Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Symphonic Rhythm of Rain on My Umbrella as My Shoes Fill with Water

This rain is unusual, really is. It's odd. It's downright crazy. It's been raining for months, without let up, without recompense. It's upsetting and also I like it. I am torn between the love of watching the rain and hating it for making me wet and my shoes squelchy. Early in the morning I love it and later in the day my love turns to hatred, pure hatred. The dam in Artiste Village is overflowing and every morning I stand near the sluice gates watching the water as it shoots out, in huge torrents, turbid, overturning, foaming and frothing. I wonder at the beauty of this life-giving liquid that could also kill and disrupt. Scientists believe that at the start of the world, when the atmosphere was newly formed, it rained for years on end, as in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel. Today, I am on my morning walk and as I stand watching I can feel the fine spray of the rain on my face. It's most uplifting and elevating experience. But my shoe is slowly filling up with the precious liquid. Hm.

Later in the day, from my office I can see a sky that is the colour of molten lead. (Aside: I used to work in publications, you know, that used molten lead to set type in the age of letterpress printing. Have you heard of linotype machines? They were a hundred times the size of the modern computers and laptops on which you compose type. Magazines like Eves Weekly [Eves weekly used to publish short stories, poems, yay!] and Star & Style [Who was seen driving to Khandala with whom, yeah, stars used to have affairs then too!] used to be printed on these machines. We did fine, though each page had to proofchecked thrice before a final proof was taken before printing. Today I wonder if they even take two proofs, as publications are full of mistakes, are dry and uninteresting and don't publish short stories! Aside finished!) Just as it was when the earth originated in a miasma of ceaseless rain. Many say the world will end in fire, but, no, I think it will end in water. Today as I leave for work, there's the constant chatter of raindrops on my umbrella, an unending rhythm of symphonic music. I usually write a poem when it rains, have a collection of rain poems. This time I am doing something different. Watch this blogging space as I am fond of saying.

Monday, August 30, 2010

How Strong Are the Dot Coms?

Has it occurred to you? You are doing something on the net and they ask you to download a plug in and then you go ahead and download it, and the net gets disconnected, ending your session (as it is called) and you are left chewing your already chewed up lips. Grr.

After having worked in dot com companies (3 of them) which collapsed without a trace, I am mighty sceptical about the internet and websites. After all, there’s no brick and mortar attached to it. Tomorrow the web I spend a lot of time on can collapse and another application can take its place. With it you will lose whatever relationships and friends you have so painstakingly built up. Even today I am sceptical that the dot coms will fade away just as myspace has faded away from public memory. It used to be the best until Facebook took over.

I was a crazy follower of ryze.com, another website and social networking site. I had made a lot of friends on it. But now I hardly ever look at the website except go to a few forums I still follow which are anchored on it. And whereas I would get three or four messages a day on it, now I don’t ever receive any messages. Zero. I guess my friends have realised I have moved on. I am an eternal net wanderer.

I think the internet and the dot coms have made us all unfinished people using products that in themselves are unfinished and tentative. If you don’t use the net for a few weeks then the trickle of replies to your blog or facebook page also goes down proportionately. Your net persona is there only as far as you are. If you don’t post you are lost.

I guess it is inherent in the meaning of the medium, the very fickleness. Or, may be I am fickle myself. I do agree I am fickle, here for the fickleness of it. In fact, relationships in today’s world are fickle and short-lived. It’s a very selfish relationship over the net.  

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Onam Celebration!

Today was Kairali Belapur’s Onam celebration. Kairali is one of the few communities in whose activities I show an interest. Having worked in associations such as Bombay Management Association and ASCI (not to mention the church committee) I lose interest in these communities very fast. They are the playgrounds of a few ambitious individuals and I tend to keep away.

Now, that’s said.

The rain doesn’t stop. The sky is a uniform grey like a sheet of steel has been riveted over it. There are what are called cultural programs. Songs and dances by children of members (the children giving everything, carrying a tune in their breaking voice, which really breaks my heart because I didn’t have time to attend Ronnie’s cultural programs in school), a quiz or two, a dignitary in the form of a smiling member of the municipal council who comes when the program is all but finished. She proceeds to give a speech, but nobody listens to her.

We troop down to where the Onasadya is being served. I am hungry and so is wifey. Ronnie is busy so he didn’t come. He used to enjoy this when he was a small kid, those many years ago. I guess I am growing old. The first batch of people has already found their places and we wait for seats to clear for the second round so to speak. I am feeling hungry and the smell of rich food is assaulting my senses.

Children bawl, mothers tell them to shut up. The rain falls. I try to take it all as an experience, an intuitive kind of experience. No, not as a gathering of people slurping sambhar, ten types of vegetables, payasam, ada pradhaman, pickles, avial (I typed avial and word processor changed it to “Avail,” he...he...), and sambhar.

We then sit down to eat all the abovementioned on plantain leaves. The secret is to eat slowly and savour each dish giving rise to the ultimate in a culinary experience. So I put each morsel dunked in sambhar slowly and seductively into the mouth, not in the wildly excited way in which pigs hog. Just the same as the man next to me is doing.

The man, well, I haven’t even spoken to him, asks my permission to get up. My permission? I am aghast at first. Then I look around and give it. It’s just a nicety. “Onashamsakal,” I say.

Blogging from my mobile

Saturday, August 28, 2010

India’s Floods and Noah’s Floods

There’s a passage in John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charlie (which I read years ago) that states that ultimately when civilisation and mankind self-destructs and reaches a sort of Armageddon, life would tentatively start from the little known encampments and villages around the world. (Charlie is by the way, Steinbeck’s French Standard Poodle.) Global warming, by the way it is advancing could see the extremes of weather and when the oceans submerge the coastal cities, then life could only exist on the plateaus and hills.

Else, how could I explain this weather? It’s still raining in Bombay and I hear that there are unexpected floods in Delhi. The city that rarely gets rainfall is inundated. So, Delhiwallas have now got a taste of what it is like to be marooned, as we so often are in Bombay. It has been raining continuously for more than two months, i.e., sixty days in Bombay. What’s depressing is seeing all those plastic caught in the starkness beneath an overcast sky. True, we have screwed up this world and no one seems to care. They are more worried about a certain drug addict’s marriage to an ex-porn star and his dalliance with the mole of an underworld don. Such is life! Hm!

