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‘The skeletons tumbled out of the cupboard’ – Furquan Moharkan

Furquan Moharkan, author of The Banker Who Crushed His Diamonds, told us about how he got started on this story, what drew him to the Yes Bank labyrinth, and the experience of writing a story where power dynamics are very much at play.

 

Take us through your story – how did you start reporting on Yes Bank, and what exactly did you uncover there? 

Front Cover The Banker Who Crushed His Diamonds
The Banker Who Crushed His Diamonds||Furquan Moharkan

FM: You know, the Yes Bank was always an intriguing thing for me. There was too much of glamour for the organisation for the industry it was. Financial services are usually denoted by trust and dependability. When Yes Bank’s much bigger rivals were playing low profile, it was punching way above its weight. Though, that doesn’t mean glamour and financial services can’t go hand in hand. Also, at times of risk averseness by Indian banks, Yes Bank’s loan book was growing at an astronomical rate – almost seven times the overall industry numbers. But nothing was coming out in the market, as Rana Kapoor has managed to keep a tight lid over his alleged misdeeds. But once he was out in 2019, the skeletons tumbled out of the cupboard – and they tumbled at rate which was probably faster than the loan growth under Rana.

Had it not been for that post-Yes Bank results market crash in April 2019, probably I would not have got the leads for uncovering the rot. But after that crash, many in the street lost their holdings in Yes Bank, and financial set-up was visibly upset with the bank, and things started to come to fore.

 

Was your experience of writing a book very different from your journalistic writing?

FM: It was quite different. In journalistic writing, due to the dearth of space and word limit constraints, you can’t build a narrative properly. If I have to drive an analogy, I would say, journalism is painting in a sketch book (develops your fundamentals), and writing a book is painting on canvas (helps you express yourself).

 

Could you tell us, briefly, what happened at Yes Bank?

 FM: The Bank under its founder and former CEO had lent recklessly in lieu of higher margins and with risk assessment sent for a toss. These loans were granted to stressed entities – the firms whose repayment capability was questionable. Once these companies started defaulting, the bank was evergreening their loans – granting new loans to repay older loans. But that wasn’t sustainable and bank had to write them off. For that they needed capital, which wasn’t coming their way. On the other hand depositors started withdrawing en masse. Both combined and it led to severe crunch of funds at the bank.

 

How do people like Rana Kapoor manage to get away (at least to a certain extent for a certain period of time) with orchestrated failures of this kind?

People like Rana Kapoor are blessed people. They are smart and intelligent, but they misuse their gift. They combine their analytical abilities with artistry to manipulate things completely. Such people are usually on an image management overdrive, which explains why Yes Bank, under him, was punching above its weight. What aid them are also connections at right places. So, in their good days, irrespective of political party, the powerful people like to side with them – for the reason they would themselves better know about. So, basically it’s a cocktail of things, that this ‘big brother club’ uses.

 

Are stories like these – malfeasance on the part of powerful people at the top – difficult to tell? Is it more difficult to say, get other people to talk or to access the depths of these disasters because of the clout of the people responsible?

Absolutely. They can go to any extend to keep their image clean – irrespective of how fragile its foundations are. They use money power, legal might, connections and what not, to stop the things that make them uncomfortable. Yes, they would be very good to you, but only till the moment you don’t make them uncomfortable.

~

The Banker Who Crushed His Diamonds is an exciting read, sure to keep you at the edge of your seats.

7 pieces of advice from Robert T. Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad

Robert T. Kiyosaki grew up with two dads. His own, and his best friends’. Both men, he tells us, were successful in their careers, working hard all their lives. Both earned substantial incomes. Yet one always struggled financially. The other would become one of the richest men in Hawaii.
Both men were strong, charismatic, and influencial. Both men offered Robert advice, but they did not advice the same things.
Which dad’s advice would you like us to share with you today?
Rich Dad? Well, we thought so.
Here are seven pieces of advice that Robert got from Rich Dad:
“A job is only a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Most people have only one problem in mind, and it’s short-term. It’s the bills at the end of the month, the Tar Baby. Money controls their lives, or should I say the fear and ignorance about money controls it. So they do as their parents did. They get up every day and go to work for money, not taking the time to ask the question, ‘Is there another way?’ Their emotions now control their thinking, not their heads.”

