Thursday, 10 August 2017

Poetry Reads: On A Mythical Mumbai Weekend by Snehith Kumbla

On A Mythical Mumbai Weekend
by Snehith Kumbla 

On a mythical Mumbai weekend, 
of no serene start or dubious end, 
with imaginary beauties, invisible friends,

I stepped out of a puffing train, 
my long unkempt hair a lion's mane, 
getting used to my twitching tail,

Posing on the Gateway of India, 
the extraordinary explorer pose, 
took a boat to Elephanta (sans the hose),

and when my shivering co-passengers
had finished feverishly taking pictures
and started screaming holy mothers and sisters, 

I took off from the starboard end, 
and became the first man-lion to 
cross the polluted Indian channel, 

surviving to make the news channels,
my scientific name listed as a brand new mammal, 
my mating call recognized as a gushing gargle, 

On a mythical Mumbai weekend, 
of no serene start or dubious end, 
with imaginary beauties, invisible friends,

I devoured deep-kissing lovers for lunch 
at Bandstand's low-tide on a hunch,
to the delicious sound of munch! munch!

even as Shah Rukh Khan watched disgusted 
from his big big bungalow by the sea, 
and as the city sharpshooters came after me,    

and later when they brought me down, 
from Nariman Point building, like KING KONG,
I tuned a dusty guitar and sang a melancholy song,

on the death of adventure, love and reality, 
dangers of delusions, lethargy and self-pity,
repression, horniness and too much TV,

down in a shower of bullets when I went, 
sky like the coming of rain, godspeed, godsend, 
in a mythical city, where nothing is really meant, 

On a mythical Mumbai weekend, 
of no serene start or dubious end, 
with imaginary beauties, invisible friends...


Mingling fantasy, boredom (epic ennui), love for the movies and alleged diary entries, On a Mythical Mumbai Weekend, is also my call out to meeting childhood, college, journalism and travel friends, visiting Elephanta Caves, browsing books at Flora Fountain, walking down Marine Drive, discovering Prithvi Theatre and many other South Mumbai memories.  

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Fiction Reads: Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

In the summer of 1947, a gruesome, violent bloodbath ensues from the India-Pakistan partition, killing millions in its wake. At the border village of Mano Majra, things go on as usual. The residents time their daily routine of chores, meals, work, prayers and sleep to the sound of trains arriving-departing at the railway station. This fragile peace is soon smashed to bits. The local moneylender's murder ruffles up the denizens first. Then, a train arrives at Mano Majra, ominously quiet, bearing ghostly tidings.

First published in 1956, Train to Pakistan is up there among Singh's best novels, notably Delhi (1990). Instead of the latter's epic sweep, Singh goes for the jugular here. He fleshes out life-mirroring characters, rough, raw and hapless to the circumstances. From the giant-like Sikh rogue Juggat Singh, the well-intending, yet conniving, district magistrate Hukum Chand, the city-dwelling Communist Iqbal, the Sikh priest Meet Singh to Nooran, the vulnerable Muslim girl, Singh is in his element here.

Symbolisms & Insights
Trains running haywire and disrupting tranquil lives makes for strong symbolism here, as does the reading out of Guru Nanak's teachings, a downplayed, pivotal moment in the story.

As the Sutlej river swells with the monsoon's advent, dead bloated bodies come floating by. A madness slowly, surely grips the village. It only takes a young mob-rouser to light the flame and the stage is set for mayhem and murder. Singh masterfully dissects the times, emotions and short-sightedness of the general public. No individual, independent thoughts prevail here. In a snatch, a crowd transforms into a killing mob.

Nightmarish, brutal descriptions follow. Singh unsettling analogy to Nehru's Tryst with destiny speech is haunting. The abrupt climax winds up a powerful gritty tale. Unsentimental, effectively dry and humane, this is a surprisingly redeeming partition novel. A definitive classic, a necessary cautionary tale of our times. Sadly, still contemporary and immediate in the 70th year of India's independence.

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)    

A partition photograph by Margaret Bourke-White for LIFE magazine.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Fiction Reads: Turbulence by Samit Basu

All passengers on a London-Delhi flight mysteriously end up with superpowers. Soon, the new, uncertain beings take sides. The meek are done away with and only a few remain of the lot. A battle for survival and domination ensues. Meanwhile, film, comic book, music and other popular culture references populate the plot, keeping it light and downright silly.

A deliberate hyper-imaginative spoofy take on every other superhero story, Turbulence is Samit Basu at the height of his powers in mockery. Basu's humour is the stuff of parody films, bordering on the juvenile, but always entertaining.

Don't look for depth, truth and literature here. Latch on to vivid, comic-book, 'too much TV'-fueled imagery instead. From a flying man, a sleepwalking scientist, weather-maker, mind-bender, manga animation-transforming warrior, notorious strongman, body multiplier to the Internet manipulator, this is super-nerdy, teenage-dreamy stuff.

Turbulence cries out for a graphic novel version, it's superficial, damn funny, lampooned narrative is best suited for that format. A mad celebration of superhero plots and all things Marvel, DC and beyond, you have to be a comic book/manga/anime fan for this one. Roll it up like a 3D sandwich over multiple reading sessions and let your mind go low, groovy and loose in suspended disbelief.

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

A collage of various Turbulence front covers.