August 7, 2015

I've shifted!


Alright, I know it's been a while and I've been a tad bit too late to inform you all, but I've shifted and moved on to a new blog. You can visit me here - 

It would be great to see you there!



December 7, 2011

The Black Mole

A black mole,

Residing underneath my unshaven armpit


Every time I lift my arm,

I find it sinking into the cavity

Of absolute darkness

And it grows

Like Darwin's child.

Every day

As I lift my arm,

My nose smells the stench of my body,

While m long, skinny fingers,

With a cigarette in between the vertex,

Reach out like tweezers

To squeeze out the mole

And it grows.

Like a worm in an apple.

I consider it a part of me.

I think.

Protruding from my skin

Like a pregnant body,

Stomaching zillions of bacteria and microscopic whatevers,


It grows.

And when I lie in bed,

Men slide down my underwear

Lift up my shirt

As I lift my arms.

And there it sits

Like my chastity belt.


They promise to never lift my shirt again.

(c) Radhika Iyengar 2010

March 7, 2011

The Dhobi Ghat

Dhobi ghat didn’t really sync with my definition of a brilliant film. The directorial debut of Kiran Rao, although promising, doesn’t urge me to stand in a queue to buy a ticket for one of her future projects. Given, it was a good first attempt, given it had misfortunate, almost eccentric characters pulled off the streets of reality, given it tried to intersperse and stitch several psychological layers and even introduce the concept of triangular voyeurism of some kind into the storyline, it still failed to impress me.


Take 1 - The film begins with immediately jolting the typical Bollywood masala-expecting movie goer by introducing its documentary, handheld style camerawork within the first frame. The audience is introduced to an unknown voice belonging to a woman, who is probably the one holding the camera. Her narration and simultaneous video images although addressed to her brother, locate the film into the heart of where the story is going to be set—the city of Mumbai. The voice belongs to a newly married Muslim woman, Yasmin who has just shifted to Mumbai with her husband and feels that the best way of interacting with her brother is by sending him short video clips of her ‘happy’ life in the alien land.


Take 2 - We are then taken into the life of Arun, the not-so-eloquent (at least verbally), painter. Evidently, he is an introvert who lacks the art of mixing with random strangers, unless there is a plausible option of bedding them. A divorcee, Arun spends most of his time divorcing himself from everything that’s around him and mostly dwells in his own world, coloured by his artistic creations. Until one day, he comes across a set of DV tapes (forgotten belongings of the previous tenant) and decides to play them on his television screen. Incidentally, the tapes belong to Yasmin, whose beauty and autobiographic digital letters Arun seems seemingly besotted by. As the days go by, Arun sits with the audience and watches how Yasmin shares intrinsic details about her life with a smile with her brother—from her trips to monuments with her passive husband, to introducing the friendly neighbourhood kamwali bai and her talented daughter to even a poignant image of her cutting a cake alone in front of the camera. In the lone world, all Yasmin has, is her video camera, her sole confidant, through which she can communicate with her brother. Why the DV tapes have been left abandoned, is a question which is answered only towards the end of the film.


Take 3 - After an exhibition-cum-party of his, Arun spends an illustrious night with Shai, a rich, desi NRI, who has recently returned from the United States to pursue her hobby as a photographer. Apart from having an impressive taste in dressing, she also carries an unforgiving annoying accent, which literally made me pull my hair out every time she spoke (especially, in Hindi). Her character seems lost, or rather, misplaced in the film. I am sorry, I am being far too polite: it’s absolutely REDUNDANT! I considered all the pros and cons as to why Kiran Rao would invent a character whose so incorrigibly mindless, and I came to the revelation, that it’s not the fault of the character, it’s the fault of wrong casting. Simply pathetic in acting, Monica Dongra seemed the most unimpressive actor on set. No wait, that was Aamir Khan—but more on that later.


Shai’s character, unlike her name, is anything but ‘shy’. Her sexually vocal and bold character seems unrelentingly strange in Monica Dongra’s skin. Shai defines the rich, brattish 1% population of the entire city of Mumbai, who has enough money (and hence, time) to waste. And although many would stop to ponder to say, “hey no, Shai is a caring and considerate character in the film,” you sir, are abysmally wrong. Her character involves photographing ‘reality’—which in the dictionary of most dim-witted idiots is documenting the life of the Indian poor—eg. ratkillers, dhobi ghats, so on and so forth. She does social service by interacting with a poor dhobi boy and uses him as a tool to reach her ulterior motive—to see/stalk the recipient of her recent infatuation, Arun.