~

“The Rich know that money is an illusion, truly like the carrot for the donkey. It’s only out of fear and greed that the illusion of money is held together by billions of people who believe that money is real. It’s not. Money is really made up. It is only because of the illusion of confidence and the ignorance of the masses that this house of cards stands.”

~

“Illiteracy, both in words and numbers, is the foundation of financial struggle. If people are having difficulties financially, there is something that they don’t understand, either in words or numbers. The rich are rich because they are more literate in different areas then people who struggle financially. So if you want to be rich and maintain your wealth, it’s important to be financially literate, in words as well as numbers.”

 ~

“Start minding your business. Keep your daytime job, but start buying really assets, not liabilities.”

~

“An important distinction is that rich people buy luxuries last, while the poor and middle class often buy luxuries first… The old-money people, the long-term rich, build their asset column first. Then the income generated from the asset column buys their luxuries.”

~

“Great opportunities are not seen with your eyes. They are seen with your mind. Most people will never get wealthy because they are not trained financially to recognize opportunities right in front of them.”

 ~

“Fear inspires winners. And failure defeats losers. It is the biggest secret of winners. It’s the secret losers don’t know. The greatest secret of winners is that failure inspires winning; thus, they’re not afraid of losing.”
Enriched by Kiyosaki’s personal experience and the teachings he received from his rich dad and poor dad, Rich Dad Poor Dad highlights different attitudes towards money, work and life.

A loaf of bread, a glass of bubbly, and thou

By Ashok Ferrey 

So the stage is set, the curtain about to rise. Tomorrow, Sarasavi Bookshop at One Galle Face will be launching my first book in 5 years. I don’t know really know why, but there’s something of a feeding frenzy going on. Old aunties in kaftans and dangling earrings are jostling for pole position, rising from their covid-stricken beds, throwing caution and turmeric to the winds. I have explained to everyone that there’s a pandemic on, and please, they mustn’t feel the need to humour me by turning up.

‘How could we not?’ they say in incredulous tones. ‘We simply HAVE to be there for you!’

And who am I to spurn such loyalty? Though it’s something of a toss-up whether they’re there for me, or because they’re fed up having sat at home socially isolated all year. Or perhaps they’re coming for the bubbly that’s going to be served, in plastic cups. (Never spoil an Auntie, has always been my motto.)

In the middle of all this chaos, Colombo Fashion Week rings up.

‘Is it true you’re launching your book on the last night of fashion week?’ they ask sternly. Obviously I have committed some grave social faux pas, though I do not know quite what. (In the normal way of things, Ashok Ferrey knows as much about fashion as Mother Theresa does about disco dancing.)

‘Yes,’ I reply tremulously. ‘But it’s an early show, 4.30 – 6 pm.’

‘So that’s OK then,’ they reply. ‘Because we’ll be requiring you on stage to recite the opening poem. At 7.30 sharp.’

‘But I’ll be tired,’ I bleat.

front cover of The Unmarriageable Man
The Unmarriageable Man || Ashok Ferrey

 

You? Tired?’ They curl their upper lip. (Colombo Fashion Week does a very good curled upper lip.)

‘Don’t be late. Wardrobe will be in touch to let you know which designer you’re wearing.’

It seems that I have to recite the alternate lines of a song, with the amazing Julius Mitchell singing, and on keyboards.

I think to myself: It’s a good thing Ashok Ferrey isn’t going to be the one singing. Otherwise it really will be the last night of Colombo Fashion Week. Forever.

Hey, now that’s an idea . . .

 

Whereabouts: Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest literary landscape

Exuberance and dread, attachment and estrangement: in this novel, Jhumpa Lahiri stretches her themes to the limit. The woman at the center wavers between stasis and movement, between the need to belong and the refusal to form lasting ties. The city she calls home, an engaging backdrop to her days, acts as a confidant: the sidewalks around her house, parks, bridges, piazzas, streets, stores, coffee bars. We follow her to the pool she frequents and to the train station that sometimes leads her to her mother, mired in a desperate solitude after her father’s untimely death. In addition to colleagues at work, where she never quite feels at ease, she has girl friends, guy friends, and “him,” a shadow who both consoles and unsettles her. But in the arc of a year, as one season gives way to the next, transformation awaits. One day at the sea, both overwhelmed and replenished by the sun’s vital heat, her perspective will change. This is the first novel she has written in Italian and translated into English. It brims with the impulse to cross barriers. By grafting herself onto a new literary language, Lahiri has pushed herself to a new level of artistic achievement.