Noah’s floods occurred for only forty days of rain, so, in a way, we have exceeded Noah’s floods. Even all the modern drainage systems may not be able to handle the pressure of huge ice caps melting in the Arctic, in the Steinbeckian future. According to this article, Bangla Desh is one country that could be badly affected, around 17.5 per cent of its area could inundated with a rise of 40 inches of the sea level.

Written in a despairing state of mind while feeling sleepy. So, mistakes please excuse please, huh?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mesmerised by the Googleplex! But, How about Some Customer Support?

I saw this video of Google and was taken aback. What luxury! They get the best food to eat all the time, they get to sleep during work hours, they don't swipe their cards, they can do their exercise, they can do their laundry, most, most important of all, they can even bring their pets (Does this include boy-girl friends? Worth checking out!)!

Imagine! Imagine! Imagine, working in such an office. Oh, but then I can't.

All these past thirty years of my working life (Yeah, I am one of those old drones who started working in 1980, the year Kareena Kapoor was born!) I was educated in the old school that says that customer is king and all employees should serve customers and understand their needs. However, Google doesn't believe in customer support, all they do is point you to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and have their burgers in the Googleplex, or snore in their Snoring Pods while you desperately scan through the FAQ containing loads and load and loads of text, some of which needs an expert to decipher it.

Now can you imagine? Now can you imagine all those employees eating multi-multi-food and snoozing when you curse your stars?

Recently I answered a Google ad offering me Rs 1500 worth of free Adword advertising (Adword is the ads you see on the right side when you do a search on Google.) I responded. I received a call from a Google executive who mentioned that yes I will be getting Rs 1500 worth of Adwords but first I have to open an account and spend something on Adwords. I said okay I will do likewise. (Anything to get a campaign going for my blog.) He said he will call me back. He never called.

I am still waiting for him to call back. I am still, still, still waiting, Google. Google are you listening? As a customer am I not important?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kya Meherbani Kar Raha Hai Kya?

I usually don't write about the professional life in this sacred space but this is an exception. Well, I will do it this once because it's a crime not to mention it here. Or, I will burst! I wrote about telecallers plugging credit cards here, well, this one is similar.

Media buying is part of the job, a marketing thing I do for a living. So when I was talking to an executive in this media I was shocked to hear her say thusly:

"Kya meherbani kar raha hai kya?" (What, are you doing us a favour?)

I know I come across as the repressed and depressed type on the phone but this assault on my senses was unforeseen. Whoa! Can you imagine a customer being told "What, are you doing us a favour?" God, I can't imagine. I wanted to tell her I am doing her a favour by buying her godforsaken media. But I didn't. A weird sense of decency forbade it. If everyone in the world talks and behaves as a tyke (yeah, tyke) then there would be fights over everything which is what is going on in corporate culture in India these days. Companies are war zones these days without even a "no man's land."

But we survive and thrive on such culture. What's to do?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Poor Have No Place in Hindi Films: Farooqui

Don't know when this paradigm shift (as they call it) occurred, but it sure did. Time was when Indian movies were of the type that portrayed mainly the angst of the country side, the poor, and the rustic – Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (in fact, most Raj Kapoor movies), Gopi, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Awara, Jagte Raho, Apna Desh, etc. Now according to Mahmood Farooqui the poor and dispossessed have no role – literally – in Hindi cinema. One of the most comprehensive and acerbic of analyses done on our own Hindi cinema by writer and Dastangoi artiste Mahmood Farooqui appears here. Excerpt:

"Time was when one had to learn Urdu to survive in the Hindi film industry. Now, if one does not know English, one would find it difficult to find work of any sort. Most of today's stars can speak only English fluently. Hindi film posters and promos rely increasingly on English. Scenarios, screenplays and scripts are written originally in English, and even the dialogues tend to be translations from English, but the actors' and the makers' lack of command over written or spoken Hindi seems of no consequence.
"This neo-real cinema, then, is also a neo-liberal one. It is made by English-speaking middle classes, for the English-speaking middle classes, for people who also watch Hollywood and regard it as 'world cinema', for people who live in flats and aspire to a universal, americanised lifestyle. As such, Bollywood today produces two kinds of films, fantasies of the old sort and a new socially relevant film. Whereas earlier masala films pitted their relevance on certain universal truths about Indian society – love between social unequals, poor vs rich, badmash vs sharif – this cinema tries instead to recreate an expanding and self-referential middle-class habitus, where the poor and the marginalised do not even find the token representation they did earlier. Films that have been big hits in recent years treat relationships either as a matrix between two adults who do not occupy a social space – Chalte Chalte, Hum Tum, Fanaa, Salaam Namaste – or as a story of families where emotions (the Karan Johar films) and not their social location provides the main conflict."

Nowadays even the poor are shown in incredible fashion, something to overwhelm and wow the audience – Vasthav, Satya, Hera Pheri – (A very slender list, because I don't see many Hindi movies these days. What with the prices of movie tickets in multiplexes, the number of kerchief-in-the-neck-and-whistling-at-heroines front bencher is gone. Nowadays I am more glued to UTV World Movies.) with sets that makes one go "What's that?"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This Blog is 7 Years Old! Happy 7th Birthday

This blog is 7 years old exactly. The birth anniversary was yesterday. Sorry I couldn't post this yesterday. When I started blogging I didn't know what I was starting. I was writing content for a website and I use the blog to keep my research material and some links.

Only later did the sanctity of the blogging space occurred to me and I started respecting the blogging space. Today it ranks among the top 20,000 blogs in the world.




SirIamspeakingfromACACAcreditcards sirrrrrrrr!




Butsireverybodyhascreditcardsthesedays sirrrr! Howcomeyoudon'thaveonesirrrr?

I didn't say I don't have a credit card. You asked me if I want a credit card. I said "No."

Sirrr ACACAisgivingyoucreditcardwithlifetimefreesir, noneedtopayforlifetimesir.

I already have a lifetime free credit card.

Sirthenwhydon'tyoubuyanothercreditcardsir, afreelifetimeonesirrrr?

Because I can't afford to run up so much credit.

Siryoucanevenpayafter40days. Noneedtopayimmediately. Yougetcreditsirrrr! (She sounds desperate and pleading.)

