Dhandapolis is a set of three stories set in Bollywood, written between 2009-2012 in Mumbai. These short stories explore various facets of life and relationships through intimate and exasperating encounters in the city of dreams.
Aaja Aaja Bombay encapsulates the outsider experience in the film city:
“The industry first humiliates you. You’re new and you don’t really know how it works. Every trivial task they assign you will come with too much pressure. You’re a headstrong guy. Here everybody will give you enough reasons to f**k off. But you please your god; this set is your shrine. Your director understands; your seniors are experienced. They know how to deal with a newcomer. They also know how to handle a problem child.”
Dhandapolis is a Kafkaesque take on the moral and ethical corruption in the industry:
“Your naked belly is studded with diamonds, stars and gold. You are a mosque and a shrine. You also remind me of the naked woman in the bar, dancing to the clattering of champagne bottles and slippery goblets, silencing the gunshots and shrapnel-plague. The civil war ravaged the countryside and then raided the city. I wanted to make films about the war, and the girl in the dance bar, before I went to the film school. I guess I was people then.”
Love Edit is a love story set in the heart of Bollywood. Renu Sharma is a film editor in Bombay, living an ordinary life with a struggling filmmaker for a husband. The quest for happiness and fulfillment through cinema brings their lives to an eventual freeze—until the man plots a new story about the two of them, a newborn child and the sea. “Love Edit” is a simple short story about love and its thousand shades: some beautiful, some ugly. Excerpt:
“The good day doesn’t last. It’s gone before you take note of it. It’s the seed of good work which remains. She spotted familiar young faces of models and actors in the jogging lot as she walked towards her apartment. What is it that brings them out in the street so early and keeps them working out so late? She doesn’t understand these folks, she thought. I have a husband for a filmmaker; but he doesn’t have to appear in front of the camera. He is happy conjuring up his shots in his dreams while I cut them till four in the morning! There is little to complain though and she knows this is the best arrangement so far. This was the first time she got a break in her two-year marriage. The man takes care of her little girl; the woman takes care of his baby. Which is more difficult, they should ask me: raising a film or raising a baby? She knows the answer. She has raised both.”
Cover Illustration: Science Film Festival Philippines /
I’ve been working these past few weeks with Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan on the second edition of Science Film Festival in India. We’ve got some amazing films this year, and I’m very excited to be part of the organizing team.
Photographs from the Science Film Festival workshop held between August 20-22, 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand, led by the amazing Andreas Klempin from Goethe-Institut Thailand.
Along with Geetha Vedaraman from Goethe-Institut (Chennai) and other wonderful participants from a dozen countries, I am really thrilled to be able to introduce some of my favorite DIY experiments and science activities in a workbook for primary/secondary teachers and students around the world.
Here I presented activities on the future of farming in response to this year’s top film selections that explore current food trends and crises, and the coming food revolution powered by AI and agricultural robots, bio-engineering, advocacy, among other critical factors.
The Goethe-Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan is the cultural institute of the Federal Republic of Germany with a global reach. We promote the study of German abroad and encourage international cultural exchange. We also foster knowledge about Germany by providing information on its cultural, social and political life.
The Science Film Festival is a celebration of science communication and enjoys a unique position in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, The Philippines, Vietnam), South Asia (India, Sri Lanka), Sub-saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, Namibia, Mali, Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Africa) North Africa and the Middle East (Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Qatar,Sudan and the United Arab Emirates). In cooperation with local partners it promotes science literacy and facilitates awareness of contemporary scientific, technological and environmental issues through film and television content with accompanying educational activities. The festival presents scientific issues accessibly and entertainingly to a broad audience and demonstrates that science can be communicated in an educational, as well as entertaining manner. The event has grown considerably since its first edition in 2005, becoming the largest event of its kind and one of the biggest film festivals worldwide in terms of audience reach.