 

Here is an excerpt from the book Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri:

 

The city doesn’t beckon or lend me a shoulder today. Maybe it knows I’m about to leave. The sun’s dull disk defeats me; the dense sky is the same one that will carry me away. That vast and vaporous territory, lacking precise pathways, is all that binds us together now. But it never preserves our tracks. The sky, unlike the sea, never holds on to the people that pass through it. The sky contains nothing of our spirit, it doesn’t care. Always shifting, altering its aspect from one moment to the next, it can’t be defined.

 

Whereabouts| Jhumpa Lahiri

 

This morning I’m scared. I’m afraid to leave this house, this neighborhood, this urban cocoon. But I’ve already got one foot out the door. The suitcases, purchased at my former stationery store, are already packed. I just need to lock them now. I’ve given the key to my subletter and I’ve told her how often she needs to water the plants, and how the handle of the door to the balcony sometimes sticks. I’ve emptied out one closet and locked another, inside of which I’ve amassed everything I consider important. It’s not much in the end: notebooks, letters, some photos and papers, my diligent agendas. As for the rest, I don’t really care, though it does occur to me that for the first time someone else will be using my cups, dishes, forks, and napkins on a daily basis.

 

Last night at dinner, at a friend’s house, everyone wished me well, telling me to have a wonderful time. They hugged me and said, Good luck! He wasn’t there, he had other plans. I had a nice time anyway, we lingered at the table, still talking after midnight.

 

I tell myself: A new sky awaits me, even though it’s the same as this one. In some ways it will be quite grand. For an entire year, for example, I won’t have to shop for food, or cook, or do the dishes. I’ll never have to eat dinner by myself.

 

I might have said no, I might have just stayed put. But something’s telling me to push past the barrier of my life, just like the dog that pulled me along the paths of the villa. And so I heed my call, having come to know the guts and soul of this place a little too well. It’s just that today, feeling slothful, I’m prey to those embedded fears that don’t dissipate.

Do you have what it takes to survive in Uttar Pradesh politics?

Beginning at the peak of Nehruvian era and ending in the early seventies, Devesh Verma’s  sharply funny saga The Politician  gives an enthralling, evocative view of provincial northern India-once the political heartland of the country-and the ebb and flow of the fortunes of its protagonists.

Ram Mohan is an intrepid and ambitious young man in newly independent India, who refuses to be held down by his humble origins. Spurred on by his diehard optimism, he aims for things usually inaccessible to people of his extraction. However, he soon realizes that without political or bureaucratic power, the idea of a respectable life in India is nothing but pretence.

Ram Mohan’s fascinating character and the darkly comic situations that he is forced to navigate to stay afloat in the tumultuous sea of provincial realpolitik offer some interesting insights.

We have conducted a detailed analysis of his methods to come up with a the ultimate quiz to determine whether you are a Pradeshi Political Player and true inheritor of Ram Mohan’s legacy or if you are a Certified Civilian like the rest of us!

**

If you are ever sidelined by the fickle opinions of your political party at the very inception of your political career, what would you do?

A-Sputter in rage at public meetings

B-Lie low and temporarily focus on an alternate career

That was not without reason. Ram Mohan had an alternate calling to fall back on, which he found equally, if not more, agreeable. Rather he was a trifle relieved. He could now get down to some serious research work with no distraction, though he had not given up on his chances in politics. His apparent stoicism was calculated to help him calmly assess the political ball game while engaged in an academically fulfilling pursuit.

 

MLK may have considered violence to be the last refuge of the incompetent but sometimes in the heartlands of provincial Uttar Pradesh a certain display of ruthlessness is imperative. Which of these most closely matches your views towards violence?

A-Reject violence in any form

B-Use it strategically, mostly through other people

They all made a dash as Mahavir Wilson had already received several blows. Gulab Singh stopped Ram Mohan and along with his two men fell on the thugs with lathis. Employing violence as starkly as a butcher—allowing no room for dickering—he had become adept in gaining control over situations apparently hazardous. He had long discovered this method to be immensely effective, which made even more powerful adversaries doubtful about their own strength.