This is how a conversation with a call centre executive goes. They call them customer support executives (CSEs). Can I call them executives? They slur their words, theycombinetheirwordsintoone, they eat up whole expression, and they get common idioms all wrong. Agreed some kind of Indian-isation of words is inevitable, but is this sort of boredom and lassitude in their attitude acceptable? An educational system that emphasizes rote learning and learning only to score marks (and percentages) is throwing into the world people such as these who don't have a basic understanding of the language. (I am not talking of English here; I mean any language, since these executives can't even write in their own languages.)

Something needs to be done fast before the country turns out into a wasteland of forgotten tongues and the distorted and disembodied argot of a people who supposedly ruled us by making us believe we are only good to be clerks. No, don't want to sound too harsh on the British, they had their compulsions you see, they still have. I think they should apologize to India for having taught us to brush our teeth (using a brush I mean and not using the index finger) and use potty (I grew up using the squatting type, nowadays I can't squat for nuts.).

Anyway, going back to my meandering rant. I don't know. I have seen countless trainers trying their best to convince Indian call centre executives that English is spoken in a certain way and all they get is, "WhatmakesyouthinkEnglishshouldbespokenyourway?"

How about putting pebbles in their mouths and telling them to speak more slowly, like Demosthenes did?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Happy Onam - the Harvest Festival!

Happy Onam! To my foreign readers who do not know what Onam means here’s a short introduction.

Onam is the festival of harvest celebrated in Kerala and wherever Malayalis (the inhabitants of Kerala, the state situated at the southern extreme of India) exist, which mean anywhere and everywhere in the world, er, and the Moon. (It is said that when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, the first thing he saw was a Malayali’s Thattu shop.) Onam is celebrated in the harvest season, the season of prosperity. It’s the time that the ears of corns have ripened in the rice fields of Kerala and the labourers are singing “Nadan Pattus” (country songs) and “Vadakkan Pattus” (songs from the north) when they harvest the paddy and collect them on huge bamboo mats. Their voices blend into an enticing chorus wafted on the water-filled fields and one is almost tempted to join in the harvesting. There’s a sense of competition and rivalry as each farm labourer is rewarded a percentage of the portion he/she harvests. So, even children pitch in to help their parents as they gather the grains that will go into their pathayams (granaries) and feed them for the rest of the year.

Then, in the night, under a starry sky, in the dim light of storm lanterns and petromaxes the threshing is done. I remember sleeping in the field on such nights under the stars when I was a child. The whole atmosphere is rent with a feeling of festival, a joie de vivre which permeates everyone. Palm toddy is consumed, food is downed. Then in the morning after a night of revelry the freshly threshed paddy laid out to dry and the straw is also spread to mature into a dry tindery aspect. Then when the sun goes down on their petty rivalries they measure out the grains in “Paras” and “Changazhis” – the traditional measures of Kerala. Then complication calculations are done mentally (no paper, calculator or book is used) on each ones share of the paddy and everyone goes home with their share of the grain.

That’s the harvest season in Kerala, in short. Legend has it that Mahabali, the benevolent and much-loved demon King of Kerala (before he was jealously banished from his kingdom by Lord Vishnu) asked to visit his subjects once every year – during the time of harvest. He knew he will see his subjects at their very best and most joyful. Pictures show Mahabali as a smiling and potbellied and double-chin-ed king with a crown on his head and an umbrella made from palm leaves shading him. That sterotype continues even today. A potbelly and a double chin are considered signs of prosperity, still. Honest!

That’s the spirit of Onam, celebrated by all Malayalis all over the world, of whatever religious faith or persuasion they are.

Happy Onam! 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Went to Church, Singing Jitters

Went to church and sang heartily. A good thing about singing in church is that you can sing out loud without worrying about neighbours. Got to clear my voice, I got to perform my poem today. They said in the church choir that my voice didn't suit any of their classifications: Bass, tenor, alto, or, soprano. Rubbish! Grr! I think my voice is a cross between tenor and alto. Don't know much about music but I sing by the ear. Got to bawl out my poem today, come out with my voice from somewhere deep so God help me.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Two Episodes: Chris Dickerson and Charu Hasan

This is about online friendships, about people whose writing you read and don’t know if you will ever meet - Chris Dickerson and Charu Hasan - whose messages touched me in disparate but significant ways today.

Episode I – Chris Dickerson

Read this awesome account of the “I Have Often Walked Down This Street Before” march in Los Angeles by my Facebook friend Chris Dickerson and read about how the peaceniks and beatniks of the sixties screwed up the message of peace and brotherhood we (yeah, I too was in the periphery of this movement, long hair and all) should have sown with courage and foresight:

“Man, thirty-some years ago, it was all us young punks. We were gonna change the world. Yeah. Then Vietnam ended and Nixon bailed. We couldn't wait to hightail it to the nearest disco, coke up, party down and get laid. Job done, world changed, nothin' but good times ahead.

“Like hell.

“We left the job undone, the world little better off. Nothing we did held fast.”

Yes nothing those idealistic youth of my teen and adult years did stick or were built into anything solid. Our peace movement petered out and was taken over by religious bigotry and greed and to present anarchy. Today’s youth doesn’t even care to change the world seeing as to how their older generation failed so miserably. They prefer greed over idealism.

Episode II – Charu Hasan

Picked up the threads of a net-friendship I started some years ago with the venerable actor and lawyer Charu Hasan brother of superstar Kamal Hasan. He wrote to me recently, “Yet to be honest, I have never been happier in life as I am today. Keep writing to me. Who knows? It might be useful when you reach my age. I.” I hope I am like him – ebullient, warm and caring – when I am his age. His presence of mind is awesome and, pray, look at his humour. May God bless you and grant you lots of happiness!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Missed the Vodafone Crossword Award

Missed the Vodafone Crossword Award at the NCPA today because there weren't any cabs to take me there. Hurriedly finished work thinking of going and encouraging some friends but when I got out of office the streets were a bleak cabless vista of puddles and stray people stooping under their umbrellas, afraid of the rain, afraid of getting wet. But then Bombay rain does that to you. It's been raining continuously for two months now. Soon I guess it will be like Marquez's novel "One Thousand Years of Solitude" in which it rains continuously for four years in a certain country (he doesn't mention which). But then how do I know from a windowless office that it is raining outside? When it rains Bombay cabbies like to play truant. I should have some kind of device to see where these guys are when it rains. May be sitting somewhere and drinking rum. I once saw a cabby sipping from a bottle kept in the glove compartment. I think they should be penalised for driving or whatever when they are sitting in some bar when it rains outside. But that would be unreasonable, no?