Take 4- Meet Munna, the misfortunate dhobi ghat boy, whose lifelong dream is to become an actor. Working as a dhobi boy for both Shai and Arun, he serves as the conjugation point between the two of them. After reprimanding Munna for discolouring Shai’s shirt, Shai eventually feels guilty. She accidently meets him at a cinema hall and approaches him in a friendly manner. When she learns that Munna knows where her love, Mr. Arun lives, she decides to befriend him, hoping he will help her meet Arun. She decides to help Munna make his modelling portfolio, if he promises to help her take pictures of him at the dhobi ghat, where he works. Munna, taken aback by a beautiful, gori mem’s sudden interest in his personal life, misreads Shai’s bold overtures and begins to fall in love with her, eventually to realise that Shai is not his to begin with.


The concept of voyeurism is artistically implemented in the film. It begins with Yasmin’s recording of herself with the camera, where Arun and the audience are taken deep into her life. Her story is driven by the video letters which Arun watches every day, perhaps as a form of entertainment. As the story unravels, the facade of her ‘happy married life’ begins to crack and with each video letter, Yasmin’s smile seems to smother every word that she speaks. The audience is given an insight into Yasmin’s sense of loneliness as most of her video letters are of her talking alone to the camera. Her smile completely shatters when she confesses to her brother that her husband is having an extra-marital affair, the shock of which she herself cannot hide. In her last letter to her brother, Yasmin indirectly suggests that she is taking her own life, and eventually hangs herself from the dining room fan. Voyuerism as a motif is further extended when Shai quietly visually documents Arun’s movement in his house from an opposite construction building, while he is watching Yasmin’s video.


The film plays on the concept of six degrees, accessing and assessing the lives of four diverse individuals who come together in the city of Mumbai, each one falling in love, infatuated by the other and eventually realizing a deep sense of loss: Yasmin’s dejection at her husband’s affection/love, Arun’s loss of his muse (which eventually leads him to paint her in art form, thereby immortalizing her), Shai’s realization that Arun is not hers to have and Munna’s dejection at Shai’s pyaar.


On second thought (which occurred to me after I wrote this), the films works on several levels, barring the typical infusion of Bollywood mirch-masala. Although the film aches to be ‘real’, the script seems deranged sometimes—why would a rich, young woman go out for lunch/dinner with her dhobi boy alone, let alone become his chaddi-buddy?—I am aware that it is the 21st century, but transcendence of social circles to such an extreme is trying to really stretch it. Also, has anyone noticed why does Shai talk to Munna sometimes in absolute English and he seems to immediately and almost, efficiently understand it? And I am still not entirely sure as to why Rao popped in the expressionless, eerie old woman into the film. 






(C) Radhika Iyengar 2011

March 1, 2011

Ian Curtis. The Eccentric Poet.

Four fingers and a thumb make a palm. The fingers long, bony, bend into perfect arches; almost identical in form and shape. The thumb, short, stubby, flatter, stands alone, at a lower pedestal, almost two inches apart.

The dwarf might appear inefficient, but without it, there would be no mankind.


He woke up that morning. His body lay flat on the ground, tired, fleshy and immovable. Wrapped in trousers and a shabby tee, his left knee made an obtuse angle and his right arm reached for the ceiling. A yawn opened his mouth wide and unleashed the foul breath. The toothbrush stood on the first shelf in a glass, in his bathroom; its bristles not used for over a week.

The birds fluttered, twittered, perched and spotted the branches with their beats. The flies buzzed, swirled, meandered, sat and infected. The outside pond rippled, the tadpoles squiggled. Egg yolks cooked in a pan; a hen plopped another egg. A barber cut a woman’s hair, a teenager grew his. The leaves painted the ground yellow. The ground sat quiet, unpretending, keeping secrets. The clouds relayed the sky. Scissors cut moustaches, clothes, cardboard boxes, pages. Clothing lines hang clothes, people.

Somewhere in Macclesfield, a poet hanged himself to death.


Inspired from the last scene of Anton Corbijn's film, Control

October 1, 2010


(A Simple Guide to Handle the Auto-walas of Delhi)

Let’s face it, most of the middle class Indians like to nurture a sense of aristocracy. While the ‘aam-janta’ is forced to travel by the cheap, pan-stained, sweaty DTC busses, there are some of us who prefer to travel alone in chauffeur-driven vehicles. In all likelihood since we can’t afford the fancy, air-conditioned limo, we have to opt for our very own desi-auto.

The problem which most snooty auto-walas have, is that they believe they are the boss. They will argue, they will bargain and they will not shut up. In the yester-years (or rather yester months), before the great-Meter-system was brought back to life from the land of dead, the auto-wala-Dilliwala interaction was always uh, a colourful experience. However, to board an auto, we need to pass a three-step process:

STEP 1-Holler. Get their attention

Requirements: A strong larynx, a long hand which flaps incessantly for attention, and bright colourful clothes.