 

Are you capable of displaying Ram Mohan’s incredible verbal and psychological dexterity at handling the inflated egos of pompous personages around you?

A-Never, you are a master at deflating egos and enraging important people

B-Yes, you would absolutely pander to them if it benefitted you eventually

While dealing with a high caste personage, he would use arguments designed to humour; he had already made inroads into the upper-caste consciousness in the area, as he would try to be regarded as their well-wisher. At the election for the posts of village chief, he had ensured Gulab Singh’s victory, which held no surprise as Gulab Singh was Ram Mohan’s friend. But his going all out to support a Brahman candidate for the same position in another village— where the real fight was between a Brahman and a Thakur candidate—earned him some goodwill indeed;

Front cover of The Politician
The Politician || Devesh Verma

 

Are you willing to occasionally swallow your pride and opt for a strategic defeat if necessary?

A-No, victory or nothing

B-Patience is the name of the game

In Fatehpur, Ram Mohan would win laurels even in defeat. I mean he’d get his hands on so many votes that Congress would have to take note, which would brighten up his chances in future. They might offer him something else in the bargain.’

 

Discretion is certainly the better part of valour, and every politician needs spades of it. When handed a significant piece of information what is your first instinct

A-Expound upon it to your worshipping coterie

B-Ensure no leaks occur that can derail your plans

No, it’s important we keep a clear head and be discreet about it for now. What’s more, I’m still chewing it over. As of now I’ve shared it with only three people, you, Saansad ji and Ram Mohan. Let’s keep it that way until after the elections. Because then I’d have some concrete grievance to ground my decision on.

 

While we all wish we had truly impressive personalities, it’s time for a little honest introspection. Does your personality in any way come close to this stirring description of Ram Mohan’s personality?

A-Not really, I’m mostly quiet

B-Yes, I think I’m a fair match

Ram Mohan had a personality, which did not blend in with the general run of people. His face that radiated profundity in a literary gathering could be like thunder if the occasion warranted; his eyes and words articulating pure menace. He could frighten the life out of a lout.

 

Upon achieving something you’ve worked long and hard for, which of these actions would be your first instinct?

A-Gloat about it obnoxiously

B-Couch it in terms of benefit to others

Ram Mohan rose and touched Saansad ji’s feet as the latter continued, ‘It’s confirmed. Just the day before yesterday Kapur called and read out all the six names of the Congress candidates for Rajya Sabha. Yours is at number four. And I feel doubly joyous. Firstly, because I have been able to do something for you; secondly, I may not be in her inner circle but now I know Indira ji values my opinion.’

 —

RESULTS!

Mostly As-Certified Civilian. Enjoy your unproblematic life!

Mostly Bs-Pradeshi Political Player. Ram Mohan anoints you his heir!

‘Writing is almost biological’: Ashok Ferrey on writing fiction

Having lost his mother at a young age, Sanjay de Silva lives in Colombo, under the thumb of a controlling Sri Lankan father. When his father is diagnosed with cancer, he feels the ground shifting under his feet, the balance of power realigning. Though it is something he has dreamed of all his life, he is uneasy when it happens. Learning that he is entitled to live in England, thanks to his half-English mother, he moves to London.

This is the story of an Asian builder in south London. But at its heart, The Unmarriageable Man is about grief; how each of us copes in our inimitable way with the hidden mysteries of family and the loss of loved ones. Because, as Sanjay is about to find out, grief is only the transmutation of love, of the very same chemical composition – liquid, undistilled – the one inevitably turning to the other like ice to water.

Today, we have with us the author of the book, Ashok Ferrey talking about how the book was born from his own personal experience of dealing with his father’s death.