Outside V.T. saw an unusual crowd of young people milling around. All goodlooking ones too. Wondered what was happening. Met my friend in train who said his son is attending "Malhar," the college festival at St. Xaviers College. So that's it. I have never attended Malhar, so, am wondering what Malhar would be like. Anyone?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Two Movies Highlight the Problem of Farmers Committing Suicide

This is my latest article published in Technorati.com, a tech website.

I am glad the movie Peepli Live has inadvertently set the silver screens on fire, well sort of. It has highlighted the case of farmers committing suicide in India which I had written about in many articles on my blog. Faced with crops failing because of lack of rain, farmers in India have been committing suicide unable to pay back the loans they have taken from local money lenders. Indian farmers have been living in abject poverty despite the progress the country is making in fields such as outsourcing, technology, infrastructure and biotechnology.

What is at the root of this frustration? Indian farmers have long been living a subsistence existence because the benefits of liberalization and the newly set-free-from-shackles regime of tax cuts have not benefited them. Their land holdings are small and they are forced to borrow money from local money lenders with promise of paying them back after the crops are harvested. When crops fail they fail too.

Peepli Live (I have not seen the film yet) is about such a subsistence farmer in the village of Peepli who announces that he will be committing suicide to the media. This brings teams of television and other media journalists to cover the development which they assume would be of significant news value. I am not sure what happens in the end.

Another significant movie which highlights the plight of farmers who commits suicide is produced by writer, entrepreneur and journalist Harini Calamur is Jhing Chak Jhing. The movie has won many awards and is running to packed houses in several theatres around Maharashtra. The movie is titled after a colloquialism used by children while playing and looks at the problem from the eyes of a child. The movie (from what I hear as I have not seen it so far, but I mean to) is less sensational in its treatment but is a serious movie worth a look. Wonder if it will come to a theatre in New Bombay.

Both these films have succeeded in highlighting the problem. It remains to be seen what solutions will be offered by the government which has not taken a keen interest in solving this problem so far.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fredrick Forsyth on Losing a Fortune

Just saw an interview with author Fredrick Forsyth on the BBC (he was an employee of the Beeb in an earlier Avatar) program Hard Talk. Among other things he talked about how he lost a fortune making a bad investment and was driven to penury by his wrong decision. I just loved Day of the Jackal and Odessa File and his style of writing which combined a vast knowledge of the underworld and the working of twisted minds.

If it can happy to this talented writer it can happen to everyone. He also talked about how he had to work his ass off writing five novels in five years to make his fortune back.

We, writers especially, are careless with our money to be sure. Do be careful with your money.

Gothamesque Without a Batman to Come to Ones Rescue

Today while commuting to work I looked out and what I saw was a bleak landscape that resembled Gotham City – the crime ridden city of Batman comics. There were these huge under-construction buildings standing tall and grey and on it a grey rain was falling from a grey sky. The metal, the tower cranes, the scaffolding gave an eerie feeling of disconnection, of a future gone wrong somewhere.  There’s a depressing kind of grey everywhere, even the trees appear grey in the dull grey of the light. Thoughts reflect this as I wind through a long glacial queue of people moving slowly towards the exit at V.T. station. V.T. had recently undergone a massive face lift consisting of various badly needed repairs. I don’t know what they repaired because, as I walked, the water dripped on me from everywhere, there was a drain pipe disgorging a heavy torrent from the ceiling somewhere, there was water on the platform, trodden by feet, muddy and slushy.

God help us, I said under my breath. Why is no one complaining? Are they depressed? They move in this slow glacial queue without raising their voice, obedient of their superiors, not daring to say anything for fear of being made the victim of a backlash. Fools! They have realized it is better to lower their heads in these gloomy-gotham-esque times when everything around one seems like a crime, and everywhere you probe you see the deep tentacles of immoral minds. Ones mind is muddled in turmoil in the bleak, greyish surroundings.

Then I come out and stand in the pelting rain, getting all wet and disconcerted with a bunch of people all hailing taxis which do not stop. They pass us joyously on their great missions of saving the world from falling off the edge, we the mere mortals of no consequence. We the independent people of a free country.

(Again, can you notice the style of the author I am reading? Henry Miller in this instance. I call it subconscious literary aping. We writers copy each other’s styles unconsciously. That’s why I left some online forums because the bad writing was spoiling my language further instead of improving it.) 

Cheap HabiHuts for Rs 1,15,000. Interested?

When the recession drove Eldon and Bruce Leep, father and son contractors, who built high-end tony apartments for the rich and famous, they launched on a novel idea of making homes for $ 20 a square foot.  Excerpt from the New York Times article:

“Such homes are basically shells to which owners can add baths and kitchens if they wish; some may even have lofts and high ceilings. Typically, the houses can be assembled with little labor in a few hours.

“The HabiHut weighs about 400 pounds, packs down to a 4-foot-by-8-foot crate, and costs $2,500 (1,15,000), which includes shipping with bulk orders. It can be assembled in an hour or two with just a screwdriver, will last up to 15 years, and can be combined with other HabiHuts as a family expands or other needs arise.”

Indian need HabiHuts badly as we are prone to natural calamities such as the landslide in the north, the Tsunami and sundry other calamities.  Anyone interested?

Stilled Voices

Stilled Voices

This is my first amateurish attempt at creating a podcast. It didn't play very well due to a lot of "buffering" and I rather read very slowly and deliberately. The voice came out as a bit over-dramatic. Anyways, it's a first attempt so I hope to improve as I go along. Well, let's hope.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Send This Girl Your Old Magazines, Please!

I got this from writer Annie Zaidi's blog post My country, this calm morning which is a sort of Independence Day message from a girl, Sheetal Ramji Barde, asking readers to send old magazines to her. She makes envelopes from these magazine pages to earn whatever she can after her father committed suicide, one of the increasing cases of suicides by farmers about which I have written here before:

"I was barely nine when my dear father committed suicide. My mother has worked really hard to send my brother, sister & me to school. She is still working hard to make our two ends meet... all she wants is ONE OLD MAGAZINE from you all, so she can make paper envelopes to earn & save environment...