By facilitating cooperation between local and international agencies from the scientific, cultural, educational and environmental sector, with the generous support of the international film and television community, an effective infrastructure is put in place for the dissemination of scientific understanding and access to knowledge. All films are synchronized into local languages to offer viewers access to the content without language barriers. During the festival period, the films are screened non-commercially in museums, schools, universities and other educational venues through coordinated efforts of partners with existing networks and the capabilities to organize such screenings. The festival offers a platform for cultural exchange through which different approaches to the world of science converge.
The Science Film Festival 2018 takes place in 23 countries from October to December, 2018. In India we have selected 38 films for the festival. 10 films for the age group from 9 to 12 years and 13 films for the age group from 12 to 16 years. We have selected 15 films for the University (17+) & General audiences. There will be activities accompanying all the films for which self-explanatory sheets will be provided to the teachers.
Titled The Selfish Ledger, the 9-minute film starts off with a history of Lamarckian epigenetics, which are broadly concerned with the passing on of traits acquired during an organism’s lifetime. Narrating the video, Foster acknowledges that the theory may have been discredited when it comes to genetics but says it provides a useful metaphor for user data. (The title is an homage to Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene.) The way we use our phones creates “a constantly evolving representation of who we are,” which Foster terms a “ledger,” positing that these data profiles could be built up, used to modify behaviors, and transferred from one user to another:
“User-centered design principles have dominated the world of computing for many decades, but what if we looked at things a little differently? What if the ledger could be given a volition or purpose rather than simply acting as a historical reference? What if we focused on creating a richer ledger by introducing more sources of information? What if we thought of ourselves not as the owners of this information, but as custodians, transient carriers, or caretakers?”
The so-called ledger of our device use — the data on our “actions, decisions, preferences, movement, and relationships” — is something that could conceivably be passed on to other users much as genetic information is passed on through the generations, Foster says.
The four-week long fellowship program to be held in New Delhi from June 11 – July 6, 2018 will be attended by “a distinguished cohort of highly motivated individuals selected through a rigorous process from applicants across the world studying in some of the world’s leading universities…. This is an exciting opportunity for bright young people across India to come together and think through the Future of India with those at the apex of India’s policymaking.”
About the Fellowship
“The Fellowship will focus on developing an understanding of the political considerations and implications of different policy choices to build a new generation of liberal, democratic and compassionate young leaders across India. Senior Congress leaders like P. Chidambaram, Salman Khurshid, Sam Pitroda, Jairam Ramesh, Ajay Maken, K Raju, Shashi Tharoor, Meenakshi Natarajan, Sachin Pilot and academics and activists have committed to teaching parts of the course. The Fellowship will bridge the gap between the theory and practice of policymaking, by facilitating interactions with leading policymakers, field visits, and simulation exercises.
The idea is to broad-base the NSUI platform to offer space for multiple forms of political activity and give bright young people an opportunity to engage with Congress leaders they may otherwise not have access to. This is an attempt too to provide space to young people who are aligned with Congress ideology but *not ready* to join the Party.” [* emphasis yours truly.* ]
Here’s what really excited me about the program:
– Public Policy & Analysis – Role of the State in Development
– The Birth and Evolution of Indian Policy
– Governance and Public Institutions: Strengthening Democracy and the Current Crisis
– Reforming the State: Limits of Democratic Government
– Public Administration and Management
– Tryst with Destiny – Indian Economic Policy
– Role of the State – Ensuring Access
– Bridging the Bharath vs India Divide
– Resource Management
– Reforming the State: Limits of Democratic Government
– Legal System
– India’s Place in the world
– Role of State – Ensuring Equity
– Governance and Public Management
– Reforming the state: Limits of Democratic Government
– Ensuring Sustainable Development
– Power to the people
– Urban Poverty and Citizenship
– Careers in Politics and Public Policy
– Fundamentals of Democratic Nations
– Role of State – Ensuring Justice
– Conflict Management in a Democracy
– Electoral Management and Power Politics
– India’s Place in the World
– Policy Communications
“The City Was Missing,” one of my city poems appear in the latest issue of Star*Line, edited by Vince Gotera, and published by SFPA: Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (America). I just received a contributor’s copy, and the cover illustration is gorgeous, also the poems!
