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I have a friend who occasionally declares herself “a blogger”. She once bemoaned the response she invariably receives at this declaration (“Oh really? Where can I find your blog?”), often supplied by complete strangers. The solution to her problems, I suggested at the time, was to create a blog whose every entry was an apology for not posting. This resembles a blog, while in fact having no content in it whatsoever. I found my idea terribly amusing, until I realised that it describes every blog I have ever attempted to maintain. And so, I will not apologise. I will simply do lots of not-posting between the actual posting, whenever that might occur.

Today I goaded myself into biking fifty kilometres, primarily out of annoyance. In my spare time (which is all of my time) I stalk various forums, one of which is for Indian bikers. Occasionally folks who do not stalk will write up reports of their latest escapades, which usually make for good reading. Last night, however, a long post went up detailing a gentleman’s first “half-century”; there were many, many accompanying pictures. This chappy, who rides a moderately expensive bicycle, decided to spend an entire day exhaustively cataloguing a modest (at best) athletic effort. I should clarify that it was the expensive bicycle and inhumanely large picture album that made his pride unbearable. And so I forced myself to ride the same distance this morning. Here is my report:

  • Apparently, in North Bangalore, you will find characters such as these: a gentleman in a lab coat riding a motorcycle. An all-yellow motorcycle.
  • You will also find autorickshaws with impressive music systems. I passed one fellow who had a real funky bass-line going.

I came back home and ate a massive lunch, the very thought of which makes me salivate with hunger. Please stew here for a moment while I toast some bread (between the two of us we might have an excellent meal). To recover from this mega-meal I went for a walk. And, like all good walks, this one involved a stroll directly into Koshy’s, inside which I consumed a coffee and a gin and tonic. You should not really be interested in my choice of beverages, except for that fact that these two drinks form the basis of my intoxication rituals. What I am trying to tell you is that with these two alone an empire of debauchery can be conjured.

Completely contrary to my impression upon returning from the barbaric lands, I realise that I quite enjoy spending time at Koshy’s. When I first came back to Bangalore I thought that the comparatively expensive coffee (keep in mind that India Coffee House is just down the street) and food would keep me away. It has redeemed itself by offering a luxury that is rare to find: they do not kick you out for loitering, no matter how many hours that particular session might last (though one is not allowed to play chess within the premises. Don’t ask me why, but it is apparently in the Rules). Koshy’s also offers me something else: the fair chance of bumping into friends also loitering. In this way loitering sessions can be combined and prolonged and the world will revolve happily.

I apologise for posting.

Fact:

1) Rain is awesome. Rain makes me want to dance. Rain makes me want to sit down and read on my windowsill seat, which is the best during Rain.

Fact:

2) Always biking to point A during sunshine makes biking back from point A in the pouring Rain a drastically new experience.

Fact:

3) Potholes + Water – Drainage = SWIMMING.

Fact:

4) A bicycle does not a boat make.

Unsubstantiated Fact:

5) I might have seen the dead body of a small critter float down Residency Road

Totally True Fact:

6) Biking in the rain is awesome. And terrifying. Terrifyingly awesome.

Unfortunately,

7) Koshy’s is closed on Good Friday.

And so,

8) I had to indulge in some retail therapy and splurge on Chabon’s Yiddish Policemen’s Union.

But I digress.

9) Awesomely terrifying.

1. The debate on what constitutes art or literature is best when it reaches no resolution.

2. I occasionally dream in an American drawl.

3. When it rains I want to find a hammock. I want to lie back and get soaked by a force well outside of my control.

4. I do not know jacksquat about poetry, but Bob Kaufman’s Walking Parker Home is the shortest piece of writing to pull tears from my eyes.

5. I fell asleep three points ago and dreamt of a recitation of Kaufman in American drawl.

In deference to the wishes of R M.

Auto!
You are something of a pain. We spend precious minutes finding one of you that is empty and willing. We agree to outrageous sums. We even direct you around the city that you are driving us. Charging to drive us. Overcharging to drive us. And then, when we really need you, you disappear. You are not to be found.

