reinforces the others, and naturally ensures that the second approach (i.e.,language as a subject) does not predominate over language as a language, which, like music, is to be spoken and listened to and sung and recorded in words.
I, too, am a student of these languages, but I would be delighted to share lessons on Sanskrit grammar, or to read selections of modern/classical texts that I have a functional knowledge of with another student who may be just beginning a personal discovery of new cultural landscapes, and the perspective afforded from hilltops and peaks of wisdom.

22 April 2012

02 November 2011

translating 'I'

                         I asked you to remember
if 'I' were sound
more intricate than a rainbow
how do ‘I’ know ‘you’
with language so delicate?

and though a child’s voice
may fade,
                        why does height
                        no longer tell age?
these words written
in chalk,
                        when did you zip 
                        before button pants?
remain in you&i
on that sidewalk
where the tree’s roots
well up on the walk home
                        How did I grow into you?

05 January 2011

Zebra print on black with red pants, polka dot-lined jacket

Hurrying to obtain the energy for sleep
all too often we fail
in slowing ourselves.

Savor the richness of relaxed observation;
allow for a hug
to embrace those things
time hasn't the courage to share.

31 October 2010

Possible regrets: A list

if there is to be a regret of this life,
it will be...

     1. not being able to grow a beard

     2. not dying of lung cancer and quitting smoking

     3. not having cried enough out of happiness and sadness

     4. not learning to experience the two in equal repose, and the hereafter now.