The opening two lines of this poem will be featured in The Mumbai Collaborative Poetry Project (MCPP) — the first ever video poem themed on the city of Mumbai — curated by Vinita Agrawal. Twenty-five poets will be featured in the project, including Nabina Das and Priya Sarukkai Chabria.
Here are my notes for the poem from March 22, 2015:
“Two weeks after The New York Times asked PM Modi to speak about the mounting violence against India’s religious minorities, he broke his dangerous silence. ‘My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly,’ he assured Christian leaders. The attack on a Navi Mumbai church this Saturday showed that it would take more than rhetoric from the iron man of secular India to protect its minorities. This poem is a warning against the departure of religious tolerance and cosmopolitan spirit from Mumbai, formerly Bombay. (The city’s name was officially changed to Mumbai at the behest of a local Hindu-nationalist party because Bombay sounded so British.) Ultimately, it is about our personal relationships with cities we come to associate ourselves with.”
“The City Was Missing” first appeared in my poetry collection Khas Pidgin (Amazon, Barnes & Noble & iBooks). If you haven’t purchased or read it already and would like to receive a review copy, let me know. Happy reading! 🐘🌸😇
Three of my poems “At Rajiv Chowk Metro Station,” “Khas Pidgin” and “Foreign Tongue” appear in the latest Sage issue of Coldnoon, an international journal of travel writing & traveling cultures. These poems are part of my debut collection, Khas Pidgin.
I think I wrote the poem “Khas Pidgin” in 2009, and “Foreign Tongue” in 2014? I am certain that I wrote “At Rajiv Chowk Metro Station” in 2014, because I have these notes for the poem written for a poetry-challenged friend the same year:
While waiting for the train at Rajiv Chowk, I was reading Amit Chaudhuri’s essay titled “Beyond ‘Confidence’: Rushdie and the Creation Myth of Indian writing in English” from his collection Clearing House.
He writes that there was Indian writing in English before Rushdie, a fact that the arriviste India seems to have forgotten. He concludes:
That’s why Indian writing, in the last one hundred and fifty years, represents not so much a one-dimensional struggle for, or embodiment, power, as a many-sided cosmopolitan. It isn’t enough, today, to celebrate Indian writing’s ‘success,’ after having identified what its marks of success are (as if the whole tradition must only, and constantly, be thought of as an arriviste would be); one needs to engage with its long, subterranean history (as hard-earned as political freedom itself) of curiosity and openness.
When I closed the book and lifted my eyes, they caught a brief but warm reflection of a face on the glass door of the metro. I thought it was mine, but I can’t be certain now.
The Indian writing in English is a blob and its seeming triumph, perhaps a brief rupture in what the western critics (dust and chatter) consider their canon (text).
And Indian writers (brown light) writing in English can’t be blamed for not knowing exactly who they are writing for (and the question is irrelevant, Chauduri argues)—they are faceless dots in the literary world, the mirror of their times.
“The Battles for Justice: No Country for Women” is an illustrated dispatch from India on the women’s struggle for justice from the times of the epic Mahabharata to the rise of a Hindu government and god-men in India. It’s a personal and complicated reaction to the rare conviction of a god-man, who sexually exploited women with impunity for more than fifteen years, and had armed goons, policemen and politicians in his pocket. His conviction resulted in the death of 38 people. In 14 black and white pages, “The Battles for Justice: No Country for Women” illustrates the nation’s complex feelings about what the judgment, and the subsequent unrest and killings, mean for the women’s struggle for justice.
Illustrated by Anju Shah, the newly redesigned and updated edition of “The Story of India’s Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan” is now available on Amazon and Smashwords. You can order the new gorgeous edition as a digital bundle in three formats (epub, mobi & pdf) from Gumroad: https://gumroad.com/l/partition (Recommended!)