What is this? We run around empty streets begging you to return. We are ready to promise anything, pay any price that our wallets and souls can bear. You never show your face. We hear your engine splutter smoke and spit, we smell your tires burn on the tarmac, we can almost feel your diseased shudders, but we never see you. And this is night. This is the hour when Murphy directs the buses. This is when stray dogs leap out from under shadows to bare their teeth in anticipation of all the horrible acts about to be visited upon us. Our very lives are at stake, and where are you?

I hope it is somewhere warm, somewhere comfortable. Deccan nights grow chill and an auto makes for a poor house. It is a poorhouse. You charge so very much, but you are not alone in that.

I should have brought a suitcase full of onions back from the US. Maybe then you would be cheaper.

Subjecting parents to TV on the Radio: Priceless.

The first time I fell off my bicycle was the first time I ever rode under falling snow. I had woken up that morning to find that David and the lovely B were not only still around, but were insistent on riding into work. The window proclaimed a sunny forecast and I still had the halo of too little sleep and too much fun from the night before (as I recall, we had been drinking wine while fucking around with David’s bike. One of many times that happened). Moreover, I had not ridden into work for weeks and, with my departure from New York imminent, no opportunity could be missed.

We were exultant as we rode. Reckless, probably. Thrilled at the day, most certainly. I remember catching the day’s first view of Manhattan through the craggy peaks of Queens warehouses. Like watching moonrise. We went down the bridge whooping (I have never whooped before or after, I can assure you) and celebrated our arrival with a bagel sandwich.

Eight, nine, maybe even ten hours later, the workday had long been over and I was wrapping up a solid hour of free beer. The sun had already set. I stepped outside to strap on my helmet and found flakes of snow just beginning to fall. Well, I thought. Well, well, well. What a fucking terrifying experience this will be. And over the bridge I went into Queens.

Long Island City was an urban wonderland. A light dusting of snow over deserted boulevards, yellow streetlight bouncing off flakes of snow still falling. Every gust of wind threw up the fresh layer of snow, and I rode through the powder falling to settle again.

I went to a concert. I stayed perhaps longer than I should have. At midnight, I stepped out once again to strap on my helmet. The flakes of snow had turned into globs, and Williamsburg felt a solid inch of snow over its trust-fund skin. Now I was a little more worried. Every turn my wheels would hint at sliding out from under me, every pedal had the possibility of flipping my upside my head.

Finally, a scant four blocks from home, I began to enjoy myself again. Unfortunately, this was just as I started down a hill. I went a little too fast, and was a little too slow in noticing the red light at the bottom of the slope. I was, however, very quick in pulling my brakes. My bicycle was even quicker to yank itself from under me. I actually have no memory of that exact moment. In my mind, I am pulling the brakes and sliding one way down the ice while my bike decides to go another. I got up and swore. Then I swore some more. A lady passed by grinning. I started to swear some more, but then I decided to just go home.

My roommate called me an idiot.

The New York Times website now requires a paid subscription.

Japan has not yet melted into a nuclear wasteland.

I do not know more. I can’t read the NYTimes article.

Bangalore’s population has hit 8.5 million.

All of them seem to be on the road and out to run me down.

My cycle has been repaired and is functional again.

I took an exam twenty hours after I learned of it.

I could not cycle to the exam as it was still broken.

The cycle, not the exam. Though that might be broken as well.

Fuck subtle points. I so hate falling into obvious holes.

I drank at a bar and made a bit of an arse of myself.

For starters, I was one of two who were actually drunk.

I hit on a girl who turned out to be an old friend’s sister.

And it was perhaps a little awkward for a while. Or not.

Then Doug and I went home in high spirits and I was hung over.

Anyway, my friend Doug and I decided to spend a week between Hampi and Hyderabad.

Hampi can be described by its excesses, of which two stand out. First, the area over which the ruins of Vijayanagar are spread: huge.  On our first day there, Doug and I decided to go for a walk at six in the morning. We strolled around for three or so hours, saw what we thought were a good chunk of the ruins and then got well and lost trying to find the town of Hampi again. Anyway, The first tourists we saw that morning were not on foot as we were, but reclining in a golf cart. We mocked them for a while, until we took a look at a map of the region. Turns out we had only seen a small fraction of the old city. Nobody walks between each ruin, especially not in summer. Everybody zips around on a motorbike or a cycle (as we did the second day). And, as we mentioned, a special few opt for the luxury of the golf cart.