By Ashok Ferrey 

 

Recently, I said somewhere that the most difficult part of writing a book is to reach inside your soul,  extract the truth, squeeze it out, then hang it on the line to dry – for all the world to see. By this measure, my latest book, The Unmarriageable Man, was the most difficult one I ever wrote. Twenty years ago my father died – of various complications following cancer – and it was a hugely traumatic time for me. It was precisely this trauma that made me a writer: I remember taking him to the cancer hospital in a tuk-tuk, forcing a banana down his throat on the way there (bitter experience had taught me that after the chemo, he wasn’t going to be able to eat anything for the next 24 hours), and bringing him back home where he collapsed on the bed. I went into the next room, and in an exercise book lying around I wrote (with a pencil) my very first story. It took me half an hour. When I finished I remember looking around the room thinking What have I done? Oh, what have I done? It was almost as if I’d committed a murder, it was so unexpected!

front cover of The Unmarriageable Man
The Unmarriageable Man || Ashok Ferrey

 

That story, The Perfect House (in Colpetty People) remains today one of the funniest things I ever wrote. It taught me that this process of writing is almost biological – there are unseen forces inside you that begin to operate when you let yourself go. In my case, weirdly, the more stressed I am, the funnier the writing. (This is what I tell young writers who attend my workshops. Stress is Good. Generally, they look at me in dumb incomprehension. Sometimes fear. As if at this point I’ll bring out a large stick.)

Fast forward twenty years. It has taken this long for me to feel confident enough to deal with what happened back then, with my father. Fictionalising it has helped – it allows you to put a certain distance between you and your subject. So this story has been cooking in my brain all this while, which only goes to show that you can’t force your writing: it will come out when it has to; and only when it has to.

So I hope you enjoy this book. I hope it has been worth the twenty year wait.

**

 

Reflections of loss and grief

Pinky is a recluse who rarely leaves the suburbs. When her husband, Pasha, goes missing and everyone assumes the worst, she sets off to find him. In her search, she encounters a dream-like landscape: the ancient interior of the city she was born in, the bright farms and fields of Pasha’s childhood and the dark wilderness of the mountains, where she must finally confront her fears.

Here we highlight 7 quotes from the book where she experiences emotions such as loss and grief.

**

‘I told him you had disappeared soon after he last saw you. He said, ‘I’m sorry for you,’ and looked sadder still. I said I was searching for you because everyone else except your mother thought you were dead.’

‘Alone again in the car I saw a vision of you with the blood pouring out, black as oil, I could see the stars in it. Your body sinking into the blacksand but for a finger or knee or shoulder. The blood was then blue then purple then red as the sun went up.’

‘When I opened my eyes the stars were gone.

Front cover of Still Life
Still Life || Anoushka Khan

We were no longer ghosts under an ancient sky but humans with a beginning and an end, clothed in our machine-spun fabrics and so pale in the white light from the city below.’

‘There is dignity in death’, my father said. ‘Even decay is beautiful.’

‘You weren’t sitting there smiling and smoking. There was no one inside.’

‘I stopped in the middle of the bridge and looked carefully at the sharp rocks far down, hoping not to see you but wanting not to miss you.’

‘Then I sucked my breath in and ran screaming into the shadowy thing and it exploded around us. Inside it were pieces of light and dark that flew out, so many of them that they were all I could see.’

**

Still Life is an experiment with visual storytelling, using pictures and words to create a world that is both unsettling and extraordinary.

Seven reasons why ‘Cages’ is one of the foremost feminist texts of contemporary Indian literature

Set at the gritty intersection of the world of prostitution in Kamathipura, the Bombay underworld and Bollywood in the 1970s, Cages: Love and Vengeance in a Red-light District is inspired by the true story of Kumud, a sex worker who dared to own her sexuality and play by her rules. A fast-paced tale of a woman who was not ashamed of her occupation, it is honest in its portrayal of the persistent cruelties-small and significant-faced by sex workers and celebrates the power they have to triumph over it.

Even fifty years after it was first written, Cages remains extraordinarily relevant, a courageous exploration of themes of patriarchy, gendered violence, sisterhood and the validity of a woman’s sexual desires. Read on for some of the reasons that Cages reminds us that feminism is necessary for as long as predatory men are around, women will have to fight to retain control over their bodies, their identities and their ability to say no.

 

  1. The unapologetic rejection of the rules of traditional morality that women are expected to follow to be considered ‘worthy’ of receiving basic human dignity and rights.

I’m sorry if it disappoints you to know that there is no glorious, uplifting message in my story. No moral lesson at the end. This is not the story of Sita, Savitri or the Blessed Virgin Mary. To those hoping for an inspirational tale of such noble and refined women, I would suggest that it will be wise to stop reading right now and get a refund for their hard-earned money.

