Thursday, August 30, 2007

I am becoming a softy in my old age. My lunch time break from my laptop comprises of observing my café companions. And inadvertently several of them are elderly people, mostly above the age of 80. They are always alone, with shaking hands, tottering feet, faces lit with expectant smiles, waiting for another old lonely man to come join them at their table or an indulgent young woman to come smile and chat with them. I never feel un-shy enough to start a conversation but I confess I spend long minutes observing what they are drinking, who they are writing their letters to, what book they are reading, feeling absurd outbursts of affection and sorrow for them… and ofcourse (why I said I was a softy) agonizing over whether they’ll make it safely across the two roads with fast cars whizzing by.

My favorites are the old white man who writes endless letters to his “beautiful Marcelene”, the ancient woman in baggy pants and back pack who reminds me of a American version of Didu and the shaking old old man with the badly chapped lips who looks like he’ll fall down at any moment (he is the one I agonize over the most). He is crossing the road now, he made it over the break in the middle, PHEW and.. he is safely on the other side! He checks out his hair on the store window, pats down his few white strands and limps away. My proxy grandpa, I’ll be waiting for you tomorrow so look out for those cars even when I am not looking out for you!

Monday, August 27, 2007


Conversation 1
Pearls of wisdom from Mrs Anon, Table 2, Simon’s Café, Mass. Ave, Cambridge

What you look for in a man before marriage
Sense of humor, enagages with you and is romantic.

What you look for in a man after marriage
Vacuums up the dog hair, is tidier than you expected him to, is monogamous and is diplomatic

Conversation 2: Extremely jumpy Mr Anon, Table 4, Simon’s Café, Mass. Ave, Cambridge, talking on the phone

Hi Honey
My name is Rodrique, I am a new patient at your clinic. I am szichophrenic, am recovering from substance abuse. I have been doing cocaine for 6 years now. I am suicidal and tend to imagine that I am not where I am. I was wondering if there are any activity groups I could join that would be of help to me.

The café vegetator says

A friend, from a highly ‘educated’ and upper class family in India once told me “I don’t think my father would have allowed my mother to work as a professor if my mother’s college had any male teachers.” Suddenly, today morning, after 5 years of hearing my friend’s observation I felt sick to my gut recalling this casual statement (who the fuck gave his father the right to allow his mother to work? I guess everyone) and seeing the disconcerting parallels with the book I am reading today.

My latest read is Naila Kabeer’s amazingly unpretentious book “Power to choose” (and Saba Mahmood’s pretty foofah one “Politics of Piety”). Kabeer’s Bangladeshi lower-class homeworkers in London “choose” to work from home and not in factories because of the presence of male workers on the shop-floor. That shouldn’t surprise me, right? After all, these are Muslim women in Purdah from uneducated lower class families we are talking about (although if you read Kabeer’s description of similar women factory workers in Dhaka, you are in for a surprise). But what about the thousands of non muslim, non illiterate, non “backward” women who “choose” to be homemakers and homeschoolers for their children? What are their motivations? Their answers may not be as ‘simple’ as men being present in the outside world, but ultimately similar; the govt doesn’t think they need to work outside so it doesn’t provide for child-care, they need to be good mothers first, not send their kids to bad playschools… Pick up any magazine in this country and there is some kind of warning as to how children in bad child care systems turn out to be psychopaths, drug addicts or pregnant. Teenage pregnancy? School shootout? High rate of divorce? War? Just blame it on the working woman or the evil career-minded mom. (Blame the war on working women! A bit of a stretch but a nice one, no? J)

I would get lynched by some scholars (esp Marxist types) for saying this but at some level doesn’t gender trump everything else? It doesn’t matter where you come from and where you are, some things will be the same for you, just at different degrees of intensity.

PS: Birla or Bing if you are reading this, take it as a stuck-in-a-café-for-too-long-when-the-sun-outside-feels-so-good rant from a woman who “chose” to be a “café-vegetator” and don’t give me a long Mohantian lecture on the simplicity of my argument!

PPS: I know, I know that a Dalit woman getting raped by a group of men who want to put her and her community in place is VERY differently situated on the matrix or whatever of inequality than my friend’s mom in a all-women college. I DO remember my women’s studies text books. GAWD, will you guys let me write my blog in peace!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Confessions of a phud stud

The confessions of an incurable nerd

1. I spent my entire summer cooped up (happily) in a cafe down the street pouring over subaltern theories, postcolonial critique of subaltern theory, postcolonial feminist crique of post colonialsim, post structuralist critique of postcolonial feminism....(I still can't pronounce Bourdieu or Foucault)
2. I dream about my chapter titles "Does Altrusit Wombs sound fancier than Angelic Whores?"
3. I re read my chapters and grin to myself, "Hehe I am so smart"
4. I meet my committee, am told I am not smart, I throw books around
3. I have a nickname for my partner: Bibliography.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Black or White?
Black, white or Brown?
Black, white, brown or Yellow?
Black, white, brown, Yellow or green?
Black, white, brown, Yellow, green or Purple?
Black, white, brown, Yellow, green, Purple or Red?
Have They left any colors free
For me to paint
The Night skies, the clouds after the rains
The desert sands or
My blueberry ice cream?
Colors which are beyond
Politics, Patriotism, Power
Resistance and Pain.

How about Pink?
The Feminists banned it
Rainbow? No, they took that too.
Orange reminds me of Saffron
A little too close to home
Neon Green is for Aliens and
Immigrants and Others
Too far from home.

What’s left then on the palette?
Just some pathetic splashes of

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