A word on the cycles: shit. Shit shit shit. Shi!, if parentally blocked. For thirty rupees a day we did not expect a well-tuned beast of a racer, but we most definitely expected functional. Safe, even. In one piece and all that. What we did not expect:

  1. A bicycle that punctured after ten feet of tarmac.
  2. A bicycle whose crank blew so hard that I pedaled ten kilometres effectively using only one leg.
  3. A bicycle that lost a pedal mid-stroke. Snapped clean off.

Having said all that, off-roading between ruins really gets the blood flowing. Doug showed a talent for finding short-cuts over some of the worst terrain that was still bike-able. I showed a talent for not crashing in any of the twenty or so ways possible (which includes ramming my bicycle into Doug’s and then slipping on a sand patch into a thorny bush. Almost happened twice). All said and done, very enjoyable. And we did see many ruins.

(On a related note: does anybody else share my relative apathy towards temples? I find looking out over the ruins of a marketplace situated between green hills and a wide river far more exciting than the details of some sculpture in the dark interior of a temple, especially if there is only example of the former and tens of the latter. And yet, these temples are all that anybody wants to see. Inexplicable.)

So, the ruins in Hampi are spread over a large area? Excellent. What is the second excess that defines Hampi? Hippie tourists. Lots of them. And I do not use the adjective lightly. Baggy pants, occasional dreadlocks, gentle swaying to bad fusion music, the substitution of conspiracies for history and, of course, lots and lots of weed. And it is all too easy to see why they are in Hampi: enough temples to give it that touristic spiritual air, combined with plentiful opportunity to just hang with Mother Nature. It is a deadly combination.

Hampi very nearly fits that infuriatingly common image of India: India as the most spiritual of lands, India as where to find God when life gets too much for you. If I could take a stand on the issue: bollocks. India is where drugs are cheap, the police don’t give white people too much trouble and entire weeks can be spent lying stoned in the sun. In short, India is where firangs can afford to spend months doing very little. There is nothing especially godly about this country. Put another way, we are as worldly as everywhere else – no less. We are as real as everywhere else, and to claim, especially as an outsider, that divine forces act in this land is to deny that.

Now, as individuals, most of the tourists I met in Hampi were incredibly nice people. I could not say that I had a quarrel with any particular one of them. It is the phenomenon as a whole, as a social matter, that I found distasteful. My dislike reminded me of an excellent article by Jamaica Kincaid, The Ugly Tourist (the first chapter of A Small Place), in which she wonderfully deconstructs the notion of tourists from the First World in the Third. Tourism, especially of that form, is exploitation. The tourist says to the local, Look at me, I can afford to stay in this place doing so very little while you have to work every single day. Especially in India, where many of these tourists live a life of “chai and chillums (weed smoking pipe)”. After five days in Hampi, I was glad to get on a bus and head off to Hyderabad.

Of course, there is one important fact to note. Everything Kincaid says about tourists (please find and read that article. Note only is it very well written, it is so very important) applies to me. I do not have a lot to say about that, except that this realisation depressed me more than I would have expected.

Today I went to fourth block.

Three motorcyclists insisted that I remove my cycle and myself from the road. I declined politely.

I found that India Metal Works sells plastic containers and nothing else.

There was a bookstore named “WE BUY SECOND HAND BOOKS”. I hope they do.

I bought a coffee grinder and then a few beans to try it out. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that a quarter kilo is a lot of coffee. It is not very good coffee.

I realised that Jayanagar is very pretty.

Then I went home.

Because:

We like ideas that are intelligent. We like ideas that carry the weight of theory. We especially like these ideas to stay in places from where they are best absorbed: books, articles and long conversations. A poetry reading is hardly the place to throw them into, liable as they are to cause serious mental damage to audience members whose only crime is to perform their singular duty.

Any non-trivial statement that seeks to apply in some general manner requires either a moment of intellectual genius, or the time and space to develop its constitutive terms. Any generally applicable statement (say, on the relationship between a poet and her poem) that is bereft of either of these two is most likely pure bunkum: tautologically obvious. I therefore request all panel-interviewers to focus their fucking questions on the text being read, not on some wonderfully vague theoretical construct they have been playing around with lately.