 

  1. The incisive dissection of the Madonna-Whore dichotomy, which does even so-called virtuous women a disservice by placing them on a pedestal.

Dig deep into the mind of any pativrata—that loyal slave married to a single man—and you will definitely find many men lying in dark corners. Peep into the heart of a whore who beds hundreds of men and you will be amazed to discover just one man sitting on the throne within…Which of these two women deserves to be placed on a pedestal?

 

  1. The celebration of sorority, wherein extremely patriarchal structures the only resource for women in the bonds.

Our madam, Sakhu Bai, was a caring soul. She addressed us girls as ‘beti’ and pampered us as if we actually were her daughters. Apart from me, there were three other girls—two giggly twins, Seethe-Geethe from south India; and Nirmala, a busty girl with black lipstick, from Pune. They welcomed me into their little circle of sisterhood.

 

 

  1. The pivotal role of Gangu Bai, the real life brothel owner who ruled the male dominated world of Kamathipura with an iron fist, but fought hard for the dignity and rights of prostitutes.

No wonder all the girls in these disreputable lanes looked up to her and called her their mother—she was truly maternal in the way she treated us. Every Diwali, she would gift all her girls a brand new sari. If any girl under her roof fell sick or contracted an STD, she would bear the entire responsibility, including paying the bills for her treatment. When a prostitute became too old to entertain, she was retired with a respectable pension.

 

  1. Kumud’s extraordinary determination and courage through the course of her life, in defending her principles and dignity in the most difficult of circumstances.

But I held firm to my principle of not accepting more than ten clients a night. Little did I know that in Kamathipura, principles among whores were as dangerous as honesty among the cops.

 

  1. The consistent emphasis on consent through the course of the book, and Kumud’s insistence on defending her right to refusal, that sex work does not automatically negate the significance of consent.

I shook my head. ‘What if I force myself on you?’ ‘That would be rape.’ Though he was drunk, he burst out laughing. The word ‘rape’ from a prostitute’s mouth was hilarious for him…What followed next can only be classified as rape. I have no other words to verbalize it.

 

  1. Kumud’s insistence upon taking ownership of her identity, simultaneously making no apologies for her professions while refusing to be defined by it.

Almost all prostitutes have more than one name. One name a prostitute shares with her clients. Her friends know her by a different name. The third is her real name. That name has the fragrance of the native soil of her childhood—and that name has nothing to do with the many fake ones she adopts for the profession.

An unforgettable portrait of being impetuous women

Impetuous Women is about women who step across the Lakshman Rekha, whose transgressions fly in the face of the establishment, the patriarchy, often their own families and loved ones. From two housewives who play a potentially lethal game of keeping up to an expert baker who serves revenge with chocolate sprinkles on top; from a stern hostel warden who examines her relationship with the teenagers she must surveil to a grouchy widow shuts out the world; from a couple madly in love and desperate for a bit of privacy to a tender bond between a husband and wife, these stories create an unforgettable portrait of modern-day India and the experiential realities of being impetuous, of being women.

 

Here’s an excerpt from the book, Impetuous Women:

 

I could have moved at that very instant, if I wanted to. I’m a verb after all. But I decided to wait for the right moment. Having been inert for so long, I wanted to savour it. I mean really savour it. So, here I am, narrating the events of the last poetry meeting She-poet ever attended. If I had fingers, I’d rub them in glee! Someone had dropped me during a meeting. Thereafter, unnoticed, I slipped and slid around the table at the centre of the grey conference room, until I finally found a crack in the wood. I remained there, half-buried by a sticky blanket of grey-black erased words, each wrapped tightly in its casing of rubber. I was, for once, watching things unfold around me instead of being in the thick of it. The conference room was inside a squat grey building, which was a cultural centre and library.

 

There was also an auditorium. The other rooms were full of books and magazines, and soft piped music. Bulletins about cultural activities and happenings in the city were tacked on to felt- covered notice boards in the main hall. Everything inside was grey. The walls were grey. The tables were grey. The chairs were tubular steel with grey foam seats. Even the floor was a greasy grey colour. The conference room had a glossy calendar with a blood red arty print. It was the only bright thing in the room. But it was so arty that it failed to make things cheery.