"Dear uncles & aunties,

"Please-please do send us one old magazine every month to support us, so that we can go to better schools and live our lives with dignity and less suffering. My mother and other widow mothers like her will not hesitate to work hard to earn for us while saving the environment for the nation... I will be waiting with great expectations dear uncles & aunties for ONE OLD MAGAZINE from each one of you every month... If each one of you send one, it will become so many for my mother and other widow mothers to work hard to earn some amount every month... A very BIG THANK YOU from my brother, sister, my mother and me..."


Our address:

Support 4 suicide farmers families

House No: 200

Opp: Dr. Harne's Hospital

Dhantoli Chowk

Wardha: 442001"

Incidentally friend Harini Calamur's movie Jhing Chik, Jhing, which I have been meaning to see for a long, long time is also about farmer suicides. A review of the movie appears on Poonam Sharma's blog here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Are Our Sportsmen Free?

Another Independence Day! Happy Independence Day, to all my readers.

Went for a walk in the morning, past the Shivaji Chowk and saw that most of the road has been taken away by parked trucks. Anyway, skirted them to walk gingerly along a road which was full of wastes of various animals. Bore the stink. At the Chowk there was a knot of people who unfurled a flag and sang a patriotic song, really touching. At the park where I went a group of people from the adjoining society had gathered and were waiting for the flat flag (a case of Freudian slip, as I write about flats for a living) to be unfurled. Really touching the way they saluted when the flag opened and showered them with flower petals. Watched this for a while as I stood there and thought, "Are we really, really free?"

Well, that's me.

Then read the papers. There were a lot of articles about freedom and what it means. Really glad the prime minister appointed a committee of ministers to oversee the working of the Common Wealth Games and restore confidence of the people. Phew! But now let's see what this committee can do. That led me to the thought: "Are our sportsmen free? How free are they to pursue a career in sports as in other professions?"

Sports in India is not about breaking of records or display of toughness and endurance. It is about using it as a tool to get sexual satisfaction, money, and a weird notion of being powerful. Awful! Pathetic! That's why our sports bodies are led by paunchy politicians who chew betel nut. After all, there are well toned bodies, well muscled and flat tummies and the drooling malfeasant male considers it open season, right?

To all of them: guys, sports is about teamwork, patience, endurance, giving our best in adversity and the bonding that youth should be given for the nation to hold its head high in international fora. Don't spoil it all with your testosterones-led lurid fantasies.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

How to Install the New Rupee Sign

I have installed the new Rupee font. Now typing Rupee is easy. Do the following:

Install the font "Rupee Foradian." (If you don't know how, ask your system administrator, if you don't know who this guy is he is the one who goes around with a hang-dog expression grumpy and grumbling about "virus and Trojan attacks" all the time. [Sorry, got carried away, that the local chappy, but your bloke may be quite similar in appearance and mien]).

On your word processing software screen choose the "Rupee Foradian" font.

After you have installed the font press the "tilde" sign.

This is what appears " "


Friday, August 13, 2010

Jeffrey Archer’s New Book

I am a great fan of Jeffrey Archer though I have read only a few books of his. He suffered several controversies in his life, with his political career ending with his conviction and subsequent imprisonment (2001–03) for perjury. Here's how he talks about completing the 11th draft of Only Time Will Tell the first volume of Clifton Chronicles, his forthcoming book.

I can understand Jeffrey doing a 11th draft given the fine narratives of his books. True writing a novel is hard work.

Changed the Look of My Blog

Changed the look and feel of my website after a long time. I wanted the "look and feel" (the term we use a lot in branding and advertising) as it was crying for a change. Hope you like it.

"Change is the only constant," another cliché. Duh! Am a bit shaken after breaking the 20,000 ranking in world rankings mentioned here.

The Origin of Our Gaalis, Our Profanities

Yesterday I was reading the article "The Complex Origins of Our "Gaalis"" by Aakar Patel in Mint and the following happens on the commute home by train, providentially, or, by design, I don't know what. But here it is.

A man, respectable-looking, well above sixty was getting into a train from Masjid station when another man, also above sixty, venerable looking, said "bloody."

The first gentleman (I don't know if I can use this in the context of what followed, but I will use this nevertheless) said, "Your father and mother are bloody."

"Your father and mother are f****s."

"You b*****d."

"You m*******d."

So it went on without any respite with each man unwilling to let go, progressing to mother, sister and the entire sacred familial relationship there is. The whole compartment of a thousand persons in various stages of fatigue is entertained by this exchange. I am sitting there engrossed in Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" (which incidentally is full of swear words and similar insults) and this is happening in front of me.

As Aakar says our earliest literature doesn't contain any insults of a sexual and incestuous nature and these profanities have slowly infiltrated from abroad into our speech. I tend to agree. In the last provocation the word "madar" came from Farsi, and somehow got mixed with Hindustani to create a unique mixture of profanities of the subcontinent.

Incidentally in my novel "Mr. Bandookwala, M.B.A., Harvard" I have tried to deal with speech as it is spoken in Bombay and contains many profanities in their original form with annotations for the Western reader. The idea is to bring to a Western reader (and Indian, too) this unique culture of profanities that we have imbued from foreign culture.

Regarding the above fight, the lookers-on brokered a strange peace among the warring gentlemen and sorries were said and the matter buried the incident in the lore of the Bombay-wallah's daily commute.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Some Good News – This Blog Breaks the 20,000 Mark in Rankings Worldwide

There's some good news at last. This blog has broken the 20,000 mark in rankings world-wide. It now stands at 19,937. I have been watching it as a landmark for some time. It feels good to be among the top 20,000 blogs in the world. The only blog (that I know of) which is ahead of me is Amit Varma's India Uncut. This blog also has a Technorati authority of 135.

Feels nice for a change.

Some bad news from the publishing front. Another rejection so it seems. I am so adamant about being published the old-fashioned way though I use new media a lot. I don't know what is wrong with publishers, new or established. Yes, I know their concerns, diminishing markets, the threat of online editions pioneered by a guy called Andrew Wylie. It's the only alternative open it seems. Have a look. Let this blog know what you think.

