Friday, January 21, 2011


Form Letter. No. E-mail. Formed. Words read. We're sorry to inform you. Full stop. You did not qualify for the Fulbright.


Good thing I received this news in India, while I'm in a relaxed state. Otherwise, I think I'd be crying and bitching and be filled with self-loathing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Gypsy

Kamaraj the Gypsy

On my first visit to India two years ago, I failed to show up for a "party" me and my family were invited to. It was an invite by a man selling beads in a small stall the half the size of my bathroom back in Brooklyn. His village in Tamil Nadu, about six hours by car travel where we are now in Puttaparthi, was one of the recipients of SQ Foundation's charity work in the past several years. So when we mentioned that we knew Derek O'Neill, the founder of SQ Foundation, Kamaraj acted like he knew us thousands of years ago, hence the invite. At the time, I was hesitant because of fear. I was afraid that after having masala chai with him, we'd all end up in the bathroom or worse. Of course, I've regretted not going since. So when we returned to India a few days ago and saw him on our second day, he immediately reminded me that I didn't show up to the party and that this time around, we have to come and have tea with him. So I agreed and my family followed suit. It was easily one of the best times I've had in India.

He took us to a cafe we'd never been to before. If you had no idea that there was anything inside, you'd never even think to go through the narrow hall from the outside where all manner of souvenirs from Punjabi suits, saris to silver jewelry and Ganesh statues all vie for the eye's attention. So none of us thought of even looking on that side of the street when we'd pass by. The interior was painted a light sky blue and in one side of the cafe was open ground where actual banana trees twenty feet high grew. It would have been the most perfect spot only it seemed like everyone that was staying there who, by the way, seemed to all be Russian speakers, smoked cigarettes as if they were chimneys.

Kamaraj told us a little more about his life. He's married to his "big sister's daughter." We were surprised but kept the conversation going. I also thought, no wonder his brother-in-law looked exactly like him! He was shocked that the we didn't have our "caste" written in a piece of paper like everyone else in India. In fact, he seemed perplexed that there was no caste system outside of India (and possibly Nepal). I had no idea that his wife/niece, Kavita, has a hole in her heart. I asked him how come he never told Derek and he said he didn't want to tell him because everyone wants something from Derek. I was in disbelief. How humble and how well-meaning was this person that he didn't even ask for himself (well, his wife) something that was needed. I told him I would pass it on to SQ and, later on, having talked with my dad about it, we told him that we would help with the bill if the foundation couldn't. Kamaraj was elated.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Currently in India at the moment, in the town of Puttaparthi to be exact. It's
Sathya Sai Baba's town in Andhra Pradesh. The last time I was here was two years ago. The first thing I noticed on my return is that people I met back then, like Ngajeng the Nepali merchant, the Tibetan doctor in Chadrawathi Road and even Sai Baba himself is the ravage of age. Everyone's gotten older. Ngajeng has a paunch that he didn't have two years ago. He's married now. The Tibetan doctor who runs an apothecary and massage place has raven line wrinkling his eyes. Everyone has aged. The talk of age and death loom the air - Sai Baba's upcoming death, that is. He is the icon, the avatar, the very life of this place. Times have been rough for the town and its residents. They rely on the tourists and devotees that flock every year to Puttaparthi to get darshan from the holy man. But the world economic crisis has affected even the beggars here. Ngajeng said that the past year has been bad for business. It's only picked up since Baba's birthday in November.

Anyway, I'm currently nursing a pinched nerve in my neck. It was my bright idea to get a Tibetan massage while here. It only cost 800 rupees which is roughly equivalent to $20. The petite Indian girl, the doctor's neighbor in Karnataka where he and his wife are from, did a job too well. Her small hands penetrating my nerve. I can barely move my neck now. It's 2 am. I don't think I'll be able to sleep anytime soon. I'm going back to the doctor tomorrow and get acupuncture. Maybe it'll help.

So here I am, blogging...all the way from India

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Literary Out

I have a good feeling about this year. I think it comes down to this inner mechanism that speaks in waves and in volumes. I feel it. It's called HOPE. I wrote a poem long ago called HOPE but it was the most depressing thing ever. I read it to four people and their comments were invariably the same: "After hearing that, I just want to go f-cking kill myself now." Geez. I didn't want to be the downer but I guess that's how I was writing. I think HOPE has something to do with HONESTY.

Then I was thinking, well, what do I like to read? Certainly, I didn't like to read depressing stuff. I wanted to write uplifting words, words that made me hope. All this time, maybe I was trying to be somebody I'm not. I was trying to present myself better as though I couldn't accept the part of me that reads romance novels and chick lit from time to time. (Yes!!! I know!) So I realized that I like historical fiction (like Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth, The Twentieth Wife), Young Adult novels (like Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian) and I like inspirational pieces and paranormal stories. I was ashamed to admit it. But who cares really? I thought there was a judge and jury ready to pass judgment on me just because I like these "non-literary" genres. These are mostly commercial fiction. I've let myself get brainwashed by the "Literary Man" that the great books only lay with the stuff we read in schools. I love Harry Potter. I secretly like the Twilight series (OMG, yikes!); admittedly, it's not written very well but, man, that did that author hit a primal nerve or what! So here it is: I've just come out of the literary closet. I'm not as highfalutin as I thought or pretended to be. I'm part of the mediocre mass that I mocked not so long ago for so long. But then again, I also loved the mental push of me sounding so uppity, spinning words and breaking them into synonyms, acronyms and antonyms, getting stuck in words of convoluted verbal passion. Yes, I am that too! I am part of that other (imaginary) 1% that actually reads (as in gives a rat's ass) on Nietzsche, Augustine, Lacan and, lately, Zizek. So I have bipolar literary desires.

I'm bi-textual.

It's good to be finally frank about it.