Paperback available to order from Amazon POD. (We’re looking for mass-market publishers in India and UK to print and distribute this book so that it becomes more affordable and accessible. If you know someone, hope you’ll pass on the link. Gracias!)
On July 8, 1947, Cyril Radcliffe arrived in India for the first time. He had five weeks and four judges to settle the boundary between the newly independent India and a newborn state of Pakistan. After drawing the “ Radcliffe Line,” the British officer burnt his papers, refused his fee, and left the wounded continent never to set foot on it again. Based on W.H. Auden’s famous poem, “Partition,” this is an illustrated account of the man who oversaw the controversial border settlement which left one million dead and twelve million homeless and permanently displaced.
I’m fielding this question a lot these days: When is Mithila Review going to open submissions again? I think there is no way of answering this question without addressing the elephant in the room: Why have we closed submissions?
I can no longer accept work for free without feeling that I’m stealing work and its potential value from our contributors. As an editor and publisher, I know I’m failing to do my job if I can’t pay for the blood, sweat and tears that go into creation of critical and significant works of art, poetry or fiction.
If we meet our Patreon goal, I’ll open submissions soon enough. I want Mithila to be able to acquire and publish the best of speculative fiction and poetry from around the world. If we’re publishing the best work, we need to pay the best rates. If we can’t do that, I don’t think we can attract, nurture or support the best of new and emerging voices in the field.
2. Time is in short supply
Even before we founded Mithila Review in 2015, I’ve had been spending hundreds of hours reading the most diverse SF that I could find online not purely for the sake of pleasure. I’m a young writer, designer, and filmmaker, who grew up in Kathmandu, and lives in New Delhi, with very little exposure to the world of science fiction and fantasy. It took me significant chunks of time, focus and hard work to achieve a few publication credits under my belt, and that meant total concentration. Like my fellow writers, I’ve been doing ten thousand things to be able to find a way to support myself in order to find the time to read and write and film. One of the reasons for doing Mithila Review was to create an opportunity for myself to immerse deeply in the world of science fiction and fantasy. And immerse I did!
After establishing Mithila, I began reading what I would have never read otherwise: the slush pile. It’s not a part of the publishing job that anybody wants—but I’ve been reading and replying to submissions for two years now with occasional help from our coeditors.
So what’s my job like? I select and edit content, design and publish each issue, and it takes hundreds of hours. The running cost of Mithila Review is significant—I don’t know how to compromise on quality of what we publish, and it takes me away from many income-generating opportunities.
When I started Mithila Review, there was no English-language publication devoted to international science fiction and fantasy from around the world in South Asia. Today Mithila Review is the only Asian publication in English devoted to SF/F/H, if my understanding of the market is correct. Mithila Review is probably the first publication based out of India to be funded in part through Patreon. I’m extremely reluctant to consider Mithila Review an Indian or South Asian publication because over 90 percent of our readers, contributors and patrons come from America and Europe. It’s no wonder then that we’ve hardly received any outside support for our endeavors in this region except from a small pool of dedicated readers and writers.
Honestly, I do not think it’s possible for anyone to build a quality publication without significant investment. I have done well thanks to the support of family and our generous contributors, and the magazine now has a small but critical pool of patrons, but that’s not how things used to be for me financially before I got seriously involved with science fiction and fantasy. Financially-speaking, Mithila Review has been a disaster. At a tremendous personal cost, I have been able to build a platform that many people could but didn’t because it didn’t make financial sense to any one of them. Every issue of Mithila Review is available to read online, and any profit-hungry entrepreneur would not see any financial benefit in such an open project.
As you must have known by now, I’ve never been driven by financial interest. As a result, I’ve struggled to figure out ways to combine my burning passion for literature and cinema with the urgent need to make it self-sustainable. Until I can make this happen, please consider supporting this literary endeavor and help keep Mithila Review open and alive with your contribution. Help me bring the best of speculative fiction, poetry and cinema to your world.