This Is the Taj Mahal of Nepal

There's a Taj Mahal in Nepal (which you can view here) according to my Nepali friend Min, who hails from those parts.

The legend – as legends go – is that the Ranighat palace (which is also known as the Taj Mahal of Nepal) was constructed in 1892 AD/1949 BS by the then commander in chief and governor of Palpa, Khadka Shamsher in memory of his beloved queen, Tej Kumari. It's a breathtaking structure; at least, that's what I learn from my friend Min. The complex includes a sprawling main building surrounded by layered gardens, stone walls and a small, rocky shrine.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Just Wrote This for Fun

I take a stroll down Fashion Street and turn just before it intersects Flora Fountain. That's where Fashion Street, which is actually M.G. Road meets H.S.Marg. (In Bombay, everybody being in a big hurry and all, we shorten all the long names into short monikers.) I see the towering telecommunication tower ahead of me and think of what it represents, the communication, the phoning of each other across continents. Just these random thoughts float through my mind. Then I turn and walk towards Victoria Terminus (V.T. to all of us), where I hunt for a waste bin. Nowhere there! It was here yesterday. What happened? Then I see a stub from where it has been torn, uprooted and taken away, for whatever it is worth. The street-livers are active around here, tearing out a few tiles here, a garbage bin here, a few bars of steel there, till the streets all look as if it has been chewed and spitted by a giant animal. Then I walk towards V.T., and there's muck there all around and people carefully stepping around puddles of dirty water, and water drips from the ceiling and collects in little pools. And then men come and sweep the water a way and it collects again. There's nothing like engineering here, just "thook patti," just "spit and stick." It strikes me as if Bombay is just "thook patti," a monster spitting and then sticking together the office complexes, factories, mills, the housing estates and the Parsi Baughs (gardens), which are actually Parsi housing colonies.

Then I see the old Public Works Department (PWD) building. It was a crumbling and shabby building on Murzban road which is being renovated. I hated the look of this drab building. I hated it. Now the building is being re-developed nicely and I am glad as I see the wooden covering on the elaborate balconies. The old is giving way to the new, preserving the old while some city areas rot. They rot because of the corruption that goes into constructing anything in the city. It's a xenophobic city that way. Anything new faces immediate disassemblement, a word I coined. When there is sadness there is also hope and happiness in some places.

(Just wrote this for fun. I am reading Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" and I hope you can detect traces of his style. Hehe)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

About Julia Roberts and "Eat Pray Love"

The much-tom-tom-ed movie Eat Pray Love (God! How do we teach these guys to get their grammar right?) starring Julia Roberts comes out end of this week in the U.S.  Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling book of the same name, it tells how she threw away it all to travel around the world while eating in Italy, loving in Bali, and praying in India. Then Julia got all inspired by the spirituality she came across in India while shooting here that she became a Hindu.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Michelle Obama’s South of Spain Trip

Michelle Obama's vacation in Sothern Spain has drawn flak from several media outfits including mediaite which has called it tone-deaf. Poor, poor, Michelle. She just wanted a few days of quiet on the Riviera. She must not have known the sort of security that has to go with her (because her husband is the world's most powerful man), and the paparazzi who will also accompany her because by virtue of her being the better half of the most powerful in today's world has a different meaning altogether.

Totally irrelevant but here's an article that set off two beautiful women whose husbands are heads of states of their respective states – U.S. and France to be precise. What's in the power echelons that makes well-dressed and well groomed women to err on the side of wantonness, I wonder.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, I think, even in the close confines of powerful households.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Am I Blogging Too Much?

Am I going too fast? Blogging too much? I guess (and hope) not. Reason is I am not getting many comments or likes. Amitabh gets around 300 for every post, so does Shobhaa. But they are celebrities with their own halos to protect their own issues to clarify. Amitabh does connect well with his readers and first thing I do every morning is read his posts. As a man who has achieved so much and gone through so much I think he is very humble of heart and an upright individual. But then you can't be a blogger if you are a phony, you will run out of subjects soon.

Going by Amit Varma's rule of 10,000 hours I have done only 1500 posts so far. Assuming I devote one hour to each post, it is only 1500 hours. To reach where Amit is today (Of course, he is India's foremost blogger.) I have another 7500 hours to go. A long way, that is. Sigh!

Wish me luck.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

“Paid News Undermining Democracy”

Here's the inimitable P. Sainath lamenting the Press Council of India's (PCI) burying of the issues of "Paid News," in an article titled "Paid News Undermining Democracy."

The issue is clear. Some Indian publications publish editorial articles for a fee. The result is you can't trust if what you are reading is original research and reportage or has been prepared by a press relations agency. A newspaper is read and subscribed to for its credibility. Over time it becomes a habit to believe what it prints as gospel truth. We often say, "I read it in ---- newspaper," believing that our trusted newspaper of so many years can't be wrong. It's like a trusted parent, or, uncle, or, better still, friend. It develops an intimate relationship with the reader leading the reader by the hand, coaxing him to believe what it believes, trust what it trusts, and a relationship of dependence develops.

I have been a reader of the Old Female of a certain precinct in Bombay since childhood. I refuse to change this habit. I can't. Over the years it has become like my morning cup of coffee. Though I subscribe to multiple newspapers I turn to it first because I know where the pages are, where my favorite sections are, where the cartoons and horoscopes are.

Now consider this. I read that a certain candidate is good for my constituency compared to his rivals and vote for him and he turns out to be a nincompoop and doesn't do anything for the community and instead helps spread crime and fills my area with slums. I later learn that the nincompoop had paid the newspaper a lot of money to print glowing articles about him. What do I feel?

I feel cheated, let down, g*** m***-ed. (Which exactly is what I am feeling now, because the said newspaper (which I pay with my hard-earned, heart-block-inducing, artery-hardening, sweat-of-brows money) is full of paid news masquerading as editorial.

It violates the basic tenets of the freedom of press (and independence of the press) enshrined in the constitution because if a rich corporation prints lies about its products and make me buy it and I die, it and the corporation would be responsible. Certainly the paper wouldn't write what was wrong with the product and it wouldn't report my death, too. Because its survival now depends on "paid news." Are such newspapers good for the health of our democracy, which is entering its 64th year?