 

It is a funny thing. I must have been in that room dozens of times, before my involuntary and sudden
imprisonment within the table, but I had never bothered to look around properly. I had never truly seen the room and its inhabitants. I had never breathed in its atmosphere, so to speak. But once I was bundled up in the crack, I began to observe people closely. Perhaps that is why I was able to understand her the way others in the grey room never would.

 

She-poet was one among the two-dozen odd poets who gathered in the grey room every fortnight to read
the poems they had written according to a theme chosen in the previous meeting. They assembled at six on the dot in the evening, which was close to dinner time for some of them. I watched them squirm when their stomachs grumbled, and cough to cover up for the sound. The others ignored these un-poetic sounds, and continued with the reading, discussing the merits and demerits of the poems, in soft cultured voices, careful not to irk one another, at least not too much. They reminded me of student ballet dancers doing pirouettes in front of a distinguished surprise-visitor at school.

 

Each poet brought a sheaf of poem-bearing papers. These were distributed to the members present, and extras were put away on one side of the table for latecomers. Some were habitually late. She-poet was one of them. She was late not because she was tardy by nature, but because she hated the city. The language was strange to her, even though they were all from the same country, and the locals treated her as if she was an unwanted foreigner. You could tell by the way she blundered in that she had not come out of her house until it was nearly time for the poetry reading to begin. She was relatively, but only relatively, new to the city. She had lived in a cleaner, quieter place before, another country. She was used to wide expanses of greenery between her and other people. Some water had flowed under the bridge since, so now the ‘being used to’ bit was more of a mind thing than what being used to really meant.
Nevertheless, She-poet remained faithfully wistful about her past expatriate status.

 

Impetuous Women | Shikandin

 

She had spent many years away, and after her return, felt overwhelmed by the blatant consumerism that had mushroomed all over her homeland. The country was now dirtier and more chaotic. She could not bear the sloppiness, the lack of civic sense in her fellow countrymen. It seemed to her that the new-found wealth had taught them nothing good; if anything, the sudden money was making everyone behave worse than ever.

 

She-poet found it difficult to come to terms with those who were less impressed by foreign things, and had travelled to more places in the world than she, without ever having been an expatriate. She was dismayed too, by the poverty on the pavements outside glittering hotels and malls, festering like the weeping sores of lepers. She-poet had many complaints. And though she took care not to voice them openly, her secret privations remained unresolved. And unknown to her, she was observed by others with pursed lips. ‘I remember a land that was poor but genteel,’ she once told the poets, after they had reacted blandly to one of her sugary patriotic poems.

 

A professor of English, sporting a French-cut beard and a thick provincial accent, held up the paper which contained her poem and said, ‘So, according to you, that is the patrimony we deserve after being colonized?’ Before She-poet could think of a suitable retort, a member giggled and said that perhaps she was disappointed because they had progressed so much during the years she had lived abroad. There was a mocking silence as She-poet struggled to reply. The words were half-formed inside her head, but her tongue was too slow to lob them. A silver-haired lady with spectacles so thick that they looked like glass blinkers, and who was the de facto convener of the meetings, looked around owlishly for two or three seconds before reciting an absentee member’s poem loudly. She-poet lost her chance, and inwardly fumed for the rest of the session.

 

Another time, another professor-poet, who, despite having a doctorate in English and being the principal
of a suburban college, could barely write grammatically correct English, annoyed her so much that she didn’t attend many sessions after that. He called himself a poet, wrote poetry and got it published. It was another matter that the books were shabbily printed by an obscure vanity press. Some gossiped that it was his own publishing house, set up to make money off desperate poets. Barely- literate-professor-poet also enjoyed bashing the erstwhile colonizers in his poetry and lectures. Nothing the ex- rulers did was good. But he had taken pains to get his degrees in English literature, albeit from questionable institutes, and had got his first job as a lecturer of English through much palm-greasing and bum-kissing. He was ingratiatingly nice to the other academics in the group. He seemed desperate to cling to a group of poets writing in the English language. The others knew that he had succeeded over the years because of his ability to hobnob with people with political clout, people who could fund and sanction arts grants and awards.

Feminism defined right

What is Feminism? Feminism is often misinterpreted to state that it propagates female chauvinism. But the original thought behind feminism is equality for women in the domains of economic, personal, social, and political rights.
Here are five iconic quotes about feminism by women authors to set the record straight on feminism.