Process: It’s easy for women, because the auto-walas usually would stop for a damsel in distress. It is important to catch the auto-wala’s attention in the first go, so that he stops, rather than just happily driving past by you with a sadistic grin. Men on the other hand, have it hard. But fikar not, an auto-wala has to make his money, so he will stop anyway. Just practice that larynx.

STEP 2-Let the Bargaining Begin!

Requirements: Knowledge of the word ‘bhaiya’; knowledge of the pronunciation of the word ‘bhaiyaaa’; a handkerchief to wipe your sweat off (this may take a while); extra mascara for fluttering your eyelashes if nothing else works! (Yes, men too can give it a go).

Process: Now unless you are a Baniya, a Gujju or a Sindhi, you haven’t really mastered the art of bargaining, and you’d probably have a tough time convincing the auto-wala why he shouldn’t rip you off. But all this was before the meter-system came along. Yes, gone are the days when the meter box sat redundantly on the ledge, longing to be acknowledged, while the auto-wala randomly quoted an exorbitant fee to take you to a place which was 10 minutes away from where your feet stood. Of course, the ride would include a bumpy drive, a curious ‘checking you out’ glace from the rear view mirror every now and then, and a mind-numbing, anaesthesia-infused yak on politics, the youth of today and city etiquettes—all for free, but still, let’s just not go there. However yes, if the autowala throws his nose in the air and refuses to budge from his price, the archaic yet effective ‘bhaiyaaaa pleaaasseee?’ teamed with a polite smile to melt his heart can be applied. It usually works, not kidding. Or am I?

STEP 3-Get your hiney in, sista!

Requirements: Good music on the I-pod or tune up the FM on your phone and pray to god the RJ is not playing Himesh!

Process: Now don’t make me teach you how to sit in an auto for heaven’s sake, but yes, be sure to turn up the volume on the music—you don’t want the auto-wala chatting you up. I’ve been there, and believe me, it’s no fun.

The Syndrome: Every auto-wala possesses the “chutta nahin hai” syndrome—it’s a classic ‘let me earn some extra bucks off my naive customer... hehehe’ strategy. How to outsmart our man? Simple, carry extra change and pay him the exact amount. He’ll be heartbroken but life alas, is unfair, isn’t it?

Return ticket: Most auto-walas will crib about where they have to take you. Whether your destination is tucked in some god forsaken place or whether he’s just playing bluff, almost every Dilli-wala has come across the phrase: “Vapis savari hi nahin milti, toh kya kareingey phir?” There are two situations that can arise out of this statement—either he is not going to move his butt, or he’s going to charge you extra—and usually, it’s the latter. What to do? Play the bluff back. Tell them you’ll make sure you’ll get them a customer on their return. And once you reach your destination, then what? Well, promises are meant to be broken, aren’t they?

So now that I’ve given you enough gyaan, I suggest you go out on the streets brimming with confidence and tackle those auto-walas!

August 12, 2010


So you took your shoes and left...

Riddled streets
Converse with time,
Lusting for that aging night, once more:

The night crouches over the city, tucking her bridal skirt in
As her hungry mouth licks on the silenced statues--
The wolves welcome their kin.

Her eyes search for my moronic lover;
As the moon wanes behind the cloudy sheets
She pants, as her breath embraces the wailing rivers
And wraps her body around the yellow streets

Insects seethe in her underbelly
As the dancing leaves blow back her hair
She lashes her tongue at the vengeful windmills
There, screeches in anger, the bicorn mare.

And the wind mourns in misery
And the raven seeks its prey
Bianca’s nightingales sing in the distant, while
On the riddled streets, the night snakes her way

And though this graveyard will have another visitor,
And our visitor will stay,
"His epitaph will be written in blood", she whispers,
"For his is the soul who betrayed"



I’ve met people
Of different colours—
Blue, green, violet, maroon

I’ve met eyes
Of different shapes—
Cubes, cuboids, circles, triangles

I’ve spoken to tongues
Of different dialects—
Minowoh, Ginowa, Blah blah, Bli na

What are we,
but jaw, fingers, spine and knee?
Swathed in aging flesh

Naked bones spell naked truth

Once dead,
Will the dust on these bones remember:
The colour of flesh that covered them,
The jaw which spoke that particular tongue,
Or the memories which were made while being
what they stood as on ground?


June 9, 2010

The Comma vs. the Full Stop

While commas are dots with curled up tails,
Full stops are dots to end or curtail.
While one encourages you to go on further,
The other stops,
to let you ponder.
If the commas are many a too in one's life:
slash their tails with a knife,
and put a full stop indeed my love,
to your life!