This is worrying indeed. We need a wider debate on this issue. The government also needs to act on this issue because it subsidises newspapers by supplying newsprint to it at heavily discounted rates, allows it postal concessions, gives it preferential treatment. For what?

The answer is: "To report the truth. Not print lies and feel good articles about celebrities."

Why Don’t India Win Any Medals in Olympics?

Duh! Now I know why India don't win any medals in the Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth games. Some of the going on in the hallowed sanctums of Indian sports:

This guy, the hot-air of a local lawn tennis body molested a sports-enthusiastic girl and traumatized her and her family driving her to commit suicide. Here's something to chuckle about la affaire tennis . Some people never improve.

This rake, the chairman of the hockey committee openly and shamelessly asked women for sex if they wanted to be in the team. He thought he would never be found out.

This chairman, a political big wig was presiding over a committee that is to organize the commonwealth games in India and supervised the buying of toilet rolls for Rs 4000 ($ 88) each. (Must have been coated with gold dust.)

There has been concern in India about why we weren't winning any Olympic medals despite having 1.2 billion people. China wins 51 gold, 21 silver and 28 bronze adding to a total of 100. In a poor showing India won 3 in all, that too, against all odds.

Why has India performed below standards in sports? The answer lies in another word beginning with "s", i.e., sex. Indian men think women who take to sports are all available and can be easily induced into bed with an offer of a position in the team. Right?

Friday, August 06, 2010

Are Exclusive Electronic Editions of Books Possible?

The following comes from an Akhond of Swat post which I have been following through Google Reader.

"This week, one of the UK's top agents, the notoriously aggressive Andrew Wylie, promises to change the rules of the game in drastic fashion. Wylie has started Odyssey Editions, an initiative that will sell the digital versions of some of the greatest modern classics—from Updike's Rabbit series to Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children to Nabokov and Hunter Thompson. Wylie is offering better terms to authors, though he's angered many who would otherwise encourage the growth of digital publishing by agreeing to a monopolistic deal with Amazon."

I guess the future beckons a paperless read. However, issues of copyrights, royalties, authors' compensations exist. Andrew Wylie and Odyssey may be bringing relief to thousands of authors who would like to find a better avenue of being published.

Let's wait and watch. Meanwhile ready your Kindle, iPad, whatever. Over to you Andrew Wylie.

Darius Cooper Reads at Theosophy Hall under the Aegis of PEN

Yesterday Darius Cooper poet and professor of critical thinking, humanities, and film in the Dept of English at San Diego Mesa College read his poems at the Theosophy Hall under the aegis of PEN. There were 12 people in attendance and I judged that I was the third, sorry, fourth youngest one. What does it say about poetry and its audience?

Darius' poems were in the context of "Avan, Javan" in Gujarati meaning "coming, going" and is all about his "face being turned to the west when he was in India and towards Indian when he was in the West." An expatriate's nostalgia tints all his poems such as: "Cat Motel," "Avan, Javan," "Adjectives," "Music Room," and "Don't Worry Darling, We Have a Legend and History." (The latter is about Bombay's "family rooms" above Irani restaurants which were popular love nests for the youth of the time. "We all have been to these places." Uh-oh! The Iranian "family rooms" have disappeared and coffee shops and Macdonalds' have taken their places with a different mating game altogether enacted there.)

Darius has two volumes of poems ripe for publication but hasn't had any luck with publishers in the U.S. or in India. (Here's a professor who writes good poetry, as yet unpublished. What does it indicate of the poetry publishing-advance-book-tour-fame-trophy-girl syndrome?) I suggested that he start a blog as I have done. (Here's my poetry blog.) Adil Jussawala, eminent poet, who was in the audience approved of this idea and said, "You don't know where your audience is. Poets are always seeking their audience," something to that effect. "Who reads your poems, who sees your plays, you never know." Thanks Adil for the support, albeit, indirect.

Adil also said that a poet tries to discover his "tribe." This time I got the exact word, "tribe." Yes poets are a diminishing tribe and the attendance at the reading manifested this. But a stubborn and committed "tribe" they are.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Commonwealth Games, a Future Comaneci in a Local Train

She was miniscule, a slip of a girl (who would slip through a 9-a.m.-crowd without causing a ruffle), agile thin, and scrawny. She came into the crowded compartment and charmed us into squeezing our bundles of flesh and bones into narrow crevices for her act. Her brother beat up a rising and falling tempo on his two-sided drum made of some synthetic material (not leather, actually) and she began to contort herself. She bent into a reverse "U" shape I had been trying since ages to perfect, only that I would break a few vertebrae if I tried. Then she drew herself through a small ring, the whole sliver-like length of her. Then she does a cartwheel standing and then turning a full 360 degrees in the air. A gymnast, a gymnast, I said to myself, she could be India's answer to Nadia Comaneci, only she has no godfathers.

With the continuous pack of lies being unreeled in the Commonwealth Games (If you don't know what's up the game organizers bought treadmills for 25 lakhs which were actually worth 4 lakhs, that is six times the cost. If it happened in Beijing or Timbuctoo the man would have been sacked right away. But see him, the chairman-vairman, he doesn't even show a grimace. Hey guy who are you fooling?) fiasco and the hockey chief's shameless demanding of sexual favours I wonder if India will ever be a sporting nation.

Ah well, the girl then went around with an aluminum vessel for a collection. Many paid. Even I dropped a Rs 5 coin. That's my contribution to a future Comaneci.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Poetry Scene of 1965 and Now According to Ron Silliman

Here's the inimitable Ron Silliman sizing up the poetry scene in 1965 and now. He admits there were fights then as now. But then there were only hundred souls and now there are 20 thousand. Same case with India I guess. Excerpt:

"The poetry scene of 1965 – the year I first saw Ginsberg & when Dylan wrote those lyrics – consisted of a few hundred souls. Today, with at least 20,000 publishing poets, the dynamics of the scene are really quite different. And the debates between kinds of poetry take on a very different flavor if they only involve a few of the practitioners off mud wrestling in a corner."

Here's a man who was around when Allen Ginsberg and Shel Silverstein existed and wrote beat poetry. Heavy genuflection and feet touching required, I guess.

The Web Is Dead. Sez Who?

