Rights vs. Rights: My first guest post

Zephyr is one blogger that I admire tremendously, I have never come away from her blog without getting some insight into an issue, a topic and even myself. So when she asked me to write a guest post for her, I was flattered. So flattered that I said yes. And then when I realised what I had said yes to, I panicked. How could I write as well as her? What could I write? Then the nail chewing began. Then excuses about a heavy workload were conveyed. Then request for additional time to write the post was submitted. 

Now, Zephyr is not known as the Cybernag without reason. She has perfected the art of nagging and after a month or so of gentle nagging, I was finally able to say yes again and not panic. I worked on a draft of a topic that I thought would be suitable for Zephyr’s blog and sent it off to her yesterday with a request for her to proofread (I am a very bad proofreader of my work) the article and for feedback. 

The positive feedback was conveyed yesterday evening and I am very excited now. The post, titled “Whose Right is it anyway” was published a short while back and suddenly I am a guest author ! Click on the screenshot below to read the full post.

Thank you so much Zephyr for publishing my post and for your … er… nagging :-D

Museum Treasure: The Shell Mosaic of Verulamium

The Verulamium Museum of Everyday Life in Roman Britain has a stunning collection of artefacts dating back to the Roman period of British history. Much of its exhibits come from excavations of the ancient roman city of Verulamium.

Verulamium was the third largest town in Roman Britain, after Londinium (London) and Camulodunum (Colchester). This ancient Roman city flourished here from about 45 AD to about 420 AD and at its peak, it had a population of about 7,000. It had the status of a municipium (municipality) and had a basilica (town hall), a forum (market place) and a theatre. Verulamium was near the present day city of St. Albans, which is about 20 minutes by train from London.

I was very fortunate to visit this museum as part of a day trip to St. Albans about 3 years back, and the Roman mosaics in the Museum’s collection is something that I have not forgotten even after all this while. These mosaics are nearly 2000 years old, and if you were to see them, you would be forgiven for thinking that they were made yesterday ! Mosaics are very difficult to preserve and the Romans must be credited with creating such high quality pieces of art which have lasted centuries.

From L to R: the Dahlia Mosaic, the Shell Mosaic, and the Oceanus/Neptune Mosaic

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The nosy co-passenger

It was going to be a long journey to Mumbai, I told myself, as I surveyed my co-passengers in the train compartment. A family of four, comprising an elderly woman, a young man, a young woman, and a toddler (along with 4 large suitcases and 5 bags), were struggling to adjust their luggage under the seats and themselves on the seats. The elderly woman was the boss. No argument there. She decided how and where the luggage was to be placed, the seating and sleeping arrangements for her family, etc. She bullied the man (her son), was quite nasty to the woman (her daughter-in-law), and kept calling the child (her granddaughter) an idiot. She picked a fight with the coolie and shouted him down with the choicest abuse and sheer volume. She had a “Lalita Pawar” (for information on who she was, click here) kind of look about her with a screechy voice to match, and it didn’t take me long to name her that.

Yes, it was going to be a long journey to Mumbai in a Sleeper Class coach of the Mumbai-bound Madras Express. It was the year 1997 and a beautiful November morning in Chennai and a perfect day for travel. But somehow with the arrival of my Lalita Pawar,  the day just didn’t seem so beautiful any more.

Once settled, Lalita Pawar turned her attention to her co-passengers. And that was my cue to hastily bury my nose in a book. It was a look that I had seen many-a-times during my travels. It was a look that promised to dig out personal information from a co- passenger, particularly a young woman travelling alone. In fact, I could almost see Lalita Pawar rubbing her hands with gleeful anticipation when she saw me. Though I could feel her eyes boring into me, I did not look up from my book.

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Mumbai Lens: The Shoe House

This blog post was featured in the “Around the Blog” section of the DNA newspaper published on February 27, 2012 (pg.6).

I did my first 4 years of schooling in Mumbai and without fail the annual school picnic followed the same pattern—a visit to the Byculla Zoo, followed by lunch in the grounds there; then a quick visit to the Gateway of India; and finally a drive along the Marine Drive to the Kamala Nehru Park at Malabar Hill. This is part that we kids would be waiting for—a romp in the grounds and a visit to the Shoe House in the Park (and not necessarily in that order).

The Shoe House, which is supposedly inspired by the nursery rhyme “The Old Woman who Lived in the Shoe”, was the star attraction for us. A larger than life shoe-shaped house, painted a bright yellow with red shoe laces, a red roof and red chimney—it was every kid’s dream house. We would climb the narrow stairs in twos and threes to the balcony and wave out to the other classmates and feel that the Shoe House and the world belonged to us ! Ah the thrill and joy that little climb gave us.

The Shoe House at Kamala Nehru Park, Mumbai

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Twitter + Literature = Twitterature?

Classics and bestsellers are rarely left to ..er.. rest on their popularity. The moment they become popular, an entire line of copycat books (which also hope to become a classic one day, or at least the next bestseller) are published. Then come the attempts to make a film or a TV serial (or both) based on the classic/bestseller. Parodies of the classics are not too far behind in getting published or filmed. Then you have the critiques and the re-interpretations of these popular books. And with the social media boom, it is not surprising that some of these books are being tailored or re-written to fit that criteria (for example, click here to read a Facebook version of the Mahabharata, and here to read a  Facebook version of the Ramayana).

With the Twitter boom, can its influence on literature be far behind? Not at all, and this is where two teenagers, Alexander Aciman and Emmet  Rensin, rewrote over 80 classics and some recent bestsellers as a series of tweets. And thus was Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books Retold Through Twitter born.

Twitterature (Penguin Books, 2009, pp. xiv + 146) is an attempt at “facing and understanding … the greatest art of all arts: Literature” through Twitter. The authors, both 19-year-old students at the University of Chicago at the time of publication of the book, wrote it with the intention of mastering “the literature of the civilized world, while relieving [the reader of] the burdensome task of reading it” in its original form. In other words, Twitterature is a retelling of literature in the form of tweet stories in Twitter language.

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The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2012

Today is the last day of the 2012 edition of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) in Mumbai. This much-awaited, one-of-its-kind annual festival comes like a breath of fresh air to a city that is starved of events like this. The week-long KGAF packs in programmes and performances in literature, theatre, films, music, and dance. In addition to this, there are heritage walks, street art exhibitions as well as street performances, and workshops on various topics for adults and children alike.

While I attend quite a few of the ‘cultural’ performances and participate in a heritage walk or two every year, what I really look forward to every year are people-watching and the handicraft melas. The latter brings in artisans and their art and craft from all over the country, and is an opportunity for me to stock up on gifts for friends and family. I also look forward to seeing the installation or street art at Rampart Row, the venue of the main KGAF, not because I love installation art, but because I am always amazed at the creativity that gets shown year after year. Just see a sample from this year’s KGAF.

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