Actually, this is surprising. It's like the two-headed snake eating each other's head. Word from inside Wired is that in the magazine's upcoming cover story editor Chris Anderson declares that "the Web is Dead." The news comes from valleywag the sensational leak specialist in this article. At a magazine that stands for anything electronic, wired and connected, that would be close to hara-kiri.

"Anderson is expected to argue that more tightly controlled corners of the internet, especially iPad and iPhone apps, are gradually supplanting the open Web as means of publishing and online networking. The digital prognosticator isn't alone in seeing such a trend; author Jeff Jarvis has publicly fretted over the rise apps. But Anderson's story would come at an especially touchy time within his magazine, where there's been a cold war between Anderson's print division and Wired Digital, which encompasses Wired.com and the community website Reddit."

Whatever their internal squabbles are, guys, guys, guys, don't write obits for the web which is alive and proliferating, ask Mark Zuckerberger.

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London Tries Out Bicycles-on-rent Scheme

London has introduced the rent a bicycle scheme which exists in several European cities. Here's the report from The Economists' Gulliver.

What's this Lilliput's mode of transportation doing in Gulliver's country? Should India try it out?

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

It’s Been Raining for the Past Month, Do You Care?

I am getting tired of this rain in Bombay. Really. It's disgusting when it rains for a month, without stop. It must be the El Nino, or, El Nina, whatever. It has been raining for the last one month and most days I return from work my shoes full of water, my trousers sticking to my legs and my rain jacket plastered to my body. The roads are a mess, there's dog shit, cow shit and human shit all over, which blends with the musty smell of cloth and makes a huge stink that hangs over everything. The slums I see on the way to work are a sorry mess. The garbage they throw in plastic bags on the rails give off a nasty smell, the trains leak, the stations leak, umbrellas leak, and everything is shabby and in shambles. In all this I wade, step carefully, slosh, hold my nose, hold my umbrella, mind my glasses, for what? For my family, for my career?

Not only Bombay the entire South India is in the grip of a bad downpour. Trains had to be terminated at Uduppi and passengers brought to Ratnagiri to continue their journey. Most of the Konkan Region is flooded. It must be taking a heavy toll on the farmers, the subsistence hand-to-mouth existers. Who cares? Do you?

After July 26, 2005 we were smug in the belief that the reason was Mithi River and sat down to point fingers and blame the authorities. Now, the Mithi is reasonably clean and what's the result? The roads in the city are flooded again. We go about as if we don't care, we bear our pains with such fortitude till it becomes an unbearable load.

But then have you thought about the global warming aspect of it? No? I am searching for some link between heavy rain and global warming which is throwing more water vapour into the air which condenses as rain. All this leading to rising ocean levels and in a few years Bombay, New York, Tokyo and other major cities (including a certain Palm in Dubai) will be under water. There's a reason for so much water pouring down causing flooding and land slide. I search and search and search and here's what I get on Wikipedia:

"Heavy Rain is an interactive drama video game developed by Quantic Dream exclusively for PlayStation 3."

That shows the world doesn't care. Do you? Yes, this is written in a foul mood with my trousers and socks wet and smelly, I can sense a gargantuan rant coming.

Monday, August 02, 2010

K.M.Mathew, Patriarch of Malayala Manorama Is No More

K.M.Mathew, patriarch of the Malayala Manorama (one of the largest circulated newspaper in India) newspaper group and publications including Vanitha (India's largest circulated women's fortnightly), Week, etc. is no more. He died on the morning of August 1, 2010. He was 93. He was responsible for the growth of Manorama as a frontline daily and for its diversification into other product categories.

During my stint in Malayala Manorama I had only a brief interaction with him. However, in meetings he stood out for his jovial nature and his witticisms. When his son Mammen Mathew said that a colleague of ours wasn't very old though he had white hair, Mathukuttychayan (He was fondly called by this name.) cracked:

"Even I am not that old though my hair is white."

The Hindu obit appears here.

Two Attacks on the English Novel

Two attacks on the way English fiction has stopped being relevant has come to light in recent days. One is Gabriel Josipovici's article that appeared in Guardian, the other is Jason Cowley's article that appeared in New Statesman.

The first attacks Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes as "prep-school boys showing off," and the other attacks them "writers who have been anointed as the propagators of the great tradition of British fiction seem to be intent upon destroying all that is good in that tradition."

On my part I think recent novels haven't held a mirror to British or even Indian society as it is (Rushdie writes about an India that does not relate to present realities of culture, trends and economic status.). British novels have tended to look within at the expense of looking without.

Read and be the judge yourself.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Jack Kerouac on "Genius"

Is it Jack Kerouac who wrote "But it ain't whatcha write, it's the way atcha write it."? It seems so from this post from Maria Schneider's blog. The man who was known as a genius seems succinct on the question of genius. The operative word here is "genius" and the discussion is on what makes a genius, is it an imitation of another's style? Is it congenital? Is it acquired as Jack claims it is?

Well genius, in my humble-bumble (for am not I a bumbler?) opinion, in anything – writing, acting, directing, painting – arises from the way you do your art, the way you present your art, which is derived from the way you think. This again is from the great writer and poet himself, Jack Kerouac:

"Writers are made, for anybody who isn't illiterate can write; but geniuses of the writer art like Melville, Whitman or Thoreau are born. Let's examine the word "genius." It doesn't mean screwiness or eccentricity or excessive "talent." It is derived from the Latin word gignere (to beget) and a genius is simply a person who originates something never known before. Nobody but Melville could have written Moby Dick, not even Whitman or Shakespeare. Nobody but Whitman could have conceived, originated and written Leaves of Grass; Whitman was born to write a Leaves of Grass and Melville was born to write a Moby Dick. "It ain't whatcha do," Sy Oliver and James Young said, "it's the way atcha do it." Five thousand writing class students who study "required reading" can put their hand to the legend of Faustus but only one Marlowe was born to do it the way he did."

Here's what this Wikipedia article has to say of Jack:

"His fame would come as an unmanageable surge that would ultimately be his undoing. Kerouac's novel is often described as the defining work of the post-World War II Beat Generation and Kerouac came to be called "the king of the beat generation," a term that he never felt comfortable with. He once observed, "I'm not a beatnik, I'm a Catholic.""

So the beat poet and beatnik wasn't exactly one. He was Catholic.